In 1986, when I was a sophomore, my high school started a soccer program for the 1st time in school history. Rather than hire a soccer coach, they sent over the fitness coach of the football team to be our coach. We were the fittest team in the county! But we sucked at soccer. We lost 17-0 once, though that was to one of the top team in the state. They were probably taking it easy on us.
Anyway, we had two hour practices, with about an hour of fitness stuff to start, then a little soccer. (The worst was the dreaded Indian run, were all 20 of us lined up 10 yards a part, jogging slowly, and the person in back had to sprint to the front… Man those hurt!) Anyway, we always ended up at the track after practice where we had to run two miles. I hated running in cleats, and always forgot “sneakers,” so one day I just dropped the cleats and ran barefoot just inside the clay track on the grass. I did that every day for the rest of that year and subsequent years — which was less often as we eventually got a coach who wasn’t quite so into fitness.
Well, the 1st day I dropped the shoes, one of my teammates started calling me Zola, and it stuck — all through high school and my 1st year of college when I still played indoor on the 18 and under team we had. I didn’t even recognize the name until someone reminded me of the collision between Zola Budd and Mary Decker in the 1984 Olympics.
You can watch the video of the 1984 Olympic 3000 meter run here, where Decker and Budd collide.
So, other than running barefoot as all kids do, that was the start of my barefoot career. Granted I got away from it for many years, only to come back about 7 or 8 years ago when I started having knee issues — but only for 5 or 10 minutes on a treadmill or beach every now and then. I’m glad to be back much more “full time” these days (though I definitely still wear the right shoe for the trail!).