Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Race Report: Naked Foot 5k, Grand Rapids MI

This was the smiliest race I've been to!  It was less about the race itself and more about the people who were there and the fun to be had!  I just had to share!  -Troy "BarefootRoot"

Photo Credit:  The last 2 photos here are courtesy of Johnny and Dee Jeffery!  You guys rock!


This past Sunday I attended the Merrell Naked Foot 5k in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The early returns are already in from John Yohe and Johnny Jeffery, so we obviously saved the "best" for last.  The other guys had better photos though, so they get extra points for being awesome.  The event appears to have been a huge success, as I am told there were nearly 250 people in attendance!

I woke up at about 4:30AM to get ready.  Colleen and the kids had gotten home about 1:00AM from Grandpa and Grandma's house, so the car was still fully packed and I was glad I had given myself extra time to unload it.  Once emptied, I loaded up our massive double stroller.  The plan was that I would push the kids through the race since they had insisted on coming back so Mirei could run in the kids 1k fun run.  At 6:00AM I got the kids out of bed, got them dressed and hit the road at about 6:40AM.

The kids were extremely sleepy, since while they had slept a bit in the car the night before, they had only been in bed for about 5 hours when I roused them.  Oren fell asleep pretty quickly once we got going, but Mirei stayed awake, promising me she would be ready for her race (which she'd been talking about all week).  We rolled into Riverside Park in Grand Rapids at about 7:40AM to a sparse crowd of early birds.



Most of the sponsor booths were all set up, including Merrell, The Hadley Clinic, Gazelle Sports and what I believe was either Forest Hills Foods or Harvest Health Foods (Unfortunately that booth would stay pretty busy all morning and I never really got a chance to see exactly which it was).  There was also some tents where some massage therapists were setting up, but I never found out who they were nor was I able to actually take advantage of their services.

I wandered over to Scott Hadley's booth, where we chit-chatted and I got to meet Brandon Mulnix, a local ultra runner who had run 50 miles the day before with his jaw wired shut!  Dude's got cahones!  I made my best effort to plant myself and the kids in an open space near registration and to look conspicuous, but quickly realized I should have made a sign or something.  There were a lot of people filtering in, and while I knew a few people who were coming most of the folks I wanted to meet up with were unknowns.  This was a weird problem for me, as I can normally find my barefoot peeps at an event just by looking for the other 1-2 people with no shoes on, but EVERYBODY was either barefoot or in some kind of minimal shoe and the size of the crowd made it impossible to pick any faces out.  I would eventually hook up with John Yohe, Johnny Jeffery and his family, Ken Jones and Eric Cooper, but the other 4+ members of the Michigan Chapter were folks I just didn't know.

This is the load I had to push!
As the crowd got bigger and bigger, we began to get ready for the kids 1k.  Mirei had been complaining about the cold all morning, and still wasn't looking all that awake.  I had a bad feeling she wasn't up to it but she said she would run in it.  She insisted I run with her (while pushing Oren in the stroller), so we lined up in the back.  The gun went off for the kids and we headed out.  Mirei got off to a bad start, nearly walking through the starting gate, still complaining of the cold.  As the other kids left us in their dust she actually slowed to a walk, which made me really frustrated.  Colleen and I had gone to great lengths to make sure she was around to run in this race and she was totally flaking out on me.  Once we got into the sunshine she perked up and finished strong, but still finished pretty much last.  I was disappointed because I know how well she runs, but she just wasn't feeling it I guess and I had to let it go.

After the kids race we hung out and watched the 1 mile run, which had only a few participants (I think someone said there were 10-12 people in it).  It was a nice run topped off with a triumphant finish by a heavy lady who had run with a young girl.  She looked pretty happy to have finished and the crowd gave her a huge round of applause when she crossed the finish line.

Now for the main event: the 5k.  Johnny's wife Dee offered to watch the kids while I ran, but Mirei decided she had to ride in the stroller.  The others commented on how bumpy it would be and I could only shrug.  Since I was one of only 2 strollers there and the only double stroller, I made my way to the back where I lined up next to Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton, and we chatted for a moment while the race got underway.  The gate was way too small for the assembled crowd, and everyone kind of walked through the gate before taking off onto the course.

video

The first leg was grassy park lawn with large trees here and there.  I came out faster than many of the people ahead of me, so there was a lot of dodging people and trees until we hit the first section of paved bike trail.  The grass was wet and the ground was kind of squishy, making the stroller hard to push (not to mention I am terrified of running in grass because of what it could hide), so I was glad for some pavement to run on.  I settled into a pretty good pace, passing several people.  I was surprised to see the number of people running in traditional trainers, but quickly realized they were in a distinct minority.  That realization made me feel pretty damn good.

Whoever came up with the course did a good job of finding a good variety of surfaces, as we eventually turned back off the bike path and onto the lawn once more.  This stretch led down by the Grand River and took us through some squishy mud.  It felt good to tromp through the stuff, but the stroller wasn't playing nice with the surface.  After a little more lawn area we got back up on the bike path and crossed a timber decked bridge, so I was making sure to watch for protruding nails or anything that said "splinter" on it.  The course would eventually turn off onto a road, requiring some careful negotiation of the concrete curb-stops along the edge of the road (my stroller was far too wide and I needed to slow down and lift the back wheels over the blocks).

I was keeping a pretty steady pace, moving pretty quickly considering I was pushing nearly 100 pounds of kid and stroller.  I was dismayed to learn that the back half of the course would be back on the grass though.  I kept hoping for some more pavement but never got any.

I did my best to hold the pace I had at the halfway point, slowly persistence-hunting the people in front of me while I barreled through the wet grass and mushy ground.  The stroller was bouncing all over the place and my legs were burning.  Anyone who's ever run while pushing a stroller knows that it's about twice as hard as running alone.  Add grass and soft ground to the equation and it's closer to ten times more difficult than running solo.  Eventually my legs would get the better off me and I would walk for about a minute.  I can't remember the last time I walked in a 5k, but there I was.  I wasn't feeling all that impressive, but I knew I needed some rest if I wanted to finish strong.

The course would wind around some baseball fields and around the parking lot before heading into the final stretch to the finish line.  Once I had it in my sights I told the kids to hang on and went for an all-out sprint to the finish, determined to pass at least a couple more people.  With the stroller catching air off every root and my legs flying beneath me the crowd cheered as the stroller and I flew across the finish line in just over 30 minutes.  As hard as the run had been I was all smiles at the finish, knowing I was the only one bold enough (or stupid enough) to tackle the course with the kind of load I was pushing.

When all was said and done, there was plenty of mingling with all my barefoot friends, comparing notes on the course, finish times, and how many shoddies we saw.  Many of us would head over for a clinic by Jason Robillard while the kids finally got out of the stroller to go play.  Jason said he'd been working to simplify his teaching method, and his ABC's method certainly accomplished that well.  It was well worth seeing.

Left to right: Me, Scott, Ken, John, Jason and Johnny.  Yes, that pose is mandatory!
After the clinic we tried to gather as many of our Michigan Chapter members as we could, and managed to get myself, John, Johnny, Ken Jones, Scott and Jason into a fun group photo.  Meeting Jason was a great thing for me, as he complimented me on my efforts as Michigan Chapter President.  It feels real good to have one of the guys you look up to give you the thumbs-up.  Afterward we all headed for our cars, and on the way got another photo-op with Ken Bob, which was also an honor.  I consider him an honorary Michigan Chapter member as he grew up here.  I'm not sure what kinds of questions he gets from the people he meets, but the one thing I asked him was where exactly he was from (he mentions the Traverse City area in his book) and was pleased to learn he was from Grawn, a little town I remember because my mom and dad grew up in nearby towns themselves.  When I mentioned my dad was from Mesick he said "yeah, it makes Mesick too..." and went on to say "The main thing I remember is playing my only night game in pee wee baseball there and getting hit in the face by a pitch."

