Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Barefoot Marathon Attempt

Last week I traveled to Baltimore for work and to spend time with friends in Baltimore. I also traveled to make my debut attempt at a barefoot marathon. Because it was a working week I had more late evenings with less than ideal sleep and not quite the kind of diet I would have liked. I had little confidence as my barefoot running had progressed only to the point I could run about 10 miles on pavement with any regularity. I'd never ran the course and didn't really know what to expect. I landed a week early and decided to do my long run for the end of the week on the Annapolis trail that begins at the airport. I was delayed and by the time I ate and got to the trail it was late afternoon. I had a crappy run and my feet were worn down after only about 6 miles. I had to put on my ballet slippers and jog back home only completing 12 miles. My confidence was waning.

For the race I decided to walk to the start at Camden Yards as my place was about a mile from the start and I figured it just wasnt worth it getting the car out and trying to park it. It turned out to be a good decision. I had a nice leisurely walk to the start and recieved many comments about the Vibram Five Fingers I got from Adam at Running Central. I had also put mole skin on the balls of my feet. My plan was to take the shoes off just before the start and hopefully get 6-12 miles on the moleskin before it wore through. I hoped to pace at about 4 hours. From my training runs it seemed appropriate.

I carried the shoes and lined up in the starting corral. About 3500 other runners were competing. The weather was 68 degrees and cloudy. I wore a hat but no sunglasses as it wasn't expected to be very sunny. The mole skin didn't hold. About 100 yards past the start it started to work loose and withing a few steps it was left on the pavement. It didn't really phase me as I figured I'd just see how things went. I didn't expect much and planned on this as an opportunity to evaluate how my barefoot running was progressing.

I purposely left my garmin back at the apartment thinking I'd be more relaxed not worrying about pace. About a mile into it and I felt the 4 hour pack was a bit too easy (at the time) so I just ran like I felt. By the half I'd caught the 3:30 pack and was feeling pretty good. By this time I'd run on just about every kind of road surface and grade imaginable. My feet were tender but ok. I let the rush of the moment carry me along and although I had a few bad spots, they eventually went away. By mile 18 my feet were pretty tender. At 23 although I really wanted to finish barefoot I thought better of it and put on my Vibrams. I really slowed those last 3 miles in but I was elated and very happy to come across at 3:36.42. I ran about 40 minutes faster than I thought I was capable of and definitely went further on surfaces I'd never had successfully traversed before. I can't wait for Huntsville!


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