Continuing on from last week’s Wednesday run, I took the Vibrams FiveFingers out for another spin. One thing seems consistent: when I wear these shoes, it pisses rain. That aside, it was an interesting run.
This time, I tried running from the house. That means hard road and a hill to start with. Seemed easier than last week to run on the hard ground. Given that I’ve only done one short run in these shoes, there are clearly no physical changes in the legs or feet, nor much by way of change to running style. After all, I’ve been moving around on the planet for half a century or so in a certain way*, so changing they way I run could take a while. Or it may not happen at all.
This experiment could end tomorrow, or next week, or next month. If I start picking up injuries, I most likely won’t push on through and persevere with them. But we’ll see. I’m nothing if not stubborn to the point of self-destruction. Even if it does end as a running experiment, I will have learned something, and the shoes themselves will be invaluable when open water swimming, on the beach or anywhere that might involve being out and about in finer weather.
Once off the hard road and on to the dirt trails near the river, I was able to open up a little bit. I did the full length of this stretch and returned the same way. It is mostly enjoyable underfoot, and I say mostly, as there are a few devilish tree roots that lie in wait for an unsuspecting trail runner in Vibrams. And when you land square on one, right up into the arch, it certainly stops the mind from wandering.
So if it felt a little ‘easier’ today, it was certainly not the weather, nor experience, which as we know, can safely be categorised as ‘bugger-all’. I think it was more of a psychological thing… I just got the idea into my head that I was going out for a run, and not so much ‘trying out a new pair of shoes’, with a new running style.
Plus, the Wood Anemones have started to make an appearance. That seems quite early but it’s probably normal enough. It’s just the cold snap we’re in at the moment; seems like a rash time for flowers to stick their heads up over the parapet. Certainly March is living up to its reputation of coming in like a lion. Let’s hope it goes out like a lamb. Sooner rather than later!
Anyway, it’s good to have some eye candy when out running, though once clear of the woods, the rain really came down in sheets, so I cut the run short. All told about 4.5k at around 6:15 pace, though I note the Garmin watch is still struggling with the signal, and therefore route, from the house up the Avenue. And so the stats are going to be slightly out. But these runs are not about the time really.
I also started to appreciate the harder road running style which I will reluctantly call the FiveFinger Shuffle (and no, I wouldn’t recommend banging that one into your web browser. Not at work anyway.) All that really means is leaving minimal distance from sole to road with each step; just graze the surface. This reduces impact and also tends to shorten your step, and so up your cadence. But it is a shuffle. Not something to be done on trails, for sure. But one of the side effects of running barefoot or close to it is that you adjust your running style according to the surface you are running on.
Anyway, none of this is in any way scientific. I will try and run each week in the Vibrams and post my thoughts here. And to prove how unscientific this whole process is, I went and played an hour of five-a-side football on the all-weather pitches last week, a few hours after the run. And the plan is to do the same this week. Nothing (bar maybe getting beaten by a riot squad with rubber batons) does more damage to my limbs than footie with those guys on that pitch. So if I pick up injuries, I may not know what caused them.
And just for the hell (heel?) of it, I will sign off with a quote from Christopher McDougall, he of Born to Run book fame:
“But ultimately, the debate isn’t about Bare Soles vs. Shoes. It’s about learning to run gently. Master that, and you can wear — or not wear — anything you please.”
* According to my parents, my nickname as a baby was ‘shufflebum’. I can’t really say toddler, because apparently I wasn’t. A toddler, that is. I just got up and walked. But not before shuffling along on my arse for the first eighteen months. Or so they say. They are not renowned for bouts of familial cruelty, so I guess they are probably telling the truth. So I have been making up ever since…