Left to right: Johnny, Ken Bob, Ken, John and Me
After the final photos were taken we all headed for our cars.  We all had a great time and met a lot of great people we had spoken to online but had never met in person.  It was definitely a great way to recharge the batteries as far as my duties as Chapter Prez.  Being able to see all those guys in one place and having such a good time makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Running with the Doctor

[Also published on http://barefootkatiek.blogspot.com/]


Yesterday I ran with the "Doctor", my "Doctor".

Let me first explain, I am a category one British Nerd.  As a consequence I am a fan of Doctor Who - let's add Torchwood too (except for this year, but that's a whole difference essay).

Yesterday, was the first episode of the second half of the sixth season.  Yep, it doesn't make sense to any of us either, but let's just say there are quite a few of us [Category One Nerds] who were pretty excited about it.  So many questions, so many plots... Do they kill Hitler? Do they find Melody? Does RiverSong come back? Will Amy become all lame-arse because she is now a "Mother"? The usual life-death questions.

So in celebration for, 1) I can now run and 2) Doctor Who was back, I made an effort to run with the "Doctor" yesterday.  I have a pretty eclectic play-list on my ipod and it get's weirder every year. I do run without music on the technical trails. If I do wear my iPod, it's usually on an easy, well-known trail.  I usually only have one earbud in and it's on very low.  I can still hear my footfalls.  It's more of a background beat than anything I consciously listen to.  Quite often it set's the mood of what could be a mundane run.  I have my warm-up music (Bowie) and I have my fartlek music (currently Arcade fire and the Killers).  I have my mental reset music (snow patrol).  I have my happy music (Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons). I also have a fantasy tune.  This is a fast sprint with a grin - where I run with the biggest smile and as I quick as I can.  It's a narrow margin if I don't kill myself as I fall over a tree root.

It's this:




It's called "I am the Doctor" and it's the 11th Doctor's theme tune.  I do not have any other orchestral music on my iPod except this, but this is one of my favourite tracks.  When this comes on, I run over my bit of trail as fast as I can.  I pretend there are aliens in the sky and that the sky is a funny shade of purple.  I imagine that we are being chased and shot at. I dash from bush to tree and try to hide from deadly ray blasts. I see explosions and debris flying in the air.  For 4 minutes I am transported and I am running for my life.  I skip and I dance over the roots and gravel and if I had a "sonic screwdriver" I am sure there would be a few trees without leaves and quite a few squirrels scared "poo-less".

This is my unbidden fun track.  I know that no-one would understand what's going in my head when this comes on, but that's fine.

So yesterday I ran from the Soltaran, the Darleks and the Cybermen.  Okay, my knee didn't like it and I developed a kick-arse blister on my funky toe.  My 3 mile run only ended up being 2 miles before I accepted defeat.  However I DO NOT care.  I got to play this and for 4 minutes I was 7 years old and hiding behind the sofa, imagining what it would be like to be with "Doctor Who" on his travels in the TARDIS.  I was having the best time.  Many people would count the fact I had a "technically" bad run as something to be upset about.  I don't - I got to run with the "Doctor".

So, Run. Basically Run.

[Note: Fantastic episode last night.  Just want to know, WTF happened to Hitler? Is he still locked in the cupboard?]

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Minimalist/Barefoot Running and the Hike


[Plenipotentiary and general admin monkey's Note: This post was sent to us by Lars, a.k.a Fungrim from Sweden.  More can be found on his blog: http://www.larsan.net/


I love the fact that this collective is growing world-wide.  We have had post submissions from people in such diverse places.  It's nice to see that Running Smiley is a universal phenomenon.]



Some years back, the gang and I started to get interested in light-weight hiking. A small but persistent group of Swedish hikers started moaning about the weight that you traditionally carry around: heavy back pack, heavy tents, and relevant for this post, heavy boots. That’s when I first came into contact with minimalist running, and the ideas that our feet might be best left alone, and unencumbered.
You see, hiking in the Swedish mountains is traditionally done in boots. Rather heavy ones. Preferably with extremely hard and inflexible soles. And Gore Text lining. But more and more people started to point out that 1) it’s dubious that big boots actually prevents injuries; 2) boots can protect you from becoming wet for a while, but once drenched, they stay wet for a very long time; and 3) carrying 800 grams or more per foot isn’t very cost effective, it’s going to drain a lot of energy from you.
And so it goes. We scaled back on our equipment. I went from a pack weighting in on something like 13-14 kilos (excluding food) to 11 kilos last year, and this year I scaled back further, landing on a comfortable 8.5 kilos. But my boots stayed on.
At least until now.
I read “Born to Run”. I discovered Barefoot University. I started following various blogs. In short, I discovered the barefoot/minimalist trend. And there was something that allured to me. These guys and girls seemed to have genuinely fun when running, something that I had lost a few years back. I’ve always had bad knees and stiff ligaments and tendons, but have been running nevertheless the last 12 years or so. But it wasn’t fun anymore. My last longer run, on one of the beaches of Malaga should have been great: sea, sand and sun, what’s not to like? But it wasn’t.
And so I went immediately and bought a pair of Merrel Trail Gloves. I had read up enough to realize that learning barefoot would probably be done best with actual bare feet, but being a barefoot sissy, and running  on trails 75% of the time I went minimalist instead. There was also this: I realized there would be an adjustment period, and I figured a pair of shoes that actually looks like ordinary trainers (in contrast to Vibram FiveFingers) could comfortably be used daily, hence giving my feet some needed extra practise.
Obviously I went straight for the beginners most common mistake instead: too far too fast. It felt great! It was fun! I wanted more! And almost immediately I had a sprained Achilles tendon to deal with. Ah well, I’ve always said stupidity is supposed to pay off, so this one’s on me.
And now? Well, today I ran 6 kilometers, which is a the longest so far. Perhaps a bit too long, and I figure my ankles and Achilles will tell me so tomorrow. But damn, it felt great! Two laps around the “block”, where the block being a patch of wood at my mothers cottage in the Swedish woods, and then straight down to the small forest lake for a dip, and it felt like I want running to feel: light, smooth, easy and fun. Lovely stuff!
And next week I’ll head up to the mountains for a 4 day solo hike.
See where this is going? Well, much as I love my boots, and I do, I think they’ll be left home this time. On the other hand, much as I love my Merrels, I don’t think they’ll make it either. Although I’m sorely tempted. The reason being I’m a bit of a chicken again: The mountains I’m going to (for reference, Grövelsjön) are… stony. All Swedish mountains are (as the last ice age reduced our mountains to rubble), and my feet recoil a bit at the thought of walking 5+ hours a day in thin soles with a fair few kilos on my back. But I will go with a pair of Salamon Techamphibian (or similar). They’re fairly light, have a good grip on slippery surfaces, and dry out quickly. That will bring the full weight of my equipment down under 10 kilos. Not bad, not bad.
Also, I think my feet will love me for it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kitty's Funny

Haven't done one of these in a while. Saw this cartoon this morning and it made me laugh.



