Counting down to my first barefoot race – or not?

In Barefoot running, Luna sandals, Races by All This Running Around7 Comments

Two weeks. Just over two weeks until I’m running thirteen miles around the Warwickshire countryside. To be honest, just writing that sentence feels a bit lame after talking about ultramarathons recently, but there we are. We’ve all got to start somewhere. It’ll be my fourth half marathon, but crucially I’m hoping that it will be the first time I get round in my Lunas. At the moment, I’ve got to say that the prospects for that aren’t looking particularly good.

It’s a frustrating time for me. My fitness is pretty good, certainly a lot better than it was the last time I entered an event so I’m not concerned about the distance. But my feet are another story altogether. What’s driving me insane is that just as I get over one particular ache or pain, another immediately arrives to take its place. In a previous post, I was complaining about blisters (well, actually one huge blister) on the ball of my right foot. It was/is a bit of a beast, the most painful part being the side where the foot is rubbing against the sandal. I did a bit of reading up about it, and there are no prizes for guessing that the problem is being caused by my form.

As I run in my Lunas, my feet are hitting the ground slightly in front of my body, instead of directly beneath my centre of gravity. This is causing friction and therefore the blister. Why on just one foot and not the other? I’m guessing because of how everything is aligned. So on Tuesday night I went out for a five-mile run, and concentrated on keeping my posture upright – I have a tendency to lean forward slightly when I’m not paying attention. It was an improvement, although I found it difficult to stay focused for the duration. It was worth it though, since not only did I run a personal best for the route, there was markedly less pain once I’d finished.

The other blister issue was on the tip of my second toe. This, it seems, was being caused by me pushing off on each stride as opposed to lifting my feet. I read somewhere about imagining your feet are tied to lengths of string and are being lifted from the ground like a puppet’s. This was much easier to address, and I don’t think it’ll be a problem in future.

So despite not having 100% solved the blister problem, I was making progress. Then yesterday morning, I get out of bed and discover the dreaded ‘top of foot’ pain. Oh, and just to keep things interesting, this was in my previously fit and healthy, blister-free left foot.

Bugger. Bugger, bugger, bugger.

It wasn’t excruciating, and I spent much of the day periodically jogging around my office to test it out. (I jog around my office a lot. Fortunately, my office is in an open plan showroom so there’s quite a lot of room. I am generally recognised by the other business owners here as being at best slightly odd, and worst full on mental.) When I got home last night, I put my Lunas on and ran around the garden a few times. Then I ran thirty or forty metres up the road and back. It’s a great indicator of my feelings about running now. Whereas six months ago I’d have positively seeked out excuses not to go, now I’m trying to convince myself that it won’t hurt too much, I won’t make it worse, I’ll just do an easy three miles…

I’m (sort of) pleased to say that common sense prevailed, and I didn’t go. This immediately brings another problem: the ‘can’t go running’ sulk. Often in these cases I will console myself with a beer, but this time I didn’t. I had a glass of wine instead. And I tried, I really tried not to bore the arse off my wife with my minor injury woes. I don’t think I was very successful.

So there we are. The pain seems to have abated today, so I’ll almost certainly be out later and we’ll see what that brings. I’ll be so disappointed not to run this race in my Lunas, but I know I can’t afford to be gung-ho about it. I can be quite impulsive when the mood takes me, and it’s not hard to imagine me saying “oh balls to it” on the morning of the race and just putting them on, even though I know what’s coming. I’ve got to look at things in the broader perspective; I’ve only been running barefoot (in sandals) for a tiny amount of time. I keep reading other blogs where people have been doing it for years and still don’t think they’ve quite got it down perfectly. So I’ve decided to set myself a deadline. On Sunday 22nd April, a week before the race, I’m going to try an easy 10 miles in the Lunas. If it doesn’t work, they’re going under the bed for seven days. There’s plenty of time, and although I’m typing this through gritted teeth, it’s more important to me that I enjoy the event.

Quick update on Rory Coleman’s progress in the Marathon des Sables. He’s still going strong in 201st position. So far 43 competitors have pulled out – a remarkably low number given how punishing the race is. Below is a video with some of the runners taken just before the start of Stage 3. Nutters!


PS. Hope the blog post image isn’t too obscure for you…