Barefoot and sore calves: A transition to forefoot running (Part One – Why now?)

So here I sit on my 38th birthday contemplating the eternal question “What next?”  I’d love to feel a sense of satiety with life but whilst my family and my career are both sources of immense pride I have a cyclical desire to improve and take my fitness further.  Cyclical in the sense that in stages throughout my adult life I’ve become unhappy with elements of my physical fitness and decided I want or need to do something about it.

The path that’s led me to change my approach to running is a long one so without too much indulgence I’ll attempt to briefly explain.

The desire to do something that really challenged me came to a head in 2012 when a friend posted about the amazing transformation of James Hobday. James had such focus, determination and a source of inspiration in the form of “Mr Gymcredible” Daniel Coleman.  Whilst James had accomplished an amazing transformation (voted’s best of the year) it felt out of reach.  James didn’t have kids to consider at this time, he was younger, stronger, better.  Daniel’s however felt in my grasp.  He was older, had a child, a partner and his accent told me he was southern (i.e wears a coat). Surely I could replicate his success?  All I had to do was exercise, eat healthy (no sugar, fat, butter, caffeine etc) and not drink alcohol.  I was with him up to the point about exercise!

To cut a long story short I was fed up and in May 2012 something had to change I sat on the end of my bed with beer and food baby protruding and hit the enter key to sign up to Mr Gymcredible’s fitness challenge.

In the space of 6 months of gym training I dropped 3 stone in weight,  I got some biceps (although I always preferred leg day) I’d reduced my 10K time from 52 minutes to 42 minutes (just through weight loss and without running more than a mile a week), I completed a coast to coast race with my oldest friend and I had won MyProtein’s 14 day transformation challenge (which a lot of people entered) as nice treat at the start of the year.  When I decide to commit to something I like to see it through.  It’s easy to say you’ll do something and then stumble at the first hurdle and I had said I’d do things before and given up.  The difference with this challenge was sharing my goal.  With in an hour of hitting enter in May 2012 Mr Gymcredible had posted my start picture and video (you’ll be sad to know I can’t link to his site as the challenge stopped a couple of years back now) to his website and I had shared my ambition to facebook!  If I didn’t see it through I would look like a proper tool!  Even worse than that I’d be sat getting fatter, sadder and more average by the day!

So now back to the present.  At first the shire horse category of racing seemed quite novel but I knew to be at my best I needed to loose shed some timber.  Lining up for my first ultramarathon with my top mate and training buddy Stones was the culmination of months of hard work and long hours on the trails.  The Hardmoors 55 post can be viewed through the link above but needless to say our efforts were quelled by the Beast from the East.  Having survived for 34 miles in horrendous weather I felt sure I could manage the distance.  I entered the Lyke Wake Challenge and finished.  So having finished an ultra why did I not feel that satiety?

I’d noticed during the race how tired I felt.  “Of course you did you idiot, you just ran 40 miles!” came one response.  But it was more to do with feeling inefficient.  I’d watched the younger fitter athletes, or “showoff bastards” as the man running alongside me called them, as they passed us with ease and ran up hill like it was an escalator.  What made them different?

  1. Their weight – They weren’t trying to lug 15 stone up the hill (I’m including pack weight in this ? )
  2. Their form – They make it look easy
  3. Their experience – This isn’t their first time

So.  Enter the next challenge….. to become a good, forefoot, ultra runner.  Not to win ultras but to be better than I am now in form, fitness and mind!

The tools.

I started my gentle form transition training in September and I’m going to give a little weekly update that might help other’s considering making the move from heel striking to forefoot so fingers crossed it helps someone other than myself to write this but I’ve taken the first step in committing to do it so here goes.  I feel optimistic despite having sore calves and in a nod to ‘Born to Run’ I shall sign off simply with my new moniker.  ‘El Lobo Gordo’

Mick Fenwick

Mountain Leader, D of E Co-Ordinator, Deputy Headteacher

4 thoughts on “Barefoot and sore calves: A transition to forefoot running (Part One – Why now?)

  • 15/09/2018 at 7:21 pm

    After doing some running this year, and completing 2 half marathons I have become intrigued into how I can push my body more into other more far fetched adventures. I hadn’t ran more than 3 miles until I signed up to my first half in May and I only have myself 4 weeks to train for it. I feel as I become fitter I feel much better but my weight hasn’t shifted.

    My next challenge is to shift some more weight (fat) which I expect in turn will help me run better and fast too.

    I will keep up to date with this blog mate looks great

    • 17/09/2018 at 8:43 pm

      Well done on the two half marathons Mark. I didn’t realised you taken on running too. I’d seen you were going from strength to strength in the gym. Eric Orton’s book the Cool Impossible is a really good insight into the forefoot running method but certainly does help to shift some weight (from experience). I think to really see the best times it would likely require some muscle atrophy for tanks like us too!

  • 16/09/2018 at 7:37 am

    Phil’s read that book, born to run, and has some barefoot trainers. He’s like a gazelle uphill. I followed his technique the other week and my calves burnt. Maybe I was doing it right after all ? good luck.

    • 17/09/2018 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks Vicky. I need to try and have a run with Phil at some point. I’m still not past the burning calves point yet so I hope to work my way through it. It’s just going to be slow and steady.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: