I need this. While it's not an official race, and more of a meet-up, I need a little inspiration from other runners. The official idea of Tabor 2 Crest, thought up by barefoot runner and physical therapist Sanatan here in Portland, is to do a mini-Hood 2 Coast, starting at the highest point on the east side of Portland, Mt. Tabor, and running to the (I think) highest point on the west side, Council Crest, a total of 9.5 miles. Sanatan (emphasis on second a: San-A-tan) conceived of it as a relay for some of his clients who are transitioning into barefoot running due to various injuries, but as we gather here this morning on the top of Mt. Tabor, it's looking like most of us will be running the whole thing, with only one 'team' doing any kind of trade off. Plus about three folks who are just going to walk the whole thing, barefoot!
Some of the usual Portland suspects are here: Mike, half-naked and surprisingly on time. Daniel, in his obligatory Hawaiian hula girl outfit, as well as Christy and Chris, though both of them (giving barefoot running a bad name) are still injured and will be merely escorting us via bicycle. Jen, of course, has bogued out on us again. But there are some new folks, or new to me, like Todd, the OR BRS comedian, representing the People's Front of Judea (whereas I'm representing the Judean People's Front), Sanatan, and some folks from Sanatan's office, including the famous Dr. Ray, one of the first podiatrists to espouse the virtues of barefooting.
The reason I need this is because I've been in a relative slump since my aborted Hundo. Not that I regret not running it, but I really did need to recover, both physically, and maybe mentally from all the running. It had become un-fun, so I cut back, still doing a long run a week for a while, but even that dropped off around the time of my Grand Canyon trip. I have, with the nice weather, been out running, mostly, thankfully, barefoot again, but I think what has been missing is a race or two to look forward to, and to motivate me. I know I know, one shouldn't need races to motivate one, I suppose, and yet, they are fun, and a healthy reminder that I'm part of a tribe that values that sort of thing. The problem with races is that they cost money, and due to my current financial situation, I haven't quite been able to justify the cost of any, especially those outside the city. But, so, this is free! And race-ish! And it's good to be in a group of barefooters again! There's about a dozen of us.
We all touch the metal elevation marker at the top of the grassy knoll, and begin! Down over some grass, then onto the main road down the park, past the reservoirs, and out onto 60th Ave. And yes, a lot of these guys I don't know are fast! Not sure if I'll catch them in the long run or not. Probably not. And after briefly chatting with Sanatan, I'm soon on my own, as with head west on Lincoln, through a quiet residential neighborhood, though, weirdly, I pass an older gentleman in a florescent green jacket who is running barefoot! But I don't think he's part of our group! What must he think of all of us running by him?
And in fact, when I cut through the park at 31st, two guys who are working at a community garden yell out to me, asking me what race this is. Yelling back 'Tabor to Crest' seems weird, wouldn't make sense, so I say, 'Um, it's kind of more of a get together!' Which probably isn't any clearer.
I'm out on the south side of Hawthorne, running along the sidewalk, which is possible since it's still early, and again, another guy asks me what race this is and I mumble a similar answer. I suppose I should just say 'Tabor to Crest!' and let him figure it out, but who knows.
We were instructed to wear green so as to help identify each other to each other, though most folks didn't, which is fine, since I didn't look at the race route, but I'm coming up on a woman in a conspicuously green shirt, running, except she's in shoes, but she keeps looking behind at me, so when I catch up I ask if she is indeed in Tabor2Crest. And she is indeed. I think her name is Karen, though I could be wrong, but she's a rolfer, a therapist who works in Dr. Ray's office. She's by self-admission a 'lazy runner' so is running the middle leg of the one relay team, and claims to not be able to run barefoot for more than a few blocks, so has already deployed her shoes. We chat awhile, since rolfing involves working with fascia, and I had plantar fasciitis. What is interesting is that she, and Sanatan, and I guess Dr. Ray, all feel that barefooting, and barefoot running requires a transition period, and even some instruction, whereas I always though, and still think, that BFing is awesome because one can just do it, without having to spend money or anything, and I can't help pondering that there is a financial interest in people 'helping' others go barefoot, but I just don't know—maybe people realy do need some transition? I'm not sure.
