Anadi interviews me about the physical challenges running Barefoot Across Spain. No 2

Anadi interviews me about the physical challenges running Barefoot Across Spain. No 2

Anadi: Hello I’m with Julia Chi Taylor who who has run Barefoot across Spain… We’re making a series of three videos. The first video was about preparation for running barefoot across Spain and also in that video Julia spoke a bit about how the idea came about. This video is going to be about what it was like physically running barefoot across Spain, and then we’ll do another one which will be more about the emotional, mental and spiritual experience of running barefoot across Spain. So the physical side of running…

Julia : Within two, two or three days I  realised that probably, I was going to do the challenge sleep deprived because it takes longer to be barefoot and I knew that sometimes, I might have to walk because the roads were often kind of ‘Ouchie’.

I realised that the days were going to be long, and because there were lots of people there, which was absolutely fabulous, but it meant, it was like a kind of retreat, or an event, and that I was the hostess. So therefore I didn’t have much free time… And because it was an event that had ignited a lot of enthusiasm and a following – lots of support – And I wanted to respond to the people who were following to me on Youtube and Facebook – the only opportunity I had to do that, was once the day was finished, after dinner, at about ten or eleven o clock or thereabouts…

So, I realised within about three days, that I was not going to get enough sleep – but, I decided that it was only for seven weeks! That was one thing I realised immediately, that I would have to journey on deprived sleep – running sixteen miles a day and averaging eighty four miles a week… And as we said in the other video – really and truly for me to feel really good doing it, probably thinking of myself as an athlete in past, I would need eight or nine hours sleep a night to get the benefit of training hard… And I was running this on five to seven hours a night – so whenever I got  a bit of extra sleep on days off, that was helpful!

The first week I was ready for snow! Jack had warned me that the first five days could be worse weather… And really the first five days were very, very cold and very windy; very snowy and very rainy – and this was very hard on my feet. On day three they started to break down, so I recognised then that I would certainlyhave to manage my feet – and that they would take a lot of looking after – so that that was huge…

Anadi : After thirty eight weeks training for the event you were having problems on day 3!

Julia: Yes, but  from the actual fitness perspective, I was very glad of having prepared so well – and  something I said quite frequently to people, if they wanted to listen to me – was that I was so glad I was so fit… Because I was so fit, actually the sixteen miles a day were never a problem – because when the conditions were bad, or I was very tired because I hadn’t had enough sleep – then obviously some of the miles I walked, so it wasn’t difficult – actually covering the distance was never the problem never ever ever ever… I was so glad I really prepared myself and I was never tired from the actual physical running.

However, I would wake up tired every morning and I would literally just kind of ‘go for it’ – I wouldn’t let myself think any negative thoughts… I would wake up feeling really tired, but just instantly get out of bed – also every morning we gathered to chant the Gayatri mantra  together.

I think that was really a wonderful thing for me, and I think it was something that everybody enjoyed. We would gather early in the morning – everyone was of course invited – and a lot of people always came. It was for only three days I think, three or maybe four, that it was only me and Maggie and Jack, my support team…

But all the way I had anything from one person with me – often that was Josie who was team osteopath… ‘Thank you Josie’ – to  three to twelve people at the most -and always different people… So we all met for the Gayatri Mantra every single day and I know this helped me massively…

Also we did a stretch in session every single evening for twenty minutes, sometimes half an hour – and then we did the chakra chanting which was a very, very lovely ending the day – good for body and soul. I think it was very very helpful, and I’ve got thinner so even though I was eating as well as I could, I couldn’t keep up with that kind of physical demands….

Anadi : I would just like to backtrack a little bit, so you were talking about the chakra chanting and you said it was good for the body so I was wondering in what way?

Julia : Yes – it really was, it was really interesting because I really noticed how much it aligned my body, because I had no pain at all in my my hips, my knees, my back or anything – nothing – on every single day when I finished the challenge my feet hurt and I looked like an abuella – a granny! People probably wondered how I would  do the same again the next day! But to be honest I always felt flowing, and there were days days I just ran like the wind – days that I was feeling so good despite not much sleep, I felt amazing – days that Jack would go ‘Wow!” – because my body just flowed.

I never had any pain in my hips – and the same in my knees, my ankles, my back – nothing – even though I was running huge quantities each day, I really do put that down to doing lots off to stretching – but also a lot to the relaxation within me, and a lot to the chakra chanting. The chakra chanting went up the same main seven energy centres that of course are also linked to emotional aspects and spiritual aspects and related to parts of the body too… So I think that aligning everything in my body on all levels, helped everything to feel strong in myself…

Anadi: You also said about getting thin, and so obviously deprived of sleep and running a lot, but I presume you were eating….

