Below is a race account I received from Bernard, an ultra runner in Singapore, who recently completed a 100km race in KSO FiveFingers — his first race in minimalist footwear.
Bernard also talks about getting into barefooting and then “minshod” running. It’s an encouraging story:
I’ve come to know about your website and am excited to know how Vibram has transformed so many people’s lives. In a similar way, I’d like to share my experience and the recent event I did last Saturday, 24th Oct.
I had never heard of barefoot running or minimalist running when I started doing endurance events. It was in one of the recent ultra trail race (Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc) when I did, when I heard of Vibram Fivefingers. They had a booth at the race expo and it did not catch my attention. Anyway, to cut the story short, I had my first DNF at UTMB in August (I had run non-stop for 150km and was short of 16km to complete). I was in terrible pain and had cramps everywhere. My legs hurt so badly … It was in a moment of post race reflection that I came across barefoot running and its benefits. “I am not going to run barefoot, it will be so painful,” I thought to myself. I looked for other alternatives and that is when I come across Vibram Fivefingers … I thought “Why not?” The rest is history. Now I am a true convert and practitioner of minimalist running.
Last Saturday, I took part in the longest ultra running event in Singapore. It was the The North Face 100 Singapore, part of the TNF100 series in the world. Because of my experiences, I was selected and invited to take part in the first 100km solo event. I decided to do it using Vibram KSO. I wasn’t sure if I was sane to run 100km in Vibram. To “train” for this, I ran fully barefoot to strengthen my feet and thicken my calluses. I ran 4 times a week about 5km every morning barefoot for almost 1.5 month. Next, I did progressive trail runs from 10 – 30km in Vibram. All this while friends were asking me, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Some of my close buddies encouraged and supported me, and I was grateful for their words of support. Race day came and I was one of the 30 participants in the field at 4am. I knew I had to start slow as this was 100km and not 10km. I had the company of my close buddy with me and we looked out for each other. In fact, I did not face any major problems for the first 20km on the trail. The problems came between 20-30km where the trail changed to rocky trails (nothing but just rocks and rocks). Every step you took was difficult and painful. Trying to read the trail was also challenging as it was all the same. I knew this part of the route was going to pose me bigger problem when I had to complete it in the 2nd loop. I managed to survive the first 50km in 5:48hrs. However, my feet were also hurting quite badly. I decided to take an hour’s break to rest my feet and was contemplating whether I should change into my shoes (Yes, I brought my shoes as a back-up plan).
I was not ready to give up without trying. I put my Vibrams back on and decided to continue. The next 20km was even harder than I had expected. I had to improvise my strategy. I had to run on flat surfaces and downhills while walking up hilly trails. Finally, the nightmare came again at the 70km mark (the rockiest trail). Forced with a hard decision, I opted to do a power walk for the entire 10km of this trail. I knew it would affect my overall timing but my aim was to complete the 100km event. Thankfully, I persevered and completed the 10km in about 1:30hrs. By this time, my right feet seem to have a blister forming, so I got it bandaged by a medic.
I was feeling horrible as the heat was intense at that part of the day. Then, a message from my cell phone came and it read, “Bernard is still in the race and he is going to be the first Singaporean to run 100km in barefoot.” That message lifted up my spirits. All of sudden, I was fired up and thanked the volunteers. I got up and continued my run. Every ounce of energy seemed to come back and I was running again for the last 20km. What made it sweeter was the fact that family and kids were going to be there at the finish.
As the distance became shorter and shorter, I was running even faster. At the last 2.5km, i was running at a 5.43min/km pace. Finally, Isaw the finishing line and saw my kids waving at me. I held my son’s hand and we ran into the finish line together. Happy and tired I was! Nevertheless, I was proud that I had earned the right to be the first to do a 100km trail event in the minimalist style.
Check this out. This is the 2nd day after my 100km, I am not feeling any injury / muscle aching on any part of my legs. My calves felt sore the next day after the race. Right now, the soreness has disappeared. I am truly surprised and this event has just proven the benefits of barefoot running.
Apologies for the long story — I am excited to share with everyone the benefits I’ve received from both being barefoot and in Vibrams.
Great to hear that you persevered to the finish line and had such a warm reception waiting for you. The “foot massage” you get running on rocky terrain can certainly be an intense experience. Encouraging to know your recovery went quickly!
Thanks for sharing, Bernard! May you have many more injury-free races in VFFs!