By Scott Douglas
Keith Levasseur ran Saturday's Baltimore Marathon in 2:46:58 while wearing flip flops. Levasseur will file paperwork with the Guinness Book of World Records to have the feat acknowledged as a world record for a marathon in flip flops.
Levasseur, a member of Maryland's Howard County Striders, ran his marathon PR of 2:38 at last year's Marine Corps Marathon. Before the Baltimore Marathon, he said his goal was to go sub-3:00 in flip flops.
"I had every intention of sticking to the race plan of finishing a little under 3:00, so my initial pace starting out was 6:40-6:50 [per mile]," Levasseur told Runner's World Newswire. "After a few miles, I decided I go with whatever pace I could comfortably run, even if it was faster than my target pace. I know there are some decent hills later in the race and I didn't know how I would be doing from a time perspective at that point, so I gave myself some wiggle room by letting go on the downhills and cruising in the low 6:00's."
Levasseur, who placed 29th overall among 3,024 finishers, said that fellow racers as well as spectators noticed his footwear. Runners, he said, "were supportive of the effort and after a 'you're crazy' comment or two, they wished me luck. I heard a number of spectators saying, 'Hey, that's the flip flop guy!' as I passed."
A little past halfway, Levasseur started to get a hot spot on the top of his right foot. (The farthest he had gone in training in flip flops was 14 miles.) "I knew that what would normally result in a blister wasn't happening because there wasn't any room due to the snugness of the strap," Levasseur said. "Instead I figured it would just rub away the skin, which is what it essentially did." (Learn how to deal with the unexpected in Top Race-Day Disasters to Avoid.)
Levasseur said that focusing on his form was key.
"I knew it was all about maintaining a very efficient and balanced stride," he said. "There were times when my feet and ankles would get tired from maintaining a more rigid stride than I might otherwise have and I would start landing more on the outside of the my foot and cause my heel to slip off the sandal. It only happened a few times and when it did, it would refocus my concentration on my stride and posture."
Levasseur said other challenges were cobblestones and railroad tracks, as well as uphills "since all the uphills were run more like stair stepping instead of fluid running."
The rules Levasseur had worked out with Guinness for record purposes required that he cover the entire course in flip flops; if one came off, Levasseur was to go back to it, put it back on, and then resume running. "They never fell off," Levasseur said. "There were times I would have to drive the front of my foot into the ground to re-secure the fit if they started to slide off. There were also a few times my heel would slip to the side, though they never touched the ground."
By the following day, Levasseur said, the balls of his feet were "quite sore," in part because "with the minimal padding and inability to place my foot like I normally do, I had to slap the front of my foot quite a bit, especially on the downhills." Levasseur said his ankles and quadriceps were also more sore than usual because of his altered gait.
"Many friends have asked if I'll do it again and my answer has been a resounding 'no,'" Levasseur said. "If someone breaks the record, I will simply congratulate them."
Photo Credit: Laura Johnson Via Runner's World