Anytime you do anything that is a challenge, there’s always a long, belabored struggle to get the hang of whatever you are doing. There’s some minimum bar or cutoff. As long as you are under it, everything is just much harder than it should be. It’s the part that most people can’t keep struggling against because they get impatient and give up. Up to this point this is how I have felt about barefoot running. It’s hard. It’s slower. It’s painful. It’s not fun…it’s a challenge to struggle against.
Eventually though, you hit a tipping point when the hard work has been accomplished and everything seems to fall into place, even without exerting very hard. For me, I believe the tipping point was last week. Starting with the fact that it was my longest week yet of 26.5 miles of mostly gravel runs including a really fast 6.5 mile run with my former running buddies. Climaxing with my run Sunday at Garden of the Gods. I ran a rocky 7 mile loop. There’s lots of gravel. Lots of up and downhill. I started with my feet sore from Friday’s run. I even got my second injury. But I really barely noticed all of that.
In January, I had set a goal to do this “Garden run” by the end of the summer. That would have been good progress. But I’ve been progressing faster than expected (mostly because I’m motivated to do The Peak barefoot this year). Sunday, I was running with a friend and just decided to see what would happen if I ran the whole loop. My suspicion was that it would hurt for a mile or two and then my feet would “turn off” and would give up on telling me about pain. Aside from the super gravelly parts (which still weren’t too bad though), it happened as I expected. We didn’t run it fast by any means, but it wasn’t a slow run either. I was able to just enjoy running. I didn’t have to focus on my feet. I was able to talk with my friend, enjoy the scenery, and do all the things I used to do when I ran in shoes. In short, I wasn’t a barefoot runner anymore; I was just a runner again. barBAREyun is the new normal.
I feel like I’m on the tipping point for everything to get better, faster, and easier. It’s been a long road so far and I don’t expect the obstacles to simply disappear and be forever a thing of the past. On the other hand, I’m sure the tipping point will be a bit wobbly in the balance for a while yet. However, I finally have the confidence that much of the worst is behind me and not in front. Only time will tell. But even if it doesn’t get better and I still have a long, hard road remaining, it’s these glimpses that keep the goal in sight and my drive to continue in tact. When the hypothetical becomes reality.