I’ve generally steered clear of using my phone to record my runs for the last few months, my reasoning being that I wanted to just enjoy myself and not worry about times. But following a very pleasant (but, thanks to me, very slow) run with Mr Wootfly last week, I thought I’d better pull my socks up a bit and start pushing myself a bit harder. We ran ‘the block’, which is our old stomping ground around the village in which we grew up. (That’s an old time picture above – it hasn’t changed.) It was a lovely run, spoiled slightly for me by the legendary Little Britain towards the end. Not the occasionally semi-amusing comedy programme, it’s a hill. Not a particularly long hill, but a steep one. I got up it without stopping, but thought I was going to keel over at the top. No such problems for my immeasurably fitter and less conventionally attractive friend.
Anyway, I decided to do a flat four miles and try and push a bit harder. Nothing really quick, but aiming for eight minute miles and trying/hoping to stay fairly comfortable. It all started very well, but about halfway in I started to feel a couple of blisters coming up. One was on the end of my third toe, a sure sign of pushing off. The other was directly beneath the strap between my big and second toes, a sure sign of something, but I’ve no idea what. But whatever, I think it’s fair to say that I’d become a bit too focused on pace and wasn’t paying enough attention to my form.
A little while ago, I was discussing some of my issues concerning running in huaraches with the fine people at the Minimalist Runner Google group. One thing that came out was that people often have problems when they attempt to transition from a normal shoe to a minimalist one, due mainly to the fact that even with a 6mm sole and zero drop, you’re still losing some important feeling in your feet. It was suggested that I try and work some full barefoot running into my routine, since it leaves no real margin for error. In other words, if you’re doing something wrong, your body will tell you immediately and you will instinctively change. As opposed to finishing a run in a bit of pain and then trying to work out what went wrong.
With this in mind, and with just over a mile to go on my four mile run, I took my Lunas off. I was immediately struck by the fact that if you think you get strange looks wearing sandals or VFFs, try running in nothing at all. (I don’t mean completely naked. Although it is tempting.) With my Lunas in my right hand, I set off.
It was a dirt path, with some fairly small and sharp stones littered about. But they were no problem; as soon as I started, the pain from my blisters disappeared and it wasn’t even slightly uncomfortable. I didn’t give too much thought to how I was running, and had already decided not to bother about going quickly. I noticed that my cadence had increased after about half a mile. Interesting. I finished the run at a steady pace and felt great. It was a genuinely liberating experience. I was surprised how easy it had felt, but I had another surprise to come. I got back to the car to check my phone, and was sure that the last mile would have been slower. I’d averaged just over eight minute miles for the first three, but I’d averaged the last one at 7:15! I’d even got below seven for a chunk. And the best thing about it was that I felt great. Amazing.
It’s just one run. Not even that, it’s just one little bit of one little run. But it’s nice to be relaxed and quick. (Well, quick by my admittedly low standards.) I’m definitely going to do a bit more fully barefoot running and we’ll see where it goes. But it would certainly appear that huaraches are not the only answer.
I’m off for a couple of days now, DJing and performing at a festival in Suffolk somewhere. I say ‘performing’, what I really mean is ‘trying not to make too big a prick of myself’. Should be a laugh, and looking forward to getting a couple of runs in down there. So I’ll leave you with this, my favourite performance of a song we’re doing on Saturday night. I will be channelling my inner Gahan, who will in turn be channelling his inner Jagger. The mind boggles.