I’m about to go buy my first ever pair of running shoes…specifically, trail running shoes. I ran everywhere as a kid (except when forced to not run) and loved running, but there was no girls’ track anywhere in the region, then. I was the fastest kid in my grade, up until 7th, beaten by an older and taller boy who’d been held back. But not by much. By HS girls were not allowed to run on the track, EVER. Distracts the boys, you know. And might harm their egos when some of us (some of us were very fast) outran them, just as we’d been doing since first grade, despite being told it was unladylike, that girls should never beat boys, etc, etc, etc. I ran early in the mornings in college, on a track on the far side of the campus…ran there, ran on the track, ran back. No track meets for girls. Girls were supposed to run for fitness tests, but only then. But it felt good to run. Sometimes ran with friends, for the sheer joy of it.
So when I lost enough weight that I had the urge to run again, and thought it wouldn’t do in my hip and knee joints, I tried a few steps. It felt weird at first…I had a kinesthetic memory of how it *had* felt, but the legs didn’t respond the same. And yet…a tickle of how fun it might be. Every day, out walking on the land, in an area where I couldn’t be seen by others, I tried a little more, a little more. One day the new feel and the old feel merged…this WAS running, just slow and as if I’d been sick or injured. So I began a slow form of interval work…walk to warm up, then run some steps, then walk again….and awhile later, the same thing. Two, three, four times during a day’s walk. Not pushing till it hurt, or I couldn’t go on, but trying to increase just a teeny bit the number of steps.
As a kid, I ran along the edge of farmers’ fields, down streets, down country roads., through orchards even. On the beach, when we went there. Up the slope of the Second Street Canal (steep.) On the paths we kids made in vacant lots. As a younger woman (20s, 30s) I backpacked in mountainous areas and ran on those trails at times. (I once ran down the steep switchbacks of the South Rim rail out of the Basin in the Chisos at Big Bend National Park, using my 6 foot bamboo pole like a skier’s pole to make the turns. Mistake. Great fun, but my quads seized up after I’d been driving for a couple of hours. I’d heard “never run down a steep slope” but I’d done it on short slopes, no problem. )
Now I was running on our land, the mowed or cleared (though the brush of the Dry Woods), first 10 steps, then 20, then 50, 60, 75…and then 100, and then more than 100 at a time. And it felt *right*. And I felt good about it. I have no expectation of “doing anything” with the running, except enjoying it. Yesterday I ran about 500 steps in multiple tries. So running is a thing again. And on this land, with a mix of surfaces from solid rock to loose sharp-edged gravel, sand and clay baked hard, mown grass that’ s sometimes separate bunchgrass clumps with dirt between them…no pair of shoes I have is working for me. I need to be able to walk/run on all of them, upslope and down (very gentle slopes), on trails that tilt sideways, on trails with toe-trapping holes or equally toe-trapping pedestaled mounds of bunchgrass. On fallen branches, some of them thorny, cactus sprouts, and even (though I hope not!!) on snakes in the trail. And none of my shoes are OK for that. I have a pair of very old, very worn trail shoes that need to be replaced, but they never were that good to run even a few steps in. The barn boots (rubber) are not meant for hiking (though I’ve worn them a lot with the conditioning walks) and are very hard to run even 20 steps in. The tennis shoes let me feel every rock even just walking up the north fence trail where the harshest loose rock is.
And so…I started looking at discussions of, and reviews of, and brands of, running shoes…discovered that there are running shoes specific to running on natural land with a variety of surfaces. And shortly, I hope, I’ll have a pair that have a “rock plate” to protect my foot from stobs, rocks, and other pointy things, that fit my foot, and then…gradually, bit by bit, I’d like to be able to run a little farther, a little faster, when it’s the kind of day that reminds me of being a kid. Older, slower, but still…still having fun.