Friday, May 26, 2006

Roughing It

I ran yesterday along a new route, about 5 miles, across the bridge connecting Washington State and Oregon. The surface was mostly rough with some stretches of really rough. We have cement sidewalks here in the Northwest with a corrugated pattern etched in, probably to help friction when the slime and mold grow. The corrugated edges are usually very rough and sharp.

I ran over them by really focusing on my form, being careful not to reach my feet out too far in front, and relaxing-relaxing-relaxing. It worked! Surfaces that used to slow me down and make me walk were manageable and I didn't have to stop at all.

The highlight of my run came when I passed a lady escorting two blind people, teaching them how to maneuver in a downtown city setting. She saw me and yelled, "ARE YOU CRAZY???" She was pretty upset for some reason. I guess working with the blind makes you very concerned about hazards, and going barefoot was out of reach of her acceptance levels. I replied to her, with a big smile, "Nope! I'm happy!"

A bike rider saw me running across the bridge that connects Washington and Oregon. He asked me if I swam the river and was running back. That would justify my bare feet, I suppose. I told him, Nope, I'm just running!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Repeat Performance

After my motivating, successful run last
Friday I decided to run the same course again last Monday, the 22nd. It was almost as good as last time. I actually ran a little bit further, just over 9 miles, and again, by concentrating on proper form, I had an enjoyable run. I felt just a little bit more tenderness on the soles of my feet due to a little skin erasure. I could feel that my form was not quite all there during some portions of my run, but mostly it went according to plan.

I was so excited by my recent successful runs that I got on a great website called and plotted out a number of different courses - some I have already run and others I would like to try. As I look forward to someday running a barefoot marathon, I plotted some longer courses - dreaming. You can see my courses by going to and checking out the courses for Vancouver, Washington. Not all of them are mine. There were a couple of others entered by other runners here. Wintler Park I is the course I've been running lately.

More and more, happily running barefoot in Vancouver!


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Core Concepts

Another barefoot runner posted this comment about chi-running, or running from the "core."
I really like its concepts.


The subtleties of barefooting continue to reveal themselves; of late, the key seems to be in the core - or should I say "cores":
1) The core of our strength, in the navel just below the belly button
The basic "chi" form of engaging the core allows the very foundation of your strength to gently (and, ideally, quickly) pulse the hips alternately side to side and ever so slightly upward (I often envision the super-quick stride of the legendary "Pre" in the film "Without Limits." One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three...). This centrally-sourced motion swings the upper legs; along with a bended knee, it creates the sought-after "lift" of the feet.
2) The core of the Earth, to which we gravitate in a forward fall
Core strength, combined with lean from the ankles up, generates forward motion.
From time to time, I catch my self focusing on "lifting my feet," per se, or arm swing to facilitate rapid [foot] turnover. I just redirect my focus to the cores, and I'm flying again; distractions such as push-off abrasions, road conditions, or torquing ankles, achilles, or knees seem to melt magically away.
I LOVE this game!



Isn't that a great post?

Agony of Da Feet -- Euphoria of Success

Last Wednesday I tried running a new route I fashioned from my work down along the Columbia River. It was about 8.5 miles. I got to my turn around point and my feet just started aching. I ended up walking a good part of the way back, aiming for as much grass as I could for
relief, but even walking became very difficult and painful, grass or not. My skin was fine, it just felt like my bones were tired and over-stimulated. That was the 'agony of da feet.' Very disappointing.

Today I decided to re-do the same route - the old idea of "if you get bucked off, climb back on and show him who's boss!" I really focused on form: bent knees, putting my feet down beneath me, gentle BHB, etc. I decided to skip the grass and stick to the sidewalks/pavement, rough or not.

Today I was euphoric! I thoroughly enjoyed the run. I found myself just rolling along easily clicking off the miles, gentle rain making some nice puddles along the way. I arrived back at my work feeling very comfortable, my feet still feeling fresh. I felt like I could have kept running all day long! After the run, my feet feel absolutely no pain at all - just warm, happy tingling.

I'm convinced the difference was staying true to good form. There are subtle nuances, only different by fractions of an inch or slight variations of an angle, that make all the difference. Its easy to slip back into old habits because they can be so close to the correct form that they seem 'close' to right, but not 'quite' right. If I'm not careful I end up getting hurt by allowing my form to be just so slightly off and going too far that way.

Today I realized one problem I have to watch out for is allowing my shoulders to be too far back in relation to my waist. I tend to do this if I'm tired or if I'm on really rough surfaces. In my mind, its "un-cocking the gun" - losing the forward lean that gives me automatic propulsion. I then end up having to reach forward and "pull" with my legs and feet to keep moving forward, which makes my feet slap the ground with too much force and create shearing effects - wreaking havoc on my feet. Several times today I had to remind myself to "cock the gun" - pull my shoulders forward of my waist, keep my knees bent, put my feet down gently in BHB fashion. It worked. I had a great run, no discomfort, no damage, no skin erasure, no aching bones in my feet, and a feeling that I could have just kept on going and going.

Its days like last Wednesday that had me thinking I might have to go back to wearing shoes.

But its days like Today that make me think a marathon just might be in sight! Mark me down as one happy runner!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Running "Socks"

My previous post mentioned some running socks I made to help protect my feet when I don't want to be quite-barefoot. You can make a pair yourself like I did...

I bought a $12 pair of 5-fingered socks at REI and a can of plasticene at the hardware store (the stuff you dip tool handles in to coat them) about $6.

I slathered lotion on the soles of my feet to keep the paint from sticking to my skin (next time I'll use Vaseline), then I put the socks on and stood in a flat pan with some plasticene paint poured on the bottom of the pan. It took some doing to get the stuff to soak in to the fabric. This gave me painted surfaces on the soles of the socks across the pads of the toes, the ball of the foot, and the heel.

My socks are a light khaki green/tan color and I used black plasticene paint.

The plasticene does not offer much padding at all, its there mostly to protect the fabric from wearing out too quickly. I'll have to reapply it from time to time as the original coating starts wearing thin.

I thought it would be interesting to sew a bunch of zig-zag patterns across the soles of the socks with Kevlar thread (available at my local fly-fishing and tackle store) for additional strength. Next time! -- Ryan

A Nice Run!

Yesterday I went down to Portland for a run around the riverbanks of the Willamette River - verrrry nice surfaces. Then I decided to cut up into the city and find me one of those Immigration Marches.

Along the way I ran to REI and stopped in to see if they had any Vibram 5-Fingers. They didn't. I showed them my home-made version that I fashioned from 5-toed socks and platicene. They were impressed but didn't think they would start selling them any time soon.

I ran around and eventually heard drums and shouting, so I steered towards the parade. I was secretly hoping some news reporter would see the crazy barefoot guy and grab some footage of me. Didn't happen. I did entertain a lot of police who seemed to get a kick out of seeing me. The parade marchers were predictably noisy and respectfully gave way to let me run past them.

It was back to the river front sidewalks where I actually wore my personally-made 5-fingers for the first time just to see how they felt. I actually liked wearing them! Just enough shielding to help keep the skin from abrasions. A nice break.

I also experimented with some form techniques and think (once again) that I have crossed a new milestone in my development. I've learned that barefoot running requires some very subtle changes that are elusive to me. This time I concentrated on picking up my feet and setting them down like I was squashing bugs gently. Weird concept, I know, but it worked. The difference is in how I lifted my feet by raising my knees instead of by swinging my feet forward in an arc.

All in all, a very nice 6 or 7 mile run.