Running on the Limit

This post all started with a 100% effort Magic Mile run on the canal (the towpath part, not the actual watery bit). Immediately after (sort of) smashing out a 5:27 mile, I was blinded by the worst headache I’ve ever experienced. I initially blamed the pounding pain on the glue factory fumes I had unwisely decided to run downwind in, but two weeks later I was still headache unfree (or unheadache free if you will) whenever I tried to push it.

Google helpfully suggested ‘Exertion Induced Headaches’ as the probable cause, but also mentioned a few rather unpleasant alternatives so I thought I’d better see the doc.

Exertion Induced Headaches can be caused by straining the neck muscles coupled with a reduced oxygen intake. The effort dilates the blood vessels in the neck and restricts the blood flow to and from the head. The increase in pressure squishes (medical terminology) the nerves, hence the pain. It is most common in weight lifters lifting too much while holding their breath, or in this case a runner hammering it for a mile in toxic atmospheric conditions.

Googles cure…..two  weeks rest. I had already taken it (ahem) ‘easy’ for two weeks by running over 12 miles barefoot two days after, followed by a 9.5 miler, 6 miler, 8.5 miler, and a couple of runs with the dog (see – no speed work!)

The thought of no exertion for two weeks didn’t sound appealing, it’s not like a regular running injury where I could nip out on the bike or even go for a swim (possibly in the canal by the glue factory.) With a three half marathons on the calendar I wanted to stay in shape. And this got me thinking about my calorie intake and expenditure.

I found a calorie counting app which included a large food database and logged my eating habits over a week, as well as my running and dog walking activities. I wasn’t surprised to see that I crept over the 2000 calories most days, even when taking into account the lunchtime walk, dog walk / dog runs. The days when I had spare calories left were the ones that included a decent run eg 8.5 mile with 300 calories under and 16.5 mile run with 1350 calories spare!

I also wore my garmin heart rate monitor for three days to backup the calorie figures. What this also showed was a low resting heart rate.

After a consultation, the doc agreed with google on the cause of the headaches, but was happy for me to carry on running. To be safe I had a few blood tests and an ECG. The nurse commented on my low resting heart rate – normally a concern, but as I was a runner it was fine!

Thankfully all the tests came back fine, and the headaches subsided over a further couple of weeks – just in time for the first of the half marathons.

I had always regarding the calorie apps as too much hassle to bother with, but in fact it provided me with a good insight into my intake and expenditure. I sometimes found myself wondering if eating something was going to push me over the daily limit. I wouldn’t use the counter continuously, but a substantial change in exercise routine or eating habits would definitely warrant use again.

Like Father Like Daughters

My eldest daughter surprised me a while ago with her interest in vivobarefoot shoes. Her friend’s family had all started wearing them, and it was a topic of conversation on a 45 minute drive we took with them to the local park run event. When the next email offer arrived in my inbox, we snapped up a pair of Aqua Lites in grey and crimson (50% off and free delivery!) My daughter has been really pleased with them and wears them for her athletics club and much of the weekend.

When I asked if she minded me going barefoot while we walked the dog this weekend there wasn’t any hesitation in her reply, “Nah, I don’t mind” – This was very different to her answer just a few weeks ago!

My other daughter surprised me even more this evening when she asked if she could go barefoot whilst walking the dog. As her mum wasn’t around to ‘be sensible,’ we hit the pavement! I did carry her shoes just in case, but we happily covered three-quarters of a mile at a leisurely pace. She enjoyed feeling the different surfaces, and discovered a few pointy stones on the way round, but quickly adapted her stance without even breaking sentence.

I am not too worried about a soft, slow conditioning of my children’s feet to a more barefoot lifestyle. The don’t wear shoes in the house, they wear thin plimsolls at school, and both do ballet and gymnastic dance. If they grow up with strong feet and good form, and knowing they don’t need big cushioned trainers or orthotics, I’ll be happy.

The Postponed Post

Another bank holiday, another camping trip!

