Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

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Guest Post: Accepting the Inevitable – I am a Runner.

Thank you to Kate, for writing this piece for my blog. You’re everyone’s favorite inevitable runner.

I have finally realized that I am a runner.

You will now be divided into two groups.

Those of you that know me will be laughing, wiping the tears from your eyes and saying, “You are only realizing that now?”

Those that don’t know me, will be looking at the those laughing and wondering why the hell they are bent double, falling to the floor and unable to breathe.

To the group of you that are looking bemused, let me introduce myself.

My name is Kate and I have been running for about three and a half years.  However, during that time I have never counted myself as a runner.  In fact I have been pretty adamant about it.  I don’t take running that seriously and just count running as something that I like to do.  I am not fast; I don’t run far.  There have been weeks – no months – where I may not have run at all.

Yet — and this is why those that know me are killing themselves laughing — my day is spent doing many things that are running related.  Here are a few examples:

I have been writing over the last two and a half years, a blog that is predominantly about running.  I also write about other subjects too; my Son’s Autism, my views on life and other general drunken ramblings.  In my view, just because I have a personal blog that revolves around running doesn’t make me a runner.

I have also been active within the Barefoot Runners Society. It’s fun and interesting work, but I see it more of an organizational challenge than running related. This role doesn’t require me to be a runner.

In the last year, I have been coaching some of my friends in how to run well. To me, this is my social life.  As we run, we talk, chat, laugh and muck about.  I help because it’s an opportunity to have fun. I don’t help my friends run because I am a runner.

In December 2011, I was asked by Canadian Running Magazine to write a weekly blog for their site about barefoot running.  I admit my non-runner status is probably on shaky ground now.

Writing for Canadian Running Magazine has been an education into the hidden depths of the running industry. It’s been fascinating and it has appealed to my innate desire to investigate and learn.  I love making new connections – both with people and in my writing.  Connecting the differing sides and views of the industry has been tough but wonderful.  Challenging myself and learning from those experiences does not make me a runner.

If you looked at my Facebook page you would see that at least half of my friends are runners — usually of the barefoot kind.  This is a case of like-minded souls being drawn together.  Just because we all seem to enjoy running doesn’t mean I should be labeled as a runner.

Is now a good time to admit I do actually run perhaps three to four times a week?  Getting out and enjoying the fresh air is my mental reset.  Going for a run makes me sane, but not a runner.

You can probably see why the people that know me think my sudden realization I am a runner is humorous.  You can also see that I still feel the need to validate my non-runner status.  My futile attempts now seem rather hollow.

So why, after all this time and after everything I do that involves running, do I now believe I am a runner.

I am a runner now, because it’s in my gut; it’s a part of me.

Before running was something I did.  I enjoyed it don’t get me wrong — I love to run. I always make it my mission to gain some personal connection to my run.  I bring joy to my run – I have fun and I try to make everyone I pass smile.

Yet, I always felt that I was viewing running as an observer.  Running enabled me to try different things.  I became a writer, an administrator, a coach and a friend.  When people labeled me as a runner, I always felt it was in relation to other roles that I saw myself in.

The last few weeks, I have been feeling a change in my perception.  I wasn’t really aware of what I was feeling until it suddenly hit me.

It was the sense of movement. There was a new awareness within myself.  I felt the power of my legs moving.  I could feel the breath going in and out of my lungs.  My whole body seemed to vibrate as my heart pulsed at every beat.   I felt my muscles and tendons – my sinew – release and contract with each step.

I was silent, I was strong and I glided.

The path wasn’t something I ran over – my feet seemed to hardly touch the ground.  It was if I was floating over the small layer of air that covered the rocks, dirt and tree roots.

Even though I felt as if I was slow, I realized I was fast.  The agony of reaching a certain pace wasn’t there.  I hardly seemed to be out of breath and I would look at my watch and realize that I was running minutes faster than I normally would.  I felt strong, as if I could continue forever.

Every part of my body worked in unison and running became effortless.  Before I realized, I was running six miles and I would just continue.  The thoughts of reality and the normal life that was waiting for me were the only reasons I stopped and headed home.

I have experienced runs like this before, but they have always been one-off’s.  The occasional run in the midst of the months where there was always one part of my run that was slightly out of sync.

However lately that balance has switched.  Now every run feels like it’s perfect.  I can see why people run – the primal connection we experience.  Running has become instinctual instead of something I have to work at.  As I make the next landing, every part of my body is working together as a joyous whole, just as it should be.  The reason for us to run as an individual, as a group – a pack — now makes sense.

I have ceased being an observer and have become a part of the majesty of how we move.  I have made that connection to why running is essential to our species.  Running is now in my DNA.  I can’t remove it.

Why would I want to?

I am a runner.

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Wallis Sands Half Marathon Race Report

Photo “borrowed” from the Wallis Sands site (click photo for link).

Just in case I’ve got any readers who may have somehow been lead to believe that I’m not a hack that I’ve run a lot of long distance races, let me correct your misinformation here and now: I’m still a relative noob. Up to this point I have never run a race longer than a half marathon, and the Wallis Sands half marathon was only my second half marathon. Like, ever.

In fact, Wallis Sands has been my first race longer than a 5K since last June. But not for a lack of trying, though. If you are sort of new to reading my blog, you may not have seen the solid three-month-long block of posts on the subject of being out of commission due to a major foot injury last summer (and lucky you). The suckiest part of all is that if you count the time it took me to re-train myself, I was set back nearly a year of progress, and gained ten pounds as well. So this half mary was a triumph of sorts for me.

Last year I ran Great Bay. It was extremely hilly (something I didn’t know until the day before the race when I picked up my race packet and a shirt with “These Legs Conquered the Hills of Great Bay” printed on the back) and my lack of preparedness for those hills had me struggling through it at the end. So this year I signed up for the other really popular New Hampshire spring half marathon. It was almost totally flat. And the irony of it is that since last year’s half I’ve acquired a love of hills, so it was a bit boring to run such a flat road race. Ah well, such is life.

I signed up for this race with my friend John, who wanted to run his first half this year.  I’m certainly no veteran of the half marathon, but it was pretty cool to witness his milestone experience.

And it was nice to approach the starting line with some basic knowledge of the distance. Much unlike last year’s half, I’ve run farther than 13 miles now and I understand a bit more how to pace myself, how much water and fuel I require for the distance and how tired I’ll feel at the end. Per experience, I had fully expected to become tired enough to take walk breaks by mile 7 or so, little did I know at the starting line that I’d be surprising myself soon.

My bib had a yellow stripe on it. It had been so long since I’d signed up that I couldn’t even remember what finish time I’d selected, but the race went in heats (which I thought was genius) and yellow meant I was heat 4. Luckily John’s bib was the same color as mine so we got to stand around the starting line together, me in my INKnBURN skirt and him in his bright red Devil’s Chase race tee. We exchanged anxious grins and absorbed the excitement in the air around us. But as soon as the gun blared, he took off ahead, and I took out my mantra.

