@

I’ve never been a runner.  Then I moved to Boulder.  This brings to mind an atheist moving to  some similarly-sized Bible belt town.

New arrival: “Hi! I’m your new neighbor. I’m Mark.”

Neighbor: “Howdy Mark. I’m Chad. Great day for the move, eh?  By the way, what church ya’ll looking to go to?”

Except of course the Boulder version goes:

New arrival: “Hi! I’m your new neighbor. I’m Mark.”

Neighbor: “Namaste Mark. I’m River. Gotta love this Colorado weather, right?  So!  You a 5K guy? 10K? Marathoner? Iron man?”

I’ve never been a runner.  It’s the boredom that puts me off.  Just pumping one foot in front of another over and over again with no other real goal is not my flavor.  I do play soccer, tennis and basketball, which involve sprinting and jogging for maybe an hour or two at a time.  I skateboard, and I snowboard hard.  I practice Kenpo a few times a week.  I’m in pretty good shape.  But this is Boulder.  All that’s just dilettante shit.  No run?  No cool.

But what if I have a secret weapon?  I love Boulder, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stand being shown up by the granola gang.

So let’s rewind.

July 1994 and I was in Milwaukee meeting up with best friend Arild on our way to Kentucky for a rock climbing trip.  Arild would make a great poster child for those ubiquitous granola sports zines.  Having almost made the Norwegian sea kayaking team as a youth, he now seeks out every possible solo athletic challenge.  Naturally he wanted to stop and do the Storming of the Bastille 5K run.  I don’t remember exactly how it all went down, but I know we were pressed for time and trying to figure out how best to meet up after his run.  He suggested I run it too, but I was not wearing the sort of shoes I’d even want to run 500 meters in.  I decided to go barefoot.

No big deal.  I’ve always played soccer barefoot, hiked barefoot, etc.  It would be easy to say “it’s the being from Nigeria,” and milk the image of African kids who’ve never seen a pair of shoes, but that’s is a silly anachronism by now.  Yet even a middle-class Nigerian like me would have grown up spending a lot of time barefoot on various terrain, and doing things, that might seem like torture to most Americans.  In the tropics, you want to avoid wearing socks and shoes, if you can, if for no other reason than the heat.  But more than that, I don’t really like being shod.  I crave the feel of different surfaces under my feet.  The only things I fear are glass and sharp, rusty nails. I’ve hiked the Roosevelt forest around Erika’s house barefoot a few times because it’s so remote I don’t have to worry about High School kiddies hanging out around their illicit alkie stash and and breaking a bunch of bottles. Road race routes would normally be a problem, except when there are several hundred or thousand runners ahead of me, I can be sure any dangerous objects have already been stuck into their shoe bottoms.

No, If I could get over my distaste at running 5K in the first place, running it barefoot was certainly the no-big-deal bit.  Once I started The Bastille Race, I found entertainment from fellow runners commenting and gesticulating and all that once they noticed my pedestrial situation, so it wasn’t as dreary as it could have been.  When I got to the finish, a newspaper reporter, probably finished interviewing the elite runners, and with nothing better to do, came up to me and asked where I was from, and whether I’d really run it barefoot.  I tried to spin the best yarn I could in my Nigerian accent, figuring it would be fun to get them to put some nonsense in the paper about a barefoot exotic, but I don’t think she bit.

A little over ten years later my wife had been a walker veteran of the Bolder Boulder 10K Memorial Day Race for a couple of years and wanted me to join the family to do it with our then 8 year old.  The idea of jogging or running 10K was no more appealing than its half distance, but I figured I could spice it up again by doing it barefoot.

So since then I’ve participated in every BB, from part-jog/part-walk pace with the 7 year old to jogging pace as he decided to go for better finish times.  This year I went with his younger brother, now 7 as well, so back to part-jog/part-walk while his older brother went on to run it in an impressive time.  My own finish times would be fit to make any Boulderite yawn.  Except I was doing it barefoot.  Have I said “no big deal?”  Eh!  No big deal.  Except that I get to say:

In your face, granola!

Ahem.

