Thursday, June 08, 2006

Running Experiments

Yesterday I went down to Portland to test out my sore ankle that I got on a not-so-good run last week. I was in a hurry, wasn't relaxing into my run enough, and crossed a section of very gravelly pavement so that I was kind of running up on my tip toes trying to find bare spots between the gravel. For all my efforts I ended up with a sore tendon at the base of my left ankle.

So yesterday I started off very slowly for one block, seeing if it would hold up. It did. So I kept on going. I ran three blocks down to the smoooooth sidewalks along the Willamette River in Portland. It felt so goooood to be running!

I really made sure my form was impeccable so as to not injure my ankle worse. There were two ladies behind me running in shoes. I didn't want them to overtake me (male pride? competive spirit?) So I leaned into it and sped up.

I found myself wanting to experiment with leaning and foot placement. So I watched to make sure my feet were still landing beneath my waist, making sure I wasn't pushing off or twisting at all, and noticing how they felt. They felt great. I noticed that the distance between my foot placements (stride) was pretty far, despite my quick cadence. Interesting what leaning can accomplish. I felt I had good knee bend, like my legs were "S" shaped and like my legs and feet were lifting well behind me. I was passing quite a few walkers and slower runners. Nice. It felt like I had more freedom and less contact with the ground.

Then I saw some guy about 50 yards ahead of me moving at about the same speed I was. How hard would it be to catch him? More experimenting. I leaned even more. It felt precarious. I was "on the edge!" Checked my foot placement. Good. Checked for foot stability. Good. Checked for ankle comfort. Good. Checked my leg movement. Wings! I was flying! I caught up to the guy in seconds and kept on going. I ran on like this for about 1/2 mile more, passing all kinds of people. Is there a speed limit on this sidewalk?

Then I decided I should be careful and not risk hurting my ankle, even though my feet felt much more comfortable running this way than they do even when I walk. I finally stopped to reload with water and to stretch a little. Some of the people I had passed earlier caught up and were staring at me with big eyes. I know, the crazy barefoot guy.

I finished up going much more slowly, cooling off (recovering from a cold and fever the previous 3 days). I ran through some rougher surfaces, keeping my form, no problem. I met up with a lady who asked me a lot of questions about barefooting as we cooled off and walked back to our starting points. We had a nice discussion about form and technique, time needed to adapt, do I run in winter?, how far do I run? what are my goals? We compared running injuries, etc. All in all a very happy run.

Vancouver Barefoot

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