Bare Feet.

Sweat is pouring, my lungs do not feel great, and my body aches. I go from chugging along (which is the best way to describe my running style at the time, not pretty) to a mall speed walker walk complete with hands on hips and face up high like I’ve been under water for 5 minutes and I’m clamoring for air.

I was somewhere in the middle of my first half marathon and I was already losing steam, my mind wandering aimlessly trying to remove focus from the pain I was enduring and the idea that this running thing may not be for me.

And then, out of the corner of my eye… balls.

I turn, and a gentleman is moving with ease, and juggling. Ugh. Then he passes me. Double ugh. Really? That was the lowest point of the race, I quit worrying about a best time and just wanted it to end. However, it was when I slowed down that I was able to look around and enjoy the benefits of any good running event, mostly people and music. I also let something else catch my eye. I noticed a guy who passed me with shoes in his hand, I found it odd, until I looked down and realized he was running barefoot. I had yet to learn of the runners around the world practicing this form of running, I was simply amazed.

I had no idea that, within the next year, it would become my fascination and I would be another believer of the barefoot religion.

Your feet are magic. Let me rephrase, because they’re better than that. Your feet are a biological wonder. But they’re like the bridges that you may cross every day to work. We take them for granted, not realizing the beautiful science behind the most basic thing we do. In fact, I bet a lot of you are even repulsed by your feet. Tisk tisk.

If you’ve got feet and they work, I suggest you pull them up, give them a kiss, and apologize for the wrong you’ve done. Because, if you’re like me, you cursed your feet and the pain they’ve caused, you might’ve even blame your knees. But did you condition your feet, did you make them strong? If you’ve been guilty of foot neglect you can make amends, and I recommend you do it promptly. It could improve your life exponentially.

I went 18 years without getting my eyes checked. I could see, I could read, there was no reason for me to think I needed to. Until college. Sitting in the back of a math class I was not prepared for, listening to a teacher whose second language was English, and struggling to figure out what was on the board I thought, man I need to move closer. While reading, I would often get headaches. My grades suffered and I didn’t think anything of it. Work harder. I leaned over to a friend in the class, “can you read the board?” he said, “uh, yeah. Why?” Later I would bring the subject up with the same friend where he would suggest something obvious and revelatory, “you might need glasses.” When you’re accustomed to your problem you grow to think, “well, thats’s it.”

We need to escape that mentality. We should assume we can improve, we just don’t know how yet.

My sister is a superior athlete. She can pick up any sport and perform competitively. She’s scrappy, the first girl on the floor when she played college basketball. In high school, she could be play any position on the field and was recognized as a top player in the city. Between the ages of 18 and 20 she had 7 knee surgeries. The explanation, flat feet and bad knees. She would be forced to quit playing basketball, the sport she loved more than anything.

Pretty depressing.

She now runs consistently, and well, of course.

Whoa, wait. But she has bad knees and flat feet! That can’t be good for her.

I remember when she started training again. It was rough. It didn’t come quickly and her knees were hurting. I suggested strengthening her feet by working into barefoot running with Vibrams (they’re like a foot glove and look ridiculous to most people). She looked at me like I was crazy.

Eventually, like me, she would buy a pair, grow into them, and then they would become he running shoe of choice. She now runs at least 3 days a week.

Maybe barefoot running is not for you. It did a lot for me, but even if it hadn’t, it was a big motivating factor in getting out to run. Don’t get stuck trying to figure out the best path to take. Pick a path. If it isn’t working, tweak it or try something new until you find something that does work. That applies to everything. Kick your shoes off and go.

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