It's now three weeks since I started "barefoot running" - which is running "barefoot style" in "barefoot shoes". Yes, I know, it doesn't make much sense, but if you read my earlier post, hopefully you'll know what I'm talking about.
So, with less than two weeks to go until I touch down in Kenya, how is it going? Today I managed to run two miles and my legs are only mildly aching afterwards. That might not sound great, but it was what I was told to expect. I'm using different muscles and so my legs need time to readjust. Meanwhile, my waist is expanding and I'm obviously losing fitness.
But it's not all bad. A few months ago, before I started with all this barefoot (in shoes) malarky, I went into a running shop to buy some new trainers. I was with a friend who runs, by all accounts, considerably slower than me. The shop assistant got both of us to run on the treadmill and filmed us on his souped-up computer-aided gait analysis machine. He told me that I needed extra support, cushioning and stability because my knees were collapsing in on each stride (pronation, they call it). It was a fairly damning analysis.
My friend got on and jogged for a few seconds before the shop assistant told him he had a perfect running style. Ouch.
Yesterday, I went to a different running shop to buy some racing flats - it's what the Kenyans run in, I'm told. I was nervous about the shop assistants getting me on their treadmill and then telling me I couldn't buy racing flats as I needed more support padding etc etc blardy blah.
I picked out the pair I wanted - the flattest shoes with the least support - and asked if they had them in my size. "Do you pronate?" the man asked me. "Er ... I don't know," I said, wary of lying outright in case he could tell just by the way I walked or something that I did. But it was the wrong answer.
"Hop up on the treadmill and we'll take a look," he said. I considered bolting for the door, but decided against it. Instead I obediently put on my trainers and clambered aboard the treadmill. I wasn't sure if my "barefoot style" was up to a public examination by a gait expert. Would I look completely mad if I tried it? If I didn't, though, he'd tell me I couldn't buy the trainers. I had to give it a go.
The machine whirred slowly into action. Lead with your chest, I told myself. Legs like a unicycle. It started to get faster. Pad, pad, pad. He was crouching down trying to look under my feet. I tried to look casual, like this was my natural running style, not something I was working hard to maintain. He was checking me out from the side now. After about 30 seconds, I hit the stop button and the machine came to a halt.
"You're lucky," he said. "You have a lovely forefoot style. It's the most efficient way to run."
I stepped off the machine and tried to look surprised by the good news. Of course, it had nothing to do with luck. In only three weeks I had gone from having a calamitous style to having a "lovely style". True, I could only maintain it for two miles, but progress was definitely being made.
The experiment continues ...