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Friday, August 12, 2011

Fan Friday: Vanessa Runs, Barefoot = Confidence

We haven't done a Fan Friday post in a while, so let's get back in the habit shall we?  Citizens, sometimes I feel like my blog is the online equivalent of a bachelor pad.  It's getting kind of musky and frat-ish in here, and it could use a female's touch.  So to help me out, for this Fan Friday I recruited the help of my favorite Canadian: Vanessa Runs

Vanessa is a 29-year old multi-talented barefoot runner from Toronto, Canada.  She now lives in San Diego, California.  In addition to running a successful blog, she's also an ultra runner, a health journalist, and a Registered Holisitc Nutritionist.  As she says, "I eat and run and read and write."  She's been a joy to get to know over the past several months, and is one of my favorite new friends. 

I asked her to post today because I've always loved her posts talking about how running, specifically barefoot running, make her feel strong and empowered.  I know that being a female runner is a lot different than being a male runner.  But I don't get all that chick stuff.  I run barefoot because it's badass.  Apparently women do it to get in touch with their feelings.  So I asked her to write about what barefoot running has done for her as a woman.  As always, my comments and questions will be in bold.

What is your fitness background?

I’m a nerd so I don’t have much of a fitness background. As a kid I was very active and unsupervised so I was always running and climbing things and digging for bugs. In high school I really wanted to join the track team because I discovered I was pretty fast, but I wasn’t allowed to. So I read a lot of books and got chubby instead. During and after University I went through some really stressful life experiences, and started running as a form of escape. I’ve been hooked ever since.

How did you became interested in barefoot and minimalist running?

Growing up, I was constantly barefoot and loved it. I also grew up learning everything I knew from books, so I relied on reading to learn to run. All the magazines I read told me that I had to buy supportive running shoes, so I went out and had an assessment done. My assessment showed no issues, so I got a pair of Asics and started running in those.

I had almost made it to my first marathon when a friend of mine suggested that I try running barefoot for fun. It had never occurred to me before but as soon as I heard “barefoot running,” I knew I’d love it. I met it with a lot of opposition starting out and because I was a newbie that made me nervous. But my wisest running buddy told me, “Don’t listen to anyone. Just your body.” So I did. I’ve never been injured and I’ve never looked back.

What is your current level of barefoot/minimal running?

I ran my first ultra in Vibrams followed by a marathon the next day (also in Vibrams). I have run (but not raced) up to 30k completely barefoot on trails. I’m not fast, but I have decent endurance. I also have a long way to go to reach my ultra goals.

Anything unique you've noticed about being a female barefoot runner?

Yes. I look better in a kilt.

True story.  And probably also in a shirt, or pants, or...

I also find I’m more inclined to write about the mental and emotional aspects of running barefoot, whereas others guys do a great job covering the technical and biological benefits.

There aren’t many ladies who run barefoot so I enjoy a closer bond and connection with those ladies who do.

I’ve been told several times that barefoot running is masculine and a disgusting habit for a girl. I just don’t see that. I associate it more with strength and freedom and independence. I think for a woman, it’s empowering for a few reasons.

1. You’re going against the norm and not giving a crap about what others think of you. This forces you to be confident, and I think confidence is the sexiest quality a woman can have.

2. You’re moving naturally in your environment. Barefoot running done well is graceful. A woman can pull graceful off with more natural beauty than a man. Especially in a skirt.

3. It exudes strength and independence. Women can be considered slaves to material possessions – shoes, makeup, jewelry, clothing, etc – in order to “better” themselves. When a woman runs barefoot she is making a strong statement. She is saying – “My body is enough. I can stand and run on my own two feet. I am flawless.”

These are all things I feel when I’m running barefoot as a female. I often tell people that running barefoot heals my wounds. And it truly does.

Did you feel as empowered by running before you went barefoot as you do now?

Yes. It was always the simple act of running that brought me joy. I could run in army boots and be happy as hell. But when I'm barefoot, those feelings are enhanced because I have a new dimension to enjoy and play with - the ground sensation beneath my feet. Pure bliss for me is running barefoot on beach, right along the tide.

Has your confidence from barefoot running led you to do anything that you previously thought you couldn't do?

It's funny because I always considered myself to be a confident person. But the combination of barefoot running and ultra running completely expanded my perception of what is possible for me in life. I started to challenge and question things that I previously assumed were too late to change - relationships, living arrangements, job choices. It gave me the confidence to leave everything to pursue a life that I truly wanted, not settle for running through a mediocre one.

I had also always assumed that my role in life was to just dig out of the hole that I was born into so that maybe my kids would have a fair chance at a good education, good opportunities, and a good life. But barefoot running and blogging about it has given me opportunities that I never would have imagined. It has upgraded my understanding of my full potential.

Has barefoot running led you to make any other, more natural changes in your life?

Minimalism has become a lifestyle for me. Since running barefoot, I have gotten rid of so many material possessions. It's amazing how much you have lying around that you think you need, but actually never use. And it's cathartic to give it all away. I feel people tend to hoard possessions out of fear that maybe someday they might need stuff. But I've learned to live day by day. I've learned that when I do need things, they are there for me one way or another.

Do you find that you are less concerned with things like body image, material possessions, etc. since going barefoot?

Not really. Which I think is a big reason why barefoot running was such a natural transition for me. I never had any material possessions of great value, and growing up I was a total oddball. So I'm used to people thinking I'm a weirdo. I've lost at least 30 lbs since I started to run, but I never thought of myself as fat. I didn't really struggle with body image issues, and I'm not sure why. I think maybe it was ignorance or maybe we didn't have enough mirrors. I was also mostly cut off from television and media growing up, so maybe I didn't know what I was SUPPOSED to look like. I just always assumed I was pretty, smart, and cool!

What's up with the Honey Badger?

The honey badger is a badass, and therefore my mascot. He doesn't give a shit, he does what he wants.

*In his best Randall voice*  What is that...the end?  Ewww...gross!  Thanks stupid!  Thanks for the post!

It's my birthday weekend folks.  If you ship overnight you can get my gifts here on time!  They better be good! 

Cheers to more years citizens!


  1. Vanessa is AWESOME ! I have 5 kids...two of them are girls...occasionally they are all in one place long enough for me to read to them. I will definitely be sharing this post. Thanks for writing Vanessa...I love the attitude...and yeah umm...I guess I should thank MGBG as well...lol...very inspiring

  2. I love that i found MGBG and VR independently of each other, and then it turns out two of my favorite bloggers know each other, and now I know them, and it just goes to show that cool bad-assness just attracts more cool bad-assness.

    Vanessa was already one of my heros, but this just reminds me why.

  3. I love # 3. Great to know and exude that attitude at 29!! BF women rule!!



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