Anyway, my pace is a little too much for her, though I fear I'm at the back of the pack, except for the walkers, but we say goodbye. I think she's handing off to someone after the bridge and will meet up with all of us at the top. But yes, the bridge, Hawthorne Bridge—I love running across this bridge, getting to see the city and the river. Still overcast grey sky, but that's ok, keeping the heat down. The Portland Blues Festival is actually going on right now, today is the last day, so people are already walking to the west side riverfront, with lawn chairs and drinks in tow. The Festival is actually disrupting this very important race a bit, Sanatan had to re-route us a little, though with all the people on the streets, I lose his chalk directional arrows. Ok, I admit: I actually was looking at a woman runner ahead of me in nice tight black running shorts, and suddenly I'm a block past the bridge.
Well, thanks to Sanatan going over the route beforehand, I know I'm supposed to head towards the tram, south, basically on one of my longer regular routes, so I kind of have to improvise, or rather, follow my route, without seeing any arrows, though I do catch a glimpse of one of my fellow runners, a friend of Daniels I think (though shod). At the tram (which actually goes up to where I'm heading) I take the walkway up over I-5, and here I catch back up with the chalk arrows, which is good because they lead me through a series of super-secret walkway stairs through this neighborhood and under I-405. I would almost think these stairs were private property, since I'm going right by people's houses. I haven't seen anything like this in the US before, feels more European, but I guess they're common walkways, maybe to get people up to OHSU, the medical university up on the hill. Anyways, cool to learn about these. And yes, the uphill has begun. But so far the feets are fine. I had been a bit worried, since I've been running BF all week, and did an hour run yesterday, so starting out a little raw, but this isn't even the length of a half-marathon. And even on the stairs, I'm so far still running, not hiking. Or, well, mostly not.
And I pop out on Terwilliger, the site of a few races here in Portland, since it's up in the forested park below OHSU and the Veterans Hospital, and also a bike path to the south, like to Lake Oswego eventually. Nice and quiet up here, not a lot of traffic, with a wide paved path off to the side. Trees and birds chirping. Nice to be running in an un-usual area, and also to know Portland enough that I know where I'm at. I may actually start feeling like I fit in here.
But yeah, on my own, no sign of anybody. But I still have the chalk arrows! Though after turning left off of Terwilliger, and back uphill, I begin to have doubts, since I'm now on a big road with no shoulders, the main route to OHSU, with cars, and I just barely catch the turn off to a trail. Ok, this is the gravely trail I was warned about. Supposedly it's only gravelly at the beginning, and with the steepness, I'm just hiking at this point, but I just don't feel the gravel is getting any better. I am passed at this point by one of our group, part of the relay team, who I will soon learn woks for Soft Star Shoes, and is wearing a pair of their running brand, I forget the name. He's tall and lanky and passes be quickly.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Mike catches up to me. He's going barefoot all the way. I though have brought my Xero huaraches along just in case, and this gravel is bugging me. With non-raw feets I could handle it, but not after nine miles of pavement running. So I deploy, and immediately can run again, or mostly, depending on the hill, but mostly, and leave Mike behind. I even almost catch up to Soft Stars dude at a trail crossroads, but he sprints on.
Following the Council Crest signs, the trail soon gets just too steep to run, so I walk/hike, crossing over some paved roads at two points, but I feel I'm getting close, et voilà, I pop out of some trees and there's the top! With the whole gang gathered! They see me and begin clapping and cheering, so of course I have to finish strong, running up the grassy hill and into the round rocky clearing circle thingy, to more clapping and cheering, though I am chastened to learn I'm almost last. Mike is the last runner. Except, then someone remembers the Soft Star Shoe guy. I'd thought he was here already, but he's not. He must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Mike pops out and props to him that he did the whole thing barefoot. Actually everybody else did. Or, that is, those others who started out BF, finished BF. So, I guess I've become a wimp. But anyways, there's potato chips, and organic lemonade, and bananas, and grapes. John is content.
Soft Star dude finally arrives, via the main paved road, and did indeed get lost, adding a couple miles onto his route. The big surprise is that a tv newsperson shows up with her camera. Sanatan had sent out a 'press release' but he seems surprised that anyone actually read it, but she claims we'll be on the news tonight, and films us, and him giving his 'benefits of bare feet' spiel. So, some good PR.
So overall, a success, and fun. Perhaps a little too short a distance to really make it a relay. But any time a bunch of barefoot runners gets together is a good time. People noticed us for sure. People begin to drift off, some getting rides back to Mt. Tabor. With help from Chris and his phone, I get my route back home. A few more miles, just for fun. Barefoot of course!
(Next up: The Wildwood Marathon! July 27th!)