I am currently reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s Book, Barefoot Running, Step by Step, and I highly recommend it. Barefoot Ken Bob was one of the first people that I’d heard of as a barefoot runner, and that he was the master, the guru, THE MAN. I’d checked out his website several times, and all I really remember from that was that every other line he was saying, “Bend your knees!” I didn’t really appreciate this though, until I started reading his book.
Ken Bob has been running barefoot his entire life, mostly out of necessity, due to his sensitivities running in shoes. Because he has been running for so long barefoot, and because he is THE MAN, he really has some of the best words of wisdom on barefoot running out there. If you haven’t checked out his website or his book, PLEASE do it.
This weekend, I went for a long run on the Wildwood Trail, my home away from home. I went solo because Mike went surfing, and decided I would try some COLD barefoot trail running. It was about 37 degrees when I started, so I knew I would have some cold feet if I didn’t warm up first. I was wearing my VFF Spyridons for the first 9 miles, then took them off for the last 5+ miles for some sweet sole time on the trail. During the time that I was wearing my Spyridons, I really tried to think about this bent knee deal. I know that I always bend my knees when I land, but I get the feeling that it’s not ENOUGH. So I really got into this, and even thought about the image that Ken Bob uses with his landing, which is this: Your forefoot should swoop into the ground like an airplane coming in for landing. What? Yes, that’s right, turn your foot into an airplane. The point is, if the knee is bent enough, this is quite easy to do. Sure enough, I was really exaggerating this knee bend on landing, and I started feeling like an airplane. And my legs started spinning underneath me like I was riding a bicycle. It was nearly effortless! It’s funny that I’m using all these other forms of transportation to describe how it felt to run, but honestly, it still shocks me that running can be this easy. That it can be this rewarding and feel this good.
Going downhill, on level ground and slight uphill did actually feel effortless. Going up steep hills on the other hand, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the bent knee there. Since I used to be a booty runner, I still have that tendency to bend at the waist when going uphill. I’m constantly reminding myself to tuck my butt and lean my whole body into the hill, not just my upper half. Going downhills, I was FLYING. I decided to relax into the downhill more than ever and really let the knees bend, giving into gravity instead of resisting it. It was fantastic, and I felt more confident than I ever have. I didn’t slip as much in the mud either, because I wasn’t resisting, I was just going with it.
I ran the last 5+ miles barefoot on the trail, which was wildly entertaining. That is my longest barefoot trail run so far, and you can bet I’ll be doing a lot more of it. There is simply no other feeling or connection like barefoot trail running. The pine cones, sticks, leaves, and mud that come in contact with the feet is something that you never feel otherwise. I never realized how much I was depriving myself by keeping my feet cast away in sloppy, soggy, wet shoes and socks before.
However, I forget that I am still very much the minority among runners and hikers, especially when I run into people like the Tracksuit Poodle Man. Tracksuit Poodle Man is a regular on WW Trail, but this was the first time I’ve seen him when I was totally barefoot. In case you’re wondering, TPM has two standard white poodles that he dresses head to toe in shiny track suits. I’m laughing out loud just thinking about them!! They’re always perfectly groomed little boogers, so they stick out quite a bit in the muddy wilderness with their prim and proper outfits. He’s one of my favorite characters though, so as I was running towards him, I said my usual, “Hi, how are you?” while trying not to crack up.
He looked like he might be sick as he was staring at my bare feet. “Looks like you forgot something at home,” he growled, still looking vomitous. Well, I suppose not everyone is a fan of us barefooters. But then again, when looking at me versus TPM, an outsider would probably say we are both a little odd.
What is up with the gravel though? I suppose they’re trying to prevent erosion, so they lay down gravel along sections of the trail. This does not help the barefooters’ image (we all know image is the most important thing right?) because as I was running past the fellow hikers on the trail, I would frequently get the question, “Barefoot eh? How’s that?”
If it happened to be on a gravel section, which happened a few times, I would grit my teeth and say a little too loudly, “It’s GREAT! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” Under my breath, I was cursing the gravel. I have to admit though, the gravel was serving a purpose other than supposedly preventing erosion. It was preparing my feet for this weekend, The Jingle Bell Run in downtown Portland!! In case you haven’t seen the roads in downtown Portland, they appear to be eaten, chewed up, spit out and pooped on. Hopefully not pooped on. But seriously, those are the roughest asphalt roads I have ever seen/felt in my life. During the Portland Marathon, the rough roads taunted me when my mental strength started to waver. And I was wearing my VFFs. This weekend though, no sir, I’ll be barefoot!
This race benefits the Arthritis Foundation. I happen to firmly believe that my barefoot running prevents me from having early onset osteoarthritis, so I will definitely be barefoot. I will also be Mrs. Claus and Mike will be Santa! I did lots of thrift store shopping today, here is a sneak peek of my costume. Full body Mrs. Claus shots to come, but only after the race. She’s killer. One thing’s for sure, this Mrs. Claus will be bent knee barefootin’ through the streets of Portland this weekend!