Thursday, June 10, 2010

trying barefoot

Well, I've gotten out there and tried the barefoot thing- twice. The first time, I did three miles around the track at Kangwon University. It felt good, light, and cool to run barefooted. The polyurethane track was a bit abrasive and left the soles of my feet a little bit tender. To be expected, of course, it was my first time running barefoot sense barefooting it on the beach every morning for a month in Sonora for a couple of miles 8 years ago.
I figured the track would be the safest, rock free environment to get started. But yesterday I took the test to the trails behind the apartment here in Chuncheon. Last summer, when I arrived, and first started to take runs around the area in search of good routes, I was stoked to find a nice, long and winding series of trails just a couple hundred meters from our doorstep, perfect for getting out and running through the woods. Surprisingly, or maybe not, running on the trail was way more kind to the soles of my feet. And the feeling.... I was a deer. I felt light, my feet felt cool, and the feeling of dirt underneath was impressive. I could sense lurking in each step the muscle memory of early man, stalking, hunting, and chasing down it's food. But I wasn't doing this for food. I was doing it for fun! and fun it was.
There was the occasional shooting pain of a rock or a hard stump that I didn't manage to miss, but even those were just intensifiers of the experience. As I was running this thought popped into my head: Comfort is the enemy of the spirit. Comfort is the enemy of the spirit.
My two pairs of Saucony's cost me two hundred plus dollars and why? Because they are built to provide comfort to the runner. It is based on the idea that our feet need to be protected, especially when running. But why is this so? I know that running is hard, but it is supposed to be a little bit uncomfortable. When we are challenging our bodies and our minds with something as formidable as distance running, then there obviously will be some well deserved pain to throw in. But what if we by pass that pain with technology? Is it possible that we may be in deeper danger of inviting some other, perhaps more pernicious form of deeper injury?
I read a book by Christian thinker Philip Yancey a while ago entitled "Where is God When it Hurts?" I was struck by it's discussion about Dr. Paul Brand and leprosy, and I found out some things about leprosy that I had no idea of before. Part of what leprosy does is deaden nerves that would allow us to feel pain. Therefore, if you twist your ankle, your normal gait would continue, adding more and more stress to the injured area, until it gets worse and worse, and eventually, in a worse case scenario, becomes gangrenous and falls off. The disease isn't the rotting of tissue, but the constant trauma that happens to the tissue because of the inability to feel the pain that we need to let us know to do something about it. The premise of the chapter was that pain is a gift, and that going through pain, rather than avoiding it at all costs, is redemptive. It is also refinement for the future.
Now, applying that to my barefoot experiment, I can see a connection. My feet, being cushioned up in the Brook's Beasts and the other uber-support running shoes that I purchase twice a year have supported my feet, yes, but perhaps they have, like an over-protective mother, made them soft and fragile. And not only my feet, but my stride. My stride is unnatural because my feet haven't been able to feel anything. And that is the whole argument for bare-footing in a nutshell.
Going barefoot corrects the stride so that we can run the way God built us to run.
Of course, it's all premature for me to say any of this with any certainty until I get out and cover some miles. But I am excited about the idea of losing the shoes and getting back to the "bare minimum."

1 comment:

Paul said...

Great blog Daligi Man! I like your writing style.

I tried my "first" barefoot experience this morning and I have to say it differed from yours a bit. Check your email :)