Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Run with Christopher McDougall?

I received a notice from this meetup group I joined, Barefoot Runners NYC, that announced an exciting event next Wednesday -- a chance to run barefoot with Christopher McDougall.

At first, I was very excited about this opportunity, and thought about how it was something I would not want to miss. It was his book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, that first stimulated my interest in barefoot running.

But in the middle of my excitement I began to worry, due to the details surrounding his visit to Barefoot Runners NYC.  The first point is that I joined this meetup group in order to attend the free Barefoot Running Clinic they sponsored over a month ago with Michael Sandler (author of Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth -- why do these barefoot running books authors always use such long compliated titles?)

This is going to sound so wimpy, but I had to gather a lot of courage to get myself to that clinic.  I tried to get my friend Suzie (not her real name, and more about her below) to come with me but she couldn't make it. I had so many worries surrounding going to the clinic.  I had to find the location. I would be the heaviest person there and would not look like a runner and no one would take me seriously.  I hadn't barefoot run yet, and in fact I had just starting up running again after having been laid off.  This is the kind of new adventure that is hard to undertake when you have been living a limited, secure, sheltered life as a mom at home for the past 18 years.

But, in the end, my passion and desire to find out was greater than all my worries and fears.  When my friend couldn't come, I just realized that I was going to have to just get myself there. I have to admit that I enjoyed the clinic immensely, and was very proud of myself for accomplishing the trip there and back.

After that, I learned that Barefoot Runners NYC met every Wednesday night in Central Park.  Even though I would LOVE to join this group and participate, I have not met up with them yet.  Even though they say they welcome barefoot runners of all levels, I have felt insecure about my running.  As followers of this blog know, so far I am slow and I run a mile.  It would take me almost an hour to get to the park, and that commute time just to go run a slow mile, where I'd fall way behind everyone, and then just come home didn't seem sensible.  I would love to belong to a barefoot runner group so much, but I feel I have to work up to it.  So, I have been planning to try them out on a some night as soon as I feel comfortable running about 3 miles.  I figured that might be sometime in the Spring, but as you also know, I am not putting time constraints on myself this time around.

Well, now here was the e-mail about this Christopher McDougall event and I felt that same kind of desire to come to the run.  Again, gmail from Barefoot Runners NYC said that all levels of runners were welcome.

But a new set of worries are holding me back.

First Worry:  They are meeting in Harlem.  Traveling alone into the city I am nervous about meeting in Harlem.

Second Worry:  They are running 8 miles.  They said in the announcement that you could run any part of the distance.  I, as you know, would only be running a mile (maybe I'd try two for that evening).  I would have to stop in some strange area (would I still be in Harlem at that point?), hop on some kind of transportation, and then meet up with them for the little party in the park they are having down in Brooklyn.

Third Worry:  The book discussion part will be in Brooklyn and when it was over I would have to make my way home alone from Brooklyn. I never go to Brooklyn. I always get nervous when I have to go to places I've never had to navigate before.  Of course the way the public transportation works in the city area, it will be no problem to get home. It's just the whole idea of it that gets me nervous.

So, as I fretted and "angsted" about this, I mulled over what way I could work all this out. I wrote a letter to the leader of Barefoot NYC and still haven't heard back.  I thought he might be able to provide more information (like "oh, there will be a lot of people stopping after a mile that you can hop on the subway with") or something like that. I still haven't heard back from him.

Then I thought of asking my that runner friend of mine, Suzie (not her real name).  She has read Born to Run too and is interested in barefoot running but doesn't think she can do barefoot because one of her legs is a whole inch shorter than the other.  From what I've read, she should be able to barefoot too, but she doesn't want to try it.  She's been wearing aqua socks to run and she puts inserts in one of them to even up her legs.

Suzie is an experienced distance runner recovering from a knee injury (a torn meniscus?) and she is hoping running in the aqua socks will be good for her knee.

I called her last night to see if she would be able to come to the run with Christopher McDougall with me.

She thinks she might be able to do it, and that's good.  But I forgot that she would want to run the whole eight miles.

"C'mon, you can run the 8 miles," she said to me, "just do it."

"Suzie -- did you hear me? --  I've been sticking with this one mile. I have to build the strength in my feet gradually. All the barefoot running advisors say don't do too much too soon.  I really can only run about a mile and a half -- maybe two" I was thinking, how can she possible think I can jump from running a mile to 8 miles overnight?

She said to me, "You know sometimes you have to just tough it out and just go for it."

I blubbered about building gradually etc... All of a sudden my blog posts and my "The Barefoot Mile" philosophy seemed to hollow and pale.

"Well," she said, "I had to stop to get my knee better.  Then when I finally started running again I was babying it and babying it, but I finally just said to my body, 'c'mon, we're doing this' and I just wrapped up the knee and made my body run."

"No," I said, I 'm going to do this the "right" way.  I really injured myself last time -- but come to think of it, I injured myself not by being reckless but when I thought I was being smart, careful and conservative -- and I don't want to have to stop for a length of time again."

"Well," she said, "you are probably smarter and will be running later on with an intact body while I'll be all destroyed." (or something like that).

But I left the conversation realizing that I could also be 80 and still running this barefoot mile and waiting for the time to be right to make my move and run faster and longer.  There is such a thing as being too careful and too conservative and as I read about these other barefoot guys out there with broken toes, and big rocks stuck in their feet and chunks of missing skin I wonder if I'm playing it too safe.

Well, anyway, my friend told me she thinks she can come with me, so I guess I can get excited about going to run with and listen to Christopher McDougall next week.  Maybe I'll find out the Barefoot Running NYC group is comfortable for me too.  Who knows?


OrangeBlossom said...

What an awesome opportunity! Go for it!

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog =)

Avocational Singer said...

Thanks for dropping by, Orange Blossom. Your blog looks great and I plan to be doing some more reading there. We have some things in common so I think I will enjoy what you have to say.