Dec 16

Why you can’t spend your barefoot way to success

I have spent a small fortune on trying to cure my running injuries over the years. A couple of decades in, I realised that it just doesn’t work.

The Barefoot Beginner approach is different because it asks you to let go of your consumer values and go back to basics.

The big problem is that in modern life, whenever we have a problem, we look for a way to spend our way out of it. I did it for many years.

…and there was no shortage of people willing to sell me the solution!

Whatever problem we have, someone will be out there ready to take our money and sort it out for us.

Where there is no problem then someone will happily create one for us. They convince us that we are doing things wrong and then sell us the solution.

It is so common that we don’t see it anymore. In modern life, whenever we have a problem, all we need to do is throw money at it and it will go away.

Barefooting is not like that. Money is not going to help. It is a great leveler and you cannot spend your way to success. We are are so used to buying shortcuts that we think that looking for the cheat is the best way to do things. It isn’t. We can’t just hand our problems to other people.  We need to change our mindset and realise that this one is down to us.

Success will come with honesty, experimentation, diligence and patience. You are going to build a lasting solution that works for you from the ground up. Sure, you can buy some advice and coaching but check with yourself what you want to get out of it. Don’t attempt to hand the responsibility for your success over to someone else. Grab hold and take charge of it. Spend your money wisely.The cost isn’t anywhere near as important as the time. It is all about you and your willingness to be in the driving seat.

It has taken me decades to wake up to the fact that I have always been looking for someone else to sort my running injuries out for me. I couldn’t see that the problem lay with me.

I did the classic consumer thing. In my late teens, I was running well but was suckered in by the shiny ads for running shoes in the magazines. I bought into the dream they were selling me. I felt that if I wanted to be a ‘proper’ runner then I needed a ‘proper’ pair of running shoes. Up until that point, I had been running and competing for years in cheap flat shoes. I didn’t have a problem but the magazines convinced me that I did. I saved long and hard for my first pair.They were Reebok Royales and within a month, I was injured for the first time ever.

Crazy as it seems, I didn’t connect the shin splints to the new ‘proper’ shoes. I mean, the shoes were ‘proper’ so how could the problem be with them? The running magazines were so full of tales of injury that it was seen as normal and they had plenty of solutions to sell me.

My first injury related purchase were called ‘Runners Wedge’. They sat in the back of my shoes and raised my heel a little. I then developed a problem with my arches and after paying out for physio and advice, bought some arch supports. I then had half length and full length inserts and then eventually went for gait analysis. This led to motion control shoes. Then it was motion control with inserts that cost more than the shoes themselves. I had neoprene calf supports and eventually after 20 something years of tinkering, coaching and physio, I ended up running wearing a calf support whilst having wedges underneath my orthotics in the most expensive shoes I could afford… and I was still breaking down with injury after less than a mile. My calves felt like they must have been made up of mostly scar tissue.

In the end, I just threw them all away and started again but it took a while for my head to get out of that consumer mindset. It is as prevalent in barefoot/minimalist running as everywhere else. I know lots of barefooters who have more shoes now than ever before…and they are not cheap.

We can fall into the trap of thinking that a pair of Vibram Fivefingers or Vivobarefoot will sort the problem out for us. They won’t. It doesn’t matter if they cost well over £100, they do not have the answer. It took me a little while longer to realise that before I ended up putting them to one side as well.

It is all about you. If you are willing to be patient and catch yourself when you are trying to buy a shortcut then you will make progress.

The parallel is the diet industry. Billions are spent trying to take a shortcut to the new thinner you. It is so enticing. If you are overweight then just throw money at it and everything will be sorted out for you. We know that It just doesn’t work like that. Throw out the orthotics in the same way that you throw out the diet products and that stuff in the fridge pretending to be yoghurt.

Look back at your running career. What injury related products have you invested in? Did they creep up on you? Where are you at now? List them and count the cost. Not just the money but the time. For me it has run into decades. How about you?

 

Dec 14

In a world of barefoot generalisations, we are all exceptions to the rule!

I must admit that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about the way scientific studies are interpreted. I have no problem with the studies but it when the interpretation leads to us being be told how we should run, I get hot under the collar.

The thing with generalisations is that they are just that. One way or another they average things out. They are useful as a starting point but they should not become rules to live by. In a world of generalisations, we are all an exception to the rule.

I believe that we can find a way that works just for us. We should celebrate our individuality, not be slaves to what works for the masses.

My latest article for Barefoot Running Magazine tells you how to build your understanding of what works from the ground up. Click the image (or here) for a handy pdf of the article.

BFrunning mag

 

You can download the whole issue here. It is worth a look. Excellent as always.

 

Nov 17

Digging deep – Why do you run?

digging deepThis post is for those who want to dig deep and find out the underlying reasons why they run. Are we running for our own reasons or because we have a vague sense that we should?

If we understand why we run then we are much more likely to turn it into a life long habit.

It is where I went through the process in the post ‘Creating your own barefoot path and breaking the Ad man’s heart’

I took my time and went through each of the steps.

Step 1 & 2 – I listed all the possible reasons that I could think of that I run. Then I put it aside for a day and came back and added a thing or two. They were:

  • My clothes fit better
  • It keeps my weight in check
  • I am emotionally more level when running consistently
  • I can handle the rest of my life better when running consistently
  • I enjoy the tired feeling in my legs during the day (After an early morning run)
  • I enjoy the long run and the space that it gives me to think.
  • I like the hard, strong feeling that develops in my leg muscles. They feel strong.
  • I want to pass on my love of running to my children
  • I want my heart and lungs to be in good shape
  • I want to be fit enough to do other physical activities at the drop of a hat.
  • I want to remain active into old age
  • It gives me something to blog and write about.
  • I really don’t want to be bald and fat. It is such a cliche.
  • I like the bounce in my step when I am running well. I feel like I can spring into action if needed.
  • I can walk up a mountain no problem.
  • It opens up a world of other things to do such as playing football with my kids.

You can see it was a stream of thoughts and there are some repetitions. That is OK. Just get the ideas out of your head.

Step 3 - I stared at the list for a little while and let my mind wander. I then noted where in the list my eye was drawn and put a circle around the 3 that I thought meant most to me. They were:

 

  1. It keeps my weight in check
  2. I enjoy the long run and the space that it gives me to think.
  3. I like the hard, strong feeling that develops in my leg muscles. They feel strong.

It is easy to leave it at that but the value comes when we dig a little deeper and ask oursleves why this reason is important to us.I did this for each of the reason that I had chosen.

