Are You Making This Barefoot Running Mistake?

I made a huge mistake the first three years of my barefoot running.

What did it cost me? Well, I partially tore both my Achilles tendons, I gave my  tender calve a level 2 strain, and I probably fractured most of the tiny bones in my naked feet. The mistake that I made is well known, often ignored, and entirely misunderstood. Like most barefoot runners eager to bare their soles on their neighborhood streets, I suffered from TMTS (too much too soon).  But what does that really mean? I’m sure you’ve seen those annoying letters on many blogs about barefoot running. For me, and I surmise for 99% of the other barefoot runners out there, TMTS means you’re running far too often and often too far. If I had only known what I know now, I would have been able to run further, longer, and with fewer or no injuries in a shorter amount of time! My transition from running with cushioned shoes to bare feet would have been seamless–it was seamless, I meant smooth.

What is the secret that I missed, the one that would have saved me from injuries  and allowed me to run more without running too much? It’s simple, but it’s a secret that most runners will resist. Some runners might even stop reading this blog when they discover what it is:

The secret to decreasing injuries, speeding up recovery, and increasing running pleasure, my dear friends, is to include brief and structured walk breaks into every run longer than one mile.

Most runners will wince as if they have just sipped curdled green milk. They think that running is running and that means continuous running, not walking, which in their minds, is cheating.  That’s the way I felt for ten years. And for ten years, I battled injuries. But once I cranked up my mileage during the training for my marathon, I discovered that walk breaks are not cheating at all, instead they’re smart. They also allowed me to increase my weekly mileage without tiring me out or damaging my body.

Principles behind Structured Walk Breaks:

• Continuous running results in quicker fatigue & increased risk of repetitive motion injury.

• Walk breaks lead to quicker recovery.

• Walking during a run decreases stress on the spine, knees, and feet.

Why you Should Give it a Try

• It’s a smarter way to run.

• Allows you to carry on all of your life activities – even after long runs.

• The walk breaks motivate people of all fitness levels to get off of the couch and run.

• Helps runners cope and overcome fatigue allowing them to run longer distances.

• Delivers all of the benefits of running (cardio, stress relief, & endurance)  without exhaustion or pain.

In the past when I ran my ten milers, non-stop, I would be spent for the rest of the day. My quads would be sore and stiff like cement, it would take me a full day to recover. With walk run, I can recuperate the same day. During my marathon training, I was able to run twenty-two miles early in the morning and still work  a full eight hour day without much fatigue. I was tired but highly functional in a job that requires walking, lifting, and lots of standing. I know that there is no way I could have worked without using the run walk method.

Here are some great resources about walk run to get you started.

Boring Marathon

Boring Marathon Oregon Barefoot
Barefoot runner Boring Oregon Marathon

It was a strenuous route and it was not designed for barefoot runners–photo shows the GOOD GROUND. In fact, I was the only one crazy enough to tackle the rugged roads in my 4mm Xero Shoes–known to everyone else as “flip flops.” My heart leapt when the first notes of the Star Spangled Banner drifted out. It was sung high school sophomore girl with braces. As soon as the song ended, the horn blasted. We started off at the Barlow High School Track, then ran on the scabrous, mountainous roads for about six miles until we reached Boring Oregon. Once we got to Boring, we ran for 7 or so miles on the lovely and thankfully mostly level and smoothly paved Spring Water Trail. We had to cross to two busy streets, luckily the volunteers were there pressing the buttons to get us safely across. Luckily, I only got caught at one light. And I wasn’t there very long.

The aid stations were great and the volunteers were all in top form handing out water or electrolytes and saying, “Looking good. Keep it up! You’ve got this!” I appreciated the encouragement immensely, especially  when facing the last set of grueling hills at mile 22. Despite the painful twitches and spasms firing through my quads and calves and sheer exhaustion, I carried on and achieved my goal of sub four hour marathon. I managed to come in 3rd for my age division, 6th for the men’s division, and 8th overall.

I will be back next year for sure (They’re adding a 50K ultra)!!!!

Huckleberry Half Marathon Barefoot

Barefoot Runner with Bigfoot Huckleberry Half Marathon Welches Oregon
Barefoot Runner with Bigfoot Huckleberry Half Marathon Welches Oregon

This morning (August 8th) I think I became the first person to run Huckleberry Half marathon in Welches Oregon with 4mm sandals. Whether I was the first person to run the event barefoot or not, I received an awesome Wooden Bigfoot Medal–it’s dangling around my neck in the photo and had a lot of fun.

