Category: Greg Dimelow

Oct 07

Barefoot running review – Saddleworth Edges fell race – Greg Dimelow

Thanks to Greg for this barefoot running review of the Saddleworth Edges fell race

This race report is incomplete because ……….it was a DNF ! Now that might not seem that bad but in my entire racing career this is only my third ever DNF. My first was a bike crash in a regional triathlon championship that put me out of racing for nearly a year. The second was the final race of my triathlon career and ended racing for nearly 15 years, so trust me this is a big deal. Anyway to the race…..

The race route info states:

 “The race starts at Tanners mill and starts with a steep climb up a grassy field. ”

That is an understatement ! It was nearly vertical well to a softy road runner like me. Then it just kept on going up and up and up !!! Being at the back from the start,getting left behind and watching everybody else just float up the fell through knee deep heather was an inspiring sight if I had not been dying. My legs and lungs wanted to explode. As i was working that hard my legs filled with blood and swelled to full pump. This whilst wearing skins compression shorts meant that my legs couldn’t work properly and felt like they were going to burst.

The climb to the stone shelter and trig point at the summit is unrelenting but offers fine views.

I guess it did but I couldn’t breathe or feel anything but pain in my legs by this point. Basically everybody had left me a long way behind by the time I reached the top of Alphin fell. The Marshall was very kind and pointed me in the right direction off over the peaty fells to Wimberry Rocks before climbing again to Stable Stones Brow.

The edges turn narrow and rocky from here to Chew Reservoir but pleasant running and beautiful views if you can afford a look.

And here lies my main issue……..I cannot run….no I don’t know how to run on boulders and knee deep peat bog.

By the time I had left the checkpoint the runner in front of me had disappeared from view and was just a spot occasionally in the distance and as if that wasn’t bad enough emotionally, another runner who had turned up late , mooched up the fell and passed me laughing saying he didnt know the route and had set off late and wasn’t this jolly or something ! I asked him to let the Marshall know I wasn’t dead , feeling fine, moving slow but still moving. He took my race number and said he would let the Marshall know. Nice guy really but right at that time it just emotionally destroyed what little confidence I had left that I could finish the race. It’s one thing being last its another being passed by somebody who set off ages after we had all started. It just did me in. After that I concentrated on moving a quickly as I could and trying to figure out what I didn’t know that others did ? And how to move on this style of terrain.

Being relatively local to dovestones I have walked the area a bit and knew where I was even running past a previous brew stop. But there was no time to stop or enjoy the views today as I was painfully aware of how slow I was moving and how hard the terrain was to run on. Paths 6 inch wide with a huge drop to the side, heather attempting to trip you up with every step and loose rocks underfoot are not easy for a softy road runner to move over. My confidence increased and waned with every step with occasional ridiculously humorous moments when I was following footsteps across peat sections only to sink to my knees in peat bogs. I attempted to follow the stud marks from all the other runners. Walsh fell shoes leave a distinguishable tread print in the mud and they became strangely comforting to follow considering that I couldn’t see anybody anymore. They at least let me know I was on roughly the right track.

Then I hit what can be at best described as a rocky set of drops. Now all the real fell runners out there wouldn’t even think twice about this bit of the run but I just stopped at the top and laughed to myself at the drops in front of me and couldn’t figure out how to run at any pace down them. Walking, scrambling yes but running no. Then it went from what was the ridiculous to the sublime. Long gullies in the peat all churned up by the other runners that I sank into generally mid calf but up to knee deep. That was when I saw the Marshall at Chew reservoir about the 4 mile point.

I would like to thank that Marshall hugely. When I approached him there was no hint of impatience or ridicule in his support for this heavily overweight, vibram wearing, obviously out of his depth road runner. Just support for making it that far. We discussed the route on and the option of my DNF. He stated …..it gets easier from here but the next bit is the same until the next trig point. That was it I had had it ! The road back to the start was too tempting and just knew I didn’t have the will to finish just to say I had finished. We chatted about the run and he suggested that I was doing the right thing by knowing my limits and that was it finalised. I ended my race and thanked him for marshalling and waiting for me.

As I set off down the access road I felt like a weight had been lifted. But then the analysis started. What went wrong? Why ? When ? And how? Also what did I have to do to become a fell runner ? As I walked / ran back to the start I reflected on my race and a few things became painfully clear

I am too overweight to run up fells. Simple as that. Gravity is nobody’s friend less so mine.

