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Eureka moments

December 2, 2009

Running is beautifully simple, but can also be devilishly frustrating. You ride on the highs of progress and feel the disappointment of a lack of improvement or off days. But every now and then, you discover – or rediscover – something that just makes a real difference.

A while ago, I read – and blogged about – Danny Dreyer’s advice on running form in his book ChiRunning. The running form Dreyer advocates is based on a leaning posture from the ankle, with minimal body movement beyond the runner’s ‘column’. In effect, this means that your arms are often pulled back, so your elbows act as a counter balance to your lean.

I’ve toyed with some of the principles of this approach. The most useful thing I’ve found is using a leaning posture to support the motion of my legs. However, I’ve never really felt that this helped open up my speed, and I’ve found my legs getting tired as the posture relies on a longer stride and consequently greater push-off from your quads.

However, despite a general feeling of disappointment about the Eynsham 10k (despite getting a PB, I had focused on going sub-40, so being 21 seconds outside my target didn’t feel like a success story), my personal highlight was the last 400 metres. In a training session with the club a few weeks ago we had focused on running form, using exaggerated arm swings to build speed. Entering the final stretch of the race, I started to swing my arms and dug out a fairly decent sprint finish.

Today I was in two minds about what to do for my training run. I’d not had a terribly satisfying club run on Tuesday, feeling quick to tire and winding up doing something between the medium and long runs. It was dark, spotting with rain – your usual unappealing winter’s evening after a day at work. I’d thought to do a fartlek tempo run – running for 5 minute sessions at fast then moderate pace – so I set out on my lap, swinging my arms.

And in that simple change to my running form, speed felt easy. I was running at a decent training pace, but felt that my style was somehow more efficient as I was splitting the load between my arms and my legs. In the end, I didn’t slow down because I wasn’t short of breath or tired, and ended up running a 20.5km double lap of town in just over 1 hour 27. At that speed, I’m not far away from a sub-1:30 half marathon, which would knock a good 5 minutes off my PB.

Having started the run feeling a bit negative, I ended remarkably full of energy and more hopeful about what I could achieve. All in all, a very good training run.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. domholdsworth permalink
    December 3, 2009 10:02 am

    “Fartlek tempo run”???

    • December 4, 2009 12:46 pm

      C’mon Dom, surely you know a fartlek tempo run when you see one?! Good to see your blog up and running, by the way, I’ll be sure to mention here every now and then.

      (PS. fartlek means ‘speed play’, so running a different paces. Tempo is at race pace, or approaching race pace. So a fartlek tempo run would be a series of race-pace intervals (could be for a time (e.g. 5 minutes) or a distance (e.g. a mile)), with recovery periods in between.)

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