This is my first week of proper barefoot running with the majority of my runs all totally barefoot. First run was on Monday around 1.5 miles and the second on Wednesday I managed to increase that to 2 miles.
Feet are still hyper sensitive and the discomfort limits how far I can go, I guess this is a good thing forcing me to work on my form. Running on the muddy trails is no problem at all, still have to be mindful of whats under my feet but it’s generally ok. The route I have been running has a gravel section on it and that’s a different matter, I have to practically pigeon step my way along it and will divert to the grass occasionally if it all gets too much.
Friday I went for a run in my Xeros just so I could get a reasonable distance in, however I still made sure my technique was correct and kept the pace easy so I didn’t get sloppy.
I (along with my wife) are both a week into the Paleo diet and that has been having an impact on my energy levels, going cold turkey off coffee, Haribo and Relentless and any other caffeine/high sugar product made me feel for the first few days like my head was going to explode but I am getting there and am now feeling much better. I am looking forward to see how this benefits my running along with the barefooting.
I have always liked the idea of minimalist running but never really got into the idea of totally barefoot running, however recent experience with injury, plus reading Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton’s book, Barefoot Running Step By Step (Barefootrunning.com), has drastically altered my understanding and my perspective.
I was always under the impression that what I should be doing was running in the minimalist shoes to make the transition to zero drop ‘barefoot’ shoes, this seemed logical as I had always run in normal shoes before.
Kens book makes a sensible point when you sit back and think about it, essentially running in barefoot shoes is not running barefoot, they are still shoes and looking back on my time running in minimalist shoes it does ring true, it really isn’t like barefoot because you don’t realise when you are not running correctly.
I have spent most of my time running on the ball of my foot putting too much strain on my calf muscles (rather than relaxing them), pushing off the ground (rather than lifting) and slowly overtime worn my body down to the point where it is just one injury after another.
So as the title of this post suggests I am making the leap to barefoot only running from now on, building up the technique as the book suggests with a hope that by doing this I will be able to lead a mostly injury free running life
I have already completed my first proper barefoot run, leaving my house with no shoes and returning with no shoes and I can say that the experience was exhilarating, albeit “painful”.
I say “painful” as it’s not like pain in the classic sense, its like the feet are being overloaded with stimulation which they are not used to and it just gets to a point where the nerve endings can’t cope anymore. Also what I did notice was as per the book that if you are not running correctly you soon have to adjust as anything but correct form is uncomfortable.
So after a dry spell of blogging, I have something to write about again in my journey from injured shod runner to (hopefully) happy barefoot runner.
This is my second Snowdonia Marathon, having completed the 30th anniversary race in 2012 (Previous Race Review) so I knew that this would be both a tough but amazing race.
My plan had been to try to improve on my previous time (and current marathon PB) and after sporadic training and the drain of running the North Downs Way 50 and Richmond Park Marathon the day after (Race Review) I had been making significant gains in my fitness and overall speed so was looking good for achieving my aim.
That was until around 5 weeks ago where those plans all came crashing down around me, at the start of a run around 400 yards in my right calf went and pretty much from that day to the start line of the marathon I had done no running (the actual total was 2 miles a week after the original injury where it recurred again)
Some frantic physio booking and praying to anyone that would listen I found myself at the start line of this years Marathon Eryri. I was with Gareth (who I ran the 2012 marathon with) who had also got aim of beating his time and marathon PB. To say I was nervous was an understatement, last time I ran I got 1 mile before my calf went again and there was the fear that I would get no further this time.
The race starts at Llanberis and follows the A4086, through Nant Peris then up Pen-y-Pass. This is a pretty demanding climb and I was worried that the strain of the ascent would cause things to go horribly wrong.
With the count down underway there was nothing for it but to just hope I could make it to 18 miles under the cut off, if I could do this then I should be able to finish even if that meant a death march. As the race started and we crossed the line I could already feel the lack of running had impacted me more that I had expected. My heart rate had spiked well above what it was in training and for the pace I was running even with the hill was not good. I voiced this concern to Gareth and said that if he wanted to go ahead he should, to his credit he said he would stick with me.
About 3 miles in was a water station, however as we arrived it seemed to be having issues as the cups were getting blown everywhere and it didn’t appear to have any water available. This was not a real issue as another water station was a mile or so further away at the top of the climb. Pushing on my heart felt like it was jumping out my throat and my hips and quads were aching already, however my calf seemed to be holding up so I focused on this positive.
After the top of Pen Y Pass it is then a fairly steep descent which allowed me to reduce the effort somewhat and try to bring things back under control. The road then gives way to some trail which was a nice break in the repetitive plod. I was keeping pace with Gareth by the number of walking breaks I was requiring was increasing and I could see that he could go faster. After a quick stop for me to sort a toe out before it blistered around 11 miles in I said to Gareth again that he has to go, I didn’t want to stop him from going for his goal especially after the support he gave at the Richmond Park Marathon.
I was fairly insistent and he agreed to go on ahead and he was pretty quickly gone from my sight. It was just after this that the heavens opened which combined with the increasing pain in my legs lead me to feel quite low. I pushed on though at a more moderate pace interspersed with walking.
One of the reasons I love this race is the locals who come out to support the runners, I remember passing a line of children standing in the pouring rain giving high fives to the runners as they passed. I obliged and it was amazing how that lifted me, I had reached 13 miles and I was damn well going to finish run, walk or crawl.
From half way to 22 miles it is undulating road, my run/walk strategy had turned into walk/run/hobble but I was still moving forward which was the important thing. The support from the crowds kept me going and I made a point of saying thankyou to everyone who offered their support.
22 miles is where the runners start the climb of Bwlch Y Groes, a climb going from 116 meters to 376 meters in just under 3 miles. I remembered this from last time and it was just as imposing, however here I found myself passing people on the climb. I was walking but walking at a determined pace. It was probably the fact that I knew I would finish the race whatever happened which gave me the extra boost.
The climb is not the hardest part though, the descent that follows is a quad smashing brute dropping all that ascent in about a mile. This was extremely painful and I was a hobbling mess at the bottom.
I normally have something left in the tank for a ‘sprint’ finish but this time I had nothing, I think a couple of people passed me at the end but I had nothing to respond with. I saw Gareth and he managed to get a photo of me as I passed
I crossed the line in 05:06:02, about 25 minutes slower than my PB but I had made it. I met up with Gareth and he told me that he had set a new PB (Read his blog on the race here)
To anyone who may read this who is wanting a marathon distance event to run then you couldn’t ask for a better event, the support from the crowds, the organisation, views and challenge of the climbs and descents set it apart from the rest. I am a trail runner and don’t generally do road events, but this is one that I will always make an exception for.
I will be doing it again next year, I want to run it at peak fitness and see what I can do, I urge you when it becomes available to sign up to do the same.