I’m not fit enough to run up fells. Again simple get fitter.

Compression clothing is great but not when it stops your legs from working because it is too tight. I never knew my legs swelled up that much when working really hard.

You NEED grip it’s not negotiable. Vibrams are great on roads and trails but are just pointless on peat moors. I’m not ready to put shoes back on but both Walsh and inov8 now make minimalist zero drop fell shoes with the midsole removed that I need to take a look at.

I don’t know how to run on fell and moorland terrain. The skill set used on roads generally transfers to trail running but trail running is not fell running. It’s another world with an entirely different skill set and I have not got a clue how to move over that kind of terrain at all. I need more time spent training on the fells. It’s a skill set that can be developed , its just going to take time.

On roads it’s as simple as keep putting one foot in front of the other, on the fells it’s not that simple. Route choice and being able to read the ground is crucial to ground speed. Again it’s a skill I don’t have.

If you choose to bail on a race……don’t bail at the furthest point from the start/ finish ! I still had a 3.25 mile walk back. Trust me its a long and lonely walk.

I had a great time and learnt loads. As with my other fell race I have come away feeling like fell running is where I belong. I have so much to learn about the sport it’s like starting running all over again and whilst daunting its very exciting. I love being out there on the fells and the sense of camaraderie and genuine concern for your fellow runner is refreshing. As is the belief that it is my responsibility and nobody else’s to keep myself safe and get my sorry butt off the fell when i dropped out. On the roads somebody would have had a bus to take me back to the start and taken all responsibility off me.

A huge thank to you to the organisers Saddleworth running club, all the marshals, support crew, everybody who talked to me and made me feel welcome, brew run for stocking a great post run chilled lemon drink and everybody else out on the fells that day.

As far as giving it a barefoot rating…..well I’m not sure it would be possible to “race” over this terrain fully barefoot. It would be possible on a dry day to run the route. It would be a great challenging barefoot walk where pace is irrelevant. Running on fells is like stepping onto the moon, everything you think you know about running stops working. As such I’m rating it as a BBBB (severe) but this still feels lacking as I don’t believe that our feet have enough grip.

Greg.

Greg is a member of the Northwest Barefooters running group and an active member of the Barefoot Beginner facebook group.

 

Jul 18

Barefoot running review of the We Love Manchester 10k 2013 – Greg Dimelow

Greg Dimelow is a member of the Northwest Barefooters running group and an active contributor to our Barefoot Beginner Facebook group. The group is a great place to keep up to dat with all things barefoot/minimalist related. The chat is warm and friendly. We don’t put up with anything less. Come and join in.

Here is Greg’s barefoot review of the We Love Manchester 10k 2013

I got a number and ran. The route is well at best boring…..at worst disinteresting…sorry but that’s about it. If you want a start and finish in a stadium then its great. Tons of support and crowd opportunities along the way then its great. But other than that, boring route.

Ok start again. Smile…breathe….smile again …feel positive…..

greg

The route started in the Etihad running stadium and gave the opportunity for spectators to enjoy a great view. We had to do a full loop then 3/4 of a loop of the track before hitting the roads around the city stadium. The conditions underfoot where less than conducive to barefoot running. Small stones, smashed Tarmac and lots of broken glass ! But as I had laid down the challenge that if a very fast runner would go slow with me I would go fully barefoot …..well the gauntlet had been laid so …….I picked it up ….when am I going to learn !?!

The run takes in 2 loops around the local area and is quite flat so a Pb course is on offer. I started completely at the back …no really I was still chilling out and chatting as everybody else set off that much that nearly everybody had done half a lap of the track before I even started walking…..barefoot running is great for your ego as you are a hero even at walking pace ! Lol

We hit the streets and started passing people to various shouts of ” your mad” and ” your brave round here ” ….now being used to running barefoot in Manchester the course held no fear for me ! …….well I have just done a fell race bf so roads ! Pah ! For amateurs……

I did great and felt great so at 6 ish k I threw my hand made hurraches to a spectator I knew. Then BAM ! Around the corner smashed broken glass,duffed Tarmac and cheese grater pavements …….OMG ! ( not lightly used I assure you ) there was nowhere to barefoot ! Now remember my running buddy who threw the gauntlet down…well by now he had started to realise what I was looking for as a surface and he appreciated what I have been saying for months ( BFer in the making I tell you!) and he just looked at me and said…….oh bugger ! Chuckling away and replying ouch ouch ouch I just bent my knees and hit the glass !