Julia : Yes, yes… I had breakfast before I set off, and sometimes as we got near civilisation (a lot of the time never saw anybody)I would stop during the run, and eat tostado with oil and tomato and drink coffee… And I was eating also, bananas and trek bars, and things on the route – and ‘coca cola’ is my my sports fuel of choice now! We would also always have lunch when we finished – often that was quite late in the day, about four o clock…

So, I was eating well and I love Spanish food, it’s quite simple, so it’s often ensalada mixta with lots of bread and oil; but I couldn’t keep up – my body couldn’t keep its weight on; it was interesting…

Anadi: So when you were a marathon runner – you said in your previous video that you ran at an international level – and then you were doing seventy, eighty, ninety miles a week… So how did you keep your weight up then, what was the difference between then and now?

Julia: It’s actually fascinating to me too – I think it’s being barefoot, I really do, because I used to run a lot of miles… I remember preparing for a marathon once, and training for six weeks on a hundred miles a week – and then dropping down to a bit less…  But I never had a problem keeping my my weight on; if anything I would sometimes gain some weight, because I’d be eating lots of calories to keep up with the training… So it was really new experience for me, I have never in all of my running years – and I’ve been running from six years old and I’m fifty nine now –  I have never had that experience off losing weight and not being able to keep it on – it’s really interesting for me…

Anadi: Yes –  that’s an interesting thing, that barefoot demanded more do you think… I know that when you’re running, you fore foot strike anyway, but do you think because you’re not wearing shoes that there’s something more demanding in your your natural body suspension?

Julia : I don’t know – the interesting thing for me about being barefoot, is that I am a natural barefoot runner, as I am a natural forefoot striker. I think being barefoot is natural – it’s our natural state, but as I say always – I’m not suggesting everyone goes barefoot, because it needs the foot to be re trained, and the body needs to be re trained so it is a very slow process… But for me I think it’s very natural thing, so I’m interested that it did this to my body, and I’m wondering whether it’s because it’s like having reflexology, because I definitely felt all the sensations through my feet, and I’m wondering whether that stimulation to my body was something to do with it; also I do have to work harder to keep my form… I’ve noticed that I hold my arms up more, in the same way I ran as a child. I look more like the young me; but I’m still not actually sure why that would be… I suppose the challenge was big, and I wouldn’t have run eighty four miles a week for seven weeks! It’s a lot for the feet, but my feet got stronger – everything got stronger…

Anadi: That’s an interesting thing, isn’t it? I mean, when people do a lot of exercise generally they get stronger, they build muscle and can sometimes actually put a bit of weight… Muscle weight weighs more than fat, so it’s an interesting thing that you slimmed down rather than built up…

Julia: Yes, I really don’t know, I just know that my body kind of responded by losing some weight. The feet got stronger and I got stronger…

Anadi:  Just before we come onto the injury you mentioned, I’m interested in briefly looking at you going back to running barefoot, even though you wore light shoes when you were competing in your running, that the leap from light shoes to barefoot, there is a massive preparation isn’t there? Retraining physically your whole body really…

Julia: Yes, it is an interesting thing because I’ve always been someone who wore light shoes in the eighties… I wore really light shoes … Like the Nike sock racer and I also wore their ‘Eagles’… I wore very light racing shoes that people might have worn for 5k, but not for marathons…  So I’m a natural natural light shoe person, I also wore Nike Frees before I went barefoot… But it was still a huge transition, and asked for a very slow preparation.

In the last ten years, I had tried to go barefoot twice before… I’d gone into wearing vivobarefoot shoes; but although I love the shoes, I did too much to soon; which was interesting because I was running up to even thirteen miles in the barefoot shoes – but I then got injured, so I had gone too quickly…

But this time, going completely barefoot as I did, and really taking my time, I think I realised how hard it was, and I realised that my feet needed time to adjust… My left arch with a bit dropped, and it needed time to rise up – which it has risen up a lot – my feet have adjusted and they have changed, and there’s been a massive amount of change. The shape of them has changed, and the soles, and the arches have risen… But it’s taken a long long time…

And so I think that it’s recognising – probably like everything to be honest – that we need a really firm foundation, and anything that’s rushed has got that potential weak link in it – where it will break – absolutely absolutely…

Anadi: So if people are thinking of going there, but they need to take that time…

Julia: Yes definitely, definitely – yes, absolutely.

Anadi: so to come back to the physical aspects of your actual run across across Spain, how did your  feet manage – the ones that they were the decision makers about the actual adventure…

Julia: Well, they were actually! I knew we’d get there –  they knew that it was something that’s possible… I didn’t ever get worried even though I had some challenges which I’ll tell you about – and even though when you (Anadi) came out at the beginning  and on the very first day, after six miles, you trod on something, and you couldn’t run again! I didn’t think it could happen to me… I knew that I was going to get to Almuñécar… I never doubted it.

Sometimes I wondered ‘how’ I was going to do it, because it was very very, very hard! But I never doubted it. I kept seeing visions – and they would come unbidden into my sight – of me arriving in Almuñécar, and when I did run into the town,  it was exactly as I had foreseen! so I always knew, because it would come into my vision without me trying to make it happen.

I realised the physical challenges to my feet first thing; because it was on the third day, when it rained all day… By the end of the day my feet were breaking down, so I was aware that I would have to really manage the forefoot, in particular, where I landed…

Anadi: And  when you say breaking down, that’s because of the water on your feet were softening them?

