Here I Am Again
Wow, I haven't posted much lately!
I've been trying to run (barefoot) more regularly, even if that means doing a lot of shorter runs. I found that I was doing about 2 runs a week, pushing each one to around 8 to 11 miles, and then having to rest in between.
So about 2 months ago I started going on more frequent runs, doing 4 miles one morning, 5 miles the next, etc., and trying to get a run in close to every day. This meant I had to get up earlier and do some early morning runs. I usually don't like running in the mornings, but this time it wasn't so bad.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I was on a longer run and cut my foot on a hidden piece of glass in the river beach. Not a bad cut, but I figured I better let it rest a few days. It persisted to bother me, plus our weather got nasty, so I ended up taking more time off from running than I planned. Then, last Sunday, I came down with a head/chest cold which took me out of running all week long. I had signed up for a 10K on Saturday (yesterday), which I was determined to do even if I was sick. But I had problems registering online for this run and that got me a little pissed off at the race sponsors, so I finally just said 'Forget it!'
Yesterday they had an annual event here in my city called the Discovery Walk. It is for walkers, with distances of 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K, plus bike rides and swims. At the last minute, I decided to sign up for the 21K, and intended to run it, sick or not.
So with very little running the past two weeks I got up Saturday morning, ate a light breakfast, and went down to the starting location. Since it wasn't a timed event, you could start any time you liked within a 2 hour window. It got really chilly overnight so I wanted to wait and leave as close to 9 AM as I could, to catch as much warmth as I could. It was still only about 45 degrees outside when I arrived.
I got my starter's card punched and they gave me a map to use, and I was off at an easy pace. None of the route was coned-off from traffic, so there were frequent stops to wait for traffic lights - chances to stretch and visit with some of the walkers. They changed the course from last year, and I was apprehensive about some of the areas the new course would go through. There were three checkpoints along the route where walkers are supposed to get their card's marked for "credit" towards their Volkswalk points. I didn't care that much for points, but it was nice to get the water and orange slices they offered. Those were the only watering holes along the route.
The first part of the run was very familiar to me -- courses I have run many times. Around mile 1 it turned into a neighborhood I had never run through. I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the road was - new pavement. This took us directly to the Deaf School, the first checkpoint, around mile 3 or so. I knew a lady and her son who were volunteers there. When I got to the checkpoint another volunteer was just telling my friend about some barefoot guy who ran the half-marathon last year -- and then I ran up just at that moment! She got a big laugh over the timing of my arrival. Drinks, orange slices, some conversation, and I was off.
The course became weird after this - all new territory for me. It cut through the Deaf School's back lot over grass and gravel, out through more residential neighborhoods, and ended up going to a very rough patch of road. This road was at the bottom of a ravine, heavily shadowed by dense trees, hardly any shoulder to speak of, and cars traveling fairly quickly. No part of the road was coned off for our event, and the shoulder was strewn with gravel and lots (really lots) of broken glass. I tried to run on the roadway as much as I could, all uphill, but the frequency of cars zooming down the hill towards us forced me to jump into the glass and gravel too much. I finally noticed that there was a strip of washed-up pine needles on the outer most edge that provided quite a bit of padding, so I ran on it as much as I could.
I came up to a group of Russian walkers. They were so impressed that I was barefoot that they wanted me to stop so they could take my picture, then they wanted to be in the pictures with me. I obliged, smiled, posed, and then handed out some of my barefoot running cards that explain who I am and why I run barefoot. I continued up the hill and eventually back into civilization (sidewalks).
The route took us across some major roads where I had to stop and wait for traffic a lot. It reached a paved trail that we followed for a couple of miles. The first half of the trail was pretty decent, asphalt strewn with a fair amount of gravel to avoid. The second half was cement with a corrugated surface that was not pleasant. There was a smooth strip on the side about 4 inches wide that I followed. I passed a lot of walkers along this trail, and heard a lot of comments about my bare feet. This was around mile 5 of the course.
The route turned onto a street that took us right past the local hospital surrounded lots of doctor's clinics. There was a check point somewhere around there, but for some reason I didn't see it. This was too bad because I could have used the water and orange slices. I forged onward, to a road that led mostly downhill towards the Columbia River. This road was very rough. I tried running on the sidewalk, but it was just as bad or worse. I ended up aiming for the white paint stripe on the edge of the road, but it wasn't much better. I had to just run gingerly along this road into a very ritsy neighborhood near the water. The roads through here were just as rough.
