Running barefoot on the beach!
My mini-vacation to my university’s national session was every bit the relaxing yet energizing experience I wanted it to be. Kurt had accompanied me to several of these annual events while I was a student, and I did have several unhappy moments this time — when I’d have to explain why he wasn’t with me this year. Yet each time I tell it, my story gets a little easier. Passing time (to say nothing of my massive amounts of reflection/writing/reflection/etc.) continues to give me a broader perspective and allows me to contextualize the past year and a half within the new horizons of my continuing life.
I attended exactly one seminar, a phenomenological exploration of music by led by three of my favorite faculty, which was way over toward the “fun” end of the scholarly scale. I attended two Final Oral Reviews (my school’s friendly term for a dissertation defense), one by a good friend and the other by a new friend I’d just met. Then there was a pre-graduation celebration, the graduation ceremony itself, and the post-graduation party. My only really difficult time was during graduation, when I watched 18 people stand up and thank their loved ones, as I vividly recalled saying the same things about and to Kurt three years ago. I had to leave the room and the building quickly afterwards because I simply couldn’t bear watching so many people being so happy together at that moment.
So what did I do then, and what in fact did I do during much of the time I was there?
I ran, of course!
I did 4 miles as planned on Thursday, along a bike/walk/run waterfront path that was mostly hard concrete but included some softer asphalt and much softer grass as well. Then I walked on the beach for a mile or so afterwards. I watched two women running barefoot on the wet sand, and I thought, “Maybe my feet would let me do that even if for only a little ways.” But I resisted that thought.
Friday morning (after staying up late celebrating with friends Thursday night) I was a little tired but I thought I’d try for my planned 6 miles and see how it went. I don’t usually run two days in a row so I already knew I was pushing my knees. But I finished those 6 miles feeling stronger and happier than the day before, so I decided I’d walk for a few more miles. My first stop was the city pier to watch people and eat ice cream. Then I headed toward downtown for some sightseeing. It’s only 1.5 miles from my hotel to the middle of downtown, but in all the years I’ve been coming there it never occurred to me that I could walk to downtown and not have to worry about parking. I was starting to like this idea of being temporarily car-free. I kept walking and feeling better and better, so that when I started what was to be my last mile back along the beach, I could no longer resist. I took off my shoes and socks and ran, carrying a shoe in each hand.
It was like I was ten years old! I was laughing out loud, talking to birds (including Elegant Terns and Black Skimmers!), and dancing through 4-6 inch deep water at the ragged edges of incoming waves. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was, and how effortless it seemed. I did know better than to push hard at all, and I made myself stop after about three-quarters of a mile. I then walked about half a mile back to my hotel room, completing a total of 10 running/walking miles for the day. The end result was a runner’s high that persisted for hours and was apparently visible on my face, as several people commented that I looked great!
Saturday morning I felt strong and not the slightest bit sore. I walked downtown for lunch, and hatched this plan that I would run again on the beach after graduation — which is another reason why I left so quickly. I went straight back to my room, changed into my running clothes (everything but the shoes), and dashed across the street, barefoot, to the beach. I had less than an hour before sunset and I wanted to make the most of my time. I had just as much fun as I’d had the day before, but I had to stop quickly at 1.3 miles when my right calf suddenly said “enough!” in no uncertain terms. I walked back carefully, stretching both legs every way I could think of, as I still had one more thing to ask of them.
Graduation parties at my school always feature a DJ and can get fairly rowdy. This one was no exception. I think I danced for at least two hours during the evening. I’ll confess that the open bar helped a lot with motivation as well as pain management.
Sunday morning I was extremely sore (knees, calves, and the soles of my feet), approaching the “I just ran a half marathon” level of intensity. So I figured the best thing I could do was walk a mile to breakfast and a mile back before heading out of town. Over breakfast I added up all the numbers, and I figure that I did at least 21 miles total over the four days. It felt rather odd to actually get into my car and drive 200 miles back here to the desert. I could get used to the idea of using human power to go places, at least locally, as often as possible. Wouldn’t it have been a shame to drive by and miss a view like this one?
This morning I was still sore, but I made it a point to get up from my desk (it was a work day for me) and walk around as much as possible. This evening I’m confident that I did no major damage, but I don’t think I’m ready to try barefoot running (or even minimalist shoe running) on anything but an extremely soft surface again any time soon. I would hate to actually injure myself less than four weeks before my next half marathon.
I still can’t believe how much fun it was, though.
I need to do fun things more often.