 

  1. Keeping my weight in check is important to me. I want to look good in my clothes and feel good about myself. I lost all my hair suddenly when I was 19 years old and old, bald and fat is not somewhere I want to go. I need to have some credibility as a writer about running and I feel that many people judge by appearance.
  2. The ideas dealing with space to think and dealing with modern life. I feel like I need some space to deal with my busy life. It is the quality time that helps to sort things out and burns off adrenaline.
  3. I like to feel that I can spring into action if needed. I like to bounce down the corridor. I like the thought that I could head out and walk up a mountain if I needed to.

Step 4: Here is where I went even deeper and asked myself the question.’…but really…why is that important to me?’ I took each in turn and when the butterflies in my stomach arrived, I knew that I was getting towards the truth. It is all to easy to shy away from things. Being honest with yourself will bring a much greater reward.

 

  1. I also judge myself by appearance. I don’t want my wife to be sleeping next to an bald, fat guy who snores like a pneumatic drill and can’t bend down to do up his laces. The feeling of fitting my clothes well and looking at least half decent in the mirror gives me a spring in my step. I want to take my kids swimming and feel OK walking out there in half decent shape. No one else cares but the truth is that I do. I am sucked in by the running magazines and operate in a world where we are bombarded by images of an idealized perfection. My idea of a running coach is of a lean, mean army corps type and I feel that if I am going to offer advice on running then I need to be the same. Nonsense but it is at the root of some of this.
  2. I like to be busy and keep a lot of plates spinning. I am much more able to do that when I am running than when I am in a period when I am not. The space it gives me is important because I believe that we are involved far to much in the process of things and often forget why we do things in the first place. Running is quality time where my brain ticks these things over and I plot and plan and scheme. Sometimes deep questions about where my life is gong next and sometimes mundane practical things but without that space I get caught up in the hurly burly of doing stuff and never stop to think about it. I don’t want to waste my life on things that don’t matter. Life is too short for that. I have sometimes been overwhelmed by my job but I am able to cope with everything it throws at me when I am running consistently. Whether it is to do with the space for strategic thinking or simply that it burns off the adrenaline caused by stressful situations, I am not sure but it certainly true. In short, I enjoy my job more during periods of running because I cope with it much better.
  3. I do really bounce down the corridors and jump up and touch the ceiling when I am feeling fit and strong. The honest answer is that it feels good and I love that feeling when I am walking somewhere and I break into a trot or run just for the fun of it. I want to be a dad who joins in with his kids and not one that is on the sidelines. I enjoy mountain walking. I enjoy it so much more when I am in a period of my life when I am running. Being fit and strong opens up so many more areas of life and I want that to remain as I am getting older. As I get older, i want to remain someone who participates in life not someone who gradually becomes a spectator and watches everyone else enjoying themselves.

That is what came out of the process described in the post ‘Creating your own barefoot path and breaking the Ad man’s heart’. I got serious butterlfies when I start to delve into my feelings about my appearance which i guess means that there is something in there. I think there are a few more layers to go there but it enough for now. It is a start.

My reasons are just for me. I am not advocating any of them for anyone else. I would love you to go through the process though and tell us what you find. My belief is that we are much more likely to be lifelong runners if we at least have some understanding of why we are doing it. Let’s break the ad man’s heart!

I have started a topic on the subject in the forum. Join in and contribute. It might just help.

Nov 17

Find you barefoot mojo and break the ad man’s heart

imagesOn Barefoot Beginner, I aim to be different. The aim is to start you on the journey and give you some of the tools that will help you towards being a lifelong runner. I am not going to give you a generic training schedule and I am definitely not going to tell you why you should run. There is already too much of that going on. We all have our own reasons for running but very few people stop and dig down to see what those reasons might be.

I am going to give you a technique for doing just that. Go with it. Trust me, it will be worth it. You will begin to follow your own path rather than blindly following the well trodden route (often to the cash register) taken by countless runners before you.

(You can see an example of how I went through the process in – Your personal barefoot mojo  – Why do you run?

You may ask why it is important to know. Can’t you just get on with it and run? Of course you can but a few minutes here might make a big difference in the long term.

The thing is that we often get swept along and fit in with the value systems of other people. Wouldn’t it be better to be running for own reasons and not for someone else’s?

Often people begin because they have a vague sense that they should run. We don’t often stop and ask where  that comes from? We are bombarded by all that modern society throws at us. That includes images of what the perfect mum should be like…or the perfect dad…or husband …or wife etc etc etc. Advertisers are smart and they hit us on an emotional level. They paint a picture of the life they think we desire and we fall for it. They gently herd us towards the dream in droves. Running is no exception and has become part of this idealised lifestyle.

How do we break away from that and stop running to beat of an ad mans drum? We all like to think that we are immune and that there is no way that we would fall for that. But..they are smart and their methods are highly developed. They sell different dreams to different people. They have something for everyone.

They are very good at selling to people like me. The would be mavericks who don’t want to follow the crowd. They create a dream where I can drop out and turn my back on the modern consumer world and… there are now loads of products out there that I can buy that will make me feel that I am doing just that. Pick up a running or lifestyle magazine and rather than the products have a look at the lifestyle that they are trying to sell you.

Running magazines sell us multiple dreams. One is the idea of the ‘serious’ runner. The (always attractive) runner who is clearly successful in all aspects of their life. The one who races to win. The one who eats certain things, does this type of hill or interval training, wears a certain type of base layer. We get swept along with whatever is popular at the time.

Be aware that I am doing the same thing to you now. I am selling the dream of following your own path. Of being a free spirit that can break free from the herd. Barefoot running is full of that sort of thing. Don’t fall for it either. You can’t buy ‘barefoot’ but that hasn’t stopped a multitude of people trying to sell it to us!

The time has come to STOP and do something that most runners never do. Dig deep and explore where our motivation for running comes from. We should run for ourselves and not because we have a vague sense that it what we should be doing to be successful, happy people. We should run in ways that make sense to us on a level that goes beyond a vision imposed on us by someone else.
It takes a healthy dose of courage to do this though. It does make us examine our own value system and that can be uncomfortable. We feel stripped back to the bone. It can be exhilarating and liberating but also a bit scary. Often, when we think we are there, we can still look deeper and with more honesty.

When we find our own reasons, we are much more likely to run in a sustainable way that we can make into lifelong habit. We are much more likely to overcome obstacles than if we are running to someone else’s agenda. To paraphrase Steve Jobs ‘You get one life, don’t waste it by living some else’s.’

Here we go.

The Barefoot Beginner way to find your Mojo.

Step 1- List all the possible answers to the question. ‘Why do I run?’ or ‘Why do I want to begin running?’

You can do this in various ways. You can simply write a list going down a page or just write your thoughts spread out across a piece of paper. You can draw diagrams, mind maps. The idea is that you dump all your thoughts on paper. It does not need to be neat and tidy. Put it one side until the next day and forget about it.

