Hello all, I trained up to, and ran the Augusta Half Marathon on Oct 24 2010.
I read a Popular Mechanics article on “Born to Run” in early 2009, and began the switch to barefoot then. As a real test, I figured I would run a half marathon this year. I upped my mileage to 25 miles per week, and ran 13.5 miles 4 times in the 6 weeks before the race. I had surveyed the race course.
We are in chip seal pavement country. There are two grades of this paving process (fine and coarse). In each, small stones are laid into the roadway, and held together with a thick, oil-like glue. As time goes on, the glue wears away. This means the rocks, which are immobile, begin to stick up. As it ages further, some rocks get dislodged and it gets pretty rough. On this course, there was about 10 miles of chip seal. In my initial survey, I thought the only bad sections were the last mile, and the 2 mile loop around Lake Olmstead. Anyway, here is the run report.
I started out near the back so that I could see where I was stepping. We started with a half mile of fresh pavement, very smooth, but I resisted pushing my pace. Then it turned onto bad, coarse, aged, chip seal for about a mile. I was not going to maintain much of a pace on this. Then we turned to climb the hill. Funnily, the hills did not even matter, what mattered was I was now on fine chip seal, and only partly aged, so I made it up the hill and to the five mile mark pulling 8 minute miles. We crossed the hill, and the chip seal, while still fine, was of poor quality and I had to really focus on my form to keep the pace up.
Then we went downhill and over to the lake section. We are now at mile 7. At the lake, the bad, aged, coarse chip seal featured a nearly continuous yellow line that was not bad, so I practically flew through this section. Between mile 8 and 9 was the photo shot posted above. Now comes the section I was looking forward to – the concrete freeway.
I was now 20 seconds behind an 8 minute mile pace. I picked up the pace, but found the concrete was actually pretty worn too. But by mile 12 I had picked up those 20 seconds and was right on an 8 minute pace. But the last 1.1 miles killed me. It was very rough, very worn, coarse chip seal and I was not as fresh as I was in the first mile.
I bailed on a few blocks to the sidewalk to keep the pace up. I ended up with a chip time of 1:45.44, for a pace of 8:05. Feet were a little sensitive for about a day. I surely could have run this coarse 10 minutes faster in shoes, but it really is close to as unfriendly for barefoot running as I can imagine, so I cannot recommend it very highly.
I was the only barefoot runner, and I saw two people in VFFs running it. There were about 700 runners total, and weather was perfect, and the course, while rough to the feet, actually goes through some interesting parts of Augusta GA.
My first half is in the history books now. So for any of you who are transitioning and wonder how long it may take, I was running 15 miles per week in February 2009 with shoes, and 18 months later I clocked a half marathon with 8:05 miles. It can be done.