For my birthday this year, Jeremy sent me a dope book called Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall. It is written by a journalist who spent some time down in Mexico with the Tarahumara Indians who are apparently amazing long distance runners. It is not terribly well written, but it tells a great story and is full of all sorts of interesting information (at least interesting if you are in to running at all). Since the book begins with the question, ‘Why does my foot hurt?’ he spends a lot of time discussing the merits of barefooted running. I won’t go into too much detail about the theory behind this, but essentially the theory goes that shoes are blocking important information from reaching our body, which does not allow it to react accordingly and hence the reason running injuries have increased since the invention of the modern running shoe (1970’s). He does not really go into the fact that this could be because the number of runners have increased dramatically since then, but I’m sure he can find a way to make the numbers work out.
Anyhow, a lot of what I was reading did actually make sense and I thought I should give it a go. I decided to run 3 miles Friday morning without my sneakers. It went pretty well despite all of the stares I got running down Lark Lane to the park barefoot with my dog in tow at 6:00am. My legs felt great, but I did have some pain on the bottoms of my feet (wow, surprising huh?). Anyhow, I emailed Kathleen my accomplishment and her response was: “In Liverpool? That is not safe.” Fair enough, after all I did see a dirty diaper on the sidewalk the other day, and there is usually the one two combination of broken beer bottle on one block, human vomit on the next. Regardless, it left me wanting to try a longer run barefoot. On Friday afternoon, I started to hunt around on the interweb to see what I could line up for Saturday. The weather was questionable, but I knew I wanted to get out with Miller and try to get a run in as well. That is when I came across Hilbre Island.
Hilbre Island is a tidal island located in the Dee Estuary at the edge of the Irish Sea. At low tide, you can walk the two miles to the island and explore it and two smaller islands. I quickly checked the tides and saw that they were perfect for an afternoon excursion. I figured I could go out and around the island and back which would be roughly 6 miles round trip. Perfect. I spent Saturday morning cleaning as Kathleen would not be too into the dog hair and beer bottles in the apartment. I then set out and I got to the parking lot around 1:15 where I had a brief moment of indecision. I wanted to bring the leash, my camera, and some water. However since I only have two hands something had to go. I had run 20 miles before with no water breaks and pretty much hate carrying water bottles, so I gave Miller a big bowl full and put the bottle back in the car.
It was a bit crowded going straight to the island so I took a wide arc around the first two smaller ones to get to the main. Miller was off like the greyhound he has in him and I could tell he was having a wonderful time. It reminded me a bit of Provincetown Bay at low tide. There were some dry sandy patches, some wet muddy areas, and a lot of pools of sea water that had not yet drained out. When we came around the far side of the island, there were some rock shelves covered in shell fish and seaweed. This slowed us a bit but within no time we were on the island itself. From the far side we looked out and saw a few seals hanging out. At this point we had come about 3 miles and I took stock of how I felt and how Miller looked. Absolutely amazing, I would say for the both of us. So instead of heading straight back, we cut across another tidal flat that brought us over to the next town (even though the website expressedly said not to cross this way, but I figured we had plenty of time before the tide changed). Finally we came ashore near a promenade and a life saving station. I still felt really great, but I could tell Miller was feeling a bit parched, so we headed back.
This run was nothing short of fantastic. I can’t describe how much fun it was running for so long on the tidal flats and the beach. I was able to let Miller go as far ahead or behind as he wanted and I did not have to worry about cars. Whenever we would get too hot, I would vear towards a tidal pool and splash through. I felt so great running that we were just flying around aimlessly just simply enjoying ourselves. We would pick a landmark in the distance and head for it. Then when we got there, we would just choose another. When we finally got back to the car, I was surprised to find out it was already 3:00. I figure that with the amount of time that had elapsed, we probably ran about 10 miles. Now, I won’t lie and say I did not feel a thing, but all in all my body felt great. My strides were much shorter and I was landing on the balls of my feet rather than my heels, just like I had read about. Of course this was 10 miles barefoot on the beach and not 10 miles barefoot in the mountains. I am not ready to throw the shoes in the garbage and quit my job, but I think this is something I will definitely play with more.
All in all, I am so psyched we found this run and I can honestly say the Hilbre Island Run is in my top five (others being in no particular order: 4 miler in Falmouth from my parents, Shelburne Farm in VT in the winter, the NYC marathon, and the Lake Champlain causeway in Colchester, VT). I am now enjoying a frosty beverage and slow cooking some chicken for burritos. Thanks for the book Jerm!
Here are some pics. And I know there are a ton of dog ones… sorry, I am officially a weird dog owner.