Step 2 – Return to your list. In the downtime, your brain will have been working away in the background and you may feel the need to add a thing or two. The time has come to be honest. Look at the page. Where is your eye drawn to? What is it that matters most to you? Remember, this is you, not other people. You need not share this with anyone. What matters most to you? Put a circle around the 3 things that pull you towards them.
When I did this, I had a physical reaction. My heart began speed up and I felt a mixture of anxiety and excitement. It felt important. Don’t shy away from things because they feel different or strange. This is about you. You can’t get the answer wrong but you can cheat yourself and take the easy route and go for something bland and generic. Honesty is the key.

Step 3 - Order the reasons you have circled 1,2 and 3. It is now time to dig a little deeper. Take reason number 1 and read it carefully back to yourself.
Now ask yourself the question:’OK – so this is my reason for running but why is this important to me?’
This might come easily or you might need to let it sit for a while. Dump your ideas on paper and when you are ready, write a sentence that sums up why this reason is so important to you.

Step 4 - We are going to do this one last time. Trust me. Do it again. Read your sentence back to yourself. Take a moment to clarify exactly what you mean.
Now ask yourself the question:’Why is this so important to me?’

Dump your ideas on paper again and write a sentence that sums it all up.

Now do the same for the other reasons that you circled. Don’t skimp or take shortcuts. Be honest and delve deep.

What emerges at the end of this process is your value system. It belongs to you and nobody else. You should not feel embarrassed because it isn’t what you think it should be. You should never feel the need to make excuses for running the way you want to for your own reasons. They are valid and important even if they do not fit in with an ad man’s dream.

You may have found your Mojo but if you are feeling a serious sense of anti-climax then that is OK too. In modern society, our true feelings are often buried under many layers. We have learned how to conform to society and are conditioned to go with the collective flow. Keep going and asking ‘….but why is that important to me?’ until the butterflies in your stomach begin to wake up. Seek them out, they hold the truth.

Finally, it may be that your true reasons for running are in line with the common thinking and that you are indeed an ad man’s dream. Smile about it. That is OK too as long as you have your eyes open to it and are not simply being swept along.

I have started a thread on the forum where I have gone through the process myself. Have a look and then join in. Tell us why you run. Celebrate it and shout from the rooftops and break free from the ad man and his manufactured dreams.

Nov 01

Training Blog November 2014

Sat 1st Nov 14

4.2 miles barefoot this morning. I was up early and waiting for the light because I wanted to go off piste a little and run somewhere new. If I am going to run exclusively barefoot then I am going to develop a whole new set of routes to run that keep my interest up. I have decades worth of old familiar routes and then a pretty much all on rough man made trail. I can run them but it isn’t fun. There are still beautiful places to run but I need to dip in and out of those old routes and just run short section of man made trail for now.

I had a hot spot on the upper outside of my left ankle. Not muscle and so I don’t worry too much. The sections that I chose along field paths were very slippy this morning and that needs to be a consideration too. I ended up walking them more than the rough sections.

Sun 2nd Nov 14

A mile barefoot this morning to keep the streak going. Day 11 was one ot get rhough. We were out very late last night and full of curry and beer with all the parents from my son’s football team.

I was very wheezy and didn’t roll my arches before I set off. I could feel the difference in my calves as soon as I set off. Glad that I went out though. I must be more committed to the little runstreak than I thought.

Mon 3rd Nov 14

4.2 miles barefoot this morning. it was very dark setting off and the ground was damp. that always makes my soles burn more than usual and i found myself weaving around looking for puddles. I ended up thinking about repescting temperatures and weather in general. Hot tarmac can burn and the cold needs full respect and lots of experince before you tackle it. Felt good and ended up feeling like i was running quickly and on the edge of sustainable. A good way to start the week. it would be good to keep this barefoot mile a day going and keep logging my thoughts to form the basis of a year of barefoot running journal.

Spent last night putting together a HACCP plan ready fpr inspection for our food producers grade.

Day12

Tues 4th Nov 14

Day 13 of this little barefoot runstreak and I suffered this morning. Yesterday I scrubbed the skin off the end of the 4th toe of my left foot. I knew when I was running that I was pushing through some general discomfort from my soles but had no idea about the tip of my toe until well after I got back. I was also marvelling yesterday at how on very dark stretches my feet were finding their way and moulding round some quite sharp stones. One of them caused a nice bruise on the underside of my left foot. I decided on just a barefoot mile this morning and my soles were burning from the off. I concentrated on lifting my feet and kept my toes upturned. Yesterday I ran well and quick on the last 2 miles. I was enjoying the feeling of being on the edge and had to keep stopping myself getting tense and pushing off ever so slightly. It is almost not there. it is just a lack of emphasis on the lift and I ended up creating friction and scrubbing my toe. Live and learn. Tomorrow is another day.

Wed 5th Nov 14

My soles were protesting pretty soon into my run this morning. They have been telling me to take it easy for 3 days now. I ignored them on the first day and ended up with the skin scrubbed off one toe and a bruise on my left foot. I used spray plaster on the tip of my damaged toe last night to offera little protection this morning. i will continue to do so for a little while until it heals. My legs are feeling good and I fell better for the run but I will respect my soles and back off. Just a mile barefoot this morning. My runstreak is now 2 weeks old.

Thursday 6th Nov 14

A barefoot mile this morning. First headtorch run of the year. It was cold and dry underfoot having been at around zero ovrnight. The barefoot burn was there but not as much as yesterday. Running in the dark was fun but I caught a stone in the middle of my heel. Ouch! I then caught another in exactly the same spot on the way back. I am limiting my distance because of teh scrubbed skin on the end of my toe. Not becauswe of the toe, I have 2 layers of spray plaster on it but because I know that i protecting it when running and so my form is altered and i don’t want to pick up anything else. My legs feel realxed and good and I was concentrating on lifting. Using the spikey roller on my arches is enjoyable. There are some real hotspots in there and getting at them feels good. Day 15 of little runstreak.

Friday 7th Nov 14

Tip of my toe feeling much better so will be back out tomorrow as usual. Just a barefoot mile this morning to give it one more day to recover. Spray plaster worls well for me. It was 2C yesterday morning and although wetter, it feels about that today. The puddles were cold and my breath kept fogging my vision in the beam of my headtorch. I had not been n the trails for a while and think i had been avoiding them so i went along a very rough manmade trail this morning in the dark. i didn’t really get much beyond a walk and wouldn’t choose to do it but it shows that I can do it if i need to get to the other side for some good running. I need to put some into my barefoot routes to break them up a bit.

Sat 8th Nov 14

A barefoot mile. My soles and toe are feeling better but I was really pushed for time because I had been looking a headtorch reviews and thinking about cold induced vasodilation. It was cold underfoot this morning and that contributes to the burn a long wiht the damp conditions. Good to keep the streak going and being at day 17. I am really struggling to breath at the moment. i seem to be allergic to something in the air. My throat is very itchy and my breathing wheezy. i am atking antihistamines and inhaler and they help but I also have a nagging cough that i can’t shake off. Still running though and enjoying it.

