It’s getting close to seven months since I switched to running barefoot. So far I’ve run 406km barefoot and a further 452km with huaraches over a total of 75-something barefoot running days. If you’ve not clicked that previous link, huaraches resemble Asterix-era Roman sandals with a 4mm sole. During this period, I’ve been nearly exclusive with my new footwear (barring 3-4 dalliances with Bata canvas shoes and Puma chappals – believe me they were extenuating circumstances).
The season’s first race (Kaveri Trail Marathon) is exactly a week away so I figured I should at least write about my first barefoot run. The first is always special, ain’t it so?
Feb 18, 2012
Usually I would give myself two weeks of downtime after I had run a marathon. But last season could hardly be termed usual by my earlier standards – I had run marathons 6 through 10 in a single season (within 7 months actually). Six days after Auroville Marathon 2012, I showed up at Kaikondrahalli Lake (my home court running venue – a 1.9km trail around a recently revived lake) – Barefoot Ted’s inspiring words at Auroville were still fresh in my head.
I kicked off my chappals, muttered something inane to the security guard and set off for the new season’s first run. Even though I had announced my intent to “experiment” with barefoot running, my runner friends (three that morning) were still surprised and bemused to see me thus unshod.
I was surprised at how quickly the first lap was negotiated and rather uneventfully too. I was trying to not pay too much attention to what I was doing ‘differently’ – worried as I was about observer effect.
I needn’t have worried.
The first perceptible awareness was that I sounded very different – pitter patter instead of thud thud. It was no surprise that I was landing on my front feet. The surprising bit was how natural it felt. In my subsequent runs, I would realize the wisdom of doing more barefoot running (than minimalist footwear running) during the transformation phase – but that’s a different story.
It was only in the second lap that I allowed myself to notice what else was different. My gaze was lowered more than usual – clearly it was important to know where my feet were going to land next. I was getting slightly skittish as I got closer to gravely or pebbly terrain. A few ouch moments as I stepped on stones and pebbles of various sizes, shapes, and jaggedness – nothing major though my upper body’s reaction was a bit exaggerated at times.
I completed three laps at an average pace of 5:40/km. Pretty decent considering that my calves were not complaining even a wee bit but I stopped – didn’t want to push my luck.
Somebody asked me how I felt and I heard myself say “Like a CHILD!”
It wasn’t that my last few years of running were a sham. Far from it. But this notion of running “without shoes” added mischievousness and a greater sense of freedom to my psyche.
To be continued…