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Preview: Running Barefoot: my experiences

Running Barefoot: an adventure

My thoughts on the run, including answers to questions about this seemingly bizarre yet totally natural way of restoring the body back to its natural state. My experiences running barefoot Marathons, Barefoot Half Marathons, Barefoot 10k and 5k races plu

Updated: 2018-03-02T16:20:02.288+00:00


Will Barefoot running become mainstream?


My enjoyment of completing the Snowdonia Marathon made me wonder if it will ever become mainstream. I doubt it, because there's nothing to sell. I look with interest as running barefoot movement makes baby steps in awakening a paradigm shift in the running world, following the publication of "Born to run" and the Nature article on running barefoot. But not holding my breath...

Top running books


Some books that have greatly inspired me in my running adventures

London Marathon Barefoot


Following my adventures during the Snowdonia Marathon, one of the toughest but most scenic marathons, I have now applied for the London Marathon.

I aim to set a barefoot course record: at least one other runner has done it shoeless. I also hope to get a personal best: my fastest marathon time of 3:50 was achieved in the Lyon Marathon, another flat city marathon (so unlike the mountainous Snowdonia Marathon). And, this time was achieved in my 30's. I will be 40 when I run my next marathon. Yikes.

Snowdonia Marathon


Brutal course.
Weather tough too - constant, horizontal rain (gave up wearing my
glasses!) , sometimes chucking it down, coupled with gusting winds
strong enough to blow you off the mountain....

...All went well until final hill (200ft to 1200ft climb and then descent
to 100ft) at mile 23, feeling strong, but the path became a rocky
trail and I developed huge blisters on the forefoot. Final downhill
was treatchourus - slippy mud, people falling over or being blown off
the path! Had to abandon plan of a fast finish and go into survival
mode, and inch my way to the bottom. In places I gave up running on
the path and bounded downhill in blinding rain across grass thickets -
barefoot running "using the force" as it were.

Had a great time, was given "star" treatment by the organizers - who
even specially put in a velcro strap thingie in my championchip bag -
perhaps next year they will have a "barefoot" division! Met a nice
young man from Singapore to share some mid-section miles with,
amoungst all the toughened welshmen! Best hospitality I have had on
any race in the UK. Extremely friendly organizers, crowds and
spectators. Perfect organization, but not a race for the barefoot
beginner - some very rough sections, so in all:
And some of the biggest blisters I have ever seen!
The BBC wrote an article about my plans to do this race, and then a follow up article to see how I fared.

PS My blisters went down in a couple of days - the skin simply re-attached itsself!

Training for the Snowdonia Marathon


Living in London means that training for the Snowdonia Marathon requires a certain ingenuity to acclimatise for the hills of North Wales. Running hills barefoot is great - the extra control you get is so useful on those downhill sections.
There are few decent hills to run on here in the big smoke. Indeed, much of my running is done by water, a mini-countryside in the city and a generally pleasant, traffic free place to run.

A few weeks ago, I had a go at running up and down Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath, which is nowhere near Parliament, but is at least a hill.
And, nearer to home, there is Springfield Park, near Stamford Hill, although not as high as the former hill.

Finally, I have also tried a new technique of cross training called "allotment intervals" which means saving all my heavy work on the allotment for my days off running. I can do much digging and anything else physical that is required for this patch of land I am cultivating. Allotments are the best kept secret in the world of exercise. Now, why would I go to the gym when I can do this?

10k in Hyde Park


This Sunday, I met with Barefoot Rick and we did the BUPA 10k together in Hyde Park. The weather was perfect for the run and we both started out in the front wave, which was nice. A friendly girl came and chatted with Barefoot Rick about running barefoot. I think it was her first running event ans she was very excited about it all.
I was feeling in good spirits, it was very nice to be joined by another barefoot runner, and in particular with someone as sociable as BFR. He was in a mood for having fun that morning and have fun we surely did.
My time was pretty good - finished in 43:01. This is very close to a personal best for me, which I think is somewhere around 42:50 sometime in 2006, at the Greenwich Meridian 10k, although this course is much better suited to a PB since it is so flat and barefoot friendly. Nice to know I am in pretty good shape as I start to ramp up my miles for the Snowdonia Marathon in late October.

