As I continue to train for my marathon in September and my distances continue to grow, I’ve had a lot of discussions about running with friends who are interested in my progress. These discussions often lead to questions along the lines of how I went from struggling through 6K in early March to running 20K by the end of April, how I increase distance so quickly, how I manage to not get injured, and what I think about while I’m running for over two hours. Most of which can be summed up with one answer: running technique.
Most people that know me know that when I get into something, I go all in. So, early on when I started distance running in 2012 I started watching videos and reading blogs about running technique and running form. The first thing that I realized that I needed to change was the fact that I was reaching for every stride and landing on my heel (heel striking). I remember being taught that method of running when I would do Cross-Country in elementary school (long stride, land on your heel, roll your foot under your body, push off), but everything that I was reading and watching was telling me that it is the worst possible way to run. The amount of impact that your body is forced to absorb when your leg is straight and you are pounding on your heel is what leads to so many running injuries in feet, shins, ankles, knees, hips, and back. No amount of padding and cushioning in running shoes is able to protect you from that kind of pounding.
It’s also extremely uneconomical as you are stopping yourself and causing resistance (or braking) every time your heel is slamming into the ground. It took several runs to get my body in the habit of running with my feet under me and landing mid foot, but the benefits were evident in a hurry. I’m not saying that I have perfect running form by any means and through a long runs it can still get extremely sloppy as I pull myself up and have to really focus on keeping my head from falling between shoulders (as my chiropractor put it earlier this week). One thing that I’ve been noticing over the last few long runs is that I have a very stiff neck on runs that go over about 10km. I’m sure there’s a flaw in my form that I’ll be able to change to help correct that and likely had to do with not keeping my shoulders back far enough.
Running technique isn’t just focused on form though. Another thing that I’ve learned recently and commented on in my last blog about Running Slower is that there are many benefits to running slower, especially on your long runs. Wednesday while out for my 15K I was listening to a podcast about the benefits of going slow to go fast – the main point being that slower training leads to faster race days. Of course there is a balance of speed training necessary as well, but long runs should typically be slow runs with maybe short intervals of speed training.