At one point during my run, I looked at my crew member and said, “I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove with this run.”
She looked back, “Who says you’re trying to prove anything?”
I think I have explained to the world several times over why I run. I run because I believe every woman is a goddess. Every human is empowered. This is how I choose to empower myself, to unleash my goddess. To make me feel alive. I run.
And I have explained many times over why I run ultra. I run ultra because I believe I am stronger than I think. I have more to give when the reserve runs dry. I believe everyone does. And I want to prove this to my kids. Someday, they, too, will need to give more than they think they have. And they can.
With this in mind, I have celebrated several Mother’s Days running. Or somewhere around that holiday. It’s just what I do.
But last year, my life changed drastically. Details are unimportant, really, but I suddenly had no ability to escape to the trails to find my goddess. I no longer had the camaraderie of trail running buddies to bring out my strong. Suddenly, it was just my kids and me.
Because I couldn’t leave the house to run, I began to get up early before the kids and run laps inside the house…in the dark…carrying my GPS. My shoes striking the wood made too much noise. So I began to run barefoot…every day. Thus was born a barefoot runner.
I don’t JUST run barefoot. And I’m not a barefooter. I believe in barefoot rights. I’ve long been a minimalist runner. But I am not a barefooter.
So I’m not sure what I set out to prove by this run. Nothing and everything all at once, I suppose.
I wanted a challenge.
I wanted to push myself.
I wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day in a way that said, “I have lost a lot this year, but you cannot have everything. You can’t take my soul, my running.”
Thus was born my Barefoot 24 hour run. I decided that I would celebrate Mother’s Day by running barefoot for 24 hours, attempting to break the world record for distance barefoot running in 24 hours. This record (held by a man) is commonly regarded as 102.something miles.
My lovely friends Andrea and Skibba came in to help. While both athletes, they are green to the ultra world, so I knew some coaching would be in order. After all, I’ve done this enough times. I know my pitfalls. I know my weaknesses. And I know they had Twitter to cry out to when all else failed. Oh, and a car to drive me to the ER if need be.
So, Friday afternoon at 12:26 pm, I handed over my driver’s license, credit card, and insurance card to my crew and set out for a loop on the sidewalk.
My first issue became heat. I was running 8-8:30 miles in 80 degree weather and full sun. It was not good. While it usually takes me 40 miles to get the ick, this time it only took 20.
At the 20 mile break (which I had to have, due to the way I felt), we borrowed a scale from my neighbor, pulled up this chart: http://www.succeedscaps.com/articles/water_electrolyte_balance_table/, and began to diagnose me this way. When I came in, it became, “how is your head, your tummy, your thirst, your hunger?” Wash the feet and rub them. Then go.
After my crash, I came back and felt terrific, smiling without intention. I had hit a new strong moment. With minimal nausea issues, I powered through to 50.1 miles in the first 12 hours.
Amazingly, my feet never bothered me these first 50 miles. And neither did my muscles. Just my tummy if I was under-hydrated. But after this, my feet began to feel the pavement.
What I haven’t noted is I live in a new development, which has new sidewalks. New sidewalks are very rough. They had been acting steadily as sandpaper the whole time I ran. However, I had a few more miles in me before this would truly become an issue.
Another thing that I haven’t noted is that timed races are special for a few reasons. One is that there isn’t that sense of urgency to get to an aid station. You can’t quit a trail run. Well, you can DNF whenever you want. But no one will care until you get to an aid station to tell them. Timed races are different. They’re comfortable. There is a loop with an aid station. You know the route. You know how far you are from it at all times. It gets hard not to quit. It gets especially hard not to quit when that aid station is your home, and the neighbors are staring at you at midnight, and your bed feels neglected.
But I digress…
Let’s just say that night became difficult. By 2 am, I was bargaining with God, the Devil, or whoever would listen to make it storm so I could quit running. In a childlike state, I was plotting against Andrea to get into a chair and fall asleep before she noticed. I fell asleep on the toilet three times. I did not want to keep going. But I never questioned my crew. And I went. I managed 100km before dawn.
The sunrise hit. They always say you have new life at sunrise in an ultra. But I had NEW LIFE. I ran 6 fast miles (like, in an hour fast) before the pain of raw feet actually set in. My pads were worn thin and beginning to spring leaks.
Then Barefoot Michael showed up and “ran” a loop with me. I encapsulate that in quotes because my feet felt everything at this point, and I walked…a lot…from there on out.
I finished my last mile very painfully with my crew around noon Saturday. My feet were shot. My crew had been amazing. I was happy with my 76.62 miles (which may or may not be a world record for female barefoot running distance in 24 hours). I had a glass of wine. I had a bath. I slept, joyous, soul quiet again.
I learned so much from this run. One of the things I learned from this run is that experience doesn’t make a great crew. Heart does. These ladies wanted to see me succeed more than anything else. And I have never been so spoiled by a crew in my life.
Also, I am a little tired, and I have congestion, which is all post-ultra normal. But my feet are not swollen. I have one blister. I wore “normal” shoes to work today. Also, I have little soreness. I walked into work this morning normally and functioned all day. In fact, I cleaned my house yesterday. I attribute the lack of soreness to good form and the lack of foot issues to no shoes. Most of the foot issues I have had in ultras are due to friction from shoes.
I’m not sure what I had to prove by running this, but I don’t care anymore. I’m just glad I did. What a wonderful, empowering experience. I will do it again in a heartbeat. Only next time, I will choose a smooth sidewalk.