Thursday, June 23, 2011

running 101

  • my article that ran in the Kemmerer Gazette this week
Being someone who doesn’t like surprises unless they are in the form of money, running shoes, or a new hair color, I’m here to give you a little heads up. You have exactly 37 days till your first race – you’re welcome.

If this is news to you, go to or and find out more about the race you need to participate in.  I travel over 100 miles for most of the races I run, so trust me, it’s wise to take advantage of a race in your hometown.  The Burn Your Lungs Run is a 5K, 10K or ½ Marathon the morning of July 30th.  I assume you’ll be in town since it is Oyster Ridge Music Festival weekend. I’ll also assume you may have indulged on all the “festival food and drinks”, so a run on Saturday morning is just what you’re going to need. 

Briefly, here’s what you need to know.  A 5K is 3.1 miles, a 10K is 6.2 miles, and a ½ Marathon is 13.1 miles.  All distances can be either walked or ran. The race is open to all ages.  You’ll get a great workout in and a sweet technical t-shirt all before noon.  You can register online, making it super easy, and all proceeds of the race go to Dance For Life, a local non-profit cancer society.  There will be prizes after the race as well.  You’ll probably beat the “out of towners” because their lungs will be busy searching for oxygen while you power past them at 7,000 ft. 

Not only have I given you your head’s up; I’m here to give you a little running 101 so that you’re ready to go by July 30th. 

I’m going to start with what I believe is the foundation of good running but which is frequently overlooked – running form.  Phil Wharton, a physical therapist for many Olympic runners says, “Ours is one of the only sports where the technical aspect has been the skeleton in the closet.”  I believe he’s right.  Runners often focus on stretching, hydration, nutrition, and speed-work, but never once consider their running form. However taking the time to learn about correct running form, and then practicing it could save you tons of time recovering from an injury later. 

The author of “Born to Run”, Christopher McDougall, explains correct running form well.  He writes, “Running with good form means landing on the middle of the foot, near the body’s natural center of mass, maintaining an aligned straight posture, not landing on the heel with a straight knee and an outstretched leg, and avoiding excessive lateral motion (rotating the upper body or kicking the legs out to the side).”

I’ll break it down a little more:  Keep your upper body straight with a slight forward bend from your ankles not your hips or back. Your arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle and swing upward from your hips, not in or out across your body. Keep your upper body relaxed (drop your arms and shake them out periodically – this will keep your shoulders from creeping toward your ears, a sure sign of NOT being relaxed). Your knees should be slightly bent when you land, and your foot should land directly under your body, not out in front of you. Focus on having a light, rapid cadence.  To go faster increase your foot-turnover-rate DO NOT lengthen your stride.

Out of all of those aspects, the one I believe is the most crucial to master is the “mid-foot” strike.  Most runners have a tendency to over stride and land on their heel.  One of the major causes of that is actually running shoes.  Brian Beckstead, a co-creator of Altra Running Shoes says, “Our feet don’t have elevated heels, so it’s not natural to expect people to run long distances with a raised heel.”  Brian, along with some others created Altra Running Shoes with a “zero drop” heel in order to prevent a lot of common running injuries. This means that the forefoot of the shoe and the heel of the shoe are at the same height, unlike conventional running shoes where the heel is elevated.  Shoes with extra cushioning in the heel allow runners to have a long stride and heel strike.  The cushioning disrupts the sensory input in the foot and distorts your body’s natural form allowing you to land on your heel.  The ball of our foot was designed to be landed on, not our heels.

One sure sign that you are heel striking and over-striding is that you can see your feet when you run.  This is not a good thing.  You’re feet should be landing underneath your body where you can’t see them.

A good way to get the feel for a mid-foot strike is to run in place, this forces you to land on the ball of your foot (aka mid-foot).  As you work on running with a mid-foot strike you’ll notice that your hamstrings and calves have to work harder.  That’s good though because it means those muscles are taking the extra force instead of your knees, hips, or other joints or bones.  If you don’t run this way naturally, anticipate some sore tired legs and give your body time to adjust to a new stride.  Stretch well after your runs, and take some days off if you’re feeling overly sore or achy. 

I gotta admit I wish I had known these things when I first started running.  It would have saved me a lot of time and money dealing with running related injuries.  So take advantage of the lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way.

Well, that should give you enough information to get outside and start running.  I’ll have some more running tips and tricks to get you ready for the Burn Your Lungs Run in my next article.  Until then “FORM, FORM, FORM!” – Practice it, rest, and repeat. 

1 comment:

  1. Part of "I run for fun," for me, is that I don't pay any attention to "how you're supposed to do it." A very adolescent rebellion. Thanks for you post... I've got to keep an eye on whether or not I see my feet!