If you've read my other blog in the last few days, you know that I gave myself a few blisters by going running barefoot. It was a very short run (only .6 mile), just to start the long process of toughening up my feet, but clearly I haven't been in direct contact with the ground for a very long time. I've been practicing the barefoot style of running, using very minimal shoes and striving for a high-cadence mid-foot stride, but I had not put my tootsies directly on the pavement until Tuesday.

Blisters are actually a good training tool for barefoot running. Assuming the pavement you are running on is not scorching hot, if you get blisters you know that your foot is not relaxed, or that you are pushing or twisting in some way with each step; it's an ouchy indicator of stride problems. If it hurts or leaves marks, you're doing it wrong.

The idea that pain can be diagnostic or instructive is foreign to modern Western sports training - the exercise and fitness industry tries to convince us all on a daily basis that a painless 20 minutes, 3 times a week is all it takes to look like a member of the Greek pantheon. It's a concept common to traditional martial arts, however. An example from Karate is the makiwara, or punching board. It's basically a square post sticking up out of the ground, padded at the top with a bundle of straw wrapped up in rope. It trains the karateka to make a proper fist, and to deliver a focused strike. Failing to do either of those things results in immediate feedback - it hurts. Hitting the makiwara correctly can hurt a bit too, but the first time you don't keep your fist tight or you don't land the punch squarely on the first two knuckles, you KNOW you did something wrong. Blisters are much the same for the barefoot runner

Based on the blisters I've got at the moment, my right foot was doing something very wrong. I have a blister on the ball of my foot that was practically crippling yesterday - today it's just irritating, but still enough to keep me from running. I have been fussing over these owies since I got them on Tuesday. They've been drained, trimmed, disinfected, and lotioned, but they will only heal so fast. Missing three days of running is unacceptable; there are races I want to be ready for later in the summer, I just moved up in my running program to 25 minute intervals, and I am close to meeting a couple of my goals on the Nike+ site... And that's when it hit me.

I miss running.

I am actually jonesing for a run.

I know - you're stunned. So am I. This is ME we're talking about here; Mister "I-didn't-train-with-weapons-for-years-to-run-from-shit."

When I was told that I had to run a 2 mile qualifier at the State Patrol Academy I asked the instructor why. He said it was to simulate chasing a suspect, to which I replied, "isn't that why we have cars?"

When I was asked to participate in a fundraiser at the University of Nebraska, I chose the 50 mile bike ride instead of the 5k run.

My zombie apocalypse preparedness plan has always been, "You go ahead - I'll hold them off until you come back with help."

Despite all this, I find myself grousing about not being able to run. I am beginning to doubt my foundations. I feel as though I might wake up tomorrow and say, "no, thanks - I don't like chocolate anymore. Also, I've given my life to Jesus and registered as a Republican."

To be honest, running is something I've always wanted to like. It appeals to my ideals about simple, natural fitness. It doesn't require a gym membership or thousands of dollars worth of special equipment, it's something we all learn to do when we're toddlers, and it's the foundation of so many other sports. It's also the ultimate form of self-reliance; if the world falls into utter Thunderdome chaos tomorrow, it's comforting to know that I will be able to get to the food riots and slave arenas in a timely fashion on my own two feet.

So you see, I like the idea of running - the problem for me has always been the running itself. I was actually pretty fast as a kid; I remember running the 40 in Jr. High football and having the second fastest time on the team. I ran the 220 in track and did pretty well (26 seconds flat in 9th grade). It was the longer distances, however, that screwed me up. I was told by well-meaning coaches to lengthen my stride when I wasn't sprinting, stretching my legs out in front of me so that I was heel-striking with every step. Years of shinsplints, bruised heels, knee pain, and clunky, motion-control shoes made me hate running.

Now I'm trying to run like a child again. Without heel strike, without padded shoes, and without so much concern for long, fluid leg motion. People who run with that motion are built like gazelles - long thin legs and low-fat bodies, and beautiful they are, but that's not me. My legs are more like tree trunks, thus I run more like... an Ent?

So, yeah - Treebeard, Quickbeam, and I are going to pick up a quick 3 miler when my foot heals...


Sci Fi Heroine said...

If you really want to be an Ent, you should run carrying your little hobbit on your back. :D I just did a barefoot run too - you know, I've been complaining to you in The Real World how much my feet hurt right now - and, despite the pain I'm experiencing after the fact, it's something I plan on doing every day. Because when you're not wearing sweaty shoes and worrying about time and distance, godDAMN it feels good to run.

His Sinfulness said...

That doesn't make sense to me, but then again you are very small...

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