I thought this was another perfect look at how to Run Smiley (even though I don't wear socks)

You can find the original post at Ben Does Life

Brooke is doing her first half marathon in a month and a half

Ben: What's your goal for the half marathon

Brooke: To wear really fun socks

This is from Ben, made famous by making a great YouTube video about his weight loss journey. He was miserable and then he found running. And he kept running. He runs and he has fun. His friends have fun. They get together and Do Life by running and enjoying it!

Good Luck, Brooke. I hope you have the most fun socks of all and that you smile while you run.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We have shirts, now we have TUTU's

yep, you heard me. TUTU's. If you hadn't heard running TUTU's are all the rage and will the next big hit in 2012 - You heard it here first!

The kind ladies at Glam-runner, have joined in and at our request have made us some special edition "RUN SMILEY" TUTU's.

When you wear these, you can't but smile!  Even better, all the proceeds go to the charity "Girls on the Run"

See below... for the winning TUTU as voted for by the collective.





Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chalk Smiley: The Results


As should now be obvious, the "deadlines" for the Run Smiley Challenges are more "really rough suggestions of when, ideally, I'll wrap things up, but its almost certain it will take me at least a week or more to get around to taking my picture, and I'm not ending the thing until I get to take part." But I finally made it out for a) my run b) with a camera that c) had chargedbatteries and d) a piece of chalk.

Other Smilers jumped into the game much faster, and (in what has become the Collectives trademark iconoclasm) started by breaking the rules: only 2 of the 6 submissions involved chalk.

Troy wrote out our logo in rocks:


Both he and Ren scrawled "Run Smiley" in the sand:



Ren sent in a second, chalk photo:


Vanessa completely subverted the dominant paradigm by a) not using chalk, b) not writing "Run Smiley," and c) not writing anything at all: her's is a found-art submission, and a somewhat creepy, Blair-Witch-Projecty one at that:


Our Plenipotentiary, Kate, took a little while, since its pretty hard to write anything on water while rehabbing during a swim-run (and apparently the people at the local gym don't want their track written all over:

And myself? I finally got around to defacing some cement surfaces myself. I actually had half a dozen slogans I was going to scrawl on the sidewalks between here and Greenpoint, in an epic, chalk-tagging spree, but I quickly discovered that regular sidewalk chalk goes VERY quickly on rough sidwalks: it took me all three pieces of chalk I had with me to get through these two tags:





Not sure how well you can read them, but I went and wrote out some slogans I've been tossing about in my head. The first is, "Naked Ears, Naked Feet. Run Smiley." The second is my adaptation of Oath of the Special Olympics. In the original, it reads, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." My Oath of the Run Smiley Collective is, "Let me win, but if I cannot, let me smile in the attempt."

The point of all these challenges, when it comes down to it, is to find a new way to inject Running Smiley -- to inject joy -- into your run. Like my most recent post said, climbing a tree and writing with chalk are both borrowed from childhood, and brining that simple, innocent joy into the adult world is a small act of rebellion: a rebellion of joy. I hope everyone who sent me pictures smiled as they crouched over the rough pavement or traced their finger through the wet sand, and even more I hope that others saw the message and smiled themselves. Two, six, a dozen smiles for each message? Possibly . . .

Alright Smileys, that's it for now. I'll throw out another challenge soon: same Bat-time, sam Bat-station. In the mean time, remember: "A smile is just weakness leaving your body."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Acts of Transgression

Last week, I ran five miles home from my education workshops – five miles in the rain. And not just a drizzle, but the wonderful sort of torrential deluge that can come out of nowhere in the summer, drenching pedestrians everywhere and flooding intersections ankle deep in minutes. I wasn’t taken by surprise; the forecast had called for rain in the early afternoon, and in fact I’d spent the whole day hoping that the rain would hold off and unleash itself just in time for my run home. I wasn’t disappointed.

*

I love running in the rain, especially the sort of warm, soak-you-to-the-bone downpour that I was caught in last Tuesday. I’ve written about how I love running in the rain before, and it’s come up more than once on the Run Smiley Collective: most recentlyTroy was singing in the rain, but also Zapamamak and Tri-Living have rhaposized about wet runs and puddles under foot. It makes sense that my fellow collective members would love being out in a downpour: running in the rain is one of the smiliest ways to run. I always enjoy my runs, and they (almost) always make me smile, but when I’m running in the rain, I usually have a ridiculous grin plastered across my face. I literally laugh out-loud, raise my fists like skinny antennae to the heavens, leap into puddles, even skip once or twice.

Why? That’s what I was pondering last week (there has been a lot of pondering during my few-and-far-between runs this week) as I ran in the rain. Why is running in the rain just so darned fun?

For one, there’s the pure sensory nature of it; like barefoot running, running in the rain engages so many nerves and surfaces of your body that don’t normally get used during the day. Every inch of your skin comes alive, and even if you do have shoes on, suddenly your toes are shocked awake by a puddle full of cold water. If you don't have shoes on, or are wearing hauraches, its even better.

But its more than the sensual joy involved. Running in the rain is like jumping in puddles, or drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, or climbing a tree, or running barefoot: they are all activities that we were supposed to leave behind in childhood, things that mature adults don’t do. Other serious grownups will frown at you (“Put some shoes on!” “What are you doing up that tree?” “You’ll catch a cold!”) though honestly just as many adults will smile at you with a bit of wistful jealousy in their face.

Running barefoot, or climbing a tree, or running in the rain is an act of transgression. It’s breaking the unspoken rules of adult behavior, which is to be responsible. Running barefoot will get your shoes dirty: put on shoes. Climbing a tree you might fall and twist your ankle: don't climb trees. Running in the rain will get you wet and ruin your clothes and you might get sick: don't run in the rain. Being responsible means avoiding risky behavior, but it also means to do everything for a reason, to be purposeful in all one's actions. None of these activities have any purpose other than to be fun, which contains a strong wiff of irresponsibility about it. And that is exactly why they are so fun, because they are, in a sense rebellious, wildly individual, even self-indulgent.

At its essence, since there is no real need for it in the modern world, running itself in this day and age is trangressive. That’s why so many responsible adults feel the need to shroud it in purpose with GPS watches and heart-rate monitors, lap-splits, PR’s and BQ’s. To make it a responsible act, something that makes sense and can be justified.

Q: “Why are you out there running at six in the morning?”

A: “I’m training for a marathon.” They nod knowingly.

Q: “You’re seriously running the 13 miles home after school? What are you training for?”

A: “Nothing. I just want to.” Long, blank stare.

There are easy answer to the question, “why do you run?” and some of them are true for me: to loose weight, to lower my cholesterol, I’m training for a race, I hope to qualify for Boston, to raise money for cancer. These are reasons: they add purpose, people understand them. But the truth is, if you waved a magic wand and I could be 175 pounds with 2% body-fat and perfect blood-pressure without ever running again, I’d still run. If you eliminated every race from the future, so there would be no competition for me to train for, I’d still do my long-runs on the weekend, still aim for an ultra distance in the next year. Because when it comes down to it, I run because I like to, because I want to, because it fulfills some need in me that nothing else can, a need that I can’t even quite put a name to. There is no need for my running, no logical place that it holds in my life.

I run because I want to. I run because I can. I run because it serves no purpose, it helps me break the social contract of always being responsible and productive. And I run with a smile, because I’m having fun, and enjoying your run -- really just enjoying it -- is an act of rebellion.

