my running adventures – barefoot or otherwise
At the end of my last post, I explained that in this one, I’d share why my first new barefoot experience involved a bicycle and a tree.
Well, I often alternate cycling with running to and from work (so, some days I take the car, some times I cycle to work and run back, or vice versa, depending on where my bike happens to be). As it turned out, my bike was at home, so I was going to be cycling to work. I didn’t let that interfere with my plan to start my barefoot journey.
I lent my bike up against a tree in the park just outside my house and took off my shoes and socks. It just so happened I was prepared enough to put a few babywipes in my cycling jacket to wipe my feet at the end of my little barefoot experience. With a rucksack full of stuff, I held my trainers and socks in one hand, and my bike in the other as I strolled along the tarmac path that weaves it’s way towards the adventure playground on the other side of the main road.
As I stepped barefoot on the path, it became clear this was going to be a test. There was frost on the path and no danger of the sun coming out to warm things up any time soon. I moved along, enjoying the challenge of not tip toeing like a wuss which was fine for a while, until the path suddenly, unexpectedly, became more and more rough. I battled on, determined that my sensitive feet would be able to deal with them – or if they didn’t, then this experience would help them to soon!
I made it almost to the end of the path when I had my first encounter with another person. I was all prepared for a funny look, a smile of pity, even a gesture that showed they thought I was crazy, but my preparation was all for nothing. The dog and it’s walker had no interest in making any eye contact whatsoever, or even to register my presence. Oh well, till next time.
The babywipes sure looked dirty when I’d wiped my feet down and while my feet were cold, they also seemed to tingle with pleasure at what they’d been subjected to over the last three minutes or so.
I cycled in to work without highlight and on locking up my bike, I decided to take ‘em off again. This time, before I just walked, I thought I’d do one of the warm-ups Ken Bob talks about in his book. It involves jumping on the spot, landing on the balls of your feet and letting your heels and toes be grounded too, practising the 1-2-3 method of contact with the ground that Ken Bob himself found helped his barefoot running immensely. He said he discovered it during a race when he found his toes hurting and started experimenting with how his feet landed. By 1-2-3, Ken Bob says that your foot should land in sequence on the ground: 1, ball of the foot first, 2, toes or heel, 3, toes or heel. It transpires that whether the heel or the toes land second or third doesn’t matter too much as long as there is a difference albeit measured in milliseconds in the parts of the foot touching down on the earth. Ken Bob’s main point as far as technique goes, is to bend the knees. Bending the knees helps you to land the way you’re meant to land, ball of the foot first and means you use the knees that are your natural shock absorbers to help spread the impact of each footstep. Anyway, anything that helps prevent my feet hurting and improves my technique, I’m pleased to take on board.
Apparently, if you’re bouncing up and down on the same spot it shows your body is in perfect alignment and you’re using your muscles in a balanced way. Well, I think I need to practise this more as I wasn’t always bouncing up and down in exactly the same spot. It felt good though and indicates there’s some work for me to do on my technique.
After doing two sets of 50 jumps, I walked up and down the concrete car park 3 times and headed in for a welcome shower, as my feet were telling me they were definitely alive and awakened for the day!
During the rest of the day I felt very aware of my feet, which still seemed to be buzzing from their little rays of freedom I’d given them in the day.
That night, on the way home (I cycled back again as it was the last day of half-term and I might want my bike for a ride during the week off), I stopped off about half a mile or less from home on a quiet road and took my shoes and socks off. It was dark and with only 8 days till my race in the Vale of Belvoir I’ve been looking forward to since I completed the last race back in November, the last thing I wanted was to step on an alien fragment on the pavement I couldn’t see that might put paid to my race. I figured that stupidity and normality are often judged after the event or non-event takes place. For example, if I got home without an injury, no-one would say anything about it (apart from think I was a bit crazy for trying the whole barefoot thing in the first place), but if I did get an injury, then suddenly it was a stupid, irresponsible action that I should have known better not to do. Just an observation anyway.
And yes, I did get home without an injury!
6 days till race day now and counting. The race is a 15-miler and today I’ve done my last long run before the start.
An account of my long run looms in the next instalment of my barefoot journey, which takes in me being a scaredy cat, jelly babies, a change of route and my goal for the race.
Till next time,