Good to go through an exercise in finding out the reasons why I run. I will be posting it soon so everyone can have a go.

Sun 9th Nov 14

I really struggled with my barefoot mile this morning. My breathing was laboured and I nearly had to stop going uphill. I have been struggling with my breath for a while. i have gone from someone who never needs to take their inhaler from one year to the next to needing it just to get through the day. the back of my throat is itchy. Either i am having an allergic reaction to something in the air and then this is making my wheeze or I am wheezing, taking my inhaler an it is making the back of my throat itchy. Whatever, I need a checkup. Just got notification through that is time so I had better get in there this week. Day 18.

Mon 10th Nov 14

Checked peak flow reading after run yesterday. Down to 380. That is very low. 320 and I am in trouble. My normal reading is about 650. I was 510 this morning and 600 after inhaler. 2.8 barefoot in the dark this morning. Still wheezy but I am OK to run if I use inhaler. I think it is linked to the dust thrown up by the heating. Feet felt fine this morning. I could feel the tip of my toe but it is pretty well healed now. My left calf had a bit of a tight spot. Just a little but nothing to stop me running. I did not use the flat roller this morning, just the spiky one and I think that may have been the difference. Good to be out. Not too cold. Day 19

Tues 11th Nov 14

Day 20 was a barefoot mile in the wet before dawn. It was very dark and I ended up fiddling about with torch and putting it over my cap. Time for wooly hats if I am going to run with headtorch. I enjoy the splashiness of the wet much more than the damp. It is much more pleasant to run on. Toe tip was protesting early on so ended up curling my toes upwards. Lots of tension in my shoulders which i needed o keep dropping. I seemed to be in a hurry this morning. kept slowing myself down and relaxing and then when I came to, I was bombing along with tense shoulders again.

 Wed 12th Nov 14

3 miles barefoot this morning. I felt fine other than my legs feeling heavy during the day. it is a curious feeling that I recognise from my last run streak. it is like my legs are pulling me downwards into the ground. Not sore. Just heavy. 3 weeks so far.

Thursday 13th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. The ground was dry for the first time in ages and it felt wonderful and cool and smooth until I hit the damp roughr section half a mile in. Then the tip of the same toe began to protest. I was pushing along at this point and may have been gripping bu then i gues that is what toes are supposed to do. I concentrated on a different kind of focus which was lifting and form and tried to let the speed come. I do revert back to forcing myself along though. Chose that word carefully. I am not pushing off my I am developing traction top sort of pull myself through. Day 22

Fri 14th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. It just rained really hard for the 10 mins that I was out. I got soaked. My feet protested almost straight away and although I could have gone much further, I think that I needed to listen to them and stop. It will be interesting to see if this is a phase and I come out of it or whether my feet cannot cope with the mile a day. Day 23. I ended up engaging my core this morning and thinking abut Jae’s advice and Chirunning etc. I do feel better when I extend my spine but find that my natural as state is not as extended and I pull myself along.

Sat 15th Nov 14

Funny, broken nights sleep. I ended up getting up for a couple of hours and going back to bed at 5am. That interupted my plans for an early run because it was an early start anyway for football and normal Saturday morning stuff. Just a mile barefoot. I could feel tenderness straight away. I went onto a steep muddy slope at one point but it was much too slippy barefoot. I might need to get my barefoot mile in and then go out for a run later in the day shod. I will see how that goes.

Sunday 16th Nov 14

2.3 miles barefoot in inky blackness this morning. On a market today but wanted to get a run in that was longer than a mile so I was out very early. Day 25 was Ok. My soles are sensitive at the moment. I kept looking for puddles to run through. I would love a dry day to go at.

Monday 17th Nov 14

A mile this morning. I struggled to get up this morning. I rolled out of bed because i wanted to get my run in. If I hadn’t been running this morning, I would have stayed in bed for a while. I knew that if I went through the day then getting the run in this evening would have been difficult. All my little calf niggles have come running in the evening recently. My soles feel like they are wearing out. they don’t feel robust. the barefoot burn came on pretty quick this morning. I enjoy dropping into a relaxed pitter-patter of a rhythm that I feel I can sustain but I consistently find myslef pushing hard. I must have gone up the steep hill this morning with no problem because I can remeber nothing about it. I am wondering how robust my soles would feel with aftwer a few days off.

Tues 18th Nov 14

4.86 barefoot miles this morning. I stretched arches with roller and headed out into the damp darkness thinking that I would struggle to do a mile. The damp is the worst for me but after a mile I carried on fine. I am struggling to judge whether my soles have had enough or whether I am just going over a rough piece of road. I ran just short of 5 miles and felt great by the end. I could have gone further but time was a constraint. I think that time is a big factor in barefooting. you need to give yourself space to take your time. Rushing doesn’t work.

Wed 19th Nov 14

4 weeks of barefooting  and a barefoot mile this morning. I forgot to take my inhaler and so my breathing was very wheezy at the end. No problem with headtorch and I was jumping on and off kerbs with no concern as to what was under my feet.

Thursday 20th Nov 14

5 miles barefoot this morning. That is my second 5 miler of the week which is a turnaround on how I was feeling last week. i find myself plotting and planning and scheming on how to get to 20 miles a week barefoot and then I stop myself. I am feeling good today but it might be different next week. Who knows? I want to be a lifelong runner, I need to learn how to ride the waves and keep things ticking over gently in the dips between them.

I got to thinking about snow. My plan is to try and keep the barefoot mileing up as long as possible but if i can’t so be it. the snow won’t last forever and I am already looking forward to the spring.

I think that adding some gradients into your running is useful. It makes you think about friction in particular both going up and going down. Chris McDougal also trained by running fast uphills, I seem to remember.

Friday 21st Nov 14

A barefoot mile that started with the burn and carried on that way. I waore my headtorch and ended up experimneting. Jason Robillard uses a hand held torch or so I believe. I assume that is all to do with posture because you do tilt your head. I think that i would be doing that anyway to look at the ground but I wouldn’t mind giving a handheld a try. It would certainly help in the cold when my breath fogs up my vision in the beam.

My 3rd toes on left footwas catching again and I will need to watch that as it gets colder and my feet look their feeling. I have been using the spiky roller before running. it gets the blood flowing and I think it helps. my feet felt sensitive when i got up but the roller got rid of that although I couldn’t have gone far this morning. Day 30

Sat 22nd Nov 14

Just short of 3.5 miles barefoot this morning. The ground was wet and nice to run on. A few steep hills that were OK. Much easier barefoot. A good running week so far. I think that is a full calendar month of barefooting every day.

