My 8 year old weighs in on the barefoot running debate
Last Saturday, our 3rd grader had his annual school sports day. Since he had qualified for the heats in two categories (75 meter and 30 meter sprints), he was tickled pink and excited for weeks leading up to this event. Sadly, it was a low-key event with parents not being invited. When I went to pick him up, the first thing I noticed was that he was barefoot. As the sports meet was not over yet I was looking for body language clues on how he had fared. Besides flashing his usual gorgeous smile, there was to be no indication (I made a mental note that we need to play Charades more often).
As the line of 3rd graders walked towards the waiting parents, one of the kids turned to my younger son with “Your brother came first!” A few minutes later, a beaming S walks in to the frame and jubilantly announced that he had won the 75 meter sprint and came second in the 30 meter sprint. In one fell swoop, S had won more sports medals at school than the last few generations of Kurugantis combined.
For last year’s sports meet, S had trained for his runs with “spike shoes”. In a strange anti-climax, he ran his races in his regular canvas shoes because he “didn’t get time to change.” This year I advised him to just run in his canvas shoes since he had not trained with the spike shoes.
S: “I ran the first qualifying race with the canvas shoes. Came fifth but still qualified for next stage.”
S: “I noticed a few of my friends running barefoot so I thought let me give it a try for the next race. I ran barefoot in the ‘semi-final’ race and came first. So I decided to run barefoot for the rest of the races.”
Me: “Interesting. So how was it running barefoot, S?”
S: “I LOVED it! I could grip the ground soooo much better, especially with all my toes! I’m going to run barefoot next year too. Can I run barefoot for the next 5k race too?
Me: (Clearing throat) “We’ll talk about your next 5k race later.”
S (chuckling a bit): “You know the best part about winning the 75m dash? …(continues) Beating AM, who was even wearing spikes!”
(AM is a good friend of S and they share a friendly running rivalry. Last year, AM had beaten S quite comfortably. On a coincidental note, AM’s father and I were classmates in Timpany School, Vizag circa mid-1980’s).
Back in November 2011, after reading The Once and Future Way to Run (by the legendary Christopher McDougall), I started giving serious consideration to barefoot running. Perhaps in the 2012 season, I thought to myself. Turns out my 8 year old has beaten me to it.