I haven’t seen any others barefoot in the Bolder Boulder, but it’s a huge race (around 50,000 runners most years, half of the town’s population), so the stats are probably against that. I do still get a lot of cheering, gesturing and pointing from watchers and other runners, and I’ve become used to all the “hey! doesn’t that hurt your feet?”  This year someone came up and asked “Hey! You’re in that barefoot running club, right?”

I gave her the chicken eye.  Club?  I don’t need no stinking club.

“Yeah!  You must be.  I read all about them in the newspaper.”

Sure enough, a group of barefoot runners is news.  In The Boulder Daily camera.  Silly me.  I’d been doing it for years and despite the Milwaukee reporter’s casual query, it hadn’t even occurred to me it might be newsworthy.  Apparently it’s a growing movement, which is a good thing, of course.  I don’t think I’d even want to run 3K or more in running shoes.  The thought of the wear on my shins, ankles and knees is as unappealing to me as I expect the thought of running it barefoot is to others.

Perhaps also unappealing is the aesthetic bit.  I think I’ll never understand the Western and Asian obsession with feet as sexual objects.  I expect that coming from a culture where feet are the ultimate utility, it’s hard to fit them into the ultimate leisure—non-reproductive sex.  Maybe it’s the same thing with breasts.  Sure a beautiful pair of breasts is an aesthetic delight, but I just can’t see as much sexual portent, and bodily shame, in boobs as I find in the US.  Certainly the National Geographic image of topless African women is well overdone, but in tropical cultures in general any guy is likely accustomed to countless, casual sightings of bare breasts, often in the utility role of breastfeeding.  Acknowledged that the nipples are a useful erogenous stop between face and loins, breasts seem no more apt than feet to be such a shoe-in (rimshot) for pornographic device.

Or maybe I’m just pleading my disadvantage.  As probably required for barefoot running, hiking, etc., the bottoms of my feet are well ugly—thick and tough.  If I were a lady I’d probably be the ultimate object for Lauren Becker’s Paul Bunions.  Especially if he likes ’em flat-footed (with stilettos heels off, of course).

One day, at last year’s Bolder Boulder, a lady came up, and matched stride with me.

Lady: “Ooh! Running barefoot. That’s neat!  Where are you from.”

Uche: “Eh, well I live here now, but I was born in Nigeria.”

Lady: “Cool! Are you from around those Mexican Indians who run, like, all day barefoot?”

Yes, she could not have done well on her granola school certificate.  One nice thing about the genre is that they usually know their geography.

Uche: “Different continent, you know…”

After a few minutes of attempted chat-up on her part, and my obvious disinterest, hardly helped by her continental FAIL!, she angles off.

Uche’s son: “Dad, why is it such a big deal you’re running barefoot?”

Uche: “Oh yeah? Why don’t you take off your shoes and finish the race that way…”

The lady did have one point, though.  If granola wants to see a real big deal, they should check out the hundred-mile barefoot runs of the Rarámuri, in northern Mexico.  They can even find themselves lapped several times by a native smoking a cigarette, looking down at their shod feet and sneering at their “patas elefantes.”  That has got to be worth at least a couple of granola scout badges.

Me? I’d rather challenge them to a marathon day of soccer/basketball/sparring/tennis/volleyball.  Shoes always optional.

TAGS: , , , , , ,

Uche Ogbuji UCHE OGBUJI is a founding editor of the TNB Poetry section. He is also co-creator and co-host of the Poetry Voice podcast. His short collection of poems Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a winner of the 2014 Colorado Book Awards.

To expand a bit, Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado where he lives with his wife and four children. Uche is a computer engineer (trained in Nigeria and the USA) and entrepreneur whose abiding passion is poetry. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences, have appeared widely. Uche also snowboards, coaches and plays soccer, and trains in American Kenpo. You can catch more of the prolifically fraying strands of his life on his home page, or, heck, even on Twitter.

71 responses to “Bolder Barefoot”

  1. Don Mitchell says:

    Hah! I see no one’s commented yet, and as a fellow grew-up-largely-barefoot guy, I want to sneak mine in first. I’ll write a longer comment later. This is fun. But I’m off fully-shod to my woods, which aren’t pristine (having been used as dumping grounds for a century at least) because I have to go in them to dump vegetation cuttings.