Sun 23rd Nov 14

1.4 miles barefoot in the daylight today. That is a novelty and I enjoyed it. My feet felt cold and tender afterwards but I have not got a single issue anywhere in my legs or feet at the moment. I spent around 10 hrs in the car yetserday but any stiffnedd or wrinkles where ironed out this morning. I don’t care why barefooting works. It just does for me and that is that. I could not run like this in shoes.

Mon 24th Nov 14

1 mile barefoot in zero degrees C. The first morning with ice on the windscreen. The baredfoot burn was there straight away and I grinned when it almost made me stop. It took me back to when I first started walking the dogs round the block barefoot and I got stuck and couldn’t go back wards or forwards because my feet were protesting so much.

Tuesday 25th Nov 14

5 miles barefoot this morning aqnd I knew from getting up that it would be OK. My feet feel fine. It was cold and I am not sure if there was some rocksalt on the busiest road. I ended up running pretty quick for me in places. Day 34 and i have just realised that I will need to be running when I am on the residential; with the children in a couple of weeks. Should be fun in the Pennines with my headtorch.

Wed 26th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. I could tell that my feet needed a bit of a break today but they held up better then I thought they would. It helped that it was wet. I seem intent on getting out of bed and continuing this run streak. I felt bouncy and alive yesterday which is one of the things that I get most out of being a runner. I also felt in better shape generally than I have for a while.

Thur 27th Nov 14

Day 36 was a barefoot mile. I could have gone further but my soles still feel a little tender from Tuesday morning and I decided to respect that and back off a little and wait until tomorrow until I go further. I got to thinking about friction and how we reduce it. I am not pushing off but I do pull myself through using the friction of the sole against the floor. it would be handy if we could do without friction but just like calories we need some and that is where the problem lies. I am grabbing the floor and pulling myself forward and then I lift. No sign of getting fed up with the runstreak. This morning run is becoming a habit. The spiky roller felt good this morning.

Fri 28th Nov 14

5 barefoot miles this morning. …and what did I learn? I learnt that I can switch the feedback off from my soles and do too much. I have been too preoccupied with my soles and have forgotten that they keep me from doing too much and hurting the underlying structure of my feet and lower legs. Towards the end of the run I got an ache in the inner heel of my right foot that I have not had before. It then worked slightly round towards my arch. I also have had a pain in my right knee cap. I found this yesterday when i went to sit down at a dining table with the children at school. I put my weight on my right leg as I bent down low and nearly fell over. It is top centre of my knee cap and I do not feel it all when running or walking. it just comes on when I bend my knee significantly. I don’t remember banging it on anything. It is sore and I will need to keep an eye on how much it is affecting my running technique. I had 2 big sneezing fits last night and my whole back of throat is itchy and sore too.

Sat 29th Nov 14

Running when I get up has meant that I have a good routine to follow and it is working for me at the moment. It is all about giving myself time and space to run and not beating myself up if I oversleep and run less than planned. My feet felt good after the 5 miler yesterday but as sonn as I set off, I could feel a couple of hot spots on my soles and expected to struggle. I got to my half way point and the barefoot burn just hadn’t arrived and I ran no problem today. Day 38. My knee is still sore and I don’t have an explanation at the moment. I may be keeping my right leg a little more straight than my left and I will need to watch that.

Sun 30th Nov 14

6.85 miles on bridleways and quiet roads. I slipped and went down hard on a muddy section. It was one of those that could break a wrist. I proceeded cautiously. I am in the middle of an EdD weekend and the run gave me space to consider things. I am learning more about the narrative approach that I can see myself using to learn about barefooting. I moved off the white lines in the middle of the road because they were slick andIi was worried about going down again. A big message is about time. Time to be patient but allowing time to run without the need to hurry. Runners tend to be people in a hurry.  Day 39 rounded off a week with over 20 miles of barefoot running. i have not run in footwear for a long time.

Oct 25

The first 40 seconds

40--2157369-Stopwatch Loop RealtimeI am often asked about my decision to begin barefoot running and how I did it. The truth is that it all started with a run of 40 seconds. Honestly!

After that, my soles were yelling at me to stop. I was carrying a pair of shoes and I slipped them on and made my way home.

It was a very humble beginning but for the rest of the day, I could feel the tingle in my feet. I was excited and couldn’t wait to go again. I had become a barefoot runner and my life had changed for the better.

That feeling is there for everyone. I am nothing special. I am not an urban caveman or bio mechanical genius. I am just a simple runner trying to find a way to run in a sustainable way that will last well into old age. I believe that I have found it.

It is my belief that most people can begin to run barefoot without problems as long as they start small and build gradually. Everyone is different but I believe that it is realistic for most people to go from 0 to 5k in around 12 weeks if they are willing to ditch the shoes for that period and start at the beginning.

I am suggesting that you do just that.

There are many variables that will make this individual to just you. Don’t try and ram yourself into a hole that doesn’t fit. Generalisations are useful to test ourselves against but we should not be slaves to them. You are an individual and need to experiment and find your own way. On Barefoot Beginner, I plan to help you do just that.
There are many things that will make your first run unique to you however, for this first run, we are only going to look at just 3 of them:

  • The surface you choose for your first run
  • The length of your first run
  • The speed that you choose to run

 

What surface?

There is a lot of debate over the best surface to start on. The common guidance is to start on a surface that flat, consistent and debris free. This might be a good quality tarmac road or path. The principle of a smooth, firm surface is that it gives you good feedback through your soles and helps you to develop an efficient technique.

That makes sense to me but I know many stories of people starting out on grass, sand and woodland trails. I even know of people who started out on rough man-made trails. Use what you you have at hand and don’t worry about it.

Don’t be that runner who never begins because they are always searching for the perfect surface. Put that excuse to one side.

How far?

I am also often asked how far the first barefoot run should be. This will also be individual to you. I had no idea how long my first was going to be when I set off. I turned out to be 40 seconds. The truth is that it doesn’t matter as long as you are honest with yourself about it and accept it for what it is. A beginning.


The Barefoot Beginner philopsophy is that the soles of your feet will prevent you from doing to much, too soon and hurting yourself. They will be your guide and savior.
How will you know when your soles have reached their limit for the day? It is a fair question and one that you will learn to answer for yourself. My soles were burning more quickly than I expected and I felt like I couldn’t go any further and so stopped. You will need to be honest with yourself. It is perfectly possible to switch off the feedback from your feet, plough on and get blisters.

During my first 12 weeks of barefoot running, I respected the messages coming from my soles, gradually ran further and didn’t have one blister. If you do get blisters, it is not the end of the world. It is all part of the learning process. Don’t be hard on yourself, just adjust your thresholds and work out how to read the feedback from your soles.
Carry a shoe in each hand and set off. When your soles are singing and you have had enough, stop. Slip your shoes on and make your way home.

