Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Barefoot Pasta Salad

I walked through the hospital. My feet were throbbing and my head felt light. If it weren't for the name badge swinging from my neck I might have thought my body no longer existed above the shoulders. It was a day filled with too much thinking while standing in one place. I pulled open the Velcro on my shoulder bag, and the ripping sound echoed off of the linoleum floor and around the empty halls. It felt strange to be in those halls when they were empty. A tornado had come and gone that day, but I hadn't noticed. When I left in the morning, the sun was shining. News of the tornado came in periodic spurts throughout the day. It was carried in by the summer interns. Now it was 5:30, and sun poured in from the skylights, as though nothing ever happened. I pulled out my phone and hit the message icon, then put it up to my ear.

"Call me back" click.

It was from Matt. He never leaves more of a message than that. I spent a few minutes guessing what he wants. He usually wants to talk about when we can schedule a run. I knew it couldn't be about running because he was supposed to be on an airplane to Phoenix. I imagined him kicking back on an airplane, his black curls hanging out of his hat. He leans over Pam's shoulder to look out of the window. He entertains himself by joking around with the stranger sitting next to him. He's too quick, and the stranger doesn't have a clue what he is talking about. Matt doesn't care, he mostly jokes to entertain himself. I remembered that I had given him a book just before he left, and I imagined he must have been reading it. I pushed the call back icon.

"Hey, what are you doing?" I said.
"Boarding a plane." He said. "I have a question for you."
"Yes? what is it" I asked.
There was a long pause. When he spoke again, his voice was softer. "Is this book for real?"

The book I had given him, was "Born to Run" It is an incredibly inspirational book about a tribe of runners that are able to cover unbelievable distances at unbelievable speeds, wearing unbelievably minimal foot protection. They usually continue running into late stages of life without injury. As a culture they are humble, modest, and supportive of each other. They appear to run on pure joy, chia seeds, and cornmeal. They are the Tarahumara. After reading the book myself, I felt totally inspired, awakened even. I felt like I had been running for all the wrong reasons. I had been seeking fitness, and speed, and personal successes, but the book introduced me to a new endpoint. It was a more complete form of health. Joy. Run because it is fun. Run because it makes you feel free. Run because it connects you to the air. After assuring Matt that it was supposedly a true story, written by a journalist, he agreed to train for an ultra with me and perhaps try out barefoot running.

After talking to Matt, I looked at my clock and realized that I was going to be late for run club. I also had to make a salad and get a picture of it before I lost the light. I made this salad in 20 minutes (I didn't wait for everything to cool before mixing it together) and it was nearly gone by the time I got back from my run (a sign that the family approved of this one).

Due to the heavy air and heat left behind by the tornado, only a few people showed up for the run tonight. We split up by paces. I ran with John, who has also recently finished "Born to Run" and has been communicating over email with many different barefoot runners. We decided we would take off our shoes for 5 minutes and try out shoeless running.

I was afraid I would stub my toe, or get rocks in my feet. The gravel was warm, and rocky, but the rocks felt like beads, and my feet actually felt like they were getting a massage. I had to hold my body differently to protect the balls of my feet, and I felt my tailbone tuck under, my core engage, everything aligned. It was like having a yoga adjustment in shoulder stand pose. I had muscles working that don't normally work to keep my weight perfectly balanced on top of itself.

"In shoes, the tendency is to lean forward" John said "causing runners to recruit their quads too much of the time".

I felt grateful to have a teacher. We only ran barefoot for 5 minutes, but when it was time to put our shoes back on, my feet felt like they were being confined after a lifetime of freedom. I wanted to take them off again right away. "Give it time" John said. "You need to ease into it. You have been wearing shoes every day of your life. Your feet are not strong enough to handle much more than 5 minutes....yet".
I knew this was only the beginning.

Barefoot Pasta Salad
1 box quinoa pasta shells
1/2 tsp salt
Cook the pasta in boiling salty water for 8-9 min. In the meantime, slice into a bowl:
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese
When the pasta is done, drain the water out, and add olive oil and garlic to the empty pasta pan (return to the heat). Add a pinch of salt and pour the pasta back into the pan. Toss in the greens and stir for 1 min. Remove from the heat and pour into an empty bowl. Let cool.
2 cups baby spinach/ arugula mix
2 cloves minced purple garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil
Mix together the two bowls of ingredients. Dress with the below ingredients. Serve warm or cold.
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Christina's vote: "Substantial and damn good"

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