Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I ran the 7 mile loop around Peace Valley Park after work yesterday. It was a dark, wet day and it was almost closing time (dusk) at the park so there was hardly anyone there. It was so beautiful and peaceful just me and the geese, feeling great, pounding the pavement. Maybe I shouldn’t have been pounding so hard.

At the 6 mile mark I felt a twinge in my left foot. My weeks of barefoot running bliss wouldn’t allow my brain to process this as a bad thing, but it WAS there. Obviously I kept going and finished the run feeling fine. However this morning’s first step on that foot sent a (glup) sharp pain straight into my brain. Oh nooooo…. Please don’t tell me this is happening! I admit that I am a drama queen from time to time, but dear lord don’t let everything that I have been reading about and experiencing while barefoot running be wrong and not work for me.

I am not going to freak out. I am going to take a couple Tylenol and start today’s work. I am going to think positive thoughts and hope that this is just a small pull or something. This Friday is going to be a beautiful day in the Chalfont PA area and I plan on taking a l0 mile run. I WILL BE OK by then……. RIGHT?!?!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The $20 apple

I ran 4 miles at lunch today; felt great. I still have no pain. It is so amusing to me that I continue to gauge my pain after runs. My assumption is that someday (hopefully soon) I will embrace the fact that this new running style really is good for me and I wont have to expect pain. But for now, I am still cautious. I am Optimistic, but cautious; in other words, cautiously optimistic. Hehe….

I am going to start doing some timing runs to see where I am at in terms of upcoming races I want to register for (Philadelphia Broad Street 10 miler coming up in May!). I’ll keep you posted!

During my run I was pondering a subject that I read about on-line this morning that has been in the news for the past couple of years.

Bees. Or I should say the lack of them.

Erica likes to tease me and call me narcissistic and the most anti “green” person she knows. I am not dumping toxic waste into our back yard from some hidden chemical plant we have hidden in our basement, but I am not the one you will see out on the highway picking up cans on Earth Day either. One of the darker jokes I like to make is that as long as the earth stays in tact for the next 50 years or so, I am good. Of course I AM KIDDING! I am kidding… I have children and I want to leave them and their children with a stable, clean world. By the way, I realize that this slight indifference to environmentalism flies in the face of this new “lets all act like prehistoric man and run and eat an BE natural”. Maybe I am growing as a person.

My point to all of this is that not much really bothers me. I know right from wrong and live my life as cleanly as possible but news that “global warming this” and “Russian nuclear fallout” that; these things never seem to bother me much. But the lack of bees really, really bothers me.

If you don’t know, scientists have realized that the honey bee population in our country (and I guess the world) has fallen drastically and continues to fall. There are theories as to why (pesticides, etc) but nobody has definitively figured the problem out. This problem is huge as honey bees provide the pollination for 1/3 of our food supply. Can you imagine 1/3 of the supermarket either empty OR paying huge amounts of money for items that we take for granted now. The reason that this bothers me so much is that all these other problems that the world has (most of them at least (global warming, etc)) I assume some really, really smart people will eventually figure out how to solve. But this bee thing is baffling and looks to be headed, quickly, to the point of no return.

So will my grandson or granddaughter have to pay $20 for a piece of the ultra rare fruit called “the apple”?

Does anyone have the numbers for upcoming powerball lottery??

Well, work got in the way of my consecutive running day streak yesterday.  Not much to post today.  However I did get a chance to be annoying again and tell my coworkers about this barefoot running thing and I got the same reaction as I always do.  At first it's, "what!?!" and then it's "wow, that makes a lot of sense!".

The after effects of my 7 mile run two days ago are nil.  Nothing.  Nada.  I feel no pain.  I wasn't sore yesterday (even after walking around Baltimore in dress shoes all day) and I am ready to hit the road again today. 

I am soooo loving this!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

... Bliss ...

Two posts to my blog today… The title of my last entry should have been “Stop me before I blog again!”

I did the run around Peace Valley Park at lunch today. It was pure bliss and I feel amazing. I am trying to be as “real” as possible as I write this blog and I want to make sure that I make you the reader prepared to handle the pitfalls and problems with barefoot running. However so far, there are none. A seven mile run 6 months ago was met with extreme preparation, stress, pain and exhaustion (followed by AT LEAST two days off and plenty of Tylenol). But here I sit an hour after my run perfectly fine and feeling like I could do it again. And I did it with a ¼ inch of hard rubber on my feet, not gel or air or springs.

