Today is one of those rare days that just feels like a gift. Maybe, just maybe, all that that cold, snowy weather was worth it just to be rewarded such a warm, remarkably comfortable day. I am fortunate enough to be off work on Thursdays, and I took advantage of the weather to get outside first for a short bike ride with my wife followed by a run around the park.
It felt good to slip into some running shorts for the first time in a long time and head outside. I initially grabbed some thin wool gloves, but tossed them back into the yard before even putting them on as it was clear they wouldn't be needed. I decided to start off wearing my homemade huaraches courtesy of Barefoot Ted and head down to the park about a half mile away and do some laps around the fine gravel track. As I laced them up, Megan asked how I could remember how to tie them as it must look somewhat haphazard and random. I told her by now it seems pretty easy, but that I was inventing my own style to it over time and playing with different methods- mainly with how to secure the final tie. It is a work in progress, but I am certainly getting faster and more comfortable tying them.
I headed down the street and quickly fell into a nice, rapid turnover and light foot-fall type stride. It was my first run since Sunday when Shaun, Mike and I ran about 11 miles around town. I think I overdid it a little, and I've been fighting off a cold so I felt a little tight at the start. By the time I hit the track at the park, the sun was feeling warm, and I felt a lot looser. After a couple laps on the track, my MapMyRun announcer friend called out the mile and the pace, and I figured it was a good time to ditch the huaraches and go totally barefoot. Next thing I knew, I was running along with the huaraches in one hand and making my own trail all around the perimeter of the park. I felt free, relaxed and at least ten years younger as my toes gently squished into the still cool and wet grass along the Idlewild Sreet side of the park. It was fun to feel different textures as I ran: the cool, refreshing grass, the firmer yet surprisingly comfortable concrete sidewalk, the less comfortable (due to numerous pebbles)and very temperature-dependent asphalt road, the small pinecones under the large evergreens at the opposite side of the park, and the firm, moist sand of the ball fields in the center.
Not surprisingly it was way more fun making my own trail than staying on the gravel track. Besides, though my feet have toughened some since running in FiveFingers on the treadmill, the gravel still hurts quite a bit in barefeet. Every other surface varied from mildly irritating to incredibly comfortable and almost addictive. The small sticks and cones under the evergreens gave me the most trouble, as on one lap I stumbled over a large stick that managed to cut me slightly on the side of one foot and the back of the opposite calf. Other than that, no blood, but I did get a little mud between the toes that perhaps felt the absolute best.
I quickly met my goal of three miles unshod at the park, briefly considered sliding the huaraches on for the short jaunt home, but reconsidered and finished up by running barefoot on the asphalt back to my house. At that point, the sun had warmed the dark, absorbant surface enough that it felt quite pleasant, and I couldn't help but wonder what it must feel like to run on the asphalt in August in the middle of the day in bare feet. But that thought can be left to ponder another day. Today was a special day, better left to reflecting on the sensations of my first barefoot run in the park.