Category: Guests

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. [spacer height=”8px”]

Over to Florian:[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]
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[spacer height=”8px”]
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.[spacer height=”8px”]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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

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.[spacer height=”8px”]

Aren’t we born to run?[spacer height=”8px”]

Florian
Glücklichtrainer and author of nativerunners.com

Jul 03

The joys of barefoot trail running

by Thea Gavin
for Barefoot Beginner

“Adventure may be out there. But without that perfect pair of hiking boots, you’ll have a hard time finding it.” HikingBoots.com

Have you been brainwashed like I once was, under the oppressive regime of foot-fear, advertized into thinking that travel on a trail meant arch support, deep lugs, perhaps Goretex, and most definitely a gusseted tongue?

You could sprain an ankle! Or step in something!

After three dry winters, there are fewer seeps along the trail; this one is still refreshingly wet.Pop(ular culture) Quiz: Which of the following are waiting to penetrate your innocent naked feet: a) rusty nails; b) shards of broken glass; c) hypodermic needles; d) all of the above plus horse poop, if you are on a trail.

Imagine this: a sturdy leather pouch, steel shanked, studded with rubber. How’s that for prophylactic-protection. Ouch. Even thin (4mm minimalist, possibly separated toes) puts a barrier between you and what is really there.

Let’s un-remember that last comparison. Now imagine you are born unable to hear. Then a doctor somehow fixes your little ear bones; your loved ones can’t wait to take you to a concert for a big dose of Beethoven’s 5th.

Dah-dah-dah-daaaaaah.

But all the sensational leaps and fortissimos are an auditory assault. Your brain, with no experience in sorting out this sort of stimuli, signals “pain!” and “chaos!” and your hands fly to your ears to muffle the horrific input.

Although they contain thousands of nerve endings, the bottoms of our feet have been cut off from what-used-to-be-normal sensory input most of our lives (or at least since we were kids). Emerging from this dark cushioned world makes them scream “ouch” to your brain when you first step out on uneven surfaces.

That was me, four years ago. But I did some research, gave my feet-and-brain credit, and time, and they figured it out as I began my barefoot trail journey by walking a smoothish path near my work, always with a back-up pair of sandals in my little pack. My motto: If it ain’t fun, put shoes on . . . and decomposed granite is not fun at first.

These shiny guys like to cross the trails . . . but sometimes get squashed by mountain bike tires. Go, bug, go.But now . . . my running shoe days are over. I step light and soft, ready to shift my weight, reveling in the peace of no-scuff and thud. Dust? Powdery heaven. Gravel? A chance to really relax and realize how capable my feet are. Mud?By far the best (at least in my rarely rainy Southern California climate). Puddles? Pure refreshment and a place to irresponsibly splash myself . . . with no need to worry about blisters from wet socks.

Horse poop? Lovely little pillows.

Coyote scat? A chance to step on second-hand rabbit fluff.

Get the (sensational sensory) picture?

Just as with weather, there is no such thing as a good or bad trail surface. There are just paths . . . a mix of rough and smooth patches to enjoy for what they are, for what they have to teach.

I have a favorite hundred yards of thick dust through a willow tunnel where my feet create silky splashes and the crepuscular bugs stick in my toothy sprinting grin. This is my barefoot trail running high, during which I sometimes forget the many lessons in humility I’ve almost learned: the vicious root-splinter jam that resulted in my only barefoot-related doctor’s office visit. Occasional spiny things that must be fingernail-plucked or dug out with a pocket knife. One ball-of-foot blister blob from a mid-day, mid-summer ridge run. The mysterious dark sole-splotch that I convinced myself—via some panicky internet research—was a melanoma . . . but turned out to be just a blood blister.

But yes, it’s true: rocky trails will slow you down. Hug this change in pace and terrain. It’s a chance to re-set your stance toward life: be aware of your body, relax relax relax, and see if your face doesn’t split into a smile as you take time to greet some even-slower-moving stone-faced creatures who were forged in fire deep beneath the earth. What distances they have traveled . . . oh-so-slowly.