Barefoot runners untie..


Two experienced barefoot runners will meet to take part in the BUPA 10k run this Sunday, the 20th July in London, Hyde Park.

I will be running alongside Rick Roeber, AKA Barefoot Rick, from Kansas in the USA. He has come a long distance to race against me in my home city. I wonder when I will return the compliment? It will be the first time I have ever participated in an event with another barefoot runner. It still remains a rare sport, even though the health benefits of all things barefootedness are gaining more and more acceptance amongst the more open minded. It makes much scientific sense for a variety of reasons. Indeed, some companies market "barefoot shoes". This is does seem like an oxymoron.

Barefoot runners untie!

I have also entered the Snowdonia Marathon in the autumn, and will run in the Bristol Half marathon a few weeks beforehand as a useful test of my preparations. Some fun to be had!

Lyon Marathon: My first ever marathon - barefoot!


Yes, It has been a while since I updated my blog. Since my last 5k, I have run the Roding Valley 1/2 Marathon and the Greenwich Meridian 10k, as a build up to the Lyon Marathon in at the start of the Summer.The Lyon Marathon turned out to be a great choice for a firstmarathon, outstanding provision of on-coarse refreshments, greatorganisation and small number of competitors, compared to the big citymarathons such as London, Paris or New York, where the sheer numberscan become overwhelming.Since it was my first marathon, I had some pretty clear goals: Tohave fun, to run within my capabilities, not stressing my body toomuch, and to do my best, weather permitting, to run the marathon inless than 4 hours.Having trained through the winter, I had no experience of running inthe heat. The few really long runs done in ideal runningtemperatures of around 10 C.So, I was aware that I had to err on the side of caution, and listento my body and drink water more often than I usually do. With thetemperature at about 20C when we left the house at 7:30am, it seemedthat the forecast of 26C was going to be accurate, so I decided totake it extra slow to start with. Indeed, the weather did get hotter.When lining up, wearing the logo on my back,several people came up and said to me in French "Are you really goingto run the marathon barefoot"? I explained in my broken French that Ihad run many half marathons and that this was my first marathon. Isaid that a marathon is difficult for everybody, regardless of choiceof footwear. Many people said "Bon courage, pieds-nus!" to which Ireplied the same and "Bob chance" or "Bon courage" back, or, "Merci"if they were spectators. I realised that "Pieds nus"was the Frenchfor barefoot. Repetition is a great teacher, so I'll never forgetwhat "pieds-nus" means, I heard it over and over during the marathon.To avoid going out too fast at the start, I had in mind the Aesopsfable about the hare and the tortoise. A marathon is a long way forme, so I wasn't about to rush from place to place like a hare. I wasgoing to start like a tortoise and keep it slow!Also, the tortoise, by taking his time can appreciate the journey morethan the destination, instead of rushing from place to place.Well, I started slow, right at the very back at the line-up for thestart. For the first few kilometres, I ran along very slowly,overtaking people whenever I could, but without weaving and wastingenergy. I chatted to a few other runners in my limited French, andall were friendly.Many have said that Lyon is the food capitol of France, in a countrythat is world famous for it's tradition for cuisine. Well, let me saythat the Lyonaise didn't disappoint in this respect for the LyonMarathon! When I arrived at the first refreshment station, which wereplaced at 5km intervals throughout the course, I was truly amazed bythe buffet of natural food available. There was plate after platecontaining slices of peeled fresh bananas, slices of fresh oranges,bottled water, dried bananas, dried apricots, raisins, prunes, datesand sugar cubes (brown and white) and more I am sure!After experiencing first-hand this array of food, there was muchtemptation scrap my plan of being the tortoise and to sprint(hare-like) between each 5km "buffet", and eating my fill at eachbuffet table to recover between each sprint. In my view, it was justperfect light food for eating on the run. Maybe next year, I will tryout a this novel marathon strategy - a series of 5km "buffet" intervals!There are many famous preserved meat sausages in Lyon, and I washoping these would not be served on the run. I was right. These wereavailable at the end, for those who prefer to re-establish theirsalt-equilibrium after loosing so much though sweating.Personally speaking, since gradually adopting a low salt diet I don'tseem to excrete much salt in my sweat as I used to after sport. So[...]

