Pleasant Surprise & Fuel For The Flames

This morning I had some mail in my inbox.  Not the sort of mail that goes straight to the trash, but one that you read and get stoked about.  

The email was forwarded from the ever helpful Peter Ambrose, who has been super supportive and been that voice of genius through the last few months of training and planning.

Mark Hartell appears to have acquired a purple tshirt!!  Here’s the words he sent with his picture…

“Britain has a fine tradition of eccentrics and nothing could be more so than running the entire length of our country off road and barefoot. It will certainly require uncommon dedication and endurance, but Aleks already has a pedigree that shows he is made of the right stuff. 

I wish him well on his endeavour and hope that he smashes his fundraising target for the Stroke Association!”

Mark Hartell

11 Time winner of the Fellsman 60 mile fell race.  Holder of the Lake District 24 hour fell record (77 Peaks)

If you’re not sure who this guy is do a quick google search.  He’s a legend in running and despite numerous attempts, especially recently by Adam Perry.  All I need now is a little of his ultra powers, combined with a purple power tshirt and all will be well!

So, as the event draws nearer, I’m finding it slightly difficult to find time to train and carry on doing my job.  Last week was a definite reset week, with little running or other training, and huge focus on sleep and school work.

This week things pick back up.  Running, gym, work and supporting a fellow ultra runner Clare Holdcroft on her Bob Graham Round attempt.  Hopefully not too much of it will be in the dark as I’m aiming to support her on 3 out of 5 legs. The big challenge will be to get recovered in time for the Peak Districts Kinder Trog fell race the day after. 

BGR is a monster of a route with lots of uphill, so if I can use it as part of training and do it successfully, it’s going to be a huge tail boost.  Here’s to the next 5 weeks before the utter madness begins.

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The Beautiful Art Of Moving Slowly

Over the last few days I’ve come to one scary realisation…

I need to relearn how to walk when barefooted.  It’s a completely different movement to walking with shoes.  Even the most minimal of shoes like the vivobarefoot shoes, which I use at work, change your “natural” movement.

What is this shod movement I’m on about

Wel… 

The heels comes down, makes ground contact and you roll on to your foot before pushing off on to the other foot.

This doesn’t work on harsh surfaces or over any given distance.  Your heel will start to feel sore and if you don’t change your movement pattern, the mother of all blisters is going to erupt, like a volcano, at the base of your heel. I’ve been experiencing it, but sensibly stopping before a blister forms trying to work out if it’s how hard I stroke the floor, the position if my foot in relation to my knee or pelvis, or just how I place my foot down. 

So, I now need to incorporate some serious retraining of something I’ve been doing all my life.  It’s inevitable that I will walk a fair chunk of the route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, so if I don’t address this need for change, I can see lots of pain in the near future.

The way of walking that seems to work is to place your forefoot down first and let the foot squash down as you move forwards, adding a certain salsaesc swing to the hips!  It’s lots quieter, feels smoother and seems to be faster than moving with the same cadence (number of steps per minute) as heel striking.

It’s kind of interesting since the general consensus is to land forefoot first when running too. 

So, if you see someone wandering around, looking like they should be holding castanets as they walk, it might just be that they’ve mastered this barefoot skill.  Who knows, if they’re not wearing shoes and it’s summer, it might even be me 😉

The Hows Of Unsupported Barefoot LeJog

I think I should write a post that has the hows, the whats and the whens of this challenge.  Lots of questions have been asked and putting things into practice has meant that I have a better idea of what is sensible, what is a bad idea and how to make this thing run as smoothly as I can.

1.  Unsupported?

Well, originally I was expecting to do this alone and being completely self sufficient.  I am going to carry all the equipment that is necessary to survive on a day to day basis, use shops and water sources along the way to get what I need in terms of food and equipment and use a tent for accommodation.  Now, this challenge isn’t about achieving any record attempt but more about getting people to engage and spread awareness of both the condition and the charity, so I have said that people are welcom to join in along the way and if food or shelter is offered I am likely to say ‘yes, thank you’
2.  Barefoot?

