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Barefoot 2011 Melon Run

  • Wednesday, July 06 2011 @ 11:40 PM UTC
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Running and Fitness

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Even though the 4th of July festivities and fireworks were cancelled due to funding issues here in Gainesville, FL, another Independence Day tradition is still going strong. The 33rd Annual Melon Run (3-miler) is a Florida Track Club event that took place at Albert Ray Massey Westside Park on Monday. The race course is mostly sidewalk and streets, with a half-mile of greenway boardwalk and dirt trail.

I raced barefoot. This was my first barefoot race on (mostly) paved surfaces. Last year I ran the John Holmes 16 mile trail run barefoot but I have not been confident enough to race barefoot on paved surfaces until recently.

I'm still in the "resting" phase of my training after having an entire year of running under my belt. My legs have been telling me that they need a recovery break. Since I knew I wouldn't be racing all-out I decided to run the race barefoot and wear a goofy hat (thanks to my wife for acquiring the appropriate festive holiday attire). My main goal was to run fast but stay within the limits of my bare feet, not pushing so hard that I got blisters, focusing on form and technique. After the race I only had a few hot spots, so I feel like I accomplished my goal.

Here is a picture at the start where I am still wearing the hat:

[Photo copyright: Martin McCrory Photography]

[Photo copyright: Martin McCrory Photography]

The hat only stayed on for about 20 meters. I was wearing a du-rag under the hat which stayed on just fine for the whole race. In retrospect it was very warm to be wearing anything on my head.

This is a picture from the last 100 meters of the race, working hard to maintain form:

[Photo copyright: Martin McCrory Photography]

The official results say I finished in 19:04 and won my age group (35-39), although I could have sworn that someone in shoes kicked past me at the line. My pace was around 6:21 per mile which is only ten seconds slower per mile than my last 5k and the same pace as the 8k I ran about a month ago, both of those prior races in shoes.

Barefoot Ken Bob's book Barefoot Running Step by Step has helped a lot. I have probably changed my technique at least three times over the past year. I think I'm finally "locked in" on the proper form. Barefoot Ken Bob suggests looking for the roughest surface you can find and training on that. Once that has been mastered, running on sidewalks and roads is easy. I found this to be true.

The one tip I have for new barefoot runners is to bend your knees. Bend them until you think people will look at you funny. Then bend them some more. Doing this will allow you to run over all kinds of surfaces. I will try to elaborate on barefoot technique in a separate blog post.

I have been frustrated with shoes lately, so we shall see where this barefooting takes me.
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