First Race of the Season



I finally broke the 20 minute barrier: my elusive goal for 2006. Finished in 19m49s, a new personal record(PR). I wasn't trying too hard, I was relaxing, enjoying myself. I enjoyed the friendly, informal crowd of enthusiastic athletes. And I enjoyed the friendly banter with some veteran runners at the start. It inspires me: these people above retirement age are fitter, faster and healthier than I was in my 20's. Scary thought, just how inactive I was. But, who knows, maybe some of them partied hard in their 20's too?

A nice person took my photo after the race. That's me standing still, tired after the race. The picture below is one of the veterans I admire, sprinting to the finish.

Then, off to visit Terra Plana, my sponsor. I needed a new pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes. Yes, I wear shoes! I have to for my job as a researcher in Medical Physics, not for running, mind you. And, you thought we Physicists only wore sandals...

(image) Next, off for a photo shoot at the Waltham Forest Guardian. Look forward to seeing what they write! Some PR for my PR.

Next Race: a Half Marathon at the end of Feb.

Then, a 10k in Early March, and finally, the Lyon Marathon in late April.

Here's the article that appeared in the Leyton Guardian. A few factual errors, but the gist is both correct and positive.(image)

Media coverage.



espite the colder weather, people remain interested in barefoot running.
I have just got to work after being filmed running barefoot to work by a BBC crew.
A video interview aired on BBC London news. You'll find me if you search on the BBC site for "Barefoot runner".

(image) (image) Yesterday, a full page article appeared in "The Guardian" newpaper featuring me barefoot running. The feature included a photo of me in action, taken in London's Hyde Park close to speaker's corner.

A piece of video art by New-York based "xplusrey" featuring me running barefoot through East London's Brick Lane. Despite claims of Nike involvement, this is not in fact the case!


Before my first ever barefoot Bristol Half Marathon, I was invited as a guest to the studios of BBC Radio Bristol to do a half hour live interview. I even got to play a request, so I asked for "Purple Haze" Jimi Hendrix, who probably never ran a mile in his adult life...

Bristol Half Marathon


This year, I set a goal of running the Bristol Half Marathon in under 100 minutes. By the skin of my teeth I managed, with a finishing time of 99m29s. Phew!
Unlike last year, I didn't get a blister on my little toe, so that was a bonus. I did get some mild cramps in my calves during the last mile.
The official race results are here and there are some photos are also available.

Recent progress


For the last few weeks, I have not run many miles. This is because I have done so much cycling to and from work and to and from Brighton.
Commuting to work by bicycle involves a 9 mile trip in each direction, which equates to 90 miles (=18*5)

And, for the week of the London to Brighton ride, I cycled 195 Miles! That is a record for me. But, how do I equate these to the more familiar "running miles per week" ?
People say that if you are cycling slowly, the mileage cycled should be divided by 5. And, if you are cycling fasted, then the figure is more like 3. This is to account for the increased wnd resistance. Since I was cycling slowly for the high-mileage week, I can therefore equate this to only 39 miles!
For my regular commute, I cycle rather faster, so I will divide by 4 meaning that this equates to around 22 miles.

This is enough to maintain my status quo.

If I wish to progress, I should supplement this cycling with perhaps an additional 20 running miles per week. This should be divided into a series of shorter runs to keep the technique going, and the occasional long run, to build more endurance.