    Africa’s a country, isn’t it? Nigeria’s a state of Africa, right?

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Actually, Don, I *just* published it, but for some reason it first had the date when I’d first edited it. I’ve fixed that.

      Nigeria is actually the surname of the general who is dictator of Africa, well known for his flamboyant military uniform and the clicking sound you gotta say when you pronounce his name.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      BTW, curious about your take on tight coupling of breasts with sex. Perhaps in your Hawaiian upbringing you experienced the same casual boob-sighting experiences I did? If so, do you think that’s affected your current attitude towards tits as hang-tongue expression tractor beams? (I guess I have to ask you to imagine a Loony Tunes character to explain that trope 😉 ).

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Hawai’i, when I was growing up in the 40s and 50s (and now, too) wasn’t very different from the Mainland in terms of exposed flesh. Outside of any household I was a part of, I never saw anybody walking around topless, in a domestic context, until I went to the Solomon Islands.

        All the time I was on Malaita, Guadalcanal, and Bougainville I saw women without tops. At first it was startling, but quickly became routine. On Bougainville, where I spent the most time, it was mostly the older women who didn’t wear tops. The younger women, when nursing, of course.

        Being completely honest, I have to say that there were some very beautiful young women who wore tops but on occasion (and completely normally) exposed themselves briefly. And if I was looking, I had the same reaction as I would have in, let’s say, Cambridge.

        Those pre-teen/teen years laid down a pretty heavy standard-issue Western boobs-as-sexual-objects in my psyche. And the knowledge that outsiders were interested in breasts did work its way into the sensibilities of the Bougainville young men I was close to. They weren’t as unaffected by young breasts as the older men were — for the old guys, less than nothing. Completely unimportant.

        And times change. When I was there in 2001 (having last been there in 1973) I saw 100% of women, old crones to young girls, wearing tops, and not taking them off even down at the river where we all washed.

        And onto another thought. I was joking about Africa and a country and Nigeria as a state. But back in my woods I got to thinking about how that error might be made, and I realized that not everyone understands that the term “state” has multiple meanings. There’s “state” as we use it in the US. But as you know, even the quickest look into international politics/economics will show the use of “state” precisely as an American would use “country.” Who hasn’t seen something like “Among African states, Nigeria is known for . . . .”

        An educated person isn’t likely to make that error. But I can understand how an ethnocentric American could.

        And onto running. It’s good that you run barefoot. In my years as a timer I never saw very many barefoot runners. There was an Australian bloke over in Rochester who did, year-round, but it was rare. I go barefoot or with thin moccasins or water shoes whenever I can. I don’t like to run barefoot on pavement but heavily-cushioned shoes don’t work for me at all. So I train in what most others would call racers. I try not to worry about how people might be saying, Look at the slow old fart over there wearing racing flats. Sorry! They suit me. I’m sure it’s because of commonly being barefoot when growing up (and almost all the time in the Solomons).

        And finally (!) you are so right about Boulder and running. It’s been going on a long time. Back in 1978 or so I was in peak condition and went to visit friends on Boulder. Ran on the trails, ran up that mountain back of town, whatever it is, and down again. Saw Frank Shorter run by the house and on a trail. Took in a race. It was wonderful even then.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Oh yeah. I got your joke, of course, and my mind just automatically went to your intended meaning of “state”. Clever thing, the human brain 🙂

          I’ll certainly admit that having been in the US so long, I do sense a change in the non-intimate sexual power of women’s breasts upon me (intimately, they are always powerful, of course, as with any contact between tumescent flesh). I think you’re exactly right–the more you live among people for whom they hold a special power, the more that begins to rub off on you. But as much as I’ve always had an over-sensitized, instinctive eye towards flesh (I’ll have to expand upon that in another TNB piece one day), I don’t think I’ll ever make it all the way to American aesthetics.

          I think I’ve seen the racing flats of which you speak. They don’t strike me as devices that would be associated with a particular class of runners, though.

          And while in Boulder, you probably ran the famous Sanitas trail! Now that’s a tester. But crazy-fun.

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Dude, that sounds painful! I can barely stand watching the board-toting surfers run barefoot across the street, let alone do a 10K without shoes. You are indeed an elite runner!

