One year ago, I reflected on the path completed after my starting barefoot running in 2017. As we are now in December, it is time to reflect once more on the progress since then. And one of the best indicators of progress is probably the fact that I was able to complete a half-marathon barefoot in November.
One of the positive things about being to busy in life is that it is very difficult to increase your mileage too fast. I am now, mostly limiting myself to a 5 k run every morning, but trying to keep it regular. On week-ends, when I have time (with hong kong protests, that is getting rarer by the day), I try to increase mileage, often reaching from 12 to 15 kms (when I run to Sai Kung).
Still, my maximum mileage before this race had been 17 kms. I still felt confident that I could cover the whole 21 kilometers and end the race, but the question of timing was an issue.
A hilly course
The race I joined was the Hoka One One half marathon. This race, sponsored by a brand of shoes (oh, the irony!) took us near Sai Kung across the huge reservoir called “High Island reservoir”. Beyond being an artificial drinking water reservoir, this place also sports wonderful views and a very hilly race track.
I was privileged to have Yuan, my friend barefoot trail runner staying by me for the whole race, even though he is a much faster runner than me.
To make it even worse, the course started uphill… at the very start of the race! This uphill start obliged me to conserve my energy even more than originally foreseen.
It was thus that I slowly slipped well behind in the race. After about 5 kms, we had to run downhill the mountain, which was a relief… Except as we went down, we saw people running back up! The track then ran upward for a good 7 to 8 kms, before looping around the High Island Reservoir. I confess wasting some precious minutes getting some drinks and grabbing some food at the supply points, but that allowed me also to rest a bit.
A question of perseverance
As such, the distance was the first time I completed a half-marathon, but in itself, the distance was not scary. I had indeed ran close to that distance during my training. Where it gets difficult is after the 17th km, when you know there are still 5 kms to go, you are behind everybody else and you know your best time will only be shy of 3 hrs.
Step after step, and kilometer after kilometer we finally got to the finish line, and there again, I must truly thank Yuan for pushing me to sprint over the last few hundreds of meters. His presence was invaluable for supporting me and helping me in that tough race. In the end, my time was 2h45, which nothing of remarkable at all, but I am glad I did this race.
Yuan encouraged me to sprint over the last kilometer to at least make a nice showing at the finish line. BTW, we were not the only barefooters: one guy was running with slippers as you can see from the video above.
The other runners were all admirative, of course, and Yuan was only too happy to show me around as a barefoot running companion.
Two years barefooting
Participating in a half-marathon barefoot was one of my goals for 2019. I am glad to have completed that objective. Now, what does two years of barefooting bring me? A lot of things, I would say.
I am happier with myself, and my life, because I can be myself without caring of the opinion of others. Psychologically, barefooting has also positive effects. It allows you to get beyond your own limits and reinforces self-confidence, as that is a required quality for going in public barefoot.
Nevertheless, it is true that living in Hong Kong makes it way easier to hike barefoot.
Beyond the clean streets, there is also a social acceptance of barefooting as a hiker, as a lot of the older generation is familiar with its benefits. Conversely, people don’t really care if you walk barefoot in the city. They just feel some cringe feeling because they imagine that it feels painful, but that’s about it.
Health-wise, barefooting has allowed me to resume running after my ACL operation, and has definitely reinforced proprioception and balance, while reinforcing my muscles. I have also gradually been able to increase distances, the only inconvenience I feel with longer distances being rather with abrasion of wet clothes on the upper body.
In conclusion, if you are still on the fence, take the first step. Once you start, it is difficult or impossible to go back to shod running.