Don’t go fast. Don’t follow the crowd. Don’t go fast. Don’t follow the crowd. This is not a race for you – it’s just a training run for the 50K.

And I didn’t go fast or follow the crowd. I sunk into a nice conservative 11:30 pace right away and really just happily stayed there, determined not to use up too much energy. I enjoyed the overcast, 45-degree morning. For the first few miles the ocean was to my left, just over the rocks near the road. It was pretty amazing to look at, and, amazingly, it was also the first time I’d ever gone for a run so close to the ocean. Being that I’m an insatiable ocean lover I realize that this is preposterous. At any rate it sweetened those first few miles that are always hardest for me to get through.

Early on I caught up and began chatting with a woman in her 50’s, whom I later found out was from my hometown and knew one of my cousins in high school. Then, like an alarm going off, I had to pee. I always have to pee about a mile or two into my long runs. Why is this? As if on cue, we came up to a porta-potty and I dived in. I’ve probably never peed so fast in my life. I jumped back out and banged out an 8-minute mile to catch up with the group I was in before my pit-stop. The woman in her 50’s was now talking with someone else so I paced in behind her, hooked an earphone into my right ear and started chugging at 11:30 again.

Photo “borrowed” from the Wallis Sands site (click photo for link).

During the race I passed water stop after water stop, snagging a water and a gatorade each time to be sure I took in enough fluids. John got smaller ahead of me, until he was just a little red dot in a sea of black, blue and gray. I didn’t mind it at all; I enjoyed the relative quiet of the runners around me. I felt like I was with them, silently one of them.

Like I said before I fully expected to start walk breaks somewhere around mile 7, because, well…that’s my usual modus operandi. But at mile 7 I felt fine. I was two miles into my first Gu (those things never get easier to choke down, do they?) and feeling hydrated enough. I was still doing fine by mile 8, and still by mile 9 – even though my GI tract was starting its usual fuss and noise, which I was, however, successfully ignoring. The flatness of the course made it so incredibly easy that I was covering the miles with little trouble. And so by then I decided I might as well just stick it out the rest of the way.

Soon after, I started passing some of the people who had blown by me back at mile 1, and John-the-red-dot started getting bigger again. I caught up to him somewhere after mile 10 and although he was still plugging along, he looked a little tuckered (later I found out that he hadn’t consumed anything but water for the whole race). He was busy concentrating on his run so I continued on and soon he was lost again behind me.

That’s when I realized I was having a really good race. I only had two miles left and I hadn’t stopped to walk even once. Sure, my feet were a little tired in spots and my hips were achey, but I’ve grown used to those minor pains and they don’t really bother me much anymore. My IT band was fine, my lungs felt great, and even though I was slowing down a bit (I was riding a 12 minute mile by then), I was thrilled.

The only annoying thing was the mile markers were WAY off throughout the whole race. And because I stupidly trust mile markers on USATF Certified race courses, I thought my Garmin was dying when it was beeping almost a half mile after I’d passed each marker. Then, mile 12…well, mile 12 was a mile and a half long. Looks like the guys they sent out to set down the markers were off from the start, and didn’t go back to fix their mistake. Yeah, pretty evil.

Photo “borrowed” from the Wallis Sands site (click photo for link).

Even though the last mile was a bit brutal, being right on the beach again made it a little easier to take. And then, soon as I came around a bend and saw the tents near the finish line, “The Final Countdown” played on my iPod – true story. It’s like that song has a sixth sense or something. I grinned big and bore down on that last quarter mile like I had zombies chasing me. I finished 13.1 again, and this time I did it with a big smile on my face, instead of tears. And despite being ten pounds heavier than I was last year, I finished three minutes faster, and pain-free. It felt like breaking a curse.

But now the Final Countdown has truly begun. Pineland 50K, Memorial Day weekend. Will I finish? Will I DFL? Will I die? The answer is still two weeks away, my friends, so stay tuned. But at the very least I plan to enjoy it as much as I can and, when in doubt, do my best to smile like a badass.

Or maybe I’ll just follow Kate Kift‘s advice and wear a pink tutu.



I am glad I took the opportunity to test the VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra because I wasn’t sure at first that I would like the shoe. But, much like the Transformer, the Ultra is more than meets the eye. This is a twofold metaphor too, so stay with me on it.

Gaining in popularity due to its unique features, this interesting cage-shaped shoe is molded completely of EVA foam. EVA is that super lightweight, super squishy rubber from which…yes…Crocs are also made. More on that later. The shoe comes with a sock liner that is completely removable, as well as completely wearable on its own (so they say – I haven’t tried it myself). Basically, the Ultra is like having three different shoes in one.

So you see, the Transformer reference totally fits.

I’m definitely digging all the bright and fun colors they chose for the Ultra. My purple and yellow pair are cute and on trend. The laces are elastic with one of those nifty lace locks. I like elastic lock lacing on my shoes, even though it’s always awkward figuring out what to do with the ends of them. Even still, it’s a much simpler solution. It’s quicker on and off, nothing ever gets untied on its own, and because elastic is stretchy there’s room for error with how tight you make them. With regular lacing I typically tie and re-tie my shoes at least twice every time I wear them. Because I’m anal just like Goldilocks and my laces have to feel not too loose, not too tight, but just right.

Another reason the Ultra was more than meets the eye to me is because, as it turns out, I like them a lot more than I thought I would initially. Several questions ran through my head upon first being asked to test these. Holey foam shoes, seriously? How weird will they look on my feet? Are people going to think I’m wearing Crocs? How squishy are the soles, and will that affect my form? Which variation of the shoe is more comfortable? And if I take out the liner, how will EVA feel against my bare feet, especially once sweat is involved? Do they pinch, rub, cause hot spots? And where the hell did Vivo get the idea to make these, anyway?

Fit and Feel

When I tried these on for the first time a few of my questions were answered right away. The EVA part of the shoe seemed so much bigger than the liner, which was way too tight and constricting. So I took it out and that immediately improved the fit. Yeah, it’s a bit of a peculiar look with my feet in full view beneath the holes, but I actually sort of like it. They are easily the lightest shoe I have in my closet, weighing in at a bare 3.1 ounces with the liner out.

I want to be sure I point out that the last on these babies is super wide! I challenge any foot in the universe to be too wide for this shoe. For the first time in probably ever, I had to cinch the laces to get a tighter fit. A definite positive for me. So if you’ve got a wide foot like me or if you like a lot of extra room in the toe box, then I recommend just picking up the Ultra Pure instead, which comes sans liner and is $30 cheaper. But if you like a more snug fit or think you’ll want the extra layer for any reason, then by all means go for the full Transformer.


Running in the Ultra was also better than first expected. They’re sorta squishy, yes, but I forgot about that once I got moving. The little bump pattern in the sole is nice, too. I think it’s there for grip, but it’s also kind of massaging. In a barefoot shoe, those things are almost like guilty pleasures! Heh. But I have a feeling that over time the sole will flatten out and get less bouncy anyway, as EVA does. That is, if they don’t wear out first. I do have some question about the overall durability of the Ultra, but I haven’t put enough miles on them yet to determine that for sure. Either way I’m willing to bet that the lower price point offsets any longevity issues for the most part, anyway.

