Following on from my first 10k road race in over 11 years, I've gone ahead and registered for my first offroad race in just as many years. Tomorrow I will be running the Forest Five. It's "5 miles along forest tracks of grass and gravel through the scenic Windsor Forest". Sounds good, but can I run it barefoot?
Not being one to be beaten by a bit of dirt, I headed out yesterday for a very gentle barefoot run over the course, or at least what I think is the course - with the aid of my Garmin Forerunner 405CX I followed a route I found on MapMyRun to see if I can actually run it barefoot. If I could, I'd run the race barefoot too, but until I'd covered the whole route, I couldn't be sure.
Well, I can say I certainly can, but I won't be racing that route barefoot. Most of the route is on nice forest floor roads and they're quite gentle on the feet so I was easily able to keep up a pace of about 5:30/km (nice and slow). However there is about a 2 km stretch along the back which is definitely not barefoot friendly. There are lots of rocks and pointy stones and very little space to avoid them. Over this section I saw my pace drop to around 9:30/km as I minced my way along and I honestly can't see how I'd do that leg any quicker without a bit of protection on my feet.
So with that bit of research done, I've decided I'll be running the Forest Five tomorrow in my huaraches (I must write about these at some point). I'm glad I've done my little bit of pre-race research as I certainly wouldn't want to have shown up eager to race barefoot only to find everyone laughing at me as I hobbled along those two tough kilometres.
If you're planning on a barefoot race, research the route first, especially if part of it will be offroad. You won't regret taking the time to do so. If it's not possible, err on the side of caution until you are sure your feet can handle the toughest ground nature can throw at you.