Tag Archives: Vibram


2011 Karuizawa half marathon

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I’ve finally gotten around to posting some pictures of a recent marathon that I took part in, which can be found at the usual place.  My participation in this marathon was completely unexpected; two weeks before the marathon, a colleague of mine at work (a dedicated runner) came by my desk and asked if I would be interested in taking his place in a marathon he had previously signed up for.  An unexpected business trip had come up and he would not be in Japan on the weekend the marathon was scheduled to take place.

With not a little trepidation, I said I would try – “try” being the operative word, since I hadn’t participated in a real run since last year’s Tokyo marathon!  I managed to get about a week and a half’s worth of practice, though only running about 4-5 km each practice run.  The reason for this was because I had decided to run in my new Vibram Five-Finger shoes, and it was taking me longer to adjust to “barefoot running” than I had expected.  Seriously, running in those REALLY work out your calf and… tibialis?  soleus? whatever the muscle directly below the knee facing front is called.

On the day of the race I was still worried because I still hadn’t gotten to run for more than 5km at a stretch, and I had also chosen to rest for the 2 days just before the race to give my legs a chance to recover from the practice.  However, I woke up at 04:30, showered, and headed out (also managed to get a few shots of a lovely early morning sunrise from my balcony just before I left).  I got on a shinkansen to Karuizawa, and within an hour and a half I had arrived.

Everything was in Japanese, but luckily I didn’t really need to know much – I just followed the hundreds of people wearing running gear all getting off the train.  (also, as far as I could tell, I was the only one wearing Five Finger shoes).  The race started at 09:00 and off we went.

I kept to a very slow pace during the entire run – in fact, I don’t think I ever got winded throughout the entire 21km.  My feet and legs also held up surprisingly well for the first 10-12km, but gradually after that I really started to feel the burn in my lower legs.  The last 2km were the worst… my feet, lower leg muscles, and whatever one calls the muscles located on the outer side of the knee were on fire… I’m pretty sure I completed the last leg of the race on adrenaline alone!

Finally, after 2hrs and 25min, I crossed the finish line.  Towards the end there were volunteers handing out paper cups of water to runners… I swear, nothing ever tasted so delicious in my life.  When really tired and exhausted, nothing beats good ‘ol water!

It had started to drizzle during the last stretch of the race, and shortly after finishing, the drizzle turned into a full blown storm.  I didn’t even bother changing out of my runner’s clothes since I didn’t have an umbrella and my dry clothes (thankfully my clean clothes were in plastic) would just have gotten wet.  Instead I hung around the finish line, grabbed a quick bowl of ramen from a nearby stall and after slurping it down I trudged over to a mega-outlet that was located near the train station.

There, I changed into dry clothes, and sat for a couple of hours reading and sipping a cup of decadently rich Godiva hot chocolate.  Mmmm…

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After a wonderful rest, I grabbed another shinkansen back home, showered, and fell asleep instantly.

I have to say, I have never recovered so quickly from a race – ever.  Every race I’ve run in has always required that I rest up for a week or two so my knees would recover.  This time, all pain was gone in 2 days.  The only thing I can attribute the quick recovery to is my Vibram shoes – I guess that the emphasis that these shoes place on a front and/or mid-foot strike may be doing me some good, and I definitely plan to continue running in these to see how things go.

Well, there you go, the story behind the pictures I’ve posted in my gallery section.  Sadly the picture selection is rather minimal since I only took pictures after the race.. but still, I had a great experience! 🙂



Gorilla toe shoes (aka Vibram FiveFingers)

I’ve always been fond of five-toe socks, and have been wearing them pretty much ever since I came to Japan.  I find that they’re comfortable and help keep my feet dry and warm.  Actually, I don’t like wearing “normal” socks anymore because they make my feet feel sweaty!

Early last year, I learned about a new kind of “shoe” produced by Vibram – a funky type of footwear named “Vibram FiveFingers” (I still don’t get where the “Fingers” come from, I’d think “FiveToes” would be a more accurate naming convention).  For one reason or another, I never got them last year, but last week I finally broke down and purchased a pair of “Bikila” FiveFinger shoes.  Today, I finally put them on and wore them throughout the day.

My experience in them so far has consisted of jogging from my apartment to my station (about 5 minutes), jogging from the Takadanobaba station to the park where I do taichi (another 5 minutes), and normal walking for an entire day.  Despite this relatively minor exertion, I’m definitely feeling a little footsore tonight.

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I’ve got some pain from chafing on the back of my left heel.  This started after the first 5 minute jog, but luckily I had thought to bring along some band-aids and socks, both of which helped tremendously.  Most of the soreness though, I attribute to the adjustment of walking all day virtually barefoot.  It was rather interesting to note how walking/jogging in these shoes really forced me to modify the way I walk.  When I started my first jog to the station, I initially ran the way I usually would when wearing regular shoes.  However, after about a minute or two, I noticed my feet automatically compensating for the loss in padding around the heel area (which is the normal design of typical running shoes) and I started gradually striking more with the ball of my foot.  This felt good, but after a couple of minutes, I was already feeling the strain around my forefoot and ankle area.  Luckily, the jog session was very brief; I can tell that I’m going to have to carefully ease into using these shoes.

I definitely really liked doing taichi in the FiveFingers though.  I freaked out my teacher a little with my “Gorilla toe shoes”, but nevertheless I felt that the FF’s gave me a greater sense of stability as I could feel the ground under me and grip appropriately.  I will absolutely keep on using the FF’s for taichi.

As for running in FF’s, I think I’m going to hold off on that for a little while until I’ve really gotten used to them.  I believe it would be all too easy for me to strain my ankles and calves if I push too hard while my feet are not used to this new footwear.  So, I’m just going to start off by walking around with them as much as possible.

Surprisingly, despite my feeling extremely self conscious when I went out, I don’t think many people noticed what I was wearing!  In fact, the only odd looks I got today came from a cute little toddler on the train.  I could see her staring at my feet and could almost see the question marks floating around her head (just WHAT is this guy wearing???). 😛

Overall, I enjoyed wearing these new shoes.  I’ll keep on using them for taichi, and eventually will give extended jogging a go in them as well once I’ve given my feet a chance to adjust.

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