Dale Mendez (with son) sponsors Ken Bob's debut Boston Marathon (2004 April 15) Seal Beach CA

Boston Marathon (2004 April 19) Saxton

Dale Mendez (with son) sponsors Ken Bob's debut Boston Marathon (2004 April 15) Seal Beach CA

Dale Mendez (with son) sponsors Ken Bob's debut Boston Marathon (2004 April 15) Seal Beach CA

Summary

I went to Boston hoping it would not be too cold for my bare feet. Weather forecast was for 40-55 degrees each day I would be in Boston, except one. The exception was Monday, April 19, the day of the Boston Marathon. The forecast was sunny, and up to 80 degrees!

Statistics

  • 26.20 Mile
  • 05:21:01 (official time)
  • 26 Barefoot 26.20 Mile races from 1998 to 2004/04/19
  • 218 Barefoot races (any distance) from 1998 to 2004/04/19
  • My Distance=26.20 Mile
  • My time: 05:21:01
  • Barefoot
  • Overall place: 14952
  • Age division (age = 48) : 3623
  • surface (0-10): 7
  • hills (0-10): 5
  • Description: asphalt, concrete
  • Location: downtown
  • City: Boston
  • State: Massachusetts

Cold Greeting

I got off the airplane early Saturday morning and was thankful I had a pair of flip-flops to protect me from the near freezing ground, as I watched my breath turn into a frosty cloud. It was difficult to believe that the temperature would be up to 80 degrees in a couple of days.

Preston met me at the airport and we drove downtown to wait for the expo to open. Many people there had read about the barefoot runner on my website, and some even posed for pictures with Preston and me.

Other Barefoot Runners

Sunday morning, I joined local barefoot runners, Jeffrey, Peter, and Preston for the 2.62 mile Freedom Run, which finished at the Boston Marathon finish line. Then Preston drove me to Hopkington to the start line of the Boston Marathon.

Barefoot Rick

Monday, morning, after catching the bus to the athlete’s village near the start line, I found Rick Roeber, the other barefoot runner entered in the Boston Marathon. Rick had been Running Barefoot since last fall in Missouri. He had run Boston Marathon before, but this would be his first marathon Running Barefoot.

TV Interview

It was already in the 70s when I was doing a short TV interview at about 10am. The marathon began at noon. As the interviewer and I waited for our cue from the studio, we chatted about her experience going to school barefoot when she was growing up in Hawaii. Before we went live, I noticed the weather on TV was predicting up to 84 degrees!

Old Friends and New

After the interview, I looked for my friend Bill, who was also in Boston from southern California. It wasn’t difficult to find the rather tall Bill standing among a crowd of runners who were resting on the grass.

After many years of running Boston Marathon, Bill had his connections and pre-race strategies pretty well worked out. Hanging around with Bill was a good thing to do, for first timers and experienced Boston Marathon runners. There were several runners with Bill. I recognized a few fellow southern Californians. As we left the athlete’s village, Tom Matti, the Hi Guy! passed us going the other direction.

We all stayed together as a group, following Bill like ducklings, to the designated buses to drop off our warm-up gear, and on to a local business in Hopkinton where Bill had already arranged for us to relax and use the restrooms, before we went to our designated starting corrals. While I have been running pretty slowly for the past year, my qualification time, from over a year ago, was a couple of minutes faster than Rick and Bill’s. I was assigned to corral 7, while Bill and Rick were in 8. Farzad, a neighbor of Bill’s brother, Tom, in Santa Monica, went to corral 1. Corral 0 and the elites were the only ones in front of him, since his qualifying time was 2:45! Everyone else went to their designated corrals.

Starting Out, NOT Slow!

I wanted to start slow, but it was downhill, and braking, to get my speed down to an easy 9-minute/mile “warm-up” pace, would have consumed more energy than simply coasting down the hill. Coasting turned out to be 7:45 minutes for the first mile, and a little bit faster for the second.

The Crowds went Wild, as Usual

The crowds at Boston are more than wonderful. They’re completely off-the-wall loud. There were, of course the usual cheers, “Go barefoot guy!” due to my bare feet, and “Run, Forest, run!” I’ve come to expect because of my long hair, and beard. And, thanks to the pre-race TV interview, there were also the “I saw you on TV!” yells.

Run Mark, Mellisa, and Dakota!

A couple weeks before the marathon, the Boston TV channel 5 asked for some “footage” of me Running Barefoot for the pre-race show.  So I attached a video camera to the peddle of my bicycle and asked my friend Isaac de la Rocha to push it alongside as I ran. We got the footage and Isaac’s neighbor, Dale asked if I would wear a shirt. We got the footage, and my friend’s neighbor, Dale asked if I would wear a shirt with his children’s names, for which he would pay my way to Boston.

So, the cheers I heard were for the names of Dale’s children. I was, for the length of the 2004 Boston Marathon, known as, “Mark, Mellisa, and Dakota”. I was going fairly fast down these early hills, and the crowds were only able to read the first, and sometimes the second name on my shirt. I would hear countless cheers of “Go Mark, Melis . . .” and then as they watched me from behind, I left them wondering what the rest of the front of my shirt said, and, “who was that long-haired, bearded, barefoot runner?”

Throbs in the Quads

After the first 4 steep downhill miles, I could feel my quadraceps throbbing. I still had 22 miles to go!