I started out with an hour and a half to run around the beautiful lake at the park and get back home for my 1 o’clock conference call. This posed an issue because I assumed that I could make it around in that time, but as I said in my previous post, I am not running that fast and there is a point when you run in a circle around a lake that you are committed to doing the WHOLE thing.

When I reached that halfway point I felt amazing! The runners high was kicking in, the clouds were parting and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” started playing on my iPod. I felt like I could fly… I felt like I could run to the moon. Not to mention the sense of satisfaction I was getting from every other runner looking at the crazy shoes on my feet as they ran by.

The Peace Valley Park trail is perfect. I do want to devote more of my entries to that place, but I will say that the distance is perfect and the trail has everything you could want as a runner (or biker or walker). It has flat paved trails, hills, Forrest, amazing views and even about a ¼ mile of regular road. If you happen to live within 45 minutes of Chalfont PA you have to make the trip. It’s a great park.

I will post the state of my body tomorrow. I am anticipating soreness, but for now, I am giddy with excitement. I feel light years ahead of schedule and my prayers for‘distance running’ ability may have been answered!

(oh, by the way, I made it back in time for one of the most boring work calls ever! Can I get paid to run?)

Stop me before I run again!!

The beautiful weather that we were lucky enough to have here in southeast Pennsylvania the past week has somewhat subsided. Yesterday was a cold, rainy day. My string of consecutive running days was in jeopardy. I had a phone meeting that ended about 11:45 in the morning and I walked downstairs to get a fresh cup of coffee and realized that the rain had stoped and so I dropped my coffee mug (literally.. I almost broke the thing on the floor) and grabbed my fiveFingers. The run was short (about a mile and a half) and it started raining again about half way though. My legs felt great and the rain felt good.

I am a little concerned about my speed. I know, I know…. Speed is the last of my worries at this point. I should be focused on my new running form and strengthening my leg and foot muscles. But the barefoot running form comprises of short strides and a higher cadence and frankly I feel slow. I haven’t run an exact mileage or timed myself, but I have been running (the wrong way) for years and I know that I am not even hitting the 10 minute mile mark. The reason that I am thinking about speed is that I am looking at some road races in the area. There are a bunch of upcoming 10K, 10 mile and ½ marathons in the next couple months and I have all the confidence in the world that I can do the distance, but I have visions of striding across the finish line in last place. I am trying really, really hard not to overdo it.

On that topic (overdoing it), I am looking at a 7 mile run around Peace Valley Park at lunch in about an hour. I am such an impatient child.. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekend Update

I had my daughters from Friday evening to Saturday evening this weekend. My ex wife and I have a really good custody agreement that allows for flexibility and full and half weekends each month. Complicated, but basically I get to see the girls a lot which is awesome.

The girls get a real kick out of my barefoot running thing. They are smart cookies and they understand the physiology of what I am talking about with regards to the horrors of the modern running shoe. But when I start preaching about it (which I should really start to monitor so I don’t become as annoying as a pack of krishnas giving out flowers in an airport); “man has been running for TWO MILLION YEARS without gels or cushioned heels….” my oldest daughter rolls her eyes and gives me the big “OMG Dad” grin. But they love that I have a blog and they are telling there friends how their dad is on this kick, etc. I think they are impressed with all of it on some level.

The girls rode their bikes several times on Saturday and I joined them, only I joined on foot; 3 times. Each run felt better then the last and on one of the bike / running trips I asked my youngest daughters to go further then we planed so I could get a couple more barefoot steps in. I felt great all day with no pain. I felt like the prehistoric runners that I have been reading about who didn’t just have one big run a day, they had to be ready to run several times thought-out the day for a variety of reasons. See an animal that might taste good? Go run after it? Saber tooth tiger spotted you? Run away from it. Your daughters say “lets take a bike ride”, get up and run next to them (how and when I eat is also a huge factor in the ability to do this, but that is a topic for another entry).

I feel so liberated. I feel so youthful. I feel so ready. Running doesn’t have to be a big production where you plan your day around it and mentally prepare for the big event. It’s funny how a simple thing like breaking free from my modern running shoes has had not only an effect on my body but a huge effect on my overall outlook about running.