If you’re the kind of person who hates having hot feet, the Ultra is a good shoe to try. I mean, it has holes in it! Especially at the top, the ventilation is great and while you’re moving you can feel the airflow throughout the shoe. It’s pretty nice, actually. Great for sloshing through puddles and streams, too. Although, after a lot of sweating and/or wetness, my foot does get to sliding around a bit in the shoe. Not enough to alter my balance or gait, but enough to cause a bit of rubbing in places. After a hot 5 miler, I had a small red spot at the top of my pinky toe. I think the problem is that even though the shoe is plenty wide, the material doesn’t have memory like a fabric or leather. So the shoe doesn’t alter itself to the shape of your foot as it moves in the shoe. It wasn’t a huge problem for me though, no blisters and the hot spot went away quickly. It is what it is.

Although I do know a few people who go for 10+ mile runs in these shoes, I think my favorite place for them will be short rainy runs, hot summer walks, weekend errands and traveling. I didn’t like these on trail because tiny rocks and sand immediately jumped into the shoe and made it uncomfortable. So that was out. Beach sand might be a little weird too, but maybe not. I’ll have to get back to you on that one, soon as I find time to get to a beach. Summer can’t come fast enough!

In Summary

  • uniquely versatile shoe that’s amphibious and well-ventilated
  • it comes in a variety of colors
  • wide last, but the liner can be an awkward fit
  • easy on and off elastic lacing
  • comfortable and squishy
  • great for travel and every day, as well as for running
  • good shoe for roads and wet areas
  • nice price point


Non-Runners: Stop Making Dumb Excuses Not to Run

Photo stolen from WIRED Magazine

“I don’t run unless it’s away from something. Like…a zombie.”

Such is the absolute stupidest, and most common, excuse to avoid running that I have ever heard. I’ll be in some social situation or another and someone will ask me a question about running. And sometimes, before I even answer, I’m smacked in the face with this ridiculous statement. Sometimes it is varied (but equally stupid) and sounds more like: “the only time I run is after my child…like, if he gets hold of a butcher knife or something.”

I’m sorry if you’ve said it to me in the past and I’m insulting you…well, actually no I’m not sorry. I mean it. And if you’re a friend of mine you’re probably a pretty smart person, which makes this an even more insanely dumb thing for you to say.

First of all, if a zombie was chasing you, you wouldn’t be running….you’d be sprinting. And most runners don’t sprint, anyway. That’s a completely different sport that even I don’t really understand. Second, if the first and only time you ever run is at the start of a zombie apocalypse you wouldn’t make it a block before you became a screaming, bloody mid-afternoon snack.

But I digress.

Some of the other dopey excuses that I’ve heard from people who refuse to try running are the following:

I don’t run because I have bad knees
Truth is, you don’t run because you have bad knees, and you have bad knees because you don’t run. Also, you’ve spent years in cushioned shoes that have fostered your poor posture and shitty running/walking form. Or perhaps you have an injury from way back in high school when you played sports. What kind of shoes were you wearing then? Corrective cushioned shoes? I figured. Strengthen your feet, straighten out your posture, fix your form, and you might discover that your knees aren’t as “bad” as you thought.

Running is bad for you
I hear a lot of this crap from the pro-orthotics camp. They stuff these ridiculous custom orthotics into their cushioned shoes to splint their feet indefinitely, closing them up from the sensory environment they were meant to thrive in. These folks have lumpy, weak feet and legs and therefore running hurts them. Then they read some study from other pro-orthotic folks on the frequency of running injuries (among shod runners), and conclude that running must be bad.

It’s just plain wrong, guys. Some animals are made for walking (like cows), and some are for running (like cats). Humans are built to run. We have features all over our bodies that are there to be used for the act of running alone. Running isn’t what’s bad for you…not running is bad for you. Your sedentary life is bad for you (and not just because it’ll make you fail to outrun zombies). Modern society allows us to sit on our ever-growing asses almost all the time, parked in front of computers or bad reality television, stuffing ourselves with artery-clogging processed foods that we drove our cars 4 blocks down the road to pick up at the supermarket. Most people basically do everything they can to never have to move their bodies. And then they pass a runner in their car and shake their heads because “running is bad for you.”

I have to lose weight before I’ll try running
I don’t even think I need to explain why this is stupid. But postponing exercise to lose weight is surprisingly common. Heck, I’ve even done it. Super diets like Weight Watchers and Slim-Fast try to make you believe that you can lose weight and be healthy without ever exercising. And well, it’s partly true – losing weight is really all about taking in less calories than you burn, but that has nothing to do with being healthy.

If you sit on your ass all day long, you don’t need very many calories at all. But chances are you’ll be kinda hungry if you only get, say, 1,100 calories per day. And that usually yields one or more of these results: your body goes into starvation mode and significantly reduces your metabolism to conserve calories, effectively slowing weight loss; You fail the diet because you eventually give up and eat four hamburgers to avoid passing out from hunger; Or you resort to living on low calorie, high-carb diet junk crap which is full of simple sugars and has absolutely no dietary significance. Then, the second you hit your goal weight and have to go back to “normal” eating, you don’t even know what that is so you make all the same wrong choices you used to make and in less than three months you’re back where you started again.

How about this time you eat some real food, up the calories so you’re not starving and add in some daily exercise? Or even better, stop dieting to get skinny. That’s all bullshit, anyway. You don’t have to be skinny. I’m not skinny. Just be healthy and active. The rest will follow eventually.

I’m bad at running, I can’t even run a mile
This is probably the dumbest of all the dumb excuses. You don’t run at all, so of course you can’t run a mile, stupid. In my opinion, the All-American addiction to immediate gratification is really getting out of hand. I’m the sort of person who loves working up to my successes. I love the idea of taking a low-end job at first and working my way up to the top. I take pride in the fact that I was given practically nothing in childhood, but have made so much of myself as an adult. Nothing makes me happier than the repayment of lots and lots of hard work toward my goal – especially in running. And I still have so much farther to go in running, which keeps me motivated. But I’m different from a lot of people. Most kids want to barely graduate college but expect their first job to be CEO of Apple. And they want to be able to lace up their Nike’s for the first time, take a left at the end of their driveway and run 5 miles at 8:30 pace. And if those things don’t happen right away, it’s time to pack it in and start blaming the world for being so unfair. You guys all give up on shit way too easily. Also, I think you’re too comfortable with being mediocre.

Hey, we all make excuses for shit. I tell people that my lawn is ugly because nobody taught me how to care for a lawn and I can’t afford a gardener. But that’s just an excuse. The truth is I’m overwhelmed by how shitty my yard already was when we moved in, and I’m too indifferent about lawn care in general to waste an entire spring weekend working in my back yard. Excuses are essentially lies. Lies we tell ourselves and others so that we can circumvent our own guilt about something. I should just tell anyone who asks me why I have a crappy yard that I don’t give much of a shit about it and I don’t spend any time in it anyway. The trails are my backyard.

