My Latest Not-Too-Bright Running Idea

I wanted to do a speed workout tonight, and nothing could get in my way. Not the fact that I was exhausted or that it was the middle of the night. Or the fact that it was hot and sticky outside. Or the nontrivial issue that my running shoes were quite literally torn apart after a recent trail running experience (coming soon to the blog).

The first problems were more inconveniences to me than serious obstacles; I could put them aside if I was determined enough. But the problem of my sneakers was a bigger issue, and I gave it some thought. I knew I could still run in them; last night I ran 7 miles (accidentally: I missed the turnoff in the dark that would have made it 5.8 miles instead) at a decent clip in these very shoes. But speedwork is different, and I knew that shoes in such disrepair would only slow me down.

Given the facts, what would you do? Accept a slow speed workout? Not do it at all? Well, bravo, you are a sensible person. I, however, am not.

When faced with this quandary, I saw only one viable solution: Run barefoot.

I’ve considered purchasing the Vibram Five Fingers; I have no abnormal obsession with the conventional running shoe. I’ve been told that barefoot running is good for your form and healthy for your feet. So, I figured, why not give it a try now?

So, with remarkably little preparation, I was ready to go (most time spent preparing for a summer run is on the shoes, after all). And so I went. Out the door and onto shockingly uncomfortable concrete. I headed to the street for a softer surface and rationalized my barefoot running by telling myself it’s beneficial to have a nice slow warm-up. Considering my pace, that must have been one super-beneficial warm-up.

I reached the track and expected to feel relief as my feet land softly onto the lush, wet (did I mention it had just poured?), shock-absorbing—

—disappointingly hard track.

It hurt. But, this was my choice, and I was going to stick to it. Well, the running barefoot on the track lasted only a couple of laps: soon I was only doing the sprinting on the track itself, and everything else on the inner grass.

About halfway through, upon stretching my quads, I looked at my feet. They seemed a little worse for wear. In fact, one of them seemed to have a deep gash with possibly a rock or other sharp object still inside. I didn’t even notice the monster blood-blister that was forming on my big toe.

The truth is not always pretty.

I suffered through the speedwork. My splits, as you may imagine, were not great, but surprisingly not that far off either. But my stupidity tonight taught me a valuable lesson: Don’t run on a wet track at midnight without shoes or socks. Stick to the grass.

If there are any Calvin and Hobbes fans out there, such a lesson may remind you of one of Calvin’s self-taught, ridiculously specific lessons (I believe it concerned deranged mutant snow goons).

As a testament to my stupidity, an open cut on my toe just stuck to the floor and I had to yank my foot up, creating a despicable squelching noise. And on such a lovely note, I leave you.

The Eternal Battle Over the Inner Lane

Don’t you just hate it when you go to the track to do some speedwork and an old lady is using the inside lane to walk?

I mean, first of all, I’ve never really understood walking at a track in the first place. The only reason I use the track is for speedwork, where the track is useful for the distances, but does a walker really keep track of their 400-meter splits? And isn’t it ridiculously boring? Why not go somewhere more interesting for a walk?

I suppose they want some idea of how far they walk (I would show them a site like mapmyrun or USATF routes, but I don’t think that the age group I’m referring to is all that computer savvy), but I still can’t understand it.

There’s nothing I can do about walkers at the track; it’s one of those things I’ve just come to accept. But what I refuse to accept is why they use the inner lane. I mean, they’re clearly going to exercise, why not go a little further by using an outer lane? It’s not like they need the exact distances, most of them probably don’t even keep track of how many laps they do. But for some reason, again and again, a walker will be using the inner lane when I go to do speedwork. And so I have developed my own way to handle it.

Step One: The cough- As I approach the walker on the inner lane, I will cough twice to let them know I’m coming. Sometimes they move. Most of the time they don’t. If they don’t change lanes, commence Step Two.

Step Two: The close pass- Once the cough fails, I have no choice but to pass the walker on the next lane; so I pass close to the walker (speeding up, as I always do when I pass someone), nearly brushing them, and then zoom back into the inner lane after I pass. This hopefully sends the message that the rude runner wants the lane you’re walking in.

Step Three: The spit- After the pass, I always spit toward the grass on my left. I think this may be a subconscious act of trying to disgust the walker out of the inner lane, but maybe not. It’s just a weird habit of mine after I pass someone.

Step Four: The request- I have actually never had to do this yet, which surprises me. But the last thing to do, if you really want that inner lane, is to ask for it. Nicely, of course. If that doesn’t work, suck it up and take an outer lane.

Another annoying ‘walker thing’ is going in pairs or larger groups. I don’t mind that in itself (I like it for running, I don’t want to be hypocritical), but when they take up the inner lane and the next lane or two, I have in the past gasped ‘excuse me’ as I go by, which has always made the group shift a lane.

These are the ways I have learned to adapt at the track to inner lane walkers. I am sure there are other runners who are much more upfront in demanding the inner lane, and others who don’t even give it a second thought. But all I know is that it bugs the hell out of me.