Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about feet. A few weeks ago I officially started training for the NYC Half Marathon, and whether I’m pounding the pavement, warming up, or stretching, I am continually grateful for my feet’s ability to meet the demands of my training schedule. The only other time when I think about my feet this obsessively is in a dance class, regardless of the footwear or genre. Running and dancing might seem entirely different, but the training has been more similar than I had anticipated. I’m learning about which parts of the foot strike the floor, the tilt in my body depending on the terrain, breathing techniques, and how my arm swings determine what my legs are doing. Shifting from dancing to running – and trading point shoes for sneakers – has made me aware not only of the distinct technique and rigors that athletes of every type endure, but also of the body’s versatility, and especially the adaptability of the feet.
Much to my delight, Alastair Macaulay has been thinking about feet, too. He recently wrote about the beauty of feet and the importance of footwork in dance. He even singled out certain dancers and choreographers who have excelled at highlighting footwork. I was particularly interested in his thoughts on performing artists who incorporate natural footwork – walking, running, skipping, and hopping – into their movement. There is little choreography in running and not nearly as much variety in the foot’s movement as there is in dance, but I definitely enjoy the rhythmic qualities of running (and the cathartic high I get from both running and dancing). The strike of my feet on the pavement combined with the pace of my breathing creates a soundtrack that changes throughout the course of my run, reminding me of the rhythmic qualities of dancing – either to music or to an internal rhythm. So, after years of dancing, it turns out that running doesn’t feel so foreign to my body. The technique and training are different from what I experience in dance, but it’s still the same feet. Whether I’m dancing or running, I’ll keep in mind what Isadora Duncan said: “I believe in the religion of the beauty of the human foot.”