I remember—my body remembers—long-ago summers spent running barefoot to the end of a rock jetty at a local beach. How I hurtled from boulder to boulder, as fast as my feet could leap, full of a trust I was not even aware of, a lithe-limbed confidence that a landing spot would open up. When I hear so many passing hikers comment that “I used to go barefoot all the time in the summer when I was a kid” – I wonder why, how, when we lose that wildness and let society shove us into shoes, even though our proprioceptive body is perfectly capable of finding a way over, through, between whatever rocky obstacles trails contain.

That my adult, choosing mind has re-learned not to obsess over where to plant my feet: that is the inexplicable and rapturously best part of the barefoot trail running experience . . . my fabulous feet find their own way; more bugs stick in my grin.

Until . . . yowch! Sh*t! My rock-radar fails, and somethin’s gonna be black and blue by tomorrow.

If no one is around, I might shout a word or two (see above) to disperse the pain. But if any shoddies are within hearing distance, well, I must not break the barefooter’s code of smiling silence.

Then—and this is key—I must open up my clenched toes. Re-relax. Greet the ground with a whole sole and remain vulnerable to that one shuffling step that could land me on something sharp, again. It’s worth the risk: here I am in the sun (or rain, or fog, or wind) with breath and life and many friends to say “hi” to: roadrunner, black sage, shapely river cobble.

Tomorrow, there might be a bruise. There might not. What remains, though, through long days under fluorescent lights, is the feel of flying flying flying . . . with such light bare feet.

IMG_7638 (480x640)

Thanks Thea – Make sure you check out Thea’s blog ‘Barefoot Wandering and Writing’ here.

May 07

WILL YOU DEDICATE A 10K BAREFOOT RUN THIS YEAR TO INTERNATIONAL AID?

Amis Sans Shoes (Friends Without Shoes for the non-Franglais) is a community page on Facebook that is asking barefoot runners, walkers and hikers from all around the world to help raise much-needed funds for international aid charity CARE International.

 

CARE International reached more than 82 million people last year, working in 87 countries, implementing long-term programmes to fight poverty, responding to humanitarian emergencies, and advocating for policy change to improve the lives of the poorest people.

 

For more details of their good work, visit: http://www.careinternational.org.uk/

 

Two Amis events have already taken place this year in West Sussex and in South Wales, and others are already in planning for later in the year in Coventry, and in Dobre Miasto, Poland and in Pennsylvania, USA.

Your 10K barefoot run, walk or hike can be done anytime between 1st March and 31st August 2014, and can be done as a run, walk, hike, ramble, track event, social run, fell race, competitive road race or even a TrailBall® Challenge. It can also be done in conjunction with any other existing 10K event.

To make this a proper barefoot challenge however – NO SHOES ARE ALLOWED FOR ANY OF THE 10K – including minimalist shoes, toe shoes, socks or huararche sandals! This is strictly for us barefooters J

Entry fee is £18.50 per person, and all monies raised will be donated to CARE International. All entrants will receive a personalised printed race number together with an information pack prior to their event, and an exclusive commemorative embroidered beany hat on completion of their event. These hats will not be made available to anyone else.

All entrants (or group of entrants) must post their times and a report with photos to the Amis Sans Shoes Facebook page to receive their hats.

This is a very ambitious project by Paul Beales and Julia Bradburn, and we should all support them by signing up and having some barefoot fun in the sun this Summer!

Amis Sans Shoes can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amissansshoes and on Twitter at @amissansshoes.

The 10K event page is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/641221615900274/

The ticket website is at: http://amissansshoes.eventbrite.co.uk/

The Amis’ motto as displayed on their web pages is “Barefoot, we’re almost always at peace. We’re gentle and tolerant with our fellow man” – Barbara Holland

Let’s show the world what a caring bunch of people us barefooters really are!

Thank you

Chris – We have started an Amis Sans Shoes thread in our forum for latest information and questions.

Mar 30

Run for the Animal Half marathon – Barefoot Review

 

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This is a review of the Run for the Animals Half marathon by our group member Barefoot Runner.

