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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Barefoot Running

Last Sunday I had a very interesting experience in that I attended a barefoot running day in Paris. I decided to incorporate a long steady training run and it was going to be a day of just running wherever the road took me.

I befriended Christian Harberts on dailymile earlier this year and it is always nice to come into contact with expatriates in the city, when they happen to be runners it is even better. As I got to know Christian I was very intrigued by his website Courir Pieds Nus as barefoot running seems to cropping up all over the place at the moment. But most of these barefoot movements seemed to be happening in America and Christian was the first person who was bringing it to a place close to home. I decided I wanted to know more just for my own curiosity as it has become the hottest talked about topic to hit running in years. Is it good for you, is it bad? Are you more or less likely to get injured? These are just two of the many questions surrounding the great barefoot debate. And, as with any debate there are those who will listen and live and let live and those who think their views are gospel and everyone should follow. That's where it gets annoying for me, if someone starts to rant at me and tell me how I should run they are fighting a losing battle. Sorry, but save it for someone weakling who will let themselves be steam rolled with sonic waffle.

In the beginning minimalism was something a select few were participating in but when Chris McDougalls Born to Run came out it just blew the lid off this little movement. Here was an heroic tale of adventure, injury, comeback, tribes of 'superhuman' sandal wearing no-bodies in the Mexican mountains, oh, and Scott Jurek. I love the book and have read it twice and even though raises some very, very valid points I think running is an individual pursuit and thus should be treated so. Of course with the popularity of the book came interest and with interest came major running shoe companies hawking shoes that sold 'less' but at the same price. Anton Krupicka, an amazing runner and designer of the NB Minimus was the new poster boy for their juggernaut. And why not, the guy can run the like ancients and who wouldn't want to be free in the mountains with nothing but a pair of shorts and hair blowing in the breeze. He also is a genuine barefoot runner incorporating it into many of his evening shake-out sessions. I for one am envious of his ways :) just look at the video. But envious enough to trade in my shoes and go back to basics, not so fast.

I like the freedom of being able to chose what I wear and where I run. I love my XT Wings and they are the shoe I use ninety percent of the time in my trail runs. They are sturdy and give me the confidence when I am hauling down a switchback at flat out speeds that the wheels ain't gonna come off. If one runs trails, one should use the best in trail gear. You wouldn't drive up the side of a rugged mountain in a Ferrari now would you? Unpredictable terrain needs a tailor made piece of equipment and doing that sans chaussures is something I just do not envision.

(Salomon XT Wings)

Luckily Christian is an extremely laid back and cool guy with a basic philosophy of "lets run together and have fun, with or without shoes and try to not get injured" I really dig this approach as it's all about the coming together and sharing each others passions. He had managed to gather an impressive number given that fact that there was a pretty popular marathon in Senart--plus a high profile ten km race held by Planet Jogging in Bois de Boulogne which was not far from his event in Issy les Moulineaux at the same time. I had run from home and arrived sweaty with twelve km under my belt and eager for more. We convened at the track where Christian explained a bit about the movement both here and in the States (he is Swiss-American) and a little about his own group before inviting us all to do one lap shoeless. It was fun and you could tell instantly the ones who do and the ones who don't. I looked like a frog jumping from one hot rock to another whilst the more experienced bare footers just grooved with ease. We then split into three groups, one km, five km and ten km distances. I chose the ten km group and five of us did two loops of a local park by the Seine, the weather was superb and I got roasted to a tomato red but was having too much fun with the guys in my group to notice at the time. Stories and backgrounds were traded and races tips swapped. One of our runners, Alain, ran with a guide due to his visual impairment and I felt real joy being beside him because of his positive attitude and love for running. Never again will I look at an injury or feeling tired again in the same way. Gratitude for what one has is way too often overlooked and Alain showed me that its all about that being in that moment, he also ran a heck of a last two km's.

(Christian giving a pre-run talk)

(Huaraches sandals, home made)

(park loop)

(the days group)

(hanging with Christian)

Once we had finished everyone was off doing what they do on a Sunday, I decided it was time for another few hours in the sun to work on hydration and fueling strategies for the Head to Head run in July. I clocked another thirty to take me total to fifty for the day, the pace wasn't blistering but I ran smartly and conservatively trying to get familiar with longer times on road surfaces. It's a lot harder on the body than trail running and my ankles really felt it in a new way. It's all evolving nicely now and a lot of T's are being crossed at the moment. I just need to keep the majority of my focus on the training as a great team of friends are taking on some of the organisation behind the scenes. Thanks guys. I will be detailing in depth my weekly training in the coming weeks to give an idea of the preparation involved.

See ya round the bend.


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Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.