Monday, 31 August 2009


Okay. So they're goofy looking. Who among us isn't, on any given day? That aside, the dang things work.

I've been exploring the whole running without running shoes for a while. Have experimented a little (one 4 mile run barefoot, followed by another of less length), and read a lot, plus listened to proponents blather on about the theory and practice. I waited a while to take the plunge, partly because I was somewhat skeptical about the amazing claims, and also because, if truth be told, I couldn't afford them earlier. For what they are they ain't cheap. Last week, however, I ponied up the $80.

My Vibram Five Fingers arrived this morning. They came right after I returned home from a 5 mile run around San Francisco's Treasure Island.

I had decided that I needed to get a run in whether or not the VFFs came today. Figured if they came early enough in the day I could go out again. They did. So I did.

My first run of the day was in my trusty Brooks Beasts. Love those shoes. They have never done anything to hurt me, which is something I can not say for the Asics Kayano 14s I experimented with earlier this summer. Someone asked me recently why I would consider going barefoot seeing that over the course of 28 marathons to date I have had practically no injuries. One of the big claims of the barefooting community is that the modern running shoe is to blame for up to 80% of all modern running injuries. They claim humans are basically running machines and that shoes just clog the works. Clearly my shoes have not hurt me...physically. My reason for looking into the shoeless thing is that if shoeless is a more efficient way of doing what I've already been doing fairly well, why wouldn't I at least check it out?

My run in shoes was pleasant enough, although nothing miraculous. My time was good. 5 miles in 55 minutes. Obviously, 11 minute miles. My VFF run felt very different, in a number of ways. I ran the same Treasure Island route that I ran in the morning. Did 5 miles in 55:53. 11:10 minute miles. Not sure if I was just that tad slower because of the lack of shoes, or just thet fact that it was my second run of the day and I was a little tired from the first.

What was different was the feeling I had that I was so much lighter on my feet. I didn't feel like I was working as hard during the second run as I had in the first. I also didn't check my watch as much during the shoeless run as I had during the first, hoping for my walk break. I ran through the walk breaks at least three times, during the barefoot run. I hardly ever miss a walk break when I'm running with shoes. I think, and this jury-of-one is still out on this, I didn't feel I needed the breaks as much, when running in the VFFs. That, duh!, could only mean one thing...faster times.

For those who may be a little skiddish about running with so little on your feet... I ran on a number of surfaces today in the 5 Fingers...ranging from grass, to a gravel-strewn dirt road, to some very rough blacktop and equally smooth concrete. I did feel the pebbles on the dirt road, but they did not hurt. If and when you try this out I believe you will be amazed at how quickly your feet respond to any surface or obstacle that may potentially hurt. They automatically recoil. The VFFs rubber sole does the rest.

My previous two runs without shoes were revelations. I knew then that barefoot was something that deserved serious consideration. However, my feet did hurt after both of those trial runs. The VFFs gave me the confidence to give it a real go this afternoon, reassured that there would be no injuries. It freed me up to "just run".

I've got the Rochester Marathon in less that two weeks. I will not be doing it in my VFFs. I think it's too soon for that. But I am fairly certain, barring any currently unforeseen setback, that I may be ready to take that leap for Santa Barbara International Marathon, the last in the 12 in 12 challenge, in December.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 23 August 2009


If you've been a regular visitor here you will no doubt know that I have been investigating the whole running barefoot thing for a few months. It really took off when I read the book Born to Run. Seemingly, the mounting evidence is indicating that modern running shoes are responsible for MOST modern running injuries. I've read a lot about it, and listened to any number of podcasts/interviews about it, but, up until today, I have been on the fence about taking the plunge. This morning, during my 10 miler along the Berkeley/Emeryville waterfront, I listened to episode #43 of the runnersroundtable podcast. It knocked me off my perch on the fence. This afternoon I purchased my Vibram 5 Fingers. I can not wait, now that I've taken the plunge, to hit the ground running in them. I still have questions, though. Time and experience will, hopefully, provide the answers.

Chief among those questions is...why have I not hurt more, while wearing shoes? I am three weeks away from my 29th marathon in just over 7 years...and my 10th since December 2008. I am 57 years old, and not blessed with the proverbial runner's body. However, I have only come close to a running injury once. The first time I ran CIM in Sacramento, in 2004, I experienced knitting-needle-thru-the-left-knee pains at mile 17. Wound up walking the rest of the way. Since then, I have committed myself more diligently to the Galloway run/walk method and have not even come close to another injury. All that time I was wearing shoes. Why didn't I experience more pain, additional injury? Not a bad "problem" to have, right?

My other wondering is about how much "better" I might get doing this distance running thing, if the claims that running sans shoes makes one's feet and legs and body and, maybe even, the mind, stronger. I've never been concerned about speed. Interested, rather, in doing the distance, finishing in a more joyful state of mind and body. We'll see, huh? My priorities just might adjust, presented with unforeseen possibilities.

Gotta run!

