Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Fun Run

It's the middle of winter. Deep freeze has set in across two-thirds of the U.S. People don't want to get out of bed in the mornings, let along go outside. So why bother running?

We all have our own reasons. Today, I knew I needed to get a run in; school started on Monday, and I've put off running for the past two days to take care of business elsewhere. Still, I could have talked myself out of it, had I ignored all the signs that I instead chose to accept.

The dog, for one, has been bouncing off the walls. He doesn't care that I've been busy; all he knows is that he hasn't gotten to stretch his running legs in over half a week. Did I need another reason to get out there? Well, the temperature climbed today to 1 degree above freezing, and the wind was not nearly as bad as it has been. Finally, my new diet (I'm giving the Mediterranean Diet a try) has provided me with enough clean energy that, if I chose to go another day without a run, I'd be bouncing along with the dog throughout the house.

Things can change quicly, though, once you're outdoors. The dog had to stop almost instantly to do his business, and just when we started to move again, he had to go again. By this time, the cold began creeping in, and the wind, it seems, had not been told it was supposed to lay low. I nearly turned back then, but I didn't. I nearly decided to cut the run short, but I didn't do that, either. The farther I ran, the more fun I was having.

Having a boxer as your running partner isn't always the greatest. When it's hot out, they overheat. When you want to go long, they decide to lay down. But as stubborn as they can be, when they're having a good time, they're golden. They look up at you and wink right before they race you to the next corner. They smile when they pant, making everyone you pass smile back. And when they know you're having fun, they are on top of the world. That's one of the reasons I kept going today.

A partner that can keep things interesting makes things easier, but when we start thinking of running for fun, they aren't necessary to keep us motivated. I think that was one of the biggest reasons I started enjoying running after I started trying the minimalist approach. Suddenly, I wanted to try more things. I wanted to jump on the big rocks and logs lining the trail. I wanted to run through the grass, climb the trees, and go up and down the mountains. The funny thing is, I've always known this would happen; it just never clicked. I might walk up my stairs in my shoes, but I sprint up them when I'm barefoot. I might run through the grass when shod, but I bound and bounce around when I'm unshod. The feeling of gripping things, the security of balance, and the sensation of the ground are unparalelled when you take away the thick, heavy rubber that we have have been running with for so many years, and it ignites something in our minds, it wakens the child inside us. That's when running becomes fun again. Leaving the van behind for the sports car can change everything (and you don't get speeding tickets on foot).

Today, I didn't run barefoot; it's hard enough to get away with that in Philadelphia, and with the cold ground, I wouldn't last too long out there. I ran in the Vibram Treks, the kangaroo-leather off-road model feeling good and placing my foot a few extra milimeters from the cold ground. Even with the extra thickness, though, there's no denying the barefoot feeling these shoes can provide: there's no added thickness in the heel, keeping you mindfull of your balance and foot strike, the toes are still separated and extremely flexible, and the sole, designed to give protection from abrasion, still allows excellent feedback from the ground- you have to be aware of your foot placement, and you will feel the rocks.

Me and Kaleb (that's the name he had when he was rescued from the puppy mill) ran over 4 miles today. He keep changing the pace, just as I expected; though we averaged a comfy 8.3 minute mile, we often dipped into the 5's, and once he dug deep and had me sprinting in the 4's for nearly a block. We zig-zagged around, jumped up and down a few flights of stairs, and generally had a blast before returning home. Not only can he run like a champ, Kaleb also rests like one: he's out cold right now, recovering for his next adventure. Hopefully, I won't keep him waiting too long...


  1. I'd love to see pictures of Kaleb (in a future post maybe?). I find runs to be more fun when I run with my dog, too.

  2. I'll definately post some pictures of him in the future. He's come a long way with me; when I got him last February, he could barely stand, let alone walk. Now, he's good for at least 5 miles, and manages to push me hard in our intervals!