We arrived early at the campsite near Dursley on a sunny Saturday morning, and even before I stepped out of the car I removed my shoes. I had two reasons for this; one, I wanted to spend as much time barefoot as possible, and two, the grass was really wet and I wanted my shoes (vivobarefoot evo IIs) to stay dry!

Unfortunately, as soon as the sun started burning off the morning dew, some heavy showers accompanied by lightning and thunder kept the field wet, bordering on waterlogged. The first shower caught my evo’s by surprise while they were sunbathing outside the tent, and they ended up as soaked as the field.

Luckily the second day was glorious, with the sun shining as two friends and I set off on a morning run. One friend is transitioning to minimalist running in merrell trail gloves so took it easy and hung back. The other friend is a three time Ironman, and completed his first 6 hour ultra trail run a few weeks ago. He also wears vivobarefoot shoes full time. He had roughly mapped out a 10-ish mile route possibly incorporating some trails depending on their condition.

I decided to start off barefoot and see what lay ahead on uncharted terrain, so carried my trusty fivefingers. I was a little apprehensive as my soles had spent the previous day on wet grass and I wasn’t sure how much this could have softened them.

The route turned out to be a mixture of smooth and rough road, long grassy footpaths, wet and muddy wooded hilly trails with both roots and rocks, and dry stoney paths including half buried rocks. In other words, way more complex than I have ever run before. But my feet coped superbly with every type of surface we covered. Even the 7:17 min / mile pace for the last couple of road miles felt good. I did pop the fivefingers on for about a mile of wooded descent, but this turned out to be too steep to run anyway. I remember thinking “This would be barefootable” while I clung to a tree to stop myself sliding tens of metres down the slope!

This was also the first time I have run barefoot with another runner, and it didn’t feel awkward at all. I’m not sure if this was because he is a minimalist runner, or because I’ve known him nearly ten years. Whatever it was, it gave me the confidence to remove my shoes and run barefoot with twenty or so other runners from the running club on Tuesday nights hill session. And none of those are minimalist runners and I hardly know most of them!


That’s blog site downtime, not me (fortunately!)

I last posted on the 17th August following the family holiday. I attempted to make my next post a week later but found the blog missing all my previous postings. In fact, it looked like it did after the initial WordPress install, showing the default welcome page!

I went through a series of steps involving database table checks, etc but couldn’t find anything wrong. The only thing that worked was resetting the DNS address with the domain registrar before changing it back to the hosting site, all of which takes a few days to propagate through the webosphere.

I’m not super web tech savvy, but I can sort most things out with google holding my hand. I can’t quite get my head around this one though – I didn’t modify any files on the site but everything is back to normal?

I was just glad I had a recent backup (although I have updated the frequency from weekly to daily!)

BMI Baby

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, the delay being due to a weeks holiday in Brittany, France. I had hoped to write a post towards the end of the week about my running experiences, but an unfortunate accident sidelined any plans for the last few days.

After a sunny afternoon on a small beach, a relative cooked dinner for us all on a portable bbq. Afterwards, he attempted to safely dispose of the hot coals by digging a hole in the sand and tipping the bbq contents in. Unfortunately he stepped on the super hot sand the bbq had occupied. After 25 minutes with his blistered foot cooling in the sea, the ambulance took him to hospital, where they had to remove the entire skin from his sole, as the hot sand had embedded in. Four days later he was allowed out hospital, but it will take weeks to heal.

As a runner I appreciate my feet, and as a barefoot runner I especially appreciate my soles. As a non runner, my relative…. treasures his soles just as much. I wish him a speedy recovery.


Back to my original post subject though. We holidayed in the same area last Easter, when I was starting out in vibram fivefingers. Last year I returned with tendonitis from a few 6 mile runs. My first holiday run this year was a 13 mile barefoot run, during which it struck me how far I have progressed.

This run included 5 miles along a flat beach, perfect for running, shod or otherwise. But there were no runners! In fact I hardly saw anyone running all week. Five runners tops. I see more than that on an evening run back home.

