Two week to go before Gas Light 10 K Road Race held in a small local town of Yotsukaido I test-ran the course barefoot. Last year I had a similar trial-run, but the road surface was so rough that I couldn't even run the first 1 K. At the race I ran in MUTEKI, minimalist sock-like shoes that have recently become well-known thanks to the popularity of TV drama "Rikuoh" or "King of Road". I renewed my course record, which was also my second best time for the distance.
I have run quite a few races in those now popular minimalist shoes, and have gotten quite used to running with little or no cushioning. So I hoped that this year I might be able to run it barefoot. I went to the venue by scooter, and quickly took off my wind-breaking pants and jacket. Just in case I should get my feet injured, I carried a pair of thin shoes that I bought from Amazon. (See below.) They are aqua shoes, but one guy says in his review that he uses them for running. I kept them in my pockets so that I could take them out and put them on in case my sole hurts.
I started off slowly and carefully not to step on sharp-edged pebbles. I immediately felt my soles had gotten rougher over the course of time. But as I went on, the road surface got rougher and my soles started feeling sorer. My heart sank, afraid that I was still not strong enough to run this race barefoot. A bad memory from last year flashed back. I decided to quit and turned back, because I assumed that the road condition would continued to be the same.
But this year one thing was different. I had a pair of shoes in my pocket. In the worst case scenario I could put them on to protect my feet to run the remaining distance. So instead of giving it up, I pressed on.
To my surprise, once I crossed the first major intersection, the road condition suddenly changed, and it became as smooth as cream! So this may be it. It's only the first 700~800 meters that are rough, and the rest is mostly smooth like this. As I went on, I became increasingly confident that I could run the race barefoot this year.
In about 26 minutes I reached the turning point. The last 500 meters leading to it was just a little less smooth, but it didn't cause any pain that was unbearable. The second half was very pleasant because I knew what was coming. I picked up the pace and pushed on. Then came the final challenge. The last stretch leading to the finish presented a very rough road surface. I slowed down and took smaller steps, carefully tracing the while line near the side of the road because the surface is smooth because of the paint. It helped. I surged in the final 300 meters, and crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. It said 49:35.79. Not bad. Now that I know the road condition of the entire course, I can be bolder at the race. I will probably not be able to run as fast as I did last year, but I should be able to complete the race barefoot. Should that happen, it will be my first official barefoot debut in an official race. Just a mere prospect of it thrills me enormously. I cannot wait to run the race.