So, why am I starting slower than Ken Bob Saxton suggests?
The reason lies in what Ken Bob Saxton terms ‘BRES’ – Barefoot Running Exuberance Syndrome. I didn’t even realise I got the syndrome until I read his book, and while it isn’t a condition the professional medical profession would necessarily understand, it is a condition that I imagine plagues a lot of barefoot runners.
In a few words, I messed up. I went too far, too soon in running barefoot and ended up with a mother of a blister under my big toe which took 10 days before I felt brave enough to run on it again (and even then, I used trainers).
My initial barefoot run was in line with what Ken Bob suggests, though at the time I did it, I’d only researched a few forums online about barefoot running, where the general jist of things seemed to be not to do more than ten minutes. So, I started off slowly, slower than I normally run, but I was definitely slapping my feet down a bit. It felt amazing. This was in late December / early January. My desensitised feet revelled in the new found joy of moving faster than walking but really feeling what has been underneath me all those years – the ground. My feet felt free and absolutely bounced around in the freedom of not being covered up. In between feeling tense about cutting my feet, I kept noticing that I had a big beaming smile on my face. I felt like a naughty school kid and had to stop myself from looking like some crazy guy, by smiling a bit less. I was, after all, running on the pavement alongside a pretty busy road for traffic, holding my trainers in my hands and running with nothing on my feet in the English winter! After that first run, my feet felt quite tingly and sensitive to touch as I wiped the bits of muck off my feet, but no problems – no blisters, no cuts, phew, what a relief I thought.
That was my first experience and I couldn’t wait to try running barefoot again.
So, not too long after this in early January I ran to work as I often do, which is just over 5 miles away. Once I got to the less public section of my run (two miles in, I reach the University campus), I stopped and took off my shoes and socks. The paths were clear of snow, but on the grass there was still evidence of the white stuff. So, yes, the pavement was really cold. I started running and the rough pavement under my feet was challenging in temperature and bumpiness, but I’m pretty stubborn and wasn’t going to stop until I’d done half a mile…but then, I was enjoying it so much, I carried on, up the hill. At the top of the hill, while my feet were starting to feel really cold, I thought I might as well just saunter down to the bottom of the hill now I’m here. I ran a mile…on wet ground…in January…when the temperature was barely above freezing…at 7:00am in the morning when it was still pretty dark…and I still had another three miles until I got to work, ouch!
So, a word of warning – if, like me, you’re inspired to get into barefoot running, start slowly.
In the next blog post…how my slower start to barefoot running began with a bicycle and a tree…