To run.

Alone.

In the rain.

(Also posted @ . . .whenitalkaboutrunning)

La-Z-boy



Do you ever sit down in the evening in your comfortable chair, perhaps the La-Z-boy, pull that handle to prop your feet up into the air then experience the involuntary sigh? I love that sigh.

The other night I was allotted an evening run with no time constraints. Stepping onto the road, I wasn't certain how far I would run but I figured it would be worth giving a long run a shot. The plan was to run a "circle" around town where I could add or subtract neighborhoods as the mood struck me.

I fancy long runs where I can settle into my body and relax through the motion of my legs. I let the bones, joints and muscles work together to oil the gears. I breathe but I don't force the breath.

I scooched my rear-end back into the plush chair and sighed as my feet rose into the air. I linked my fingers together, raised them over my head and cradled it.

Don't get confused. I'm not jumping back and forth in the story here. I was still running at this point. It's just that everytime I thought about relaxing into the run, I had the vision of sitting in a La-Z-boy chair. I'd mentally place my hands behind my head; my feet were in the air; a gentle sigh escaping into the passing breeze. As though running had become as irrisponsible (in the good way) and fun as watching the game or a chick flick on TV while stretched out in a La-Z-boy...only...only better.

This past year when I would cross mile four, I would begin to feel a tightening of my calf muscles and aching in my thighs. The signs of stressing my body to achieve longer distances. Only during this run, I reached down inside and pulled that mental foot-rest handle. I remembered that I was just there to relax and enjoy. My feet never got hot, beaten or swollen. My calves just rolled with it. Thighs? Did I even have thighs? Even better than the chair was that I had an energized runner's high to keep me peppy through the rest of the evening.




I had stretched my arms overhead, linked my fingers and cradled my head as I La-Z-boy'd myself right through five miles.









A shot looking back at the lazy mill race running along South Island park.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dirtbag sent me...

I put up a post this morning after my run and his response was.."Run smiley."  If you're interested you can read it here.

Barefoot At The Movies

When the Born To Run movie comes out, do you think they will let us walk into the theater in our barefeet?

Christopher McDougall should make it manditory.


Hey, Christopher McDougall, not only do we, here at the Run Smiley Collective, think that we were born to run. We think we were born to run with a smile on our face!

I second the invitation given by our Plenipotentiary. Christopher McDougall, come run and have a beer with us. We might even have a Barbarian Horde in your honor.

(Fantastic idea, by the way, Dirtbag)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Barbarian Horde 1K

I have had a brilliant idea and I must share it with the world!
The Barbarian Horde 1K.
Here's how it works:
As people register for the Barbarian Horde 1K they are split into two teams. Call them the Barbarians and the Vikings, though I'm open to suggestions. Pre-race preparation should include face and body painting, costume design (kilts and bare feet encouraged),  as well as repeated watching of Braveheart and any other movie with a massive, foot soldier-waged, edged-weapon battle in it.
As participants arrive they are sent to one of two sides of a 200m field, the side of the field determined by their registration. Once there, they are rallied by their Horde Leader, an arm-waving, nearly-unintelligible encouragement-yelling crazy person, until they are whipped into a frenzy.
Then, on shouted count between the two Horde Leaders (or possibly tossed sword), both side run screaming for the center of the field, 100 meters away. As they meet in the middle the goal is to run straight through, high-fiving as many of the opposing horde as possible, thus "killing" them, and then complete the run all the way to the other side's start point. A key point of all of this is everyone must be screaming, shouting, and hollering war cries the entire time they are in motion.You are, after all, a Barbarian Horde. Also, no weapons of any kind, even foam, would be allowed. This is supposed to be fun, with danger kept to a minimal.
Once both sides have recovered from Wave One, the entire thing is repeated. In order to reach a true 1k there would have to be five waves of attack (200m x 5 = 1000m = close enough). If both sides agree to an accord before that happens, after all running full tilt while screaming is hard work, the Barbarian Horde 1k can end early.
The post-race meal will not be normal fare. It will need to be some type of burnt meat product wrapped in charred animal flesh. Prizes will be given for Most Enthusiastic Barbarian, Best War Cry, Best Barbarian Outfit, and Scariest Barbarian To See Coming At You Full Speed.
I'm convinced this would be a ton of fun. Assuming everyone played cool and didn't try to purposely deck anyone in the melee (and signed injury wavers), wouldn't you get in on this?

Hey Guys, we are over here!! *wave*

So I was thinking last night - it was a slow night, so thinking must happen - anyway I digress (often).


All those high profile, super "A-list" barefoot and minimalist runners out there - you know the one's;  Books, coaching tours, blog-sites with millions of hits. How do you accidentally (on purpose) get their attention?  A few of us have been re-posted by these guys, so how did it happen? How do they find you?


I mean, we are the future of running.  Next year, everyone will be going around with chalk on their run's and climbing tree's (or in my case rocks).  Those movie stars you see?  Yeah, next year they will doing air-drums and scaring squirrels.  Everyone will be taking a camera on their run's and taking photo's of well pretty much anything.  At races, we won't see hoards of runners pushing and shoving; growling at everyone that passes.  Nope there will just happy, smiley, friendly runners cheering each other on.  We are the cool, fun, hip, trendy band that started the revolution!


Then I think Chris (UTR) mentioned that they probably search for their names in blog tags and click on anything relevant to them.  So I am going to try an experiment.  Let's try it shall we?


So everyone, shout really loud.  On the count of 1,2,3.
1...2....3!!
"WE'RE SUPER COOL PEOPLE WHO DON'T CARE ABOUT NUMBERS.  WE LIKE TO BLOG ABOUT RUNNING WITH A SMILE AND HAVING FUN.  COME HANG AROUND WITH US FOR A WHILE!!  WE'LL BUY YOU THE FIRST BEER!"
Do you think that worked? ;) 


P.S We don't need to get Jason Robillard's attention, as usual he is ahead of the curve and super-cool already


P.P.S let me know if I missed any you can think of! 



Run Smiley Fartleks

Last Saturday was my 20 year high school reunion. I wasn't able to attend the 10 year reunion so I hadn't seen many of my classmates since graduation. I had been looking forward to this reunion for a year or longer. As you can imagine, I got a little nervous excited as well.

Saturday morning approached me bright and early. My son and I had our first soccer game at 9:00 am then we would head up to Michigan to my hometown. But, at the moment, it was only 6:00 am. I didn't have much time with needing to get ready for the day, clean the house, pack the car and eat breakfast. Although running wasn't on my list of compulsory things to do before the soccer game, it was on my list of things I want to do before heading to my 20 year reunion.

I headed out for the shortest run of the entire summer. This run was 1.08 miles to be exact. Although I was out to run smiley and build a little confidence for the day, I just felt the need. For speed. (said as heard in Top Gun) I suppose that is the good thing about running short distances. You don't have to worry about keeping some reserves in the gas tank for when you reach miles 3 - 10.

I ran. I ran faster. I kept running fast.

My legs turned over with ease. My feet fluttered across the ground. I matched my breath with the heartbeat of the earth. Cool breezes, so rare in August, flowed over my bare shoulders whisking away the sweat.

When I didn't think I could keep up the pace for another step, I slowed down to a jog. I controlled by breath and took stock of my feet and legs. I felt alive and energized.

A short distance later, I pushed forward again. I let my body go as fast as it could handle. I let my body go as far as it could handle. I let my body do everything that came natural. I sucked in oxygen and pumped healthy blood to my extremities. I let my heart do a dance; a jig, if you will.

