Thursday, 10 May 2012

My first 100% barefoot run

Since I had to take Negrita out for a walk tonight anyway, I thought I would try some true barefoot running with her in Irchelpark.  There is a path that borders the park, which is made up of wood chips.  The Swiss call it a Finnenbahn and there are plenty of them scattered throughout Switzerland.  It is intended for use by runners/walkers who want a softer surface to run/walk on.  A perfect place I thought to try going completely barefoot.

I wore my Newton running shoes to get to the park and back, as I didn't want to risk stepping on a small piece of glass on the way to the park or on the way home.  On the Finnenbahn itself, there is much less likely to be glass, as generally people respect it's purpose and leave it clear of litter.

Once I got to the park I took off my shoes and socks and set off on the Finnenbahn.  Although the surface is soft on the knees, it is not that soft on the feet.  The wood chips lie at various angles and if you step on one that is lying on its side it can be a little sharp.  I was also a bit concerned about getting a splinter in my foot.

I focussed on my technique, trying to step as lightly as possible with lots of little steps.  Like this it was a little uncomfortable on my feet at times, but not painful like it may have been otherwise.  The Finnenbahn is not continuous the whole way round the park and is sometimes necessary to traverse gravel and stone to get to the next section.  I certainly noticed the difference running on gravel compared to running on the wood chips.  On the gravel it was hard to run properly at all, and it was almost like walking on hot coals (kind of like ouch, ouch, ouch).

Part of the Finnenbahn was muddy due to the recent rainfall and this was by far the most interesting section to run on.  It was beautifully soft and the feeling of mud squelching between my toes was just glorious.  I would have been happy to run on that surface all day long, and barefoot wins hands down over shoes when it is as soft as that.  I did around one and a half laps of the Finnenbahn, doubling back towards the end in order to avoid traversing the large gravel section for a second time (once was enough).

After finishing my barefoot run I put my shoes and socks back on and headed home.  Negrita was alone in the apartment all day today, so she was bursting with energy, and I thought it would be nice to really push the pace on the way back to the apartment and let her burn off some of that pent up energy.  According to my Garmin our fastest pace was 3:07 min/km, which is pretty fast, although it was downhill.  When we arrived back at the apartment we were both gasping for breath but her little tail was wagging and I felt pretty good too.

It only took just over 25 minutes to run from the apartment to the park, do a lap and a bit and then return home, so it is something I can easily do again another night.  Hopefully doing this maybe once a week or so over an extended period of time, my feet will become extremely tough and strong.  I am going to need strong, tough feet for the Ticino trail in August.

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