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Running bare .. my first steps!

Look, the Tarahumara wear skirts too! But also note the difference in foot strike between two amazing runners.
I’d read Chris McDougall’s book Born To Run late last year, in which he chronicles his search for the answer to “Why does my foot hurt”. In it he explores the life and running habits of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, arguably the greatest distance runners in the world. It’s brought barefoot running to the public arena and added fuel to the growing number of barefoot running converts. I see loads of runners in Vibram Five Fingers on the trail and at the races, so I’d say it’s definitely taken root in Singapore.

I’ve been thinking about barefoot running for a while now, but with wanting to qualify for UTMB last year, I really didn’t want to make any drastic changes. So I thought I’d make a start this year, before things really ramped up.

Also, I’ve just ordered a pair of Inov-8 X-Talon 190 .. touted as the world’s lightest XC and mountain shoe. There’s a 3mm heel-toe drop (the differential between the heel (9mm) and forefoot (6mm) height – the lower the number the ‘flatter’ the shoe) and it’s very minimalist for the terrain it’s designed for. I’d like to be able to use it for the UTMB so I thought I’d better get my skates on (… or would that be off?) and get used to some barefoot running.

Inov-8 X-Talon 190 … fierce or what!

I only wear lightweight trainer/racers, anything from the Adidas Adizero range. I clocked up 1700 miles (2720 km) of injury-free running last year and I don’t think I’ve had a running injury in the last 15 years I’ve been running. I don’t bother changing my shoes too much either. When they get worn out they feel better than when they were new. However, a zero heel drop is quite a significant difference from what I’ve been used to so far, definitely time to start some specific strengthening.

I took a look at The Running Barefoot website … there’s a lot of information there and I didn’t read a lot of it (eyes too tired!) I just skimmed the key words ‘relax’ and ‘high knees’ and figured that would do for a 5 minute test run.

So yesterday evening I ran to the local track, a 440m painted path just by the community centre. Took my shoes and socks off, put them in my pack, and ran. 

…  and you know what? Even though I was running on flat ground, at a peak time when all the local residents are out in force, and it was the furthest thing from a trail that you could think of … I loved it. 

While I was taking off my shoes I remember thinking,”Okay, high knees and relax!” .. and then I was off. I must’ve had a huge grin on my face, but it felt so natural and liberating to be running round the track barefoot with no heel strike. Somehow I clicked right into it, and it felt exactly right. Keeping my knees high was definitely the way to go, and that led to a natural forefoot strike just like I hoped. No jarring, didn’t feel like there was any negative impact or pain.

I only planned a 5 minute run to get used to it, but I was having so much fun I ran for 15 minutes averaging 8 min/mile. I stopped because my toes were starting to feel tender and I didn’t want them to blister. The stares I got from the walkers, joggers and local soccer players warming up were hilarious. They all did a double take when they saw me running with bare feet. Maybe my fuschia nail polish had something to do with it as well. Wait till they see me in my skirt!

Fuschia toes .. great camouflage for missing or black toenails!

Now I’m writing this, my toes are still a little sore and I’m researching which pair of Vibram Five Fingers will suit me best (I’m thinking Bikila). Any suggestions? I can’t wait to try running run barefoot on the trail but I think having some form of protective cover would be prudent … plus I’d end up having crocodile feet with all the hard skin I’d have to develop! It’d be no fun at all if I had to stop after 15 minutes either! I figure I’ll do 15 minutes each day for a week, then see if I can manage 30 minutes without blistering my toes. Stay tuned!

The apple crocodiles had the grape bunnies backed up against the pineapple wall …  was this the end for the hapless hoppers?
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Right. That’s it. Yesterday I tried running for the first time in 11 days. Nearly a lifetime. I even dream about running at the moment. I lasted a tentatively steady 27 minutes before I had a huge sneeze that took my ribs right back to Square One. Of course I was in pain during my run, but that’s relative right? Certainly not enough pain to stop me trying. Until that blinking sneeze.
I really like sneezing, and this darn injury has taken the fun right out of even that. Bah. And then I spent all night in pain. Unadulterated pain as well, given the fact that I’ve got an allergic reaction to my lovely painkillers. Double Bah. Serves me right, I suppose. Impact injuries to the intercostal muscles are likely to take in the region of 2-6 weeks to heal. Some truths are just so hard to acknowledge. 
But how many athletes out there get back training before they’re fully healed? It’s not as if this was even a running injury. Felt a little better again today, but not much. Hurts when I breathe or laugh hard. Or sneeze. Will try running in the pool tomorrow. Won’t push the gym till after the weekend. 

If anyone’s got any suggestions, bring ’em on. Otherwise just shoot me. PLEASE.

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Patience is a virtue …

Okay, so this is Day 4 of enforced rest following my ‘superman’ incident whilst kitesurfing on Saturday. All my bruises are varying shades of purple and green, and the pain is more bearable although I suspect my little pills of oblivion are playing a key role in that respect. My torso is still swollen and I’m discovering new bruises and small abrasions everyday. Glad I was wearing my helmet despite it’s zero glam factor. Gave in to the folks’ demands that I get myself x-rayed, and now I’m all clear. No broken bones, just a whole lot of bruising. The swelling round my torso is adding an extra 3 inches to my waistline. How very attractive. As if I needed anymore expansion there.

Been applying Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment to my cuts and grazes, especially the one on my forehead in a desperate attempt to heal it before Chinese New Year. No chance. Guess I’ll just have to hide behind an aunt with big hair for the reunion photo. However, the pawpaw stuff is pretty good and everything seems to be healing well, just not as fast as I’d like it to.

Most runners will be able to relate to the antsy feeling I’ve had for the last few days at not being able to get out for a run. I’m very rarely out of action through injury. Even if I am the injury is usually the result of me being accident-prone and falling into a ditch rather than from too much running. So this is driving me absolutely bonkers. The speed at which I’m moving is only marginally faster than a slow loris .. anything over 0.03km/h hurts like buggery.

Laced up my trainers this morning and made it as far as the lift lobby before having to turn round. Bah. Guess my convalescence requires a little patience. I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s hard to be patient when you’re itching to get out for a run, but then again how much damage are you doing by running before you’re fully recovered? I’m guessing my insides got a bit of a shock when I bounced off the ground, so maybe I should try a swim first .. that’s non-impact, right?

On the bright side, the lovely peeps at Pure Fitness have given me a year’s free gym membership yesterday .. one of the prizes from the Singapore Marathon I ran in December. Brilliant, except I’m in no shape to take advantage of it yet. Back to bloody being patient again. Bah.