This is my friend, Josue.

Josue is a little bit like the Paul Bunyan of our circle of friends, always the subject of myths and legend. Here’s my favorite Josue story:

So a few years back, Josue was running an ultramarathon. What’s an “ultramarathon,” you ask? Oh, just a 100-MILE RACE ENTIRELY ON FOOT.

Josue. Was running. One hundred miles. Without stopping. (I could stop the legend right here if I wanted to.)

Anyway, during said race, Josue broke one of his feet. So instead of doing what any normal person would do (stop, proceed to the shoulder of the road, flag down a medic), Josue hobbled into the woods and built a set of crutches a la Man Vs. Wild. He then crutch-ran the rest of the way to the finish line! His underarms were bleeding by the end.

I once tried to verify this story with Josue (who, PS, is the kindest, gentlest soul you will ever meet), and he just laughed and said, “Oh! Ha … you know, I’m just going to leave that story exactly the way it is.” Which I take to mean that the truth is not any less dramatic, but probably more so. Like Josue encountered the world’s first land shark in the woods and had to beat it off with one of his crutches, but he was too modest to tell me that.

Josue running toward what appears to be either a mountain he will scale, a lake he will swim, or a nearby planet he will parkour over en route to the moon.

These days, Josue organizes races in South America and in Austin too, the latest being The Naked Foot 5k on October 6, which sounds pretty rad if you are a running type. More on that in a moment.

As we all know, I am not exactly a running type.

I mean, I try. I used to run fairly regularly in college, and I still jog around the neighborhood sometimes, red and smug when I walk back in the front door. “Guess what I just did?” I’ll ask Ross, as if it’s not already obvious, “I RAN. FOR LIKE 30 MINUTES.” For me, running always comes with bragging.

The thing about running is, it always makes one of my knees hurt. So on Monday, I got together with one of Josue’s running trainers to practice a different style of running … one you can apparently do barefoot.

Valerie correcting my technique. Check out the girl in the background going “what the hell?”

Valerie told me about this book I had heard of called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which follows the Tarahumura Indians — runners of frequent, hundred-mile distances (I’m not sure why by the Amazon description) — and ultimately champions barefoot running. The thesis of the book is: We humans, all of us, were born to run.

In the past year and a half, that book has inspired lots of people to run, and even more to try it barefoot (or to wear those goofy Five Finger shoes). Maybe you are one of those people. Monday was the first time I tried it.

The trick is in keeping your feet somewhat flat, and not leading with your heel (as most people do), but creating a little “wheel” with your lower legs as Valerie told me.  And keeping your body leaned forward.

“Like this?”

I wasn’t a natural, but! I do see the appeal now of running barefoot on something soft and grass-filled, like the fields of Zilker Park. Canyons (or even the nearest sidewalk) might be a different story.

Valerie and I talked a little bit about the more spiritual, earth connection people experience running this way, by tuning into the sensation of their feet on the ground. Which makes a lot of sense — yoga is done barefoot, and in my life, even a few traditional dance classes are done barefoot. I was in fact on my way to aerial (hence the leotard) which is of course done barefoot, because your feet pads do so much sensory work.

Valerie and I taking a victory lap! I am trying to imitate Valerie’s badass form.

Back to Josue’s Naked 5K Race: People, are you into running?

Because his “shoes optional” 5K that takes place next Saturday, a week from tomorrow. The press release explains the whole thing much better than I can so here’s a little snippet:

“The second annual Naked Foot 5k, sponsored by ALTRA Footwear, will be held from 7 AM to 12 PM on October 6th at The Quarries. The full foot monty may not sound appealing to everyone, so sans shoes is definitely not a race requirement. Runners can wear sneakers, minimalist shoes or toe the finish line barefoot. The family friendly festival boasts a Naked Foot 5k run, a SUPATX paddleboard race and a Fearless CrossFit/Texas Parkour obstacle course. Participants also have the opportunity to donate a pair of shoes through the Nashville-based program Soles4Souls which collects and delivers shoes to people in need all over the world.”

Naked 5K’s are actually a national, touring type of thing, started in 2010 by a couple who embraced the minimalist running movement. But in true Josue fashion, he got together with the Naked 5K to add a parkour/CrossFit/Chi Running obstacle course to the race. I don’t know what Chi Running is! I think it involves running up a hill, swimming through a pit of anacondas at the bottom, lighting yourself on fire, and finishing the race in a literal blaze of glory.*

If you are a part of the minimalist running movement, are curious about it, or simply want an incredibly cool workout, I encourage you to register for Josue’s event. Run like the wind!

*Just kiddin’. Chi Running was invented by a Tai Chi instructor and is apparently very good for you. And doesn’t involve anacondas.