Today is Sunday and I was going to take a day off from running. Erica and I got up this morning and took a 7 mile bike ride around the lake at nearby Peace Valley Park (ANOTHER topic for another blog) after hosting a friend for dinner the previous evening (we decided to make the bike ride optional based on how much we drank the night before; we rode) . As we rode around the lake, I could not help but look at the runners with pity. They were all wearing footwear that could hurt them and didn’t even realize it. Regardless, seeing all the runners made me want to run and I did the thing I new I shouldn’t do, run.

Not that running itself was the problem because, as I said earlier, I want to be ready to run whenever regardless of my current number of daily runs or the amount of food in my stomach. I just did not want to overdo it, but today was a P E R F E C T day for a run and I knew that if I ran, I would run a long distance. (“Long” being more miles then necessary in the beginning of my life as a barefoot runner”).

I ran, and it felt great. I had my FiveFinger shoes on and went the long way to a park here in our new town that I haven’t been to yet. There is a 1.25 mile running/walking path and its a couple miles to get there. I felt amazing. No pain in my legs from running previous days and I also didn’t have that mile or so warm up period that I used to need when wearing sneakers. I just felt OK from the first steps. My iPod picked great songs and it was an excellent time.

As I sit here on Sunday evening, I do feel the road on my lower legs. They are sore for sure. No pain necessarily, but I know that I am using muscles that I never used before when I ran. There has to be some soreness and it will take time to get through that. Oh please let that be right…..

Friday, March 19, 2010

Badge of honor?

My “First Blood” entry from yesterday, with all its bravado and enthusiasm for my personal bloodletting, was misguided. I walked around yesterday (barefoot of course) looking at the band-aid on my toe with pride and some weird feeling of accomplishment. That was until about 9 pm yesterday evening when I realized I had possibly made a huge mistake.

Of course I didn’t step on a rock and make my toe bleed on purpose, but I am trying to be the ‘Rambo of Chalfont’ and walk the rough road to the running trail barefoot in order to toughen up my feet. Step 1 to barefoot running; get that foot skin rough and tough, right? Ummmmmmmm… no. Sitting at the restaurant with Erica and the girls last night I realized “wow, that toe kind of hurts. No, that toe REALLY hurts!”.

I always do this. I always dive into things with such fervor and passion that I inevitably go too hard or too much or too long and I end up having to dial back the “Ken Governor” (or it gets dialed back whether I like it or not). Well, this time WAS going to be different. This time I was going to take it slow and run a mile at a time. I was going to be a good, patient student of barefoot running. Damm…

I have encountered my first speed bump on my journey to painless, endless miles of running; in the first week. However, in the interest of this blog and to the point of writing all this down in the first place, I offer two pieces of advice! One is don’t overdo it on the actual running OR the being bearfoot as much as you can to toughen up the feet. And two is to get your running shoes early so you have them.

Of course by “running shoes” I DON’T mean expensive air or gel running sneakers that cost 100+ dollars. I mean get a minimalist running shoe that costs 100+ dollars (I didn’t say that barefoot running was cheaper then the alternative). There are plenty to choose from and many, many websites devoted not only to the broad spectrum of barefoot running, but also advice on the shoes. I have invested in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/products/index.cfm) and so far I have resisted the urge to wear them running (aside from a quick jaunt the day they arrived). I have resisted because in my research a doctor mentioned that to truly train the foot, you have to run without any form of shoe first to get the feel and strengthen the correct muscles. Of course that doctor didn’t know he was talking to an idiot that would do a tap dance on sharp rocks.

So today, well ahead of schedule, I will run with my funny looking shoes on (provided I can get the injured toe, band-aid and all, into its individual toe hole). I know that I am still within my primal barefoot mode as these shoes are nothing more then a strip of rubber and some velcro, but I do have the nagging thought that I am not supposed to be wearing them yet.

I am sure that it will be fine…….. right?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

So, what hurts?

So far on this blog I have explained who I am, what my inspiration is and how stupid I look hip-hopping down my rocky road to the safe haven of the relatively smooth walking trail near my house. Other then that I have not given any useful experiential tidbits at all (other then my book recommendation for “Born to Run”).

After running a couple miles without shoes, here is my list of pains:

That’s it. Nothing. No pain at all.

Well actually I am lying a little. There is soreness but that is to be expected. You see my feet have been coddled for low these many years. They have been protected from the elements in every way. My feet and lower legs were the equivalent of Eddie Murphy BEFORE he came to America. The good news about that is the feet are protected. The bad news is the feet are protected. The analogy I think of is flu shots. You have to get a bit-o-the bug to protect yourself. Same thing with the feet. You have to pound them a little to get them to resist injury.