Julia: Yes, and then the road is like sandpaper on them… and on day four, I put some blister plasters on them, and a bandage around them – I didn’t use blister plasters again, as it comes off too fast – I just bandaged them, and then put some kinesiotape around – and then I made a decision… ‘I’ve got to walk’ – so on the fourth day and with snow everywhere, I walked the whole way.  Josie( the team osteopath) was there with me, and we just walked and Jane was there too , and we had the Richard’s family nearby  – which was great – but they were cycling.

So we walked the entire way…  The scenery – with ‘cergüeñas’ /storks  everywhere building their nests – was incredible. But I just walked all day, and then on day five they had recovered… But then my feet kept recovering; every night I would put something on them –  healing gel – I found all sorts of amazing kind of potions, and basically on every single night I would wake up in the night and put more on – every single night!

And so on the fifth day, they were better again. It was a kind of process that happened the whole time – they kept being Okay, then over easter again they broke down –  and they were actually bleeding. I also stubbed my big toe which never really quite better for about five weeks.

And I always had to bandage my hammer toes because they got rubbed on the road – and I got a blood blister on one of the toes which alsomtook five weeks to recover, but the forefeet were getting back to being better – and then they broke again! On Good Friday, they were bleeding and Tony said… ‘How is she going do it? How is she going to do it ?

But I bandaged them and ran on – and then they got better. They were getting better and better and better and then one hot day – something that was very unusual –  after 24k of being okay, they broke down at 25k… So it was a process of getting better – and then I would do things to help, for instance if I bandaged them, I would take the bandages off for the last few kilometres, to keep getting them stronger…

And then came more snow!  it was really unbelievable – we were in a place where the year before, it had been thirty degrees… I was in a village with all these people and they told me there would be snow next week!

My feet just couldn’t take it – and I had five days again of very bad weather. We were staying in this hotel with snow everywhere! Very beautiful of course – a wonderland scene – but there was a team executive team decision that if I was going to make it – with still four or five weeks to go –   the team decision was that I must put on my Skinnner’s socks, because otherwise my feet were not going to make it…!

It was the right decision and it gave my feet a chance to recover… But then I felt this sort of uncomfortable feeling, so I was thinking ‘I’ve got a little pebble on my foot’… Anyway – it wasn’t pebble ‘on it’, it was a pebble ‘in it’ and I couldn’t get it out –  it wouldn’t come out! So every day my foot was challenged – some days I couldn’t feel it at all and some days it was like having a rock in there! I remember we got bits out, but it didn’t come for quite a few days – so I was uncomfortable, and I think that I must have been running a bit funilly, because the left foot, the other foot, started to hurt up the side of ankle…

But then we managed to get the stone out of the right foot – but then the next day pain shot through it, nerve pain…

We were running along, and this pain shot through my foot…. Dramatic pain, then it settled and I thought it is one of those funny things that happens to the body, so I carried on running and the same thing happened and I carried on again; then it did it dramatically stopping me in my tracks.

That was when Josie helped me, she was an amazing Osteopath – Josie Dade – she  was the team osteopath, doing treatments with some people along the way.

I was completely stopped in my tracks. I could hardly put my foot to the ground. We stopped in a cafe en the road…It was amazing. I lay on the floor in the end she was treating my foot and we had Tim, and Katie was Jack obviously there, and we all had coffee  and I wasn’t sure if my foot would be good enough to be able to walk…. But we walked the last 15k,  together… But it then took me a good ten days for the foot to get better, and it was wonderful Josie treated me every day and I just walked on it on.

It was a very, very tough, time because the pain was very deep – very very uncomfortable, and that was another executive decision, that I had to put on a Xero sandals some days, which gave a little bit of support – because I  wasn’t going to be giving a message off destroying myself… And I wouldn’t recommend anyone to even walk on an injured foot for sixteen miles a day, for ten days when it’s in pain! However it was about the journey, and it wasn’t about me, in the end… I knew that it was about everybody, and that I had a mission – I was Phidippedes, and I was delivering a message, so I needed to get there – and so I needed to support my foot and give it what it needed to get better…

The moment it was better, I was off again and then my feet where completely barefoot again… And I knew that what I foresaw was true – that I would make it into Almuñécar…

Anadi: Very good very good, so after all of that, they built up to such a degree that aside from very ‘ouchie’ – you were perfectly okay to be running…

Julia; I was completely okay again –  my feet got so strong that I could run on practically everything – if there was something ridiculously ‘ouchie’, I recognised that I needed to put on my Skinners socks on… So if it was something that was so painful, that I was going to have to gingerly tread, then I just put my Skinner socks on, and I recognised that I had to adjust to what my feet required, what the journey required, and I had to have no definite rules – I had to respond….

Anadi: So you were listening to your body, basically, based on whatever it was you had to run on….

   

Welcome to my Barefoot Across Spain Podcasts

   

The Preparation


   

The Physical Challenges Along The Way


   

The Emotional, Mental And Spiritual Aspects Of The Challenge

 

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