May will see the 2nd birthday of Barefoot Beginner. It all started because I was in a turbulent period in my life and I felt like I needed some direction. I felt like I was on a conveyor belt where all I longed for was retirement. It was decades away and I was not only wishing my days away but whole years. Something had to change.
I found blogging. At first, it was because I had read about creating an income through blogging and although I had no experience at all, I was fascinated. It is by far the most liberating and wonderful experience I have had for a very long time. It has been life changing but as I will show you, not in the way I expected.
I have found that everything worthwhile is sitting there waiting for me. The only thing in the way is a big lump of fear and I am learning to head in the direction the butterflies in my stomach lead me. I tend to do the things that I am drawn to and that make me feel alive.
I can remember the fear of putting my thoughts down for other people to read and my journey over the past couple of years has been as much to do with blogging as it has to do with barefooting. The two have gone hand in hand and I know that they will stand the test of time.
When I first started Barefoot Beginner, I was writing a blog post almost every day. That has changed. I had to find a sustainable way of keeping going. I now blog once or twice a week and spend much more time developing our community and listening to the stories that people have to tell. That is much more fun.
Starting our Barefoot Beginner facebook group and our Northwest Barefooters running group has been life changing. I have met so many inspirational people. I get my inspiration from real people doing what they didn’t think possible through pragmatism and determination. When I started blogging, I read that many of the people I came into contact with online would become friends. I thought that was a bit of artistic license at the time but it is so true. I consider many of you that I have never met in person to be friends and I feel like I know you well.
The things that I write about have also changed. I started out by sharing my thoughts on each run and coming up with a good title for each. I look back and read those early posts with fondness. It was good to have a record because it gives me an insight into the experiences of those who are now just starting to barefoot. I still log my runs but don’t force them on people. They are there for anyone who wants to have a look. I log them to show that I am not the perfect running machine. If I can do it then so can anyone.
Initially, I thought that Barefoot Beginner would probably become a site where I review products. It hasn’t and that is because I don’t really read those sites myself very much. I am much more interested in personal experiences, awakenings and transformations. I also love reading posts about being human and all that entails. I do write reviews from time to time but often am more comfortable in sharing the views and the reviews of our community. I received offers to review a couple of products this week and that still amazes me. One I accepted and I am excited about and the other was not right for me.
Barefoot Beginner isn’t a review site then. It is not where my heart is. So… what is it all about?
I am headteacher by occupation and educationalist at heart. That is where Barefoot Beginner is heading. Where things seem overwhelming and complicated, I find myself creating simple structures that are easy to digest and understand.
I find myself with big pieces of paper devising plans for those just starting out. I can’t help myself. I am drawn to it. My background also includes a great deal of professional mentoring and coaching. That is because I am also drawn to that aspect of my work. I get a great deal of pleasure from helping people achieve things that they never thought they could.
This usually includes helping them find clarity of purpose and identifying the thing that lights the spark within them.
So..what things do I see in our Barefoot Beginner future?
I get asked from time to time to go and run a barefoot running workshop in different places. I am very flattered but I can’t see that being the direction for me. I could become accredited by a number of barefoot type coaching programmes but I feel no emotional pull to do that. I believe in barefoot running being a very simple activity that builds day after day, week after week and month after month.
If I were to run a workshop then it would very much be a ‘Let’s take off our shoes and go for a run.’ A minute or two later we would stop and I would ask everyone to come back the day after tomorrow. I can’t see it working for me just at the moment. That may change but not for now.
I do however, see myself talking about the benefits of barefoot running and the journey that people take. How do we overcome the barriers to getting started? How do we keep safe and what are some of the things we need to know?
That does frighten and excite me. I want to help runners to use barefoot running as a pragmatic means to an end. To help them make their running a sustainable, lifelong experience.
With that in mind, I can see that we might develop a self-guided barefoot running course to help runners through their first few months of barefooting. I get most interested when we talk about the wider benefits that running can have on wellbeing. I would love to help some non-runners to become runners in a safe, sustainable way. Sustainable because it is easy on the body and more importantly sustainable because the impact on self-esteem and wellbeing is so great that the person involved never wants to stop.
That is going to very time consuming but I am in no rush.
In the immediate future, I have just launched our own Barefoot Beginner forum. I am proud of our online community and our facebook group is just through the 1000 member mark. I am going to need the help of the group to get our forum off the ground. We have such fantastic discussions and the advice given by the group is so valuable that I don’t want it to get lost in the facebook ether. I want to be able to refer new members to it as and when they need it. We can do that much more effectively with our own space rather than relying on facebook for everything.
