Juneathon Hiatus and Non Runner Records

There has been a paucity of Juneathon posts of late. I have to admit to bailing mid month, unable to cope with the pressure of late night running followed by early hours blogging, but it wasn’t long before we missed at least the running bit.

It’s actually refreshing to run daily and yet without the challenge of Juneathon it’s very hard to enforce the commitment. After a brief lull we tried to pick up the pace – here’s the daily running tally.

Yesterday we headed out just as the sun was disappearing for a 5k trog around the refreshingly flat Tooting Common.

Lynn led the way from the start, she’s gotten too damn fit during June and I can’t match her pace. Now she has to run a helical route while I trog straight as a dye.

It’s a strange experience to follow, I usually know exactly which path I want to take and Lynn kept refusing to take them. It felt like she was taking me on a random walk, zig zagging from one corner to the next, neatly taking in all the gravel paths with huge stones waiting to embed themselves in my minimally shod arches.

When I checked the GPS track at the end it proved to be a relatively neat route, apart from the last 500 metres where we were desperate to keep ticking over til the 5k mark.

These SW London commons are titchy compared to the likes of Bushy Park and Richmond Park, it’s tough trying to trace out a full 5k route, I don’t imagine they’ll be expanding the park runs out here.

This run marked the first non-stop 5km for the Non-Runner. I remember those early days of personal bests with almost every run, it reminds me how self-affirming this sport is.

Vibram Five Fingers – The Review

I’ve had the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) for a couple of weeks now and feel I can now cast some judgement from the standpoint of an inexperienced barefoot or minimal shoe runner.

Just as a quick aside, I believe that barefoot running applies to running sans shoes but also encompasses runners who choose to wear minimal shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers or inov8 EvoSkins or the VivoBarefoot Evo from Terraplana. There are also shoes most accurately termed Reduced Shoes such as the Nike Free but these aren’t akin to barefoot running as they have a heel pad, albeit a reduced one.

Having decided I was going to try a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I did a quick search of the available reviews and found myself overwhelmed with sizing advice. It seems that most people need to take a size down when switching to VFFs. I followed the rules and measured my feet by standing on a ruler and then ignored the advice as it was suggesting I order size 6 vs my usual size 8.

With a shoe that is designed to wrap neatly around each of your toes sizing is a bit critical. Too long and the little toe will probably float around in the body of the shoe and risk snagging, too short and the problems are obvious.

I ordered size 7 in the end and although my left foot fits pretty well my right foot feels overly snug. Not that it seems to be damaging me but I am very aware of the casing around my toes and that seems a shame when the overall effect of minimal shoe running is so freeing. I suppose the ideal would be to whip them off, throw caution to the wind and run barefoot proper. But that’s not going happen any time soon – I want a sole.

I had a number of fears when I first ran in the Vibrams, I was convinced that they would slip about on the downhills and the natural braking action would leave me without skin on my forefoot. I was really very pleasantly surprised. The shoes really did fit me like a second skin and the effect was natural and fun.

Fun is the key word, on the first run I was encouraged to run further and further than I originally intended because it felt so free and comfortable. That goes against all the advice related to beginning barefoot running but I think it says a lot for the comfort of the VFF.

Having run further than I was supposed to do, I did develop a few niggles. A forefoot blister was simply the effect of inexperienced feet on hard tarmac but I also had a few rubs on the side of my feet which I think relate to rough seams on the Vibrams.

I chose the Sprint model, which has a few straps to assist with fit. Although they fit very securely I think the additional bulk does detract a little from the simplicity of the basic model. Not that any of the range are particularly attractive. I’ve already alluded to the fact that my family thinks I’m a freak for wearing them but they aren’t anywhere near as ugly as the inov8 Evoskin shoes reviewed here by Adam at Fitness Footwear. If I’m tempted by beauty or at least the allure of a normal looking shoe I’d be tempted to go for the Vivo Barefoot Evo, reviewed here by Running and Rambling.

I’ve now had a few runs out with the Vibrams and I’m taking it easier with the distance. I’m enjoying the experience and now feel as though I am so much more aware of my running. More often than not I choose to run without the iPod, happy to listen to the gentle slapping of my rubberized toes while I tune in to how my body is feeling and what the ground is doing. It’s a very involved and yet peaceful way to run.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

Born to Run

I’ve just finished Chris McDougalls “Born to Run” and feel bereft now it’s all over.

