To the beat of 6500 heel strikers I set out to prove to myself that I am a natural runner. It was the Nike Run Prague 2011 on Sept 3rd and another beautiful summer day with well above 25’C under a clear blue sky.
It’s a bit ironic that I picked a run organized by the company that changed running to the worse by introducing the cushioned wedge back in 1972. But hey, I’ve been there myself. Pronation shoe, supination shoe, shoe for heavy people, shoe for racing, shoe for trail running, shoe with air, shoe with gel. That’s a lot of shoes to sell! While the Kenyans kept running like humans were designed to and win every race!
As you know from previous posts I have had a very long transition from the modern running shoe and heel strike to natural running with a forefoot strike. In short, I started out with Vibram Five fingers back on 2009, shifted to modern racing shoes (Saucony A-grid) pretty soon as I my calves couldn’t take the beating. Realized that I was practicing too much of forefoot landing on too long strides, learned “heel to butt” and “let the heel kiss the ground” and 2 months ago bought myself a pair of Vivobarefoot UIltras to get one step closer to true barefoot running. Those Ultras…
It’s a great shoe, the Vivobarefoot Ultra, but as you can see from my previous post in this series I had two concerns. On the 4k of the race my second concern turned true, the rubber sole tore and my left shoe started taking in sand and gravel. Unpleasant! I’ve only had them for two months but to be fair to the Vivobarefoot team at Terra Plana, I’ve used them daily on asphalt. Maybe the rubber sole is not intended for such use but rather forest trails. Anyway, I guess holes in your “barefoot shoes” is how you transition to true barefoot running!
Walking around the starting area outside Zluta Lazne before the race among the thousands in the mandatory white race shirt I didn’t see any other natural/barefoot runners but got plenty of stares and whispers about my choice of running shoes. Judging from the what the runners wore that day it looks like the sales staff over at the Nike tent had a very well honed pitch on the Nike Free, Nike’s reponse to the natural running craze. I still haven’t understood how Nike spins the story of natural running shoe with a 2 cm foam wedge but I am pretty sure Mammon plays a part. 😉
Count down and off we went like a white trail of lemmings along the river bank of Vltava towards Prague Castle. In the Vysherad tunnel the beat of the heel strikers were deafening and then we turned down on the quay taking us to Manes, onwards past Charles bridge and then turning right up across OId town Square. Around there hte sole of my left shoe tore and during the rest of the run I could feel the blisters building up from the sand and gravel have fun inside the shoe. At round 7k I saw the first people collapsing and between the 8th and 10th kilometer there were too many laying along the side of the road for the medical staff to attend to so they race staff were shouting out first aid instructions to runners and spectators in megafons while directing the ambulances to the fallen heros and heroines along the way.
Coming back down to the river I knew I was behind on my planned pace of five min per kilometer but the heat and the torn shoe stopped my from picking up the pace and I settled with just pushing through at my current pace and finished just short of 54 min. Only 22 min behind the winner!
Maintaining good form
Ok, poor time but I didn’t set out to PR on 10k but to test my natural running technique. The first 5-6k were fine, I had good form without thinking, full of energy I maintained high knees through active lifts of heel towards butt. Getting tired I started to lose form and from there on I had to concentrate to maintain good technique. When I got distracted, and there were plenty of distractions along the way ;-), I lost form starting to drag my feet but realizing that I had enough energy through the run to clean it up and continue with anywhere from good to decent form. After the run I had plenty of water, stretched properly and realised that I felt ok. Far from the extruciating pain in the calves after my first natural running attempt two years earlier. Some more stretching back home after the race and the day after of the race I felt fresh, only a slight soreness in the hamstrings, which I take as a recipt for an active pull.
As for my continued running, I still have lot to work on and I want to build up to maintaining 5 min per kilometer for 10k without having to think about maintaining form but I consider this mission accomplished. I dare to call myself a natural runner.
I need new natural running shoes. Shall I go for another pair of Ultras or test one of the many other new brands? The Ultras have been great but it’ll be expensive if I use up six pairs a year. I wish the Vivobarefoot team could develop a model with weaved reinforcement on the forefoot and possible look into using more durable rubber. I wouldn’t mind if the shoe got a little firmer. Or… any other shoe out there you can recommend?