One of my goals this year was to increase my barefoot milage, which I've done. Today I ran 12 miles barefoot making this the furthest distance barefoot I've run to date. I'm not planning on topping that this year, but hopefully I'll get a few more barefoot 12-milers in before it getts too cold.
Twelve miles is the distance I've had in the back of my mind as a good finale to my barefoot running ambitions for the year. This distance is covered a few times in the latter part of my marathon schedule so it fit in very well. That being the case, I've had my eye on today as "longest barefoot run day". Unfortunately this weekend has turned out to be a little warmer than the past several days and yesterday and today are probably two of the most humid days we've had all summer, which made today's run something of a challenge in general, much less running it barefoot.
From the start of my run, the temperature just kept creeping up and I tried to adjust for this by slowing down. I was also paying extra attention to my running form, which is one of the first things to go as fatigue begins to set in. As I continued to run, my pace got slower and slower, I was struggling. I've covered 10 miles barefoot several times now, and it's not been a issue for me, of course the weather on those days were more ideal.
My feet started to feel tender sometime before 10 miles, perhaps even as far back as 8 miles, but I'm not quite sure. It was at around 10 miles I definitely noticed it, but I was on the home stretch and on a newly paved road, which is heavenly to run barefoot on. My stride was extreme short at this point, I was just crawling along, and while my cadence was much less that the 180 beats/minute, I was focusing at least maintaining an ideal barefoot running form.
The last mile was undoubtedly the hardest. At the 11 mile mark my route took me off the heavenly road onto a road that, while actually in great shape, is probably the roughest on my feet.
This rougher road did me in earlier in the year when I attempted my first barefoot 10 miler, which only ended up being 9 miles (I did that last mile in my V5Fs). That first 10 mile attempt was also run during a very hot day, one one on which the asphalt got particularly hot. That first attempt got me to 9 miles, which, even though I did not get to my intended 10, was still the furthest barefoot distance I'd run up to that point. I also got two small blisters on two of my toes that day, which was probably, in part, due to the hot road surface.
Fortunately on today's run, despite being very hot and humid, the sun hadn't heated up the pavement as it did before. So I transitioned to the rough paved road, with one mile to go, I was fatigued and my feet were tender. I managed to get down this road perhaps a quarter mile before I started to think about stopping and putting on my V5F, which I had packed in my hydration vest. At about a half mile I was real close to doing it. Having a goal in mind and being so close to it, definitely contributed to working through it mentally to get me to 12 barefoot miles. But the largest part that got me through was a quick sensory assessment of my feet. Attempting to reach this goal at the risk of injury would have just been stupid.
Awareness of my body, being smart about training, and not over doing it were probably among the hardest lessons I had to learn when I first started running again two years ago. I had several injuries early on that could easily been avoided and consequently I was forced me to take weeks off from running.
So I assessed my feet: I had no indications of blisters and there were no punctures, which I chalk up to an overall improvement to my running form this year and also understanding that as I get fatigued my form often begins to fall apart. Knowing this, I continually checked my form and made adjustments as needed. So, with everything checking out as OK, I pushed through and finished my intended run.
I know that had the weather been a little more ideal today, my first 12 mile barefoot run would have been something of a more upbeat story. Bad runs in warm weather is nothing new for me, and had this just been another run, I would have grumbled about it, cursed the heat and moved on, but instead, a milestone has been reached, which makes this a good run in the end.
There are 28 days left before my next marathon. I've been considering limiting my barefoot running in the two weeks of training before the marathon to get a few more miles in with the V5F Speeds, which I'll be running the marathon with. Before then, there'll be several more 10 mile barefoot runs and hopefully one more 12 mile run. After the marathon it'd be nice to get in at least one more barefoot 12 miler, but that well be dependent on the temperatures. Next spring I'll begin training to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon barefoot.