The HM is a lollipop course with an ~3 mile stem and an ~7 mile loop. The 10K is simply out and back on the stem. The course is basically about 50% smooth blacktop (Easy) and 50% chip seal (Moderate). An experienced barefooter should have no concerns with the course, but a beginner might have to slow down on the chip seal especially if a section is newly gravelled or if the soles start getting sensitive towards the end. So overall, I’d rate this course a BB (Moderate) for its barefoot sole friendliness.

On the loop portion, there are a couple long curved banked sections about which some shod runners have complained as too hard on the ankles. There’s also a quarter mile section on the 6-foot wide chip seal shoulder of a 2-lane highway which could have broken glass, mainly the safety glass of windshields, etc. but possibly broken bottles too, so you might have to watch your step or maybe chance running either on the grass with its hidden dangers or even on the white stripe of the highway. In more than 6 years of barefoot running I’ve only gotten 2 tiny pieces of glass in my feet. In contrast, I’ve gotten lots of sand burrs in my feet by running in the grass, although now my feet are so tough that burrs are only a nuisance. Since the race is in the spring, burrs should not be hidden in the grass.

I’ve run this race a couple years but did not do so last year because I had sprained my ankle then gotten a stress fracture in the same foot. Alas, the weather was perfect for running last year but the year before when I ran this race, it was dry, very hot and extremely windy and I was a full minute slower off my pace.

Everyone gets a finishing medal and the better runners (not me yet) get hand made trophies (overall, age, sex). The after party has a band, lots of beer, excellent food and home cooked deserts. Just be sure to not gain back all the weight you just finished running off!

 

Thanks Barefoot RunnerYou can see barefoot gradings for other races and events here. It is a community list made up of reviews from readers. It would be great for you to submit a barefoot review of a race near you.

There are well over 400 posts on Barefoot Beginner. Have a look at the new Start Here page here. You will be made very welcome.

Mar 28

Bath Half Race Report – Ian Hicks

I had been keeping my eye on the weather forecast, in the vain hope that I would see warm, dry weather for the 2014 Bath Half on Sunday 2nd March! Unfortunately my prayers went unanswered and I was left with the prospect of running the race on a cold and wet day. I also had the fear that I had not done enoughbarefoot training over the winter. This was mainly because I had been reviewing three separate minimal shoes for Barefoot Running Magazine. Were my feet ready to cope with 13 miles of wet, cold tarmac?


UntitledFinally, the day arrived and I awoke to a wet and cold Sunday morning. I arrived with plenty of time to spare to have a look round the “Runners Village”, which unfortunately because of the wet conditions there were just a few baggage tents and Portaloos! I had decided before-hand to start running with my Sockwas on if the race was going to be wet. So wearing my Sockwas …… I took my position at the start line. I took the opportunity while waiting for the start to check out the tarmac!  I’m sure I was probably the only runner there who was taking photos of the tarmac. I’m still waiting for a reply from Bath City Council about my complaint on the condition of the roads around Bath. They are wholly unsuitable for barefoot runners!

 

Untitled112,000 runners lined up for a cold and wet race, but this did not stop the spectators coming out in there thousands to do a fantastic job of cheering us on. The course is on a loop, generally flat with only a couple of slight gradients. Water bottle stations and two Lucozade stations were spread over on the route. The organizers did a very good job of marshalling 12,000 runners around Bath.

The last few miles were hard going for me, as my energy had gone. I realised that I had not done enough training over the winter. I made it over the finish line in a time of 2:10, which I was pleased with as I was barefoot for the majority of the race.

Untitled2I will give this a BB-Blue-Moderate rating. No real problem for the moderate barefooter who is up to half marathon distance.

Thanks Ian – You can see barefoot gradings for other races and events here. It is a community list made up of reviews from readers. It would be great for you to submit a barefot review of a race near you.

There are well over 400 posts on Barefoot Beginner. Have a look at the new Start Here page here. You will be made very welcome.

Mar 25

Barefoot Tips from Paul Cairns

I had this email in from Paul Cairns in response to my question about those who say that barefooting is impossible for them.
Here is Paul’s advice:
Hi Chris,

I am writing as a confirmed barefoot hiker and runner – hiking for decades and running for years.  I have run in traditional trainers and all kinds of minimal footwear but barefoot is best without a doubt.

