Run for Fun: Pt 2

In my last run for fun post, I got to the point where I’d finished the Bay Bridge run.

Although I’d finished the race and I was happy that I’d beaten my target time, I did feel that I’d let myself down a bit. I was particularly disappointed that I’d gone out so fast on the first mile – a rookie mistake that had cost me a better time.

Not willing to give up, I decided to sign up for another race – this time, an 8 mile race (double the distance I’d ever run before) that would be run on the low tide mark on sand. I was finding that the compression sleeves and the insoles combined with my new shoes were helping, but I really was struggling to build back up to longer runs without pain in either my knees, shins or sometimes my back. However, I was running regularly and starting to really enjoy the benefits of being fitter. More energy, more strength in my legs and more lung capacity – running didn’t leave me gasping for breath anymore! The 8 mile went ok – I couldn’t run all of it – ran the first 4.5 miles, walked for 1/2 mile and then finished the rest running. I was pretty happy with the performance – it took its toll on my shins – but I had the bug. I got home and signed up for another 8.3 mile race – this time around the beautiful Balboa Park in San Diego – 50% of the course was on trails, and there were some big hills in there too. This time, I managed to finish with only a very short walk on the steepest hill (mile 7!). The problem was that it hurt. It hurt really badly – my hips ached, my knees hurt and I felt like hell, but I’d finished and I was happy that I had made it.

Being a geeky kind of a guy, I started to research running in a more serious way. I started with simple searches on things like ‘running shin pain’ etc. Lots of different advice turned up, but one consistent theme that kept popping out was the idea of barefoot running. The more I read, the more it seemed like less of a crazy idea, and more like something I should try.

My first attempt resulted in large and painful blisters on the soles of both feet and several toes. Oops. I bought some rubbing alcohol in Rite-Aid and nursed my wounds for a few days, going back to running in my normal shoes.

I did more research – and  decided to buy some books on the subject. First I read “The Barefoot Running Book” by Jason Robillard, which helped me to understand that I needed to transition more slowly, and also that I would need to change how I run.

I decided, at first that I would keep running in my ‘normal’ shoes, but that I’d also try to get some minimalist shoes to try out – rather than going directly to barefoot (against the advice of the book!). So another trip to my favorite running store resulted in a new pair of Vibram FiveFingers. For about 2 weeks I ran in my regular shoes, but was running in Vibrams part of the time to get used to them. Pretty soon I discovered that going back to the ‘normal’ running shoes was just awful; my feet felt imprisoned, I hated the way they bounced me around and I felt awkward and unstable in them. After gradually increasing my distances, I went out and did a serious run in the five fingers – and did my fastest 5km time ever – but the best thing – no shin pains afterwards. Less than a month later, I discarded the compression sleeves – Bingo!

Around that time, I read the book ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall, which really inspired me to think differently about running, I started to run for the sheer joy of it. My initial aims of losing weight (it worked – I dropped 18lb and two pants sizes in 6 months) and feeling fitter were supplanted by the desire to run further and to see where it would lead.

This was just the start of my new running adventures, and I’ll share a few more things as time goes on.

Here’re a few links to the books and shoes I mentioned in this post.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

The Barefoot Running Book: The Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running

Vibram Mens SeeYa Running Shoe Black / Dayglow Size 42

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