A few more miles and the heat began to take it’s toll. From the beginning, I stopped at each water station and walked while drinking water and dumping more water over my head. I even took my propeller hat off after one mile, because, despite the tail wind making the propeller spin (which didn’t really blow cool air on my face), it was still too warm. I even took advantage of every hose that spectators and firemen were spraying on the course as we ran by.

At mile 14, my quads were still hurting, but there were some nice uphills to “rest”. The asphalt now was nice and smooth. I thought about Rick, who started in the corral behind me, in his bare feet. He had only been Running Barefoot since last fall, and hadn’t run more than 20 miles at one time in bare feet. I figured during that first half, which did have some rough asphalt, he would probably put the sandals on that he had tied to his waist. It didn’t occur to me that all of his barefoot training was in cool or cold weather (down to 20 degrees), and that the heat of this smooth new blacktop might be more of a factor than the rough asphalt during the previous miles.

Knot my Calves!

Up a hill, just short of mile 15, my right calf knotted up and I stumbled over to the sidewalk to sit down and massage it. I must have done a pretty good deep tissue massage, because it hasn’t bothered me since. But then I wasn’t running as fast, because; I DID want to get to the finish line in Boston, and I did NOT want to collapse of heat exhaustion on the way.

So with my quad muscles still hurting from the downhills, and the hot sun pounding down on me, I walked up each and every hill, saving my energy for the run down the other side. On the flats I would run or walk depending on how delirious I felt. As I walked up the hills, people now had time to read my shirt and yell out, “Go Mark, Mellisa, and Dakota!” along with the usual, “Go barefoot guy” etc..

The Other Barefoot Runner

Rick passed me about mile 18 or 19, wearing his sandals. As I ran on later, I heard references to myself as “another barefoot runner.” I figured Rick had taken his sandals off, and later found out that he only wore them for about 5 miles, completing 21 miles of the Boston Marathon in his bare feet, the longest he has ever run barefoot in one day!

Wild and Crazy Women

Among the cheering crowds many of the children were barefoot, and even a few of the adults, and lots of college students. I almost became deaf, as I ran past the young ladies of Wellesley College, from their screaming. A couple of girls even decided to join me and ran barefoot for about half a mile along the course. As I looked behind me to see if they were keeping up, one of the young ladies was struggling to keep her breast inside her shirt. It was obvious why some women runners wear jog-bras.

Hot Time in Boston

Depending on how long it took to get to the finish line, the temperature climbed up to 84 or 85 degrees. I took a good long while to get to the finish line, so it was actually starting to cool off again as I ran into the heart of Boston. By now, I knew I was going to make it to the finish line, and I knew I was going faster when I began to hear the shorter cheer, “Go Mark!” (remember my shirt) as I ran the final miles. I looked for Kasey, my niece as I rounded the corner onto Boylston Street, but the crowds were thick and loud, and I found out later, she had moved around the corner and had cheered me on a few blocks back. But her cheers were lost in the noise of the crowds.

The Night Cramps and Spasms

My cramping muscles that evening were a continuing source of entertainment for my hotel mates. I could only sit or walk for about 5 or 10 minutes before my legs would start cramping again. So I had to walk back and forth in the hotel room until the walking made my legs cramp, then I would sit, until the sitting would make them cramp. These alternations went on for a couple of hours. At least it seemed like a couple of hours, if not more.

My Feet Felt Wonderful, Despite Excuses

My feet were the only parts of my body that didn’t hurt. Still a little stiff in the quads, but feeling much better. So many factors. My excuse list could become pretty long as I continue to think about the various factors; my lack of hill training, heat, chatting with friends on the cell, explaining how I’m able to run without shoes (still waiting for explanations as to how others can tolerate the pain of shoes), etc.. Anyway, yes, I do tend to chat a lot during a marathon, especially when I know I’m not going to be getting a fast time anyway. So that dries me out a little extra.

It occurs to me that I cramped up about 35 years ago in high school Physical Education class the first couple times I ran a mile. So I think I’m going to stick to my excuse for cramping as not having exercised my “hill muscles” enough. I’ve rarely had any craving for sugar and sodium rich sport drinks, or salty crackers during or after a long run, including marathons. Most likely I’m getting my electrolytes from my diet which is rich with fresh fruits and vegetables. I suspect the cravings others have for those supplements is due to a diet rich in foods that have had most of the essential nutrients removed or destroyed during processing and packaging.

Recovering Gradually

In the meantime, I’m feeling much better, stiffness is fading quickly. Still need a bit more sleep than usual, but I’ve always been a lazy guy, and any 20+ mile run will reduce the red-blood cell count making me sleepy until they rebuild (and peak at a higher count about 10 days later).

All in all, despite not getting a great finish time, I did have a great time. The cramping wasn’t all that bad, except when my calf made me stumble at mile 15, and after massage, as I said earlier, it hasn’t been a problem. Basically, I went out as slow as the downhill would allow me to do comfortably and I went slow enough to stay comfortable throughout the race, which meant as it got hotter, I got slower, and I also was on the course, in the heat, much longer than I wanted to be.

I am NOT the Greatest Distance Runner of All Time

And just one last “excuse” for the day; it is just remotely possible that I am not the greatest distance runner of all time. I mean, yeah, I get a lot of attention because I run barefoot. And, yes, many people think that I must be one tough hombre to be able to do that. But, in reality, I race barefoot for one reason and one reason only. I’m just not tough enough to tolerate the pain that results from long periods of wearing shoes!

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