Approaching the stadium I got concerned with my target of sub hour so picked up the pace as I turned into the grounds…..my pacer ( Jamie ) shouted 58 mins……I’m not going to make it ! ………bend knees,……good form……..lean from the ankles…..feel the speed ! Feel the speed! ….. Hit the tartan ! Look to the finish…..lean more…..trust me if I had leant more from my ankles my shins would of scraped the floor ! Sprint finish ……cross the line ! I did it finished a rough as road 10 k fully barefoot…but what about the time 59:42 ! Whoohoo ! Result !

Then the queue for the not so goody bag…..ages !

As for a barefoot review …would I do it again ? …..not at full price, get an early entry and get it cheap, do it with friends for the chuckle its great!

I would rate the course underfoot as BBB (Difficult) as there was nowhere to hide from the cheese grater road.

I would like to thank my pacer/ challenger/ water mule Jamie cook for a great run……for somebody who can go sub 35 mins for a 10 to go as slow as I do was very supportive thank you !

We are slowly and steadily building up a list of barefoot race reviews to help those looking for a barefoot friendly event. We would love to hear from you if you would like to submit your views. You can use the contact form at the top of the page or use our facebook group.

Jun 28

The Eddie’s Revenge Fell Race – A barefoot running review from Greg Dimelow

Greg Dimelow is a member of our Northwest Barefooters running group and active member of the Barefoot Beginner facebook group. Come and join in the chat, you will be made very welcome.

I am not a barefoot runner, I’m a minimalist ……oooops I can’t really claim that anymore as my shoes keep falling off ! Ok so I am a barefoot and minimalist runner these days. I am comfortable with that …..

greg

So as the path I have chosen to travel has taken me firmly away from shoes and into less and less foot covering, my horizons have spread and the nature of my running has changed also. Gone are the days of being bothered by times, speeds, pace and placement in the race order. To be honest my desire to race is almost non existent these days. That’s not to say I don’t want to enter races just that the competitive part of me is diminished and I want to share the experience with others.

As I have been looking around for my next personal challenge. My eyes have been drawn upwards and off the beaten tracks of road running. I have been fascinated by ultra running for a while now and would love to tackle one. The simple matter of fact is that the majority of ultras spend a lot of time going up ! They talk about vertical gain like road runners talk about pace per mile. This causes me an issue. As a short, big lad who runs I’m not really built to go up hills. So looking around I live in a hilly area of the world and there are lots of dark and mysterious places i want to explore. All of which are in these high places known as fells.

Just the word fells invokes an emotional response in me. Fell running…..that invokes fear ! Fell runners are tall, beard sporting,muscular old blokes who have been running since Noah was a lad. A great quote is

 

  But fell runners are a breed apart. They run up mountains, and down them, and then do it again, and again, and again: it is not just endurance that drives them, but danger. The tougher the challenge, it would seem, the keener they are to take it on. – Andrew Baker. The Telegraph.

 

As far as challenges fell running has it all ! And it should set me up for being able to complete an ultra……..

So I started talking to my friends who are in running clubs and started asking questions about trail and fell running. Gathering information and getting more and more scared as each conversation finished. I should have known then ! The more I felt fear the more intrigued I became. Then I got an invite to a local race, Eddies revenge fell race. They also said ” You cant run it in your vibrams , its in an old quarry and full of rocks “. No no no I said ……..

On race day I got out of work on time and travelled home to get changed. Petrified I set off up to Shaw in Oldham and signed up (what did you expect !). Then walked up to the start line hoping to see somebody I knew for a bit of support. As I had posted on Facebook prior to the race, I was expecting to be last and was planning on running it in my vff’s with the joke that I would go barefoot if the terrain let me. Some people saw the vff’s and had a chat with me and I started to feel better…..still wary but feeling like I was back in my natural element.  We all lined up and I stood around at the back, listened to the race briefing and before I knew it we were off !

Up the hill we went and I immediately started struggling. What had I done ? Everybody was chatting and laughing and I couldn’t breathe …….then off the road and the real hill started ! I nearly died……having to power hike less than a kilometre into a race felt alien to me and I started to feel like a failure. Others around me started walking too so I felt better.