I wish people would be more truthful about why they don’t run, rather than making these dumb excuses. If people were more truthful, they could give me the real reasons why they won’t ever try to run (unless something is chasing them):

  • I’m too lazy to exercise
  • I don’t want to do anything that’s difficult
  • I can’t handle an endeavor that doesn’t have immediate positive results
  • I refuse to try running barefoot or take the time to learn correct form
  • I would rather conform to the idea that running sucks

But of course nobody will say that to me. It sounds lazy and defeatist. And if they were to admit to themselves that they’re just being lazy and defeatist about running, they’d have nothing left but to change their ways.

Of course I realize that for most of my readers, I’m just singing to the choir. What other dumb excuses have you heard from people who refuse to try running?


Review: Merrell Women’s Dash Glove

First off, I’d like you all to give me a pat on the back for finally breaking out the old DSLR camera for my review shots. Up until now I’ve been a lazy ass and have been taking pictures of shoes with my iPhone camera. And while the iPhone is not bad for drunken bar night candids and quick snapshots of weird people at Walmart, I can do much better with the Nikon I paid $800 bucks for and therefore should really be taking out much more often. Besides it saved me about an hour of Photoshopping.

With that said, on to the review.

Fun fact: I didn’t actually have to do a review on the Merrell Dash Glove. Before I met any contacts at Merrell, I was lucky enough to win them from a giveaway on Running and Rambling‘s awesome blog (which I read pretty religiously). Soon as I learned I’d won them I decided to write a review, because up until now I have had nothing on here from Merrell, one of the biggest minimalist shoe companies out there.

The look of the Dash Glove is bar none. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments from friends, coworkers, even strangers on my pink and purple pair (titled “Ultra Marine” on their site). They look as great under a pair of jeans as they do on the roads. Lots of right-on color choices too. I almost went with the juicy orange-toned “Lychee” color instead, they looked good enough to eat. Much kudos to Merrell’s designers on the look of this shoe – they got feminine and sporty all at once, something not everyone does right.

Fit and Feel
How do they fit? Well, as most of you have heard at least 27 times, I have really wide feet. My only previous experience with Merrell’s barefoot shoes before winning the Dash Glove was of a pair of lime green Pace Gloves that I bought and nearly maimed my poor feet, from their obscenely narrow width (this was before learning that they offered a wide width version). But that’s for another post. What that experience earned me, though, was a wary fear of purchasing anything else from Merrell. So I suppose it was sort of good that I won these shoes. No monetary risk if I didn’t like them. I figured I could give them away to my friend Killeen if they didn’t fit me, because she has a much narrower foot.

So the first time I wore them, I put them on with jeans and wore them to work. At the end of the day I still wasn’t 100% sure about them. They do have a much wider sole than the Pace Gloves, but it was still narrower than I’m used to. I figured they would probably give me some major foot problems if I ever wore them on a run.

So in typical Trish Reeves fashion, I wore them on my 4-miler the next day.

And I’m glad I did, because something interesting happened to this shoe once I got running. The mesh upper started to soften up after about a half mile (probably from sweating – which I didn’t do at work the day before), and molded to my foot. I wasn’t wearing socks so it got a little swampy in there (and I did get a little blister on one big toe), but by the end of my run the Dash Glove really did earn its name. I have been pleasantly surprised.

One interesting, if contradictory thing, about the fit of the Dash Glove is that it is rather constricting to my mid-foot. I would typically find this to be a disadvantage, given that the constriction is technically a form of support, but I admit I like the help (sshhh – don’t tell the minimalist shoe gods). Doesn’t make my foot work quite as hard and keeps the tired away longer.

But it also keeps me from wanting to recommend this shoe to a newbie minimalist runner, because I believe a beginner should run in practically nothing until they get their form down (more on this below).

I’ve put about 30 miles on these babies so far, and you can see the footprint I’ve made on them in all the pictures (I prefer taking worn-in photos – you can see brand new shoes all day long on company websites). I very much like these shoes, they are quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Minimalist vs. Barefoot
The biggest thing to know about the Dash Gloves is that they’re actually the most shoe I have ever worn running since I went barefoot/minimalist two years ago. Most of the shoes I tend to reach for the most can be described as “slipper-like” or “kind of like a sock dunked in Plasti-Dip.”

Although they are definitely zero-drop and by anyone’s definition, absolutely a minimal shoe, the Dash Glove has a thicker, firmer sole than anything else in my closet. So to me they definitely fit more in the “minimalist shoe” category than the “barefoot shoe” one. Because of this, in my own (only slightly humble) opinion, a beginning minimalist runner might be better off first perfecting good form in a more lightly-soled shoe than the Dash Glove, because this shoe has just enough sole thickness to shield poor/heel striking form.

With that said, after two years of minimalist running experience, the thicker sole has been nothing but a relief to my feet. After about 6 or 7 miles, my feet typically start feeling a little beat up, especially on the roads where my forefoot hits the ground in the same place over and over again. Those extra millimeters of rubber between foot and pavement kept the beat-up feeling at bay for much longer. Last week’s 11-miler in these shoes was on the hilly streets of Boston, and the balls of my feet thanked me when I was done.

About six months ago I probably would have shunned such a statement. I would have proclaimed that if my feet can’t handle 7 miles of pavement, they didn’t need more shoe, they needed more training. But now I am starting to see that everything, like the Dash Glove, has its place and its moment.

And to me, the perfect place for the Merrell Dash Glove is the long road run, and it will be my shoe of choice at my next half marathon, coming up in the next few weeks.

My only question to Merrell is this: Since these shoes are basically the female equivalent of the men’s Road Gloves, why didn’t they just call them (Women’s) Road Gloves? The word “Dash” just doesn’t come to mind as easily. Just me…?



Where Have All the Strong and Mighty Cowgirls Gone?

I have had a string of observations lately that I think might be interesting to put here. Just as back story, I currently own a home in southern New Hampshire, and I work just a few miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. So generally speaking, I live amongst a pretty open-minded population. This makes me pretty happy. Kids with dreads and tattoos, lots of skinny jeans and interesting mop hairdos, also some peacoats, schoolish glasses, and Starbucks coffee shops filled with MacBooks. And lots and lots of runners. Runners everywhere. In fact, I drove home tonight from an event in Saugus, MA, and I counted 11 runners before my tires hit the driveway.

What I’m getting at here is that even though I see a ton of runners practically everywhere I go in this very open-minded region of the country, it’s rare to see a pair of bare feet or even minimalist shoes. And to take it one step further: with the exception of personal friends and the few “barefoot” races I’ve attended, I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve run by a woman wearing minimalist footwear. I just…don’t see it.