The time came again when I reined in and interviewed my body parts then sped up again. Before I knew it, my mile was done and gone. I walked back into the house feeling as though I was 18 years old still.

I didn't intend to run fartleks but it's what felt smiley. I ran fast to feel good. I ran slow to feel good. Then I did it again. I didn't have a Garmin, a watch, or a GPS to tell me when the interval was over. I listened to my body and fartlek'd when it felt good to do so. I turned a 1 mile run into the ultimate challenge that I crushed.

I ran smiley fartleks.

A Rose By Any Other Name

On an after note: It took me all of one minute speaking with one of my sweetest friends from high school to try to convince her to check out the Run Smiley Collective. She ran the Kalamazoo Marathon last spring. She was telling me how she and her husband basically run out of obligation to their bodies. I really hope she comes to check us out. So, hello, Melissa, welcome! Have a nice read and a smiley run.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Race Report: Steve's Raider Stomp, Decatur, MI


Having taken the week off due to sore feet, running a race may not have been the best decision in the world. However, this particular race would attract a bunch of my buddies from the Beyond marathon training group (Piper, Carolyn, Brent, Ginny, Frank and Angie) so I was willing to throw caution to the wind. It would turn out to be a grew morning and I'm glad I was there.

Steve's Raider Stomp is a charity race for the local track and cross-country teams in Decatur, and is a memorial for one of their outstanding student athletes who had died in a car accident a few years back. It's run by my friend Bob Smola, who was my group pace leader during the Beyond Marathon Training Program put on by the Kalamazoo Area Runners, and I was determined to show my support. The race included a 5k walk, 5k run and a 10k run. I thought about doing the 10k but since I had taken all week off I figured I would be better off with the shorter distance. It was a pretty small event and rumor had it there were around 400 participants between all 3 races (the 5k had 104 finishers).

Heading for Decatur, I was a bit nervous about the weather because there were some nasty thunderstorms rolling through north of Paw Paw (the town so nice they named it twice!). I wasn't too worried about rain, since I enjoy running in wet conditions, but lightning is where I draw the line. Fortunately the weather would hold for us and we wouldn't see a single drop of rain.

I met up with my friends outside the high school gym where they were handling registration. Checking in was super smooth, possibly due to the smallish number of racers, and took maybe 2 minutes. I went out and visited with my friends for a few minutes while getting my number pinned on and after a quick jog to the car to drop off my race shirt I headed for the starting line with the others. We met up with Bob briefly on our way over and got in some hugs and "how ya been!" before his duties as race director took him away. It was great to see him and the others. The summer running has been lonely since the marathon back in May.

The course started on the road near the high school and headed kind of northwesterly in a nice loop on country and neighborhood roads. Most of the roads were older chip seal surfaces. I figure they were probably done in the last couple years, as they weren't as rough as a road done this year, but were rough enough that they were slightly uncomfortable. My runs on the Kal-Haven Trail, Al Sabo and the trails in Marquette last week had prepared me well for the surface though, so it didn't really slow me down. Six months ago I'm not sure I could have handled it without I affecting my performance.

The roads were completely closed off, which was nice as runners weren't crowded into a bike lane or anything. It allowed a lot of people to hug the inside of the curves, which is something I didn't really consider, and I'm sure many runners were able to shave a few seconds here and there by staying inside. I would later wish I'd done it myself, but I'll get to that in a bit. At one point I did have a car behind me, but the fire chief was ahead making sure the road was clear for runners and he stopped to chew out whoever it was that was nipping my heels with their car.

The aid stations were well manned and the drinks were nice and big. I went out of my way to thank everyone for being there, even the spectators, as I hadn't been as good about that lately as I'd like. My last two races were ones where I had concentrated on speed and I had really gotten away from my usual crowd-cheering self. It was nice to get back to that. Almost everyone I thanked also thanked me for running the race which felt good. The crowds weren't the thickest I'd seen, but they were a good crowd regardless and their positive energy kept me running a brisk pace.

I had planned to stop and take pictures, but because the field was so small I thought I had a chance to medal if I ran it hard, so I didn't stop to take any. I did stop once though at about 1.5 miles in when I saw a kid who must have been around 13 stop at the side of the road. It looked like he was spitting water out, since he still had a cup from the aid station, or maybe was getting some loogies out. Other runners just kept running past him. As I approached though it was obvious he was throwing up, and as a parent I just have this instinctive urge to help when I see a kid vomiting. I stopped and said "dude, are you ok?". He nodded and waved me on before unloading his digestive system again. I was still a bit concerned and said "is there anyone I can call for you?". He shook his head and waved me on. In the meantime about 10 people passed us and I don't think any of them even slowed down. Savages. Anyway, after waving me on the second time I gave up. "I hope you feel better" I said and headed back into the pack. I probably lost a half minute, if not more, from my finish but I didn't care. I was worried he wouldn't make it back in.

Getting back in I focused on keeping a couple young girls in my sights. I was trying to persistence-hunt them down, but my week off was keeping me a little winded and it was all I could do to keep my pace. They would stay just out of reach until the finish line.

At about 2.5 miles the race turned off the chip seal and onto a gravel road/driveway. There was a course marshall there who gave me a friendly "barefoot eh? This should get interesting!". I gave him a friendly laugh and said "yeah, we'll see!". The gravel was pretty rough, but there was a nice semi-mowed grassy strip along the road which I ran in. It made me super nervous because grass hides a lot of potential dangers for barefooters, but I bore down and kept pace, even passing some people who'd slowed down on the gravel. Eventually we crossed someones lawn and headed into some brush-hogged field and then onto a gravel two-track. There was no grassy shoulder on the two-track, so I just bore down and ran it as lightly as possible. There was a very slight hill here and I passed a few people, but they would overtake me again once we got back on chip seal.

After a few hundred feet on the chip seal we crossed a gravel approach onto Decatur high school's new track. It was that weird spongy stuff that I don't think a shoddie would take much notice of, but that reminded me of running in shoes again. There was a lot more friction and the give of the surface felt really strange. Bob was at the PA calling out names and numbers as they ran by and he gave me a big "way to go, Troy!" as I headed by before calling my name and number over the PA. I kept my brisk pace over most of the track, as I didn't have a ton left in the tank: I'd left most of it out on the course. Once I got around the bend and had a nice straight-away to the finish I kicked into sprint gear and finished as hard as I could. I managed to catch and pass not only a couple people who had passed me on the chip seal but the two girls I'd had in my sights for half the race.

I finished with a respectable 26:03, about 12 seconds off my personal best of 25:51. Later I would lament that if I'd hugged the turns tighter (I'd stayed on the outside where it was less crowded) and not stopped for that kid (although I don't think I would have actually done anything different in that situation) I may have been able to shave another minute off my time, which would have set a new best. It wouldn't have helped my standing though, as the 3 guys in my age group who beat me were all running around a 7:00 mile, and there was a 3:30 difference between me and the number 3 guy. I'd hang around the finish to get pictures of my friends finishing, which was cool. I actually got some pretty good shots!

Carolyn's last 5k finish before knee surgery!

Piper finishing strong on Decatur's new track

The kid who had been sick back at mile 1.5 would finish a couple minutes behind me, which was good.  When I saw him I gave him a "way to go!" and a "glad you're feeling better!"  he gave me a nod, but otherwise got a bottle of water and walked away.  Wasn't the nicest kid in the world, but I was glad he made it back ok.