Sunday, 9 August 2009


You might think it would be safe to assume that I love to run. Afterall, I am obsessed with doing it, have nearly as many running clothes as regular clothes, and I actually enjoy the taste of Accelerade. However, in general, I do not "love" it. More often than not just getting out the door in my running togs is the end result of much mental grappling with the voices many runners battle. I estimate that those trying to convince me TO run win out about 60 percent of the time. 40 percent is not a bad record for those urging me to put it off "til tomorrow" but it is a number I'd like to trim.

This morning's run along the San Francisco waterfront was more an exception than the rule. I headed out fully intending to squeeze in an acceptable 6 miler. It turned in to 13. The reason was, without much reason, I was loving it! I could wax poetic about the beauty of the area, but I won't. Suffice it to say I was feeling good enough at mile 6 that I just didn't want it to end. It may have had something to do with the fact that, at mile 3 or so I took off my new non-blister-producing Brooks Beasts and ran a mile and a half barefoot in the wet grass. That was seriously refreshing.

I then continued westward, toward the fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, accompanied, via iPod, by the best of Paul Carrack and, via itself, the periodic blasting of the city's fog horn. It was surprising how many times the horn fit right in some gap in the Carrack songs.

My half marathon PR is 2:17, set years ago. I usually do that distance in 2:25-2:35. Today, it was 2:30. I'm okay with that, with just over 5 weeks til the Rochester Marathon. I polished off the morning with a cup of Peets Coffee and a piece of their shortbread. Turns out finishing at Peets was a good thing in another way. As soon as I stopped running I experienced the aura that signals the approach of a migraine. I usually get them when I'm really tired. This week I ran 33 miles, my most for a single week in 7 years of running. I'm on vacation, so I've had lots of free time. The caffiene-rich coffee went straight to my head and fended off the migraine. The shortbread was a bonus.

Gotta run!

Monday, 3 August 2009



I will admit, having run 9 of the 12 marathons I intend to this year, I have briefly entertained thoughts of calling it quits after December's Santa Barbara International. But I have also, so far, quieted those voices, and have started planning for marathon life after the 12 in 12.

Today, I got an added boost. After weeks of camping out in front of my mailbox, in anticipation of the arrival of my official "Big G" Goon Squad Runners singlet, my patience was rewarded this afternoon. I had been sent one before, but it was an "L". Despite the loss of numerous pounds over the past year and, literally thousands of pre-dawn situps, the L was a tad on the snug side. No, to be honest, it was more like a sausage casing than a piece of clothing. So much for thinking I'd become seriously skinny. The "XL" is way more the trick, although there is still some serious work to be done.

Now that the Big G is here, there is no way I could stop running. I may not even go back to running fewer than a marathon a month.

I am thrilled to be headed back east in September, for the Rochester Marathon, number 10 of the 12. It will be the first time I'll run in the Big G. I have been promised it imparts maGical powers. I will be meeting up, for the first time, with my friend Laura. I do believe there will be talk there, over brews and bbq, of a possible destination marathon effort in 2010, with our friend, Karoline, who lives in Trieste. (Poor thing! Someone's got to live there, though.) Not sure K knows anything about this yet. But, hopefully, after Laura and I set personal bests on the Rochester course, we'll set something even more exciting into motion.

I am already scheduled to run Europe's Marathon in Trieste AND the Prague Marathon in May of next year, despite those moments of weakness when I considered cutting back. K knows about those, as I'll be running at least one of them with her. Hoping she may even want to try Prague, too.

After next month's Rochester race, I have the Silicon Valley Marathon in San Jose (California, not Costa Rica, sadly!) and then Santa Barbara. After that, the world is my oyster.
Here's some of what I'm thinking about.
How about Sydney, in September 2010? After all, if I had to choose one food item to eat for the rest of my life it would surely be shrimp. Big ol' shrimp off the Barbie, after running 26.2 miles through Australia's capital city? What could be better? HA! You thought you caught me in a mistake, right? I know Sydney's not the capital. I was just joshin' ya, mate! The only problem I have with the Down Under idea is the plane flight. Unless I can score First Class, that much time in the air can be killer.

Then there's Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2010. As I will never run LIKE a Kenyan, perhaps I can run (for ever such a brief moment) NEXT to one. I can't even wrap my head around what it must feel like to wake up in the Kenyan capital on race day morning. I'm guessing it would be nothing short of stunning. I have a pretty good idea what it would feel like to wake up the following morning, having done 26.2 miles in east Africa. About the same as it feels having done the distance anywhere else. Hurting.

While those choices are certainly numbers 2 and 3 on my short list, my current number 1 is Reykjavik, Iceland, in August. In my mind, this is surely one of those corners of the world that, once one's gone into it, one may not ever want to come out of. (Poor grammar, I know. Deal with it.) From what I've been able to glean so far, it's mind-blowing scenery, food, drink and people. The event also takes place the same weekend as Reykjavik Culture Night, which features a midnight fireworks display that is not to be missed. Then, there's the thermal pools after the run. (I know, I know, ice baths, blah, blah, blah.) Give me a beer and a hot tub every time.

Not sure if any one of these dreams will ever come true, but it's sure fun having them. I love sharing these kind of hopes with other people. Hoping Laura and Kari are down, too. Would also love to hear from anyone else who may consider joining in on the fun. The world is full of way cool stuff to be done...and, after all, we're marathoners. We can.

Gotta run!