September 2013 archive

Sep 29

Barefoot running makes you realise – OMG life is so complicated

I have often commented on the way barefoot running has slowed me down and made me look at other parts of my life. It is clear that I have a problem that needs some work. How did life become so complicated? Sometimes I have so much to do, I do nothing because I don’t know where to begin.

I feel like I am constantly on the move. I run from place to pace. I am time poor and definitely not money rich. If I could start over I would. Clean slate, start again. Well not quite. I have a wonderful family. As a family, it feels like it would be good to start over, count our blessings and get off the treadmill.

But how…?

I am not an original thinker here. I am jumping on a bandwagon that is gaining pace. The TV is full of representations of happiness being found through off-grid living. There are many books and websites suggesting ways to make money doing the thing you love. Some feel real and others don’t. Barefoot Beginner and our market stall selling beer are experiments in that philosophy.  Both are incredible fun but at the moment just add to the racing around.

The amount of incoming information I deal with each day is huge. I spend a good deal of time processing, sorting and acting on it. I am not alone. I am good at it. I use a system promoted by Mark Forster in his book ‘Do it Tomorrow’. Unless something is life or death, I take all today’s incoming and put on one side until tomorrow. I then only deal with it if it relevant.

I do check my email too often though. I also check facebook too regularly. Could I get rid of them altogether? Not at the moment. So..I need a few rules. I have them at work. I check my emails for emergencies periodically but only act on them once a day. I need to transfer this across to my personal life.

The truth is that I can’t wipe the slate clean. I have a mortgage and like most people, I am working hard with my head down to get it paid off. I seem to have a utopian view of how my life will be when I am mortgage free.  A bit like holding my breath for a couple of lengths before I can breathe again. My life feels like it is on hold until I reach that point but it is too far away. If I accept that I am going to be swimming a few miles then I am going to need to learn to breathe as I go  OK – Dodgy metaphor but it works in my head.

Is it possible to live more sustainably than the crazy way I do at the moment?

I teach for a living…or rather I used to. I now spend my time on a myriad of other things. Mostly, I spend my time proving that the children are being taught rather than actually teaching them. I sometimes wonder how much more we could accomplish if we could just concentrate on teaching the children the things they need to know. Maths is a classic example. We have spent the best part of a decade making maths so complicated and are only just realising that it need not be like that. Simple is usually best.

My own social life is simple. I don’t have one. There just isn’t time. We have friends but we don’t really get together because we are all exhausted. I am yearning for a slower life where we share time, food and experiences with our family and friends. We go to work, come back to our individual boxes knackered, run the kids around from club to club and repeat. We plan social events sometimes but they are not a routine part of life. They should be. I have plenty of good intentions but life is just too hectic and fast and another year has gone past before I know it.

So…what is the answer? Something needs to change. Where to begin? I think the answer may start with people and giving some time. Offering time I don’t feel I have and asking nothing in return. Living for today rather than planning for a point in the future that may never arrive.

Barefoot running helps me with that. It has slowed me down and made me question things. I have found camaraderie and running in general has always helped me deal with the the hurley burley. It keeps me level. The tipping point is edging ever closer.


Sep 26

Barefoot Running Review of the Camelot Challenge Multi-Terrain Half Marathon

Many thanks to Paul Beales (Barefoot Beginner member) for this barefoot running review of the Camelot Challenge. You can see a full list of barefoot running reviews here.

Barefoot Running Review of the Camelot Challenge Multi-Terrain Half Marathon, Sherborne, Dorset, 21st September 2013

By: Paul Beales

This was the first ever Camelot Challenge, organised to raise funds for Countess Gytha Primary School in Queen Camel, Somerset, and was a circular half marathon open to runners, walkers (and dogs) starting from The Gryphon Leisure Centre in Sherborne.

The route circled around areas of naturally beautiful scenery through the Vale of Camelot, filled with Arthurian legends, and passes through towns, country, forests and even a stream. It was mainly on public footpaths, with some of the route opened by special permission of the land-owners.

There were a number of marshalling points and water stops around the route (and even sandwiches, cakes and tea provided halfway round for anyone not in any great hurry to finish.) Toilets, showers and changing facilities and FREE FOOD AND DRINKS were available at the start and finish.

The starting corral was in a natural funnel formed by a high-hedged minor tarmac road, with the start line made up of five smiling kids (including my 7 year old son Jonty, who absolutely loved the job!)

