There are celebrities: the kind of public figures that everyone you know knows because they’re plastered all over television, movie screens, iTunes and TMZ. The people who aren’t real, don’t exist for you in any way except in the back of your mind where you store all the people you will never live like, act like or look like (nor would you really want to, if you think about it).
And then there are celebrities: the kind that you may be lucky enough to meet because of shared interests, and who also happen to be famous to you and to some larger audience. For my super-talented sculptor husband there have been at least two of these such celebrities, singer Chris Daughtry and DC Comics talent Jim Lee. Both of these friends share his love for certain films, comics, and the wide world of geek culture – and also happen to be sorta famous. For me those celebrities reside in the world of barefoot running – authors, bloggers, superathletes, gurus and the creators of distinctive goods and products. And I was lucky enough to meet most of them just last weekend at the New York City Barefoot Run.
As you can probably imagine, it was a bit of a sensory-overload.
Perhaps to you, non-barefoot-runner, the people I met this weekend are not celebrities…just like Wes Welker is not a celebrity to me because I don’t watch football (oh, and all the times I’ve unknowingly stood next to a sports celebrity at a bar and watched my coworker friends freak out for seemingly no reason!). But we all have our A-list: the people we follow, admire and hope to meet some day, if only to totally geek out at them and ask for a picture (cue my ridiculous performance at a party in Atlanta when I introduced myself to Aaron Douglas from Battlestar Galactica – oof). Maybe the whole world doesn’t know who they are, but it doesn’t matter: they’re your very own personal A-Listers.
Just imagine ordering a beer from the bar at a private party on the South Street Seaport Pier 17 deck, overlooking a stunning sunset panorama of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan in all its glory…and then BOOM! You turn around and there you are, holding conversation with a group of people who have been named among your personal A-list celebrities. For me it was the author of one of my favorite novels (Christopher McDougall), an actual living character and maestro of cool from the novel (Barefoot Ted), the writers whose informational books and websites (Jason Robillard, Ken Bob Saxton) I’ve read top to bottom and up again, whose blogs (Christian Peterson, Kate Kift, Jesse Scott) I’ve been following and learning from for ages; the creators of some of my favorite products (Steven Sashen of Invisible Shoes, Krista Cavender and her kickass tees and Barefoot Ted of Luna Sandals) and those whose web presence has enhanced my love for my favorite pastime (Larry & Cathy Gibbons, Shelly Robillard, Patrick Sweeney, Chris Van Dyke). I mean, do you blame me for following this crew halfway across Manhattan and not going to bed until after 3am?
Okay, maybe my injured foot wasn’t too happy with me. I stubbornly spent most of the weekend barefoot or very minimally shod, and now I’m back in an aircast for a few days to calm the rage.
So in the time that I have been active in the curious world of the barefoot runner, I have come to admire these people (and many others who I didn’t see at the party) much more than I’d ever admire Brad Pitt for making lots of blockbuster movies. And it’s not just because some of them wrote best-selling books, ran ultra-marathons or traveled around the country picking up popularity and spreading the word like a prophet – it’s because they’re real people, dammit. Good people. The kind who do what they do because they believe in something, they love it, live it and want you to become part of it with them. But the most surprising part about meeting these to-me celebrities is how quickly my starstruck-ness dissolved over the course of the night. By the time I said goodnight I would count these folks among my friends (well, most of them anyway – McDougall and Barefoot Ted disappeared rather early on, returning to the realm of super-awesome celebrity oblivion). I felt like I could invite them to my wine and cheese party, and they’d probably attend…well, if they all didn’t live so damn far away.
The next morning after the Merrell Party and kudu talks, I got up at the buttcrack of dawn (completely hungover – I don’t want to talk about it) and took the ferry to Governor’s Island to participate in the 2nd Annual New York City Barefoot Run. It wasn’t a race, it was a scenic run-it-your-way 2.2 mile course around the perimeter of the island, overlooking the city with a remarkable view of Miss Liberty. I must admit the biggest downside to the whole weekend for me was the fact that I could not run barefoot, so I was the only one in sort-of-regular running shoes among 200 barefoot and minimalist runners. Being that I spent the last year as the only barefoot runner in a sea of Nike’s, the irony almost had a flavor to it. But I wanted to run so I did – bright pink Saucony Kinvaras and all. My podiatrist would be proud. I only ran one loop, and loved it, but didn’t want to overdo it (yeah sure – why stop now, right?). Many people took the course a few times, stopping between laps to chat, eat whole avocados (which is way interesting to watch, by the way) and get pulled by Barefoot Ted’s homemade rickshaw. Yup – that’s right. Per usual for the weekend, hilarity ensued. Oh, and I discovered a new love for coconut water.
There were pictures of this event but I’m not in any of them because I ran by myself (not on purpose – there was some bleary-eyed confusion on my part when people started running and so I just went) and I decided to head back home probably 3 minutes before the crew decided to get a shot of everyone together. But I will say that it was refreshing to take my sneakers off and hang around with a large group of people who don’t look at me weird or challenge my love for and belief in barefoot running.
Last weekend was one of the most surprisingly fun weekends I have had in a very long time (a close second to that surreal night in West L.A. a couple years back with hubby, Daughtry and a slew of rock stars). I met some amazing and talented people, drank a lot of really good beer for free (thanks Merrell and Jason!), acquired some sweet swag and made a few friends. But at the end of the day, nothing is more wonderful than coming home to my incredible hubby, my fur-babies and my Bob-o-Pedic mattress. Man was I beat! I’m actually glad that event only happens once a year, because I’m going to need twelve months to catch up on sleep and let my liver heal. Oh, AND to figure out how to get on Merrell’s Cool-Kids list for roundtable talks, free shoes and a comped room at the ACE Hotel next year, like all my super-lucky celebrity buddies got this time around. In other words, I want to sit at the popular lunch table!