Not so fast and other benefits
As you may recall, one of my goals in starting down the BR path was to increase my speed. In running shoes, I felt that I had reached a plateau of sorts and was having a very difficult time reaching faster speeds and better times over longer distances. I imagine with some pro coaching I might have been able to reach that next level but as an amateur recreational runner that just wasn’t a practical solution in my view.
Without shoes I hoped to increase speed, distance, and fun in running while reducing impact and injuries to my joints and muscles.
I can accurately report that I have quadrupled my fun. I’ve have been completely surprised by just how much fun I can have running barefoot down the street or through the woods! It’s incredible to me actually. That may be in part to how frustrated I was with my performance in shoes but I also think that it’s just plain more fun to run this way. Feeling the ground in such a new way is exciting and different. Interacting with the terrain in a much more conscious way also adds to the feeling of actively being involved in running rather than just a passenger along for the workout while my shoes pound out the miles.
In my shoes, I could “space out” and just go along for the ride sometimes while clearing my head of the stress of that day. Without shoes, I can’t check out of what’s happening around me, I will injure myself ( probably badly) if I’m not paying attention. What I do find is that by focusing on what my feet are feeling, where to step next, what’s up the trail, placing my feet under me, and all the little nuances that my mind is extremely occupied and that in turn pushes all of the same daily stress away. I get the same stress relief only its magnified by the concentration I’m putting forth. It’s not a hard effort ( I’m not thinking hard – trust me!) but it is a conscious effort to think about what is going on around me and that results in the same stress relief and relaxation that I was looking for in my daily shod runs.
The other half is definately the uniqueness / craziness of running without those shoes – its fun to see some of the looks, and answer the questions (very important to do this IMO) as I lumber down the street with my toes getting some sun. Being able to show people that anyone can do this with a little practice and lots of patience is rewarding, and fun.
So yes, I’m still a little frustrated that my speed and my distances are not where I hoped to be at this stage. I’m a little bummed that I have a few nagging injuries that hold me back some days. But I also understand that if I push through those problems it will result in even bigger problems and the dreaded TMTS. I know that it’s only a matter of time before I’m able to run pell-mell through the forest with a huge grin on my face and my toes seeking the light and shadows on the trail.
Until then, I’ll keep plugging along, building muscles, endurance, strength, form, and all those things. What I have achieved though is I’ve found the fun in running again.