He, maybe she, lay broken and spiraling on the trail.
The distinctive small snout dug into the laterite soil, broken back legs pedaling furiously to get away from me, her potential saviour. The run had been a struggle up until then, one of those afternoon sojourns that had you wishing you had not rushed to the trailhead.
But now, instantly, the run had purpose.
Australia’s marsupial population is down to half of what it was prior to white colonisation. The three horsemen of the modern apocalypse for so many species; hunting, habitat destruction and ferals have wreaked a trail of destruction for two centuries. This bandicoot was another to be added to the casualty list, its back half broken by the jaws of a feral cat or fox or, perhaps less cynically, an unsuccessful hawk.
Regardless, there it lay, its front half clawing at the dirt while its driving back end spun it in circles.
There are many mantras people recite when running to retain either mental or physical focus. Relax the shoulders, keep going, one foot in front of the other. The barefoot runner has many more; run light, engage your core, grip with your toes, but they all have the same aim of trying to make running as efficient and smooth as possible, weightless and quiet. Cupping a broken bandicoot in one arm, dashing over limestone rock and gravel trail, however, is the perfect indicator of form, no mantra needed. Each elongated stride and jolting foot strike reverberated not through me but through my conscience, through my newfound role of marsupial paramedic.
Having struggled to hold my form for the first part of the run, I was now as smooth as a mountain stream, gliding along the trail back to the car, sandals caressing the gravel and rocks as I balanced the need of getting the bandicoot to the soon-to-be closed vet with the need to pad it softly on our journey along the trail.
The few kilometres back were a lesson in running smooth, precious cargo perched in one hand while the trail rolled out beneath. I made it to the vet as the doors were closing but sadly the little one did not make it through the night.
The trail to me is now the bandicoot trail and each time I run it I am encouraged to run even quieter still, listening out for the sound of native noise.
– Daggs, Trail Run Mag Barefoot/Minimalist Guru
As Trail Run Mag’s resident barefoot/minimalist sage, Garry Dagg will continue to write on issues, opinions, styles and techniques of barefoot/minimalist running. And he’ll test the bejesus (a sandal wearer) out of all and sundry models now flooding the market. He’s on board not to convert, but to offer a perspective, much the same way our Shoe Guru, Simon Bright offers his. Agree or not, better to be aware, even if you’re not a fan of being bare. We welcome your opinions on the barefoot debate – fling them through on firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook them at www.facebook.com/trailrunmag. Garry will also write regularly on the topic online, so sign up for his blogs and news feeds at www.trailrunmag.com. Ed.