What I also struggled to see were ‘large’ people. Young and old were between average or slim, and it was refreshing to see. But this seriously hit home on our first service station stop in England, where the opposite held true.

I quick search revealed the following table: (clicking on the image should open the original source pdf)

The bars show the percentage of adult population with a BMI greater than 30, ie obese. USA tops the table at 33.8%, with the UK in 7th with 23%. France is towards the bottom of this list with 11.2%, roughly half that of the UK.

So how come I saw so few runners in France but the obese percentage is half that of the UK’s? Our holiday location was very rural, but the nearest city, Lannion, had very few fast food ‘restaurants’ or take-aways. My home, Market Harborough, has a huge choice for a small town. Could this point to a cause? Maybe, but I’m sure there are many more reasons beyond my understanding.

An interesting site to calculate a BMI value is

My result of “You have a lower BMI than 96% of males aged 30-44 in your country! The #BBCNews body fat calculator says that I’m most like someone from DR Congo” saddened me. I believe I should be around 65-70% if the health of the UK population was ‘normal.’

Barefoot Walking

I decided to start doing some walks barefoot with our family dog towards the end of May. Since then I’ve logged just over 30 miles; not quite as much as I’d hoped but it has been an extremely rainy couple of months.

When I started I remember even a soft heal strike sending an upwards jolt, even though I wear minimalist shoes for work and weekends. I thought this might be resolved either with a change of gait, or with the pads around the heal thickening. My gait has definitely changed to a forefoot landing when walking at speed, but it’s probably a bit soon to notice any physiological change.

Another change I noticed recently was when I stepped on sharp stones. I now do not tense up, and try to shift my weight to bear on another part of the foot. I had read previously how feet can ‘flow’ around an object, and I believe this is the same process. With over a year of barefoot running, I hadn’t achieved this, but I think the foot landing phase for running is too short to ‘learn’ the method.

This wasn’t the intention when I started barefoot walking, but I’m pleased it’s happened. And with the warmer, drier weather, I’m enjoying walking Fergus barefoot more and more.

THE Barefoot Walk

This Saturday we visited Conkers in AshbydelaZouch.

Conkers is a hands on nature experience including an indoor adventure playground and learning zone, a pretty tough outdoor assault course, fairy labyrinth and a barefoot walk!

The whole site is fun and educational, but what I look forward to most is the unique barefoot walk. A sign at the start of the walk describes that going barefoot can alleviate many musculo-skeletal disorders, but almost everyone skips that, rips off their shoes and jumps straight in!

The first three sections of the 450m attraction are pools with different floor textures. Other areas include; rocks, pebbles, coal, wooden logs, straw, cobbles, railway rails, rubber shards, slate, wet clay, and finally, deep gloopy mud!





I love going round with my daughters and hearing them describe the different textures, feelings, temperatures, and pain levels! Sadly I haven’t seen many grown ups attempting the intriguing experiencing, just because it involves a bit of dirt (or getting their feet out in public)

Conkers also has a campsite which we used last year, as well as a Park Run every Saturday morning. I didn’t realise this until I got caught up in the event on the return leg of my early morning run – running barefoot! I think I surprised a few of the runners, and I would love to return and run officially one day!


I received a comment from Chris on my last post regarding the podcasts I listen to, so I thought I’d post a list of my current favourites.


A podcast about two self-proclaimed geeks who have decided to take up running. Join Jason and Ray each week as they discuss all things running.


 JBST helps you train for Triathlon, Duathlon, Ironman, Sportive, Time-trial and running events. Multisport coach Joe Beer of and guests give training, nutrition and technology advice to improve your triathlon, duathlon, Ironman, running and cycling performances. Each “SMARTcast”  reveals cutting edge tips, research findings and insider news. Ideal for multisport athletes, Ironman racers, time triallists, sportive riders and runners.