As you will know, endless views & opinions about all this abound on the internet.  One of the most interesting and helpful things I have found recently (which might help answer some of these 33 “doubts”) is this :

http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/running/barefoot-running-tips/

I particularly like Ted McDonald’s fifth point: “5. TUNE IN TO YOUR BODY” – I have almost always run alone and don’t own any headphones or other contraptions and would never consider running so encumbered, anyway.  Shorts and top are enough!

Tips of my own I can suggest sharing with anyone interested but not quite convinced include:

  • Go barefoot routinely indoors and around home
  • Walk barefoot.  I used to walk barefoot to work and home (1.5 miles each way in the very hilly mid-Pennines).  This helps “calibrate” a sense of good and bad surfaces.
  • Pick your route – walk round it first and look for smooth surfaces – pavements and roads (cobbles even) are excellent as long as they aren’t rough.
  • Run in daylight so you can see what you are stepping on.
  • At least at first, run in mild/warm weather when the ground is dry
  • After running, a good hot bath is best for the feet & legs (though not essential)
  • Wash your feet with an antibacterial liquid soap (the sort made for “hygenic” hand-washing)
  • Use a moisturiser  on the soles and sides of your foot (a mid-strength urea-based forumlation like Flexitol Moisturising Foot Cream, but keep higher-strength variants such as Flexitol Heel Balm back for any severe dryness).
  • Tune into your body and don’t worry about the clock to start with!

Thanks Paul!!

It is advice and stories like this that can help tip people over into believing. It can be done!

Jan 30

Amis Sans Shoes Events – Paul Beales

Have you heard the recent buzz that’s going on in the barefoot running world about the barefoot 10K global charity event that is taking place all around the world this year?

Amis Sans Shoes (Friends Without Shoes for the non-Franglais) is a community page on Facebook that is asking barefoot runners, walkers and hikers from all around the world to meet up, run together and share their experiences with the rest of the world, all in support of international aid charity CARE International.

CARE International reached more than 82 million people last year, working in 87 countries, implementing long-term programmes to fight poverty, responding to humanitarian emergencies, and advocating for policy change to improve the lives of the poorest people.

 CARE have been doing much-needed excellent work in the Philippines recently. 14.1 million people were affected by the recent typhoon there, leaving 4.1 million displaced and more than 6,000 people dead. CARE are currently working to deliver emergency relief in three areas of the Philippines: Leyte, Samar and Panay. Their target is to reach 200,000 people with lifesaving food, shelter, other assistance, and help communities recover in the months and years to come.

For more details of their good work, visit: http://www.careinternational.org.uk/

The first ‘Amis’ event this year is a 10K BAREFOOT CHARITY RUN/WALK/HIKE to take place between 1st March and 31st August (including some events which will coincide with the Barefoot Runners Society’s International Barefoot Running Day on 4th May.)

The 10K must be done in one run/walk/hike WITH AT LEAST ONE OTHER BAREFOOTER, anytime, anywhere, and can be done as a run, walk, hike, ramble, track event, social run, fell race, competitive road race or even a TrailBall® Challenge. It can also be done in conjunction with any other existing 10K event PROVIDED that at least one other barefooter attends the same event.

BE WARNED HOWEVER – NO SHOES ARE ALLOWED FOR ANY OF THE 10K – including minimalist shoes, toe shoes, socks or huararche sandals! This is strictly for us barefooters.

The entry fee is £18.50 per person, and all monies raised will be donated to CARE International. All entrants will receive a personalised printed race number together with an information pack prior to their event, and an exclusive commemorative enamelled medal and ribbon on completion of their event.

Confirmed events are being planned in South Wales and Coventry in the UK, in Warmia in Poland, and in the Philippines. It is hoped that many more events in all countries will soon be appearing on the Facebook page as more and more people sign up.

The Amis’ motto as displayed on their web pages is “Barefoot, we’re almost always at peace. We’re gentle and tolerant with our fellow man” – Barbara Holland

This is a very ambitious project from Paul Beales and Julia Bradburn, and we should all support them by signing up and having some barefoot fun in the sun this Summer!

Amis Sans Shoes can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amissansshoes and on Twitter at @amissansshoes.