My point of course is that my feet and legs have never experienced this new sensation. So when I woke up this morning I had the same feeling as if I did a calf workout at the gym. A LIL-sore.. but it was a good sore. It was a ‘hey I am ex-a-ma-size-in!’ soreness..

My assumption is that will go away……… right?

First Blood

I have been running barefoot for a week now. I know, I know…. ONLY a week. But it has been an amazing week! I have spent the past week looking at websites and watching youTube videos about barefoot running. I have followed the advice to start slow and go ‘shoeless’ for general things like taking the trash out and washing your car.

I have to say, I really love being barefoot; even just walking around the house and the yard. I feel like a kid again. I feel like the ‘anti-establishment’ rebel that I know I am not. But most of all I feel like I am getting closer to my running goals just by scrubbing the bumper of my Jetta while sans-shoes. Every barefoot step is strengthening my foot muscles and it feels great.

When I say, I have been running barefoot for a week, what I really mean is I have walked down to the ¼ mile long walking trail in my neighborhood about 10 times and ran back and fourth for 20 or 30 minutes at a clip. In the world of long distance runners and endurance freaks (the world that I WANT to be a part of), my current distance is laughable. But I am so at piece with it! I feel like a newborn. I understand that this is a new beginning and I have to take it slow. And that understanding doesn’t come only from reading and research, but I feel it in my body and soul that this is the right thing to do. I feel more accomplished about my 1 mile run this morning then most 5+ mile runs I have taken in the past.

So on to the title of this entry; “First Blood”. Erica and I live in a new construction townhouse. To get to the ¼ mile long walking trail you need to walk about 500 yards down our street which still doesn’t have the final paving and is rough and rocky. My plan is to walk, barefoot of course, down that stretch of road to the walking trail and therefore toughening up my feet. Yesterday I thought Erica was going to fall over laughing watching me tip toe and dance around rocks. Our new neighbors must think I am nuts. Fast forward to my return trip down the rocky patch after a quick run and after the one hundredth “ouch”, I looked down and saw blood on my toe. Blood! AWESOME! My first blood. My badge of honor. The first blood drawn in the battle against modern footwear. If I was flexible enough to pull the toe up and suck the blood in a macabre ritual and then let out a primal scream (a la C. Thomas Howell in “Red Dawn”) I would have! Instead I smiled and got the band-aids so as not to piss off Erica with blood stains in our new house.

Here it is… horrible ugly feet and all. I love it.

Thank you Mr. McDougall

My name is Ken and I am a runner. At least I WANT to be a runner, but my body won’t let me. At least that's what I thought. I always assumed that my athletic body would be able to run the same way I bike, lift weights, walk 18 holes of golf etc..etc.. But every time I ran upwards of 8 miles I would have to take the next 3 or 4 days off to rest my shins and pop acetaminophen like candy.

I assumed that’s how it would go for the rest of my active life. I assumed that the Philadelphia ½ marathon that I wanted to do last year but couldn’t due to injury and every marathon I dreamt of running were forever out of reach.

Fast forward to an email I received from the Penn State Alumni Association (2001 PSU MSIS Graduate) about an event featuring Christopher McDougall who wrote a book called “Born To Run”. Christopher was to speak to the attendees about his incredible experience researching the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons and their ability to run amazingly long distances without the benefit of the latest “Max-Air” or “poofy cushin” sneakers. I couldn’t attend the event, but always on the lookout for a good book I logged into my Amazon account and bought the book.

I had NO idea that this book would change my life. My assumption was that it was a good read about an interesting topic. But page after page made me want to yell “OMG YES! Exactly!!”. I won’t ruin one page of the book other then to say it wasn’t a “good” read, is an AMAZING read that totally de-rails my thoughts of my very own body and my abilities as a runner.

So before I continue with installment number 1 of the journal of my journey to reclaim my primal ability to run, let me say thank you Mr. McDougall.

I am writing this blog (my first) because in the two weeks since I have become a barefoot runner, everyone I have talked to had the opposite reaction then I expected. I expected looks of disbelief and ‘your nuts’ type comments. What I got was “really?? That’s great!” and “wow, I have the same issues, I should try that”. I have an urge to help spread the word about this ancient running technique that has been nearly erased by sneaker companies and the pursuit of the al mighty dollar.

I hope you like reading about my bare feet and I hope you think twice about those big, fat cushions on the soles of those sneakers in your closet.