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Monday, June 6, 2011
The Naked Tour 2011 (i.e. My barefoot nerdfest)
I don't think it's a secret to anyone by now. I am a barefoot running nerd. I totally geek-out on this stuff. Not a day goes by where I'm not doing something that involves barefoot running at some level. When I'm not reading or writing blogs on the topic, I'm over at Runners World or the Barefoot Runners Society chatting in the forums. If not that, I'm planning group runs or doing other chapter business for my own chapter of BRS. Oh yeah...sometimes I even get out there and do it!
Every nerd has their equivalent of Meccah. Comic book nerds have Comicon. Classic car junkies have their auto shows. Homemakers have Martha Stewart. Actual nerds have all that science-y stuff they do. And for barefoot runners, I'd like to think that The Christopher McDougall Naked Tour is ours.
I know a ton of people who have read the book and been inspired to do great things. For example, my buddy Krista just finished it, and reported that she just signed up for her first trail marathon. Go Krista! Actually, that sort of enthusiasm is so common after reading the book that someone did a great satire of it. Check out the video:
ULTRA RUNNER from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.
Now I'm not one of those barefoot runners that read Born to Run, and then immediately ripped off my shoes, threw away my Nike gear, bought some chia seeds, and started looking for a herd of antelope to persistence hunt. I was already barefoot running regularly by the time I read the book, and I think chia seeds taste like snot. Still, Christopher McDougall is kind of a hero of mine. His book convinced me that I really could be a serious runner.
Before reading his book, I wasn't much more than a casual runner. I ran for fitness, and because I enjoyed the experience. But I wasn't fast, and I couldn't run very far. I chalked it up to my body type. I didn't think that I could carry my 6'7" frame much further than a half marathon without collapsing in a large, gangly heap. I found McDougall inspiring though because he was also an extremely tall, bulky runner that found his way across the finish line of a 50 mile ultra marathon.
And his book told me that it didn't matter what my body looked like. I could embrace the passion I already had for running and let it carry me to the finish line of a marathon or even an ultra marathon. It was okay for me to run that far because I was made to be a runner just like everyone else. I signed up for a marathon the same day I finished the book.
This event represented a chance to meet an author whose book has done more for me than any other book I've ever read. The whole thing went down last Saturday at Gear West Ski & Run in Long Lake, MN. The event itself wasn't anything fancy. It started out with a Christopher McDougall signing copies of his book in front of the store.
There were a ton of people milling about and socializing. The vibe in that crowd was just incredible. Everyone who was there had a story associated with the book. I met a high school aged girl that was inspired to run for the first time because of the book. I met a ton of folks that were inspired to go barefoot; some for the first time at the event. Some were like me, and first got serious about fitness after reading.
I walked up to get my well-worn copy of the book signed, and McDougall looked up and said, "Are you Christian Peterson?" AHHHHH!!! CHRISTOPHER MCDOUGALL KNOWS MY NAME! I was completely star struck. I think I responded in the affirmative. Then I think I said something witty because he laughed. He had read the Star Tribune article that I did last Thursday and congratulated me on my work to advance barefoot running in my community. AHHHH!!! CHRISTOPHER MCDOUGALL LIKES THE WORK I'VE DONE IN MY COMMUNITY!!! AHHHH!!!
I'm never touching my copy of this book again! Hehe...kidding. But it just became an even more prized possession of mine.
I didn't get a chance to thank him for all the book has done for me...what being a babbling idiot and all. But I think I got something better. A signed book and an affirmation from the author that he approves of what I'm doing.
Here's Chris (I call him Chris now...cuz we're buds) and I having a contest to see who is more tall and lanky. I think it's too close to call. Can we get a measurement over here?!
After getting my book signed, it was time to start the group run. Jan, the owner of Gear West, led us on a 5-mile run from the store to Orono High School and around the surrounding dirt and single-track trails. There must have been at least a hundred runners in attendance. I glanced back on the scene as we started going and it looked more like a road race than a group run.
We started out at a pretty relaxed pace, which allowed me to chat up some more folks. I was there along with a good group of members of the Barefoot Runners Society-Minnesota Chapter. We've attended the event now for two years, and we tend to recruit pretty heavily during the group run. Mostly because it's like shooting fish in a barrel. You can tell who will be receptive to your suggestions to "take off your shoes!" by the kind of footwear they are wearing. Every other person had on a pair of those ridiculous toe shoes. Fish in a barrel man! My job was made even easier because folks recognized me from the paper and were coming up to me to ask me questions. Now the fish were jumping right into the damn boat!
Anyway...so I'm running along talking to a lady who was thinking about trying barefoot that very day, I casually glanced over to my right.
"Oh....hey 7 time Western States winner Scott Jurek! How are you doing today?" I said. "What's up tall, barefoot dude from the paper." he said. Awesome...
How many times does that happen to you on a group run? We made a bit of small talk, but it kind of seemed like he wanted to get away from the crazy barefoot dude. Could be because we passed a place that smelled like bacon and I told him where he could get a maple bacon doughnut nearby. Yeah man...talk about doughnuts to the vegan ultrarunner. Real smooth...
So sensing our conversation was about as deep as the Paris Hilton autobiography, I ran ahead of him to take this picture. After that I lost him while I was staring at my camera giggling like a huge nerd at the cool picture I just took.
Towards the end of the run I caught up with Chris McDougall again and ran with him a pretty good distance. I had taken my shirt off because it was a really hot morning. McDougall commented when I met up with him, "Dude....you're body is ripped! I'm becoming a little homosexual right now!" Oh Chris...the instant gayness you're feeling is mutual.
Anyway, now that I was sweating buckets I was able to actually control the words that were coming out of my mouth. So we talked a lot about both of our movements towards more function driven fitness. He has a lot of cool ideas about integrating fitness with your everyday chores by getting rid of modern conveniences. So instead of cutting a tree with a chainsaw, you cut it with an old lumberjack saw.
Chris really didn't seem to mind that I was being "that guy" and shoving a camera in his face. He was talking to Eric, another guy I met who was trying barefoot running for the first time. He went 5 miles on what was a pretty rough route and did fairly well.
The run ended in nearby Morgan Park where Chris gave a presentation. I actually couldn't stay for it, but I've heard him speak before. I left the event feeling jazzed up and in awe of what I had just experienced. It's not every day that you meet one of your heros and find out what he's really like. I feel honored for the opportunity.
If the Naked Tour is coming to your town, I highly suggest that you go. Not only is it a chance to run with Mr. Born to Run, but his presentation is amazing as well. He talks a lot about how we need to bring running back to being fun again. We've gotten caught up in the idea that it's all about pain and suffering to acheive external results like times, and distances, and weight loss. But when we really experience happiness is when we just get out there and run for fun, like we were made to do. I think it's a good corollary message to the one in his book.
Anyway, here's another link to the event for those interested in finding out more. It's worth a look! Happy running citizens!