Sunday, 25 March 2012

Barefoot plunge

While I have been laying injured and unable to run my thoughts go to why I took the plunge into barefoot running so soon. Have I been hasty?

The germ of going barefoot has been lying dormant in my mind since I heard the talk by ‘Barefoot Ted’ at Auroville. After that it has been only the question of timing. The miser in me was waiting for the shoe to wear off (much like a quitter fondly smokes till the filter point on his supposed last cigarette). Events in the last few weeks conspired to push me to it so soon. I get a sense now that all this is ordained and you follow meekly trusting the Lord even if he shows only one step at a time.

Gus, my friend Gerald and Habari’s (running couple from Meghalaya) dog died about 10 days back. I started taking Biscuit (my four year old Lab to the uninitiated) for the morning walks without a leash. It was my idea of giving him space and letting him free. To my surprise, even though he runs all over the golf course, he comes frequently to rub himself against you as if to say ‘Main hoon naa’. It seems the more you let them free the more they get attached to you. The death of Gus set me thinking on the perennial question in each pet owner’s mind. Is it better for the pet to pre-decease you or otherwise? I looked back at the two of my all time favourite movies, ‘Hachiko’, where the pet survives the owner and ‘Marley and me’ where the pet pre-deceases the owner. If one is not selfish considering that we are the higher beings having a capacity to understand and rationalize, I feel that the pet pre-deceasing the owner is better.

This thought which has been agitating me since Gus’s death off my chest, let me get back to my transition to barefoot. I have been walking barefoot on the golf course and the colony road’s and sometimes even sneaked outside barefoot for fetching milk when wife is not watching. Last Saturday, I stepped out in my bare feet to run. I planned to do as much as possible and take it kilometer by kilometer. The first few kilometers went in a breeze, it was easier than a walk in the golf course too. While I could see pebbles on the road, I was not stepping on many and even if I were they were not hurting. When I stopped at KM3 for the bio-break, I found the sole of my feet numb. I don’t know if this was the reason for no hurt feeling while running. The numbness went away after a few kilometers. It was as if the soles of the feet were awakening with a tingle. Awakening of the Soul! I still did not think of the distance to go. I seem to be landing lightly and with the road more clean (away from the so called civilization) the feet seem to gliding on the road. Negotiating the rumbling strips was so much easier than with shoes. I met Mr. Fernandez (retired from Canara Bank and usually meets me between KM 4 and 5), Mr. Simon (Carnatic singer) and Mr. Balakrishna (Accounts office staff of Hubli Division) in that order and proudly showed them my barefoot. It was turning out to be very easy. The legs were straining less and the mind was freer not to keep monitoring where the foot lands. I could sense the road, its texture and the temperature. It was as if a meeting of hearts without formality. I have said this before but would repeat, If eating MasalaDosa (or Chole Bhature, if you please) with a knife and fork is like Making love through an interpreter, so is running with shoes on!

Met Gangadhar my barefoot friend of KM 11 who was mighty pleased to see me run bare foot and confirmed that it’s more comfortable to run barefoot. There was no effect on timing with or without shoe. What is remarkable about barefoot running is that the body recuperates faster for the next day’s run. The soles of the feet were nicely scrubbed and softer to touch, it was as if they got a natural pedicure. The return trip was a bit more painful, as you get tired the feet found more pebbles, still the overall pain from the run was much less and localized to the soles.

The next day the tragedy struck, without realizing that I was barefoot, I walked on the sidewalk to pick up an alluring boll of cotton and my left heel stepped bang on a twig with a row of angry thorns which pierced right into the heel. I hobbled back on my toes and painfully pulled out the thorns the two extreme ones having drawn blood. I was at a wits end as to how to reach back a little more than all of 13 Kms. Having reached so close to the half way mark, decided to try the remaining part of the run.

Tested my injured heel and started on the run gingerly. The right foot overcompensated for the ginger heel. I completed the run in more than 3 hour 45 minutes. The right foot was paining more than the thorn-struck heel. I completed the day in a haze dreading whether I had caused irreversible damage to my foot. I had the temerity to post on ‘dailymile’ that the soles were the original tubeless tyres of God’s creation. The thorns struck back the next day when having run about 12K, my right foot gave up. The swelling on the metatarsal (doctor’s told me later, I didn’t know its name frankly) looked like a fracture. I rang up my Ortho-doctor and fixed up an appointment. By sheer will-power I completed my run, interspersed with a long talk with my daughter.

Doctor looked at my foot and asked why this ‘Kolaveri’ on my running barefoot. I told him this is a step towards minimalism. He clucked his tongue and said old men will be old men. The X-ray thankfully showed no cracks, I was scheduled for a blood test the next day to rule out the uric acid (this is said to cause problems in joints). I was given Tetanus free as the Medical Director scared me out of my wits of the possible infection and even death. I have a sore forearm to show for it. I rested the next day the New Year’s Day of the locals, Ugadi. I must mention here that there is a running joke between me and Bib-Bala about me shedding clothes from bottom up starting with my Shoes. I ran without my knee guard the next day and am in the process of now getting Khadi outfit designed to replace the sports top and bottom. I think I will have a full khadi outfit to go with my barefoot for the Dandi to Sabarmati run.
God has really been kind to me and there seems to be a method in his leading me step by step on my journey of running and spiritual progress.


  1. Vishy sir, Try the vibram five fingers. Have been using it since scmm. I can no longer run with shoes!

  2. Great learning Vishy sir! How far is dandi to sabarmati! When are you planning this run!


  3. Vishy sir,

    Sorry to hear this.....beautifully written, it is 3 years now am into barefoot running, i consider blessed and God was kind i am running injury free....wish you recover fast

    anil s kadur