Barefoot Run: Ratingen, Germany and the Joy of a Barefoot Child - Parts I & II - By Barefoot Jake

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  1. JosephTree

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    Barefoot Run: Ratingen, Germany and the Joy of a Barefoot Child
    Part I
    By Barefoot Jake


    Running in Germany isn't all that different from running in the US. In Ratingen, near Dusseldorf and the Rhein river, it's just a bit hilly, lots of trees, and a cool climate with frequent drizzle. The streets and sidewalks are clean and the trails are extensive. The sport and running mentality, however, is uniquely German.

    Take clothing. I've never seen a German runner in sweatpants or a sweatshirt. Not once. From the beginning jogger to the serious competitor, every German has the latest breathable, moisture-wicking, gravity-defying outfit known to man. Unfortunately that also means spandex, and having McDonald's as prevalent in Germany as it is in the States means the view at times is not pretty.

    So with the importance German's place on attire, it makes sense that seeing a runner without shoes seems to be an even bigger shock for Germans than most others. Unless you throw a child into the mix.

    I wrote recently about the impact a crazy American barefooter (me) is having on a small German town. Jason Robillard, renowned barefoot runner and author of "The Barefoot Running Book", generously posted it this past weekend on his website, Barefoot Running University. In the article, I mention that a conversation at one of my son's soccer games prompted me to consider having Alex run barefoot with me.

    So three weeks ago, I did just that. Keep in mind, over the last few years, Alex and Julia have often ridden their bikes alongside on some of my runs. These were generally longer than my current barefoot runs, so I had never really considered asking the kids to run with me.

    The timing was perfect. It was a warm, fall day. Alex needed to get to tennis practice, and I wanted to get out and stretch my feet. Not too far, not too fast. Perfect.

    We started five minutes later than intended, because, this being Alex's first barefoot run, he surely needed me to first transfer all of my barefoot running wisdom to his little child brain. The brain transfer came to a screeching halt once he rolled his eyes for the fifth time and said, "Dad, we're just running."

    So we started up the little hill on our street that would soon take us into town. As I clicked 'Start' on my Garmin 305 and mentally reviewed my list of Top Ten Barefoot Running Do's and Don'ts, I looked up to see my son sprinting away from me and doing full spins in the air, a huge grin on his face.

    "Hey, slow down. Stop jumping. You're going to hurt your feet. Or blowout your Achilles."

    "Dad, can you run any slower? Sheez! This is awesome!"

    It was a pleasure watching Alex run. He's still young enough and has spent enough time out of shoes that he's got strong feet and a natural running gait. Running was still fun for him, and being out of the shoes on a nice warm sidewalk was a joy. I caught myself smiling, something I often forget to do when I'm so focused on form and treacherous terrain.

    As we made it into the center of town, as usual, people stopped and stared. But this was different. When I run barefoot alone through town, the stares are often wide-eyed with almost a sense of fear, as if there's a crazy guy running through our town who just robbed a bank and decided to ditch his shoes so he'd leave no trail.

    But these people were smiling and nodding. As if it's just the most normal, neatest thing in the world to see a boy and his dad running barefoot on the sidewalk. It probably helped that Alex was grinning and still doing the full air spins every once in a while, a move that he picked up from a YouTube Michael Jackson video. It almost looks cool.

    We made it through the shops area and a few minutes later were nearing the tennis facility. As we approached, one of my running buddies drove by with his kids, stopped, and rolled down the window. "Oh God, it's an epidemic."

    We started to chat, then Alex grabbed my arm. "Hey, I'm going to be late. I'm going in." Okay, I said. See you in an hour. I handed him the tennis shoes and racket I'd been carrying for him. As he turned to go, he looked back and said, "Dad, that was pretty cool, huh?".

    Yeah, Alex, it sure was.




    Barefoot Run: Ratingen, Germany and the Joy of a Barefoot Child
    Part II
    By Barefoot Jake

    A few weeks ago I wrote about running barefoot with my eleven-year-old son, Alex, in Barefoot Run: Ratingen, Germany and the Joy of a Barefoot Child. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Since then a few people have emailed asking for an update. I’m happy to oblige.


    Here’s the conversation we had about running this weekend:


    Me: “Alex, we haven’t run together in a while. Why don’t we go for a few kilometers today?”


    Alex: “Dad, it’s snowing.”


    Me: “What’s the big deal? You guys love playing in the snow.”


    Alex: “Have you seen my nerf gun? I can’t find it.”


    Me: “Haven't seen it. So do you want to run or not?”


    Alex: “You gotta see the new YouTube video of the Long Shot nerf gun. That thing is awesome!”


    Me: “Hellllooo! We’re talking about running here. Are we going?”


    Alex: “Dad, only morons run in snow.”


    Me: “No, only dads and sons with strong, warm, muscular feet from barefoot running.”


    Alex: “God you’re weird. And stop showing your barefeet to my friends when they come over. It’s gross and you’re freaking them out.”


    Me: “Can’t a man be proud of how his feet are developing?”


    Alex: “Did you know you can make a bomb out of dry ice?”


    Me: “Yeah….wait….what? Where did you hear that?”


    Alex: “I saw it on YouTube. These guys blew up a car. It was awesome.”


    Me: “Right. I guess that parental control software was a good investment.”


    Alex: “Dad, your password is ‘1234’. Not really effective.”


    Me: “Well let’s go run and you can tell me all about it.”


    Alex: “Does mom really need her car?”


    Me: “Of course…Why?...Hey, don’t even THINK about touching your mom’s car. And bombs are no joke. As a kid I had a friend who got in big trouble for blowing up his neighbor’s mailbox.”


    Alex: “Cool. What did he use for explosives?”


    Me: “I think it was a mixture of gunpowd…..Look, I’m gonna run without you.


    Alex: “Cool. Can you run by Ziggy’s and pick me up some Red Bull and firecrackers?


    Me: “I’m not gonna buy you firecrackers.”


    Alex: “Okay, then just the Red Bull.”


    Me: “You know you aren’t allowed to drink Red Bull.”


    Alex: “But you already said ‘no’ to the firecrackers.”


    Me: “Do you think I’m a complete moron?”


    Alex: “You’re the one running barefoot in the snow.”


    *Posted here at the BRS and at www.runbarefooteurope.blogspot.com
     
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  2. barefootjake

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    I wish you all the luck in the world. And you are right - he had me from the beginning. Scary, isn't it?
     
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  3. Danjo

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    I wish I had started running when I was that young. You'll probably have better luck getting him to run places with you rather than just going out for a run. If you have to go somewhere anyways, its fun to run barefoot there, but I'm not sure kids really get running just to run. Especially when they're distracted (which is of course always). Just a suggestion, ask him to run with you to the store or something. And probably don't show his friends your feet, haha.

    I have to say that jumping randomly is really fun for some reason, I do it sometimes on my runs, when no-ones looking of course.

    Thats really cool that people reacted that way, though I think theres something really joyful about seeing barefoot kids running and jumping. I thought so even before I started running barefoot.
     
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  4. barefootjake

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    Gotta agree with you, Danjo. Running and randomly jumping is fun, but I only do it when I run alone in the forest. The question is, when I jump in the forest and no one sees it, did it really happen?

    And I look forward to a time when it is natural to see kids AND adults out running and jumping barefoot.
     
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