Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Anti-Sponsor


The following blog features stunts performed either by professionals or under the supervision of professionals.   Accordingly RVR, and its entities must insist that no one attempt to recreate or re-enact any stunt featured in this blog. 

When I met Todd, way back in 2006, he was running the Mt Ashland Hillclimb in a pair of Bodyglide aqua socks and traversing the Siskiyou's at the S.O.B. 50k in a pair of Nike Free 3.0's.  So it would seem the barefoot running craze has finally caught up with him or perhaps opened a door to showcase the idiosyncratic talents of one longtime runner and would-be author

Today, at South Medford High, Todd will go for the 24 hour barefoot record.  It only seems right, and if you read the excerpt below it just might seem easy.    

Todd Ragsdale has an unusual foot fetish.
He stands, marches and jogs with his feet in a gravel-filled bucket while relaxing in front of his living-room television. Barefoot. Each small step prepares him for a journey to run 100 miles. Barefoot.

Jackson County Relay for Life event to be held this weekend

More than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities gather at tracks and trails each year to run in support of the American Cancer Society.
The event is structured as a 24-hour relay, continuing all night "because cancer never sleeps." Participants find sponsors who donate an amount per lap completed during a 24-hour period.
The event is designed to be more than a fundraiser, however. Relay for Life also "represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated."
The Jackson County event for 2010 will be held from 10 a.m. Saturday, June 5, to 8 a.m. Sunday, June 6. at Spiegelburg Stadium at South Medford High School. For more information, call Jenn Hedgepeth at 541-301-5084 or e-mail Brandis Havener at To learn more about Relay For Life, visit
Although Ragsdale has flirted with barefoot running for years, he didn't start this specialized training to toughen his feet until January.
"I eased into it, marching in the gravel bucket, going to the gym and doing the stair climber on my toes or side-footed or pigeon-toed, getting all the muscles strengthened in my feet and ankles," says Ragsdale, a 41-year-old Talent resident and former winner of the Crater Lake Marathon.
He completes most of his barefoot training on trails, though the treadmill and asphalt also have their place.
"You have to be careful. You have to dance over the terrain or else you're going to get nailed "… The worst I've had is a couple of blisters and some goathead thorns I've had to pluck out, and once a chunk of gravel got embedded up in my foot, and I had to get the tweezers," Ragsdale says.

Over time, Ragsdale has observed a change in his stride, one that has been observed repeatedly in world-class African runners who grew up shoeless.
"I'm (now) a lot lighter, shorter on the stride. I can definitely feel myself landing more on the outside of my forefoot, like the outside two toes. Definitely not heel-striking," Ragsdale says.
Running shoes, especially the heavily cushioned ones, moderate the landing forces that are typically two to three times our body weight. For runners who land heel-first, this is especially important. Running barefoot forces us to land on our forefeet, where the many bones and muscles allow us to naturally change our stride to mitigate these forces. Land on your inflexible heel and you'll quickly get out of that rut.
Much of the recent interest in barefoot running stems from the 2009 nonfiction, best-selling book, "Born to Run," by Christopher McDougall. The book chronicles the running prowess of the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico who run barefoot or in thin, rubber-soled sandals. The much-studied Tarahumara are thought to be the world's top endurance runners.
Many top running coaches, including University of Oregon's Vin Lannana, use regular barefoot running for their athletes as a tool to strengthen the feet and lower legs. Top runners Alan Webb and Deena Kastor both used regular barefoot running en route to setting American records.

Ragsdale ran his first race barefoot at the April 24 Bridge The Gap run, a 10-kilometer jaunt on the paved Bear Creek Greenway.
"It was a little rough: it felt like the toes were heating up like pre-blister. But the further the race went on, the more it just felt like a race and I wasn't thinking about my feet so much because I was thinking 'there's (runner) number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and I'm 6th,' " Ragsdale explains.
He eventually reeled in and passed all but one runner. His second-place time of 37:11 was only 38 seconds slower than his shoe-clad time in the same race last year.
Medical studies conclude that both barefoot running and running shoes are better for your feet than other types of athletic shoes, so you can pick and choose depending on which side of the question you're predisposed to believe. The case against running shoes goes like this: by cushioning the impact, shoes make your feet weaker, so they don't adjust for the forces the way they've evolved to do over the past million years. The more expensive shoes usually provide more cushioning. It's clear where the running shoe companies stand on the issue of barefoot running.
Even so, several shoe companies have introduced minimalist models intended to cater to the national interest in barefoot running. Nike sells the "Free," a lean-and-mean racing shoe worn by many top athletes. Vibram sells the "Fivefingers," a creation that resembles thin rubber foot-mittens. Both models retail for $89, a price that is not so minimalist.
Clayton Gillette is sold on the Fivefingers.

"They're a step up from being barefoot. I'll use them on those trails that have more rocks," says the 54-year-old Griffin Creek School teacher.
Gillette has been running barefoot on grass and sand for many years and has started on trails in the past year. Unlike Ragsdale, Gillette still plans to race in his shoes.
"I can't see running on asphalt," says the diehard trail runner who stays shoeless year-round. "Even in the winter, it feels fun to have mud squishing between your toes."
For those intent on cultivating their inner Neanderthal, Gillette advises running not more than half a mile the first few times.
"You've got to ease into it. Just take your shoes off and try it, but start on grass or sand," he adds.

With one successful barefoot race behind him,

Ragsdale is now stepping it up a notch. On Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6, he'll take a crack at the 24-hour world barefoot running record. He will make his attempt on the South Medford High School track as a participant in the Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
In September, Ragsdale faces his ultimate goal: to run the Williams-to-Ashland "Pine 2 Palm 100-mile" trail race sans footwear. That race features more than 20,000 feet of climbs and descents, with several hours run in the dark of night.
Now that's something for his bucket list.
Daniel Newberry is a runner and freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at


Ian said...

Awesome! Good luck this weekend Todd & again in September!

Jeff B. said...

I can not wait to hear how it went!

Rogue Valley Runners said...

Just returned, 10pm, and he is talking funny, has a mohawk, and blue feet, all of which seem pretty normal. About 70 miles, I think the record will fall.


Rennaker said...

Nice work Todd.
104 miles!

guess you're in the guiness book now.

time to recover for Pine 2 Palm

Todd said...

Thanks guys. I love the blog. The funniest thing happened to my feet after the race. They puffed up like balloons. Does anyone know what might cause this or how I could prevent it after future races?

Rennaker said...

I know I get cankles after a 100 miles in shoes. you've got cankles of the feet dude

Ted Nunes said...

Pretty funny, Jerry sienfield and Kelly Ripa,?, were talking about Todd on The morning show... National talk...