First marathon attempt failed

I haven’t been blogging for far too long, so to catch up I have a lot to write. Let’s start with my plan to run the marathon of Rotterdam in 2014.

In January or February this year I decided on running the marathon held annually in my city. I still didn’t like running much, but I decided it was something I should do at least once in my life, just because I want to have the experience. Financial considerations were an important factor in this. I couldn’t afford to pay the fee for kickboxing lessons, which I used to do frequently when I still lived with my parents last year. After visiting one kickboxing school in my neighborhood, I didn’t like the atmosphere there, it wasn’t as good as my previous school.

Running, on the other hand, didn’t cost me anything. I don’t like running shoes and my shoes in general deteriorate quickly due to friction at my heels, so by running barefoot I could avoid having to buy expensive new running shoes.

Sounds dangerous, running barefoot in Rotterdam? Others have told me they think its risky because I might step on broken glass, but actually the streets are surprisingly clean. I’ve traveled several hundred kilometers through Rotterdam on my bare feet this year, but I’ve never injured them even once. And even if there were broken glass, if you keep your eyes open it should be easy to avoid. I’m more worried about stepping on dog feces.

Unfortunately, some of the asphalt in certain areas is old or badly maintained. This means it’s rather coarse and very uncomfortable to walk on. My greatest annoyances are the bicycle path north of Rotterdam The Hague Airport, the bicycle path west of the Erasmus University Woudestein campus and basically all the asphalt in the Kralingse Bos. So I decided to get myself some minimalist sandals to use for traversing these spots.

Apart from more comfort on lower quality asphalt, I have other reasons to use minimalist sandals. They can be a lot cheaper than shoes. They also last much longer because they aren’t affected by wear and tear as much. In wet weather, the skin under the feet gets softer from the water, which slightly increases the chance of injury. Similarly, if I want to run late during the day when it’s already dark, it’s hard to see where you are placing your feet, also increasing chances of injury. Even so, I still intended to run the marathon itself on my bare feet.

I bought the XeroShoes Connect 4mm sole from a Dutch dealer, Barefoot Schoenen. I paid something like € 30 for them and they come with a warranty for 8000 kilometers. This sandal is just a sole with separate laces and a hole punch, which you have to assemble yourself. This was were the problems started for me. Even though I tried to measure precisely, it was difficult to punch the hole at the exact right spot. Tying the laces was horribly tedious.

During my first run with the sandals they made a lot of noise because it was hard to get laces tied tightly. Because the hole in the left sandal wasn’t punched at the right spot, the left sandal didn’t fit well and gave a blister. The next time I ran barefoot again, causing the blister to move upwards from the bottom of my feet. I had never gotten any injury or blister when I ran barefoot during the weeks before I got the sandals.

Marathon practice blister
After that first run I never used these sandals again. I guess these do-it-yourself sandals might work for some people, but not for me. I continued training for the marathon on my bare feet and eventually succeeded in running 30 kilometers in three hours. At this time I had a part-time job for two days, so I would usually practice two or three times a week. While I used to get bored with running for a few kilometers, running ten or more kilometers was strangely satisfying. Maybe this was the runner’s high?

Unfortunately, my effort ended in a huge anti-climax. A week or so before the marathon would start at 12 April, I increasingly started to feel pain in my knees. During my final practice run a few days before the marathon, it was so painful that I could not run more than 5 kilometers. I suspect it was runner’s knee, caused by my desire to prepare for the marathon in just two months. I was very disappointed I couldn’t participate in the marathon anymore. After some days of rest the knee pain was gone.

I’ve already paid the entrance fee for Rotterdam’s marathon in 2015. This time I’ll start training earlier, at the start of January, so that I get at least three months to prepare, even though some think this will still be too short. I’ll make sure to buy read to wear sandals this time, probably the XeroShoes Sensori or Amuri models.

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