Halcyon

I had just taken my shoes of and was now running barefoot on a narrow trail through a forest in Saaremaa, an island outside the west coast of Estonia. I was seriously lacking my motivation points at the beginning of the run, but now – I was feeling great.

Increasing my cadence, suddenly I felt light and as if my legs effortlessly was carrying me forrward. A sounds caught my ear that wasn’t coming from any inhabitant of the forest – but from a human. As I was running, the sound came closer and closer.

Then I could make out what it was. An engine of some sort – a chainsaw I though. I hit a crossroad and my curiosity steered my towards the origin of the sound. Through the trees I could see a man wearing an orange helmet – working a brushcutter in the distance. As I watched him, he suddenly stopped his power tool and I walked towards him.

Just then, a heavy roar of thunder came from above. I greeted him in Estonian, then switching to English, asking him what he was doing. He answered me in fluent English that he was clearing the grass under an electric fence, because the grass would work as a ground when wet – disturbing the electric wire.

On the other side of the fence roamed fifteen Highland Cattle in an forested area – so big that he hadn’t seen any of them on his two kilometre walk inside their pen. He was from Finland, working in Saaremaa. And he had about two more kilometres of grass to cut that day. Leaving him to his work, I shook his hand and said goodbye.

I approached the beach of Triigi , which was my turn-around point, when the sky really opened up above me. The sea lay completely clear before me. It was only disturbed by the thousands of rain-droplets and some blows of wind that was gently stroking the surface. It looked like and endless, flat desert of water with the rain bouncing of its surface. The eastern wind moved a bank of clouds across the ocean, covering the horizon in a haze of low rain clouds.

After dipping my toes in the sea I turned around, heading for home. It was as if I was running through a shower, the water soaking my clothes almost instantly. I took my shirt of several times on the way home, squeezing the water from it to keep me from getting to cold. Running home was a play with nature. Pulling my feet through puddles of water and landing them in thick mud that massaged my bare soles.

I stopped for milk and eggs at the local grocery-store and the cashier-lady just smiled when I handed her the soaking five-Euro note that I had carried in my pocket.

Running log #20052013

I did a 4 kilometres barefoot run in the morning. Encountered a swan who wouldn’t let us pass. When I approached it with lifted arms to try to scare it off it just hizzed and lifted its wings in return. We chose a detour through the nettles.

In the afternoon I went out for a long run which turned out to be 18 kilometres whereof 13 where done barefoot. I experimented with chalk to keep my feet from cracking. It worked well.

At kilometre 13 my soles where quite tender and I was glad to have packed my Fivefingers in my rucksack. It was a great comeback and the runs were great.

Why am I going barefoot?

I was inspired to take up barefoot running because it seemed so exciting to me that actually wearing less protection on my feet could not only work, but make me a better runner. Could I really do without my expensive and uncomfortable running shoes?

One of the main arguments for barefoot running that I read was that humans, just like many other animals have been dependent on running for most of their existence. This seemed very reasonable to me.

The advocates spoke about lesser chance of injuries and increased endurance because leaving your shoes at home forces the runner to change his or her form becoming more gentle on the body, and at the same time gaining more efficiency.

It started out with minimalistic shoes but after a while I was tempted to try without them and I have by now found enough evidence in my results to believe that tossing the shoes can work for me long term.

Even though the logical reasons above may sound good enough, they are but only a fraction in comparison with the emotional reasons I have for running barefoot.

It’s like I have gained an extra sense. When I’m running on a dirt trail I can feel the grains of sands under my feet and sense the slightest difference in moisture, which will help cool my feet on a hot summer day, or make them numb if it’s winter.

It’s leaving my iPod in the drawer and opening up my other senses for my surroundings. Instead of listening to music I can hear the birds chirping in the trees above me, be focused on scanning the ground in front of me for obstacles and trying to determine the best path to follow.

It’s getting outdoors, exploring my surroundings, finding out what lies beyond those hills. But also challenging myself. I think it’s awesome to be able to move my body long distances, unsupported and unprotected, only fueled by the food I consume.

Realizing that I’m vulnerable to the environment. Due to a split second mistake I can instantly hurt myself on a stone or a piece of broken glass, stopping me in my tracks.

So for me it’s both a logical and an emotional path, even spiritual for that matter (although I have trouble defining this for myself).

Try it out for yourself! Don’t just read what I’m writing. If you have the slightest interest in becoming more barefoot in your life then I suggest you try it out for yourself.

Now!

First long run on asphalt

Yesterday came with a lot of insight, emotion and my eyes where somewhat opened to the possibilities for me to run barefoot.

Peeking out the kitchen window in the afternoon, the signs of spring where calling me to leave the house.  I grabbed my Vibram Fivefingers for backup and stuck a water bottle down my pants.

I did a couple of push-ups outside the house and then I shot away. I felt light and completely free. At first I thought I would run around the neighbourhood and just toughen up my soles a little bit.

But it didn’t take long before my plans grew in size. I wanted to go far. So I ran west and sat my sights on the road to leading to Bjärred.

I was passing farms with horses and fields with scarecrows. Everything felt good. Straight posture. Arms high. High cadence. Bent knees. Little bobbing. No shortness of breath.

After I while my right calf started acting up a bit, feeling like a part of the muscles was tight and not very flexible. I mended this with stretch pauses and walking. The feeling went away shortly.

I reached my turning point (between old Bjärred and Haboljung). I have never liked the idea of turning around, running the same stretch again. So I continued south, towards Lomma.

My mood was high and I pulled my earplugs out every now and then just to say “Hi!” to the people I was passing in the street. After passing Lomma my mood darkened. This was due to an extensive use of pebbles and salt on the cycling path towards Lund. I was now swearing loudly because I couldn’t continue in the way I wanted to. Instead of putting my Fives on I decided to switch to the grass next to the path. I mean, it looked all nice and soft. Might even be nice for a change. Big mistake!

sad-sole

14 kilometres of asphalt went smooth as baby skin. 5 meters of grass and I was bleeding. I had taken a small leap (stupidly) and impaled my foot on a particularly hard piece of grass. Leaving the sole of my foot punctured and bloody.

Well this was inconvenient, I thought. Now it seamed like a good idea to put my Fives on. So I did. Then I ran towards the intersecting road up ahead where a car was waiting to pull out. I knocked on the window of the car and asked the driver if he could take me back to Lund. “Get in!” – he said.

The guy turned out to be a former runner, and was much interested in my footwear. I told him a was going barefoot and our conversation drifted in to the structures of the foot (the guy was a doctor) and what running style was the better for the body.

He dropped me off on the side of the highway in the north-west of Lund and I ran home. Not feeling my injury at all (the pain came later though).

This was one of the best runs I’ve had in a long time (In spite of me injuring myself).

This adventure left me wanting more. Suddenly barefoot running seams more limited by my endurance than the toughness of my soles.

The horizon is the limit.