So three weeks ago I tried to run through an injury and ended up hobbling around for two weeks. I vowed on these pages to leave it at least two weeks before I started doing anything again, and even then I’d start on the 100-Up exercise that I’d found rather than actually run.
And then today in London it was the most fantastic day. The sun was shining and it was very warm. There was a breeze, but only just enough to take the edge of the sun’s heat without it being annoying. Everyone was smiling as I cycled through the park. I had just one thought in my mind, an idea, a decision that had been steadily forming itself on my 40 minute cycle home from work. What was this plan forming in my head? I wanted to go running.
What’s that I hear you cry? I thought you were going to leave it a while longer, another week in fact and even then you weren’t going to do any actual running. Well yes, that is true. But as I’d started doing the 100-Ups I’d realised that I could land on my right foot barefoot-style (at least whilst running on the spot) with no pain or discomfort at all. So, as long as I ran really slowly, with really small steps, it would be the same thing really. And if I felt so much as the slightest twinge or anything that didn’t feel right I’d stop right away. The biggest mistake I’d made weeks back was not listening to my body. If anything starts to hurt, stop running immediately. That’s what I’d forgotten back then, but I wasn’t going to forget it today.
I started running around the block. I’d fully intended to do just that, but it felt so good I carried on. I concentrated on keeping everything very light and easy, and running at a slow speed with a short stride. This seemed to ensure that it was okay, there was no pain and it felt good. I got to the end of the block and carried on running. I was now starting out on a circuit of the Common which is a 6k route. Am I mad? I thought to myself as I passed the point at which I could have taken a short cut and only done half the Common. No, I just need to keep reminding myself of the rules for this run. Any hint of an issue and I was to stop and walk back home.
I’ve read in a lot of places that the ideal pace for barefoot-running is 180 steps per minute. Which is quicker than if you’re taking long strides like a heal-striker in padded trainers. I’d also read today (perhaps my subconscious had started planning this run before I did) that songs with the same beats-per-minute are good to run to – or sing to yourself to check your pace is correct. The only one I could remember from the list was David Bowie’s “Modern Love”. So as I ran on around Clapham Common for the first time in three weeks in my head was playing that tune.
Just after the half-way mark I stopped running. Not that I’d encountered any issues, but having made it more than half the distance I decided that I didn’t want to push my luck and spend another few weeks unable to run. I walked home a very happy bunny. I’ll give it a couple of days and go out again. I worked out the distance to have been 3.5k.
I definitely think it’s helped that I’ve spent my recuperation time walking around in barefoot shoes. If I’d have gone back to heeled shoes for those three weeks, my calves and achilles would have shortened and I’d probably have strained them doing this run today. I’m really sold on the idea of barefoot footwear, for almost everything not just for running. After all, what better way to keep your foot developing the muscle strength that you need for barefoot running than to walk around essentially barefoot everywhere all the time.