Sunday, April 4, 2010

Not all footpaths are created equal

Stepped it up today in preparation for the marathon in mid May. Having run almost 15km barefoot during the week, which was the furthest I had been sans-shoes until then, today I decided was the day to find out once and for all if I could do the marathon barefoot.

The judges scores are in, and it's a win for the unshod. I ran 27km over 2 1/2 hours, and would have kept going if it hadn't been for a lack of water. Very happy! I definitely have tender feet, but given it's the furthest I've ever run shoes or no shoes, I'm not concerned at all. I know they would have been tender even in shoes. I have one blood blister to show for it, but given I used to get more blisters than this when wearing shoes, I reckon that's a stunning success.

Not all of the paths were smooth sailing however. Some were a little rough. I took a picture on one section of the footpath here:
This was taken on a stretch of path on the Nepean Highway 
near Dandenong Road. I may steer clear in future.

So yeah I had to take it easy in some sections, but the majority was fine, and at times I completely forgot I was relying on the soles of my feet for padding.

Some things I learned, and I'm glad for the early heads up:

  • I took a recently purchased fuel belt with 4 fuel bottles. I filled 3 up with coconut water, and 1 with plain water. The ratio needs to be reversed! I barely finished one of the coconut water bottles, but was dying to suck down some regular tap juice, and this is what ended my run a few km's short on the return journey. Otherwise this was a winner.
  • Chafed Nipples. Must find an answer. It didn't happen until well into the second hour, but by then I was wishing for something to protect the poor buggers from exploding. If anyone knows an easy solution other than vaseline (it stains shirts) I'm all ears.
  • Need something to hold the home made gels. A snap lock plastic bag aint cutting the mustardo. A squeezable / washable / refillable pouch of some sort would be ideal. Something akin to a toothpaste tube, but with a bigger opening.
  • Speaking of gels, these were like liquid gold. A few times I started to feel tired, and forgot that I had the gel. Once my memory came back, a quick hit of these had me back full of energy. The recipe can be found in Brendan Brazier's Thrive Diet book. This book is a fantastic resource for exercise fueling facts and recipes. I think a hit every half hour will do the trick.
  • My hydration strategy was one sip of water every km, alternating between coconut and regular. This was fine, but I need more water to wash down the gels. Water won't be an issue during races with drink stations, but out on training runs there are no volunteers. Selfish bastards.
I'm now feeling quite confident about the marathon. Better to iron out the kinks well in advance. I'm tired today, but a good tired. 

I sometimes forget that it's unusual to not have injuries from running. Well, I still haven't had any since going minimalist / barefoot. 9 months and counting. No strains, no tears, no rolled ankles, no plantar fascitis, no achilles soreness, no shin splints, no ITB, nadda, nyet, zip, zilch. I don't even bother stretching any more. Yet people in shoes look at me like I'm the crazy one.


  1. Bixy, thanks for your blog. Gives me hope that I can train my feet for barefooting. I love to go sans shoes, but deal with blisters.

    Anyway, about chafing nipples... have you ever tried band-aids? I use them and I've never dealt with chafed nipples again. I find that a medium size in plastic stick the best and stay put during the longest races. Good luck.

  2. I use the little circle bandaids for the nipples.

    For the home-made gels, maybe you could find some small zip-lock bags.

    I'm glad the marathon training is going well!

  3. @Mike: It is certainly possible :) I tried to push it too hard initially and was getting a few blisters, but once I brought it back to the realms of reality I found I made good progress. I had considered band aids but I would maybe need to shave a bit first! Too much info?

    @Josh: Thanks, I will try the circle bandaids, I didn't think of them. They will help with the aforementioned shaving problem!

    As for the gel, I realised the consistency of the gels I make is liquid enough to just use one of the fuel belt bottles. And if it's not, I'll just add a bit of water. Or take the lid off when I gulp them down. Cheers.