The 10K event page is at: https://www.facebook.com/events/641221615900274/

The ticket website is at: http://amissansshoes.eventbrite.co.uk/

Jan 13

Paleobarefoot Paws – A barefoot review by Ian Hicks

Jörg from GoSt Barefoots very kindly sent me a pair of Pronativ just before Christmas, but this was no ordinary pair! This pair has been fitted with “Paws”! For an additional cost this new option is now available for the existing ULTRA range. The “Paws” are resin spots that are bonded to the underside of the mesh soles. The idea behind this is, to give them good grip on smooth surfaces.

The fit is better with the “Paws” fitted. The spots give the ULTRAS a bit of structure, creating a more shoe-like shape, although these are still more akin to a sock (performance sock) than a shoe. Anybody who has read issue 9 of Barefoot Running UK Magazine, would have seen my long term review of the Pronativ. In the review I talk about a slack feeling over the toes, this is now much less noticeable.

The barefoot feel is not as good with the spots fitted. The mesh is now raised very slightly off the ground. As my preferred option is barefoot, I probably notice this more than a minimalist runner would. Having said this, the barefoot stimulation is far better than the majority of minimalist shoes on the market.

Performance however has definitely improved. The grip now on hard surfaces is much better with the “Paws” over the standard Pronativ. I am able to run on roads now, which was not really possible without the spots. They are great for running on roads in the rain. Water just drains straight through them. Unlike closed shoes where they can hold so much water, it’s like running with a pair of sodden sponges strapped to your feet!

Overall, the “Paws” are definitely an improvement on the standard model. Having run in a standard pair and a pair with the “Paws” fitted, I would choose the “Paws” option. Their ability to grip on smooth surfaces far out weights the slight loss of ground feel. Thanks Jörg, I thought you had made the ultimate minimal shoe with the Pronativ, but I was wrong. Now with the “Paws” option, barefoot running just got even better!

Dec 23

Trailball arrives in the UK – Ian Hicks

TrailBall has arrived in the UK. TrailBall is the brainchild of Christian Harberts, President of the French chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society (BRS). It is a mix of trail running, cross-country and football. It comes from an ancient game played by the Tarahumara Indians from the Copper Canyons in Mexico. The Tarahumara would kick a wooden ball about the size of a tennis ball over hundreds of kilometres. Now the game is played using a soft PVC or hemp ball over a lesser distant (at the moment). There are many different variants to choose, so all fitness levels can play.

indexI had the pleasure of playing in the first UK event. TrailBall Team was chosen as the first international event with a French team playing on the same day. On a bright, but cold, Sunday in November, 13 players congregated in the car park at Lydiard Park, Swindon, Wiltshire. Paul Beales as Race Director divided us up into three teams and he explained the rules to us – kick the ball over the 5km distance between team members, handling the ball is not allowed unless it gets stuck, in this case, all team members must stop and restart where the ball was last kicked. He had mapped out a 5km route around the park, giving each team captain a route map and a TrailBall. To start, each team member had to place a foot on the ball.

I had the honour of being team captain of Team A. Team members were, Ian Hicks (Captain), Stephen Richards, Rik Vanhoutteghem and Nick Goddard We had our tactics worked out. We were to run in single file with the lead runner dribbling the ball. “1..2..3..” Paul called and we were off. I started as the lead runner and straight away remembered that I had two left feet! I had to concentrate as much as I could to keep the ball on the path. We shot off left across the field and soon realised that team tactics were harder than we thought, with me swinging right of the main group! We picked up the path again and we settled into a pace, which was proving to be a bit too fast for me being at the back of the group and struggling to keep up! Navigation became my job, with me yelling “left, right or straight on” from the back of the group. After completing around 4km we came back around the house and met a very bewildered Jack Russell! Luckily he took one look at us and decided it was not worth trying to keep up with us! The wooded area above the lake was the best part for me. This type of terrain made ball control much harder. Keeping the ball on the path was proving to be difficult. It was very tempting to kick the ball hard and then run fast to catch it up. But it would hit a root or undulation in the path and go bouncing off into the undergrowth! As we neared the end I kept one eye on the GPS watch, one eye on the map and one eye on the ball! As we approached the last few hundred meters I said jokingly to the team “SPRINT we are nearly there”. Well they certainly had far more energy left in the tank than I did because they shot off! At reaching 5km we each placed a foot and the ball and stopped the clock. We finished with a time of 26:29. Which I think was very respectable being the first time any of us had tried this before. I want to thank Paul Beales for introducing TrailBall into the UK and organizing such a great event. I must also thank Christian Harberts for establishing TrailBall and of course the Tarahumara Indians for giving us the ancestor of TrailBall. http://trailball.net/en/

