Today I ran in the first City of Perth Barefoot 10k, a rather low key and intimate race held on the grass of the North Inch in Perth at lunchtime. The race route consisted of 25 and a bit laps of the North Inch cricket oval, with the grass having been recently cut, though not specially for the race.
The small field of competitors totalled one runner, so I was hopeful of a podium finish. As I jogged the half mile past some parked cars en route to the start of the race, I caught a glimpse of the runner, a tired looking individual with badly fitting shorts and a somewhat effeminate running style, and my confidence was boosted by his appearance.
At the cricket oval I removed my shoes and got ready for the start - the race started almost immediately as I decided it was time to go and I only had an hour for lunch. I settled into a seven-minute mile pace and found myself leading the race. I was happy enough for the first few laps as the pace felt comfortable, but I was conscious of keeping something in reserve should the race become more competitive.
The first few kilometres passed quite quickly at a steady pace, though the wet weather last week followed by a couple of hot dry days had meant that in amongst the grass were lots of little worm casts which had dried into small mud spikes - just a wee bit uncomfortable on the soles of my feet. I went through 5 kilometres in 21:10, still in first place and my pace had increased slightly. I continued to run steadily for the next few kilometres, feeling like I was running comfortably although there was a bit of an ache in my right ankle, which I had twisted ten days previously.
After 5 miles of running my feet were starting to get quite sore - this was now the longest barefoot run I had done - so I increased my pace length to reduce the number of steps I had to take, and the number of times my feet had to hit the ground. My pace had been steadily increasing throughout the race, and since kilometre number 3 each kilometre had taken 3 to 4 seconds less than the previous one. It was only in the final kilometre that I felt I was having to try a bit, but I was holding on to first place which gave me an extra incentive to keep running well. Over the final few kilometres I had to concentrate on keeping a good running form - running barefoot is a bit less forgiving if you start plodding, which I guess is one of the training benefits.
I reached the finish in 41:10, 10 seconds faster than the only 10k I have run in anger (the City of Stirling 10k in September 2006) so a small PB but I felt like I still had plenty of running in my legs whereas 6 years ago I staggered across the line and couldn’t have run another step. My garmin measured the course at exactly 10 kilometres, which is perhaps not surprising as the course route had been measured using a garmin identical to mine.
I was delighted to have won the race - I don’t think a victory has been more fiercely contested since George Reid won the Kintyre Way Ultra in 2009 - though because of the small field there weren’t many runners to chat to at the finish and I jogged back to work rather than hang around for the prize giving.
It was a great event to have run in and I look forward to the next one - I guess the field will always be small due to the spontaneous nature of the organisation and lack of marketing, so perhaps I’ll be able to retain my title.