My Experience Barefoot Running a 5K
"You spend all your time on your feet or in bed, so invest in quality when it comes to it." My grandfather said this too me when I needed a quote in third grade. His was right. Little did I know how much of an impact it would have on my life.
At first I thought it meant buy expensive shoes and a fancy mattress. As time went on I thought it meant shoes that make your feet feel normal after a long day of work and a bed that allowed you to sleep through the night. Now, I take it a different way. A simpler view of his quote. Spend time caring for your feet and making sure they are strong. They are the foundation to support and move our entire structure. They are the roots of a tree. And for sleep, it's not about the materialistic aspect. It's about placing a high value on quality sleep and sticking with a routine.
30 years later I still think about that quote now and again. Last Saturday it popped into my head. I headed up to the Newport 5K with Melissa and Jesse, two tribemembers, to test my training. I wanted to run a 5K barefoot and see if my feet could hold up. It was a hot and humid day and since we were running mainly on old cracked pavement it really put them to the test.
I didn't decided that week to run it barefoot. I've been training for it since our running workshop in April. It's been 2 years since I had surgery on my heel to remove a bone spur from the military. I haven't ran without pain since 2008. After that surgery I promised myself to be patient and do everything I can to relearn how to walk and run properly. When would I get a chance like this again? I'm not hoping anytime soon.
What I thought would take me 3-6 months after surgery turned into two years. I realized it wasn't just my foot I needed to REBUiLD. It was my running gait too. My first test was on Memorial Day weekend when I completed "Murph" barefoot. That was two one-mile runs separated by 25 minutes. I did have a little pain at the end so there was still work to be done.
That's when I started going hard on crawling. Another primal movement that heals the body in a natural way. It's extremely strong at building your mind muscle connection from the major joint capsules- shoulder and hips, to your furthest extremities, fingers and toes. My arches got stronger and I was ready for an awesome 5K. The only thing that could stop me would be the temperature of the pavement and sand.
Luckily the day started overcast and kept the pavement temperatures to a little above warm. Not enough to grab my shoes. The sun came out and the race started at 12pm. The route went around Fort Adams and was a mix of pavement, parking lot, cracked and chunked asphalt, occasional crushed stone and sand with burnt grass outside most of the trail.
After a tiny piece of glass in the left metatarsal in the first quarter-mile which I quickly Ninja'd mid stride to brush off and not miss a beat in my stride, I stayed on the pavement for the first 2 miles. The washed out grey asphalt trail started to get hot on the feet. I picked the pace up and occasionally ran 50-foot sections on the grass. When I hit the watering stations, I threw the water over my back and picked my feet up to wet the bottoms. Pure luck hitting the feet on this and it did help.
I was about to enter the fort and sprinted what appeared to be the final section. But it wasn't. I had another quarter-mile to go. I lost a bit of gas and it was way to hot and humid to recover from it. I finished crossing the line six seconds under 30 minutes.
My feet were toasty and the only thing that hurt was the tiny spot where the glass slivered into my foot. I stopped by the ambulance to pour some sterile fluid on it and felt happy that my feet didn't hurt. They weren't cut up and bleeding. They weren't bruised. Though my calves were a little stiff, I had no pain.
From 13 years of pain that gave me a limp when I walked to 4 years invested into REViVing my feet, and 2 years since I had surgery to remove a bone spur and reattach my achilles to running a 5K barefoot PAIN FREE I can gladly say, it can be done. It just takes patience and thinking about your movement as you walk through your day.
I look forward to running the Hartford 5K in October. Nadine will be running the half marathon. So sign up and join your coaches running this fall.
"There are no bad movements, just more efficient ones."