Hard to tell if it’s the cause of, or the response to, a possibly chilly female consumer climate, but there is a distinctive inequality of selection and style between men’s and women’s minimalist footwear. For example, men’s color choices will often be bright, gorgeous and plentiful, while the women’s colors are boring or much more limited. Not only that, but often the women’s version of a new shoe will come out weeks or months after the men’s one appears, or be a totally different shoe altogether. Almost like it was an afterthought.

Do these companies fail to understand that women in general are fashion devotees, likely to consume any beautiful thing we can use to decorate our bodies? No, I don’t think so.

Do minimalist shoe makers not care about women engaging in the sport of natural running? Very unlikely.

I believe the problem isn’t obtuseness in the minimalist shoe industry. The problem is women themselves.

Think about every time you’ve seen some beefy dude powering down the track or hefting gargantuan weights at the gym. Every time you’ve turned on a football game to to watch colossal men bashing into each other at the fifty yard line, or soccer players bolting across a wide field and deftly kicking a black and white ball towards the goal line. When men perform feats of strength and endurance it’s just another day in the life.

But when a woman shows a high level of strength and endurance it’s like we’re all watching She-Ra battling the Evil Horde. She’s a superhero. She’s a biological enigma. Or better yet, she’s out of her goddamn mind.

Generally speaking, aside from the obvious musculoskeletal differences that  make women physically weaker, women possess just as much strength as men. And in some non-physical ways, maybe even more. Overall, women can endure just as much toughness as men, and we can grow physically strong in the same myriad of ways. And although they will rally and cheer at that last sentence all day long, but most women don’t actually believe it.

I don’t know if it’s a side effect of our being raised on Barbie and princess tiaras, but for some reason I find that most women generally believe they need help with everything. They think that they need help bringing the groceries in, killing the spider in the basement, purchasing a new car.

They are ready and eager to accept that their feet need help, too. In my observation, more women believe they need extra cushioning for their delicate little cotton-candy-pink-painted footsies, and are much more likely than men to jump on the “test my gait” bandwagon at the local running store.

Now, I’m not trying to dump on my gender here. I’m also not suggesting that women are gullible or that all women runners are these high-maintenance pink and purple princesses (although some are). But I do find it an interesting dichotomy to be in when you are a woman and you’re also a barefoot runner, training for an ultra-marathon with all the boys. I mean, there just seems to be this huge divide between the feminine chick and the hard-core runner (who is usually a dude), because there’s almost nobody in between. And since I rather prefer it over on the hard-core runner side, sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m still a chick.

What I wonder the most is how things ever got this way. I mean, where did all the feminist rebellion go? Back in the late 60’s women would have been wearing Vibram FiveFingers while they burned their bras, if they were wearing any shoes at all (and if Vibram FiveFingers existed). Women had real power back then. And I don’t mean the “man-hating feminist” label that people nowadays like to pin on the Women’s Rights Movement (the amazing time of change, by the way, that included our receiving equal rights to vote, own property, apply for divorces and take birth control pills). For a time, women saw themselves on an equal playing field with the men.

But the strong arm of women’s equality has slackened, in my opinion. The widest slice of the female American culture that I’ve seen these days is from women who are perfectly content languishing under the cushy roofs that their husbands put over their heads, with no other ambitions than that of raising perfect little rosey-cheeked babies and baking perfect little pies from scratch, just like their grandmothers did back in the 1940’s. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having those ambitions, of course, but it’s disappointing to see so very few women my age in America like me, who feel any kinship at all to those sharp, capable, fiercely independent women of the feminist movement.

Fortunately, I have met a few women along the way who do fit this bill. Most of them have become good friends of mine and I am grateful for this. I was also grateful when I saw Merrell’s new “Pretty Strong” website, launched for the sole purpose of educating women in the barefoot and minimalist running movement (and to sell lots of shoes too, I’m sure). The new site is gorgeous, information-packed and it communicates a message that I definitely dig.

But seeing that site also raises a note of discord for me: Why do we feel we need this separation from men – one that seems to suggest women can’t work out just like men do? Why must we be spoon-fed by a nifty teal and orange marketing campaign (charming as it is), informing us that we can indeed be “strong” and “pretty” at the same time?

My answer is I don’t exactly know. But I’d love to hear what you think.


Two Runners, a Jogger and a Cry-Baby: How a Bad Advertisement Became a Good Motivator

Are you a jogger, or are you a runner?

Yeah, I know – you’ve heard the debate a thousand times before, so have I. But I’ve always been fascinated by how the question so thoroughly encompasses a social conflict as well as an internal one for many of us. And this label game is just a tiny reflection of the bigger elitism vs. cynicism picture, seen just about anywhere among groups of people. But I find it particularly interesting as it applies to the sport of running, because where you are on the scale is, really, sort of up to you.

But sometimes it can seem like it’s not up to you. Product marketing is getting shrewder and ever more marginalizing these days. And it’s starting to get personal. Pearl Izumi, for example, recently released some controversial ads that highlight the elitist end of the runner vs. jogger spectrum, like this interactive brochure, and this photo ad:

One of my favorite bloggers, VanessaRuns, wrote an article the other day that presented a favorable opinion of the ads, and then immediately felt pressure to redact most of what she said and post an apology about it. I don’t necessarily want to get into how I feel about that in this post, but I will say I am ashamed of the person who would subscribe to an intelligent, free-thinking woman’s blog, and then decide to bring an air of censorship to it the moment Vanessa writes something he or she disagrees with. It goes against everything we are as barefoot runners who live a lifestyle of tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness.

But Vanessa wasn’t the only person who had something to say about the Pearl Izumi backlash. Jason Robillard writes that people who are offended by such advertising are just being babies (his usual logical stance, along with a teachable moment thrown in for good measure), this blurb at expresses total disgust, and Darren Rovell over at CNBC writes here that he isn’t sure what to think about it. Seems Pearl Izumi really got some attention with this ad. Which is….well, exactly what an ad is supposed to do. By definition, it is a brilliant campaign! Unlike this one, which pretends to be brilliant but is actually very stupid:

But besides being a hot button for everyone with two thumbs and an opinion, Pearl Izumi’s ad campaign can be interpreted as a call to arms for all who love to run. And I mean Really. Love. to run. Hear me out on this. Sure, at first glance it might look like a bunch of elitist bullshit written to exclude all the fatasses regular people like me who can’t run a sub 4-hour marathon (or even train for one without stopping for beer halfway through). That’s how I first reacted to it, anyway. But then as I spent more time trying to understand how I’m supposed to feel about the message, I realized it wasn’t actually excluding me at all.

Because I think of myself as a runner, and nothing in that ad takes that feeling away from me. Frankly, I kind of identify with the whole “run like an animal” thing. It’s powerful imagery, and it fits in with how I would describe my feelings about running.

What I’m saying is that how you react to this ad campaign reflects your own opinion of yourself as an athlete. Just take a minute and ask yourself: Are you one of the “runners” they’re talking about, or are you a jogger? Where do you feel you place on the spectrum? How do you describe yourself to non-runners? Do you even care what these ad guys think about your running abilities? And who are you supposed to be comparing yourself to, anyway?

