When you are learning barefoot running form you should never increase your mileage by more then 10-15% per week. Or, you can do what I did Wednesday night and just go ahead and double your longest ever barefoot run all at once. Whatever.
Wednesday night involved a group barefoot run by an intrepid bunch of superheros from the greater Rochester area (Katie, Terra, Shalina, Jamey, Amos, and me) and two intrepid traveling superheros from parts unknown who wander the Earth and get into adventures (Jason and Shelly Robillard). Jason and Shelly were in town for a little barefoot evangelism before heading to Minneapolis for the Naked Foot 5K this weekend. We gathered at Tradehome Shoes at 7:00 PM and took off from the mall and towards Silver Lake. I estimated that I would be home by 8:00 PM after a 30 minute run. (That's called foreshadowing, people.)
It was a great night for a run. I could tell that the miles were going to fly by. I got to talk with Jason a lot and got some questions answered about barefooting. I also got to talk to Amos a little for the first time that night. Always good to make new friends! We quickly got to our first scheduled stop for people who wanted to do a 5 mile loop and Amos, Shalina, and Terra peeled off and headed back to the mall. Amos has been barefooting for a few months but this was Shalina and Terra's first barefoot run so I'm pretty impressed with their performance. My first barefoot run was .3 miles. They went five. That's hardcore. I hope they are feeling OK today. I'm not worried about Amos. He has a mohawk. He will be fine.
I was planning to turn back to the mall at this point as well, but I was feeling pretty damn good. The decision was made for me when Jamey said he was going to keep going. I couldn't turn back if he was going to keep running! So off we went! We kept on the asphalt and concrete trails that lead from Soldier's Field to Silver Lake. Some time during the run to Silver Lake I mentioned to Jason that my furthest barefoot run to date was 3.4 miles. He was quiet for a second and said "well, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you to build miles slowly" or something like that. Kudos to him for trying, but I was having too much fun to stop!
We finally made it to Silver Lake and it was at this point that I started to feel a little tenderness in my feet. I decided the prudent thing to do would be to turn back. The rest of the group was going to round Silver Lake before heading back to the mall for a total of just over nine miles, way further than I wanted to go.
I let everyone know that I was turning back and I'd see them at the mall. I mapped this first leg later and found out I turned around at 3.8 miles. Already .4 miles further than I had ever gone barefoot!
I turned around and started back the way we had come. There is a bridge that crosses Silver Lake at the narrowest point and just after the bridge I heard someone trotting up behind me. He fell into pace next to me and said "Barefoot running, huh?" This was the start to a pretty good conversation where I found out that he used to coach cross country for one of the Rochester Schools and promoted barefoot running to his athletes. We kept talking and running and pretty soon things were no longer looking familiar to me. Then I saw a trail marker that said Quarry Hill Trail 1 Mile. I was no longer heading in the right direction. I found out later this was at mile 5. I went off course at mile 4.4! Luckily I had my phone with me so I brought up a map and figured out where I was. I made it back to 11th street, and then to 4th street Southeast. A few blocks down 4th St. and I was back to the point where we exited the trail briefly earlier to cross the river at street level. I made it back on to the trail and headed South towards the mall. Little did I know...
There are two separate trails that converge at that spot. One heads towards Soldier's Field and the mall, one heads towards Southeast Rochester and Cub Foods. Guess which one I was on.
At this point it was dark and I was able to convince myself that I was on the right trail, even though I knew I probably wasn't. Anyway, I was headed South and that was the way I needed to go. My feet were starting to get pretty sore so I got off the trail and started running in the grass to save them a little. Eventually I started to see the big halogen lights of a parking lot and some red sinage that I couldn't really make out. I was pretty jazzed up about this because I thought it was the red sign of Hy-Vee Grocery store that is just east of the mall. I soon realized that it was not Hy-Vee and I was pretty far from where I should be. I exited the trail onto 12th St SE/Hwy 14 and started heading West toward the mall. I called Jamey to leave a message that I was not going to be back by the time he was and to please not take my car keys that were clipped to his backpack in the store. I also called Sara to let her know why I was so late and that I was OK. I don't think she was very impressed with my location or the fact that I was walking through SE Rochester in the dark with no shoes. I told her I was fine and I would get a hold of Jamey for a ride.
The truth is that I was fine. My feet were sore but not bloody or anything. The biggest trouble now was that all of the sidewalk on this street is torn up for road construction which meant I was traversing asphalt that had recently been milled and was littered with tiny and not so tiny chunks of debris. In the dark. With no shoes. Oh, and no wallet. Oh, and a phone that had one bar of battery left. Huh.
I did get in touch with Jamey and I stopped at Kwik Trip to wait for him. He thought it was pretty funny, and really it was. Upon later mapping the route I took, I ran 7.03 miles last night, and walked .66 miles through road construction barefoot. I can't believe I wasn't picked up by a cop or seriously injured. It was an adventure though, so no regrets!
The damage to my feet was minimal. I had one small blister on my left big toe that popped, and a blister on the ball of my left foot that is too deep to pop. I've had those before and they heal well and quickly because they are so deep. I had a little pain on the top of my right foot and both feet were pretty tender today, though they are pretty good now. Seven miles. Success!