The Living Barefoot Show is an exciting podcast exploring the world of, you guessed it, living barefoot. The show hosts, Al Gauthier and Tina Dubois, are dedicated barefooters excited about sharing the multitude of health benefits that can be achieved by experiencing the ground with as little as possible, or nothing at all, between your feet and the ground. The show includes a wide range of topics and personalities: from interviews with businesses that are dedicated to creating healthy products for our feet to exceptional members of the barefooting community, book authors, and other influential members of the community. The Living Barefoot Show includes tips and advice for those just starting out on their unshod journeys or the seasoned veteran barefooter.


All about running. A weekly podcast dedicated to keeping you on the inside track to successful running. Presented by Martin Yelling and Tom Williams.


Marathon Training Academy exists to inspire and empower everyday people to live healthier lives, achieve fitness goals, and reach new milestones by tapping into their marathon potential.


Running From The Reaper

I record this podcast as I run through the Staffordshire countryside here in the UK, mainly along the tow-paths of the canal system we have around here. I guess you could think of it more as an audio blog, where I share my training, races and a few other bits and pieces about my life. I try to share a few laughs along the way and hopefully act a bit if a friendly virtual running buddy for you as you undertake your own training runs or races.



The podcast for runners, wannabe runners and mid-packers of all shapes and sizes who just want to strap on their favorite pair of shoes and get out there!


Caity McCardell introduces listeners to the barefoot runner-next-door as well as authors and researchers in an effort to promote the value of barefoot running. Her goal is to encourage more women to try out the sport while educating everyone about the joys of ditching shoes.


Listen to my podcast at SPIKES

A podcast for those who enjoy a lifestyle with a significant exercise component. The central theme will be around running but the entertainment factor is a little broader than that.


An ultra running podcast bringing you news, reviews and interviews from around the ultra world.


We are a team of intermediate runners who love technology, always hitting the road while plugged in.  iPod, iPhone, Android, whatever…



Trail Runner Nation

Trail Runner Nation is devoted to sharing knowledge and advice to the trail running community – from beginners to the pros! We offer tips and discussion regarding race nutrition, pacing strategy, mental focus and much more from well-respected members of the trail community.


We are passionate about ultra running. Our podcast was created for runners who feel the same about our sport. Reaching your running potential requires access to sport specific information. Our podcast features a variety of qualified experts to discuss nutrition, training, sport psychology, race strategy, injury management, trail gear and many more topics. Now, go out and run.


Please let me know if any of the links or RSS feeds are incorrect and I will update them.

Charity Miles

Listening to last weeks The Geek Runner podcast, I heard about an iPhone & Android app called Charity Miles that will generate corporate sponsorship for several charities based on a walk, run or biking activity.

I immediately registered and tried the app on my lunchtime walk. All went well, earning a few ‘minutes of education’ for Pencils of Promise, or so I thought. The app seemed to have an issue syncing over my phone network.

Syncing over wi-fi worked the next morning after finishing my 1 mile barefoot dog walk, earning 2.5 minutes of education, and another 5.5 minutes on my lunchtime 2 mile barefoot run.

The app uses Facebook to authenticate users, and will post each activity on your timeline. This can be turned off within Facebook but I am leaving active for a couple of days to raise awareness, as well as posting on twitter.

The corporate sponsorship initially stands at $1 million for the first 12 months.

Good Mornin’ Feet

Part of my barefoot routine now includes walking the family dog unshod. My share of the weekly dog walking quota involves a couple of early morning and evening walks, and hopefully a run at the weekend..
I’ve recently noticed the evening walks feel much easier on the feet than the early morning ones.
Or to put it another way, the morning walks feel less pleasant.

I don’t know if this is down to form, skin sensitivity or even surface temperature..

Thinking about this, I remembered a post I made about a year ago on dailymile regarding an early morning barefoot run with a similar observation: Local Loop

Going out for a barefoot lunchtime run my soles feel ‘normal’ again. My limited internet searching hasn’t revealed any clues; most results point to foot pain and plantar fasciitis whereas this is more of a sensory filter not kicking in.

Maybe a permanent barefooter has some insight?