Napa Valley Trail Marathon (1998 April 4) Calistoga CA

My First Barefoot Marathon

…and the second marathon of my life, 10 and a half years after finishing my first marathon (with shoes), and deciding I never needed to do that again!


  • 26.20 Mile
  • 04:34:00 Personal Record (official time)
  • 1 Barefoot 26.20 Mile races from 1998 to 1998/04/04
  • 4 Barefoot races (any distance) from 1998 to 1998/04/04
  • My time: 00:00:00
  • Barefoot
  • Weather: misty and rain
  • low temp: 46
  • Overall place: 13
  • Age division (age = 42) : 1
  • surface (0-10): 4
  • hills (0-10): 8
  • Description: dirt, gravel, rocks, stone, rivers
  • Location: Boethe Napa State Park
  • City: Calistoga
  • State: California


It was a cold day (46F) in northern California, with drizzly rain.

The start and finish (and only aid station) were in the valley (the famed, Napa Valley, of course). There were basically two legs, but we got to run both legs twice, for the full marathon, plus the longest leg a third time … hey Dave (the race director), are you sure this is ONLY 26.2 miles?

We started with a huge crowd, must have been more than 100 thou… I mean, more than 100 runners here, most, I discovered later, were running the half-marathon, or, the really smart people, the 10K event – and later, I realized why!

The First Leg

We headed out the first leg of the trail, through the forest, across a icy- cold stream (presumably snow melt), up the side of a mountain, looping around and over and along a ridge following narrow goat trails, which dropped down hundreds of feet below the trail edge. Sharp rocks jutted up all over the trail, like stalagmite, even though we weren’t in a cave. I maneuvered these with care – not because I might hurt my bare feet – because I didn’t want to bang my bare knees against them.

There were logs to climb over, or, if you had any energy after running uphill climbing thousands of feet, to jump over – I did … on the first lap.

Then ran back down the side of the mountain, and through the icy-cold stream (must have been snow melt). Brrrr…. As I ran up the muddy bank on the other side, I slipped and fell, tearing a small hole in my brand new tights, which I just bought to keep my legs warm.

That was great! And to think, I had finished this, the first leg of the marathon, 10 whole … what … Kilometers? You sure that wasn’t 10 MILES? Oh well… not bad, about an hour for the first 10K loop, only had 4 more legs to go…

My feet were still numb.

As I loaded up on water and a banana at the only aid station, right next to the finish line, which, I’m certain was mocking me, “So you thought you could finish this course? And BARE foot! What were you thinking?”

The Second Leg

… a quick out and back, just a few miles, of relatively flat trail, with rocks protruding from the mud. If this had been in dry sunny weather, this trail could have been horrible sun baked, hard as rock, with rocks protruding – which I confirmed the following year, while running the half-marathon event, when it was dry. Luckily, today, it was mud – rocks can sink into the mud… And a bit more tip-toeing through a gentle mountain stream. ARRRGGGHHH! That is soo … “refreshing!” O.K. I’m awake now!

The Third Leg

Another banana, and I was on my way to run back up the mountain … hey look, a rainbow! A misty rain was falling, and a large bright rainbow arched across the distant ravine. As I ran on one of the goat trails on the edge of the cliff, looking at this awesome sight, I’m pretty sure I saw God!… Man those rainbows are really pretty when you’re delirious!

The forth Leg

And back out the short flat leg, for the last time … today! Water was still cold. Weather wasn’t warming up much – actually, those clouds look a bit dark …

The Final Leg – Yippee!

No half-marathoners, no more 10K runners, they had all finished, mostly, hours ago! Now it was just the full-marathon runners… Wait a minute! Where are all the full-marathon runners?

I was alone on the trail. Am I on the correct trail? The right trail? Or was it the left trail? There was no crowd to follow, not even one single other lonely runner ahead, or behind, as far as I could see.

As I neared the top of the loop, another runner finally caught up with me, and he was happy to find me, because he assumed that meant we were both on the right trail! I reminded him that it might just mean that we were both lost!

I sat down on the log and tried to peel my orange, but with numb fingers, that wasn’t a simple task. My new running buddy, asked if I would be O.K.. I foolishly said, “Sure.” And he ran off down the hill. Finally, I managed to chew my way through the peel and eat some of the orange. Then after a little rest, I began running down the hill. This was great, since it was downhill, I quickly caught back up with my new running buddy, then I left him behind.

