Tuesday, May 3, 2011

International Barefoot Running Day - San Francisco Area

Team Barefoot Runners Society 2011
Danville, CA - May 1, 2011 – After a late night at a wedding, I was quite exhausted.  However, I could not get to sleep.  Pre-race excitement always gets me amped up the night before.  That night was no different, except the Workday Devil Mountain Run was going to be the race event for the San Francisco Area Chapter’s participation in the first annual International Barefoot Running Day. 
The Workday Devil Mountain Run is a fundraising event for Children’s Hospital Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our chapter had formed Team Barefoot Runners Society for the race.   By race day, our team had grown to 11 members and had raised over $3200.  An amount only surpassed by one other team – the race sponsor’s team – Team Workday.  However, their team had over 113 runners at last count.
I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock – 4:30 a.m.  Fifteen more minutes until the alarm buzzed, I thought.  I’m not going to get any more sleep tonight.  I turned off the alarm and started getting ready.  I had an hour before I was meeting Rob, aka Running Romeo, to make the trek over the hill to the race.
I managed a breakfast of oatmeal and chia seeds, though I was not in the mood to eat anything.  I gathered my stuff and headed over to meet Rob.
Chatting with Rob made the hour drive go by fairly quickly.  Arriving at the race site, we headed over to the pre-arranged meeting spot to await the arrival of the other 9 members of Team Barefoot Runners Society.
One by one, we met Barefoot Pablo, Trinh, and DRL.  After some chatting, Rob and I had to go ditch our jackets and shoes at the car, so we wished everyone good luck and headed out.  We made it back to the start line just in time for a couple quick pictures and the countdown.  Rob and I were fairly far back in the pack - not my favorite place to be at the start of a race.

Running Romeo

The crowd shuffled forward, continued shuffling through the start line, and began a slow jog a block or so past the start.  Within a couple blocks the course split 5K runners to the left and 10K runners to the right.  There was a volunteer with a bullhorn shouting “10K Right! 10K Right!”  I joked to Rob, “What’s that woman protesting?” 
Between miles one and two, we caught up with Trinh who was moving smoothly and steadily down the course in her invisible shoes.  We cheered her on for a moment then continued down the road.  The course was still pretty crowded at this point and we had to jockey for position in the mass of runners. 
The first two miles were a little rough for me as my feet were cold from standing on the asphalt for the past hour.  I felt a familiar knot in my left foot like I had stepped on a rock that wouldn’t let go.  Fortunately, that feeling faded as the race progressed.  Rob had taken to running on the centerline paint, dodging the big orange cones dividing the roadway.
We crossed over the freeway at about mile two and continued another mile to the turn that would take us to the bike path for the return route.  The few blocks to the path were on a well-worn street of chip seal asphalt.  Rob immediately took to the smooth sidewalk.  I tried to navigate the street -dodging potholes and badly worn asphalt before surrendering to the sidewalk myself.  Fortunately, the chip seal section was short-lived and we made it to the Iron Horse Trail. 
The trail was nice, well-paved asphalt.  In addition, there was a wide swath of over-grown grass along side the bike path that had a well-worn dirt path through it.  Rob and I quickly took advantage of the change in surface and began running on the dirt and grass.  I switched back to the path while Rob continued to relish in the dirt-trail.
As I made my way down the path, a shod-runner started heckling us. 
It started with “Hey, your shoes are untied.” 
I responded jokingly, “Not again! I hate when that happens.”
He followed quickly by, “That guy was in such a hurry this morning he forgot his shoes” and some comment about the recession. 
I tried a couple of times to humor him, but he just started getting annoying, so Rob and I just left him in our barefoot dust.
As we approached mile-4, Rob pointed ahead – another barefoot runner! 
I shouted to Rob as I came alongside, “Let’s see what this guy’s up to over here!”
As I approached, the runner turned and shouted “Hey!  Barefoot Runners!”
This gentleman turned out to be fellow BRS member Barefoot Pete.  Introductions were made and we continued together down the course.  We chatted about our barefoot experiences while fielding the usual questions from the shod-runners that we were passing.
Of all of Pete’s responses to the various runners, my favorite was when someone would ask, “Why do you run barefoot?”  Pete would often answer, “Why not?”
The last two miles went quickly.  As the finish line came into view, Pete burst out into a dead-sprint for the finish.  Rob and I quickly joined chase and came alongside.  The three of us entered the chute side by side.  The announcer noticed our blazing approach and started to do a play by play until he realized something that got his tongue all tied up – we were all barefoot!
His play by play sounded something like this:
“And here come 3 guys into the. . .  well, . . .  but. . . there’s 3 . . . umm. . . and. . . bu. . .”
We passed the announcer and as we crossed the finish mat he finally blurted out, “There’s 3 barefoot runners crossing the finish!!!”
That was my favorite moment of the day.  The three of us stride for stride crossing the finish with a dumbfounded announcer.
We followed the crowd down the path back toward the starting area.  As we entered the parking lot with all of the vendor tents, we bumped into C-Dog, and Matt sporting their Vibrams.  They had both just finished the 5K barefoot with C-Dog’s wife, Amber.
We met up again with Barefoot Pablo, DRL, and Trinh near the stage where they were announcing the awards.  We were trying to see if we could locate the final 2 members of our team, but were unsuccessful. 
As it turns out, Matt won a medal for his 3rd place finish in his age-group for the 5K.  While we were waiting for Matt to return with his medal, we held the raffle for the two Barefoot Running: Step By Step books, courtesy of Barefoot KenBob and his publisher.  Matt scored again with a win of the book.  I scored the second book. 
(Yes, the drawing was random. I did not stuff the ballot box and I did not draw my own name.  There will be no re-count.)
Matt Mullen expressed what I believe most of us felt at the end of the day, “Devil Mountain race was a blast!”

The race being done, raffle held, and conversations had - Team BRS decided to call it quits for the day and we parted ways with a promise to see each other again soon.  The day had been the first significant meet-up for our chapter.
The ice had been broken.  We had discovered that we were not lone barefoot runners in a shod world.  There are others like us.  There are others who find fun and enjoyment in running barefoot.  Hopefully, for this group of runners, International Barefoot Running Day turns out to be a starting point of many future runs together on road and trail.
To my Team BRS members - I would like to say thank you for making the day a great success.  Five - barefoot runners, two – Vibram runners, one – invisible shoe runner, and the shod-runner wife of a BFR made for a great Team BRS! 
Special Note to Andrew and Becky:  I’m sorry we missed you at the race.  I hope you had a great race and some fun along the way.  I hope to meet you at a future BRS run!
From Left to Right:  Running Romeo, Barefoot Terry, Trinh, Dillon (DRL), Barefoot Pablo, Barefoot Pete, C-Dog, Matt

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