When I start training for the Bristol Half Marathon, I should increase this to run up to 30 miles per week, perhaps even 40 miles. The one problem I need to take care of is my left hip, which is still adjusting to my improved form. I now keep my feet parallel, whereas before, my left foot pointed outwards somewhat.

Recent progress


For the last few weeks, I have not run many miles. This is because I have done so much cycling to and from work and to and from Brighton.
Commuting to work by bicycle involves a 9 mile trip in each direction, which equates to 90 miles (=18*5)

And, for the week of the London to Brighton ride, I cycled 195 Miles! That is a record for me. But, how do I equate these to the more familiar "running miles per week" ?
People say that if you are cycling slowly, the mileage cycled should be divided by 5. And, if you are cycling fasted, then the figure is more like 3. This is to account for the increased wnd resistance. Since I was cycling slowly for the high-mileage week, I can therefore equate this to only 39 miles!
For my regular commute, I cycle rather faster, so I will divide by 4 meaning that this equates to around 22 miles.

This is enough to maintain my status quo.

If I wish to progress, I should supplement this cycling with perhaps an additional 20 running miles per week. This should be divided into a series of shorter runs to keep the technique going, and the occasional long run, to build more endurance.

When I start training for the Bristol Half Marathon, I should increase this to run up to 30 miles per week, perhaps even 40 miles. The one problem I need to take care of is my left hip, which is still adjusting to my improved form. I now keep my feet parallel, whereas before, my left foot pointed outwards somewhat.

Half Marathon Maniac


One day distance experiment by the natural scientist:
Two half marathons.
1h57m in the morning
Lunchtime party
1h59m in the evening.

Greenwich Meridian 10k 2006


They're off! The start gun fires and the elite pack races off to do the first couple of flat laps around the park. The brutal hills are later on, cruely close to the finish. The elite runners zoom off into the distance, I stay in the middle of the pack for the first km, to ensure a measured start. Always important to be restrained initially, it's not so easy when you are pumped up with adreneline.I am somewhere behind the runner in green. Here I am, running along in my upwright way, feeling fresh and looking forward to an evenly paced race, aware that this will be hard for a course as hilly as this. I'm really enjoying myself here, since it is during te early stages and my legs are not yet tired. One last push to the finish! I can see the line and have a good idea that a PB is likely, so I try my best to squeeze just a few seconds more, a few seconds in time, a few metres away from the origin of time in Greenwixh Medidian, here on planet Earth!Final result: A very evenly paced race, almost a negative split, something like 21:10,21:39 for a time of about 42m49m (unofficial, so plus minus about 20s) This is about a minute faster than last year, on this tough course.To ensure I enjoy the race, negative splits are the key, for me. What are "negative splits"? some kind of painful excercise? No. It just means you run the second half of a race slightly faster than the first half. It've found it works for me for several reasons.This ensures I don't stress myself too much. Also, you get a better performance if you do this, based on the fact that many world record times are run in this way. But, mostly it is just more fun. As you gradually increase your pace, you overtake others in the latter stages. I find it is also good for another reason, the "I'm having a bad day" syndrome. Let me explain.If I can start out the first few portions of a race slower, I can then accelerate towards the middle and through to the end. If I feel like it. If I am having a "bad" day, then I just continue at the same pace and don't have those "Why am I doing this?" moments, enduced by over exurting myself. Makes great sense to me, as a "natural runner", also. Why? Well, here's a brief theory. Our ancestors, during a hunt, might chase our prey for a period and then move in for the kill as our prey wore down. Who knows?Finally, all this "easy running" I have been doing, for the last couple of months, has not had an adverse affect on my speed, apparantly. So, that is interesting: no pain, some gain! [...]

First 5K race report


(image) Just got back from my first ever 5k: The "Last friday of the month 5K" at Hyde Park in London, fantastically organised by the serpentine running club.

The race was spit into 2 groups, a fast group, group A and a slower group, group B. Since it was my first race of this distance, I thought I should start in the slower group, in case I went out too fast at the start. Group A set off first, around 2 minutes before group B. I think that there were around 100-200 runners in each group.

