The weekend of September 8th has come and gone, and it was a momentous weekend for many. Some of you ran your first 5k ever. Some of you ran a longer distance, perhaps your longest yet. Some of you ran your fastest time. Some of you were just happy to cross that finish line, and well you should be! All of you are amazing. All of you.
I didn’t do any of those things. I did not run my first 5k. I did not run my longest distance ever. I did not run my fastest time. I did not even enter an organized race. What I did do was put a little twist on this challenge for myself and I ran a little over 5k in bare feet. And it felt great.
Yes, I might be a little bit crazy. Then again, maybe not. I recently read Born to Run while I was on vacation and much of it resonated with me deeply. As it happens, I have a Master’s degree in paleoanthropology (that’s the fancy term for human evolution), with a specific focus on primate functional morphology (that’s the fancy term for comparing the shapes of our body structure with those of our closest primate relatives). As I read this book, I found myself nodding along and muttering to myself, thinking “Of course! Of course we are born to run, of course our bodies are designed to run long distances! Of course the human foot is perfectly engineered for running, no shoes required!”.
So I took off my shoes. Now, being aware that running barefoot uses your muscles differently, I worked up to it. For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been running barefoot, on the grass around the local track, about a mile at a time. And I will confess that I am not keen on running barefoot on the pavement. Our bodies may be evolved to run, but modern-day streets are not exactly kind to the poor skin on our tootsies. I am actually looking into doing a review of some “minimalist” running shoes, the sort without a lot of support and cushioning, for running on the street and for longer distances. I will be sure to let you know how that goes.
Back to the Red-Faced Runner’s challenge. With the craziness of things in my household lately, it became clear that running an organized race this weekend would be seriously inconvenient, but I knew I wanted to run my 5k with all the wonderful people who’ve signed on for our challenge. So I told my husband that I wanted to run a personal 5k in bare feet. And I was delighted when he agreed to do it with me. We packed up the kids with some snacks and toys and hit the local high school track. We ran just inside the innermost lane, so as to stay on the grass (much gentler on the feet!). To make sure we actually hit the 5k mark, we ran 14 laps of the track, which amounts to about 3.5 miles. It was fun, the kids had a ball running around and giving us high fives as we passed.
I ran at a very moderate pace, since my feet are still getting used to this barefoot running thing. But as I came into the last two laps, I felt so good I just took off. It felt very natural, very comfortable and I realize now I could have gone much faster the whole time. But it hardly matters. It wasn’t a race, it was a personal challenge.
If you were a part of our challenge, or if we inspired you even a little to start running or get back into running, share your story. I’d love to hear it!