Bending at my waist in an attempt to swan dive during an outdoor yoga class, my motion was quickly halted by the tightness in my hamstrings. My eyes glanced downwards to the goal of getting my fingertips to touch my toes. Glitter paint reflected back in the afternoon sunlight to remind me that it was okay that I likely would not get all the way there. The paint on my toes reminded me of the race I ran less than a week ago. A deep breath helped me move through and I thought back on the hard earned finish line.
I stood with my elbows and forehead resting on the tailgate of my boyfriend’s, DJ’s, truck. Forced by my stance, I looked down at my sweat, sunscreen and dust covered legs and shoes. My knees bounced and twitched rhythmically trying to relieve the 50 mile ache. DJ gingerly untied my shoes and bravely peeled off my socks … my glittery toes made us both smile.
50 miles and only two climbs amidst the beautiful PNW forest. When I put on my shoes race morning and saw the little runner girl on my big toe I had to smile knowing that everything was ready and now it was time to run.
The night before the race I hesitated to walk down to the hotel’s outdoor patio and paint my toes, but did at DJ’s encouragement. “You’ve painted your toes before every race?” “Yes” “Then you can’t stop now.” So down we went. I applied three new colors to the chipping bright orange from my last pedicure while he reviewed my race spreadsheet. The final coat, which I explained to him, always has to be glitter.
Why I paint:
This pre-race ritual started on my first Chuckanut 50k in 2000, showed up in Outside Magazine, and scored me a huge shipment of Orly polish. Most importantly, this ritual is a reminder and a way to take notice of the weeks and miles I put in to being ready for the ensuing race or event. Sometimes, like this year, the training is more adventurous and less focused. As I decorate and choose different patterns I check in with the reality of my race goals and what might be possible if I have the best day ever, as well as the gut check, nervous questions. Can I at least finish this distance? Will I finish on pure guts? Are there enough long runs in the weeks leading up to warrant a less painful experience?
- Celebrate training: I paint my toes to mark the end of my training and acknowledge right where I’m at.
- Celebrate the race: When I see the painted toes on race morning I know I am ready.
- Celebrate the accomplishment: In the weeks after the race a quick glance of the paint on my toes reminds me that I’m still recovering.
- Celebrate the restart: As the paint peels away, I know it is time to train again.