30 kids

It was brought to my attention this week that I promised an update after the race and have not delivered.  So, here it is.

The race itself was an amazing experience.  The Twin Cities sure know how to put on a good race, and there were spectators – literally tens of thousands of them – through every mile of the course.  My own cheering team, who surprised me by making amazing signs with the Barefoot For Kids/Team Ness logo on did an outstanding job of driving around the course to cheer me on every few miles.  It’s not easy to sum up nearly four hours of running, but here’s the summary in brief:

Standing around barefoot in fifty degree weather at 7.30am turns out to be a little chilly.  I ended up wearing my arm warmers on my feet while waiting for the gun to go off because my toes were getting so cold.  Eventually we started, and I relocated my arm warmers to my arms.

The first nine miles flew by and I barely noticed the mile markers.  Runners were shouting and singing and I was fully immersed in the joy of the marathon start.  I ended up running the first eleven miles with two women who were friends of a friend, and I was grateful for the company.  At mile eleven we parted with one of the women and I ran the rest of the race with the other.

Things went very smoothly and easily until about mile 17 where I found myself wondering if they had forgotten to place a mile marker.  Miles 18, and 19  were fine, but certainly not the most fun I’ve ever had.  Then we crossed over the bridge to St. Paul and I discovered that the city of St. Paul could stand to learn a thing or two from Minneapolis about how to pave a road.  The roads were just rough enough to make it uncomfortable for my feet, and my legs were starting to get tired, so miles 21-24 were not the happiest of my life, but still entirely bearable.  I’ll confess I shed a few tears while thinking about all the kids who would get the surgeries and how that would affect their lives and their families’ lives.  It was awesome to realize that my running that day had meaning beyond the actual running.

By mile 24 I had bumped into my amazing cheering squad again and was completely rejuvenated by their love and enthusiasm.  Miles 24-26 went very quickly and I felt like I got a bit of spring in my step again.  Then the final stretch to 26.2 was a dramatic entry to the finish line down a chute lined with hundreds of excited spectators.  I slowed down for the final part of the race, savoring the moment and taking it all in.

My legs were so happy to stop running and I was a bit emotional about being able to call myself a marathoner and to have finished 13 minutes under my goal time.  I met up with my crew, did some stretching, and we went off for a much-needed lunch while I tried to stay awake.

So there it is.  My feet were absolutely fine and, thanks to Crossfit training, I was barely sore at all the next day (although I did hobble around on the night of the race – so badly that someone on the street asked me if I had run the marathon!).  One of my first thoughts after I finished was to wonder how I might take an hour off my time next year, so I guess it won’t be my last marathon!

I am so blown away by people’s continued generosity, and the total now equals 30 surgeries.  The University are doing two more features on me in the next few months – one on the website and another in an alumni magazine, so they suggested I extend the deadline for donations, which I will do in the hopes that I can still get to my goal of $10,000 or 40 surgeries.

Thanks to everyone who has donated – especially those who have donated anonymously under cryptic aliases whom I am unable to thank personally!

In the meantime I will continue to run through the winter, and to keep my shoes off as long as it is comfortable.  I’ll continue to update this blog until I close the donation website and will also do a follow-up entry in the Spring once the money has actually been used for surgeries.



26.2 miles.  Done and done.  What an amazing experience!  It’s all still a bit fresh and raw and I haven’t really had time to process the day yet – especially because I slept for twelve of the last 24 hours!  I’ll post more details later when I’m less overwhelmed, but for now the report is as follows:

Money raised for Face Forward Foundation: $6,100  (and I anticipate more money to come)

Miles completed: 26.2

Pairs of shoes involved: 0

Number of blisters: 0

Number of times I stepped on glass or something sharp: 0

Time spent running: 4 hours and 47 minutes

Number of cleft repair surgeries: 24

Twenty-four surgeries.  And that is because of the generosity of so many people who have supported me in this goal.  Thank you so much to everybody who has been a part of this amazing journey.






Here’s one thing I didn’t give much thought to: the timing chip.  It’s supposed to be tied onto my shoelaces.  Chances are, since I’m not wearing shoes on race day, I’ll probably leave my shoelaces at home too.  I left a message at race headquarters: “Ummm, could someone call me back about where I’m supposed to wear my timing chip if I’m not wearing shoes?”.  I am not expecting a call back since that message qualifies me to join the ranks of the other 11,597 people who are calling with annoying last minute race questions.

In Bermuda I know the timing guy who provides the chips for all the running races, so he hooks me up with a neoprene band to attach it to (usually with a friendly scolding: “you know, you can cut your feet running around without your shoes!”).  In Minneapolis I don’t have any such connections and all my phone calls about this amusing issue have yielded no results.

I suppose I could tuck it in my underwear.  It needs to be very close to the ground so that it registers on the mats when we run over them. My legs are only 27 inches long, so that is arguably quite close to the ground.  Although then there is the issue of having a timing chip in my underwear.  Uncomfortable, and really inconvenient if I forget about it at a port-a-potty and it falls out….so maybe not my underwear.

