In my training I have had good days and bad days. Within 30 seconds of the start I knew this was a good day. Phew.
And as we started I thought it must be quick but when someone said we did the first mile in 6min40 I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure I’ve ever run a 6min40 mile barefoot. I felt relaxed so didn’t worry too much.
The cheering spectators made a huge difference and then seeing my mum, sister and children in Oaklands park kept a spring in my step until Lavant.
Then came chalk pit lane. This was the 3k I had thought about more than any other.
My pace dropped significantly but the rain made the terrain a little more bearable. But what I hadn’t factored in the runners passing me was the many pats on my back and words of encouragement. Thank you all, it meant so much and kept me going.
And when one runner stopped to do up his laces I could resist a cheeky comment “take your shoes off I said”.
Then after the loop at the top of the trundle I choked again. As I looked down I saw a long line of runners coming up chalk pit lane and ‘the travelator’, (the stony bit from the car park to the top of the trundle).
Seeing people give 100% in pursuit of something is humbling and inspiring. I wanted to cheer on everyone but needed a few deep breaths myself. As I saw my wife reach the top, I shouted to her. I was high, emotionally and literally.
The long run back from West Dean and Centurion way to Lavant was a mix of grit and determination. Then I was 3 miles from home and on my go-to training route. ‘I can do this’ I said to myself. ‘Keep your focus’
3 miles to go: Look at my watch, calculate my average mile time, forecast my finish time, keep the mind busy, forget the pain. Head up, knees up, keep going.
2 miles to go. Same routine. Calculate, forecast. Do it again. And again. Keep the mind busy, forget the pain. Head up, knees up, keep going.
1 mile to go. ‘I can do this’ I thought. My mind starts to wonder, the pain rises, the pace drops. Back on the calculations, again and again. Head up, knees up, keep going. Head up, knees up, keep going.
Then the 13 mile banner greeted me. And for the third time I choked, the tears welled up this time as I sucked in two deep breaths. I heard people cheering. I heard my name, keep going, keep going.
Then the last few strides. I saw my time, crossed the line, I couldn’t believe it.
I slowed to a walk, I knew the pain was on its way, but I didn’t care: I’ve done it I thought. I’ve run a half marathon, a barefoot half marathon, the chichester half marathon, the Children on the Edge half marathon.
Just under a month to go and I'm genuinely scared.
I have good runs and I have bad runs. I can run the same route but on a bad runs, it hurts more, I run slower and turn the air blue with my language or sing through the pain. I'm not sure which is worse for passers by.
The good runs are fun. The technique works and I keep a good speed up. Not quite pb territory but 45min 10k so good enough.
I'm upping the distance but it seems I am racing against time. A busy life and recovery time for my feet is limiting my frequency of running. I did 15.6k last night and whilst my feet are a little sore, my hip also aches a bit. Goodness knows why that is.
So with just under a month until the race I'm trying to make a plan. I'll carry on my shorter (circa 10k) runs around town but try to do a couple of longer ones on the course route.
This weekend, I will face my fear and do chalk pit lane again and venture out to the back of the course near West Dean before picking up centurion way and coming home. Maybe 11 miles or so.
And now we are definitely into autumn the ground is colder. Not an issue for the shoe runners but it is for me. Here's hoping the day itself is warm and dry.
Barefoot running must be becoming a bit of a big deal because trainer companies are jumping on board and producing 'barefoot shoes'. A contradiction in themselves.
I've tried these shoes, which are surprisingly expensive for something consisting of very little material I must say.
But I slipped on a pair of minimalist shoes (the other name for them) and went out for a run. Cue calf muscles that end up tighter than a piano string and the top of my feet feeling like I've dropped a door on them.
Barefoot running injury free. You've got to be kidding me.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you want to run barefoot you go from normal fat foamy trainers to barefoot shoes and then if you lose your mind completely, progress to actual barefoot running.
But the thing with conventional wisdom is that it isn't always wise.
The breakthrough came when reading 'Barefoot Running Step by Step' by Ken Bob Saxton.
The whole essence off barefoot running, rather than just landing on the front of your feet is that you run soft. And what better way to learn to run soft than run without any protection between your feet and the ground.
The barrier created by running in minimalist shoes can fool you into running just the same as in old school trainers. Crash bash smash; broken feet.
So it was a epiphany moment when I learned that the best way to transition is from shoes to nothing. You have to run soft when you don't have anything on your feet.
So once the minimalist shoe injuries got better, I ditched them and started running totally barefoot. Very quickly I started perfecting my new running style, that was for sure. I started with a few miles and have been building up. I'm not anti-shoes. i still have the five fingers and minimus shoes by the door. But after failing at barefoot running with shoes I'm running truly barefoot and haven't looked back.
I'm running softer than ever before which, in addition to being an efficient use of energy, is also a great way to give dog walkers a fright. Running soft means I inadvertently sneak up on them, almost silently, then glide past looking like an athlete that's forgotten a crucial piece of kit.
So, if you're considering switching to the new big thing, read the book and maybe lose the shoes. It might be the difference between failure and success.