    As an aside, I did a 5K in Boulder last May and although I’d had two half marathons under my belt by then, I almost hurled by mile 2. That altitude is quite an adjustment. Bring those Fred Flintstone feet to San Diego for a 5K and you’ll probably win!

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Elite runner!

      BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      HOO!

      Sorry, where was I? 🙂

      No way, man. Even if I didn’t have the tag-along kid as an excuse my guess of my best likely 10K time would be 45 minutes (barefoot, of course). In Boulder that’s what they call the guy who gets sacrificed to the mountain lion by the faster group. I’m a fast sprinter, as a lot of Igbos tend to be, but I’ve never been a distance runner. I’m definitely fast-twitch, and average cardio (a very minor congenital heart defect doesn’t help).

      As a half-marathoner, you’re way more Boulder than me, dude. And next time you’re here, make sure you look me up.

    • Um, yeah Joe.

      Don’t be a stranger. Next time you’re out we are so hanging.

  3. Brandy says:

    Eek! I can’t even walk across a gravel parking lot with no shoes. I’m the worst of tenderfoots alive. Is there anything you can’t do?

    As for running—I’d also be the un-coolest person living in Boulder. I have to participate in sports that I consider fun. Horseback riding, paddling,—I used to be a competitive swimmer.

    …”granola gang”. Hehehehe.

    …and what’s the “chicken eye”? Please include photo! 🙂

  4. Slade Ham says:

    I used to be a really good runner. I ran a 4m 54s mile in high school. That was before a lot of things though, hahaha. My only recent attempt was a brutal exercise that deserves a retelling here at TNB. It might be my next post now.

    The point is, I don’t run anymore. It is boring. My roommate runs marathons. On purpose. Ugh.

    Barefoot though, that’s the way to run I would think. No matter how much research Nike or New Balance puts in, you would think that the human foot itself would be the most efficient form for running. Why cover such a perfect tool?

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      That is a great school-age mile time indeed. And as you say, why cover up Nature’s perfect creation?

      Looking forward to your tale of self-inflicted (I assume?) brutality. And I mean that in the nicest way 🙂

      • kristen says:

        You guys ever experimented w/ these: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com? (Uche–have we already gone here? Pardon if so.)

        Next best thing to running on/in Nature’s Perfect Creation. Or so the word goes. Maybe good for galloping in places where glass/sharp thingies are of concern.

        Also, barefoot soccer? Really? Makes as much sense as anything, I guess, but can you achieve a solid strike of the ball sans cleats?

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Kristen, no, I think you have broken this comment thread’s virginity with regard to experimental shoes. Closest thing before was Don’s mention of racer’s flats.

          Anyway, I’m all for those contraptions, if they encourage more people to run without box-springs on their feet.

          As for soccer, I play much better barefoot than shod, and that’s true for a lot of folks I grew up with. You certainly can put a lot more “culture” on the ball with a naked foot. As an example, my barefoot juggling record is around 150 touches, but I can rarely get beyond 40 with boots on. As for a strike, I think it’s better barefoot, as well. No shoe fits perfectly, so there is always a bit of a gap/pad, which results in slop, and even a little slop can make a big difference in the sweetness of the strike. That’s why pros pay so much attention to how the boots are molded to their feet. At that level the molding technology is much more important that the more marketable “ridges” and “sweet spot enhancers” they hype up in the ads.

          The main problem, of course, is that if you are barefoot, everyone has to be barefoot, otherwise someone with cleats will break your feet. I get to play small-sided barefoot games very occasionally (usually at cookouts with a lot of international guests), but I so desperately miss playing full-field 11v11 barefoot. That would be one hell of a birthday present one day 🙂

        • kristen says:

          Heh. So I take it you’re less than keen on these little (large) abominations: http://www.skechers.com/shoes-and-clothing/brands/skechers_shape-ups_shoes/list?

          Ridic! Deplorable! Vomitous! (That last one a word? If not, is now.)

          Also, your barefoot-soccer explanation makes good sense–including the “everyone has to be” piece. I mean, bloody OUCH (re: alternative).

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          “Walking in Shape-ups can help burn more calories, tone muscles and more.”