This is the most contentious point for some.  I will be carrying a pair of Luna sandals for a few reasons.  Wet weather softens the skin on feet and so the skin wears away faster, and is far more easily damaged.  My goal is to complete the distance so if it is wet and the terrain is likely to damage my feet I am going to stick them on.  If my feet get damaged or if the terrain is such that I have to go too slow then I’ll be putting the sandals on.  If I had the luxury of time, I wouldn’t resort to the sandals.  What people should know that when I took part in the Edale Skyline race I didn’t put the sandals on despite sub zero conditions, perpetual wet surfaces and terrain that is super rugged.  It just felt like I was cheating when I took them off my pack, so they went back on my pack.

3.  Mileage schedule?

I’ve done some self experimentation and discussed this a fair bit.  Best idea is 35 miles per day, with a projected finish time of 5 weeks.  This give me a week’s grace in case I need it to recover or in case I happen to make a poor route choice.  The whole journey is so long that it’s hard to comprehend large stages, so, I won’t try and think about it.  It’s going to be a case of persistent forward motion and one step at a time.  If all goes well, I should be able to cover the distance by speed hiking or running.  

4.  Failure?

This will be the most difficult thing to acknowledge.  If something goes wrong, I’ll keep going but a point will come when I will have to acknowledge that I’ve failed.  All that means is that I decided to attempt this challenge too early, so I will go back to training and then repeat it every summer until I complete it.

5.  Motivation?

This has changed…

First it was finding if it is possible, then proving people wrong and now I’ve come to realise that these reasons are superficial.  The main thing that will move me forwards is the people I know and have met on the Internet, who have lost loved ones, survived and been given support by Stroke Association, or are caring for loved ones that have suffered a stroke.  I seem to feel a huge sense of reponsibiltiy toward these people and will feel that I have let them down if I don’t complete this challenge.  Then, there’s those who have shown support by buying a t-shirt or donating to Stroke Associstion.  I think that challenges are more achievable the more a person feels accountable for their actions.

6.  Equipment?

This is the easiest to address. I’m going to carry the minimal equipment is need.  Luxury items will be kept to a minimum and the main focus is on weight and functionality.  Too heavy and I’m going to have issues with my body.  Not functional or suitable and it’s going to potentially put a stop to the challenge.  

Hopefully this makes thing a little more clear for those interested and if you have any more questions then feel free to ask.

Hobbity Feet Make It Into Runner’s World UK News! 

Thanks to the media release by Stroke Associations media lady Vicky, BareFoot LeJog made it on the Runner’s World UK website.  Then there was a flurry of page likes and donations.

Here’s the article for any who are wanting to read it, although if you follow this blog or the Facebook page, then you know most of it already. 🙂

http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/news/buxton-schoolteacher-to-run-the-length-of-britain-barefoot-for-charity/13374.html

1206 miles, Barefoot – Possible or Not? Vote Now!


Just wandering what the general consensus is. The run will be off-road, completely barefoot (unless it is too cold or wet, or damage to my foot means I will need to wear some running sandals) and unsupported (which means I will have everything I need to be self sufficient, including tent and sleeping bag).

I’ve been running barefoot for about a year, and run an ultra and some fell races (trail races for the U.S. guys and gals) barefooted.  I’m planning on covering 28-43 miles a day, mostly off-road starting on the 26th of July.

I’m not doubting whether it’s possible as I’ve set myself the challenge but….

Do you think it is possible or do you think it isn’t?

Be honest

Acknowledging The Thresholds Of Potential Failure

1206 miles of running is not a small and easy task.

There is no plan for failure, but there are points where I will have to say it is time to stop.  The potential for failure because of random events gets higher the longer a challenge is, and a potential 6 weeks makes that random chance huge, but I’m not concerned with it.  Part of my training has been doing things wrong and pushing what is sensible to find what happens in a controlled way.  But there is one thing that I will have to stop for and I think I need to put the reason why out there…

I am a teacher and with that have responsibilities that I take seriously.  I teach and keep working hard because I genuinely want the best for the students that I interact with.  Doesn’t matter if they are in my classes.  I’m not unique in this.  All teachers have this sense of profound responsibility, which is why they work the way they do, and tend to put work first where others wouldn’t.

