Barefoot Running Inspiration

Posted: September 3, 2011 in barefoot, Fitness, Health, Inspiration, Life, Nutrition, Running, Society
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today I’d like to discuss someone who has been very influential in my barefoot running journey. To me, he has been my very own personal Ken Bob. He’s been to me what Barefoot Ted, MapleGrove Barefoot Guy, Ken Bob, and all those others who are regarded in the upper echelon of barefooting are for so many others. He provides me with pearls of wisdom, running technique tweaks, and just a generally upbeat outlook on life. I’m talking about Alan Thwaits. I’ve been a follower of his blog since I started barefoot running and his writing style, as well as, personal charisma are two of the biggest reasons that I continued to read his writing. When I started to run barefoot, his site was the first I frequented for advice, and I keep in almost weekly contact with him. He’s improved my form without having ever seen me and he’s done it from an entirely different country. When I’m having a particularly rough few days with my running, reading his posts always seems to make me realize that running shouldn’t be frustrating. It should be fun. The minute it quits becoming fun is the minute you turn around to head home for the evening. I’ve asked him to write a guest blog post, and he has obliged. So, sit back, and learn from someone who, in my opinion should be included in the upper echelon of barefoot running,  has successfully transitioned from shod to barefoot running, and has done so with more obstacles in his way than most, and remained entirely humble and true to himself while doing so.

Onto his post:

An Experiment of One
by Alan Thwaits

The simple things in life are often the best things. A sunrise, a
meal, a quiet break in the middle of a busy day, things like
that. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be simple.

I don’t mean that in a frivolous sense. It’s just that we human beings
are complex creatures, and our modern world is also complex. That
means that getting back to the simple ways can involve a lot of time,
effort, and patience.

Take barefoot running. You’d think it would be a simple matter to run
the way we did as children, the way human beings have done for tens of
thousands of years. Lose the shoes, free the feet, just get down to
running easily and naturally. But we’ve come a long way in those tens
of thousands of years, and we have to learn to do it all over again.
The good news is that it’s worth it.

I’m now in my third year of running barefoot. I train and race
barefoot – only barefoot and all the time barefoot. I run six or seven
days a week. I “run commute” to and from my office. I do longer runs
(up to 25K) on Wednesdays and Sundays. Except for the occasional
blister (in late winter/early spring, when I return to running outside
after surviving another Canadian winter) and a few small puncture
wounds, I’ve been entirely injury-free. It’s been a wonderful adventure, and it’s
only just begun.

I was a shod runner before I was a barefoot runner. I did a couple of
10Ks and a couple of marathons in 1980 and 1981. But that was a
lifetime ago. “Running career #1” ended when life (job, family,
travel) got in the way. I didn’t return to runnng for another 30

The first race of my “running career #2” was an 8K in Toronto in April
of 2008. It was a fund-raiser for prostate cancer research, which was
appropriate, as I’m a two-time prostate cancer survivor. Although I’d
only been running for four months at the time – and not running very
much, to tell the truth – it seemed like a good idea. There was the
cancer angle, of course, but it was also about getting back to running
after breaking my hip in May of 2005 and the 14 months of
physiotherapy that followed my surgery. In that race I was slow, and I
was in a world of hurt for days afterwards. But I had fun. I was
hooked (again) on running. So I went on to run some more races. Some
10Ks, a couple of half marathons, a marathon, and a 50K ultra. I ran
all of them in traditional running shoes.

Then I became a real runner. I discovered barefoot running.

My first barefoot run, on June 10, 2009, was only 0.6K, but it was the
nudge that got me going. It was early in the morning, with the streets
still wet from an overnight rain, and my suburban neighbourhood was
absolutely quiet. That morning, I was scheduled to run, but I just
didn’t feel like it. I was stale and I was tired. I’d been reading
about barefoot running for a while, though, so decided that I’d give
it a try.

It felt better – much better – than I expected. So I just kept on going.

Now, I’m a much better runner by far for being barefoot. I run
barefoot from about mid-March to mid-November. (This is Canada, after
all, where the snow, ice, and cold can be downright nasty.) I run
barefoot on my treadmill in the dark winter months, and do occasional
cold-weather runs in Invisble Shoe huaraches and Injinji socks, as
long as the sidewalks are clear. To date, I’ve run three 10K races and
a half marathon barefoot, and have another half marathon coming up.
Next year, I plan to do a couple of half marathons, a few 10Ks, and a
full marathon – all barefoot. The farthest I’ve run barefoot is 35K
(at a 50K ultra in 2010). I’ve found that running in as minimalist
style as possible works best for me – just singlet and shorts, no
shoes, no watch, only a hand-held water bottle for longer runs. Less
is very definitely more for me.

I’m an “experiment of one.” At times in my barefoot journey, it seemed
like I was going three steps forward and one – or even two – steps
back. But the journey was always interesting and always worthwhile. So
I kept refining and improving my form. I read as much as I could about
bareoot running, studied a lot of scientific research about it, and
watched countless videos of good barefoot runners doing their stuff.
It was great fun playing with changes in my form, my cadence, or my
posture. Sometimes I pushed my limits. Sometimes I had to accept new
truths about myself. Over time, barefoot running has helped me
understand myself at new and deeper levels.

And it’s all paid off. I’m happy. I’m fit. I run a lot.

It’s simple really. You just have to work hard at running barefoot,
and, one day, everything will simply and gloriously fall into place.

  1. […] have the honour of guest posting on Aaron T’s Barefoot Puffin blog […]

  2. […] inspiration in barefoot running) had a different transition as well. He also posted a guest post *here* on this very blog about his transition. The point that I’m trying to make is that our body […]

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