Primal Racing – barefoot style

On Thanksgiving Day I ran the Atlanta half-marathon barefoot.  It was my barefoot first race and longest distance barefoot and an absolute blast. I’ve been inspired to take up barefoot running by Bob Ewing here at The Primal Challenge, the Tarahumara Indians, and by the all the science behind why it is good for the body.

I’ve been off and on barefoot for a while. I started with a pair of Vibram FiveFinger Treks a couple years ago and have dabbled in and out out of barefoot for the past year.  This past summer I decided to take it seriously – making a point to run without shoes if I was going to run.  Since I don’t run on a particular schedule, just ad hoc it took an extra while for the skin to transition.

I would not recommend my training for the race to others:

Due to an intense travel schedule I was running off and on (total of 10m/week) for a couple months in the fall.  I also read Born to Run, which was intensely educational and inspiring.  The Friday before Thanksgiving was one of those days I decided to just run…no watch, no shoes, no idea where I was either, which probably helped add some mileage trying to find my way back home.   It went great.   The Sunday before Thanksgiving I was back in Atlanta after a two month road trip and when I remembered the race decided I’d go run 6 miles on road/sidewalk just to see how it went. It went great so I signed up that night.  I thought I better run at least 9 miles on Tuesday just to really make sure Sunday was a fluke and further prep the skin.  That run also went well, only some minor skin irritation cut near the heel which a band-aid on during the race took care of nicely.

The race was 7 am Thursday morning downtown Atlanta.  Some people said I was nuts (they saw I was wearing Vibram Sprints beforehand and asked if I planned to wear them for the run. My response was, “no, I plan to have these as backup and run barefoot.”).  It was interesting overhearing the comments of fellow runners during the race. Some thought I was doing it for a fundraiser, others thought it was pretty sweet and I got a handful of thumps up. And then there were the shocked and puzzled looks from the occasional race volunteer or spectator.  Anyway, I finished in 1:57:15.

The rest of the day the bottom of my feet were pretty sore.  The last three miles of the race was on pretty rough pavement that I definitely was not used to.  Somewhere around mile 11 a blister popped on the bottom of my foot (I suddenly felt an odd moistness, “pulled over”, checked my foot and sure enough, a flattened blister. “Ah well, two and a half miles left, we can pull it off.”).  I had to pop a few blisters but after about two days the skin was fine.  In my left foot there was some sort of irritation that felt like it was a muscle or tendon. It went away after about a week.

My next race is in February at Barry College. I plan to run that one barefoot as long as the temperature isn’t below freezing.  Below are some pictures:

Meal the night before. Not your typical carb loading…It was a beautiful and crisp day for a run. You can see the 1996 Summer Olympic torch in the background:

The feet truly earned that one:


About Staffaction

If I ever write a memoirs it will be called "From Podunk to Poland to Pakistan" says a good friend of mine anyway. I'm from a small town in Michigan and enjoy world travel. I'm a Christian, advocate for liberty, enjoy real food, and barefoot runs. I studied economics and now work full time for a missions organization as a link between US churches and overseas schools and churches, serving indigenous pastors by discipling and teaching them so they can teach others.
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