It looks like I’m going to have to fashion an anklet, 1988 style.  Unless people have better suggestions….?


I’m so excited that Peter (seen in the picture) arrives in Minneapolis tomorrow.  He’s really the inspiration behind all of this madness.  Peter was born with a cleft lip and palate and at age five, has already had a number of surgeries.  He will continue to have these until he is well into adulthood.  Peter soldiers through surgeries and medical procedures with an unparalleled bravery that makes running 26.2 miles barefoot seem like an absolute walk in the park.  When my training hurts, when things get tough, it’s Peter I think about.  He has had such a difficult road to walk already, and as kids with clefts go, he’s one of the lucky ones because his parents have the financial resources to help him.

In large part because of this awesome article posted on the University of Minnesota homepage, over $1000 were donated between the time I went to bed and the time I woke up yesterday.  This means that TWENTY kids like Peter will be receiving cleft repair surgery because of you all. I am now at 50% of my fundraising goal and am thrilled about the momentum that seems to be gathering.  Thank you so much to friends and family (and others I haven’t met) that have generously donated to the Face Forward Foundation on my behalf.   A special thanks also to Rick Moore at the University of Minnesota for such an amazing write-up and some unexpected exposure for my cause.

I suppose a progress report is in order since it would appear that I now have more than two readers out there!  Five more sleeps (as Peter would say!) until the big day.  I logged my last significant run on Sunday – an easy eight miles that left me wishing I could go longer – so it’s really just smooth sailing from here until Sunday.  (That is, if you count constant jittery anxiety as smooth sailing).  From now on I’m just trying to stay out of my head and not worry about all the what-ifs.  Thankfully I’ll have an awesome five-year old and his amazing parents to keep me busy between now and Sunday.



Fight Gone Bad

Saturday’s Cross Fit festivities involved a little workout they like to call “Fight Gone Bad”.  It is so named after UFC champion B.J. Penn tried it and reported that it “was like a fight gone bad”.  It’s a great benchmark workout and most Cross Fit gyms seem to host it on September 17th.

I’ll break the fun down for you:

Each competitor has a “coach” who cheers like crazy for them and counts their reps.  The sequence is as follows:

1 minute of 14lb wall balls (you squat and then stand up and throw the ball up to a target on the wall that seems VERY high up if you’re 5’3)

1 minute of sumo-deadlift high-pulls with a 55lb barbell

1 minute of box jumps (onto a box that seems VERY tall if you’re 5’3)

1 minute of push presses with a 55lb barbell

1 minute of rowing your heart out (calories count as points instead of reps)

Then you have one minute to a) drink some water, b) curse, and c) puke if necessary, before you start again.  This goes on for three rounds and you get a score based on your total reps.

This, my friends, is a workout that is MADE for me.  Workouts with scores?  I eat those things for breakfast.  I am just a little, fired-up ball of competition, so give me three rounds of something and tell me to beat my last score – I’m there!  And to have someone cheering in my face the entire time and challenging me to move faster?  Even better!

Will a workout like that prepare me for my barefoot marathon?  I have no idea.  I suspect it teaches me a little about managing bodily discomfort, which will probably come in handy.  But mostly it makes me feel confident that I can push myself to the edge and still be standing (and running) the next day.  I’m two weeks out from my big day and not likely to gain much fitness between now and then.  So from here on in I’m just trying to accrue confidence.  Even on a bad day, Cross Fit is good for that!

Rookie Moves

Sometime during the summer I noticed that people from Twin Town Crossfit were putting together a team for the MS Twin Cities MudRun.  Blinded by my desire to be THAT muddy and scramble over obstacles for a few hours, I abandoned my common sense and marathon planning, and signed up.  In hindsight, I recognize the foolishness of competing in such an event a mere three weeks before one’s first marathon.

On the drive there I kept reminding myself to keep a lid on it during the race and to take care of my body.  Then the gun went off and all my adrenaline took over.  Luckily I rolled my ankle fairly early on which was extremely painful and just enough to remind me that I had a marathon to be thinking about and I would NOT be impressed with myself if I got injured.  After that I focused hard on staying safe and tried to balance my desire to be fast with the knowledge that I needed to stay healthy.  I have to say, CrossFit really prepares you for an event like that.  I didn’t even have to think twice about most of the obstacles because I knew my body could handle them based on what I put it through on a normal day at TTCF.  The whole team had a great time and finished easily and feeling pretty good at the end.  While I recognize that it might not have been the most prudent move I’ve ever made, I emerged relatively unscathed and actually a great deal more confident about my ability to complete the marathon (which won’t have walls I have to climb over and logs I have to crawl under).  And besides, life is short, and check out that happy, muddy face in the picture.  Totally worth it.