The proposed international Barefoot Runners Society UK 1st Run, May 1st 2011.

Quite a few people suggested that the first UK Barefoot Runners Society run should be in Brighton. A 1K and 5K route is needed.

♦ Stanmer Park, Brighton, Sussex was suggested as the most likely location and the BRS needed someone to check out the park and see what it was like. As the BRS site was down when I tried to post this information I've put it here for quick access.

♦ My initial thoughts from knowing the park a little made me think that a run around the road surrounding the grassy island that the church sits on would be good particularly for the 1K. On my first visit this road was in poor shape resulting in lots of stones and I raised concerns with the BRS that Stanmer Park may not be ideal but that I had only seen this part of it.

Following a little further research I found a 5K route from the previous year used for another event (Race for Life 2010) and decided to take a look at it from a barefoot runners perspective. This is what I found:

♦ Here is a link to the route I'm talking about: here (done for the Race for Life in 2010).

♦ That run is a 5K mostly on a track through woods but with some other interesting stuff.

♦ I have not checked out the roads North of the church (that goes through the village) so they might be OK but those, (as mentioned already), going around the grass island that the church is part of would not be very good (too many stones, a beginners nightmare).

♦ For now we don't have a hard surface to run on in Stanmer Park (unless the grass goes rock hard by May).

♦ I went anti-clockwise around most of the route above (but didn't find one part of the "easy access" bit). I think the grass around this area would make a lovely (but probably soft) 1K. There are twigs, could be rubbish etc. of course. At the moment the ground is very soft which is not great for beginners (easy on the soles but might be tricky on the ankles for some).

♦ I think that the 5K route will be great but it is not without its issues and people will need to be ready for quite some variety. I think that we should do the route clockwise starting at the Southern most part (close to the park entrance). This is roughly the order of surfaces clockwise:

♦ 1) The car parking bit is not nice for barefoot, you might want to slip something on to get to the start (and who knows where you will have to park anyway - it can get a bit busy in the park at times of course).

♦ 2) The start is on level grass that is kept fairly short, there's a football pitch by it. At the moment the ground is very soft but not too muddy yet. The start:


♦ 3) Staying on the grass watch out for rubbish & dog poo, head for the left most track in the trees (in the middle of the above photo).

♦ 4) Here is your first (probably worst) challenge. It's got chalky stones and it's steep. It was muddy too today. There could be some nasty bits on the slope but most of the stones looked smooth and large enough that they will be manageable barefoot. You might find enough bits that are mostly mud not stone but don't count on it... so don't expect it to be pain free here. Looking back down the steep chalky bit:


♦ 5) Into the trees and things start to level out with your main problems being a bit of mud, twigs and some stones (less).

♦ 6) You come out into more open ground, trees on the right, busy road not far away. Nothing too bad here.

♦ 7) There is some pitted tarmac that probably has small stones littered about. This is fairly steep down to a road bridge (don't cross the bridge) then a repeat of the same thing going up. Obviously you ideally need to have run on something other than baby smooth stuff. Looking back down the pitted tarmac with the bridge that will be to your left as you run:


♦ 8) You head back into the trees a bit more and it's a gentle uphill with some mud, stones and roots. Surface 8):


♦ 9) There's a parking area, a sharp turn and your main obstacle: dog poo. This was quite bad in that respect here but there is quite a lot of space to avoid it (and if the worst happens there's a fair bit more of the course still left to rub the stuff off you!).

♦ 10) Now it's quite a nice track through the trees with a sand/leaf/twig/mud mix. Some of it is drained quite nicely & felt firm but some is a bit soft. Should be easy:


♦ 11) Follow this wide path which slowly descends and curves towards Stanmer House where you come out of the trees and on to grass.

♦ 12) Run in a slow arc around the grass turning away from Stanmer House and back towards the starting area.

♦ As you can see, this 5K will not be easy for those like me who are currently only up to about 2K so far. I think it will be fun, I think I will be able to do it but it will be a big challenge and living up to my hopes of finishing is not a certain thing (but you don't want it too easy or why bother). From a challenge point of view, when shown what we face, this may be useful for publicity in some quarters (i.e. those wanting to see something where your average person will recognise the achievement - if you make it).

♦ Today I went anticlockwise but I think that for 5K it makes more sense to go clockwise. This is because you have a little flat stuff at the start to get you warmed up (a little) and then you hit the hardest stuff earliest. If it's still wet then hopefully your pads won't have softened too much so everything will be manageable. Once you get to 9) above you should then find it easy (but still more than half of it left). So, if your pads start going soft they won't have to cope with anything too taxing other than perhaps soft ground.

♦ As I went around it I thought it would be nice for someone to be able to mark the route out using that paint you put on football pitches (so people don't nick signs etc.). Perhaps someone can get some. It would be quite easy to go the wrong way in the woods & you want it to be fun and something simple to point you the way helps in that respect.

♦ I think you should strongly recommend that fully barefoot people take a back up pack with some sort of foot ware and the usual bits & bobs. Not so good for publicity. It's either that or have someone to ferry them out there should the need arise. Be expecting very muddy feet after this!

♦ Let us know if that sounds like we're on for Stanmer Park doing that route. If you want a hard surface I still think Hove Park offers the easiest one (but I've only looked & not touched it yet) and would be spot on for beginners.

♦ I think that this Stanmer Park 5K will be a great achievement for someone at my level and it will be important to emphasise that it won't be for the faint hearted, it is a proper challenge (or perhaps that's just me being a novice)!

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