So, here it is.  I will have to stop 6 weeks after starting regardless of how close I am to John O’Groats.  There is not provision for teachers to have additional time off and even if there was, the impact it would have on the students that I look over as a tutor and those that I will be teaching in my classes is too high.  I’m sharing this so people understand early on that I will push my body and mind to the point of breaking just to complete this challenge, but when the decision to stop and return to work comes, I will stop!

It’s not a decision I’ve come to easily, but I know it is the right decision to make about the challenge.  I may be doing it for a good cause but is it more worthy than the potential future of the children and young adults I will be responsible for?

I think not, and I hope others understand why.

The Reason Tailwind Is More Than Just Some Energy Drinks Company!

I’ve contacted several companies and asked for their support and the few replies I’ve had, amongst the electronic version of tumble weed, have all been a distinctive shade of ‘no’.

Then Mike from Tailwind got in touch, and if I’m honest (putting aside the scepticism of Tailwind since I’d not ever tried it) I wasn’t really sure what he was offering.  Then we had a conversation or two via email and a video call and I was blown away.  A huge wait lifted from my backpack.  

That weight was the concern that food and nutrition would be an issue, as well as water.  Now, training seems to be getting more effective and I’m feeling more confident every time I train with Tailwind that file on the run isn’t going to be a problem.

I guess at this point the title should be explained.  The guy is an inspiration, especially knowing this small part of his story.  This Mike’s story and an explanation of why he chose to support BareFoot LeJog.  

” In March 2012 I was struck by a car and sustained a fractured skull which restricted blood flow to my brain causing a stroke. I spent the Summer losing use of my left limbs with my head in a cognitive stew

In November of that year I was seen by an occupational therapist who said her aim was to get me to be able to walk 100 yards to the local shop unaided, buy a newspaper and walk back, unaided.

As an experienced endurance athlete, with 5 Ironman triathlons under my belt, I said that wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

After several visits to physiotherapists who gave me exercises to get the muscles in my legs firing, countless numbers of falls the same occupational therapist sent me messages of support whilst I was in the Sahara Desert taking on the iconic 150 mile Marathon des Sables. I may have been bloodied from tumbles over rocks but made it to the end to prove to myself that a stroke does not necessitate a complete change in lifestyle.

I was very fortunate to have a supportive family endowed with masses of patience and a neurologist who was able to explain to the good half of my brain what was happening with my grey matter.
I appreciate that not everyone will have access to the same levels of support I did so when I heard what Aleks was proposing to do for other survivors with his epic LeJog run for the Stroke Association I’m tempted to say the decision to help him out was a “no brainer”for me. ”

Mike Julien @ Tailwind Nutrition UK

Team Purple Is Racing?!  Support By Getting A T-Shirt :)

If you want to support a great cause (funding for research into the treatment and prevention of strokes) then get your tshirt by asking for one in the comments.  £10 for a top quality technical top!!

Great week of getting to see ideas become real, and seeing people showing their support for a great cause.   The local runners ran the Herod farm Fell race and demonstrated how to look good in purple.

     

Today, I joined some of them and ran a trail 5k followed by a 10k fell race called Chicken Run, proudly showing the purple t-shirt and setting some personal barefoot bests.  

   

     

I seem to learning that the only thing or person to listen to is my body, and that to find out what is possible, you need to test your limits yourself.

Have a great weekend 🙂

Grand Week Of Training

So far a solid 70 miles in the bag, with a mix of aerobic and anaerobic training.  Today 10kg weighted vest 5 miler was tough, but if it doesn’t kill me it’ll make me stronger.

I keep repeating the same things in my head.  Is 1206 miles barefoot going to be achievable in 6 weeks?  Will I fail?  How will I cope physically after so many days of high mileage?

To dispel the doubts I searched for some runspiration and found some quotes of achieving the impossible.  Time to switch mindset 🙂