I ran the Auckland half-marathon today, barefoot all the way. It went well; I slightly improved my time compared to last year when I wore Vibram foot-gloves. I didn't see any other barefoot runners last year or this year, and maybe there will never be any others, but here are some tips just in case:
- Nothing in the rules says you have to wear shoes and I didn't have any trouble from any officials.
- The race has detailed instructions for tying the timing chip into your shoelaces and dire warnings should those instructions not be followed. Before the race I experimented with a few different ways to attach the chip to my foot, but they all failed. Today I just put the chip in my pocket and at the chip-readers (at the start line, the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and the finish line) I held the chip in my hand as low to the ground as I could as I ran over the chip-reading system. I wasn't sure if that would work, but it did.
- The road surface was reasonably smooth most of the way along the route. The section from Smale's Farm along the motorway until getting off the Harbour Bridge --- several kilometres --- is rougher than the rest but tolerable. There are sections around Halsey Street near the end which are very rough, but they're quite short. Overall the surface was better than I usually get running on footpaths.
- My feet hurt less at the end than they did when I wore the Vibrams last year. Last year my feet got really sweat-soaked so that may have had something to do with it.
- I got a lot of good-natured comments from runners and bystanders. Some people probably thought I was a nutter, but to be fair, they're not clearly wrong.
- Aid stations were surrounded by discarded cups of Powerade, making the road sticky with Powerade underfoot. Icky, but it quickly rubs off :-).
To the question of how you get into shape to run a half-marathon barefoot in the first place, I have little to say. I always run barefoot and I run home from work most days.
Overall it was a great experience and I expect I'll do it again next year.