The end of summer and the beginning of fall was very dry here in NJ. I went for about two months without having to cut the grass because it just was not growing. Instead, it was burning. The ground was getting harder. The trees were dropping dry twigs and other hard seedy things. My barefoot mileage dropped with regularity as those weeks progressed because of the hardness of the ground and all the painful tree litter. During that same time, the amount of time barefoot while not running increased and Plainfield Pop Warner Football teams started invading my primary close-to-home barefoot running zone in Greenbrook Park.
Young black footballers and cheerleaders just can not compute what they see when a barefoot white guy runs circles around their practices for 40 minutes. They are forced to gawk at the lack of shoes and the shortness of running shorts and the speed of an old guy like me sustained for so long. A couple of the brave ones make comments, perhaps because what they are seeing in me is both a connection with athleticism and an antithesis of them. They are athletes that mostly hate running, since it is used only as a warm-up or as punishment for losses or mistakes. When they do run, they are shackled and weighted down with the football equipment and they run in hard cleated shoes. Even when they run as part of playing the game, their speed, direction and distance is dependent on the rest of the team or the coach - while I am free to choose all of those factors.
But nature is correcting herself. We have gotten a ton of rain since Friday. The earth is soft again. Greenbrook Park is too wet for the Pop Warner football practices, which has returned my park to solitude again. Yesterday I splashed through puddles and soft wet grass, got covered with mud up to my thighs, and had a goofy smile on my face.