Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon: My first barefoot 26.2

Two runners post marathon

My sister and I post marathon

If you’re bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don’t have enough goals. – Lou Holtz

At the beginning of the year I set a handful of running goals: run a 5K a month; set a new marathon PR; and run a barefoot half and full marathon. Up until this past weekend I’ve knocked out 10 of 12 5Ks via Anywhere5K, set a marathon PR in Chicago (3:31:25), and ran a barefoot half in Indianapolis.

Since the NYC Marathon fell through, I decided to make Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon my first barefoot marathon. As an added bonus, my sister was going to run with me, and I was going to help pace her to a new PR.


Let’s back up. I didn’t start running barefoot yesterday. I’ve been running barefoot for a few years now. I started with several short runs. Worked my way up to racing 5Ks. And over time I increased mileage and speed. Nowadays, I alternate between Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) and my two bare feet.

In preparation for my 2012 goals, I upped my barefoot mileage in March, and eventually knocked out the Indy MiniMarathon in May. Over the summer I ramped up my barefoot mileage to about 35% of my runs.

By the fall, my race schedule picked back up. I ran a few more barefoot 5Ks, logged a handful of 10 milers (including the Army Ten Miler in D.C.), and following the Chicago Marathon in October, ran the rest of my training runs sans VFF.

By race day I was feeling pretty good about the race. Not just the about the mileage, but about my feet’s ability to endure 26.2 miles of blacktop.

Race Day

Charlotte was special for a number of reasons. Sure I was running my first barefoot marathon, but I was also running a marathon with my sister for the first time, and we were going to get her a new marathon PR. Prior to the Charlotte race my sister’s marathon PR was in the early 5 hour range. We were hoping to cross the finish line in under 5.

CLT Marathon route

Charlotte Marathon route

On race day, after snapping a few photos, exchanging hugs with my other sister and her family, we settled in near the 4:30 pacing group. First the anthem, then a NASCAR engine started, and eventually the 3,000+ marathon and half-marathon runners crossed the start line and began moving down the road.

My sister and I found our groove straightaway, and the two of us crossed mile 1 at 9:45. It was a wee bit faster than our 10:00/mi target pace so we slowed up and crossed the second mile at 9:53 pace.

At the 10K mark we crossed the chip mats at 1:01:15 (9:51 pace). My sister was running strong and my feet weren’t hurting at all. BTW, since I was running barefoot I had to tie my chip around my ankle using the drawstring from my other sister’s pajamas (thanks sis).

A few miles later, around mile 11, some dude was having a seizure on the curb. I stopped to see if the three people helping the guy needed anything, but a police officer had arrived just as I did. Not long after that, EMS showed up. What’s crazy is the seizing dude, as he began to come around, kept saying he was fine and that he wanted to run even though his legs were still flailing. Dude, I admire your dedication, but your brain is telling you to call it a day.

CLT Marathon Elevation

Marathon elevation +/-

A mile later we crossed 12 at 10:01 pace. Shortly after that we split from the half marathoners and carried on with the rest of our race. My sister felt good. My feet felt great. We were rocking on down Thunder Road and feeling confident about reaching our sub-5 hour goal.

Then around mile 16, my sister had to slow up. Her groin was giving her a few issues. We walked it out and got back at it. We spent the next two miles at ~12:00 pace, waved to our other sister at 18, and then dropped back down to the 10s for a couple miles before my sister hit the wall around mile 20. Her knees were aching, and she was low on energy.

Up until that point we were rockin’ a 10:24 pace. The next 5 miles were a mixture of 98% run, 2% not run, and 0% complaining. All at a respectable 12:20 pace.

Mile after mile I would count down the mileage, and my sister would always reply, “Piece of cake!”

With one mile to go I told my sister there’d be no more walking. We were going to finish this race running. And we did. She rocked the last mile and 2 tenths at 10:30 pace.

Here we are crossing the finish line…

with a final time of…

Thunder Road Marathon time

Post-Race Thoughts

I couldn’t be more stoked for my sister. She set a goal and bested her PR by over 20 minutes! Congrats to you sis!

As for my first barefoot marathon, I was more than pleased with how the race went. The only sign of wear came around mile 21 when a blister on my second toe started to make itself known. It didn’t hurt as much as it felt like I was constantly stepping on a twig. Apart from that, my feet were just dirty and scuffed.

Would things have been differently had I pushed myself at a faster pace? Probably. Will I run another marathon barefoot? Most likely. For now, I’m going to revel in the moment. I completed my first barefoot marathon and lived to tell the tale.

my feet post marathon

My feet post marathon
Click to enlarge