As you may have read I am finding my way after some injury issues and was unable to participate in the Esperanza 5k this year.  I was actually unable to attend the event all together which was a disappointment.  I still had some representation there and I am very proud of all my barefoot/minimal friends who made it out to support a good cause!  One of those people was my good friend Sam who you may remember from some of my previous posts.  If not then go read about my twenty mile run with the beached whale zombie walker…that’s Sam!  Sam and I have been working for a while now on making him into a “runner” and he has come a very long way.  The Esperanza was his first race since we started running together and I gotta say I am both proud and impressed with the man.   Not only was it his first race but he ran it completely bare!  I asked him to write a recap of his thoughts and feelings about the race which I have posted below.  It’s an interesting one so enjoy.  

The Esperanza 5k was the first large group competitive running I have been part of since high school cross country. It’s funny how things look in hindsight. Although I had the strength of youth back then, I also had a back that would ache after my first mile. Days later my knees would ache as well.

Today, a day after my race, I have no joint pain. All I have is a tender spot in my right foot. I anticipated worse, considering the shoes I wore during my race – none. I ran on my God-given feet in 40 degree weather on the bare road that cars normally tread. The first mile served me to get acclimated to pain; it was a momentary discomfort. I ran and felt the shock of cold, and it felt I was without any toes. The normal sensation of surface contact I feel seemed reduced to that of a fist pounding away at an ice block. I was reminded of stories of Holocaust victims who treaded in snow tirelessly with shoes that could barely be considered useful by any means in today’s society. I figured this race was my decision, and the beauty of having the decision to stop was motivation enough to press on. The second mile brought on a new sensation that masked the pain – competition.

I knew that I was not special running a race alone and barefoot. I knew of two other adventurers. Who knows the reasons of those who perform at the fringe of modern logic, but whatever their reasons I felt this race was between them and me. I wove through runners with their feet augmented by running technology. Volunteers would cheer, “Yeah! Barefoot!” as I banked volunteer-manned curbs. Approaching the third mile I saw her.

She ran with a quick and unusual lower leg swing. Whether it was my fascination with her gait or just my failure to maintain speed, I was impressed. Throughout the race I had very little trouble passing my targets and thought, “Can’t let that group of kids beat me.”  “I wonder what she looks like.” “How did that grandpa get up here?”  “Can’t let that spitter wet the soles of my naked feet.” My feet began to warm. As I passed my toughest target I maintained my fastest pace and banked a turn to a volunteer’s cheer, “Yay, Barefoot number 3!”

Oh no. Not only was there one unidentified barefoot runner, but the other one I thought I had passed much earlier apparently led me this whole time. I ran fast, scanning the road for feet. Shoes, shoes, and more shoes is all I could run past. I zoned out and kept my eyes up as I turned the last turn for the straight line finish. I had plenty left in the tank, and I had long forgotten being barefoot, and so I took to a full speed sprint.

Although I finished as barefoot number three, I realized how well I had done, all things considered. Apart from running without shoes, I ran without music. I ran without conversation. I ran alone in a large crowd, but the cold pavement understood and was with me the whole time. Every stride took my foot and I found root with my earth. For that moment there existed no concept of my diagnosed depression or any other worldly issues. There was only my gratitude for my body and the earth beneath me.  Sam Jang

I want to say thank you to Sam for sharing his story.  I’ve known him for a few years now and he is an impressive guy who has a will like no other that continues to impress me.  He didn’t mention it but Sam ran this race on about two weeks notice with no barefoot running to his credit.  He runs minimal and I have talked him into shedding the shoes for a half mile here and there but nothing substantial in terms of barefoot running which makes his accomplishment even more impressive.



2 responses »

  1. Sam Jang says:

    Jimmy, you’re far too kind. I was last among the men!

  2. Patty Reibach says:

    Wow Sam, you write so lyrically. It was good meeting you that day. Oh, and by the way, I did have a huge blood blister under my left big toe, but I didn’t know it until I got home. I think I’ll save the barefoot running for relaxing runs, and do races in minimalist shoes.

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