Oct 30

Barefoot mission accomplished… so what now?

Well…It’s been quite a journey. I started this blog to chronicle my attempts to run again. I was broken down and at the end of the road. In short, I was desperate. My whole social life, wellbeing and so much other stuff was wrapped up in my running and the thought of never being able to run again was not one I could contemplate.

I have had this mug since the start. It felt pie in the sky and very presumptuous to put ‘The road to injury free running’ on it. But…that was the goal. This blog was meant to track my journey from broken to injury free runner. 
bb-mug1 4 and a half years later and I am running again. Injury free and without the whispering words of panic that used to accompany every little niggle and twinge. In the course of things, I ran barefoot every day for over a year and ran a barefoot marathon but the big deal for me is that I am now able to run successfully in shoes again. Yes…shoes!!

Barefooting is not a religion to me. It is a pragmatic means to an end. It can be done. It is like a pro golfer taking apart their golf swing and putting it back together again. I needed to do the same with my running form. It took time and patience for my feet and lower legs to slowly strengthen and modify to be able to handle it. Now I am back in shoes (albeit Vivobarefoot and pair of zero drop Altras) and it feels good.

It has been busy time in lots of other ways to. It started with a crazy amount of blogging. I have a personality with a need to share and blogging is a wonderful thing. I think that it will be part of my life going forwards just not in the urgent, obsessive way that characterised things when I began.

I completed a postgrad diploma in coaching and mentoring which led into a Doctorate in education. I am now into the 3rd year of a 5 year doctoral programme. The first 2 years have been about learning to write for academic publication. The blogging helped immeasurably. My writer’s voice already felt well developed and those early days churning out blog post after blog post taught me lots about the writing process as did the discipline of writing for Barefoot Running magazine as their roving reporter.

I have moved from my job as headteacher of a primary school to being the lead of Bolton’s Pupil Referral Unit for primary aged pupils. We provide education for those pupils excluded from schools. They are amazing young people making their way in the world the best they can. My thinking has been flipped on its head. These children (some as young as 6yrs) need to feel like they are part of society and they belong. The working title for my thesis is: ‘Inclusion for the excluded: Promoting a sense of belonging in excluded primary school pupils and their families’. It should keep me busy and feed my need to write.

I found a bit of the good life and started a small brewery with a friend. I now set up and run a farmers’ market stall a couple of times a month and chat all day about beer. We sell to a few local pubs. That is the buzz for me. I don’t want our beer to go all over the world. I want to be a local producer, selling my wares to local people. There is a big craft beer scene at the moment but it is the local produce scene that I enjoy.

I worked with Bolton based shoe company Walsh (Local producer thing coming out again) to create a pair of minimal zero drop fell shoes and got quite a few repeat orders which must be a good sign. I am not sure that I will ever be a shoe salesman though.

I have come out of this a different person. Life is busy but in a good way. I am no longer frantically trying to get to a mythical point in my future where I can be free and happy. I felt like I was swimming hard under water, holding my breath until I could come up for air and be free. The obsessive blogging was part of that. I was on the headteachers’ conveyer belt to retirement but look a deep breath and jumped off. I now earn less but am more content. I am not counting the days until I retire. In fact, I am now the opposite and thinking that I won’t be able to fit in everything that I want to do. Life is full of possibilities.

So…what do I do with barefoot beginner now? Do I just shut it down? I could but then I meet people who are at the end of the line like I was. Not all of them runners. Some are struggling to get out and walk as much as they used to or someone who has a niggling lower back problem. My instinctive reaction is to say ‘Take off your shoes’.

I think that the combination of my experience to date means that I have something to offer. I have no generic programme to sell but I think that I may be able to help. Most people get stuck in a loop and end up doing the same old things and expecting a different result. I think think that I could help people understand where they are at and where they want to be. To help them understand how barefooting might be one option that they have not considered before and help them experiment with it (or other things. Barefooting is not a panacea). Coaching in the broader sense of the word using sound principles.

I have always fancied putting together an ebook on Amazon. I think that might be the next step. To share my experience alongside offering a possible way forward for those who may be at the end of the line. In the mean time, I would love to hear from anyone in this position who feels like they need a helping hand.

Come and join in the chat in our Facebook group and like our page. There is also a twitter feed for those of you who like that sort of thing. 

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