And that’s what a lot of this backlash comes down to: comparisons. People routinely look at others and then look down their own deck of cards to see how it stacks up. If their own stack falls short, it can result in some bad feelings. I know, I do it all the time. And here is what being a runner looks like today in my mirror:

  • I started running 2 years ago, but before that I jogged like a moron for about 8 years
  • I run in minimalist footwear only (and sometimes barefoot)
  • I typically run between 15 and 20 miles per week
  • I run 3 to 5 days a week, but I’d run all 7 if my legs allowed
  • I have run 5k, 10k, and half marathon races
  • My longest non-race run so far has been 12 miles
  • I am somewhat overweight and generally prone to injury
  • My comfortable running pace at the moment is between 10:30 and 11:00
  • I run at my comfortable pace, or slower, about 80% of the time
  • The fastest mile I have ever timed was 8:40
  • My fastest 5K was just over 30 minutes
  • My only half marathon finish was 2:36
  • I like to always be training for a running event
  • I am currently training for a half marathon and a 50K, both in May
  • I am not sure I will finish the 50K, but it won’t stop me from trying
  • I can honestly say I run for the sake of running
  • I can honestly say I run for the beer social benefits
  • I can honestly say I run because it makes me feel like a badass

The above list of running qualifications could be considered pretty amazing, embarrassingly lame, or anywhere in between. It all depends on who’s looking, and how their deck stacks up to mine. If I hold up my cards to almost anyone in my family, many of my friends and coworkers, and roughly half of the American population, I’m an incredible athlete. To most of my runner friends? I am somewhere between average and mediocre. But I can’t even hold a candle next to the amazing ultra marathon runners that I have met and look up to, or have heard about along the way. I can’t even stand at the starting line of the same race. Because I didn’t qualify.

My point is that I can choose to compare myself to all the most elite runners and feel really bad about myself. Or I can choose to recognize how close I really am to those guys, as compared to the rest of the world who doesn’t run at all. If I choose the latter, I can still proudly call myself a runner and smile for miles. Running is always better than not running. And this is what I try to remember when I start to feel bad about my running abilities (or lack thereof).

But, sometimes it is beneficial to compare yourself to those better runners. Feeling driven to always improve yourself adds strength to your character. And that is precisely why I have decided I like the Pearl Izumi ad. Maybe you found it offensive. Hell, it was offensive. But if you have any fight in you then you’ll also recognize it as a challenge. A flaming gauntlet. An older brother standing at the top of the hill, taunting you from above:

You wanna be a runner?
Well then stop jogging around the block like a girl.
Run somewhere dirty.
Let the sweat mess up your mascara for once.
Learn to love the pain and fatigue.
Be passionate or don’t bother.
Go hard.
Push your limits.
Let yourself fail.
Sign up for a race you can’t even finish yet.
Take some goddamn risks sometimes.

Does your mind taunt you like this when you’re in the middle of a difficult run? Do you love it? Do you run to escape, meditate, relax, reflect, recharge? Do you run to get better at running? Do you feel strong, alive and invincible when you’re out there on the trail?


Well then what the hell are you worried about that stupid ad for?! They were talking about you!

And if you are just out there pounding pavement toward a 4 pound weight loss for your best friend’s wedding or making up for last night’s cheese pizza, then you probably don’t give a shit if someone calls you “just a jogger.” The ad wouldn’t even catch your eye anyway. And neither would this article, in fact.

So you can all relax, everybody. No one is taking away your Runner’s License. It’s still valid, and accepted everywhere your feet land. So STFU and RUN.

Now, can we talk about how Pearl Izumi just sells cushy traditional running shoes and nothing minimalist? What a bunch of wussy hobby-joggers. 🙂


Guest Post: How I Accidentally Became a Runner

Post by Monologuer Killeen McGowan

When my running gal pal Trisha asked me to Guest blog for Barefoot Monologues, I was happy to oblige. I love writing, I love running. What’s to lose? And then, I drew the biggest blank a writer can possibly draw.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that when I run, I just run. I don’t have a training plan, and I don’t have specific goals. I just go outside, and trot along beside my dog, doing very little besides breathing, and encouraging my brain to allow my legs to keep moving.

That said, it finally hit me that there’s no better topic to cover than my own story. The story of how this very-much-a-non-runner became a girl with a numbered bib and Brooks-brand trainers (that’s Brit slang for running shoes, Yankees).

So, lace up. (Can I say that on a Barefoot Running Blog?) Here we go….

Summer, 2010

My firstborn was about ready to give up nursing, which meant I had to fulfill a promise I’d made to myself. I had to start exercising. While I had shed all the baby weight I’d gained during pregnancy (and then some), I felt that the moment I ceased to breastfeed was the moment I ceased to have an excuse not to be active. See, nursing burns 500 calories a day, and with that burns all of your energy. It’s pretty cool to sit on the couch with your suckeling bundle of sweetness doing all the work for you, but along with the perk of being skinny, came the drawback of feeling weak. I wanted to toughen, and strengthen, and I felt an exercise plan was the way to go as soon as baby was through with the boob.

It just so happens that around the time my milk production days were over, I was also quite overwhelmed at work. There was a lot going on, and without getting into juicy corporate details, we’ll just say I needed an outlet. So, one weekday evening, lactationless me rooted through the front closet, unearthed some beat up old TJMaxx-deal-of-the-day sneaks, and hit the pavement.

It felt SO great to just hammer out all my stress on that road. I live on a circle of a street, and it measures out as a near-perfect half mile loop. I ran two laps, dying, but thrilled. Next night, I did it again, adding a lap. Before I knew it, I went from a deathly half-mile to a strong, confident 5K. While I’d dabbled in running as a teenager, it never really spoke to me. Now, it was exactly what I needed, and I was hooked. I was a runner!

The rest of the month was full of little, personal, after-dark 5K’s. After eight or so of them, it became quite clear that my bargain-basement shoes were going to kill me, however. I spent a few weeks hardly able to walk, with advice from my marathoning neighbors (who’d seen me racing our neighborhood track) that I just might want to slow down a bit. I couldn’t tell you how fast I’d been running then, as I wasn’t about to be bothered with timing myself. Yet if these folks thought of me as a speed demon, I’m sure it was too fast for my own good. The knives that suddenly took up residence in the backs of my ankles were also a pretty reliant source; I wasn’t being a “smart” runner. Too far, too fast, too quickly. Well, darn it.

I partially have my runner hubby to blame. He’d encouraged me to stick with running for a month or so before investing in fancy footwear. I can’t point my finger too harshly, as yes, I’m notorious for starting new hobbies and ventures, only to lose interest a few weeks later. But we’ll just say he felt TERRIBLE to see me limping along as a result of his own, damaging advice. I felt equally terrible, completely forced to give up my new favorite stress-reliever, not to mention now having difficulty with the necessary act of walking. I feared I’d never run again. But, that didn’t stop me from buying a real pair of running shoes, from a real, running shoe store.