The race swag and food would be yet another highlight of the event. As soon as you cross the finish line there was someone there with a cold wet towel (which felt great!) and a bottle of water. The next station had popsicles and a table of cool swag. The volunteer said "take whatever you want!" and we were stunned. There were water bottles, coolers, bags, golf towels and I think a couple other things. I grabbed a cooler and a golf towel and headed towards the results board and food tables with my friends (who had finished the 5k anyway... Ginny, Frank and Angie were all running the 10k).

The food was awesome! There were a fee varieties of muffins, which had to be some of the best I'd had in a long time. I even took one home for with my lunch and one for my wife (with the volunteer's blessing, of course). They also had fresh watermelon, apples, plums and peaches. Since Decatur is on the edge of fruit farm country, I assume the melon, peaches and plums were all fresh picked and local. Did I mention they were awesome? The plums were huge and juicy and the peaches were great as well.

My friend Piper placed 3rd in her division!
The medals were very nice, and some of us actually medalled! Piper would take 3rd in age group for the 5k while Angie and Ginny would take 1st in their respective age groups. The overall winners got some gorgeous glass trophies. They also had photographers taking pictures of the division and overall winners which were ready in about 5 minutes! I've never seen that before!

All in all this was a great event. It was small enough that you had a chance to medal as long as you gave it a good effort, and the food and swag were more superb considering the race only cost $17 to enter. The volunteers were great and everything was well done. Bob had put together quite an event and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, fast race where anybody has a decent chance to bring home some hardware. My only reservation would be for other barefooters: the chip seal and gravel areas would be pretty bad if I hadn't been running on similar surfaces all summer. Some huaraches or minshoes would be recommended if you aren't used to rough surfaces.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My (abbreviated) Story

I was born a BFR. I was a BFR until I was about 1.5 yrs. old.

In HS, I ran XC, but not BF. I was on JV. I was slow. I always wanted to run a 26.2.

Then I got married. Then we had kids. We raised them. I still wanted to do a 26.2.

I had dreams of a BQ someday. So I got a GF305 with a HRM to monitor my MHR, log my LSDs, and PRs. I studied the BQTs for my AG. I XT'ed. I worked to increase my VO2Max. I started a BLOG.

But every time I ran 10K or more, I got injured. ITBS in one leg. PF in the other foot. Always DOMS. Lots of RICE. Had my first DNF due to a hamstring pull.

Then I read "BTR". Then I became a MR. Bought 3 pair VFF, and huarches. No more ITBS, or PF, or even DOMS!

But I did TMTS, got TOPF. But ignored it. Ran 5K race. SFX, 2nd Metatarsal. 3 months off.

Then I became a BFR again, 50 years after the first time. I didn't do TMTS. After 1 yr. I can run at least 18K BF with no pain. Happy BFR.

Then I learned about Run:) I joined the RSC. Happy, :)ly BFR. BQ? Who cares.

The End (for now).

Milk Run 2011


After the marathon I took a bit of a break and now have been slowly building my running back up. This time with some of the ideas from Ken Bob Saxton who has run over 77 marathons and has been running barefoot for over 20 years. I have been doing shorter runs and on gravel as much as I can. This way when I run, I will land much more gently to save my soles and at the same time save my knees.

So my training has consisted entirely of less than 10k distances since the marathon. With the hot day and the reduced training, I knew it would be a slower Milk Run 10k race for me. The race started at 9am so the asphalt on the roads didn’t feel too hot on the feet. The sunlight and humid air however, were a major factor for physical exertion. I think I may have started a little too fast with the thought of getting the race over with and having ice cream at the end. By the time I had run about 3k, any concern over getting a good finishing time fell from my list of priorities. At that point my pace had slowed a lot and I simply wanted to finish without walking it in. A couple of kilometers later and I was only concerned about self preservation. I was feeling so uncomfortable in the heat that I was running faster in the sun so that I could get to the shady spots where I would slow right down and give myself maximum time in the shade before having to run in the sun again. In the last 3k I didn’t care about running in wet clothes and headed for every spraying hose that the nice citizens of Lindsay provided. I forced myself to keep my legs moving and finished the race not looking at the clock only looking for anything to cool me down. I ate my first two dishes of ice cream just to try to cool down. The next two however, were for pure indulgence. I didn’t feel any pain in my feet or legs during the race, only heat fatigue, so I was happy about that. Once the results got sorted out I ended up with a time of 52:56. I was happy to see that I hadn’t run the race as slow as I felt I had, but I was still a lot slower than my best 10k race (47:30). So I felt satisfied that at least I set a PB for the number of dishes of ice cream I ate even if I didn’t for my 10k time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I am back people - now it's your turn to start running




"Basically Run". No really RUN.  I have been given the go ahead to chase you - although for me to actually catch you you will need to run as fast as a snail and only for 2 mins at a time.



On Wednesday I went to the Orthopaedic surgeon and he has told me that my x-rays didn't show anything, but heck, they didn't last time when my knee was a size of a melon.  However, given the fact I have been a very good girl (and no I didn't sleep with him!) I can start running again.


So on Wednesday I went for my first "official" run in 8 weeks.  I had run before, but as I mentioned to the nice intern who was admiring my "Invisible Shoes" Huaraches with neon lemon laces, it was only in emergency situations; a.k.a Chasing and saving a 6 year old from immanent death. I hadn't run more than a handful of steps in any real direction for pretty much 2 months.


So as instructed I went onto the indoor level track.  No trails just yet.  I took off my shoes and ran in my threadbare socks.  As a note I would have run barefoot, but I have been cautioned about running barefoot by the city staff too many times. It's a no-no here in Canada.  Obviously the shoe industry has players on the city council.


So I ran - and walked, but I ran.  I put on some of my favourite songs and I danced, sang and generally did the most kick-arse air-drums for the slowest mile ever recorded by something that didn't carry a shell on it's back.  I hadn't forgotten but I was still overwhelmed about why I love to run.


It isn't about the numbers - I ran a mile on a flat track in about 25 mins.  It wasn't about the need to wear lycra and the funky Garmin watches.  It was just the joy of feeling the ground underneath my feet and the air passing through my hair.  I may have only been going quicker than walking distance by definition, but I felt like I was flying.


Despite the fact it was only a mile, I did take photo's.  I made jokes with the two pensioners walking the track.  I sprinted and then giggled like a school kid because I knew I shouldn't. 


I was reminded that this is why I run.  This is what I have been looking forward to it.  Although my mind has been up-beat about my absence, I am SO glad to be back.


Next stop (aside from NYC), a informal running clinic with some other Mum's from school.  Fall Classic 10K here I come! How sweet life can be!

Something New

For someone who complained terribly all summer long about not getting to go running, I turned into a bored runner too quickly.

I suppose it is about time this happened. I have been running the same basic route into town and back for over a year now. This is partly because we live along a river . There is one bridge into town. As a result, the first 1/2 miles of any run going into town will always be the same. The houses never change, the trees haven't changed (yet), and it is the same ol' streets.

Now, I will give a big thanks to the Run Smiley Collective (and my blog) for this morning's run. Oh, I would have run regardless but I might not have enjoyed it as well as I did. I reached back into my collective memory for ways to run smiley. I considered admiring the homes and buildings in town that I so happily bragged about and included pictures in earlier posts. I wanted to discover something to extol in a photograph.