I’m in the market of writing about running and so long as I steer clear of treadmills I can usually knock up a paragraph or so on the trials and tribulations of the activity but I was awed by Chris McDougalls skill at telling such a gripping yarn. I was arriving at work late and extending lunch breaks just to find out the outcome of the trail races he was describing. These races were between 50 and 100 miles long and I never expected they could be quite so tense.

The author was on the trail of the Tarahumara Indians an ancient and very private running tribe and gave some fascinating insights into their way of life and running style. Chris had his own personal interest beyond the obvious sporting intrigue, relating to his ongoing foot problems and his desire to find a practical solution that would keep him running. He refused to accept the prevailing view that running was inherently bad for humans and sought to find evidence to the contrary. Interspersed between the race commentary are some extremely interesting discussions on the potential conspiracies within the running shoe industry, he quotes one study which suggests that running injuries increase in proportion to the amount spent on your shoes which makes me look at my Asics Kayanos in a different light.

A number of barefoot running aficionados appear in the book including the Tarahumara Indians and Barefoot Ted and the almost evangelical tone has made this book a bible to the barefoot movement. The book made it onto my reading list quite accidentally and I was surprised to find myself reading it just as I’m deciding that barefoot or minimal shoe running might offer some solutions to my plantar fasciatiis pains and knee wobbles.

Reading the book I was tempted to fold over corners and make notes in the margin – there was so much I wanted to follow up on. I’m afraid I’m too anal for that sort of book-defacery so you’ll have to read it and find your own excitement. It is currently available at Amazon from £4.48: Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

Juneathon 15/20 – Dressage Ponies

Now that I’ve gone all minimalist or practically barefoot, I think the non-runner could be forgiven for expecting me to get ready just a little bit quicker.

We were only going out for a one-miler to gently stretch out the strained limbs but I still needed the GPS and heart rate monitor and the shoes aren’t helping matters much. It’s proving to be a hellish tricky job to squeeze the little toe into the little toe compartment of the Vibrams and it’s not made any easier by impatient tapping.

It’s probably a bit too early to try running in the vibram five fingers (VFF) again, but I really feel like I want to play. I was more nervous than on my first attempt and my calves and heels were so tight I ended up prancing around on my toes like a lipazzana pony.

With the n-r mocking me at my side, trotting up and down with stiff arms we could have sold tickets for our very own gymkhana.

It was our slowest mile yet but remarkably comfortable and we made it to the top of the hill, running and still just about able to talk. Perfect.

Juneathon 12/30 – Almost Barefooting

The new shoes didn’t go down particularly well at home. The kids thought I was a freak and the Non-Runner attempted emotional blackmail and then just refused to be seen with me unless it was dark.

In retrospect I probably ought to have a chosen a black pair but they’re not that hideous, and anyway, I like running under cover of darkness.

I was a little apprehensive about trying them out. Our usual route is quite hilly and all tarmac based. I expected the downhills to be particularly painful but when I relaxed into it I was fairly quick to find a flow.

The run was much easier than I anticipated, I seemed to change my form away from heavy heel striking and for some reason my breathing seemed easier as well. I assumed I must have slowed down but the Non-Runner felt I’d set a tougher pace than usual. I can’t check it out unfortunately as I managed to leave the GPS off and I haven’t yet fathomed a way of attaching a foot pod to the minimal Vibram Five Fingers (VFF).

I was really enjoying this run so we pushed on for 4 laps and then I felt a bit of a twinge under the ball of my big toe. Blister alarm bells were ringing and I’d probably overdone it for my first attempt at minimal shoe running or almost barefoot running.

We’ve got a 7 mile charity walk tomorrow for the Samaritans and I’ll probably be obliged to go with normal shoes but I can’t wait to try the VFF’s out again.

Fitnessfootwear have kindly offered up a free pair of the Vibram Five Fingers to the winner of this years Juneathon – good prize!

Juneathon 9/30 – An Interest Bypass

By far the hardest thing about Juneathon is the commitment to blog daily, the exercise bit is a cinch in comparison. Blogging requires you to look at your world in a different light, constantly examining your experiences for an interest factor.

I’m afraid interest bypassed me today.

Triggered by Big Runners latest post I allowed my mind to wander in the direction of a potential new obsession or at least a temporary fad. A minimalist running detour that will add flavour to my Juneathon runs.

I have been tempted down the path of barefoot running. Of course actual barefootedness will not do, I cannot adopt an obsession that doesn’t carry with it at least one high tech gadget.

Therefore I am awaiting delivery of some Vibram Five Fingers whence I can commence barefoot running training in shoes.

In the meantime we managed 3 laps of our usual posh house loop.