I’ve had my Vibrams for a week now, and as a consequence of dropping to the barefoot style shoe, I’ve had to limit my running. The strain on my calves has been much more than I anticipated – The transitional shoes only affected me for a day or two before I got used to them, whereas the Vibrams have had me in agony pretty much all week.
Alright, so it’s my fault. As I’ve previously said, I’m not someone to do things by halves, and I know I’m supposed to limit my mileage at first when going to the barefoot style, but I just get carried away.
After running a 10k the first day I got them, I ran 14km with Kasia on the Sunday. I was a little sore (understatement…) for a couple of days after this, and a new work schedule meant that I managed to get in a run on Wednesday morning, another 10k. This finished me again for a couple of days, and I didn’t run again until Friday night, which happened to be about 12km.
I was working on Saturday, and then meeting friends for drinks after. I don’t actually normally drink any more, but I bowed to peer pressure, and had a few beers. It was a good night, and I didn’t get to sleep until 4am.
I woke with a hangover on Sunday morning, determined to go running with the running club on their weekly long run. Some strong coffee, a wholewheat bagel (with nothing on it), a shower and about a litre of water, and I left the house a few minutes later than I planned. Kasia decided not to run, perhaps wisely, considering the very late night we’d had.
Arriving at the bus stop, I find that the next bus to where the running club meets won’t arrive for another ten minutes. I’m going to be late. But not if…
I break into a run. I know my times. I know I can run to where the club meets at the other side of tower bridge in exactly 35 minutes. The bus takes pretty much the same time, depending on traffic. The club leave for their run in 30. I put a little more speed into my run.
The pavements are busy, but not overly so. I manage to avoid the worst of the foot traffic, and get to Liverpool Street two minutes faster than normal. I’m at London Bridge in 27 minutes. A run down the stairs, and across the pedestrian section (which is already busy with tourists), and am frustrated every time I’m slowed to a walk. I end up sprinting the last section, and only slow as I see the club members still milling around.
I manage to catch my breath and have a couple of minutes to chat before the run gets under way.
Almost immediately, I find myself with the leaders of the group. There are about thirty runners today, and within a minute or two a pack of four of us break away from the others.
As we extend our lead I realise something – I’m not racing these guys, but I am frustrated by the slower pace. This is probably caused by faster run to get there on time, and I want to maintain that pace. I soon begin to break away on my own, only slightly worried that I don’t really know the route.
I shouldn’t have worried. I soon begin to tire, and the three others soon catch me again. I glance at my watch and realise once again that I’ve forgotten to press start on the stopwatch. This is a common occurrence, when I’m running with others.
The group of three keep a steady lead about 50 metres in front of me, and I’m happy for them to stay there. I’ve already decided that I’m going to run home too, and should probably conserve a little energy.
Another club member runs past me. I make a mental note that I’m now in ‘5th place’, and immediately try to ignore that. We’re not racing, and nobody feels that we are.
One thing I’ve not mentioned so far – The area around Tower Bridge where we run has many cobblestone paths. While I love running in my Vibrams (and I’ll even go as far as saying they’re the best running shoes I’ve ever tried), running on cobbles in them is not fun. Your feet feel every single edge of each stone as you run over them.
We hit the halfway point, the other four runners arriving not long before me. I think to myself that I’ve not done too bad. I’m ten years or thereabouts older than these guys, and I’d already run seven kilometres at a fairly brisk pace before we’d even started. I make another mental note, to run a little slower on the way back.
The rest of the club come in to the turnaround in clumps, often three or four at a time, and a few minutes later we’re assembled for our obligatory club photo.
(I used to find it frustrating, to start running again after such a stop, but now I just get on with it.)
We begin the 6.5km journey back to the start, and I purposefully hold back, and am the last to leave the turnaround. I run at a much slower pace, but still find myself near the front as we make our way through those horribly cobbled streets. The leaders are almost out of sight, and I make a point of not chasing them.
I’m with a pack of about four others, and reluctantly I pass them all and find myself running alone.
And then… I did what I do every time running this course. I take a wrong turn. You’d think that I would know it by now, but no. I always make the same mistake, end up in a dead end and have to retrace my steps. Back out on the right path, I find myself running alone again, as the pack that was behind me disappear in front of me.
I make it back to the start, some way behind the seven or eight others who finished before me, but for once, I’m not bothered. It’s rare that I’m not racing people, even internally, and I soak up what has been a long run.
After some lengthy discussion about my choice of footwear, the group disbands slowly, and we go our separate ways. I begin the 7km run back home, smiling to myself.
So after the longest run I’ve completed since the marathon, and by far the longest I’ve run in the FiveFingers, I’m a happy man. My calves are only half as sore as I expected them to be, and perhaps that Ultra is not as impossible as I thought. I’ve just got to remember to fuel right. A single plain bagel is not sufficient to fuel that kind of distance. I was starving when I got home, and pretty much cleared out the fridge.