Happy July everyone!
I know it’s summer because I’m starting to get questions and emails from budding barefoot runners about how to get started. Most people want specific tips and training plans, and a lot of questions around Vibram Five Fingers.
I thought I’d compile some general thoughts and tips to help out:
1. Buy a barefoot book.
I always point people to both Jason Robillard’s Barefoot Book and Ken Bob Saxton’s Barefoot Running Step by Step. Both of these are must-reads for anyone interested in taking up barefoot running. You will also get some valuable information about minimalist shoe running (including Vibrams), and these books say a lot more than what I can possibly cover in this post.
Jason is a barefoot ultra runner who recently finished a 100-mile race in under 24 hours. He’s a great blogger as well – informative and entertaining. I follow him closely as well as his fabulous wife Shelly. He knows his stuff. And best of all, he’s offering his book as a free ebook download HERE. Don’t miss out!
Ken Bob Saxton is like the Santa Claus of barefoot running. He’s some sort of peculiar mix of omniscience and kindness with a twinkle in his eye. He’s got a belly and a beard and his book will tell you if you’ve been bad or good. Everyone in the barefoot running community knows and loves Ken – he’s just as famous as Santa but more likely to respond to your Christmas letters.
2. Forget your goals.
Most people turn to barefoot running with a race goal in mind. Eg) “I want to run a barefoot marathon this fall.”
My advice? Ditch all measurable goals. They’re only going to frustrate and distract you in the beginning.
Come to terms and accept the fact that you might NOT run that race or reach those goals. That doesn’t mean that you won’t, it means that you’re ok if it doesn’t happen. Once you’ve accepted that, you may be surprised to find that you’re actually capable of much more than you had imagined.
3. Let your feet be your guide.
Have a training plan, but don’t marry it. Think of it more like your lover. You keep an eye on it and check in from time to time, but only if your feet are taken care of. If your feet say you can’t run the mileage on your training plan today, then don’t run it. And don’t freak out – you WILL run it another time. Everyone progresses at a different pace, but that doesn’t mean your pace will ALWAYS be slow. Which brings me to the next point…
4. Have patience.
Barefoot running has taught me so much about patience. And I’m not a patient person by nature. I’m very goal-oriented and I like to advance quickly.
The first barefoot pacer I ever had was Shacky at my first marathon, and that was also the first time I had ever run with another minimalist runner. Although we stuck to my planned pace, the shift in mood was significant. I was always GO GO GO!! But Shacky is so chill, sometimes it almost seems like he’s moving backwards. Yet the dude can kick my ass in any distance race, and when we sprint he leaves me in the dust. Sometimes going slower means you can move faster.
I’m lucky enough to have some superstar ultra running friends and when I watch their accomplishments I get all worked up and excited. I want to tag along so bad and sometimes I feel like the baby in the group – trying desperately to waddle along and keep up with the big kids. I know I’ll get there eventually when my damn stubby legs start growing. But in the meantime I get impatient with myself.
So I sing The Patience Song.
I was a kid when I first heard The Patience Song. And I sing it in my head sometimes on my long runs when I start to feel impatient with myself. I still have thoughts that creep up often about how much faster or longer I should be going, ignoring the fact that I’ve made some tremendous strides in a short amount of time.
The key to singing this song while running is to sing it REALLY slowly. And over and over and over. Like The Song that Doesn’t End.
Below is the lovely Miss Sallie with her version of The Patience Song. I hope you remember this the next time you’re out on a barefoot run wondering why your feet are such slow learners.
Don’t be in such a hurry
When you get
You only start to worry
That God is patient too
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you!
(Direct link HERE)
Remember – barefoot running is about the journey, not the destination. Take your time learning about your body and enjoy every blade of grass, every mud pit, every slab of hot sidewalk. You’re learning and exploring your limits. This is the journey of life. It doesn’t get any better than this.