Run Hard Columbia Marathon - 07 March 2015By wanderingoutlaw Three years ago a local runner started a marathon in Columbia, SC, after a long hiatus from the city hosting one. (Columbia had a marathon in the 1970s into the 1990s, even hosting the US Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in 1996 and 2000.) I'd been running barefoot for over a year and planned to make this my barefoot marathon debut. Alas, I never could build up the foot endurance and dropped to the half-marathon. The following year, I again signed up for the full, but an 18-mile preview run tenderized my feet so bad I couldn't run for a week, and I dropped from running it. In 2014, the race ownership & directorship changed to the Run Hard group, a local running program for boys similar to Girls On The Run. After my previous failed attempts at the marathon distance, I was going to skip the race, but I won a free entry and ran the half-marathon. This year, I finally overcame my barefoot purism--my insistence on having to run barefoot--and was willing to use my huaraches in training and even in the race if I needed to (even though I really wanted to run it barefoot). I signed up in the early period when the entry was real cheap, less than $40. I didn't realize at the time that the race date was one week off from the Black Mountain Marathon, which was more of a goal race for me--even though it would be minimalist. And now for my dad's history. My dad started running in 2007, a year after I did. We ran a couple of races together each year. He even ran a half-marathon in 2008 when I ran my second (and before this year, my last) marathon in 2008. Two years ago, he signed up to run the full marathon (his first) with me. He religiously followed his training program, and after I dropped out, I was ready to help him on race day. Unfortunately, a week before the race he fell off a ladder and broke his back and was in the hospital on race day. His back healed well, and he was back running a few months later. He signed up for last year's marathon and again followed his training program closely. A few weeks before the marathon, he caught the flu and then bronchitis. He was in good enough shape to drop down to the half-marathon, and we ran a slow but fun half-marathon together. So he signed up for this year's marathon (at the cheap rates) and again followed his training program closely. And fortunately he did not injure himself or catch a virus. Race morning dawned clear and chilly--in the upper 20s. We reached the start area about twenty minutes before the start, enough time to take photos with my cousin (who was running the half), take a potty break, and speak to a few running friends. At some point, my dad said he saw and spoke to another barefoot runner. Just my luck since I wanted to be the first barefoot runner to finish this marathon and since I was tired from Black Mountain Marathon and was looking to hang out close to the back (near the 6 hour pacer/sweep), I figured I'd be the second barefooter to finish the race. My dad and I started at the back. We walked the first two miles. I started on to my run/walk then, while he continued to walk. He's such a fast walker, we maintained the same overall pace. Along the course, some spectators and water stop volunteers would exclaim, "Another barefoot runner!" At mile 5, the course passes by my parents' house where my wife, mom, aunt, uncle and cousin were waiting to cheer us on. I dropped off my tights and gloves, as the temps were rising. My dad and I maintained a relatively even pace until the halfway point. The course is a double loop so we pass by the finish line and see all the half-marathoners, 5kers, and one marathon relay team relaxing and celebrating. After we turned the corner from the finish area, we were suddenly lonely--one runner a couple blocks ahead of us and one a couple of blocks behind us. My feet were still okay at the half, but my legs were starting to tire a little. So just before mile 14 I let my dad go ahead of me. He stayed about two blocks ahead of me for the next three miles. Just before mile 17, I caught a glimpse of the other barefoot runner. As I got closer, I think it was blowing spectator's and volunteer's minds to see two barefoot runners. When we turned back onto my parents' road (around mile 17.5), he started running on the barefoot because the asphalt is so rough. I joined him shortly after and told him, "I'm glad someone else finds this rough tough to run on. I thought I was just a wimpy." We were both looking forward to mile 20 where the roads were freshly paved with smooth asphalt in October. After dropping off my long sleeve shirt and getting a cooler hat at my parents', I rejoined my barefoot friend for a couple of blocks and then since I was moving a little faster, I left him behind. The next two miles were rough asphalt with no sidewalks and no painted lines to run on. My feet were starting to hurt. (Also, once I passed my parents' house, every step was a new distance PR for barefoot road running.) I relentlessly maintained my four minutes run with one minute walk break--the walk break being a reward/goal for running for four minutes. After mile 20 the pavement became smoother but for a couple of miles, my tender feet still seemed to find lots of little rocks and roll on them. I was glad my dad was no longer near me because the pain of those little rocks caused lots of F-bombs to explode from my mouth. Shortly after mile 24, the rolling hills portion of the course ceased and the course flattens. Unfortunately, the next mile or so is on the worst pavement of the course. I could barely stand running on the road. I ran on the sidewalk, grass and mulch next to the curb for a couple of blocks. Then I switched to the thick painted line in the center of the road, which mitigated most of the pain, except at intersections where there was no line. Finally the last 2/3 mile is on Main Street which is mostly smooth. The last mile was actually my third fastest mile of the day (behind a couple mostly downhill mile splits). I ran hard and finished feeling relatively good. After resting, drinking water, and eating a little bit, I noticed the other barefoot runner finishing--about twenty minutes after me. I told my wife I wanted to meet him and to bring the camera so she could take a photo of us. We introduced ourselves, I recognized his name. He was Eddie Vega, the "Barefoot Bandito" who set the world record last year for running the most barefoot marathons in a year (101). As for my dad, he finished about nine minutes ahead of me--he ran about a minute per mile faster than me over the last nine miles. And after we got home, we discovered he won his age group! Couldn't be more proud of him. Photos that my wife took are in my facebook album: Run Hard Columbia Marathon 2015. They are mainly from mile 5/18 at my parents' house and at the finish line. When I get more photos from my mom or dad, I'll add them. .