I was talking with a customer at Marathon Sports the other day. He wanted to run faster and was looking for a pair of shoes to enable that. Not an unusual topic – who doesn’t want better race times! This conversation reminded me of three interrelated things that directly affect our speed: range of motion; turnover; and push-off. First, range of motion or ROM. Jack Daniels observed that 1984 Olympic women distance runners had a heel-to-heel stride length of 58” and men 74”. This is probably the top end for most of us – but for purposes here let’s assume an average stride length of 59 inches, or roughly 1.5 meters. For a 5K race, that is about 3,300 strides. If a runner’s full ROM is reduced by just 1”, in essence that means running an extra 90 yards. At a 7:00 minute pace this would add 22 seconds. So instead of 21:46 5K, it would take 22:08. For a 10K, double that difference to 44 seconds. And for a half marathon, 92 seconds or 1.5 minutes. Clearly, a price is paid for a constrained ROM. Second, turnover, or cadence as the cyclists call it, is another key part of … Continue reading

The Art of Recovery

Like many, for years I ran with the mindset that faster was better. If you want to race fast, you’ve got to train fast – an extension of the no pain, no gain philosophy. For me, that worked pretty well. Have never been a high mileage runner – more than 40 MPW on five days a week seemed to invite injury. But most of it was pretty fast paced – usually between just 45 and 60 seconds/mile slower than 10K race pace. I‘ve been racing for 38 years and thankfully spent very little time on the DL – until three years ago. For the first 35 years, I was out of action an average of about 2-3 weeks a year. I attributed this, in part, to taking the approach of not running through injuries. If something cropped up, I hit the pool and Stairmaster until things felt solid. And then it was immediately back to the fast-paced stuff. The two exceptions were a 3-month outage due to a torn piriformis (which I hadn’t even known existed!) and a two-month layoff due to patella tendonitis, for which 15 years later I still preventively tape. So along I went on my merry way. … Continue reading

Pre Lives On!

Forty years ago, on May 30, 1975, Steve Prefontaine died when his car flipped over on a winding road in Eugene, Oregon. Who was Steve Prefontaine, called Pre in running circles, and why do we still celebrate his life? Pre was America’s premier track runner in the early 70’s. A brash kid from Coos Bay, Oregon, he set an American high school record in the 2 mile and then attended University of Oregon under coach Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike. It was less about what Pre did than how he did it. A notorious front-runner, Pre invariably pushed the pace. This was counter to the strategy followed by most top runners who would strategically let others lead and then pour it on toward the end. Pre thought that was cheating, that one should run the whole race. By running this way, Steve helped others run their best times. And made racing fun to watch! Pre brought intensity to everything he did. You might say Pre was poured, not born. Even as a youngster, he was hyperactive. He channeled this energy into running during his sophomore year in high school, showing an unusual amount of focus and commitment under the … Continue reading

Bumps in the Road

Justin pulled his left hamstring. Not badly – and he wisely stopped and walked home as soon as he felt the twinge. He iced and lightly stretched the hamstring over the next three days. Also water ran and StairMastered, neither of which caused any pain. His chiropractor did some Graston work and noted one hip was tighter than the other, prescribing stretches to even things out. All was feeling pretty good, so after four days Justin thought he’d test it out. He was registered for an important half marathon in nine days and felt the need to get in some miles. He aimed for three miles on the treadmill. But in the second mile, the hamstring pulled again. He stopped — frustrated, disappointed, and angry. Every competitive runner hits these bumps. We push it to the limit. The reality is even a well conditioned athlete may be just one hard workout away from injury. Yet we have goals and work meticulously and progressively to meet them. It’s damned if we do and damned if we don’t! Meanwhile, race dates don’t change so we try to compact the recovery period to make it to the start line. None of this is … Continue reading