Everything came together and I had a perfect race! My aim for this year is to run under 20 minutes for a 5k, and I managed 20m14s, pretty close to my goal, considering it was my first shot! My 1k splits were near perfect:
3m55s,4m07s, 4m06s,4m06s,4m00s. The gods conspired to ensure immaculate pacing. I was amazed when I checke. Perfect barefoot pacing. Wow!

Lesson learned: No matter how well you prepare, there are times when everything apparantly falls into place, without any reason.

As an added bonus, I caught some of the runners who set off in the fast race, even though they set off 2 minutes earlier. I placed second in the slower group after having a fun race with the guy who lead for most of the race - I caught him on the last 1k and he then regained first place in the final 100m or so....

I'm still on a real high, so I better sign off before I start talking real nonsense!

5ks rock!

Barefoot runner since December 2004.

Activity Journal


With the aim of exercising to simulate life as a “natural” human, I have recently been trying to run across more difficult terrain, such as through long grass, through woodlands, up, over and under obstacles, leaping over park benches, hanging off goal posts and sprinting up and down short yet steep hills. I hope to get more agile in movement and more sure-footed. I am learning to fall properly too, so that when I fall over, I am less likely to get hurt. Kind of like a barefoot stunt-man. It is another dimension for me, in addition to my “mindful” running where I focus on form.

I guess I am practicing wild running. Or, maybe you could call it “Free Running” or Parkour, the French sport of moving efficiently through your environment, although it does tend to incorporate more daring movements such as balancing on high walls, things that give me the heebie jeebies, but do not faze most fearless teenagers. I feel able to do all this, since I have built up a foundation of strength from a year of barefoot running. The whole world is my gym!

My body feels these new demands, in a good way. I am surprised that my stomach muscles are sore after all this clambering and jumping across things, yet I have not done a single sit-up. Boy do those muscles in my back hurt! I am excited that after around a month of this kind of running, I am having no alarming pains in my feet or joints, no messages telling my that my body is getting injured. Had I done this a six months ago, it would have been a guaranteed recipe for injury.

When I run across smooth concrete now, boy does it feel easy! I think that by running over more demanding terrain, I am making myself faster over easier terrain. I’ll have to see.

One problem though: How do I log this in an exercise log? I have really enjoyed logging all my miles over the last year, since I can see the progression over time. I went from running a regular 10 miles a week to a regular 35 miles a week, sometimes 50 plus miles. I love analysing numbers and guessing at trends and stuff, so this has given me some nice data to work with. It is bordering on obsessiveness, maybe it bourn out of a desire not to get injured? Maybe that’s the real reason that runners carefully log their weekly mileages, since we are used to always being injured and have to increase mileages in a slow and measured way?

Our love affair with the high speed transportation has meant that we have optimised our environment for the wheel. To take advantage of this, I often ride my bicycle to work. But, how can I equate bicycling miles to running miles? For me, it feels like 3 bicycling miles is about equivalent to 1 running mile. Any ideas there? Should I log those miles in my weekly mileage?

Basically, I am looking for a different way of logging “effort expended” to log my exercise over time. I am thinking that heart rate is surely a better way of doing this, since I am doing all these different forms of exercise.

I have tried out an inexpensive ($30) heart rate monitor watch and found it to be very quirky, despite putting the relevant conductive gel on the sensor. Perhaps the expensive ones are more reliable and do not give such spurious readings? Any ideas on how to extend my activity log to incorporate some of these aspects?

Running Free


Having run barefoot for around a year, I have decided to start keeping an online record of my progress, since I have made such a huge amount of progress in my running in only a year. One of the main interesting things that has happened is that I have increased body awareness and a more complete understanding about what it means to be really healthy. My original goal was to simulate some of the things that our ancestors did, to put my body through the same kinds of demands that it has evolved to do, so that I would be living more in tune with our design, not fighting it or somehow trying to "overcome" nature.
With this in mind, I am constantly finding new ways of being a natural athlete. Something I have just read about is free running, or Parkour, which is something else I shall try to incorporate into my running. I am often tempted to leap up onto things as I run, to hurdle benches and up onto small walls, since otherwise, a kind of monotony can set in. Instead of doing boring press-ups and sit-ups, why not climb over walls and practice rolls to build further body strength? Which is more fun? Which is more natural?

