This upcoming Sunday, I’ll be running the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival 50 miler. The big decision: Wear shoes or go barefoot?
The case for barefoot:
- I’m familiar with the course, and it’s pretty barefoot-friendly.
- I’ve covered the distance barefoot before.
- The race was voted as the best barefoot event in the US… so I feel compelled to tackle it barefoot.
- I have two sizable cuts on my heels from my recent road 25k, and going barefoot would assure the cuts heal before Bighorn (my “A” race 100 miler next month).
- Barefoot would make the race itself more enjoyable… or at least the first 15 miles or so.
The case against barefoot:
- I haven’t done much barefoot training. That will affect…
- The chance for injury. Going barefoot over that long of a distance on trails has a fairly significant risk of injury. The last barefoot 50 miler resulted in a broken toe.
- I can run long distances faster in shoes. I’ve trained extensively in shoes and managed to whittle my times down to respectability. This should be a pretty easy PR in shoes. Barefoot? Probably not. I have a strong desire to “race” this race.
- This is essentially a training run, and training in shoes will allow me to more closely replicate the conditions at Bighorn.
The issue was reinvigorated after hearing about some of the experiences from the barefoot runners at Luis Escobar’s Born to Run ultras this last weekend. My friend Vanessa, an immensely talented barefoot/minimalist runner, took 7 hours to complete the first 10 miles of a 50k barefoot. As a testament to her bad-assedness, she still finished the race. Her experiences reminded me of this post I wrote about terrain that’s impossible to run barefoot.
The gist- I’ve reached a point where I’d rather push my limits as an ultrarunner than pushing my limits as a barefoot runner. I’ve come close to finding my limits of the latter, but only touched any real potential for the former.
In all likelihood, the heel cuts will be the deciding factor. If they heal, I’ll go with shoes. If not, I’ll go barefoot. Luckily I have plenty of time to consider the issue as Shelly and I travel the East Coast for our clinics in Chicago, Maryland, New York City, and, of course, Pineland Farms (in Maine).