This November, the city is in for an unusual experience. A thousand runners are expected to run barefoot in a marathon in Navi Mumbai to create awareness about the benefits of barefoot running. And if things go according to plan, they could also just end up breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest barefoot race in the world. Besides prize money of Rs2,25,000, the first three winners in the barefoot category will also be sponsored to run in the Seattle Marathon, USA, in June 2012.
“Many people from rural India cannot participate in races because an Indian Federation of Athletics law prohibits runners from running barefoot in recognised long distance races. We want to change that, and also create awareness about the health benefits of barefoot running,” says Anand Anantharaman, managing trustee of the NGO Barefoot Runners of India Foundation, which is organising the annual race. The first race in December 2010 had 306 runners participate in the half barefoot marathon without a single injury.
Incidentally, it was the statue of Pheidippides in Athens that inspired Anantharaman when he was running in a marathon there: “If he could run barefoot for 42 km, why can’t we?”
However, he accepts that making the transition isn’t easy. So, he asks people to first attempt running wearing a special type of shoe called Vibram FiveFingers. Anantharaman says, “These shoes give you the feel of being barefoot and protect your toes as well.”
And he already has a convert. Actor Milind Soman has pledged his support to the race and will be running the half marathon sporting these shoes for the very first time. Soman said, “As my feet and ankles have increased in strength and conditioning, I don’t think I will feel the need to run in a conventional running shoe in the future.”
And for people who still shy away from baring their feet, regular marathon options are available as well. “We want people to run and see for themselves the benefits of barefoot running,” says Anantharaman.
Keep in mind
Scientific research shows that shoes are injurious to knee and body structure
Making the transition is all in the mindset
Barefoot running makes the feet strong
Avoid pot-holed streets while running barefoot, footpaths, empty roads are fine