RACES: Athletics Ireland Barefoot Mile

There comes a time almost every year where I get romantic notions that perhaps I am truly destined to be a miler and the powerful forces you need to generate to succeed in this distance, perhaps the noblest distance of all, have just been hiding behind a complete lack of training for the discipline or poor technique.

At the “Barefoot Mile” organised by Athletics Ireland on the Leopardstown race course, this dream once again came tumbling down. Granted this was a true “holiday” race for all four ChampionsEverywhere runners: Aoife, Jason, Amidou and yours truly. With all of us focused on technical training, the four of us are probably currently running the mileage we used to run individually in a week, but such is sometimes the price of focusing on the long-term. The goal was fun and, of course, securing the bragging rights.

50 bare foot aspirants…

The 50 strong field did not get a nice sunny evening out at the race-course but rather a grey, windy and altogether miserable August night. Nevertheless, I felt inspired to throw the shoes off straight away and after a walk across the course thus, we began a (much too short!) warm-up running around on the tarmac first. This is getting really easy and I have no trouble with the impact of tarmac on the legs at this stage. But I wasn’t doing 26 miles, of course.


The “CE Squad” after the race…

When the horn went, all of us were lined up close enough to the front and got swept into the early pace. I’d set my Garmin to record 400m splits. Even good miles races are run slower in the second half, so I expected a slow down but not quite so dramatic! I went through 400m in 74 seconds with the wind in our backs (4:58 mile pace) and then immediately began a slow-down. I lost only one position the entire race (the leading lady!) despite this, and the gap to Amidou ahead pretty much stayed at the 5 seconds throughout. Truth be told, it was a god awfully boring race for me because no one was catching me past 600m and I was catching no one. I ran against the wind and nothing else well outside any position that would have been of interest. So let’s talk about splits instead:

400m by 400m by 400m by 400m

Second 400m was 82 seconds (5:30 miling), then 91 seconds (6:06 miling) and on the tough uphill finish against the wind I was slower than marathon pace (6:38 miling!). I crossed the line in 5:58, a bit slower than my 10k race pace earlier in the season! This showed: a) don’t expect track times on a race course, b) it’s time to get back training and c) despite my yearly fantasy, I am no miler. The last of the few anaerobic muscle fibres I possessed before turning 30 seem to have finally disappeared, so to run a good mile I need years of steady aerobic training instead.

Still, my focus on the new running style held up reasonably well today, and it was good to run without anything on the line for once and do something that served no larger purpose but was just a wild idea. Recovery was almost immediate, so a few more days and it’s time to begin marathon training.


Good to see barefooters out there. There are so many people having a go and finding it good fun.
Chris www.barefootbeginner.com