So..here is to the future! – It is where we are heading so we might as well make the most of it.
I have been heartened by the number of runners who have met through Barefoot Beginner. Some have even set up groups of their own. It would be great to have an event or two at some point but we are spread all over the globe so it might not be an easy thing to do. I have a fledgling idea for a group based in the north and bought the domain name ‘Northern Soles’ for that very purpose. I think that something will evolve eventually but it may be some time in the future.
On a personal note, I am always looking for the next opportunity for study. I am involved in some post graduate work on coaching and mentoring at the moment which I have an opportunity to develop further. It may be that I add some more formal counselling qualifications to be background. I am feeling a pull in that direction.
When my own blogging fire took hold and I was having so much fun that I started a whole host of blogs on a variety of subjects. Pressures of time meant that I needed to drop my other blogs to focus on the one that I cared about the most. Barefoot Beginner is where I felt drawn and where the excitement lay.
I also have a love of beer. At one point, my dream was to own my own shop to combine both my loves. The problem was I couldn’t decide which way round to put the title. Should it be ‘Running n’ Beer’ or ‘Beer n’ Running’?
I set up a Farmers’ market stall with a friend and we are an outlet for the very small brewers in Lancashire and I do also sell a few pairs of running shoes online but the shop will have to wait because the most important change over the past 2 years has been in my day job.
I started this adventure to find a way out of teaching but I no longer feel like that. I have learned to follow the things that I find exciting and fallen back in love with my job. I am nowhere near ready to say goodbye to that part of my life. Blogging and barefooting has done that. I had my head down and was heading for a point in the future when I could stop. I have now looked up, changed direction and decided that life is for living. I love my job.
It was pretty clear early on that I was going to need to share my love of blogging and started to do that in my primary school. We now have an active blog club and meet most days. My education brain is always devising things and I am working on blogging curriculum to help new comers get into the swing of things quickly.
Like many people, I feel like I need more than one lifetime to fit everything in. That is good, I now never want to retire. If I do things right and head towards the things I truly love, why would I ever want to stop. I am professional but also find the time to develop those things about my job that make me feel most alive.
I also would like to become a registered Sport England coach and maybe do some formal sports injury training. I have a friend who works with athletes using hot and cold stones. I have been the beneficiary. It would be nice to have my own practice sometime in the future. I think ‘Northern Soles’ might be a good working title for that too. You will be able to pick up a pair of running shoes and a beer on your way out!
Those things are in the future. For the moment, I am concentrating on making Barefoot Beginner an education based site based on the concept of live and let live, run and let run. We need to make barefooting simple and easy to understand and then provide easily digestible solutions for those who want to delve deeper and find out more.
I don’t think we will stop doing reviews but that is not what Barefoot Beginner is all about. It is about providing people at the end of the line with another way forward. It is about sharing success and showing that it can be done. It is also about sharing our mistakes and not pretending that barefooting is a magic bullet that works no matter what.
I will continue to work with Walsh on their fell shoes. This is close to my heart as they are based in my home town and I grew up wearing their shoes and am very proud of them. Their zero drop shoes work well for me and if I can help them break into a market dominated by the big boys and help them succeed in the long term then I will be very pleased.
I find a lot of inspiration through the writing of a personal development coach called Henri Juntilla. Henri is making his living online but never promises the earth. He just urges you to find what you enjoy and do that. He says clearly that it won’t be perfect but that you should keep putting one front in front of the other and learn as you go.
He resonates with me. I want to convey the same feeling with running. I am not promising the earth or a magic wand. The most important thing is to get started and learn as you go. Henri writes at Wake Up Cloud and is worth a look if you like that sort of thing.
Do I make any money out of Barefoot Beginner? Short answer – No, not really.
Would I like Barefoot Beginner to support me and my family? Short answer – Yes, that would be nice but it is no longer about that. It is about so much more.
I have not gone the traditional route of affiliate marketing etc. I have dabbled because it was interesting to find out about but that it not for me. I can see a day when we have a selection of online courses but it is a long way off at the moment.
At present, I just want to help as many people begin barefooting as possible and connect those people with the questions with those with some answers.
The 2 years has flown by but I can’t remember a time before blogging. It has been the best thing that I have done with my life. I am hooked. Here is to the next 2 years and the future. That is where we are heading there so we might as well make the most of it.