Wednesday 22 September 2021

Photo of the day - 22: Trying to master barefoot running so I can do SwimRun


I went out for a run today - just my standard 5km trot around my local parks in Crystal Palace. I enjoy running; it's something I've always done since as far back as I can remember. In fact, I consider myself to be more of a runner than a cyclist because it is the sport I did first, and it is the one sport I have done competitively since I was a child. 

I have done all sorts of running races in my time - from sprinting in my teens, through middle and long distance races including marathons, as an adult. It was a bumper 12 months in 2018-2019 when I did Beachy Head, Paris and New York marathons all within that time. 

I haven't done a marathon since, or even a half marathon this year. That is a turn-up for the books for me. The main reason has been because I took up a new kind of race called SwimRun, this year. Basically, it's like an aquathlon, but where an aquathlon is swim once change into running shoes and then run once, SwimRun is run swim, run swim, run swim, run swim and you keep repeating that however many times required depending on the race. It's about trying to get from one point to another across a body, or bodies of water. Apparently the sport began in Sweden when a group of guys, after a night out, had a bet to see who would be first to get across a group of islands surrounding Stockholm.

The novelty of SwimRun is that you keep the same gear on throughout the activity. So you run in your wetsuit, and you swim with your shoes on. Yes, you heard correctly. Regular competitors have a specific SwimRun wetsuit that gives the flexibility to run in it, and they wear lightweight trail shoes or minimalist running shoes that don't weigh your legs down when swimming, and drain the water off when running. 

I invested in a pair of Vivobarefoot ESC Tempest shoes, specially for SwimRun and they're great. However, my problem is that I normally wear orthotic soles in my shoes when running. I need them in order to have the correct gait, and avoid running injuries. The problem is that if I wore them in the water they would be ruined. I did check with podiatrists to see if there is such a thing as waterproof orthotics but apparently that doesn't exist. 

So the only thing for it is for me to learn to run again without orthotics. So I am trying to do barefoot running. I don't actually run in bare feet. but I wear the Vivobarefoot minimalist running shoes. To master this new way of running though, I need to keep my usual running to a minimum so that my muscles don't get confused about which way they should be used. 

At the moment I have got up to running 2km in this new way style. So I am very much a beginner. That means for now, I can't run very far - which is a bit of a pain. Well, actually it's not - but it would be if I did run far! 

A couple of times a week I do indulge though, and allow myself to put on my usual Mizuno Ghost running shoes with my orthotics and break out to do 5 or even 6km. Realistically, it could be another six months before I am able to run that distance with minimalist running shoes. So for now, I will have to make the most of my local jaunts around the park.

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