Thursday, 10 March 2011

Running barefoot...Inter Counties cross country

 Two, seemingly  unrelated,  running matters occupied quite a fair amount of my time  yesterday.  One watching a TV programme and the other reading a magazine.  It's a hard life but as they say someone's got to do it!
 First job, before going for my usual late morning run of course, was to look at a recording of last Saturday's Inter Counties Cross Country championships  which was on Sky Sports.  Besides enjoying watching some excellent competitive races, across all the age groups, it gave me a chance to see  our fastrax   vests in action which have gone out recently to several county teams for the Birmingham event.
   I was hoping of course we would have one or two winners  in our vests.   But if nothing else the four hour long programme would serve as an excellent advert for our work supplying specialist vests.

  As it turned out we couldn't have asked for more as both the winners of the senior races wore vests carrying our brand.  Namely Andy Vernon and Charlotte Purdue, both representing Hampshire.  Plus several others!
  It was interesting to see how the performances of runners who had competed in both the National cross at Alton Towers, in which hundreds of athletes struggled in the thick quagmire of mud,  and  Saturday's County championships compared.  The latter course being much drier and therefore faster.
 Not all fared well in both. A case of horses for courses.  Like horses, we come to realise that certain runners perform better in certain conditions. Senior athletes come to accept this and can choose races accordingly but for developing young runners it must be hard to see rivals they've beaten two weeks previous on a hard, hilly,muddy course take the medals on a flatter, drier,faster course
   The  magazine article? Well that was yet another article on barefoot running. (Runners World, April 2011)  A long article, which I may come back to, but basically like using spikes for the first time,  the message is before going "minimal" or even barefoot tread warily. 
  We can't just switch from well cushioned,  supportive shoes to minimalist shoes, or even go barefoot overnight, without great risk of injury.  The transition is too extreme. 
 When I started running in the early 1960s our shoes couldn't have been any more minimal.  So  to run barefoot was not such a big transition.   As teenagers we inevitably followed the example of Ron Hill, Bruce Tulloh , Jim Hogan et al but generally only  on good, firm grass.   Certainly not on the road and I personally never risked a cinder track. 
     But coincidentally  I did risk one  major cross country event....
 The Inter County championships of 1967 held on March 11th at Markeaton Park Derby,  looked ideal for running shoeless;  grass like a bowling green,  Going:  good to firm! But the look of horror on the face of our Lancashire team manager will never be forgotten,  as half the team peeled off shoes and socks and jogged to the start.  
                                 Particularly when it started snowing!!
 He need not have worried as we placed 5 in the first 12 in the race (won by David Bedford) to easily win the team prize.   Unfortunately for me it was only 4 to count and I missed out on a medal as I was 12th.
 But it was much better performance than the week before in the National where having shared the lead with a Sale team mate after the initial charge, I slumped badly to 97th  as we hit farm fields of plough and mud.  
                           As we have said.....horses for courses!  


  1. Nice post as usual Terry. I also read the article on minimalist running shoes with interest. When I first started running last year, I had a problem with my knees swelling and switched to Terra Plana Evos. After some slight discomfort in my calves, I soon got used to them and now don't run in anything else. I'm sure it's the mid foot strike which comes naturally when using these shoes instead of a heel strike that has helped me. I still use my old Asics Gel 1120's for walking in though. I see you had a chat with Julia Armstrong ( the other day - she writes a nice blog too. It'll be good to hear your podcast with her when you get round to it. Regards John

  2. It is an interesting exercise trying to tease out your attitude towards RW (in general). No need to tell me I enjoy the riddle.