What a great event! No one said anything about sandals until we hit the streets. Thankfully, a majority of the comments were positive.

Things people said to me as ran. “You’re a beast” (in a good way). “That guy’s wearing flip-flops.” “All the crazies are passing us!” (To which I replied, the key phrase is “PASSING!”) “Let’s catch the guy in flip-flips.” (His friend’s reply, “I’m trying, but I can’t.” And neither of them did. I dropped them on one of the many hills.)

Although scampering across the streets in barefoot sandals made me a celebrity, it also took its toll on my feet. After three miles, I discovered why no one else wore minimalist footwear: the Huckleberry Half is NOT a barefoot friendly route! The streets are  long slabs of jagged, gritty gravel.  The roads climb slowly then level for a short distance then fall again, then climb again, then climb some more, the result is a route that never takes its fangs from your legs. My quads and calves are still sizzling from the lactic acid and my tender feet and toes are battered from the ragged asphalt. It didn’t help that I hammered  my left heel on a rock the first mile. The 13.1 miles were a struggle. The run was much more challenging than I expected and my time was much slower than I anticipated. But it was well worth it.

The volunteers and other runners were fantastic. I‘ll be back next year, even it’s just for the novelty of having teenage cheerleaders swish their pom poms in the air as I cross the finish line. BTW, I ran it in 1 hour 40 minutes 56 seconds.

The twenty seventh day of marathon training

Got up at six and ran six miles at slow lumbering pace. My right foot was still a little tender from my weekend fifteen miler. Thankfully, my marathon training schedule has me running lightly this week, thank God.

How I Tricked Myself in to Running 15 Miles this Morning

If you don’t wedge clay properly, it will explode in the kiln. Wedging also aligns the particles making the clay much more receptive to shaping and throwing. Right now, I suck at wedging. My “wedging” technique makes the clay pliable, but it also fills it with ballon sized air-pockets. Don’t even get me started on the difficulties I face with throwing clay. Yesterday, I was almost in tears because everyone else managed to throw a cylinder, while I was left with a spinning spitting sodden heap of grey mud. I was tempted to throw it across the room punch myself in face. (When I was a teenager I gave myself a black eye–seriously, I used to hit myself that hard). But I didn’t. Instead I just breathed and when I did happiness filled me up. Somewhere in frustration and madness of trying to shape the malleable pieces of earth–the same earth God* used to form humans–there is joyfulness.  It’s astonishing what failure in ceramics teaches me  about running.

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I kept thinking about my failure to wedge properly and also somewhere smashing through my brain was the fifteen mile run I had to do in the morning.  It thrashed my thoughts, leaving me jittery and awake. I kept thinking about how I would have to work a full day after running fifteen miles. It was depressing. Try as I might, I couldn’t fall asleep. Then brilliance struck: Why not call in sick? That way I could sleep off this insomnia and have time to recuperate from my long run.  With that one thought, I skipped happily into dreamland.

Without an alarm, I arose at six o’ clock. (I was planning to sleep in until eight). Since I was up and felt rested, I decided to strap on my heart rate monitor and GPS, slip into my blue shorts,  and drape on my white shirt. The first two miles were horrible and I questioned my decision to run a marathon, but by mile four my youthful vigor kicked-in. The carbohydrate packs and homemade gatorade helped tremendously.  Mile twelve was difficult, and the last three miles forced me to dig deep, but I did and I found a treasure chest of strength and stamina. I finished my run in under two hours, which is right on track with my goal pace for the Boring Oregon Marathon.

Since I would’t have had to have left for work until eleven, I had plenty of time to stretch and rest. After a long hot shower, going to work didn’t seem so bad; so, I pulled on slacks, flung on my short sleeve dress shirt, and headed off to work. I wasn’t even stiff or sore. I did, however, let  out a few great yawns, but I was fully functional. Maybe, I’m not so bad at wedging after all.

* I use God and reference Genesis rhetorically, I am a pantheist.

Day 24

Yet another strength training day. Tomorrow I go for one hell of a long run.

Shaking my bones on day 22

I love the way the morning smells, especially when the a light drizzle wets the fresh pavement. This morning I tossed my bones across six miles of rain soaked concrete. For twenty five minutes, I ran at my “10k pace”. Since I don’t have a 10k pace, I guessed that my 10k pace would be somewhere in my anaerobic zone.  Therefore, I forced my heart to pump blood at 149 to 154 beats per minute. It took effort, but it was worth it. I set a six mile PR. Tomorrow I run again, but not as fast.