Barefoot Rich

I had an athletics bootcamp this evening with Coach B. He started it six or so weeks ago since when it’s become my usual start to the training week. He sends out a training schedule each weekend which invariably starts with a swimming session at 7:00am. I’ve never made it to that. I don’t think I ever will. Swimming is not something I can face first thing in the morning.

We did our usual warm up followed by quite a strenuous series of dynamic stretches. There were some bodyweight exercises intended to strengthen our glutes, quads and hamstrings. Single leg squats and lowering ourselves from a single leg squat onto a bench were particularly horrid. It’s hard to control the downward movement steady and lower yourself gently onto a bench. You need to make sure that your leg is straight. Try it. It’s really, really vile. The drills and skills were designed to get us used to lifting our knees a little higher when we were running hard.

The run was a quickish set of 5 x c600m which we were supposed to do in the same time on each rep with a variation of no more than 5 seconds on each rep. Mine varied between 2:43 and 2:56. The first rep was the slowest. It usually is when I do these interval sessions with Alan. It takes me a little while to get used to the idea of running that hard. I was chasing Carla on the first four reps and she is much quicker than me. She wasn’t there for the fifth rep and I was leading the group round for most of it. I wasn’t pushing quite as hard without Carla to chase, even though I had Izzie close behind me all the way round.

We did a sixth rep barefoot on a slightly shorter course missing out the really horrible bare ground and keeping to the grass. It’s only the second time I’ve run barefoot and I’m hooked. I don’t force my foot to do any work at all. I can feel it relax into the ground. My foot works as a foot, as Helen would say. I can feel it gather energy and feed it back into the next stride. Even sprinting is suddenly easy, effortless. I can relax into the run from the ground up.

The video at the top of this post is a bit of a giggle but it contains a truth: there is a lot of shit around barefoot running. I enjoy the feeling of freedom and the ease of running I get when I’m barefoot. It probably won’t suit everyone but it’s a reminder that you don’t need to have plastic and rubber around your foot all the time. Even for someone writing a blog for a company selling footwear, that’s a valuable lesson to remember.

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