As I got to the top of the hill I looked around and felt a surge of confidence and that now common uncontrollable urge to take my vff’s off. The ground looked manageable so off they came ! I set off across the fell like a man possessed. The joy, the feelings, the sensations underfoot……I felt so alive ! Then I hit the downhill section…….the speed and freedom of racing down hill barefoot was liberating ! Halfway down a marshall shouted out ” whats happened to your shoes? are you OK ?”. Laughing manically at this point i replied ” i just wanted to take them off !”. At the bottom of the hill the was a right turn and we climbed back up. This climb wasn’t as bad but it went on for longer. This was interesting barefoot as I had to leap from rock to rock to avoid the smashed gravel path. As the climb ever went on upwards the highest point was in view. I passed the same marshall again who this time asked ” do you want me to take your shoes back for you? ” this was a shocker……acceptance of barefooting ! The marshals and encouragement continued like this all the way around with varied comments from a very jovial ” your mad ! ” to a gauged response after looking at me running up the path and looking at the next bit

Of sharp rocky gravel path ” the next bit will hurt lad ! ” I couldn’t stop laughing or smiling all the way around. Anyway back to the run.

This highest bit was evil…..a short sharp climb up to the summit. On sharp pointy gravel ! Ouch ouch ouch ! At the top I bumped into a Marshall who offered a drink. I gladly thanked him and took a sip….then I made the mistake of looking around……stunning, does not cover it. I could see for miles and miles around. I stood there for a min before remembering I was in a race, setting off down the path again.

The next part nearly did me in. I soon realised that I don’t know enough about barefoot running to run on smashed quarry rock paths. At this point I also realised that I was very very near the back ….who cares ! This was liberating, being in a race and enjoying the experience of running without needing to win. I ran on and on following the yellow paint marks on the floor every now and then. Then there was a change of direction and a change underfoot as we started to descend again. More rocks and peat but this time with mud ! The floor squished underfoot and we had a small stream to leap across halfway down the hill. Racing down the hill, arms spread out to stabilise myself just laughing out loud like a child ! Caused concern to the sweeper who raced up to have a chat and check I was OK. He was great and really supportive. He also advised that we where nearly at the finish.

At the next Marshall I was advised…..it gets a bit steep soon……..talk about understatement !  It was nearly vertical ! The path was very eroded and just quarry rocks underfoot. At one point I was trying to decide if it would be faster to slide down on my backside. The Marshall at the bottom was bemused by my lack of shoes and initially concerned that something was amiss until I spoke and explained I was going barefoot by choice.

Across the smashed sharp gravel pathway and down another hill crossing the car park near the finish line. Then onto the final loop back along a rocky path and back up the initial hill again. I didn’t like this hill the first time ….why why did I have to go up again. I put my vff’s back on to go up the hill but very quickly took them off again at the top whilst chatting to the marshals……they thought I was being friendly……I was just in bits lol. Then off again for the final flourish around the top of the car park with everybody shouting encouragement to the final few of us to finish. A final decent feeling like a hero because of all the support and shouting from other runners was just amazing ! At the bottom of the hill a short run to the finish and as I turned the corner……I saw the floor….. And just knew I couldn’t run on it ! Sharp smashed quarry rocks abut the size of golf balls……I joked that I didn’t want to finish and was happy to DNF and a few people shouted and pushed me on to the finish shouting and clapping encouragement.

I finished and came last with the biggest grin on my face. It didnt matter, I had done it and most of it barefoot. That’s what mattered to me right there and then.

Aft the event most of the runners returned to the hall/ registration point to have some cake and a brew whilst waiting for the results and presentation. One of the major things I noticed was how everybody was clapped and supported from the first the the last ( me ). Everybody who took part was made to feel as valued as the winners and that was fat to be part of. Lots of warm and enthusiastic support and questions about why I had done it barefoot. Joking to one of the organisers I asked if I was the fastest barefooter to complete the race and he said ” you will see!” At the end of the real presentations for proper winners I was very amused to get a mention and a prize for now holding the fastest course record for barefoot ! The support from everybody was amazing and I really think I have found a new aspect of running I always thought was out of my reach.

A huge thank you to all of the organisers and volunteers. You all made my first fell race a very very enjoyable and pleasurable experience. Other races will have to work hard to match it.

As far as a barefoot rating I think that a rating of BBB (difficult) feels about right. But with an eye towards BBBB (severe). This comes with the caveat that it was dry, wet I wouldn’t even attempt it. I would advise some foot covering that can very quickly be put on and taken off as the rocks underfoot dictated. I struggled at times on the really rough stuff but it was a great race that I will return to next year.

You can see barefoot reviews of other events and an explanation of our barefoot grading system on our review page.

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