Friday, March 05, 2010

Flashback Friday: Shoeless Bridget Walker

When I was in high school, I ran cross country and track all four years. By my last season of track, in the spring of 1999, I had run races in a lot of strange conditions. There was the time I dropped out of a race due to an asthma attack, when I was a freshman. There was the time I didn't drop out of a race even when I should have, due to an asthma attack, and had to go to the hospital afterward. Four years running through hip-deep mud at the Trask Mountain Assault Invitational. Four years running through shin-deep sand at the Seaside Invitational. Doubling up on the 1500m (one mile) and 3000m (two miles) races in one track meet, then running the JV 4x400m relay after that for "fun." Almost  four years having never been forced to run the 800m (half-mile) race at a track meet, until one day my senior year my coach made me do it just to see if I was good at it. I wasn't. I think my face says it all.

My senior year, during a 3000m race, I came across a new challenge at an invitational meet at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon. I was only 1.5 laps into the race (out of 7.5) when the runner behind me spiked me with her shoes. You see, track shoes have spikes on the bottom of them, and sometimes you can extend your foot stride a little bit and "inadvertently" spike the leg or heel of the runner in front of you. I didn't really care so much because that kind of thing happened all the time. What I did care about was that in spiking me, the girl had managed to dislodge my shoe from my foot. I ran a few surprised steps with it hanging half off my foot and then did what seemed like the only option at the time: I flung it off my foot in mid-stride.

I ran the rest of the race - six laps, a full mile and a half - wearing only one shoe, the other foot completely bare (I didn't wear socks with my racing spikes). And it was a race, not a leisurely jog, so I was running fast.

Have I mentioned that tracks are made out of what is basically roughly texturized, grippy rubber? At the speed I was running, for the length I was running, I was generating a lot of friction between my bare foot and the rubber track. I didn't notice it much during the race, but not long after I crossed the finish line (in fifth place, if I remember correctly, ahead of the girl who spiked me), I realized I was injured. Injured bad. The bottom of my foot was one big blister, as if it had been burned.

I don't think I could run well for a few days after that but my foot did heal up remarkably quickly, considering. Looking back, I wonder if it wouldn't have made more sense for me to just stop and put my shoe back on, and then continue running. It seemed so out of the question at the time. But in the end I was left with a fun story about running 1.5 miles barefoot on a rubber track, so I guess it all worked out OK.


B-Rad said...

I didn't know that you ran competitively in high school. That's great. You, Jeremy, Andrea and I should all go running together sometime. Not sure what we'll do with the kids, but we'll think of something.

Have you found some good places to run in Ithaca? If not, let me know and I'll show you some nice routes that I've discovered.

JosephJ said...

I'm sure it's pretty hard to chase down a leader, even if you only have a few seconds gap. Though maybe having the second shoe would increase your chances, kind of like the Olympian's changing their cross-country skis mid-race to have fresh wax. Though I wouldn't imagine racing on a single ski would bode very well.

Christina LeSueur said...

You couldn't have been that bad at the 800m. In the picture you are ahead of two other girls!

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Reading your description of what the track felt like and the condition of your foot, I wonder how Zola Budd stood the roughness of the track and why she ever thought running barefoot was a good idea.

Steven said...

That actually happened to me once at a race in Eugene my freshman year. Except it happened at the end, so I only ran 3/4 of the track without my shoe, and I was wearing socks... And it was because my shoe untied and fell off. But I still got some weird looks.

Liz Johnson said...

Just curious... why didn't you wear socks with your shoes?? Is there a benefit there??

Bridget said...

Liz, I only didn't wear socks for races, when I was wearing racing spikes. It just felt faster. I always wore socks otherwise.

Kristen said...

You're probably already aware that barefoot running is growing in popularity. The concept has a very avid following. During the Run Like Hell Half Marathon, I was in and out of pace with a barefoot man. RLH is held near Halloween and so lots of people dress up. This guy dressed as Fred Flintstone, pulling two young children in a Chariot, SHOELESS for 13.1 miles!!! It was insane. I felt really bad for the kids because that is a LONG race, and they were fussy and crying quite a bit. I'm sure under normal circumstances that guy is pretty fast, but he had to stop periodically to fix a blanket or sippy cup. Oh, and did I mention this race was through the street of downtown Portland? Barefoot?!?!


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