          Err, so can walking a bit more, or better yet running rather than walking. Jeez Louise!

          Reminds me of one of the fun signs I go past during the Bolder Boulder. It says “Our ancestors didn’t *jog* down their prey.” Of course it’s a sign for a shoe company, so I always remark “Yeah, nor did our ancestors wear shoes while *running* down their prey.” 😀

    • Joe Daly says:

      You ran a sub-five minute mile? Damn you… damn you to hell…

      I’ve never cracked five minutes. In fact, I’ve pretty much missed all my running goals- the sub-five minute mile, the 3:10 marathon, and the sub-18 minute 5K. But I once shot a man, just for snoring. Does that count?

      I had my marathon phase and now I just enjoy getting outside for a five miler. Running is my excuse for listening to mixes on my iPod. Although I can’t count the number of times I’ve spent upwards of 30 minutes making a running mix, with maybe two hours worth of music for a 40 minute run, only to realize that the whole mix sucks. I’ll get through every song in the first five minutes and realize I’m not interested in more than a couple seconds of each.

      That’s why I always have a Metallica mix ready.

  5. Irene Zion says:

    Oh, Uche!
    That was wonderful!
    In your face, Granola indeed.
    Meeting a grown woman who thought Africa was in Mexico was glorious.
    How could such a thought be entertained, let alone spoken aloud?
    Meeting the stupidest woman in the race must win you some sort of award.
    If not, I hereby award you the coolest find during a race Award!
    Congratulations!

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      One possibility I thought of afterward is that she just wasn’t really listening to me. Maybe she was juts planning to talk about the Rarámuri no matter what I said, so she could impress me with her granola knowledge of obscure ethic groups. I suppose the equivalent would be:

      Granola May: “Hi, I can’t believe you’re wearing a tank top in this blizzard. Where are you from?”
      Tank Topper: “Suomi. That’s Finland to you”
      Granola May: “Yeah. Did you know eskimos have three million words for ‘snow’?”

      (BTW the eskimo/snow “snowclone” is a great bear trap for granola, BTW 😀 )

  6. Love it, Uche!

    As a kid, growing up in the mountains surrounded by hippies, I was always barefoot. But now it’s flip flops for me. I don’t know when I got so soft.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your Boulder version of the new neighbor introduction. Talk about spot on. It’s so ridiculous to read I don’t think people believe that it’s real. But it is and it makes me laugh.

    Namaste.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Nothing like the Boulder breed, eh? (Hmm. since many of us crashed the joint well after birth, I guess technically it’s not a breed). One minor omission I realize I made.

      Neighbor: “Namaste Mark. I’m River. Gotta love this Colorado weather, right? So! You a 5K guy? 10K? Marathoner? Iron Man? Oh my God! I just totally exposed my male imperialist attitude. Please forget I said that. I meant “Iron Race of Your Chosen Gender Identification”

      I would offer you a torture re-training course for your feet, but they’re so lovely I can’t bring myself to spoil their aesthetics. I know. I know. Misplaced chivalry, and all 😀

      • michele says:

        Came across this via TNB’s Amy Monticello &, although it’s an old thread, just had to pipe up. The running/general outdoor proving ground talk, inspired by & sweetly coerced with extreme neighborly competitive diplomacy re gender awareness, fits very nicely into the Ithaca, ten square miles surrounded by reality, culture. You & the fam might have to come visit! Run barefoot with the kids around Ithaca’s gorges. Breasts here are breastfeeding badges of honor…on the surface. Ithaca women are known to have the best bottoms (there’s a bumper sticker to prove it ; ) Ithaca is hills, & we’re all walking, biking or runnin’ them.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Hi Michele,

          I’ve heard nothing but great things about Ithaca. I used to compare Boulder/Ithaca notes all the time with a good old friend, Simon St. Laurent, who I think went as far as to get into Ithaca politics. And of course there’s this lovely journal of poetry I know of from that area…

          I’ve always been told to look for a bit of Boulder in Berkeley, Madison, Austin and Ithaca. With all respect to the first three, which I’ve visited, I found Berkeley a bit too merged into its less crunchy surroundings; I found Madison quite heavily gentrified; and Austin is close, but the likes of SXSW are doing it no favors in the “keep it weird” stakes. I think I’m absolutely due a trip Ithaca. Nothing to do with your mentioning the quality of the local lady bottoms. Uh, nothing at all! (Oh hell, whom am I kidding! Breasts might be a varied titillation to tropical sensibility, but buttocks are kryptonite). Oh dear. I think that’s the knock at the door from the Boulder Sensitivity Patrol…

  7. Erika Rae says:

    First off, Uche you are a STUD.

