While my tendency to try new things and experiment is a part of my personality I am most proud of, a couple of weeks ago I might have carried it too far. I was lucky to walk away.
I could blame Seth Godin for it all since his writing challenges me to be brave and adventurous. His has become one of the most influential voices in my life these past months. He told a story about an ultra-lightweight backpacker: Wolf was carrying a super-small pack which weighed 14 pounds including food and water. When asked how he got his pack weight so low, he replied, “All you need to know it that it’s possible.” Godin says that somewhere in the world someone is doing something that you decided couldn’t be done, and they are calling your bluff.
I have been running once a week in my Vibram Five-Fingers shoes, which are actually gloves for the feet and not really shoes and have nothing to do with fingers. I’ve written a lot about that already. But barefoot running, or in my case, quasi-barefoot running, has intrigued me, and I have continued to read internet accounts of people who run truly barefoot –skin on the ground - on a regular basis. There is a back-to-earth hippie element to it that does not attract me in the least, but there is also a foot-strengthening and mid-foot strike element that has real value. I have weak and tender feet and I have used that as an excuse not to try real barefooting, but those stories I read – they keep calling my bluff.
So one Tuesday I decided to finish my regular three-mile Vibram run by doing a few laps on the track in my naked bare feet. It is a modern rubberized soft-surface track, smooth and flat, so it seemed the perfect place to take the next step. I ran to the track, pulled off my Vibrams, and the first thing I noticed was the surface of the track was scorching hot. I couldn’t believe how hot it was. I had expected it to be much cooler than the concrete sidewalk or asphalt street. I guess I thought it would be more like that surface around swimming pools that never really gets hot even in the middle of a sunny day.
I was wrong. It was so hot I knew I couldn’t stand still and get used to it like you do when the bath water is too hot. This was hot enough to do serious damage to my feet. So I hopped across the track to the football turf assuming green grass – even artificial turf – would be cooler.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The turf was just as hot as the grass. I couldn’t believe it. So I hopped a few yards across the turf to a large patch that was painted white, part of the sideline markings. Even thought it was white, it was just as hot.
I stood on that scorching turf and pondered my options. I knew I couldn’t stay where I was without burning my feet. I had to move back across the hot track and grab my Vibrams and get outside the gate to a cooler place. And I had to do it right away. Not only were my feet burning, but it was so hot I was holding my breath. I had to move immediately.
I bounced and hopped across to my shoes. It was so hot I didn’t even care whether anyone was watching me or how nerdy I looked. I grabbed my Vibrams and staggered out the gate to the real Bermuda grass and collapsed on the ground. I was glad to be off my feet.
Even though this bout of barefooting was a failure, I am certain I will try it again in the fall when the surfaces are cooler. I want to get stronger and I think this will help. I want my knees to last a few more decades and I think this will help with that, too.
And I suppose I should’ve known
better about the hot track. It is
As I am typing, two weeks later, my feet feel much better. All the tenderness has healed. I have run a couple of times in my Vibrams, enough to know I did no lasting damage dancing across the hot track. I will be back; the experiment continues.
So I ask, what are you trying that’s new? What are you working on that can’t be done? Let me know … I’d like to hear your story.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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