**POOF**


A landmark popped into my head. It is famous, sort of, and I never run past it. Oh, I still had to cover the same 1/2 mile going into town, but, after the bridge, I would run on untested asphalt. My goal end point would deliver a unique and historic point of view.


Suddenly, the run became fun again.


Meet the Gemini Giant along Route 66. One of the last remaining "Muffler Man" of the 1960's. It is funny that it took me this long to take a picture and post it since this is the most photographed landmark in the area courtesy of tourists travelling the historic Route 66.



This is not trick photography. He is bigger than that house.

By the way, the asphalt was scabrous. I took the sidewalks home. I stepped on a few too many rocks but what can you do? Sometimes the destination makes the journey.


A Rose By Any Other Name

Saturday, August 6, 2011

~Stormy Weather...~ (you have to sing it in your head!)

With the temperatures hovering in the low 70's during my usual running time, I've been chomping at the bit to get some rainy runs in.   Puddles have become my favorite thing recently, and I've made wet roads my bitch (pardon my french) since the unfortunate blister incident back in January, so with the warm weather came the desire to get out and get wet.  I had tried to catch rain storms a few times over the last few weeks, to little success.  Since my house is in a relatively heavily wooded lot, the water dripping from the trees frequently make me think it's raining and some mornings I have been all excited until I get out on the road and realize that there isn't any actual rain.  One recent run had some light sprinkles for about a mile but it stopped and then it was just hot and humid out, which isn't the most pleasant running environment.

"...and I start to complain when there's no rain..."  -No Rain, Blind Melon

I would finally get my wish on July 28th.  I had planned on running maybe 4-6 miles that morning, and was up at 4:30AM to give myself plenty of time to get up and around and hit the road before work.  The rumble of thunder could be heard as I walked downstairs and I was a little sad, as I tend to chicken out when there's lightning about (hey that rhymes!).  I spent my usual 15-20 minutes checking email, the weather map (which showed plenty of rain cloud) and the local news and realized i hadn't heard any thunder since coming down.  It was time.

I could hear the rain in the trees and it seemed like a good pour, so I quickly grabbed my running gear.  I don't particularly like running in wet shirts, so after a short debate with myself I decided to go sans-shirt.  This is something i wouldn't have even considered in years past, as a big fat guy who was sensitive about how disgusting I looked.  I'm still relatively heavy, but after all the weight I dropped last year the idea of going outside, running no less, without a shirt was a semi-comfortable option.  It was still slightly nerve wracking, but it was about 5:00AM and still nice and dark so that gave the extra push I needed to head out in just my shorts and calf sleeves.

Anyway, I threw my phone in an arm band to track my run (I am participating in a study ad need to know how far I am running) and headed out into the....  surprisingly NOT rainy weather?  Damn.  Apparently the trees fooled me again and I silently promised to chop each one down with a rusty hack saw for their treachery.

I headed out on the roads nonetheless, and while it was pretty humid it was a pleasant run.  I was once again sad that the rain had apparently stopped before I got out there, but it was a nice comfortable pace so it eased the pain.  After about a mile things would change.

The drips started in an area where I assumed they were just coming from the trees.  I cursed the trees there too, for having the audacity to tease me so.  As i ran though, I noticed it was starting to get a little misty.  Getting better!  After a few minutes I found myself in a gentle sprinkle, which brought my spirits up a lot, but again it felt like a tease.  Then I heard it coming.

Getting up near the businesses at the junction of Parkview Avenue and Oakland Drive I heard this weird roaring sound from the trees to the west, and then it got louder and I realized it was coming from the roofs of the buildings across the street.  "Here it comes!" I quietly gushed as I ran.

And then it hit.  The weather went from gentle sprinkle to full-on downpour in about 5 seconds.  The rain was nice and cool on my skin, which had gotten a little clammy from the heat and humidity.  I felt a huge smile spread across my face as I let my cares go by and live in the feeling of the rain coming down on me.  I was so glad I had decided to leave without a shirt.  I could feel every drop as it hit me and it felt like a tiny cold massage.  In a shirt you can tell you're getting rained on, but all you get is a wet, heavy shirt.  Without the shirt I could feel so much more and it reminded me of the first time i had run without shoes: there was so much more of the world to experience by removing one of our protective layers and it was an incredibly freeing experience.

I must have looked like a compete lunatic to the cars that drove by.  Here's this guy running in a rainstorm wearing only some shorts and what look like socks with the feet cut off (I remember being a non-runner and not getting the idea of calf sleeves) and he's got this crazy grin on his face.  He must be off his nut!

It didn't take long before I realized a single problem with the joyous experience that was running in this storm: my arm band was certainly not waterproof, and if I ruined my phone because I was crazy enough to take it out in the rain I would be very sad (I essentially do everything on my phone).  so rather than make the full out and back (from where I realized this), which would have been about 4 miles, I decided to take a more direct route back home.

It was about a mile back to the house, and while the smile never left my face I was slightly worried that I would ruin my expensive piece of technology.  Cars continued to pass, their occupants no doubt wondering about my sanity (or lack thereof).  By the time I got home I was soaked to the bone and looked like I had just gone for a swim instead of a run, but the smile was bigger than ever.  My only regret was having to come in early.

Next time I won't bring my phone.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Won a local 12k!


[Plenipotentiary and general admin monkey's Note: Firstly, trying out my new title - what do you think?  yep, I had to use "Google"too.  Thanks to Stephanie, a.k.a. 1972roses for the title]





Anyway, I had this post sent to me from Tracy.  The title may seem a little against what we would normally set out to be here at the collective, but when you realise that she lives and works in Nambia, then the post really works.  Her description of the race is fantastic.  Check out her blog here: 
http://revruns.blogspot.com/]



Well, well. Yay for me –

Last Thursday, we (Caprivi Hope for Life) rented the conference room at the Katima Youth Center to hold a training with our field promoters. While I was there, I met Ben, the Regional Coordinator for Sports in Caprivi Region. I met him because he was wearing quite a nice looking track suit which I was admiring and Clara, our Finance Officer knows Ben and introduced us. He then introduced me to the woman who is the Deputy in charge of Namibian Women in Sport Association (NAWISA), whose existence was a revelation to me. And then, somehow in the conversation, he mentioned that there was going to be a 12k race on Saturday, put on by some local school as a fundraiser. A race! How exciting. I hardly ever get to race. When was the last one? Oh yeah, the New Year’s Day 10K (also run in Vibrams) where I won my age group. Ben was a bit vague on details (at least for what I am used to), but he said it was going to start at 7am in town, near the market.

After our meeting, I saw Ben talking with Peggy, one of our promoters from Liselo. He called me over to tell me that Peggy was a great runner, one of the best women in the region. As we walked to town, I spoke with Peggy a bit and she said she would come Saturday morning for the race. Great! We promised to see each other there.

I didn’t expect an enormous crowd – the population of Katima is pretty small to begin with and I only knew of two other runners – one Chinese guy I’d see on the road in the evenings a few times and Janice, a Peace Corps friend who is down at Windhoek now for a conference. But I thought, oh maybe there’d be a hundred people or so.