    Second, you had me at Namaste. That dialogue was priceless. Truly.

    Third, I LOVE that Osi was all, “what’s the big deal, Dad”. Pinch that boy on the cheeks for me. Awesome.

    • Erika Rae says:

      By the way, “stud” should not be construed in any way to take away from your right to be a sensitive New Age male…

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Whew! Thanks for clarifying. I was sure I was going to lose at least one Boulder Badge when you said that.

      • Judy Prince says:

        “By the way, ‘stud’ should not be construed in any way to take away from your right to be a sensitive New Age male…”—-love ya, Erika Rae!

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, apparently. 😉

      Namaste.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Speaking of “what was that” (re: your neighborhood wood) did you ever investigate the mystery tarp-covered thingie? Assuming it was indeed just chopped-down pine, but curious whether that particular batch had special characteristics or purpose.

      • Erika Rae says:

        I did not investigate. BUT, remember all of those 8-10ft tall slash piles? Guess what the forestry service came through here with 2 days ago. A giant chipper! Now the forest looks like one big hamster cage!

  8. Uche, man, I am afraid you are now officially Even Scarier Than Boulder Granolas in my book! I love you, but even the thought of running a race barefoot is enough to put me to bed with a heating pad for a week and a half. In my perfect universe, we writers are all still wan and unathletic and half-sickly, and running (or marital arts, etc.!) would never even come up in conversation. You freaking Colorado TNBers are all insane. When I visit Boulder/Nederland, I pretty much always end up reminding myself that all the really gorgeous places in the world are reserved for Crazy Athletic People who like to run or bike up mountains (or hike up them with 60 pound bags on their backs), and that in order to preserve my sanity and not be considered a total loser, I am doomed to forever live in Ugly Locales where sporty types cannot get their proper outdoor fix.

    When I next come to Boulder, for the record, my preferred Granola activity is sitting around somebody’s fire pit smoking weed. You will not need to stop by the national park to pick up any hiking maps for me, or rent any extra mountain bikes or kayaks. Just make sure you are not low on pot, and it’s all good for the desired Boulder vibe. I mean, so you can all, like, make sure to prepare in the correct fashion, should I make it out for a visit . . .

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Sorry, Gina, but one of my main poetic idols, Christopher Okigbo, was extremely athletic, from track & field to boxing and soccer, so I was spoiled by bad influences early.

      I think the really gorgeous places are reserved for that sort primarily because bears and mountain lions eat most of the rest, and the Granola high priests sacrifice whoever is left to Kali, Pazuzu, Chaac, Oba Ewuare, or whatever other legend or deity to which their misplaced cultural explorations have led them.

      And hey, last time you were here was probably before the medical marijuana boom, right? Boy are you in for a treat 😉 Don’t forget your doctor’s slip.

      • Tell me about it! I met a guy in NYC who carried a little medically sanctioned tincture with him on airplanes! It was crazy awesome. Although then your mouth tastes totally like pot-soaked cotton for hours.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Whoa! Crazy awesome indeed! So I take it that he had to take the tincture in vessels of less than 3 fl oz? And I wonder what would have happened if TSA had thought to open up and sniff the stuff.

          Pot-soaked Cottonmouth. Another TNB-born band name. (K, maybe just Pot Cottonmouth so their name fits on concert venue marquee-boards).

        • Precisely, Uche: it was this tiny little bottle of about 3 oz, and you just put the dropper right onto your tongue and had to hold each drop there for 10 seconds or something. He was not even a cancer patient or anything–it had been prescribed “for anxiety.” Love it. The tincture stuff was weaker than I had imagined. I thought it would be stronger than the usual route, but it was less so. Still, I am not complaining.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Anxiety! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nothing like the rising of the sun to give you anxiety. You’re there bopping around in the darkness, and all of a sudden, boom! This big shiny orb pops up, staring into your eyes. You have any idea what that’s like, doctor? Hit me up with a scrip one time.