A few weeks and a hundred dollars later, I was back in business. My first re-do run was during our summer beach vacation, and it rocked my world in the good way. The seascape awed me, the ocean breeze delighted me, and the fresh, salty air all but gave me wings. Upon coming home, the new challenge was now in settling for my boring street without losing interest.

Fall, 2010

Enter Trisha. We’ve been friends for over a decade, and we have the world of social media to thank for reuniting us after losing touch in the post-college years. Because we live so close to each other (7.6 miles, to be precise), it was a great excuse to meet up and run. Our first jaunt together bore the slogan “4 miles or bust!” as I don’t believe either of us had ever braved more than 3.5 in one shot. We were quite perfectly matched.

Trisha, however, was far more into the running world than me. She had her Vibram 5-fingers before they had reached phenomenon status. She had a chunky, techy watch with lots of buttons. She had clothes that were made for running, hydration belts, GUs, and all the other schwag that runners use to enhance performance. Meanwhile, I carried a bottle from my husband’s fuel belt, MacGyver’ed to my waist with a hair elastic and a big rubber band (a system, I must admit, I still use to this day). Each run, she’d ask me how far I wanted to go. My reply was always the same: “It’s up to you. It’s not like I’m training for anything.”

Though Trisha wasn’t officially training either, the words “Half Mary” were on her lips every other step. For awhile, it was in the context of “I’m not sure I could ever run 13.1 miles…” but I could tell she already had her mind made up that she was doing one in the early spring. Eventually, she bit the bullet and signed up for the Great Bay Half in early April. I continued to come along for the ride, agreeing to 6 and 7 mile runs with the thought that I had nothing to lose should I accidentally over-do it again.

Winter, 2010/11

Another reason Trisha and I were well-matched is because we both love running in cold weather. Her training (and my non-training) spanned over the dead of winter, thus the majority of our runs were in below-freezing temps. I can remember the look of shock on my Mother-in-Law’s face on Christmas Eve as I suited up for a run with snow flurries swirling outside the window. Our January Jaunts and February Frolics were some of my favorite runs together, as braving the icy streets and sub-zero windchills gave me an air of bad-assedness that I’d never experienced before.

After hitting 9.7 slushy miles with Trish on one grey afternoon in the last week of February, I decided it would almost be stupid NOT to sign up for the half marathon in question. While I’d never run a race, never timed myself on a solo run, and certainly never considered the notion of paying a fee to run, it would definitely be an accomplishment.

The day before my birthday, I told my husband I’d finally made up my mind: I was registering for the race. As a very motivated, driven, enthusiastic, think-big kind of guy, I figured he’d be ecstatic.  So, I was rather blindsided by his adversity to the idea. “I think you should wait a little longer,” he said. It kinda caused (okay, it did cause) a fight. He kept up his less-than-convincing side of the argument for a good ten minutes before I defiantly hit the “Register Me!” button on the Great Bay Half Maration online registration form. Then, my husband spilled his beans:

“I signed us both up for the Wallis Sands Half Marathon in May as part of a birthday present to you.”

We look back on this moment and laugh… but at the time, I’m pretty sure I went into panic mode. In mere seconds, I’d gone from never running a race in my 31 year long life, to being signed up for not one, but TWO half marathons, which were only a month apart from each other. While it was sweet that my husband had utter confidence in me (so much so that he decided to do what he thought I never would and commit me to a Bona fide distance race), it was also, um… ballsy to make the decision for me. “I didn’t think you’d ever do it, but I knew you could, and I wanted to help give you the experience,” he justified. It actually was a great idea- it’s just that neither of us expected me to have the same idea.

Along with an experience, he also gave me a Garmin watch. Funny enough, it was the same exact watch Trisha had; ugly, yet topnotch. And thus, it got a lot of use in that next month. Those watches beeple-boppled in unison as we kicked it into high gear, obsessing over our pace, and completing each run down to the perfect tenth of the day’s desired mile.

Spring, 2011

“These Legs Conquered the Hills of the Great Bay Half Marathon.”

I’ll take Things You Don’t Want Printed on the Back of Your First Ever Complimentary Tech-wic Race Tee for $1000, Alex. I hadn’t ever run more than ten miles in one sweep. And, most of my longer runs were on fairly flat terrain. So, when I picked up my race number and tee at the expo on the day before the race, I started to wonder what the heck I’d gotten myself into. Then, Trish and I drove the course, chiding ourselves, “It’s not that bad, right?” as we lurched over hill after dirt-road hill. My stress-relieving activity had just become altogether stress-inducing. Ackkk!

I could go into great detail over the race itself, but this story isn’t about running my first race It’s about how I became a runner: by accident. It wasn’t my intention to run long distances, nevermind do it timed, in a pack of people. But, I did. And, I lived up to my new tee shirt, too. I smiled every step of the way.

The old saying goes, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.” Well, I have a revision. How’s about:

“You can do anything, if you don’t put your mind to it.”

In other words, sometimes our rationale is our own worst foe. If I’d set out on that first haphazard jog in my shitty shoes with the knowledge that by springtime, I’d be running a distance greater than my daily commute to work…? Gosh, I would have freaked out, and listed a million-and-one reasons why I’d never be able to go that far. Even if I’d believed I was physically capable, I’m sure I’d have disclaimed that there just weren’t enough hours in a day for me to commit to a training schedule. Yet, by not committing, by simply doing something I liked to do, I achieved what I never knew I could.


These days, I’m back to three mile stints around town. Just the other day was my coldest run to date – 9 degrees.  I’m totally not kidding when I say I enjoyed it immensely! My original drive to run habitually was in order to strengthen myself. I can happily say that it worked, as running has made me a physically and mentally stronger person, as well as one that’s more tolerant of the cold. J

It’s hard to say what my future in racing looks like. Quite truthfully, I’m most drawn to the simplicity of the sport: just walk the door and start moving. (With some intelligence, that is.)

I look forward to my next accidental achievement, which very well could be barefoot running. After all, I’m already a minimalist when it comes to everything else.


So I signed up for a 50k Race…I mean, how hard can it be?

Thanks to Vanessa Runs‘ awesome helpfulness, here’s my answer:

Yeah, you read it right. Back-to-back long runs. Thankfully, the real commitment to craziness, according to this schedule, doesn’t start for a whole month (thanks to a smart commentor, Jason Fitzgerald, for catching it – because I thought it was this week – yikes!). But, I mean…did you see week 11? That’s 24 miles on Saturday and then 10 on Sunday!


Okay, okay. Maybe this isn’t so out of bounds. I did want to increase my weekly mileage this winter anyhow. And I can (hopefully) run without hurting myself if I go nice and slow. I mean, I’m not going to win the race anyway, so forget that. But because I’m REALLY slow right now, I can work on speed during the week, along with some lifting and strength workouts.

I will admit something, though. I am not holding myself to the full 50k, if it becomes unreachable to me that day. I promise not to beat myself up if I have to stop after the first of the two 25k loops (and then beg the race director to let me pretend I’d signed up for the 25k, to avoid a DNF). With that said, if I spend these next four months training my ass off and manage to not get hurt, then I can’t see why a marathon wouldn’t be possible. And once I get to a marathon….well, what’s five more miles? Right?

