Thursday, August 12, 2010

Photos From the NYC "Born to Run" Barefoot Running Event

Since I haven't downloaded that blog-editing program that's going to make working with pictures easier yet, I am going to use blogger's caption feature to post my pictures from the Harlem to Brooklyn run with Born to Run author, Chris McDougall.

Part I: Setting the Scene

I wasn't sure I was headed in the right direction, but then I remembered that the instructions had said "follow the drumbeat."  When I heard the drums playing, I knew I was going to find the start point.

The news media were present.  It's part of why I did not get a picture of Chirs McDougall at the preliminary greeting spot. But a New York Post reporter who was also going to be running ran up to me the minute I took my flip flops off and interviewed me.  She said the story would be in the post today. Wonder if my comments made it in, or she met some more experienced barefooters to quote later on.

This must be the place!

Yup, this is it!

And here's where the drumbeat was coming from.  These guys were nice to let me take a picture.  I asked them if I could put it on my blog. According to what I read on Chris McDougall's blog, this is M'Bemba, Mali's grand master drummer.

There were a lot more people in Vibrams than going barefoot.  In fact, it was feeling more like a Vibrams event than a barefoot one.

But still, there were plenty enough of bare feet to still call it a barefoot event.

And my bare feet were here too!

A Heavenly Mother was spotted looking over her barefooted children.

Part II: Get Ready, Go
I managed to have someone snap my photo before we took off.

Here's the photo I told you I was going to post -- the one of everyone pulling out ahead of me.  The guy on the left, with the blue backpack was Chris, who had volunteered to be a sweeper, and just ahead of him in the blue shirt was Melissa, who also had volunteered to be a sweeper.  When they pointed out who the sweepers were to us, I thought, "Oh, I'm going to be behind the sweepers even -- and I was right."  These two very experienced, light-footed barefoot runners became my barefoot angels and ran alongside me.  I kept telling them to go ahead with the others, but they insisted on staying by my side.  I learned a lot from them as they conversed cheerfully with me.  It was one way that it paid off to be the least and lowest of the barefoot runners that day.
 Part IV:  1.47 Miles Finished For Me - Now Where's the Exit?
When my feet couldn't take any more of the asphalt, it was time for me to quit.  My "Sweeper Angels" guided me to a park exit, even though I kept urging them to join the main group and that I'd be fine on my own.  So, now I was left all alone to make my way to the bookstore in Brooklyn.  I barefoot walked this path out of the park, but I should have just put my shoes on.  My feet were not feeling very good, but I was a little stubborn and wanted to barefoot it til I got out of the park..  Why I thought this was necessary I do not know.

This was not an easy walk for me.  I had expected to feel good during the running part, but I hadn't.  It seems impossible that I could have been running faster than usual, considering how far behind EVERYONE I was (I must be running a 14 minute mile or something).  But it didn't feel as wonderful as it did when I was out on my own during the weeks.  So, the walk from 102nd Street to 96th just did not feel good at all.  It was a bit discouraging, and I did not know that there was going to be a lot more walking before I would feel relief.

I had no idea what 96th street would be like since I had never been up in that area. It turned out that it was a rather swanky area, yet a neighborhood of lifelong Manhattan residents.  You could see many nursemaids walking elderly people along the street in their wheelchairs.   I felt a little self-conscious walking along in my conspicuously dirty feet.  The NYC streets were much dirtier than the ones I usually run on.  Here you can see by those white spots that the metatarsal heads are receiving WAY too much pressure.  You can also see from the position of the second white spot  that it might be true about that Morton's foot feature that the second metatarsal bone  is longer than the others.  I have finally decided that it's probably not a form issue  just plain and simply a matter of my being overweight.  Maybe it's too much for my poor feet and some weight reduction is in order.

As I hobbled along in my flip flops on my very sore feet, wishing I could get to the subway station more quickly, I thought this sign was funny.  No briskness for me right now.

I did get to see this, which was somewhat interesting.  It is a spot on Park Avenue where the trains let out.  Don't know if you can see it that well in this picture, but beyond that big bush in the middle are the railroad tracks, where the flag is.  It was interesting to me because I'd never seen it, and also because I never particularly thought about the fact that there must be a spot where the trains emerge.

The subway ride out to Brooklyn was grueling.  It was rush hour, so it was crowded and hot and there was no place to sit. So I had to stay and stay and stay on my poor feet.  This trek through the subways really did feel like I was in some kind of marathon.
And it wasn't over when I got to Brooklyn either.  There was more walking in my sore flip-flopped dirty feet to be done when I emerged from the G train on Greenpoint Ave.
Part V:  Arrival in Brooklyn at Word Bookstore
Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, I arrived at the colorful oasis of Word Bookstore.  It had taken me so long to get there, that I thought I would be late, but it turns out that I was one of the first ones, minutes ahead of the runners who were about to arrive after their 8 miles.

