Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I run like Mo Farah

Most runners would have read about the '180 steps' theory of good running. Apparently a running cadence of 180 steps per minute is close to ideal (taking into consideration variations for height — short runners are going to have a naturally faster cadence). I've always been self-conscious about my slow loping cadence, especially after being a spectator at recent track meets and viewing the very fast cadence of some runners. Jeff (a low 18-minute 5k runner) has a cadence of around 214 steps per minute during a 3k race.

I decided to time my cadence to see what it actually was. The easy way to do this (should you wish to try), is to carry a stop-watch and press start as one foot contacts the ground; then count ten contacts of that foot and stop the watch on the tenth. This gives you a time for twenty steps. Using a calculator you can later work out your cadence: 60 (seconds) / T (time for 10 steps) x 20 = cadence. For example, if your time for 10 contacts of the right foot is 6.66 seconds then 60 / 6.66 * 20 = 180.18 — the 'magical' cadence of 180. My timings averaged out at around 6.95 seconds which works out to be a very loping cadence of 172.66 steps per minute. When I consciously tried to speed up my turnover I recorded 6.80 seconds (a cadence of 176.47).

I found this video of Mo Farah running an indoor British record of 7:40.99 for 3000 metres. I like it — besides being a great example of fast running, it's easy to time his cadence as on many of the head-on shots he's leading (and thoughfully wearing different coloured shoes!). Surprisingly, Mo's mid-race cadence is around 175.69 (6.83 secs for 10 steps). In the last two laps his cadence increases to around 187. Further calculations reveal that Mo's stride length is around 2.2 metres (3000 / {176 * 7.683}). So, I (sort of) run like Mo Farah. Our cadences are naturally similar (considering my height). The only difference being my stride-length (should I run 12:30 for 3k) is only 1.39 metres.



Mo Farah running about 5 minutes faster than I do for 3000m

17 Comments:

OpenID sweatykid said...

Thanks for sharing the video -- fun to watch. Maybe the secret to Mo's speed is not only his 175 cadence but his decision to wear two different colored shoes?

3:39 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

Interesting - I found that running in vibrams, my cadence has increased (currently around 180 to 186) to maintain the same speed as my over-striding reduced. I reckon a high cadence shuffle works well for ultra running, epotimised by your own Cliff Young. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Young_%28athlete%29

7:51 pm  
Blogger Janene said...

I wear 2 different coloured shoes and it doesn't help me much! It would be nice to run like Mo Farah! Let's see what he's doing when he's in his 50s. Maybe then the similarity for you ET will be uncanny ;-).

9:09 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Yes SK - different coloured shoes are not only faster, they intimidate your conservative rivals.

Grellan, that's interesting. The Vibrams probably suit a high cadence shuffle. Yes, Cliffy was a legend. I recall he ran a very respectable road marathon around the time of his Sydney to Melbourne runs - something around 3:10.

Janene, but it makes you look the business. When Mo's in his 50s I predict his stride will still be a good half metre longer than mine. If he grows a beard though we'd probably pass for brothers in the pre-race photos.

10:39 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Yes, vibrams and bare-foot should result in better running form, shorter stride, faster cadence, active & speedy feet and legs.
I do like the idea of different coloured shoes in races; it might freak out my more conservative rivals Peter and Trevor, but on the other hand it might inspire David and Kym. Win some lose some.

9:30 am  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Very interesting post Ewen. My short legs have always had high turnover/cadence. With age though, they are getting slower :)

I don't know about the different coloured shoe thing .... call me a control freak who's into symmetry .... but I just don't think I'd feel right in different coloured shoes. And of course if you don't feel right, you don't run at your best - ie fast(?). That's the control freak/symmetry perspective anyway :)

5:37 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Geoff, yes! When I ran that good time at Stromlo in '07 I ran barefoot. I should get back to some barefoot running. I think Kym at the moment would have a good view of the heels of your different coloured shoes.

Liz, I suffer a little from control-freakism too. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but at times I'd like to unleash my inner hippie and run in different coloured shoes - if only they made them in flats as well as spikes!

8:42 pm  
OpenID canute1 said...

That’s a great video clip. The low cadence is a little surprising. I think there is little doubt that the usually quoted target cadence of at least 180 is a good target and many elite 3000-5000m runners achieve nearer 200. Spriners exceed 2500. However while the costs of getting airborne and braking decrease with higher cadence, the cost of repositioning the limbs increases rapidly, especially at high speed. I think that costs of repositioning are less trainable than the costs of getting airborne. So maybe Mo has really developed his ability to get airborne.

8:22 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

good video Ewen,
Running today I noticed the thing that really improves my running is running tall!
i find I can float over the ground better and you get a much better stretch relax in the muscles.
Leg speed
As Steve Magness has shown 180 steps a minute can only ever be an average and we are not average but individuals!
In an idea world you want to increase both legspeed and stride length.
Doing 20 sec strides on grass in bare feet sounds like a good way to get faster and more springy!!!

4:07 am  
Blogger Black Knight said...

I like how you study every little detail of the run. You could be a great coach.

4:51 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

I seem to remember that Michael Johnson USA 400m world record holder had a very high cadence....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Johnson_%28track_and_field%29
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mUa8Ku2BDo
Thats very Interesting about Cliff running around 3.10. For a long time Ive suspected that a very high cadence is the way to go...coloured shoes could be used as a mental motivator. All the best with good cadence nd barefoot running.

7:43 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, I was surprised too. Mo probably gets good elastic rebound from the mid-stride height. He has a very good kick so would attain that by a dramatic increase in cadence and perhaps shortening his stride slightly in the initial phase of his kick.

Rick, interesting about 'running tall' - that's good advice (provided you do it from your core and not try and pull yourself up from the shoulders). Very true about individual variations - I want that too - a little faster and a little longer stride.

Thanks Stefano.

Jonathon, interesting. I know Johnson had a very unusual 'style' (but effective) - he was also aerobically very strong. I'll have to search out some footage of Cliffy - he would have had a high pain threshold as well as a high cadence!

7:44 pm  
Blogger Robert James Reese said...

That sounds like complicated math to me. I'm pretty sure I'd trip and fall on my face if I tried the stopwatch trick. This subject keeps coming up in conversation though and I'm interested to know what my cadence is... I might just try to get someone to film me running on a track so I can figure it out that way.

1:31 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

I use Garmin footpood to measure my cadence and I can see the 'live' stride rates on my watch. My tempo cadence is around 190-200. Still trying to work out how to improve the stride length.

Thanks for your comments/advices during my marathon prep for seoul.

4:11 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

RJR, it's not that complicated ;-) If you hold the watch in your hand and operate it with that hand you shouldn't 'do a CJ' (fall on your face).

Sling, the footpod's a good idea. Thinking about pushing 'off the ground' with more force should improve stride length. For a drill, perhaps 400m or so repeats where you slow down your cadence in the middle 100 but maintain speed by increasing stride length. To have a longer stride-length over long distances you need the aerobic capacity to cope with the speed. I think with Pfitz you're onto a good marathon plan - I'm sure you'll turn that 3:00:17 into a 2:58:17 next time.

9:02 pm  
Blogger Luckylegs said...

A good 5000m race last night, Ewen....you're improving! Now, just release that inner hippie and you'll make it to where you want to be in racing!

7:34 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thankyou Luckylegs. My long-term goal is to improve such that my inner hippie is running as fast as you are in 27 years time... 32 minutes for 5k at age 82 - a very difficult task!

8:35 pm  

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