          He should use some of the sensimilla-seed concoctions local dispensaries boast. “Hard charger” or something like that. Its potency should survive even an alcohol bath.

  9. Zara Potts says:

    Uche, I loved watching you walk barefoot through the wild Rocky mountains.
    Almost as much as I loved this post.
    Namaste to you. And a bowl of crunchy granola.

  10. jmblaine says:

    Our Boulder is Franklin
    with more churches per capita
    than any other city in america
    & a fellow who is a
    Vibram
    evangelical
    motivational speaker
    so now the town is filled
    with his apostles
    jogging around in those
    toe shoes.
    Was talking to one not long
    ago and he was like
    Yeah but you need to run man
    really you need to run,
    you don’t know what you’re missing.
    & I was like:
    No thanks, running is a lot more
    about obsession than fitness.
    & if I do get a powerful hankering
    to run, they have these brilliant
    machines where you can run inside
    where there’s air conditioning and
    cable TV.
    & he was like: hmmph.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      “running is a lot more about obsession than fitness”

      Oh snap! If I ever need to send a granolan into an apoplectic fit, I now have the perfect ammo. That is blasphemy of the highest order. I mean, the St. John of Boulder is probably right now penning his Epistle to Franklin.

      You do make me wonder. Branching from my bible belt town new-neighbor transcription, what would be the equivalent fodder for an “in your face, Preachy Pete!” retort. Something that’s as handy a weapon against the self-righteous as running barefoot might be in Boulder. I’d say worshiping with live snakes, but I suspect that’s no longer a big deal. Maybe using “Death’s Head” hot sauce for communion drink?

  11. angela says:

    i can barely even walk barefoot on hot sand. nor do i like to walk without shoes on grass. who knows what i might step on? and picnics too, a total no go.

    i guess i’m a total city mouse.

    love the chicken eye, btw. is shirtlessness a required accompaniment? 😉

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      As if! I was wearing a boob tube.

      Hmmmm. Tricky. Can I avoid this piece becoming more exposé than I’d intended? So, my feet are not the only part of me I prefer naked. I’ll leave it at that until/unless I venture on another TNB piece that packs in the various, related odd stories I’ve accumulated. But no. It’s summer, and when it seized upon me to snatch the iPhone and demonstrate the chicken eye, my degree of attire never really crossed my mind.

  12. Dana says:

    I hated shoes as a kid and I purposefully toughened my feet on the hot asphalt of our driveway to make them impenetrable to whatever might be living in the deep grass that I loved to wade through. These days my feet aren’t nearly so gnarly and I marvel at the tough breed of barefoot runners. I’m way too squeamish now to think of running a road race barefoot, but I do miss those tar ball feet..

    Heh. And on another note — I’m not sure how I got this impression to begin with, but until I read your bio this morning I always thought that you and Erika were married. Laugh amongst yourselves. 🙂

    and Happy Father’s Day Uche!

  13. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Thanks, Dana. I guess I’ll take begrudging credit for doing the right thing for a Boulder dad. My boys seem destined to become runners. Then again none of them have ventured to follow in my bare feet 🙂

    I think it’s illegal both in Nigeria and in the US to marry your twin, but I suppose the natural affinity can always lead others to assume misinterpret the bond. Don’t worry. Erika and I are well-behaved twins 🙂

    I suspect once a barefooter, always a barefooter. I bet with just a little reprise of hot tar training, you’d be back to unshod goddess in no time flat.

  14. Richard Cox says:

    Wow, man. That is amazing. The only place I go barefoot is my house, or the swimming pool, so hats off to you. However, I do hate to wear real shoes. I wear flip flops everywhere until the temperature dips below 40F.

    I love how the thing you did on your own, something so apparently rare, turned out to have its own club. Isn’t that always the way?

    Geography ignorance is a national epidemic. Ugh.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I guess that’s the purpose of adventurer’s clubs–to burst the bubble of any actual adventurer. There are probably South-bound clubs right now jabbing their lapel pins into Shackleton’s eye.

