It was the prophet Isaiah who said, 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation'.
I once saw a runner’s feet after she had completed a 24-hour race. The blister covered a large percentage of the bottom of her foot. It was a disgusting sight.
Running is hard on feet. Many competitors in multi-day races – myself included – cut the toes out of their shoes. There is a certain peculiar satisfaction in taking a knife to a brand new pair of expensive running shoes. However, the principle behind the action is not wanton vandalism but rather that (a) one’s feet expand during the course of the race and cutting the shoes gives one’s feet room to expand into, but also (b) increasing the airflow around your feet helps to keep them cool which helps prevent blisters. And preventing blisters is a good thing – much better than trying to cope with blisters once they arrive.
Some people have major problems with blisters. Fortunately I never have; but on the other hand I have never actually escaped blister-free from a long race either.
In my experience there is actually something satisfying about blisters – the fact that they can be treated and actually cured!
You hobble into the medical tent and lie blessedly down on a cot and a nice man – like Vajra Henderson - swabs your blister down and punctures it and presses painfully all the fluid out and puts second skin
on and tapes it in place and you put your sock and shoe back on and head out onto the track again and it hurts for a lap or two and then you can pretty much forget about it. Other people of course have rather less satisfactory experiences.
Once during the course of the ten-day race I went into the medical tent and there was nobody there. After a moment of horror where I saw myself condemned to carry on hobbling on my blistered toe till my entire limb dropped off in a wobbling heap, I realised that I had seen the treatment often enough to be able to do it myself.
It was ridiculous the huge amount of satisfaction and pride that I felt as I pulled on my sock at the end of a successful operation.
In fact, in the end my attempt proved not entirely successful – a tribute to the skill of the men who got it right every other time – as the same blister returned later until treated by Vajra; at which point it really did disappear for good.
Ultra-running is a sport that attracts many disparate people. There are mechanics and mathematicians, typesetters and sheep farmers and sundry hangers-on hanging around.
While I was tending to my blister a tap dancer came into the medical tent looking for some nail clippers . . . as tap dancers do.
We fell to conversing . . . as one does.
Where was I from? New Zealand? Did I know Howard Morrison?
I in fact did know of him - Sir Howard Morrison, the founder, in 1956, of the Howard Morrison Quartet.
The passing tap dancer had performed with him.
The Howard Morrison Quartet
We discussed, in a tent in a park in the middle of New York city, the radical political views and ideas about race-relations in New Zealand of Howard Morrison. Then, since my blister was treated and I was getting concerned that things were getting just too surreal in the tent, I headed out onto the track – better hallucinations out there than the bizarre reality in here.
The Self-Transcendence Ten Day Race
was founded by Sri Chinmoy
Details of the race - results, photo galleries and such like - can be found at the race webpage - 2006 Self-Transcendence 6 & 10 Day Races
The biblical quotation above is from Isaiah 52:7