How fast?

This will also be individual to you. I only mention it so that you are aware and think about it. Most people will tell you to forget about speed for now. The principle is that you first concentrate your running technique then add distance and finally the speed will come.
The Barefoot Beginner approach does the first two by default. We are improving our form by running barefoot and then are gradually increasing our distance. The speed you run is up to you. Do what feels comfortable and natural. I started out by pitter-pattering along quite slowly.

My cadence was higher than previously but my overall speed was slower. Take it easy and enjoy it. There is no rush. You have the rest of your life to be a runner. It doesn’t matter if you slow down a bit in order to become a runner for the long term.

There are plenty of other variables to think about such as your cadence, how you land, how you lift off, your arm swing etc. However for now, we are not going to worry about any of them. We are going to relax about the whole thing and get going.

Stop reading and start running

The time has come. Stop reading, take off your shoes and run. It doesn’t really matter what the surface is like or how far or fast you go. You will learn more from 40 seconds of barefoot running than any number of hours of reading can teach you.
When you get back, write down how you feel. How far did you get? How do your feet feel? What about the rest of you? Are you smiling? Are you looking forward to going again?
Dump it all on paper and then put it to one side. Better still, tell us all about it. We have a thread on our forum for you to tell us about your first barefoot run. It doesn’t matter if it was a humble beginning. In fact, the more humble the better.
After your first run, don’t run the following day and then go again. Dump your ideas on paper again. How did they compare with your first run? What similarities and differences can you see?
You are a barefoot runner and your running life will never quite feel the same again.

Tell us about your first run at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/forums/topic/what-was-you-first-barefoot-run-like/ – You can read some excellent examples from members of the Barefoot Beginner community.

The time has come. Today is the day. Give it a go!

Oct 13

From achilles pain to ultra distance in three months

Thanks to Florian for his story. I would love to hear your tales. There is truth to be found in each and every one. You can send them to me via the contact form at the top of the page.

Over to Florian:

I published before on Barefoot Beginner. Back then I really used to be a beginner. If I compare my 30 years of running “wrong” to my three year of working on my running style I am still a barefoot beginner. And I suspect I will always remain one.
06 first marathon
Why? Because after I trained for my solo Sahara trip in 2013 I thought to be as fit as never before. I used to run more kilometers per week than ever before and I seemed to be in a very good condition overall.
After my return I joined a company race in Berlin in my vibram fivefingers. 6000 people started on the 6km course. It was so much fun and I just ran as fast as my legs carried me.
I came in at number 81 with 20min flat. My calves burned like hell but it was fun and I loved it. So I started at another race one week later. My time was almost the same. I was so much into running that I planned to run ULTRA marathons and I registered for the Berlin 100miles in August 2014.
BUT, my achilles told me that they were very unhappy about the pace in my races. I started to feel some knots at my achilles and I tried to get rid of the pain that barely let me walk with ice, with heat, with massage, with pausing, with doing slow sessions… guess what.. nothing helped. More than a year later I still had pain in my achilles when I went on a short run. I almost didn’t run at all anymore.
In the meantime I gave up my apartment in Berlin bought a 1971 Mercedes Benz truck that was converted into an RV ages ago and travelled Europe and North Africa with my girlfriend. We drove half a year and more than 30.000km and have been to the most spectacular places.
But well, that is another story.
In July I received a call from Ronald Musil (race director of Berlins 100meilen.de). He reminded me that I preregistered for the 100miles a year ago and that I have a starting slot if I like to. I replied that I would really like to but am totally out of shape and that I don’t know if I am able to run that distance. He gave the best possible answer to trigger me. He said: Well, you won’t find out if you don’t try. He got me there, I agreed to give it a chance. I still had 33 days to train and to get in shape. My achilles was still aching and I went to a Berlin based natural running coach: Sven Spanka
He did some very simple analyses with me and was sure that all my pain is based in insufficiently trained calves. He told me to workout for my calves daily. Furthermore some training for my hamstrings, and most of all: my belly. My doctor who fortunately reads my blog, wrote me and suggested to treat my achilles with Traumel as often as possible. I did so and started running again daily. We went to southern France and ran some really nice trails there and then moved to Switzerland where I started to run mountain trails daily. All that running up and the daily training for my calves really worked. Although I could feel some pain in calves it did not get worse. But still the farest distance that I ever ran on record was 27 kilometers.04 swiss mountain trail
On August 16th I started at 6 in the morning in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg for the 100 miles. It was a perfect running day. I had so much fun and so much pain and fun again and much more pain. Friends of mine were waiting everywhere around the course and accompanied me for a while. So I ran my first marathon ever, and then my second. Then I tried to run my third and I failed. I made it to the 100km mark and couldn’t move another step. I had to quit although there were still 60 kilometers left. I had to admit miles are not the same as km.
For the race I taped my ankles, achilles and calves with kinesiotapes. I wore Luna Sandals and the only mistake I did, was to wear my sandals a little too tight on my right foot for the first 30km. That led to a swollen foot which mainly forced me to quit and had me suffer a little for the following days. Apart from that I was absolutely fine and most important my achilles pain is gone since that day.

Back in Switzerland I continued racing in the mountain and fortunately the minimal running fever caught my girlfriend Judy as well which let us run the alpine single trails together.

DCIM100GOPROWe even went to an alpine Ultra marathon together. Her competing in the 27km with 1500m D+ and me in the 55km with 3500m D+. I can tell you, now I know what running in the mountains mean. Although my achilles were fine I developed two really bad runners knees during the race. It took me forever (13hours) because I could only walk downhill. I had promised myself not to quit and finishe this race no matter what. I ended up being fifth. From the back. Almost everybody who was slower than me was taken out of the race because they did not meet the cutoff times which were really tight.
The race awarded every finisher with 2 qualification points for the Ultra Marathon Du Mont Blanc, which I believe to be one of the hardest races in the alps. So I guess there is a new goal ahead of me.

Since I found out this year, that most of the tendon pains you can experience during a race is a sign of muscle weakness somewhere else, I started to train my thighs and am now free of pain even on the downhill sections.

I did not run any remarkable times at all, but within three month I made it from an injured runner to two ultra marathon distances and a pain and injury free runner.

Do you experience any pain yourself? Let a good barefoot coach examine your running style and the strength of your ankles, calves, thighs, hips and belly and then train strength, not endurance for the affected muscles.
If something hurts use Traumel, Dolocyl and Kinesiotapes.

Aren’t we born to run?

Florian
Glücklichtrainer and author of nativerunners.com

Sep 26

My 5 mile running week – Why constraints boost creativity and motivation

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Why is that? ..and can I use it to give my motivation for running a boost?

