I'm out of town for work at the moment and in a new area. I've been trying to scope out a decent barefoot running route for a few days now, but was worried given the old concrete sidewalks in the area. They're very rough, torn up and cracked, and over all not pleasant to run on. I tried last week, but ended up only making maybe two miles before I had to put my Vibram FiveFingers on and call it a day. But today I finally put some of my local observation to use and found a good route with concrete ranging from great to fair condition. All in all, it made up for a one-hour run and it felt awesome!
...probably because a year ago I couldn't fathom running for an hour straight. Now it just sort of happens, and I love it.
I got a lot of inquisitive stares from fellow runners and the drivers as they went by on the road. I also got stopped by the police! I've heard of this happening to other barefoot runners, but I hadn't experienced it yet. The guy was completely nice about it; he seemed concerned that something had happened to me (because who in their right mind would run without shoes on?). But I quickly cleared it up, we both had a laugh, and he continued on. I guess I'm a "real" barefoot runner now that I got the attention of the police. ;-)
One female runner I passed on the latter half of the run made me chuckle to myself...as I was running toward her, I saw she was staring at me from the other side of the road. And unlike most runners, she couldn't keep a poker face. There was a look of confusion, then absolute disgust on her face as she passed, trying not to look at me. I saw her laugh to herself as she went by too. I noticed her long, awkward stride, tired expression, and her hunched over frame, and the only thing I could think of was "Well at least I don't look completely miserable in my running, Lady!"
I might look like a crazy homeless athlete, but at least I'm now going along happy and actually enjoying myself. Running looks like such a chore to some other people.
I also think the most important part of this for me is that running is now fun. It's all fascinating to me, yes, but I also have a good time out there. I came up on some parts of the sidewalk under trees, so there was a lot of "tree debris" like acorns, leaves, etc I had to avoid. I felt like these were mini-obstacle courses in a sense, and I loved it. I was smiling as I was bouncing around on the sidewalk, choosing my steps carefully and stepping lightly. And I thought, "I bet most runners never have this experience." You shod runners are probably thinking, "Hell no we don't have that experience!" But I rather think you're missing out. Having to occasionally dance around stuff like that adds so much more to my run. The different terrain (concrete vs. asphalt, road markings, etc) all add a whole new dimension and spice to what might otherwise be nothing but a metronome type of run. It's an interaction with your environment that I think a lot of people are missing out on. It's just a really cool experience.
And no, I'm not a tree hugger. I just had a fitness test on Monday where I wore my flats, and every step felt the same. Boring! I think I am just the ADHD of runners.