Taking on 42km at the Sundown Marathon – Barefooted

The feisty barefooted trio.

The feisty barefooted trio.

They started barefoot running just over a year ago and only participated in their first Full Marathon completely barefooted – at the 2XU Compression Run in March.

Now they are taking on Singapore’s first all-night 42km race, the Sundown Marathon at the end of the month, without any shoes on, to raise awareness and funds for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP).

I interviewed barefoot runners, nurse clinician Hayden Tan, 36, home-maker Anna Ong, 40 and Lai Chee Kit, 38, a teacher, to find out more about their barefoot running at the Sundown Marathon.

Here is what the three runners, who are in-laws, said.

When did you first run a full marathon, barefooted?

We tried our first barefoot full marathon (FM) at Standard Chartered 2013. But Chee Kit and I (Hayden) only did 50 per cent of the race barefooted. The other half was with footwear. Anna completed the whole race barefooted, though!

And the three of us ran hand in hand and did our first 100% barefoot marathon together at the recent 2XU FM in March this year.

Their feet.

Being barefooted is the best way to go

What made you decide to tackle the Sundown Marathon, barefooted?

We decided to run with a CAUSE, to help the less privileged in whatever way we could and to challenge ourselves!

The decision came during 2XU, where we witnessed and helped a collapsed runner – who eventually passed on. It really affected our run that day, making it a very emotional run for the three of us.

After the FM, Chee Kit proposed that we should run with a cause – to keep our runs meaningful and help raise dollars when we run. So I told them about runners doing fund raising, such as Ah Siao who helped BMDP to raise funds.

We contacted the BMDP and proposed to them that we would like to help those who have Leukaemia and Lymphoma – in whatever way we could. For these sufferers, their only chance of survival is to get a matching bone marrow transplant and I personally had close encounters with patients suffering from Leukemia.

The mission and purpose of the BMDP, to help patients find a match for life, made us realized that we can actually make a world of difference – to these people.

When we met Ah Siao at his event (31 marathons in 31 days), we were really touched by his dedication and now, we are trying to do the same – to help raise awareness and funds for the BMDP!

When and why did you initially do barefoot running?

I transited to full barefoot running in 2013 march due to a nagging knee pain (because of poor running posture and heel striking and maybe wrong shoe selection). Subsequently, I decided to try out barefoot running and it really helped! Barefoot running allowed me to run pain free on my knees. It also helped to improve my running form!

Anna, who is my running kaki and a vivid nature lover, saw me enjoying the feeling of the Earth beneath me when we ran. So she decided to try it out and she has never looked back. We really enjoy feeling the Earth with our bare feet when we run. It was not really difficult but it required a lot of courage to go against all odds (such as stares from the public, tough and rough terrain, etc.) and to take the first step out – totally barefooted!

Our brother-in-law, Chee Kit became influenced by our enthusiasm and decided to join us. So we trained and ran together and really enjoy running barefooted!

What has been the biggest obstacles in your path so far, in your bid to train barefooted – for the Sundown marathon?

The biggest obstacle we have faced so far, is getting people to understand more about barefoot running. We are not trying to “be different” but we are trying to show that barefoot running is doable and to us, it’s running injury free.

We initially did get a few blisters but we slowly trained up our mileage and endurance and our resistance to the rough terrain.

We would advise runners who want to try barefoot running, to start slowly to condition themselves first.

What do your family and friends think about you running 42km barefooted, at the Sundown Marathon?

Our families were concerned at first. They told us things like, glass lah, wait cut your foot lah, slippery lah and dirty lah.

But subsequently they understood why we do this running – to be injury free in the long term. They are all very supportive and now that we are running for a good cause, our families are all behind us!

Hayden, Chee Kit and Anna after a barefoot run.

Hayden, Chee Kit and Anna feeling happy – after a barefoot run

What do you think would be the main difficulties and challenges faced, while running barefooted, at Sundown?

The Sundown FM will be challenging for us to conquer it barefooted, due to the fact that the visibility is not as good as in the day. We need to be extra cautious and focus more when we are running it!

The other challenge would be the rough terrain at certain parts of the route! We might need to walk (and not run) at these parts to prevent injury!

What is the main thing that keeps you motivated during the tough hours of training and building mileage for the marathon?

The three of us have some shared values when we run. These are as follows:

  • We shall enjoy each marathon to the fullest
  • Timing is not a factor for us
  • Helping and encouraging fellow runners along the way whenever we can (such as slowing down and walking with them to see them through)
  • Do our best each time
  • Use what we have been blessed with, to help the less privileged

These values have been keeping us motivated throughout our training and runs!

What tips do you have for those who may be keen on ditching their shoes and switching to barefoot running?

Here are a couple of things to take note of:

  • Start slowly at a familiar running ground and
  • Slowly gain confidence along the way.

If you wish to donate to Hayden’s, Anna’s and Chee Kit’s cause, please do so here.

To find out more about barefoot running, check out the Singapore Barefoot Minimalist Facebook group here.

Other Blog Posts

My Sundown 42km Run With Love

Handcycling To Glory at Sundown Marathon

Sundown Marathon Charity Ambassadors Meet Beneficiaries

Sundown Marathon – Tips By Veteran Ironman Adrian Mok

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