Free running is not about leaping across building tops, but more a way of flowing around obstacles. Why not try to navigate an assault course Tai-Chi style? There are plenty of obstacles to find, there is no need to actually go to an obstacle course, just as there is no need to go to a gym if you wish to get fit. The location is immaterial too: urban, country. Imagination is the limit.

So, I am going to incorporate this third dimension into my running, to transform it from two dimensions by practicing some basic skills such as climbing walls and doing forward rolls to learn how to safely break a fall and to actively seek obstacles as I explore my environment. I look forward to improving my strength, balance and spatial awareness.

Half Marathon Results


Well, I achieved a new personal best of 1h41m55s, around five and a half minutes faster than last year's time.

The race was a blast. As you can see, I had to resort to running on the pavements at times, since it was smoother than the chip seal road, which was rather rough in places.

Perhaps I should "slow down" as the sign suggests?

Thanks for all your sponsorship pledges for the hospice. I am very pleased that the total raised is in the region of £700.

The truth: Why I am running barefoot


Starting out running: Last year, I casually entered the Bristol Half Marathon, thinking that it would be an easy accomplishment. That is, until I actually tried running a few months in advance. What nobody tells you is just how hard it is to get started, for a thirty something desk-bound city dweller. Well, to cut a long story short, I managed the transition from a stagger from one lamp-post-to-the-next to what I termed “steady state” running. Once I could do that, I increased the distances so that I would be confident of running the full 13.1 miles, being outside and on my feet for about two hours. Painful stuff, this running, but boy did I feel better for it in general. I really felt alive again! My poor old knees, though, didn’t enjoy it one bit. In fact, I could barely walk for two days after a long training run. This pain meant that I could only train once per week, since I was determined to build the mileage up to get used to running the distance. The Bristol Half Marathon itself was a lot of fun though, and I really enjoyed the crowds and the people cheering you on. What a buzz! After a week of rest, well, a rest from running, that is, I started thinking about the wisdom of the whole running thing. I had this great new mountain bike, a present from my sister. This had none of the detrimental effects of running yet all the positive effects, and more. I could get a great workout during my commute and never had injury problems. I was back on my bike again and really enjoying the freedom that it offers and the reliability and cost as a mode of transport. Whilst I was increasingly dissatisfied with running to the point of quitting for the sake of my joints, I stumbled across a book called “how to run fast and injury free” by Gordon Pirie. In it, he talks about the poor design of modern trainers and how silly they are with their large cushioned heels that try to protect runners from their bad running form. He jovially refers to them as “orthopaedic boots”. He advocates racing flats and other such minimalist shoes, not only for racing at the track, but for all running. He also talks a bit about how to run and the posture required, how to bend the knees. Bent knees are far better at absorbing shock than a few centimetres of foam in a shoe. He recommends learning how to run before doing things like increasing mileages and doing intervals and speed training. He also recommends running barefoot as a method for strengthening the feet. It seemed like a very strange concept when I first read it, but how could I rubbish the advice from an athlete of the calibre of Gordon Pirie, especially given that his book was edited by a doctor of medicine? I did further research and found little about running technique in all the books on endurance running I found. They only seemed to talk about how to increase your mileage and what to eat. I did find a book called Chi running by Danny Dreyer, which is devoted exclusively to running technique and combines Tai Chi methods with running. I found it an excellent read and try to use the described techniques. It sets out a method of running that is in contrast to power running. But, he says nothing about barefoot running. There are other methods for learning to run, such as the pose method, which involves learning a series of drills to run more efficiently. But, it seems to me, that our own bare feet are our best teacher, they provide us with the sufficient information required to teach us to run. I fou[...]