Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Race Review: Run Your Blues Away

Officially, it has been 6 months since I started training on barefoot running. The direct contact of the soles of my feet on the hard concrete pavement is an experience that is totally liberating in many ways. After half a year of trying to perfect this type of running form, I knew there should be a validation if all of the hard work really paid off.

For several months, I have successfully unlearned the heel-strike landing and have fully converted my strides to mid-foot and it was not easy. During those times, there were instances where I was tempted to heel-strike just to lengthen my stride, especially during races. I guess wearing minimalist shoes with zero-heel differential in the race helped me a lot to consistently focus on the correct barefoot running form. Because doing heel-strike with shoes that have no heel support can be very painful and make a runner prone to more injuries. So, I continually educate myself from seasoned barefoot runners on YouTube and compared their “training pains” to mine. From this, I can confirm if the soreness and pains I’m experiencing are already far from the ordinary. Thankfully, I’m glad I am still on the right track.

August 13, 2011 is one ordinary day for many runners. For me, this one is extra special because it was the first race where I will literally run barefoot. Run Your Blues Away is a yearly race event organized by God’s Wind Events. The race course stretches from Alabang Town Center to the wide streets of Ayala Alabang Village then back to ATC. A week before the race, I tested the path inside Ayala Alabang to see if my feet can endure the roughness of the concrete pavement. After 30 minutes of leisure running in my bare feet, I felt I can do the race likewise. The day after, feeling a little bit confident, I comfortably registered in the 10-kilometer distance category.

On race day, I arrived at the assembly area where most of the runners were already doing their customary stretches and warm-ups. The crowd was small but everybody was very excited as some had their family members running with them. In races, many runners would show-off their new top of the line running shoes to friends during warm-ups. In my case, I felt a little embarrassed that morning, so I just stood on the side of the street gutter so it would not be too obvious that I was not wearing any shoes at all. Before gun start, I applied some chalk on my soles to dampen the sudden impact and at least absorb sweat for a little while.

As we crossed the starting line, I noticed that the path is a bit descending, so I started slow to give more time for my joints, like my ankles and knees, to warm up. As the runners entered Madrigal Avenue, I increased my pace a little but still too cautious on the sharp pains that might occur anytime. The 1st kilometer became the weaning stage where I acclimatized myself to the rough texture of the road. The 2km stretch was where I felt a little numbness on the soles and I didn’t seem to feel the roughness anymore. I kept myself on a constant pace for a while and after the 5 kilometer mark, my feet became in tune with the road and it felt fantastic!

I was so happy running that time; I almost bypassed all the water stations. I just focused on my form and maintained a constant rhythm. At the last kilometer stretch, I decided to increase my pace a little to lift my game one notch higher. I crossed the finish line at exactly 49minutes 31sec.

Admittedly, I considered the RUN YOUR BLUES AWAY race to be my best run on barefoot. And the only “blues” I kept that day were the road stains and a little soreness on the soles of my feet.
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