There’s something mystical about feeling the earth beneath your feet. Bonus points if you can arrange for “Chariots of Fire” to be playing as your soundtrack.
Simply running isn’t enough anymore. In order to reconnect with our primal, natural selves, we need to start shedding our gear too. Hell, out here in San Francisco there are a few races where people like to run completely “au natural.”
Minimalist running gear and barefoot running technique are all the rage. It’s everywhere. Many of my friends swear by it. I’ve even been toying with the idea of switching to barefoot running (or at least minimalist shoes). The NY Times has even run a few articles on this once and future way to run. And recently a study from the University of Colorado looked at the efficiency and speed of barefoot versus the classic running shoe.
Everything I’ve read touts the “naturalness” of running barefoot. Seems like a solid argument: why not run as mother nature intended us? The granola-eating, health nut sector of America seems particularly susceptible to this line of reasoning. I am very sympathetic to the idea. Unfortunately, I just can’t get over the fact that those Vibram things look like you’ve exchanged feet with a silver back gorilla.
My fears of reliving the Planet of the Apes notwithstanding, every time I go for a run, I come home and wonder, “Maybe I should give it a try. Maybe today is the day. Maybe it would be nice to feel the road under my feet,” and it reminds me of Hopkins’s lament in God’s Grandeur: “the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel being shod.”
It makes me ask, am I missing some of the glory of creation with my Nikes between me and the trail?
Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.