User Stories

The Boilermaker, Bikilas and Beer…a winning combination

Ryan runs in Vibram Five Fingers and says they, “simply made running fun again.” He sent us a recap of his recent participation in “the nation’s biggest 15K road race.”Race RecapThis past weekend I took part in the nation’s biggest 15K road race…

Ryan runs in Vibram Five Fingers and says they, “simply made running fun again.” He sent us a recap of his recent participation in “the nation’s biggest 15K road race.”

Race Recap

This past weekend I took part in the nation’s biggest 15K road race – The Boilermaker – which is held in my hometown of Utica, NY. It was my 4th time running but my 1st time competing in Vibram Five Fingers. I’ve been practically living in my pair of KSOs since I purchased them in May of 2009 (well, at least when there wasn’t a foot of snow on the ground) and started my training for the 15K in them over the winter.

While I loved running in the KSOs, I was fortunate to snag a new pair of Bikilas in May. This changed everything. The Bikilas were even more comfortable than the KSOs and training was a blast in them. They provided a minimal layer of padding to help with the repeated impact of the pavement over 15K while still giving me the barefoot feel and flexibility.

This year’s Boilermaker was the largest in history with over 13,000 runners and an enormous post-race party at the Saranac Brewery (I can’t think of another road race where you get a free beer immediately after running it). The amount of spectators was also amazing and they really kept you going throughout the different sections of the course with water, music, and yes, even vuvuzelas.

I also noticed some other fellow VFF runners while at the starting gate as well as a one runner who was completely barefoot. The race itself was perfect this year from the temperature to a ton of volunteers who made sure the weekend’s events were memorable for both the runners and the spectators. It’s a weekend where our community really comes together and makes you proud to be a participant. As I crossed the finish I also broken my own personal best time, finishing in 1:20:08.

Lots of the discussion around barefoot running (and running in VFFs) has to do with running form and injury prevention. While these are all great benefits to leaving your sneakers behind, that’s not why I love them. For me, the tactile experience and flexibility simply made running fun again for me. It made me want to challenge myself, work hills, run for time and most importantly get out there and put some miles on. This was the first year I can remember enjoying my training regiment and consequently worked harder up to the race.

Combine that preparedness with the spectacle that is the Boilermaker and you have the perfect combination of competition and celebration. I can’t wait for the next 15K!

Thanks for sending us your story Ryan! Good luck on next year’s race.

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

5 replies on “The Boilermaker, Bikilas and Beer…a winning combination”

Very nice post man. The pic of you running is a great shot, you look like you’re cruising big time! Way to make it look easy and keep up the good work.

Hey Ryan, great job! I’ve loved my Bikilas as well (been training in them since the Boston Marathon this year) and I plan to run my first race in them — a 20-k, in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec — tomorrow! Kind of in honour of Abebe Bikila, who was born Aug. 7, 1932. Like you, it’s made running fun again and I’m enjoying my experiment of one.

Carpe viam!


how long it took for you to transition from KSO to Bikila? I have done over a 1000 miles with my first pair of KSO still in tact. I will go with it as far as it can take me but my first marathon is only weeks away. Should I continue training on KSO or switch to Bikila at this point? Any input?

Ryan, I hear you about wearing VFF’s just to enjoy running more. I’ve only worn them a few times to run, but I love hiking in them. Feeling the trail and the way my body responds to the varied terrain is so much different (and better!) in VFF’s.

Great race!
– Fitz.

Hey everyone – thanks so much for the kind words and comments – glad you liked the post. Darrell, you’ll have to let me know how your first race in the Bikilas go.

Jawa, I had been running in my KSOs for about a year before I got the Bikilas. I’d say when picking the model for your race, do whatever is the most comfortable for you. In the KSOs my feet would start to feel the impact of the road as the mileage went up and switching to the Bikilas gave me that little extra padding I needed. Best of luck to you!

Fitz, glad you agree. I haven’t done any trail running in the Bikilas but am doing a couple races in the fall to test them out.

Leave a Reply

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