The route followed a very old road that was mostly cement with quite a few asphalt patches on it. The road itself was very smooth, but the shoulder was the roughest, worst stuff I'd seen the entire run. I couldn't even stand to walk on it. I ran on the roadway as much as I could, but again, traffic was a problem. I could see a long ways ahead so I could plan accordingly. I saw a long stretch of vehicles coming, and not willing to stand and wait for them, I decided to slip on my flip-flops I carried for just such an occasion. I only had to wear them for about 100 yards. Traffic disappeared and so did my flip flops.
The route crossed some railroad tracks, went over a short stretch of gravel, and then down to Wintler Park -- an area I have run very often. From here on out I was on familiar paths. I was near mile 8 - about 5 miles to go. The sidewalk through this area was brand new last year and had lots of very sharp edges on its corrugated surface. Thankfully the surface had worn down over the year and was not too rough. My feet were starting to feel sore by this time, but I knew that the rest of the route was mostly easy. I noticed a painted marker that said 4 miles to go. 9 miles down and 4 more to go -- I can handle this!
About a mile later I came to the final checkpoint. I was glad to find some water and enjoy some orange slices. I wolfed them down because I wanted to keep going and get this thing done!
I kept thinking that the first walkers left at 7:00 a.m. - two hours before me. I wondered if I might catch up to them. There was no way of knowing who was 'first' - it was just something on my mind as I thought about finishing the 21K. I passed a few more walkers, and then it got eerily empty. Nobody but me. I thought I might have taken a wrong turn or something. Nope, I found a route marker. Huh! Maybe I had overtaken the earliest of the 21K walkers after all. I ran on and on, through very familiar country. I could go on automatic from here on out. After a stretch of easy running I noticed another marker on the sidewalk that said 1.75 miles. I had gone from 4 to 1.75 without hardly noticing. Sweet!
At this point two routes converged. The 21K and 42K routes overlapped the 5K and 10K routes for the last part. I came upon a family I know from church. I stopped and gave them high-fives, congratulations and such. Then on my way. Of course there were a ton of walkers from here to the end. I was zigging and zagging through groups of people. At one point it was so crowded that I called out: "Make way for the barefoot runner!" Lots of turning heads, lots of stares, and like magic - a path opened up through the throngs. I felt like Moses.
My feet were sore from those rough patches I had gone through earlier on and I was ready to be done. One mile to go. I was just coasting, focusing on form as the sidewalk passed underneath the I-5 bridge to Oregon. Here the cement was that nasty corrugated stuff, the worst in all the route. Having run on it many times, I knew it felt worse if I slowed down to walk on it, so I just kept lifting my feet and landing them as squarely as I could. The rough part was short-lived. Only 1/2 mile left to go. Soon I was on some of the milkiest smooth cement sidewalks I've seen. The last two blocks were so filled with people and strollers that I gave up trying to run any more. I walked behind everyone else to the hotel where the whole thing started.
The hotel was having some kind of convention, and there were lots of people dressed up in very nice business attire, trying to impress all the other folks attending. I stopped to talk to some cashier people for the convention to find out what it was. 'Pre-Paid Legal' was the answer. I smiled and told them I'm an attorney, in kind of a loud voice so the people in line could hear. A lot of stares after that! I had to walk past a bunch of them -- me, sweaty, thirsty, hot, tired, dirty bare feet -- and them, hoity-toity penguins and ladies in stiletto high heels looking down their noses at me. I didn't care. Not only was I an attorney, I was proud to have finished a half marathon barefoot! So I held my head high as I walked past them all to the part of the hotel where the walking course had its final check-point.
This event did not have a 'finish line' or anything. You just moseyed in to the hotel and showed them your participation card with its checkpoints marked, and they gave you a nice little ribbon with a medal. No snacks, no water, nobody saying 'Yay you made it!' It was kind of a let down. I wanted my ego stroked a little bit. I looked around for something to drink or eat, because I was feeling kind of weak by now. I found a vendor's booth that had tid-bit samples of their energy bars. I grabbed a tooth pick and started loading up on them. All flavors. I had energy bar shish-ka-bobs! One of the ladies working the booth said she had seen me running barefoot sometime last summer and was happy to finally meet me in person. Okay, ego pumped! I gave her one of my barefoot running cards. Then it was out the door, past the hoity toity bunch, and out of the hotel. By now clouds had formed, the temperature was dropping and it was raining. Time to get out of there! I gingerly walked the 3 blocks to where I had parked my car and headed home.
Mission accomplished! Time: 2 hrs 15 minutes. I claim 2 hours because there was a lot of time wasted on the course at checkpoints, stopping to wait for traffic, and working through some crowds.