After my marathon, I decided I would start running again when I felt like it. And I want the focus now to be on running barefoot and building up my barefoot mileage. The key to this is, I believe, going by feel—running when I feel like it, going how long or far I feel like going, and having fun! In other words, running smiley. I must admit however, that this is quite a challenge for me. I almost always have a plan that I am running to. “Do I run today or not? Let’s see what my plan says.” Now, I keep thinking, “oh I need to create a plan for transitioning to total barefoot running.” Even though all the advice I’ve read and received from those who are successfully running barefoot much longer distances than me is that I need to play, feel it out, follow my body, NOT have a plan. Oy! It’s insidious. Wish me luck.
By Saturday morning, I really had no more residual aches or pains from the marathon. Also, the heat has returned to Katima rather suddenly and I was looking forward to getting out in the heat. I really do not like running when my feet are numb. No, not at all. So, after enjoying a tall cup of coffee, while getting dressed, I recalled a conversation I had with Caity McCardell of Run Barefoot Girl (www.RunBarefootGirl.com) about wearing bras. Do we need sports bras?
Well, when I was on the cross-country team in high school, there were no such things as sports bras. We wore our regular bras – nasty things for running with metal hooks and things that caused bad chafing. And there was no Body Glide back then either. Several of my friends and I stopped wearing bras while running. And it worked fine. And our boobs did not fall down (neither then, when they were young and perky, nor as we grew older—at least mine did not). I went back to wearing a bra shortly after that when a) sports bras were created and b) I was living in cities where men were obnoxious jerks. Most of my 20s were a time of buying into, or at least conforming (as best as I was able) to, societal expectations. Then I went to Africa where a lot of women, probably the majority (all those in rural areas and some in urban areas), do not wear bras. And because breasts are viewed as baby feeding mechanisms rather than sexual objects (and I’m significantly less well-endowed than many of my African sisters) my going braless drew no attention. So I stopped wearing a bra. I never found them comfortable and the less I wore them, the less comfortable I was whenever I tried to wear one. But I continue to wear sports bras and am always on the hunt for one that is comfortable and does not chafe—a seemingly endless chase.
So there I am about to go out and run barefoot, remembering this whole conversation about bras. Could I run without a bra? Wouldn’t I bounce? Would it hurt? Would I feel self-conscious? This would be a good day to try. I had no agenda. It would be fine if I just ran a couple of miles. I ran in place a bit in my room and it didn’t hurt. I ran in front of a mirror and it didn’t look too bad (Lord knows I did NOT want to look ridiculous!). Okay, let’s try this. I set out in nothing but shorts and a tank top (with my watch, sunglasses and iPod—I do still have my attachments).
It felt great to run barefoot. The ground felt neither cold nor warm and I felt my posture & form were good. (I used the Shelly Robillard test—my necklace wasn’t bouncing around. Another benefit—neither were my breasts!) I had decided that I was going to run totally on the road, on the asphalt, which is new for me. I’ve run as much as 6 miles barefoot, but 5.5 of those miles were on the sandy trail. I had some fear of the road—that it would be too hard, there would be too much impact, but all the barefoot experts said the best way to learn good form and the right way to run was to run on the road. After half a mile or so I noticed how light I was running, how I felt no impact. I was just rolling along. And I felt so free, so relaxed. I was just there, everything was as it should be, I didn’t need this or that to be able to run. There was something about running without a bra that felt so liberating. I was not expecting that. I felt more present, more confident, more open (and less anxious, cautious, guarded). And my feet felt totally fine.
I decided to run 4 miles, though part of me thought, “oh, or maybe 5.” But I turned around at 2 miles and changed to the other side of the road which is rougher. I started to feel a sort of pain on the outside of the ball of my right foot. I knew that this was a contact spot when I walked as well because it was one of the places on my feet that gets dirty. I tried to change the way my foot was landing and think more consciously about lifting my feet (rather than pushing off). I was doing okay until about 3.5 miles when clearly I was starting to get a blister on that spot (and on the top of the 4th toe on my left foot). All the advice says I should have stopped right then and walked home. I did in fact stop once or twice and feel around (to make sure it was a pebble or something) and I walked a few paces which didn’t really hurt at all, but then I ran because, well, I was out for a run. Besides it was only a half mile more to go.
In the end, my feet were a bit sore for the rest of the day and I was thinking I was stupid. (I don’t think of myself as particularly stubborn by nature, but I certainly can be about running.) The spot didn’t turn into a big blister I could pop, but the skin is tender. The general rule of thumb is to run barefoot every other day if everything is working well, so I resisted the urge to run today, even though I think I could have. I’ll see how the feet are tomorrow, but I think I dodged a bullet. Lucky me.
The World Wide Festival of Races is in 5 weeks and I would LOVE to run a half-marathon that weekend totally barefoot. That could be way too ambitious and it could be possible. We shall see. Stay tuned. . .