01 April 2012

Wild horses

The first thing I did this morning, after making coffee and tea and putting a bowl of porridge (essential running fuel) into the microwave, was to seek out the latest news on Micah True. He'd been missing for several days, after going for a 12 mile run in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico, so it really wasn't a surprise to learn that his body had been found. No surprise, but nevertheless a tragedy. He was an ordinary, unassuming, gentle man who happened to run immense distances and became famous almost at second hand (and, I believe, reluctantly) by being featured in the barefoot runner's bible, Born to Run.

No denying that reading the book has changed many things for me. Meeting Micah - Caballo Blanco, as he was known - last year was another inspirational event (though as Lazy Girl Running noted at the time he didn't claim any particular benefits for barefoot running, and turned up to give his talk not wearing huaraches). I imagine he met what he'd have considered the best possible end, while running in the wilderness, and reports suggest that he suffered no trauma. Not a bad way to go at all.
Have I mentioned the limitations of BlackBerrys as cameras?
Now, if you've been reading this blog (have you nothing better to do with your time?) you'll know that my experiments with minimalist running have created no end of injuries. Going back to slabs of foam, as I did a couple of weeks ago (a new pair of Mizuno Wave Riders) saved Achilles but wrecked one knee, or at least coincided with pain developing in it. I have been walking very strangely, if at all, these past two weeks: not so much hobbling as taking half-strides and forefoot striking, which must have looked very odd. Last week's Parkrun proved I could run through the problem, or rather that it ceased to be a problem when I adopted a pace faster than a walk - which I dare say medical experts would dismiss as pure, unadulterated rubbish. My new The Stick massage stick (as I remarked, a pathetically weak trade mark and one that is almost impossible to use properly) worked wonders (ibuprofen gel was also pretty useful) and Sharon gave me a good beating up on Friday morning. She asked me whether I was doing any races soon, and I said yes, on Sunday, depending on what you say after half an hour's massaging the weakest link. She sent me on my way at the end saying I should do it if I felt like it - helpful, indeed.

I was in two minds about whether to run the race at all (OK, let's say about one-and-a-half minds) and in two minds about which label to wear: clumpy Mizuno or pared-down Luna by Barefoot Ted. The news this morning made the decision for me, notwithstanding Micah's liberal attitude to shoe choices. I wrote "Caballo R.I.P." on my running number and pinned it to my vest. The fact that I would be running the White Horse Half M and marking the passing of the White Horse himself struck me as absolutely perfect.

The sky was clear, but the sun isn't yet powerful enough to make the mornings warm - perfect running weather. Gary, on car park duty, mentioned that he'd be marshalling at 3 and 9 miles, and I asked if he'd take my cushioned shoes in case I needed a change: he was happy to do so, but explained that he would not be at the finish and I might therefore lose my shoes for a while. So I headed off with only the huaraches, or "flip-flops" as several people called them. Heathen.

In the first, very relaxed, mile I came upon Jeff and ran with him for a while: then along the way to the infamous railway bridge I got a bit ahead - I must have stepped up the pace, as the splits confirm - and I certainly attacked the short sharp incline when I reached it. After the right turn at Denchworth, where the loop part of the course begins, I fell in with Daniel, in the late stages of training for the London Marathon (or chienlit, as it might be called in French) who was planning a time between 1:50 and 2:00. About right for me too, especially as I still didn't know how the radical alternative to shoes would perform over the distance.
Photo by John Harvey (of course: who else?)
In fact, they were fine. Nothing more to say, really. I found an excellent turn of speed in the last mile, repassing Daniel who had set off for a long run for home about two miles out, and Trish, and a few others too. Passed John much earlier, reminisced about a long-ago White Horse Half (1998?) the enjoyment of which was marred by heavy sleet. He remarked that he'd almost suffered from exposure on the course, and that I had almost suffered from exposure waiting for him after I'd finished. I do remember wondering where he'd got to, but surely he wasn't that far behind? And he wasn't far behind today either. But at least I was ahead ... unburdened by those heavy shoes everyone else was wearing.
Photo also by John Harvey

I even won a spot prize, the second time this has happened at this race which is still the only event at which I have ever won anything. And as I headed back to the car I bumped into Kate, my glamorous acquaintance from the Banbury 15 some years ago, sidelined by an injury. She expressed surprise that I might have run in flip-flops and asked me to run up and down the path to demonstrate them - a big ask, when I had just completed a half. I don't think the demonstration was remotely convincing - Kate, you should have seen me finishing!

Next Saturday John and I have a chance to catch up when we run - slowly - the Compton Downland Challenge. He, having been sucked completely into the Vortex, is running the 40. And he's doing Maidenhead the day before. I hope if I run with him a bit it will rub off on me. Which leads me back to the start of this posting: it would have been so easy to make an opportunity to run with Caballo in London last September, and I failed to do so. Seize chances like that: they might never come a second time.

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