Occasionally you go out for a run and come back different. No, not occasionally; a tiny handful of times. I remember the first time I went running, just a mile, and getting home, collapsing on the floor, panting like an overheated dog, thinking I would die, but wanting to do it again. Or the first time I ran for an hour and felt like a god that could run forever, loving the sense of freedom. Then there was the time that, having discovered faster cadence, I ‘got it’. I no longer felt I was running with my shoes tied together! My first real trail run, heading down hill with reckless abandonment, feeling like I was flying, and falling in love with the sensation. Each time I can remember where I was, and how I felt different, a metamorphosis into something new.
Today might have been another to add to the list. I’ve been running in the Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) shoes for a few months now. Each time I run in them, it’s like the ground has been transformed into a raw, brutal force. Each footfall is sensitive and exposed, and it’s like I’m naked in a winter storm; way too vulnerable. But through the discomfort, there is a sense of ‘righteousness’. Like the increase in cadence, there is this sense that while it’s uncomfortably different, it’s also ‘correct’ at a fundamental level.
Today, for the first time, I swapped from my Nike Frees to VFF and it felt good. The ground felt more cushioned with the VFF than the Nikes, my feet where happier, my body more connected. There is a sense of being so much more aware of the ground. Our feet are very sensitive and it takes time for the mind to adjust to processing the new feelings and adapting to use the information correctly. But when it happens, it is so, so sweet.
I don’t know if today was a one off event. With my skin condition, running barefoot is likely to be impossible, and even the VFFs may not work for long. But either way, I will remember today, because I am changed.