Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Ballad of Barefoot Dave - part one

I should start with the terms & conditions of this blog post.  It's a fundraising post for the Alzheimer's Society, care of Barefoot Dave's Great North Run.

If you’ve already made a donation on my justgiving page, then hello! Come on in! Put your feet up! Would you like a drink? There’s wine in the fridge. If not then, you may continue reading, but only if you promise to donate some money sooner or later. Maybe after payday? Or if you find some money on the street. Up to you. But please think about putting something towards the fight against dementia. 

So –onto the new paid-for-by-an-honour-system content...

Barefoot Dave’s Great North Run is currently looking like it could turn into Barefoot Dave’s Big Broken Bones or Big Damaged Ankles or Big Ruined Calf Muscles. Increasing the barefoot mileage has been really, really tough going. When I decided on this challenge I had only really experienced barefoot running off-road, on surfaces with at least a little ‘give’, like mud, grass, and dirt tracks. However, the Great North Run is entirely on tarmac, and tarmac is well known for not giving very much at all...

So I’ve been braving the roads in my Vibrams, with mixed results. On the one hand (foot?), running without shoes is a new challenge and is testing different muscles.  This can only be a good thing, as I’m toning all the muscles in my legs instead of just my thighs, which will have positive benefits for my ‘normal’ running too. Similarly I’m enjoying the new technical challenge, thinking consciously about my stride, how I place my foot on the ground, and learning how the different parts of my foot contribute to running.  I feel like I’m evolving at an outrageously fast pace. Even if I'm running quite slowly.

Hazards. Particularly for barefoot crazies.
On the other foot, it all hurts like hell. I’m going through the same painful learning curve that I overcame for ‘normal’ running almost 3 years ago. The undersides of my toes, which are absorbing a lot of impact, are blistering badly. My ankles, adapted due to years of running fully supported, aren’t up to the job of properly holding my stride – such that I have to experiment with the way I place each footstep to avoid hurting them.  I have to look very carefully at where I’m stepping – loose litter or branches, even a pile of wet leaves becomes a potential hazard without the comfortingly enormous support of a pair of trainers. It is a constant mental and physical workout, and I am knackered after even short training runs. Since I reckon that I’ll be taking around 22,000 steps in the Great North Run, I’m a little worried that I might go insane trying to summon the required brain power to keep myself on track...

Compound this with the natural hazards of a big road race: congestion, discarded bottles to trip over, energy gel wrappers to slip on, amusing costumes to be distracted by... I'm getting a little bit frightened. Oh and one more thing. Two weeks before the barefoot Great North Run, I'm running the Loch Ness Marathon, which is going to be a painful experience in itself. Fear. The enormity of this challenge is starting to dawn on me.

All this, and I still haven’t run more than 5 miles in the Vibrams.  I have an awful long way to go before managing a half marathon barefoot.

Fear. Happy fear.


2011 to date - miles: 414.48, parkruns: 4, races: 2, miles biked: 16.85

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