Angie Bishop: Running Her First Marathon Barefoot

Angie Bishop – also known as Barefoot Angie B, the name of the blog she authors – just completed the Des Moines Marathon running barefoot. She is also a gluten and casein-free wife and mother to four brilliant boys, one of whom has autism.

In today’s post, part I in a two part series, Angie shares her love for barefoot running – from day one up until race day. Return tomorrow to hear more about how she manages a gluten- and casein free diet and raising four small children – all while setting her sights for an ultramarathon.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.

When/why did you start running barefoot?

I started running barefoot in the early days of summer in 2009. I had just run the Dam to Dam 20k race and had horrible shin splints. Also, my lower back pain was too much to endure. I wanted to buy another pair of shoes when my husband put his foot down and suggested that maybe the problem was the shoes – and I should try running barefoot. I thought he was crazy and since he was not a “runner,” he didn’t know what he was talking about. Not long after our conversation, he came across Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run and I was intrigued and happy to learn I was the first on my library’s waiting list when the book was to arrive. Before I even finished the book, I had decided to ditch my shoes. I was desperate to run and figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I googled “barefoot running” and discovered the Runner’s World Barefoot Runners forum. I instantly felt a kindred connection with these people! Many of us started this journey together and continue to remain friends as our endeavors grow and change. I have since learned about the mechanics of the foot and how shoes affect running, and am a strong believer that all runners would benefit from either going barefoot or at least teaching the body efficient form and moving towards a more minimal shoe.

Can you describe your experience? Will you ever go back to wearing shoes?

Running barefoot is truly a delightful experience. Even in the early days of my journey, when the sensory experience was the most intense, I felt happy each time I set out for a run. The textures, temperatures, and sensations from the world around me were calming and yet invigorating at the same time. I don’t anticipate ever going back to padded and cushioned trainers. I do, however, use minimal shoes as a tool. I look at them in the same way that Christopher McDougall does. He says that he needs shoes just as he needs clothing – Apply as Necessary. The shoe industry is changing and adapting to the wants and needs of the consumer and many people who are constantly injured or just ready for change want a more minimal approach to shoes. I have run over a thousand miles in 2010 so far, and only about 75 of them in shoes. They were shoes that allowed me to continue to use barefoot form even when my feet were covered. Once you go to a more minimal approach, you will fall in love with running again. And going back to a lack of sensory feedback is quite unpleasant.

Why did you want to run a marathon? Why did you select Des Moines? As my barefoot running progressed, I set distance goals. Once that distance was met, I would set another goal and work towards that. So far in my barefoot running, there has not been any distance or speed that I accomplished with shoes that I have not beaten and surpassed as a barefoot runner. The marathon was just the next step. Ultras are in my future and I have already started thinking of goals for 2011 and becoming a Marathon Maniac is on that list!

Why did you decide to run a marathon on a treadmill prior to the Des Moines race day? How did you ever have the stamina to do this?!?! Did it take you long to recover?

I work for nuun active hydration. I was in Omaha Nebraska on a work trip. I was scheduled for a long run that weekend and I also had a friend who was hosting a virtual race in celebration of her 40th Birthday. I was having a really hard time sleeping while away from my boys, so I decided to run until I was tired enough to sleep. The hotel had a nice exercise room and the TV shows that night were good, so I kept on running. The virtual race was a 40k which is just under 25 miles, but I figured I was so close I might as well make it a marathon. It took me 4:53 and that included bathroom breaks and grabbing food from my room when I was hungry.  I ate on the run, though. I was amazed at how little time it took me to recover. It was a nice test of my fitness and boosted my confidence in being able to go the distance on race day. Not once during the Des Moines Marathon did I think that I couldn’t make it. I had done the distance before in training on roads and on a treadmill so I knew I could make it.

How did the actual race day compare to the treadmill?

The Des Moines Marathon seemed to fly by when I was running it. Even though it took me 4:28, it still felt like much less. There were people all along the course to cheer us on and it was fun to see on foot places in my city that I had not been yet. The treadmill taught me not to question my ability to stick it out. Click to read the entire race recap.

What has running taught you about yourself? About life?

I have come to a couple conclusions so far. One is that if it’s not fun, why do it. I did not like running when I was a shod runner wearing big padded motion control shoes. I was not in tuned to myself or my surroundings. Now I love to run and all aspects of it. I have also learned that suffering is optional. It does hurt in those last miles of a long run or a marathon race. It’s hard to push through but it doesn’t have to be an awful experience. I have had four very different experiences in giving birth to my sons from a c-section with my first to an unassisted home birth with my fourth. Each and every birth I was present and aware of what I was doing. In particular, during my home birth, I was calm and understood what was happening. I felt powerful and in control even when it was painful. I did not suffer through the pain; however, I embraced it and accepted that it was just part of the process. I enjoyed it very much and chose to focus on the positives instead of the negatives. I do the same with running. Even when it hurts, there is more to it than the pain. It’s all about perspective.

Check out Angie’s Aha Moment, then return tomorrow to read more about her casein free diet and mothering an autistic child. 

Melinda Hinson