The decision to race barefoot or not...

Blog entry posted by Last Place Jason, Aug 15, 2010.

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run." -Kenny
Yesterday, I ran the Fallsburg marathon barefoot. It was not as barefoot-friendly as I remembered from last year. The first section of gravel elicited an internal debate about barefoot running. It was the exact same discussion I had during the especially harsh section of Burning River... why do I keep doing this? Just like Burning River, I feel I could have done much better in this race had I worn some type of shoe. The gravel forced me to slow my pace considerably. It took a toll on my feet, which translated into a less-than-enjoyable experience once I got to smoother trails.For years, I've run barefoot in conditions that were not barefoot-friendly. That includes gnarly gravel. It includes sub-freezing temperatures. It includes hot asphalt. It includes chip-and-seal asphalt. It even includes broken glass. You name it, I've probably tried running on it barefoot.Why did I do it? I wanted to push my own limits. I wanted to find out what I could tolerate. Also, I wanted to hone my technique. Nothing builds skills like rugged, pain-inducing terrain.There was also part of me that wanted to prove that you can run barefoot pretty much anywhere. You don't need shoes... they're just a useful tool to be utilized in some situations.After doing this for a number of years, I've learned my limits. I'm now faced with the dilemma of wanting to test my limits of speed and endurance, but I'm being held back by my insistence on foregoing shoes.I still love running barefoot... when conditions are favorable. The issue arises when conditions are not favorable. I think I am going to start using my stable of minimalist shoes for more than just workshop props. I think I am going to start using them for racing when being barefoot is a known liability. In almost all cases, huaraches will be my preferred shoe. I may break out my EVOs or KSOs, and I may even pick up a pair of Treks. I may even consider one of the new shoes the bigger manufacturers are producing. The rule- use the most minimal shoe for the job.I will still test my limits... I'm stubborn like that. I will reserve my "testing my limits" runs to training. This realization is both personally disappointing yet liberating. I'm sure I will have to say on this matter in the future.For now, I must make a decision. I will be running the North Country trail 50 miler in two weeks. Fallsburg was humbling. My body was not ready for a marathon two weeks after a 100. NCT will be tough. Even with two full weeks of rest and recovery, I doubt I will be at a physical peak. I was planning on running barefoot. I know the course... it is much more barefoot-friendly than both Burning River and Fallsburg. Still, huaraches may improve my finishing time. What to do, what to do...