      Normally the Geography chops in Boulder are of a high standard. The usual response to my mentioning my birthplace is “Oh cool! I visited Kano on a break from working in the Peace Corps in Niger” or something like that. As I mentioned to Irene, I wonder whether this lady was actually even listening to me, or just waiting for my mouth to stop reason so she could show off her knowledge of the 100-mile-running South Americans.

  15. Becky Palapala says:

    I was big on bare feet when I was a teenager. I was from a semi-rural suburb, so it was at once appropriate and sort of white-trash of me. My mom used to yell at me that I was going to catch some kind of bare-foot rot disease (this is the same woman who told me I would get a bladder infection from going out in the cold in a short skirt and no pantyhose).

    As I’ve gotten older and go fewer and fewer places where barefooted-ness is allowed, I comprise, like Richard, and go with the flip-flops for casual occasions.

    But running? Oof. I remember running, out of necessity or hurry, not for sport (I don’t believe in it) in bare feet a couple of times. Was like running on the naked bones of my feet. They got all bruised up.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Wow. I can imagine a bit sore, but bruised, really?

      Sounds like your Mom swapped notes with Erika’s for daughter-directed warnings? 🙂

      And yeah, all the proliferation of “no bare feet” rules is galling.

      • Becky says:

        Maybe it’s the way I run. I tend to come down on my feet pretty hard. Not much technique there.

        Good ol’ Mom. Also, you should know…going outside with wet hair will give you pneumonia.

        Er…I mean…you know. Advice for the kids, I guess. 😉

  16. Matt says:

    The barefoot running thing has kind of taken off here in my part of California, and not just on the beaches; I see people jogging around downtown all the time. Either barefoot, or in those real thing neoprene shoes that mimic the bare foot’s shape.

    I love going barefoot. I spent a little time in Hawai’i when I was a teenager, and got in the habit of going barefoot when indoors. The moment I get home, off with the shoes! And like you, my feet are rather Hobbit-like, thanks to all the years of barefoot martial arts training. The only thing that really bothers me is very very hot summertime asphalt. The cold pavement doesn’t really bother me.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I’ll admit one point of bias. You know what really annoys me? The growing trend in folks who wear “martial arts shoes.” I love my school of the past few years, but it allows those shoes, and I definitely disapprove. Seems wrong and impure to me.

      Certainly I have never worn a pair of those in my life. Whether mat, wood, grass or heck even concrete terrain (as in some classes in Nigeria), there is a very natural connection from the feet, which are the base of all controlled action, into the ground.

  17. Greg Olear says:

    My feet hurt just reading this, Uche. Said feet are very flat, and the combo of that and the twisted way my right leg joins my hip means I’ll never be a runner.

    Are dudes in CO really named River?

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I have pretty flat feet, too, but yeah, urgency to be a runner comes mostly with a desire to avoid Boulder excommunication. Getting read the harshest passages from the Book of GebreSelassie by that dude named River is a major blow to the ego. And not every dude in Boulder is named River. Some are named Boddhi or Bear, and in the case of a few not-fully-assimilated out of staters, Hunter.

      I do wonder what the Rarámuri do with non-runners. To what deity these get sacrificed, etc.

  18. […] OGBUJI. Associate poetry editor, barefoot runner, resident genius.  Luthor-esque in his understanding of things like poetry in dead languages, […]

  19. […] UCHE OGBUJI has something against sneakers. […]

  20. Irene Zion says:

    I miss this sort of thing from you, Uche,
    where have you been?

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Aw, thanks, Irene. Looks like that swell guy Admin (Armin Podrescu’s brother, I think) gave it a nice bump this week.

      I’ve been pretty active on TNB, but all behind-the-scenes stuff since Nkem’s arrival, with the time off I took, and the recovery from that time off at work since I’ve been back (vacations are ever like that, aren’t they!) I do have a few new pieces in the hopper, and I’m trying to get back into more of a rhythm of reading TNB, and thus commenting, etc. I’m working my way back. Just that this almost 40 year old frame isn’t as elastic as it used to be 🙂

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