On Saturday, June 5, 2010 I completed my first organized race, the 37th Annual Hospital Hill Run (UMKC School of Medicine 5K), after beginning running in the fall of 2009. I'm very pleased to announce that I ran the entire course barefoot! Final official time: 32:50.
The experience Saturday was very cool. From the vast amounts of schwag (free stuff) to the music to the atmosphere, the Hospital Hill Run was a very well-organized event. I definitely recommend it to anyone who's able to make it to KC.
The 5K course lives up to its name. Just south of downtown Kansas City is an area known as "hospital hill," an area of town that sits higher than the surrounding land and is home to two hospitals near the top of it. This course began by working it's way about 45 feet downhill over the first half of the race, and then went up from there. From the lowest to highest THE hill is a 145-foot rise over 9/10 mile. The end of the course slowly makes its way back down to the starting line.
In the above diagram the green represents the rise and fall of the course and the blue represents my "speed."
As for my run, it went almost exactly as I hoped. I started too far back in the pack and had to make my way around dozens of walkers, but that wasn't too big of a deal. I think it was actually kind of a blessing in disguise because it kept me from going out too fast in the beginning -- a common mistake of new runners. I kept a good pace throughout the race and it all evened out in the end. I never felt overly thirsty, but the one time I did was when the lone water station was approaching. In the end, I passed a lot more people than passed me. It felt good. I'm most proud of how I did going up the hill. As you can see from the diagram above, once I got going on it I actually got faster as I reached the top. Gotta love that.
TIP: A couple of times during the race I found myself cramping in my right side. To alleviate that, I remembered some advice I'd stumbled across just the night before: It turns out that cramping while running is often caused by repeatedly landing on the same foot while exhaling. When I changed up my breathing pattern a little bit to begin exhaling on the other foot -- or alternating feet -- the cramping went away.
Running barefoot was a great experience. I managed to find another barefoot runner ahead of time and we chatted for a couple of minutes, then my fellow barefoot runner friend Eric (pictured) found me afterward. My feet held up pretty well throughout the race and I only had a little bit of soreness in my soles later on. The training I did ahead of time paid off. My soles were thickened enough to withstand 3.1 miles of pavement and they never felt tired, sore or like they were going to cramp.
Some of the comments I got during the race were amusing. I heard lots of, "Look, he's barefoot." and "Wow, that's gotta hurt." One woman said to me, "I bet you get a lot of blisters like that." I told her that I had some at first but have conditioned my feet enough that blisters aren't a problem anymore. She replied with some comment about my arches collapsing and I told her that I have strong feet and don't have to worry about it. Her reply: "Good." Another amusing interaction was with a spectator who I thanked for cheering us all on. He said back to me, "Keep running, barefoot man!"
To pause for a bit of commentary, it's really amazing how some people react to seeing a barefoot runner. I'd imagine that most people oddly think that what they're seeing is the first time I've ever run barefoot. Like anything else, however, running barefoot comes with training. I'm not going to run a 5K or any other race without conditioning my feet just like I'd never hop in a race car and try to win the Daytona 500. It all takes time, conditioning, education and practice.
I love race day and I really do love running...especially barefoot. I definitely want to make the Hospital Hill Run an annual race in which I participate and I encourage others to do the same.
Now that I've got my first 5K under my belt, it's time to train for the Kansas City Half Marathon in October! I plan on doing it barefoot, too.