Our IBRD Ok, so here in Northern Ireland it wasn't quite as planned. IBRD tends to be the first Sunday in May and the Belfast Marathon tends to be the first Monday, so anyone involved in running here in NI tends to be doing the marathon, including us. So here's our report, for our IBRD, The Belfast Marathon. So we put it out there that this year we would be attempting the marathon barefoot. We got quite a lot of interest from the media. We had tv interviews, some live on air radio interviews and a few newspaper articles. Great news for us, the club and for barefoot running in general. The queries came flying in from interested runners wanting to know more. Our interview with the BBC went very well. We had a turn out of 8 barefoot and minimalist runners for the filming, to try to show them it's not just three nutters running the marathon but that there is a growing community of us. See it here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27258380 Once aired, our Twitter and Facebook feeds came alive with comments and queries. As the day approached we were starting to get a little nervous at the whole thought of 26 miles barefoot. Could it be done? Would my form suffer when tiredness set in? Would my feet be blistered and sore by the end? Would the naysayers be proved right? This would be my first marathon, Tim's second and Simon's fourth (but first barefoot). The most any of us had done barefoot was a half marathon. But in the final run up to the big day, Tracey Davenport completed the Brighton Marathon barefoot and gave us a much needed confidence boost! It could be done! Race day arrived and we were brimming with excitement and confidence! For those doing MAF, I had been MAF training for the past 8 or so months. I'd taken it very seriously, dropping and extra 5bpm from my heart rate when my pace wasn't improving. I changed my diet completely cutting out all refined sugar, carbs and caffine, and stuck to the hr limits rigorously. With little improvement in my pace I was doubtful it had worked and was concerned I'd wasted my training time on "some fad". Everyone I told about MAF told me I was nuts, and as race day approached, those light hearted comments became more serious. One person in my wife's place of work, a seasoned marathoner, kept telling my wife to feed me pasta and to make sure I was carbing up or I simply wouldn't make it! On race day he made a point of saying, "here's the guy who thinks he can run a marathon with no carbs or gels... (scoffs), yeah let me know how THAT goes!". A girl I work with, who has recently become a personal trainer, actually pleaded with me not to do it! Told me it wasn't possible, that I'd end up with permanent metabolic damage and asked, whose idea was this "diet"? I told her about Phil Maffetone and she just said "Okaaayyy, as long as you know what you're doiiiiing". So this gave me some serious last minute doubts and gave thought to carbing up, but it was too late to go back and I decided to trust it and see how I got on. I brought a camelbak with my Sockwas in for back up, and a homemade Maffetone carb drink. Nunn electrolyte tab with a heaped teaspoon of honey in it for a simple fuel if needed. So the start line was the usual crazy sea of people, with 18,000 people lining the streets and at least half of them queuing for my toilet cubicle! I decided to join the queue at 08:35, race starting at 9am. It was cutting it fine... I literally stepped from the toilet as the start horn sounded and we pushed through the crowds in to the mass of runners. The race itself was superb! We had loads of support the whole way round! All the press coverage beforehand had really helped and instead of people mainly shrieking and pointing, we had mainly cheering and pointing! We barely ran more than a minute at a time without someone saying "it's those barefoot guys! Go On!!!!!". It really got us through! We also made a point of watching for the people, of certain generation, who feel it's imperative that one should have a "good sensible shoe". They were easy to spot! Covering their mouths in horror, crossing themselves and shouting "Oooooooh no!". Funny once you spot them and start keeping an eye and ear out. The first half the race was great! We paced ourselves well and reeled it in if we got carried away and sped up too much. Then about halfway through the course we have the the run up to, and then over the Antrim Road. It's a steep climb over about 5 or 6 miles and it breaks most runners. See the elevation chart below. Glycogen depletion ahoy!!! However this is point at which I realised my MAF training had paid off. I felt great! I reached the top and still felt normal. Not exhausted, not spent, not ready for a nap but simply... fine. We ran down the other side and in to Gideon's Green, Mile 18. This was the bit I was concerned about. Rumoured to be quite rough and a real challenge for barefeet, at the best of times, let alone after you've just run 18 barefoot miles. It was just at the start of the fabled wall hitting stage, where everyone had told me this is where you start to bonk. Bonking and rough, uncomfortable ground aren't a recipe for completing a marathon barefoot. The rain and started and wind had really picked up. Water was trickling down my face, in to my eyes and mouth, and I was having to wipe my face repeatedly. But hey, it was fine! Yeah the gravel was quite fine and sharp but my feet were coping well. They were almost numbed (or conditioned) to any discomfort, as they had been the whole way through. I felt great and just kept going!... until the cramp set in! Yep, cramp struck and I could do little about it. I picked up the pace slightly and just got the head down, focusing on trying to stretch out the muscles. My last training run prior to the marathon was cramp riddled and I had walk home from that. I feared this might end my barefoot marathon dream! I knew I couldn't stop and that if I did I would end up a DNF. All talking stopped, I just kept moving and hoped it would settle. The last 8 miles were a constant battle with cramp. It would ease up for maybe five or six minutes then strike again. Both legs, quads, hamstrings and calves were affected at some point. I had run the final leg of the relay last year and knew the crossover point. I knew once I hit that, I would be on the home stretch! Once I passed it, and all the cheering relay runners, I was invigorated. I knew I was going to finish and that actually, besides the cramp, I felt great! There was only one hill left to run, the Ormeau Rd, and this would be lined with cheering spectators. I just kept moving, passing people the whole way, waiting for "The Wall" to hit, but it never came. I crossed the line in 4hrs 36 minutes and felt superb (again besides the cramp!). In my self focused determination to battle the cramp I realised I had lost Simon and Tim. We had agreed to run together and I felt terrible for it. I waited at the finish line for them to cross. Simon wasn't long behind me and crossed the line with a huge smile, arms held aloft. Tim suffered badly through the Gideon's Green part of the course had to start walking. He battled on for three more miles before having to pull out at mile 22, fearing serious injury. He did an incredible job fighting through it and in the end made the right choice. Like Ken Bob's rule 10 says. "Pooping out is okay sometimes". If it's what your body needs then it's time to stop. There's plenty more marathons and he'll be back next year! We were met at the finish line by a reporter who asked a few questions but we were then greeted by the race director and Chairman of Northern Ireland Athletics, David Seaton. He congratulated us on completing the race barefoot and proceeded to tell the reporter that this was an incredible thing. That people completing a marathon barefoot is a rare thing outside of Africa, that we may be first people in Ireland to have done such a thing. Great to get some recognition for barefoot running, from David. After the race I got a message from the local radio station again, asking us to come in to the studio for an on air interview. Simon and I both weighed in and gave a reasonable representation of ourselves and the club. http://barefootrunningni.tumblr.com/post/85022301873/for-those-who-may-have-missed-it-here-is-th All this couldn't have come at a better time. We are off to London next week to complete our Vivo barefoot running instructor's course, and hopefully we're meeting some of you guys for a run! We can then start our club proper, maybe get these people who have been enquiring over the past few months in to begin their barefoot journey. We can then really focus on growing our club and educating our tiny country that barefoot running is a real running technique to be respected, not just a passing fad.