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Running technique. Again.

February 3, 2010

Back in early December, following a disappointing race, I blogged about recovering from a bad run. Having gone through the frustration of running badly – leaden limbs, lacking any feeling of grace or flow in your movement – having a good run where everything starts to make sense again can really change your perspective.

I had a bad run on Sunday. After 18 miles, my legs started to cramp up and I had to cut my long run short at 21 miles (I’d been intending to run slightly more than 22 miles). I’d started off at a good pace, maintaining my pace at something between 7:00- and 7:20-minute miles until I got to mile 16 and things started to slow. The low point being mile 20 at just over 9 minutes, during which I felt completely lacking in energy.

Mile split times for Sunday's 21-mile run.

Mile 13 was, despite Garmin's assurances, up a hill. The rest in red were just slow as my legs gradually gave way.

Today, after a rest day, I went to the running club not necessarily expecting anything brilliant. My legs were still a little stiff, I was a bit wary of the route (which cut through various paths in Abgindon’s estates, making it incredibly easy to get lost) and was having problems with getting my watch started. (Really, sometimes there are some benefits to just having an actual stop watch if you know how far you’re running.)

Starting slowly, I built speed through the run, stretching out my stride and trying to make my gait more efficient. Coming out of the disappointing race in December, I’d rediscovered the importance of using my arms in running. That had made a huge difference to me, and two weeks later I’d knocked something like 90 seconds off my 10k PB.

Since then, I’ve been amazed by some of the elite runners at the club. They don’t seem to take any more strides than me, and look perfectly relaxed in their pacing, but rip away at a hell of a speed. After watching their gait, usually as they pull effortlessly away from me around the corner of the running track, I’ve come to think that there might be something in the way they use their ankle in the push-off phase of their run.

So, I’ve been experimenting with this approach. In the first few runs where I was using my calves more than normal, I’d find that I was getting stiff legs. Now I’m finding this is less so, and it helps me to avoid overusing my quads. While today’s club run wasn’t that fast in real terms (my pace seems to have only been a couple of seconds faster than the first half of Sunday’s run), it felt good and easy.

I think some of my problems on Sunday stemmed from running a fairly quick 7 miles on Saturday. Essentially, not enough time to recover. So, with that in mind, I think I’m going to shuffle my 13 mile Friday run to Wednesday, move my 7 mile run to Friday and definitely make sure I have a full day off on Saturday. That, and some good carbs, should mean that I’m ready to run a good, consistent, 23 miles on Sunday.

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