Sunday, May 22, 2011


It is interesting to me how my legs are changing as a result of the barefoot running.

I started in the Vibram Five Fingers almost two years ago, but my running was inconsistent. Over the last couple of months, however I have been running consistently over varying surfaces and distances, and along with that I have seen changes in my leg muscles.

The first changes were in my feet and especially on the outside of my lower legs. These were simply because I needed to compensate for the loss of support the shoes provided. Being on the, uh, older end of things meant that it took longer (months) than it probably would have for a younger person. My legs were quite stiff after those earlier runs, but my feet weren't, they just felt used, like they'd had a good workout.

Since I've committed to barefooting my legs have been strengthening, basically from the bottom up. My ankles are stronger, especially now that I've added hills and longer workouts (15 miles last Thursday) to my routine. Also, I'm starting to regain some speed. Today I ran my normal 4 mile course and found that I've taken more than a minute a mile off my time since February. Interestingly, as I've increased my pace I have also felt an increase in strength around my knees.

The increase in ankle and knee strength are completely new to me. I grew up with a lot of lateral movement playing soccer, but this newfound strength around my joints is different. It feels almost as if my ankles were wrapped in tape or my knees bound in an elastic brace. My body is building up its own support which, in turn, makes me more confident about pushing my pace.

The Club Northwest All-Comers series starts this Wednesday. I haven't been on the track for more than a month, and haven't run a fast 800 meters for two years, so I don't think my time will be very good, but I am very interested in how my body will respond to pushing myself for a (barefoot) 800 meters.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Barefoot Half-Marathon

Yesterday I did my first barefoot half-marathon. I hadn't done a half for several years, so I was a little nervous about it. The weather was cool, upper 40s, about what it has been all spring. Rained all night the night before the race and a heavy shower came through just before the start, but the race itself was pretty much rain-free. I broke two hours, which was my goal, but did not break 1:45, which is the pace I need to hold if I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

The race was pretty tough on my feet. Being cool and damp (especially damp), it took a while for my feet to warm up, so for the first mile and half or so I felt everything. This was especially tough at the beginning because the streets were quite weathered, the surface pitted and uneven. The roads didn't improve much. They weren't in terrible shape for driving - no potholes to speak of or anything like that - but it would have been tough on a bike and was really hard on my feet. The space between the tires was usually smoother and I ran there when I could, but I really had to watch my foot placement and I never really got a relaxed, comfortable stride going, which made it tougher than I expected.

Still, it was faster than my training runs, and it was my quads tightening up at about nine miles that limited my performance more than my feet.

Afterwards: ouch. Fatigued legs and feet that stayed sensitive all the way to bedtime. The first time my feet have really hurt after a barefoot run.

I got up this morning and did an easy four miles. My feet warmed up in the first half mile, and my legs felt okay after a mile or so, but my shoulders hurt for two and half miles. No idea why my shoulders bothered me; that's a new one. But the last mile and a half it was all systems go with a good, moderately quick stride. I didn't push it, but I felt good, which for me is unusual on the day after a half marathon.

Now I just need to figure out how to shed 40 seconds a mile.