Barefoot running streak – false start?

In Barefoot running, Luna sandals, Running, Streak running by All This Running Around5 Comments

On Tuesday 15th May I wrote a post about running streaks, and that I was thinking about starting one. On Wednesday 16th May, I did just that. It might seem a little bit pointless to write about a running streak that has barely even got started, but already it’s been an interesting experience, frustrating and enjoyable in pretty much equal measure.

It wasn’t my actual intention to start the streak on the 16th. The weather was nice and I felt like going for a run, so I did. But I didn’t want to do anything too strenuous so I ran on the path to Stratford-upon-Avon, which is nice and flat. I had my Lunas on as usual, and was cruising along at fairly comfortable eight minute miles until about four miles in, when my left calf suddenly flared up. I slowed down and, as I always do unless the pain is severe, carried on to see if it would abate. It did, and I finished the run albeit at a much slower pace.

That night I thought hard about whether I should actually give this streak thing a go. If I did, then I was immediately going to have to deal with the issue of my calf, which was sore but not drastically so. Common sense told me that I should probably give it a day to recover, but I was also telling myself that little niggles like this were inevitable and to at least try and manage it. So I made the decision to go out the next day, another nice easy run at just over three miles. The calf was a little bit tight but I got through it ok.

Day three was a turning point for me, but it wasn’t to do with a running streak. I think that day three, Friday 18th May might be the last time I try and run in regular running shoes. Basically, my calf was feeling very tight all day, to the point where I didn’t think I could make the run in my Lunas. But I figured that if I strapped the Mizunos on and ran with a heel strike, I could probably get through it. It sort of worked, in that the calf didn’t protest at all. But it was one of the most miserable runs of my life.

It comes down to one very simple truth: I can no longer comfortably run with a heel strike. But secondary to that, I also can’t run with a mid-foot or forefoot strike in regular shoes! I don’t know why. But every time I have tried to run with good form in my Mizunos over the past few weeks, I’ve hurt myself. Christopher McDougall says that provided you’ve got good form, it shouldn’t matter what you wear on your feet. I can see the logic in that, but it doesn’t appear to be the case for me! Anyway, I’m not saying this stuff like it’s a bad thing, because ultimately what it means is that I’m well on the way to making the transition away from regular shoes. Rather than try to analyse it, I’m just going with it. So the shoes are in the cupboard, and that’s that.

Back to this run. When I first started out in my Lunas, I was kind of concerned that I looked a little bit… Ah… How to put this? Effeminate. Like the proverbial girl’s blouse. (Clearly that is absurd, since there is literally nothing more manly than a bald man prancing about in sandals.) But as I got more comfortable with it (and better at it), my form improved and everything seemed to click into place, to the point where anything else feels unnatural. Actually, more than unnatural. Ungainly. It feels downright awkward. In my mind’s eye I am instantly transformed from a lithe (stop laughing), relatively graceful runner into a lumbering mess. Not only that, but it’s physically harder as well. A lose-lose situation. Kind of makes me feel bad for all those heel strikers out there, but hey… I keep telling myself I’m not a barefoot evangelist!

So anyway, fast forward a few days and the streak (such as it is) stands at nine days. To be completely honest, right now I’m struggling to decide if it’s something I really want to do. There are some great reasons for carrying on. Being committed to running every day removes the ‘will I, won’t I’ debate that often whirls around my head during the average working day. My mileage is up. It is benefitting my general fitness, even if at times it doesn’t feel like it. And yet…

There have been four or five runs over the last nine days that I haven’t enjoyed. Now this is something that everyone who runs can expect from time to time, but for me to be hating 50% of my runs is pretty hard to take. It make me question what I’m doing. For me, running has to be about enjoyment; without that there’s no point. I pretty much feel like I did before Christmas, in that running has become something I have to do rather than something I want to do.

So I think I’m going to leave the running streak alone for now. False start. That isn’t to say I won’t return to it (or rather, start a new one) at some point. I got some great insight from a lady called Helen over at BFT’s Google group. She runs every day, but never sets herself goals. She starts with a 10 minute jog, carries on if she feels like it and stops if she doesn’t. More often than not she’ll carry on, but she doesn’t put any pressure on herself to do so. As far as I can tell, she doesn’t even record how far she runs – that’s not the point for her. She just does it for the love of doing it. I think it’s a great way to look at having a running streak. So I think that if/when I do return to this idea, it’ll be more along the lines of how Helen does it, rather than setting myself targets and goals as I did this time. But for now, I’m just going to relax and get back to enjoying myself.