Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Ballad of Barefoot Dave - part three

I have had blisters before. I am a runner, it comes with the territory. I’ve had huge, bulbous ones on the balls of my feet, weird tiny ones underneath my toes, nasty blood-filled ones on my insteps and bizarre pointy ones on my big and smallest toes. I’ve got rather good at managing them; I lance them without a thought, drain the nasty fluids as a matter of course and clean them up, tape them down and generally keep my feet in as good a condition as possible given the circumstances. In fact I’m so good at managing them that I almost look forward to getting them.

Until I started the barefoot challenge, which is now just ten days away...

It wasn’t until I started running barefoot that I learnt the true misery of having blisters on my heels. Huge, deep and angry blisters, sitting proud of the wide, fleshy part of the underside of both heels, slightly towards the outside and unbelievably uncomfortable. I first felt them developing on a short, 4 mile barefoot run in the Vibrams, when I thought I had a pebble lodged under my left foot. When I peeled the Vibrams off, there was no pebble. And in places, no heel either. I don’t know what Trench Foot looks like, but I suspect it’s not dissimilar to what’s currently brewing at the bottom of my legs.

In a cruel twist of fate, the barefoot adventure is otherwise going rather well. The enormous strain on my calves is reducing, and I’m very quickly improving my speed as a result. If it weren’t for the blisters, my confidence levels for Barefoot Dave’s Great North Run would be sky-high. As it is I am getting increasingly afraid...

That said, I have to admit: I am loving this challenge. It feels like I’m revisiting the early part of my running journey, learning loads and improving relatively quickly. Everything is new again and yet strangely familiar. It’s like wandering around a house you used to live in. However, I can guarantee that there’ll be no PB chalked up in South Shields. I can just about manage to maintain 9 minute miles in the Vibrams, which means there is a real chance that I might not even break two hours. And looking at these blisters, I should probably call myself lucky to finish at all.

Once the main trial in Newcastle is over, I’ll definitely be reducing my barefoot road mileage, as the strain is really too much for me at the moment and probably isn’t helping my long-term racing prospects. I was struck by this thought on my latest barefoot jaunt. I am fortunate in that I can easily remove the aggravating factor in my life and return to comfort and normality. This brings into sharp relief the fact that the opposite is true for sufferers of Alzheimer’s Disease. Whose suffering is daily, degenerative and incurable. Whose only hope for relief is high quality care for themselves and support for their loved ones. Who have no escape from the aggravating factor of their lives.

I am humbled and delighted that so many of you have put your hands in your pockets for this cause (even though most have come with an impressive supply of abuse). If you haven't already, please help me make a small difference to a big problem.  Donate even a few pounds online at

Thank you.


2011 to date - miles: 907.78, parkruns: 6, races: 4, miles biked: 83.24, metres swum: 1225 

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