Why is it that when faced with a host of obstacles, the brain sits up, takes notice and the creative juices begin to flow. How can we harness that for our own devices when struggling for motivation with our running (or anything else that we might care to mention).
Create a few carefully chosen constraints and your brain will kick into gear and look for inventive ways to make the most of what you have left.
Why do I run (and write) more consistently when my life is at its busiest?
Over the years, I have consistently found this to be the case. I dream about retiring and having the rest of my life to do nothing but run. I can picture myself running over the hills into the sunshine with an air of freedom and wild abandon. However, I know enough about myself to recognise that it just won’t be like that. At least not all the time. Given complete freedom, my motivation will plummet. In the same way that I crave a bit of peace and quiet from our crazy family life and an evening on my own is bliss, a week on my own is too much and I long for the hurly burly again.
My brain loves to solve problems – In Laws of Subtraction, Matthew May says that

‘Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints…it does not require unrestrained freedom; rather it relies on limits and obstacles.’

Given a blank page art is difficult. Given some rules, we thrive. If you have ever tried to write a Haiku or a limerick, you will know what I mean. You work within a framework of constraints and the juices begin to flow. Many things are the same. If I asked you to review your favourite running book and gave you total freedom, a few of you will jump to it but most of us are not sure where to start and therefore never do. However, If I ask you to tell us the best thing you learnt from a running book but you have to use exactly 33 words (and none of them are to be the word running) our brains suddenly start to work on it. We can’t help it.
Summer is the same for me. I work in schools and long for the summer holidays where I imagine endless days stretching into the distance. However the truth is that I don’t run as much during the summer as at other times of the year. I just have too much freedom. It goes well to start with but with a blank page to run into my motivation drops.

Important!

I have added a thread in our forum on the topic of intelligent constraints. Please come and join in. It is easy to login with facebook.

In summer, I am best if I give myself constraints and rein the freedom in. It works if I commit to running every other day with a friend. We did that last summer with success; we also restricted ourselves to not running the same route twice. It kept our motivation up.
How does it work in other areas of life?
It is certainly the case that I never seem to have enough money and some periods when we first had children were tough. Some of the best days out we have had as a family is when we have had strict financial constraints. We had a brilliant day doing all the free things for kids in Liverpool. The ice-cream tastes better when you know that it is the big treat for the day. When we need to be thrifty, our brains kick in and for some people it is their way of life. It is a lot of fun. When we are in that position, we often crave a big wad of cash but somehow days where we spend with no regard are just not as much fun. Maybe once in a while perhaps but not as the norm.

I am not a great cook and tend to go through the motions at meal time. I buy the same old things week in week out. However, I love it when we have next to nothing left and I need to create a meal out of it. There is something immensely satisfying and it tastes good. The same goes for calories. The popular fasting diet going around at the moment limits you to 600 calories on your fast day. (Don’t get me started – Eating and calling it fasting is like running in shoes and calling it barefooting). I have done it a few times and found the motivation to cook more creatively than I have for ages.
Many people make a living out of the struggle. They thrive on the task of sorting things out under tight constraints and even when they have made it and are very successful, they long for the old days of wheeling and dealing and ducking and diving. It can be in the heady world of high finance or the more gentle pursuit of gardening.
The late Geoff Hamilton was the chief gardener at The BBC for years. Geoff became very successful and created 38 beautiful gardens at his Barnsdale home and in the years before he died, made a number of television series and took viewers through the process. However, they were all pretty similar and merged into each other. His family said that he looked happiest when he did a series on the £2 garden. His challenge was to create a lovely garden on no more than £2 a week. He didn’t lower his standards but you could see the joy on his face when he used a cloche made from old bamboo and hose pipe rather than simply buying an expensive one. He seemed reinvigorated and no longer going through the motions. He got his mojo back. As an example, I appreciate that it is a bit random but it has stuck with me. I enjoyed that programme more than any other because my brain was ticking alongside his and trying to solve his problems.
So..how can we harness this for our own purposes? How can we add intelligent limitations to our running?
Anyone can impose strict limitations on things but how do we add a constraint that gets our creative juices flowing and us out of bed in the morning raring to go?
An obvious choice is limiting the number of miles we run. We could limit ourselves to a 10 miles a week or 20 or 30 or 50. Whatever fits best for you. You could run as many times a week as you like but have a maximum long run of 5 miles (or 10 etc).
How about limiting the number of hours a week you run. How about 3 hours spread in any way you like across the week but no more than 3 hours in total.
How about limiting the number of runs. If you are the kind of runner who runs almost every day, why not constrain yourself to 3 runs a week. Mileage is up to you but you must do the in no more than 3 separate outings.
During the summer, I set myself the constraint of never running the same route twice. It stopped me slipping into a rut and I had to get the map out to search for new places to run. It worked for me.
You could limit what you wear on your feet. How about having a week where you wear nothing at all on your feet.
The way we can set intelligent constraints for ourselves is limitless and what will boost for one person may just feel silly to another. Play around until one tweaks your curiosity. Dig a bit deeper until your creativity starts to work despite yourself. Then have fun with it.
I am going to set myself a constraint over the next couple of weeks. I am being drastic and am only going to allow myself 5 miles a week to play with. As soon as I thought about it, my brain started to come up with the best ways of getting the most out of them.
Should I run 1,1,1,1,1 or 1,3,1 or 1, 1.5, 2.5? Should I add some speed work into the mix in one of my runs? Should every run be barefoot? Should I mix up the terrain and run a mile barefoot on the rough stuff to help me get used to that? I have some good hills close to home, should I aim for them and do some hill reps? Maybe if I find a system that works for me with 5 miles, I could then scale it up. Perhaps this is a good way of pressing reset and going back to basics.
I would love to hear about some of the constraints that you set yourself to spice things up.
….and I wouldn’t mind some advice. Given a 5 mile week what would you do with it?

Important!

I have added a thread in our forum on the topic of intelligent constraints. Please come and join in. It is easy to login with facebook.

Sep 19

You don’t need anyone’s permission to run!

Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while will know that I don’t get annoyed. At least not in print. I am more the ‘Live and let live. run and let run’ brigade.

