Stepping It Up

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Today was 2K Day!  My first run beyond the easy 1km I’ve been doing for several weeks now.  I couldn’t have picked a better day for it, sunny and warm.

I set off remembering to keep my head up, try to lean forward slightly and try to kick my legs back behind me with each stride.  I could feel it in my calves right away but tried to focus on my movement to take my mind of the possible damage I was once again doing to my calves.  After about 100 metres I noticed something different was happening.

Previously all my stride had been on my forefoot, I’d found it hard to finish my stride by putting my heal down, just before picking my foot up again.  However this time I found that by concentrating on: head up, lean forward, kick legs back, my heal seemed to land naturally just at the end of the stride.  Not only this, but my whole foot strike was a much more fluid movement.  Kicking back my legs seemed to ensure that by the time my foot had come forward again and was ready to land, it was already under my centre of gravity. This meant that I didn’t have to actively point my foot forward to ensure a forefoot strike.

The whole movement was just much more fluid.  So much so that it almost felt as if I was cycling a bike and my legs were turning an imaginary set of pedals, rather than a left right striding motion.  The touch of my feet on the ground was so light that if I’d have closed my eyes I could have been mistaken for thinking I wasn’t touching the ground at all, it was that pronounced.

This is encouragement indeed.  I just need to stick to my distance plan all the way.  2 km 3 times a week for the next two weeks.

I Walk The Earth

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As well as getting my legs used to barefoot running, I’ve also to condition the soles of my feet to. The skin on my soles needs to toughen up. This will be true even if I continue to wear minimalist running shoes rather than to actual barefoot. So I’ve decided that alongside the running, I should do some walking actually barefoot and this is what I did yesterday.

I took a walk up to the Common, removed my shoes and did a lap carrying them. The terain is quite varied. It goes from lush soft grass through to tarmac and gravel. Having started to get used to landing on my forefoot when running, it seemed a natural progression to doing this whilst walking, when the ground was anything other that soft. The fleshy parts of my foot can absorb small stones on a hard surface, but my heal cannot. Therefore I found my feet wanting to walk this way when the footing was uncertain.

I remember reading in Born to Run about the Tarahumara’s toes splaying out as they ran, as if they were tenticles feeling the ground in advance of the full weight of the foot being dropped. I looked down at my toes to be disappointed that my feet weren’t doing this. But towards the end of my walk (about 3 km) I noticed definate gaps between my toes as my feet landed. So they had adjusted already? Or maybe I wanted it to happen so it did. Either way it was a noticable difference.

After 3 km my feet were starting to get sore, so I shoe’d up again, before I did myself an injury. As with the running, I need to take a slow approach.

It was very liberating to do this, just as with the running. I’m not going to get all hippy about it, but I really did feel a little bit of a spiritual connection, being so directly connected with my surroundings.

I also did the last of my 1 km runs in the morning too. Tuesday will be the first of my 2 km runs. Wish me luck!

Here comes Summer

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Another short run this morning, taking it easy and not over doing it.

I’ve since been on Google Earth to work out that I’m currently doing 1km distance and my original running around the block distance was 0.5 km.  So with that in mind I’ve now set myself a training programme to get me up to the 5.5 km required to run from my house, around the entirety of Clapham Common and back home again.  I was tempted to increase the distance by 1 km every week.  But it’s important that I ease myself into this, so I think 2 weeks at each distance is a better plan, followed by 4 weeks at the full Common distance to assure myself that I can then properly run barefooted.

This is the programme:

0.5 km – 3 times a week for 3 weeks (already done)

1 km – 3 times a week for 3 weeks (just completed today)

2 km – 3 times a week for 2 weeks

3 km – 3 times a week for 2 weeks

4 km – 3 times a week for 2 weeks

5 km – 3 times a week for 4 weeks

After this I’ll reassess where I am and then start working up to 10 km.  Hopefully by then my calves will have adjusted over the 3-4 months and I can start being less anal about only running specific distances.

Born To Run – Yes, I think I was.

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I finished “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall today.  I have to say that this book was just amazing.  If you run and you’ve not read this book, then you really should.  It centres on the author’s one question, “Why do my feet hurt?”.  What follows is the author’s journey for the truth about running, which takes him to the most remote places on earth in search of a reclusive tribe who regularly run 100 miles for fun.  And they do that wearing nothing more than sandals.  No expensive running shoes of them.  Is this the way we were born to run?  Well, yes, I think it is.  This is really encouraging and if I’d not already started on my barefoot running training, this book would have got me started.

Read it.

So Far So Good

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This is much better.  I’ve ran 4 times now around the block for a 3-4 minute run.  Leaving a rest day in between each time.  I can feel the tension in my calves, but this is nothing more than what you’d expect the day after a gym session.  It feels good.  I’ve decided to do two or three weeks at this distance, just to be safe.  I don’t want a knock back again so early in my conversion.

Back on Track

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Two weeks after my abortive start and a full week after my calves recovered I had another go.  I’ve decided to start very very small.  I’m going to run around the block to start with and do this every other day for a week.  Then if no problems ensure, I will step up the distance gradually and again repeat this every other day for a week, and so on.

So today’s run was the shortest I’ve even been on.  It must have taken all of three minutes to get around the block.  It felt like cheating to stop, but nothing hurt when I’d finished, which is the plan.  The temptation was there once again to do more, but once bitten…  I am determined not to mess it up this time.

We’ll see what the rest of the week brings.  I’m also taking every opportunity to walk about without shoes on.  Mainly at home indoors and at work too.

Ouch! (still)

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Well it’s 6 days later and the tightness in my calves is just starting to subside.  I’ve spent the entire week not been able to walk without taking very small painful steps.  I can’t believe that it’s taken this long to start to recover.  I must have been on the verge of doing myself a real injury.  No wonder they say you have to start very small.  I’ll not be ignoring that advice in future.  I think I’ll wait until they have fully recovered though before starting again.  This is very annoying, I just want to get out there and run.


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OMG!  My calves hurt.  They don’t just ache anymore, they actually hurt – a lot!  I can’t walk properly, or at all even.  What the hell was I thinking diverting from my initial plan to run around the block to thinking that I could just go off and do 5k?  My calves certainly informed me of my folly this morning, I’ve never felt anything like it.

The advice on learning to run barefoot is all about starting very very slowly.  Which I intended to do.  I’d done the stretching for a few weeks and I’d done plenty of barefoot walking.  And when it came to the running I fully intended on starting as slow as any of the training programmes out there suggest.

But something had happened to me when I eventually got out there.  I found the feeling of freedom was fantastic, addictive even.  My feet where no longer smashing away at the pavement, they were springing effortlessly along, stroking the pavement instead of punching it.  I just wanted to run and run.  This coloured my better judgement I sure am paying for it now.  Still, give it a few days and I can start again, slooooowwwwly this time.