First appeared on 5th December 2016 at

Last week was filled with difficult runs. They just seemed like a lot of work and it was coming in the way of my everyday life. Yoga classes were rigorous and I was sore again for a couple of days. Standing poses can do that no matter how much time passes. Yesterday was long run day and it brought some blogging thoughts to the surface.

Any discipline like the performing arts, yoga, sports etc. has a long gestation period of practice. It usually means a few hours everyday over a long period of time before the fruits of labour show. The training is monotonous, laborious and almost fanatical about method. Once the technique gets imprinted, the last leg of training is usually very rapid. Running is like that too.

It begins with the cliched first step. It is possible to ramp up and run crazy distances and at devilish speeds in a short time for some. However, for a great many people who come to the sport later in life or with chronic conditions, it may not be such a wise idea. It’s just a personal opinion based on my experience and that of some of the runners I know. This whole barefoot running adventure is nearing a year now. Not much distance covered in terms of mileage but a great deal in understanding myself, on and off the road. Switching to barefoot from scratch after running for a while helped to see the entire process unfold.

Walking was the way to go for the first few weeks and after that I ran by time and not distance. The runs progressed from 20 minutes to 40 minutes very gradually. There were a few setbacks and I quickly learned what worked for me and what didn’t. The ground is a very efficient teacher for barefoot runners.

Over a few months, it transitioned to running by distance but it was still in the 5-6k range for a long time. During this period, I also mixed up the surfaces I ran on. It helped develop stronger and healthier feet, quick to respond to changes in surface. Terrible roads, mud, stones and sand actually worked well in making the soles all weather ones.

Some of the discomforts were a sense of heat in my soles post run. It stopped happening when I lifted my feet instead of springing off them. It also happened when I wiped the soles on the ground while running to dislodge gravel or dust. So, now I just wipe them on the top of my other foot. Early on, the achilles tendon would feel inflammed. That was sorted by some stretches.  Now, they don’t occur even if I don’t stretch. I guess they have become a little elastic, perhaps? That would be yoga. I also stepped on something which kept me off running for a couple of weeks. The latest was a small thorn that I pulled out 500m into my run yesterday. Luckily there was a chemist right there so I cleaned it, taped it and ran on.

It’s only in the last two or three months that I slowly increased my distances. No plan really. Just an increase from the last longest run. And sometimes just shorter long runs. Perhaps, this freedom to run as it felt right was what made it possible to transition completely to barefoot without stress or strain. It kept my life in balance even as the pace of everyday picked up.

In the ten odd months, it took to get here, I learned that it begins with just moving, then moving a little longer followed by moving further and then moving effortlessly. The effortless bit is still a long way off. The trick lies in chipping away at inefficient movements until I can come to a single fluid motion. That is akin to practising the scales until the music flows out from the musician. I suppose fast will automatically happen as a by-product.

In the meanwhile, I do hope I can run the half on Sunday. There was a freak incident 4 days ago where a coconut fell on my toe! It was all ok until after yesterday’s run when it got a little swollen. Taped it all day today and it seems a bit better or maybe I just want it to be. My colleagues freaked me enough to fix an appointment with the doc tomorrow though. In my head, I am already running the half so meeting him is just to find a way around the tubby toe. Let’s see what the morning brings…

A special thank you to mawil for a great post that fed this one.