I was told that Chris McDougall's favorite food was Watermelon and Doughnuts.  They told me he specifically requested it.
In a few minutes, the first runners began to arrive.  The first ones in were shod.  But Chirs McDougall was right behind the first shod runners in his bare feet.  But I learned from this event, that this movement and spirit of this kind of running -- running in packs together for enjoyment, is not really about who comes in fastest.

The guy with his arms extended is John Durant, the leader/organizer of the Barefoot NYC Meetup Group, and a co-organizer of this event with Chris McDougall.
Part VI: Chris McDougall Gives an Inspiring Talk on the Experiences in His Book.

After everyone had eaten watermelon and doughnuts and drank their water and gatorade (and I saw some with beer too), we all headed to the little basement room of the bookshop for Chris McDougall's talk.

After the talk, there was a book signing.  I found Mr. McDougall to be very kind and very attentive to each individual.  I thought he was great.

So that ends the little tale of my adventure.  I definitely came away from this event with a deeper understanding of what this movement to run barefoot is about in some ways, and ideas about whether I fit in to it or not.  I was very humbled by the event.  As much as I think I have been making progress over the past 10 weeks, I can see that this is something to work at over the long haul.  Although I may not have impressed anyone with my showing, and although I felt a little discouraged about how much my feet hurt, and how hard it was to get over to the bookstore, I have a lot to think about surrounding this event.  I'll probably be writing about some of these reflections in some future posts.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

I've decided, much after the date of this post, to add this video from the New York Post, reporting on the Born to Run event.  There are little glimpses of me in the video, but it would be hard to point it out.  I'm with the group holding up their bare feet in the very beginning.


Junk Miler said...

THAT'S MY OLD HOOD!!! Iris and I lived on Noble, one block down. That's where I took my first barefoot steps. You were walking on hallowed ground, ha ha.

Running on asphalt in the heat is advanced-level stuff. You should feel proud. You're going about the learning process perfectly, as far as I can tell. Especially going by some of your recent posts.

Thanks for the pics.

Avocational Singer said...

Wow! I can't believe that was it, where you took the barefoot steps and all and I was there! Some kind of karma in that.

I am so-o-o-o-o glad you posted your comment. When I mentioned that I wasn't used to running on asphalt (wincing with pain inside), one of my sweeper "angels," Melissa, said cheerfully, "Oh, I love it!"

You don't know how crummy I felt walking in pain through the subways trying to get to Brooklyn after seeing all the more advanced runners. You don't know how much I needed to hear your encouraging words this morning. So thanks!

Neil Zee said...

I think you did pretty darn good. It took a lot of perserverance and toughness to get where you needed to go, and you did it! Way to go. i wish I could have shared the experience with you.

Junk Miler said...

Some of us have been lucky; some life histories make the learning process easier.

Keep in mind, too, you were surrounded by people. That's going to be stressful. Think of the difference between singing for your vocal coach and singing for an audience. BIG difference. Just as with singing, stress and tension doesn't help. I bet the asphalt would be a lot easier if you were to run on it by yourself (in cooler temps).

Keep on trying different ways to move, and expect the smoothest movements to feel awkward at first.

Avocational Singer said...

@Neil - thanks! Isn't it weird how you can feel like something was a total disaster in some ways, but then later someone will tell you you did good and it's such a relief. "You mean I did good? Wow!"

@BFJ, What you said -- "Some of us have been lucky; some life histories make the learning process easier" -- does apply to singers too! So I get that. How can it be that I understand something in one discipline, and then go and forget it when I move to another?

Neil Zee said...

If you heard me sing, you would feel so much better about yourself right now... haha!

Avocational Singer said...

Hey, Neil, I saw you tagged me in Terra Plana's FB album of the Chris McDougall run. You really get around! There's no hiding out on this Internet, is there!

Neil Zee said...

What can i say, I study the craft, and then there you were!

Nekane said...

I think I saw you on a TV report on this. A glimpse, I think, but enough that I would see you.

Btw, can I use your blog for my senior project? I would feel like I would be stealing if I didn't ask.


Avocational Singer said...

Yes, Nekane, I did come out in some of the TV video, but since it's hard to describe exactly where I am in the videos I didn't make a fuss about it.

If you'd like to discuss quoting some of my blog, just send me an e-mail. You can get an e-mail link if you click on my profile.