Barefoot Buddy


Barefoot dog walking with FergusAs part as my barefoot half marathon conditioning I have started walking our family dog Fergus (a 10 month old black miniature schnauzer) whilst barefoot.

My share of the weekly dog walking duties equates to around 10 – 15 miles depending on the length of our weekend walks / runs, so if even half of these are barefoot there should be some effect.

My main concern was the longer interaction time with other people. When barefoot running, I have usually passed anyone before they’ve had time to comment!

I’d already planned a response to any interrogations – “I am training for a barefoot half marathon.” Perfectly logical!

However, after a few barefoot walks with Fergus this weekend involving talking to other dog walkers, no one mentioned the fact I had no shoes on. One kind lady did mention to take care as she had seen some broken glass on the trail, without mentioning my bare feet. Completely the opposite reaction to what I had expected! I thanked her and said I would be careful, and we both continued with our dog walks.


White Peaks Marathon….My First 26.2

Photo credits: plodding hippo (2011 race)

Last Saturday I ran my first marathon…..and I loved it!

The White Peaks Marathon is organised by Matlock Athletics Club and run in parallel with the half marathon. The full route uses a dis-used railway from Thorpe to Cromford Meadows following first the Tissington Trail to Parsley Hay, then the High Peak Trail to Cromford.

A small event with around 200 runners for each race lends a friendly, local feel. Very different to the city races I have completed.

The reviews I had read mentioned road shoes were suitable for the compacted limestone and cinder tracks, so I was confident my vibram bikila’s would cope. I hoped my feet would too, after smashing my left foot into a mooring ring at the end of my final long run, a week before the race!

After a 30 minute coach ride from registration to the trail start, we had half an hour wait before the 11am start. I fueled up with a banana and flapjack (I would be running though lunchtime!) and chatted to a few local runners about the vibrams. The general theme was they had thought about trying them, but were yet to take the plunge. Hopefully I showed enough enthusiasm for at least one runner to try them out!

After a long announcement, which I couldn’t hear at all, we were off!

I trained with a ‘complete not compete’ attitude, aiming for a sub 4 hour time. My last couple of long training runs felt too slow at this pace though, and I decided in the final week to run the first half at around sub 3:50 pace and see how I felt for the second half.

The first 7 miles were up a steady but gradual incline, and into a constant head wind that kept my 8:40 mins / mile pace in check. The trail then levelled out for a few miles but unfortunately the wind remained. The next 9 miles seemed to pass quickly though, engaged in banter with a fellow runner. Space was tight running in twos, due to the narrow trail and a few large puddles from about 8 hours rain overnight. This meant we had to use the uneven grass verges now and again, and not the racing line! As we reached halfway we stepped up the pace slightly to 8:30 mins / mile, hoping for a negative split, and helped by a partial tailwind.

At mile 16 I was running solo again (fellow runner / call of nature!) but I kept my pacing, and a few more inclines meant I overtook 12 or so runners

I knew this race included three steep descents during the last 5 miles – but I wasn’t expecting anything on this scale! I believe trains were lifted up the slopes by winding stations. The first was 0.5 miles long, the second was 0.75 miles and the third was 1 mile long totalling about 260 metres of vertical descent. The last drop ended in a tunnel and then onto a canal path for a 0.75 mile final effort and another two overtakes before the finish line.

My first marathon was a great experience – my pacing went to plan ‘A’, my final position was 65th and I beat my ‘ideal world’ time by 1 minute with a 2 minute negative split.

The marshals were the most friendly and encouraging I have run past, especially considering the remoteness of the trail, and the cold and windy weather on the day. It took about two miles of running for my feet to lose the numbness from standing around at the start!

I’m not sure when I will attempt my next marathon (or maybe 50k) as I plan to up my barefoot mileage over the next few months, training for a barefoot half. I know I can run faster over this distance though, as this wasn’t an easy route. The wind, long uphills, steep downhills, a couple of closed gates, stop-start turn around, and puddles all added time. But I wouldn’t have changed a single one of them!

Cantaloupe Anyone ?

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Michael Arnstein AKA the Fruitarian Interview

Michael Arnstein eats fruit. Only fruit. Oh, and raw vegatables.

He also runs 150 – 180 miles per week without injury and hasn’t has a cold in 5 years.

Last year he ran the Vermont 100 ultra in sub 18 hours, and then won a marathon 2 days later in 2:39 – He recovers fast.

The Ultrarunner podcast was one of the most intriguing listens I’ve heard in a while, and Michael’s enthusiasm and energy comes across really well.

I couldn’t manage a fruitarian diet, but I’m sure going to be eating a lot more fruit instead of nuts as snacks!



Tonight’s run was fun, with no pacing or distance goals. A stark change from all the marathon training runs for this year. The vibrams went on, came off, went on and finally off  again, with lots of photo / video stops too.

1/4 mile in, just over the canal and shoes come off.

Turning around I realised I was being followed by a giant’s shadow!

At the foot of a Lubenham Hill…

…and the view from the top.

Unfortunately it looks like things are changing. The start of a massive housing development covering a large portion of my run.

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Some video of a barefoot run over a track. I was surprised by how much my balance felt  restricted with trying to holding the phone stationary. Look out for the dog poop!

Garmin data (just to see if it works really)

Losing it?

Towards the end of my lunchtime run yesterday, a slight tingling indicated my form had been off.
I had been landing too far on the outside of my feet, and pushing off too aggressively.

I have a desk job so didn’t think too much more about it until I got home. Sure enough I had a decent sized blister on the right second toe.


I think the hundreds of miles over the last few months in vibrams has caused the toe off issue – you can get away with a lot in them.
Another factor is my feet have grown this year! I assume the vibram mileage is the culprit, but my toes protrude further than before, relative to my big toe.
But probably the biggest factor was the temperature of the tarmac. The run was at the hottest part of the day at about 28°C and my feet haven’t experienced that for a very long time.

I decided to leave it be as the blister is clear and there’s no pain.

This barefoot thing is a continuous learning process and I’ll just put it down to experience.


‘Toad Shoes’?

Just after the postman delivered my vibram bikilas, my daughter’s kindly christened them ‘froggy feet‘, and probably changed their opinion of me forever 🙂

They were soon changed to ‘toad shoes‘, cleverly incorporating the original frog theme while highlighting the ‘toed’ pockets. Genius! (Well for me anyway)


The vibrams at a little over 900 miles

Getting There….

After thinking about starting a running blog for a while (well all right – a couple of years) I’ve finally created one.

Initially I set up a blogger account but I found this fairly limited, although the dailymile widgets are nice and easy.

I then tried a WordPress hosted blog, which is more flexible but doesn’t allow plugins or widgets “for security reasons.”

So I eventually settled on my own domain and hosting, with a WordPress installation.

I just need a few posts now!