...but I read something a few weeks ago which got under my skin. I read a fantastic post from one of our members. It was a tale of real success and progress. The sort of story that you just have to share with people who will understand. Nothing wrong there. So what was it that made me so annoyed?
It was nothing to do with the story. It was the fact that they seemed almost ashamed. The runner posting wanted to share their progress but they didn’t feel right about calling it success. Where does that come from?
I then read another post from runner in another forum from a runner who was very disparaging about runners who they thought were non serious. i.e. Those who were not trying to win. Those who were discovering running later in life. The language used was insulting and what hit me more was that the person posting was completely oblivious to the impact that their words may have. He seemed to think that the everyone only runs to try and get on the podium. It was almost as if everyone else was running for his benefit so that he could demonstrate how good he was and beat them.
This simply isn’t the case.
I think he thought that during a 10k with a few thousand runners taking part, everyone was looking to see who came in the top 3 and was very impressed. I have done hundreds of races and I can safely say that with the odd exception (I once came 3rd – It was a long time ago!), I have no idea who won.
Running offers us so many benefits that many runners measure their success without considering times or race positions.
Running is not owned by a few people who are relatively quick compared to a few other people. We do not run with their permission and should not be seeking their approval.
Of course, most quick club runners understand that and they are encouraging, helpful and supportive. Unfortunately some aren’t and we end up with disparaging comments that say more about the commenter than anything else.
The real question is why we want to run in the first place. If it is because we want to win races then that is great but the answer will be different for each of us.
So…have a go at these 3 questions and see what comes out of the other end. It may not be what you first thought. Be honest with the first answer and then use questions 2&3 to dig a little deeper.
1. Why is running important to you? (e.g. I want to improve my fitness)
2. Take you answer from question1 and ask ‘..but why is that important to you? (e.g. Because I don’t want to die young from heart disease. I want to feel good in my clothes and keep my emotional state level)
3. One last time..Take that and ask ‘…but really. Why is that important to you?. (We only get one life, I don’t want to waste it. I want to enjoy my grandchildren and remain active into later life)
I went through the process and at no point did I mention coming third in a local race. I did that once and I loved it but it isn’t my real reason for running. For me, it is to do with maintaining my weight and keeping on an emotional even keel. I want to live a long and happy life that I can share with my family.
We can measure our success better when we first realise why we run in the first place. We need to challenge that dialogue that exists out there that it is all about times and podium finishes.
I enjoy running fast and enjoy trying to beat my previous times and for a few years that was all I did but I now have much more important reasons for getting out of bed for an early morning run.
I used to run with a club who had a number of different groups that ran on club nights. The slowest groups had christened themselves ‘The Slugs’. After yet another lay off, I returned on club night and went out for a 7miler with them. The pace was slower than I had ever run but I found it a humbling experience.
What I found was a group of dedicated, serious runners. They raced more often than most other groups and were more regular attendees at club nights as they seemed to be injured less than the faster groups. I came out of that evening with a different perspective than previously. For these people, running was deeply ingrained in their lives and there was real camaraderie in their group.
There are millions of runners out there with millions of reasons for running. It is folly to assume that everyone is there for the same reason as you. Understand your reasons, dig a little deeper and you will find the motivation that you need to be a runner in the long term.
You don’t need permission from anyone to run. Mark your progress against your own criteria and ignore everyone else’s agenda. Be proud of your achievements and shout them from the rooftops. We are listening and applaud you all. Bravo running folk. Bravo!

Sep 05

A hello from Andy at Barefoot Running Northern Ireland

We have a new service added to our coaches page for all those of you in Northern Ireland. Andy from Barefoot Running NI introduces himself here.

 

Andy from Barefoot Running NI.

Barefoot Running NISo I’m one of those people who started out barefoot running after reading Born To Run. It’s not something I feel the urge to apologise for, but so many barefooters started for this very reason, that it’s almost become a cliché. But the book is so good and the chapter towards the end with the Daniel Lieberman research is hugely compelling. So it is this book that started my barefoot journey. My first barefoot running experience lasted all of 1 minute 43 seconds according to my running app. I came out the front door, up the drive and on to the footpath. The footpath outside my house is very fine, sharp, stoney, rough old tarmac and the sensations from that overwhelmed me almost immediately. I passed a man walking his dog and tried to act confident and normal but I don’t think either of us were convinced. He gave me a look, part fear, part “you’re the weirdest guy I’ve ever seen, this is going on facebook”. I made it about 30 meters from the house and had to turn back, passing the dog walker yet again…
I soon found a new place to run where it wasn’t so challenging on new feet and took to the coastal paths. Comparatively smooth and barefoot friendly, and somehow running barefoot near the beach is infinitely more acceptable for members of the public when seeing a grown man running unshod. However you still got those looks… the stare/gawping from some members of the public. I don’t know why but for some reason it seems to be age 60 plus women who are most horrified by it. They make a part noise of utter shock, and part utter disgust or horror, as if you’ve already cut your feet and are continuing to run blood through the streets. It’s a great sound if I’m honest.
Anyway I kept at it and slowly worked my way up to half marathon distance, running my first barefoot half in 1:56 (20 mins faster than my shod time!). After the half, I got a lot of people approaching me asking about barefoot running and was I mad. It got me thinking, “I can’t be the only barefoot runner out there”. Surely some other people here in Northern Ireland must have read this book and been as inspired as I was.
I decided I needed to find out. I went home and that night set up a Twitter account in the name of Barefoot Running NI. I started posting barefoot related articles and vids. Started organising one man club runs and advertising them, saying “all welcome”.
I turned up at every race I could and got a club running vest printed up by means of advertising, getting people talking on social media and hopefully finding others. Word began to spread and at one race I was approached by our local mayor, who had heard all about it.
It wasn’t too long before I started hearing back from others. I actively trailed the net, searching forums and contacting other barefooters I found to join me in my quest to start a club.
It wasn’t until I received contact from Simon Hunter that I actually met, face to face,another barefooter. It was great to run as a pair and not be stared at like some you’re loon, parents ushering their kids away from you. It was no longer crazy, it was a thing!
Simon was onboard pretty much instantly and as psyched as I was about a club. He set up our facebook page, got himself BRNI running vest and we hit all the races we could. Soon we started attracting more barefooters and meeting up at the weekends for club runs.
In the past year then we started having more people approach us after each race and when word got out our club was going to attempt to run the Belfast Marathon 2014 completely barefoot, the press got involved.
We had tv spots, radio interviews, lots of newspaper articles.
We then had loads of people asking about barefooting and could we teach them. We wanted to… but we had no idea really where to start. We could tell them what we do but we had very different running styles. It was pretty clear that wasn’t going to work.
So, we found Lee Saxby online and found he was doing courses through Vivobarefoot, teaching interested parties how to become coaches. That was it, the solution, direction and inspiration we needed. We were in!
Now, one week-long trip to London later, three months of hard graft and a whole lot of work and study, we got signed off as certified running form/barefoot running coaches.
Now, two years after our humble beginnings as a one man twitter account, our club is excited to finally be able to offer this service to beginners and elite runners alike. Those wanting to learn to run from scratch, or improve their running form, boost performance or, simply, learn to barefoot, Andy and Simon of Barefoot Running NI can help.
We are very proud and excited to have gotten this far and the feedback we’ve received from our clients and coaches has been phenomenal. We’re there, we’re doing it, and we want to help you!
BAREFOOT RUNNING NI!

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