But I am not completely obtuse. I know that most people train for years and years to get to ultra-marathon status. They run these things with serious goals in mind, besides beer and social networking. They are lithe and strong, they have earned their runner’s bodies, they can easily run a mile in under 7 minutes, and they haven’t eaten ice cream in at least 18 months. And most importantly, yeah so they’ve already run at least a few 26.2’s.

But me? Well, I’m a slow-as-fuck runner who averages between a 10-12 minute mile (these days it’s 12, and sometimes worse), I’m overweight, short, and I haven’t picked up a free weight in…at least 18 months. And I’ve never run more than 13 miles in my entire life. And that one time that I did? I didn’t even do a great job, I ran down a hill wrong and busted my IT band.

And I worked hard for that half mary. Busted my ass, even. I lost weight, worked my way up to three 10 mile long runs and one 11 miler. But since that didn’t seem to work for me much in the end, I think maybe this time I’ll go about it in a completely different way.

Oh, I am going to train. I’ll try my best to knock down all those back-to-back long runs. I’ll start doing strength training to even out. We’ll see how it goes. But if something starts to hurt? I’m going to stop and rest. If it starts to feel like a job? I’m going to stop and rest. If I can’t get all the miles in? I’m going to spend more time at the gym doing strength training. I’m not going to stress about it. I’m going to call these next four months of training The 50k Slacker Program. The way I figure it, I may actually be the least experienced person at the whole race, and my completion of it will be out of sheer dumb will, kind of like Forest Gump running cross country. And because I’m going into this just to have a good time, I’m going to let my Slacker attitude prevail, all the way.

So with that in mind, I have 5 possible goals for this race, in descending order of successfulness:

  1. Finish the 50k and drink my first beer as an ultra-marathoner (take that, disbelievers!)
  2. Finish the 25k and have time for more beer
  3. Drink Jason Robillard’s share of the beer while he runs 50 miles
  4. Drink beer with a bunch of cool barefoot running people like a total slacker
  5. Walk around barefoot drinking beer and wearing somebody else’s cowbell around my neck (they give away a cowbell instead of a medal, how cool is that?)

No matter what happens, though, I will come away from these four months fitter, lighter and stronger than I am today. So even if I don’t complete a single one of these goals on May 27th (although I’m pretty sure that walking around barefoot with a beer in my hand won’t be much to tackle), the Pineland 50k will have done me a whole lot of good.

So what’s to lose, right?

(except dignity, self-respect and the ability to stand?)


The Better Way to Inspire

An approximation of how it feels to run barefoot. But nowadays I just let people figure it out for themselves.

Over the past few years barefoot running has soared in popularity, bringing along with it a slew of “barefoot shoes,” scientific studies and articles, evangelical followers and bloggers worldwide. Since I started riding the barefoot tidal wave myself a couple years ago, I’ve sorta been wondering if and when the backlash would ensue. I mean, whenever you have this much of a swing in thinking, it is inevitably followed by some backslide toward the center again, nice and neat like a pendulum.

I can’t say for sure whether the pendulum has yet reached the other end in the barefoot running world, but I think we are maybe at least starting our descent. Recently I’ve been seeing more and more articles by barefoot enthusiasts (not just nay-sayers and middle-of-the-road-ers) who are now starting to nudge into more inclusive territory when it comes to running footwear. Some ideas like going totally barefoot maybe isn’t always best, that some cushioning isn’t such a no-no in certain situations, even that heel-striking might not be so bad for everyone, are starting to wash up here and there along the shore.

In the very beginning of my barefoot running life, I listened to, read and regurgitated everything that the gurus told me. It was probably best that way back then anyhow, because without enough experience, I may have caused more harm to myself than good. But once I had a handle on the general concepts, I made allowances to some critical thinking of my own. I was able to decide things like running totally barefoot 100% of the time isnt really my style, and that I’m okay with a little cushioning when I’m freshly back from an injury. And most importantly, I’ve decided that I’m okay with it if my friends hear how wonderfully life-changing this has been for me, and then still continue heel striking in their traditional running shoes.

At first I was somewhat of an outsider for this (an outsider to the outsiders! Imagine that!). I started writing unpopular blog posts like “What You Can Learn from a Cushiony Pair of Running Shoes” and “Why Form?” Also I wasn’t always taking my shoes off in the warm spring weather and I shunned the popular Merrells for my very favorite (and most hated by the cool kid majority) Vibram Bikilas. With laces. But now, some of the more popular bloggers are finally saying the same stuff I was thinking all along. Which is good, because that means people will probably begin to follow this shift in thinking, and then I’ll get to feel like I’m on track again. Weird how that works. But I digress.

The real thing I wanted to talk about here is the fascinating irony that people will come to your way of thinking, eventually, once you stop trying to pull them along. It is just a fact of life, but we often forget it. So around this time last year I was sitting at a table across from my boss and a bunch of coworkers at Truffle Café in Atlanta, getting a bit ruffled while trying to explain why I run barefoot. One person who was all too familiar with the argument muttered to herself, “Here we go again” as I began. Thankfully the conversation ended well enough, after the boss’s daughter generously piped up, “hey wait, my best friend wears those toe shoes to run. They’re so cool!” But basically it got to be a battlefield every time someone asked me about my weird shoes. And it was only because I cared. I wanted others to hear about how awesome it was to run in lighter shoes, and I wanted everyone else to share my epiphany.

But sooner or later I became disenchanted with the whole idea of spreading the word. My friends eventually got used to my monkey shoes and stopped asking about them. I endured the occasional barefoot joke, and it was fine because I can laugh at myself. Soon enough the only people even bothering to read my blog were already converted barefooters. Even my husband got bored of the content and just started blindingly re-tweeting my posts to qualify as showing his support (which I still do appreciate). And it didn’t matter much to me, anyway. By then I’d formed a thick skin and a nice group of barefoot running friends, all across the continent, with whom to share my triumphs and failings. I was pretty content with myself and with my non-barefoot running buddies, with their Brooks Ultra-Cushion Pillow Shoes and all. I didn’t care anymore if they decided to run barefoot or not.

But then it started happening.

“So, I’ve decided to start minimalist running…got any advice on what shoes I should buy? I saw that you review some of them on your blog.”

One person asked me at a party. And then another messaged me on Facebook. And then a couple inquired as to whether I would mind taking them minimalist shoe shopping. It was like music to my ears! At last I’ve been given the invitation to impart my mid-foot-struck running knowledge onto a few people, and it is marvelous!

I guess I’m learning that it pays to care a little less about whether I’m being heard – because sometimes people learn better with sight. I’m learning that if I’m to show anyone how freeing it is to run barefoot, I should do it with my life experiences, not with fact-spewing and propaganda. As I said in my latest article, a happy runner is an inspirational one.

And I’m perfectly content to inspire in silence. How about you?