If you were to look at my 2012 running log you would be staring at a bunch of blank pages for the most part. Oh, I’ve logged some stationary bike miles and a few swim laps and water running minutes and even some walking and yard mowing but if it is running miles you’re looking for … well, you would have to work your way through all of January and half of February to come across any.
You see, back on a semi-cold mid-December morning in the pre-dawn darkness of the Maclay track, towards the tail end of the 4th 800 of the day, something went horribly wrong on the bottom of my left foot. One second I was running – the next second I could hardly walk. With Boston on the 2012 schedule and that being four months away I tried to be patient and optimistic. The former is not something that I excel at, though I do try to stay on the positive outlook side of things, believing fully that adversity generally pops us when I’ve done something stupid – such as this time – and as a rule does result in a lesson in perseverance and character development. Having said that, by mid-February and looking at eight weeks until Boston and still not being anywhere near fully healed, I tried to fit the proverbial square peg into the round hole, and took a step backwards. By early March it was clear that Boston wasn’t in my future and I gave up on that idea. Once I did so, the pressure was off and I began to get well.
Two weeks of progress resulted in some longish runs, some at a decent pace, and minimal foot pain. The question then became, “When and where do I want to race again?” I had missed my beloved 30K, the Mountain Mist 50K and the marathon as well as a bunch of local shorter races that I have come to love. I needed to get back in the saddle, but I also wanted to do so somewhat quietly, without pressure to perform, something off the beaten path, something where I wouldn’t expose myself as being woefully slow and out of shape. I was simply looking to run “free” for the sake of running free again.
This past Saturday I found the perfect opportunity to run free.
I am so fortunate to have a wife who posts events to the Gulf Winds web site. There’s nothing that goes on there that she doesn’t know about and, every once in awhile something shows up that calls her to tell me about it. Such was the case with the Greek Streak (Clothing Optional) 5K at the Tallahassee Naturally Resort near Monticello.
I should state at this stage of the story that this has been one of those bucket list items for some time – though not my bucket list. No, this was on my daddy’s bucket list in that it was his desire for me to run what he called “one of those necked races.” You see, when he spent the last year or so of his life (he died in 2005) up here in Tallahassee (instead of down in Homestead where he had lived since the 20s), I made the mistake one day of telling him about a race that Dana Stetson and George Palmer had done down near Tampa – a little 5K affair called “Dare to Go Bare.” They had plenty of GWTC company back then, but my dad knew and loved Dana and George, and when I shared the story of their little run he just thought that was something to behold! At that point I had run a bunch of ultras and marathons and even three 100s and he could not have cared less. But as I said, until the day he went to be with the Lord he frequently asked, “Son, when are you going to do one of those necked races? “ My replies of “Someday Daddy, someday …” got kind of old to him but he never gave up hope. Well, yesterday I hope he was watching (or maybe I don’t!) because he can now rest in peace.
There’s not too much to tell about the experience except that I truly enjoyed the whole thing. I had asked Dana and George to go along with me, hoping that having experienced nudie run folks along for moral support would ease any discomfort I might have. George said that he would love to go and share some hiney time, but that he had entered the St. Marks Duathlon. (Georgie, you’ve gotta get those priorities straightened out!) Dana said that he was in, but I’ve known Dana long enough to know that you don’t look for him until you see him, and when he didn’t show for the pre-race 8-miler at Forest Meadows I figured I was going to have to go it alone. I somehow felt at peace with the whole thing, saying I was doing it for my dad but also looking forward to running a race again – even if it was against what figured to be a less than stellar field (from a running standpoint, that is …). Being a healthy, red-blooded American male and since the race was geared towards the collegiate set as something to do during Spring Break, I also thought that there might be some other incentives out there than trying to run a decent 5K.
Anyway, absent Dana, I drove on out for what I thought was the 10 a.m. start. The only trouble was is that it was a 12 noon start and I was there at 9:45. I called Peg to tell her that I would be a few hours late. (When I called, she asked, “Are you naked?” I assured her that indeed I was, except for my trusty K-Swiss Tube Run 100s.) I then saw where I had missed a call from Dana, who I promptly got hold of. He knew all along about the 12 noon start and saw no great need to show up 2+ hours ahead of time. His loss. I wandered around the property, making new friends, you know …. just hanging out, so to speak. Dana pulled up about 11:30, got down to the nitty-gritty and was ready for the start. They kicked it off at noon after a short “false start” in which a few photos were taken of those who did not object to be photographed in their birthday suits. (No, believe it or not – Herb Wills and Fred Deckert somehow managed to not be there to do the race photos! Incredible, huh?) Long story short, Dana went out hard and took the lead and held on thru 4K; the guy running 2nd went by him and when I pulled up behind Dana I told him that in spite of the fact that he had one of the finer butts I had run behind in awhile (remember – I had not raced since December 4th!), I was getting kind of tired of looking at it and slowly eased by him. The kid in the lead hung on (no pun intended, here or elsewhere) for the win.
There is something liberating … freeing, if you will, about running without clothes on. Maybe it was because it was the first hot day of the year and the fact that the temperature was near 90 out in the Jefferson County scrub oak – piney woods as it was yesterday. Or maybe it was simply the joy of running the way that we were meant to run … running in the minimalist style that is quite in vogue these days.
I came away with one simple question: how is it that a nudie run doesn’t offer a “no tee-shirt” option?