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Dec 10

My First Barefoot Steps . . . By Thea Gavin

My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . probably didn’t happen when I was learning to walk. Back in the late 50s, station-wagon-driving parents were big on Buster Brown shoes with Eisenhower-stiff soles to “protect” babies’ feet. Yikes. (What’s even worse: in the 70s, I put my kids in shoes right away, too . . . which is one more parenting mis-step that I’m trying to atone for by encouraging my grand-kids to lose their shoes when Grammy G comes for a visit.)
My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . in “nature” might have been at the beach, where even proper parents couldn’t force shoes onto all us kids hyped up by listening to Boss Radio and then running wild in the waves.
My first barefoot running steps . . .
. . . were definitely at the beach – Corona del Mar State Beach. I have vivid memories (was I ten or twelve?) of running full-tilt over the jetty of giant boulders that poked out hundreds of yards into the very heart of the Pacific Ocean (at least it seemed that way to my younger self). My game was to hurtle myself from rock to rock and just let me feet find their way . . . it worked then, and it still works now when I barefoot trail run; I just “hurtle” a bit slower these days.
My first (intentional) barefoot hiking steps . . .
. . . happened in January of 2010; I was at a bird-watching event and noticed two young men in their early 20s wearing homemade wool pants and no shoes. I elbowed my big-booted friend sitting at the campfire next to me and we chuckled at those crazy kids. It was winter; why were they barefoot?
Why were they barefoot? I couldn’t stop wondering, and when I got home, thus began my descent into the convoluted internet labyrinth of all-things-barefoot.
The next day I went for yet another rehab hike at my “usual” 1.8 mile dirt loop; I was six years into my quest for recovery from a variety of running injuries fueled by my desire to run 50 miles the year I turned 50. I was 50-and-a-half. And not running at all, per doctor’s orders.
I carried a pair of old sandals in my little day-pack, just in case. There was no just in case. The cracked clay—and its scattering of rain-released grit—was a revelation. My feet hummed and vibrated for hours afterward.
Thea2
My first barefoot running steps . . .
were interspersed with walking on this same trail. A lollipop loop, the “handle” from the parking lot was decomposed granite, a sole-shocking challenge that has morphed from “ouch!” to “meh” over the years.
My first barefoot running steps . . .
did the same thing for me that they seem to do for almost everyone: they made me feel like a kid again. Hills pulled me to their summits; rocks beckoned me to jump off them; mud invited me to squish around; soft poof-dust sang like Springsteen: “Baby, you were born to run.”
And the odd, after-run “buzz” of my soles was the strangest part of the initiation. That has diminished, but I continue to suffer, with fellow members of the church-of-the-enlightened-barefooters, the odd looks and hilariously inane comments of ignorant shoddies, including the classic, “Barefoot, huh?”
My first barefoot running steps . . .
turned me into an exuberant evangelist who wanted to share the barefoot love with everyone I met on the trail (and I only do trails; cement sidewalks do not interest me). I am now older, wiser, and silent unless asked specific questions by people who seem sincerely interested in opening their minds to new ideas.
My first barefoot running steps . . .
were almost four years ago. I continue to work through gait/mechanics-induced pains that pop up when I increase the intensity and/or duration of my runs. I continue to learn about my amazing body, including what to fuel it with, and I look forward to running barefoot until I am chased down and eaten by a mountain lion who thought I was a deer, moving so gracefully through Orange County’s wild hills at twilight.
You can visit Thea’s excellent Barefoot Wandering and Writing blog here. I recommend that you do. When the cold weather sets in, Thea’s writing will help you remember what summer is like.