Wanting to make sure I had time to find the start, get registered and not miss anything, I left the house at 6:30am. It was COLD. Cold enough that I jogged out to the road and kept moving so I wouldn’t freeze. I had on shorts and a long sleeve running shirt with a pair of light track pants and my Katima Mulilo Town Council track jacket. There was no one out on the road and only one truck went by going the other direction. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t get a ride. But soon enough a taxi came by, just when I thought my feet would go numb from the cold. When we got to town, we went by the market, but just saw a few people there setting up a brai (barbecue), so I didn’t think it was there. I asked the driver to take me to the Youth Center, but that was closed, so I said to take me back to the market and drop me there, figuring I would ask around. When we got back to the market, I saw Peggy and a couple of other people who looked like runners, plus a few children running around. By now, it was minutes before 7am and it was clear that things weren’t going to start right away. There was some commotion, though – one man was clearly in charge, I later heard he was the principal of the school – and there were two police there who were our safety escorts. Apparently the brai was part of the fundraiser and so parents of the school’s children were setting that up and then showing up with pastries and pancake batter and meat and sodas that they were going to sell. A few more people showed up, including Ben, and the women in charge of registration were organized, so around 8am we could pay our $20 and get our numbers. There were going to be two races, a 1-mile race for the younger children and a 12k race which I thought was only for adults, but when the gun went off, it was clear that it was also for the youth (12-18). We got our numbers and still had quite awhile to stand around. This gave us time to size up the competition and for random folks to wander by and enter the race (the guy who got 3rd place was coming to open his shop, saw the race was happening and decided to run!). A bit of sun finally came up and we would huddle in the spots where it was shining to try and warm up.

I was wearing my Vibram Fivefingers (Bikila LS) which engendered quite a bit of interest. I considered running barefoot, but I didn’t know what the route was going to be (and therefore the conditions of the road/path) and 12k is about twice the distance I’d ever run barefoot and I knew it would wreck my feet. With a marathon in a month, that didn’t seem wise, so I opted for the VFFs. There was quite a variety of footwear among the runners. The shopkeeper had a pair of spikes (without the spikes in) that he wore. Quite a few people were in the Converse knock-offs that are quite popular around town, some had knock-off brands of “regular” running shoes. One guy showed up at the last minute wearing dress shoes, but  as he passed me (having gotten off to a bit of a late start) he was barefoot. Quite a few of the kids ran either barefoot or in their socks, including two boys carrying their shoes, which apparently did not work as well as they had hoped.

When we started, there were less than 20 adults, with Peggy and I the only two women, and another 15 or so youth. There was no starting line, but everyone pretty politely lined up next to each other and the principal said “go” and shot something or other and off we went. Since my toes were actually numb, I started slow and just decided to “run my own race”. Slow is relative, though, as my first mile split was 8:15—I just didn’t go like a bat out of hell like everyone else. About 10 of the girls pooped out after ½ a mile and started walking, but I have to give them credit because they did it—they ran the whole 12k race.

As things shook out, I could see Peggy ahead of me—far enough that I couldn’t reach her, yet within sight. I think we were probably going about the same pace, because she always seemed to be about the same distance. Around 3 miles, I started passing people. First the two boys carrying their shoes and running in their socks, one of whom had music playing from his phone—they would run, walk, run, so we placed leap frog for about a mile, but then they couldn’t keep it up. I caught up with two girls and a boy who were plugging along pretty well, but started to lose steam. One of the girls ran with me for awhile, but then faded. Then I caught a boy who had been running with Peggy, and we went through the turnaround checkpoint together where we had to pick up a “wooly” – a colored piece of yarn that would prove we made it to the checkpoint and was necessary to qualify for prizes. The nice thing about the out and back course was that I could cheer on folks who were way ahead of me. After the turnaround, the boy I was with kept having trouble with his shoelaces. They were quite long and didn’t stay tied, so he dropped back. I think caught up with the first girl, who was so far ahead of the others that even though she faded near the end, she won handily. Then, suddenly, Peggy was reachable and seemed to be slowing down, while I just kept clipping along (my splits for the race were 8:15-8:30 per mile, with the last mile a bit faster at 8:08). We passed an area which had shops, a bunch of people (including a boy who shouted at each of us “how much did you pay?” which seemed an odd question) and little piglets crossing the road!

By the time we got to the intermediate water stop (without about 2 miles to go), I caught up with Peggy. With me there for a bit of competition, she rallied and we ended up running side by side, alternating fading a bit and rallying.

At the beginning of the race, a police bakkie (pickup) had escorted us out and along the route (though it was quickly too far from me to be considered an escort). It came by at least one more time and another time a police car came by, both with sirens blaring. However, by the time we reached that intermediate water stop, there were a LOT more cars on the road and they were rude and somewhat aggressive. We had been running with the traffic, but Peggy and I decided to cross over. I was hoping that if they saw us with numbers on our shirts, they would understand we were racing and not run us off the road. We could see two of the guys up ahead of us.

When we turned onto the road going back into town, it was quite a zoo. Now we not only had cars, but also people walking or standing, bicycles, etc. to deal with and we had to cross the road to get back to the start. Finally, at one point, there was a break in the traffic and I looked back and was glad to see Peggy was right behind me. I signaled to her and we crossed over and then I picked it up as we were about a block from the finish. I thought she’d come after me and probably catch me. The main intersection in town, 200 meters from the parking lot of the market and our finish, was crazy. There was a huge truck trying to turn and a bunch of taxis honking, so I hopped up onto the sidewalk in front of the bank and cut diagonally across, whipping my head from side to side to check for traffic—no use getting killed when I’m this close to the finish! Peggy didn’t catch me, which meant I won! In fact, she was at least a full minute behind me. I hadn’t realized how close to exhaustion she was. My time was around 1:01:00 (according to my Garmin—there was no clock for the race).

The post-race waiting period was even longer than the pre-race wait. First, we sat around for quite awhile – cooled off, swapped stories, and found out that the two lead men had missed the turnaround checkpoint because they were literally following the police bakkie and turned when it turned, never seeing the water stop and not picking their woolies. So they were disqualified. Then there were two guys who ran very well (they may have been 3rd & 4th) who never registered, so they were also disqualified. I took off my VFFs which gave many folks a chance to pick them up and give them a good look. By this time, we were getting antsy but learned that we had to wait for the last finisher of the 12k to come in. Finally 3 of the girls who had pooped out right at the beginning came running in followed by a police car and we were hoping they would do our award ceremony. By now it was 11am and all the shops in town close at 1pm, so people wanted to get on with the day. However, we were told that the children had not yet run their race (on the roads now very crowded with Saturday morning shopping traffic). As they lined up to run their mile, I decided to go to the market, since I clearly had at least 30 minutes before the awards ceremony.

When I came back, it was hard to spot my compatriots among the market-goers, brai patrons and onlookers, but I found a couple who said they thought things would start soon. Sure enough, within minutes, the principal called for us to gather around. The prizes weren’t bad. For the 1-mile--$600 for first place, $300 for second place, $200 for third place girl and boy. For the 12k--$800 first place, $300 second place, $200 third place male and female in 3 categories: 12-17, 18-49, 50+. I was hoping they would use the standard definition of veteran (40+) as that would have put Peggy and I in different categories. Ben, being the only veteran, won his age group. I won the women, with Peggy second. The boy who won the 12-17 group was a 15 year old sprinter who was actually third overall (and actually, first not disqualified). When you convert $800 Namibian into USD it doesn’t sound like much money (~$120) but at nearly ¼ my monthly stipend, this was quite a great boon! To celebrate, I spent more than half of it on a Namibian Schools Sport Union track suit like the one I saw Ben wearing that Thursday. A fine souvenir, I think. Here I am sporting the jacket: