Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Secret to Running Faster

I'd like to run faster. There are two things in particular that I plan on doing to achieve this seemingly simple goal. The first is to do regular "running drills". By 'regular', I mean at least once per week. I've done these haphazardly in the past, often joining in with the kids who train at Calwell. The drills that I'll do will include those demonstrated in this video on the Running Times website.

Why this new enthusiasm for drills? I think it was Rick who pointed out a podcast by Peter Magill where he lucidly explains the importance of drills for older runners. Pete mentions studies that show runners do a great job of retaining their stride frequency into old age. An 80-year-old runner can run the same number of strides per minute that they ran with at age 30. What they can't do is run with the same stride length. Pete says, "that by not doing things to maintain your stride length you're just getting slower."

This loss of stride length is a particular problem for long distance runners — especially those who never do speedwork or shorter races. It's pretty obvious that my stride has become shorter over the years. How short? About 25 centimetres (9.84 inches) shorter for each stride during a 3k race! If I could regain just a fraction of that stride length I might be able to run an age-50 PB for the 3000.

The other thing I plan on doing is to get the Goldilocks training happening. Joe Garland talked about this in a recent blog post about Charlie Spedding. Goldilocks training is running a workout not too hard, not too easy, but just right. Apparently this is the effort that Kenyan runners fall into naturally during their workouts. Marius Bakken took lactate measurements from Kenyan runners and discovered they always run at around anaerobic threshold. This intensity is from 87 to 88% of maximum heart-rate, with variations from 80 to 88%.

So, that's the plan. My next big thing is a 10,000 metre track race on November 12. A time of 44:54 or quicker is what I'd like to run — that would be an M50 PB. Is there time to perfect my new longer stride?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 2009 Melbourne Half Marathon

In August I wrote a story about a half marathon being a long way to run. Well, on Sunday I raced in the Salonpas Melbourne Half Marathon and it didn't feel quite that far — I was wanting it to finish at 17k, not 14k! I think the lovely Melbourne weather helped immensely, as did the picturesque course — the shaded St Kilda Road, the Albert Park Lake, the city skyline and the spectacular finish location inside the MCG.

I didn't receive an official time or place as my timing chip appears to have malfunctioned. I timed myself between the start and finish mats at 1:43:00. Perhaps it was a second or two faster, as I have a habit of waiting until I've crossed the finish mat before stopping the watch. Anyway, I'm reasonably happy with that. I'd loved to have been a couple of minutes quicker, but I think I got the most out of myself on the day.

My starting speed was about perfect. Nothing Pre-like about this one! I was behind the 1:45 pacing balloon up the hill at the start and around to Federation Square. I gradually drifted ahead and was feeling good, passing the 5k sign in 23:33. Onto the smooth, flat bitumen of the Grand Prix circuit I was still entertaining thoughts of an M50 PB and possible sub-1:40 at the 10k sign — 47:16. Running up the slight hill out of the park I lost some momentum, but failed to realise I was now running 4:55 kilometre splits rather than 4:45s. I was being overtaken by runners but didn't feel like I was slowing that much. Strange! By 15k I knew the M50 PB was out of reach, but thought the final time would be about 1:42. Running through the dark tunnel into the huge stadium and onto the hallowed turf of the MCG was a special moment. There was even an unknown spectator who yelled out, "Go Ewen!"

Even though I'm not a huge fan of long races, I think I'll run this one again. I like it — and how could one not like Melbourne? The weekend is also a welcome respite from the cold and wet of Canberra. I enjoyed catching up with friends old and new, including the famous 800m runner Jo and Western Australia's Jonathon. Sorry I missed others. Next time!

5k splits (Av HR): 23:33 (148), 23:43 (149), 24:44 (149), 25:27 (149) + 5:33 (151).