A lot of the route was on very barefoot-friendly grass, dry soil paths and forest tracks, with some slippy, slidey, squelchy muddy bits – which were good fun. There were quite a lot of large hills to climb however!

A large amount of the route was on minor roads which were quite rough and gritty however. (The last half mile or so was on rough Tarmac that had seen much better days, but was nothing that tough barefooters like me can’t manage.)

There were a few issues with runners and walkers losing their way. I managed to overtake about 10 runners when I took a left hand loop around a figure of eight when they had taken the correct but longer right hand loop. It came as quite a surprise when they caught up with me at the halfway point! (Having realised what I had done, I did of course do the other loop on the way back.)

According to my GPS, I did a total of 13.83 miles in the end, whilst a friend of mine did 14.57 miles. Some entrants were quite annoyed by this. When I discussed this with the organisers at the end, it became apparent that a number of signs had been removed, and the organisers have said that they will make sure that there are more marker posts next year.

The finish line was on the same Tarmac road that we started on. There were no fancy, schmancy electronic tags or anything. Runners’ finish times were checked on a clock and written on a little card given to the runners. The finish line was well organised, but I would have liked there to have been a little more room and reasons for supporters and previous finishers to hang around and congratulate finishers.

All in all it was a VERY enjoyable, sociable barefoot adventure (thanks to the incredibly friendly organisers) and I am very happy to have done it in 4hrs 26mins and raised £667.67 for Heart Research UK. (Thank you to all barefooters who donated. If anyone else would like to make a contribution, my fundraising page is still open at

Having said all the above, this challenge might not appeal to everyone, due to it being multi-terrain and having lots of hills to climb. Some of the fields and tracks were quite rough and bumpy, so no-one is likely to break any half-marathon land-speed records on this course (the fastest time was 1hr 56mins – though he did say he got lost.)

I would have no hesitation in recommending the Camelot Challenge to anyone, whether in shoes or in bare feet, but for barefoot running, for the reasons above, I have to give it a BB (Moderate) rating.

Entries are open for next year’s challenge on 20th September 2014. Details of how to enter are on their Facebook page at

Sep 25

Barefoot Running review – Aintree 10k

Many thanks to Barefoot Beginner and Northwest Barefooter member Rowena Eakins for this review of the Aintree 10k.
You can see a full list of barefoot running reviews here.

Deceptive, as the course appeared to be endless smooth tarmac with lush green verges, and soft sand track, as we set out around the nearby golf course.

But no….. Terrain was very inconsistent, some lovely bits interspersed with broken crumbling tarmac service roads with rough verge. Usually a way you could pick through it OK but it made for slower going in places, which was a bit frustrating.

The final couple of k, a lap of the racecourse itself (well the bit the camera people zoom down when the horses are running) looked great from afar but proved to be horrible gravelly sandy stuff which made my soles burn badly, though there were grassier options in places. I think I was a bit of a wimp, so will award this course a BB – moderate.

Post race massage was much appreciated.

Sep 24

A barefoot Wiltshire Summer – Ian Hicks

Wiltshire Barefoot Runners now have a logo.  Thanks to the creative skills of Stephen Richards, who is a member of our group.

The footprint belongs to yours truly! The group is slowly growing in numbers – we now have a membership of 27.

I’ve had an excellent barefoot summer, with all my running as barefoot. My summer’s running ended with a barefoot half marathon. Four members of the Wiltshire Barefoot Runners took part in the Chippenham Half Marathon. Around 1700 runners took part, with only three barefoot runners – Stephen Richards, Steve Bailey and myself with Simon Bridges running in VFF – so we were definitely in the minority!

The course starts in the town and heads up the High Street, after around two miles it  headed out onto rural roads. Through the villages of Stanley, Tytherton Lucas, East Tytherton, Kellaways and Langley Burrell before heading back into town to finish at the cricket ground.

The course is flat and all tarmac, apart from the last 200 meters to the finish which is grass. There were water bottle stations every three miles, plus a very kind marshal handing out jelly babies at around mile 10!

Stephen Richards was the first barefoot runner across the line with a time of 1:45. Steve Bailey’s time was 2:12. I really thought I could dip under two hours as the last half I did in 2:02 hours and it was a much harder course, so I was disappointed to finish in 2:11.

We were very proud of our new very fluorescent  orange t-shirts that have our logo printed on them. They arrived just in time for us to wear at the race, so we were easily identifiable. I heard some spectators saying “the barefoot runners are in orange t-shirts”!