Follow the roller bladers

Blog entry posted by nisto, May 21, 2012.

Barefoot running has always meant slow running for me, sometimes close to walking. 7 min/km, 8 min/km, trotting along, occcasionally stopping to wait for my running partner (shod, but slowly understanding that I might have a point in being barefoot) or to get pebbles from my soles. There is always a pebble, isn't there? Or I walk just to save my soles and enjoy my run longer.

Some days ago, it all changed. Usually I run in parks or forest paths or even forest roads. Pebbles and root, roots and pebbles. I want to make my feet tougher and to teach myself to run with a better form and more efficiently, and that's what rough paths will teach you, I can feel it, the worse the ground, the softer my landing. This day, though, it was getting late, it was getting dark, and I decided I should try a different park, without trees, with nothing but grass and people on rollerblades.

My wife runs on the grass in that park, you see, she's afraid of the dark trees in the other park.

I got there, parked the car, and turned on the training apps on my phone. Yet another day of slow slow running, but that's ok, I am still a barefoot novice -- and it's a lot better for my ego to run slowly barefoot than run slowly in shoes... A couple of kilometers on the grass, that should be enough. Running on the rollerblade path is too dangerous, it's always full of people going too fast for their own safety. Or my safety.

But on the path, there are almost no-one. Is it too dark for going rollerblading now? Too late? I see a couple, and then another, and then the entire path is empty hundred meters one way and two hundred meters the other way.

Running on grass is good. But I might as well try the asphalt. My first half marathon (fingers crossed) will be on asphalt. So I try the asphalt.

I can hear another runner, thump thump, behind me on my right. She (or he?) is running on the gravel path with big shoes, I can hear them, I can hear hear breathing. I speed up. My feet make almost no sound, my breath is calm and quiet, it's just the pitter patter of skin on asphalt. I expect pebbles, but I feel none. I speed up again. My feet are bouncing, it might be an illusion but I can feel the spring in my legs, sense how I should move to get energy back in every step. The other runner is still behind me. I settle in this speed. I can run faster, I can run slower, but somehow this is my speed, this is my cadence, I just follow my own body. And it's faster than I am used to.

I run down the small hill and back up again. The effort changes, the lean changes a bit, the cadence as well, but the speed feels about the same.

The other runner turns right where continue straight ahead. A woman. Thump thump.

Sometimes I have to get away from the path to make room for rollerbladers. I jump onto the grass. It is surprisingly uneven, but I keep up my speed. My legs and feet are making small adjustments all the time; my upper body is surprisingly calm. Jumping back onto the path. No pebbles. No pebbles whatsoever. Mental note to self: where there have been many rollerblades, there are very few pebbles. You can just run.

After 6 km my feet are sore in new places, between my toes and the ball of my feet, I have never run this fast barefoot, they're not used to this kind of running. I look at my training app and find I held a near constant speed around 5:20 min/km. Not exactly super fast, but definitely a step up from where I have been so far. It feels good. Thank you, rollerbladers.

Yesterday I ran 9 km in my normal park, on grass and gravel and over roots, on forest roads and windings forest paths -- and I discovered that running faster (ie around 5:30 min/km) is possible even over rougher surfaces, and that it doesn't have to be more painful to run faster.

Next steep of barefooting, then: training your lungs more than your feet.

One step closer to half marathon.