I passed a couple more runners, then another. Next thing I remember, I was crossing the finish line, after 4 hours and 34 minutes, a new marathon P.R. (Personal Record) ! This was more than half-an-hour faster than the one other marathon I ran 11 years earlier on a flat, fast course (with shoes). Obviously, the shoes slowed me down in that first marathon, since it was a flat, “fast” road course in perfect running weather, and it was blisters caused by the shoes that forced me to walk most of the final 6 or 7 miles.

This was a truly tough and challenging event. There were only 35 finishers in the marathon – not sure how many started, and whether or not, those who didn’t finish are haunting those mountain trail right now

I finished 13th place. That’s like right in the middle pack. I was also first in my age group … also last in my age group. But, there were no age groups. There were no finishers medals, just finisher’s T-shirts, and special black T-shirts for the first female and male overall winners.

Somewhere along the course I managed to cut my foot. But, since it was fairly cold, and rainy, my feet were numb, and I didn’t notice the cut, until after I finished and someone asked to look at my feet. My soles were just fine, but there was a small slice on the side of one foot. What I thought was interesting is that there was a line on the sole, which led directly to the cut. Apparently I stepped on a sharp rock, possibly in one of the stream crossings, and my foot slipped on the sharp edge, but the rock was only able to leave a line on my toughened sole, until it slide over to the edge of my foot, where the skin is softer.

I sat down at a picnic table and enjoyed some bananas, while chatting with race director – Dave. We pondered why people run these kinds of things?

Then, it started pouring, buckets of rain. I got in the car with Cathy, my wife, and turned on the heat… ARGHHH!!! O.K. the cut on the side of my foot only hurt for a few minutes after it warmed up… Would I do this event again? Who knows. Perhaps the half-marathon next time. Seems silly to run over the same course more than twice in one day…

Whoever said, “Humans were designed to run barefoot, but only on natural surfaces”, has never run this natural trail race, barefoot! While this was a rough course for bare feet, I would never have attempted, let alone, completed a second marathon, if I had to run in shoes!

I look forward to my next marathon, which will be on the roads. But first, I’ll run a 50K Trail Ultra Marathon!!!


First Shod Marathon vs. First Barefoot Marathon

Cathy, Ken Bob's and Psycho Herman's 2015 August 8 Family Reunion Road Trip to Michigan through Colorado from California.
Note: All plans are tentative until completed. -Ken Bob Saxton

If you provide support (financial, food, venue, lodging, etc.) let us know if you want your first name and initial of last name listed here?
DateTimeVenueAddressCityStateEstimated ExpensesSupporters
2015 July 11 Saturday10:00 AM
Bolsa Chica State BeachWarner-Pacific Bus Stop (meet near the bathroom at the state beach)Huntington BeachCalifornia$50$50 - Ken Bob
2015 July 18 Saturday8:00 AMtbdtbdLas VegasNevada$350$150 - Ken Bob
2015 July 19 Sunday8:00 AMtbdtbdSt. GeorgeUtah$500$150 - Ken Bob
2015 July 21 Wednesday7:00 PMtbdtbdWoods CrossUtah$450$150 - Ken Bob
2015 July 25 SaturdaytbdtbdtbdGoldenColorado$500$150 - Ken Bob
2015 July 26 SundaytbdtbdtbdBoulderColorado$450$150 - Ken Bob
2015 July 28 Tuesday7:00 PMtbdOlatheKansas$550$150 - Ken Bob
2015 July 30 Thursday7:00 PMtbdtbdLafayetteIndiana$450$150 - Ken Bob
2015 August 1 SaturdaytbdtbdtbdSylvan LakeMichigan$450$150 - Ken Bob
2015 August 2 SundaytbdtbdtbdGrand LedgeMichigan$400$150 - Ken Bob
2015 August 8 Saturday9:00 AMElmwood township park or hall10090 East Lincoln RoadTraverse CityMichigan$400$150 - Ken Bob
2015 August 9 SundaytbdtbdtbdTraverse CityMichigan$500$150 - Ken Bob
2015 August 11 Monday7:00 PMtbdtbdOmahaNebraska$300$150 - Ken Bob
2015 august 16 Saturday10:00 AM
Bolsa Chica State BeachWarner-Pacific Bus Stop (meet near the bathroom at the state beach)Huntington BeachCalifornia$50$50 - Ken Bob


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