Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Running better

My memory tag for 3 November is running a 10 km race, specifically sprinting for the finish line.

It was my third 10 km race and I knocked two minutes of my previous personal best time.

Having entered my first ever race - 5 km - on Sunday 2 September 2012 (my memory tag for that day), I have been reading about running and introducing some of the ideas into my training and racing.

Two factors led not only a faster time, but to my legs actually feeling better after the race than when I began.

The first is rhythmic breathing, which I came across in the book "Running on Air" by Budd Coates.

I link to it here on the site of the publisher, Runners World, totally independently (see my advertising policy):

The concept is simply explained: synchronise breathing to steps. The basic rhythm is 3 steps inhaling followed by 2 steps exhaling. To go up a gear, switch to 2 steps inhaling to 1 step exhaling.

I've been experimenting with this for the past few weeks and the rhythm has started to become natural, such that no counting is involved.

The second tip I have come across in various places: more efficient running involves a fast cadence, or step rate, of about 180 steps per minute.

A fast cadence for me involves running with a shorter stride length. Maintaining a fast cadence with longer stride length means you cover a lot more ground and win races - but need to be a lot stronger than I am.

All the same, combining rhythmic breathing with fast cadence made all the difference in the race.

I was whizzing past other runners, having started near the back, but felt totally comfortable.

It struck me that as my breathing cycle was tied to my fast cadence, I was sucking in enough air not to build up an oxygen deficit.

My plan had been to run 5 km easy and then up the pace for the second 5 km, but as my time was good, I kept to the same rhythm until I reached 8 km.

Then I moved up a gear to the 3-step breathing cycle. This gave me even more oxygen and a fresh burst of speed.

When I hit the 250 metre marker, I began to sprint for the finish, switching to a 2-step cycle, one in, one out. Budd Coates says to use a 2:1:1:1 cycle, but I didn't have the concentration for that as I passed a dozen other runners in reaching the finish line.

I was breathless when I finished, but quickly recovered, without having to collapse on the ground as in some other races.

The amazing thing was the state of my legs. Usually after a race, I am incapacitated with aching joints through the following week and need a few days before I can even think of running.

I was already a little nervous about twinges in my legs after putting in a good time in a 5 km run in the park the Saturday of the preceding week and was wary of developing shin splints in my training runs before this race.

But after knocking two minutes off my 10 km time, I felt as if I had cleared my legs of the threatening ailments. I've had a rest day today, but don't feel wary of running tomorrow.

I was still 10 minutes slower than the winner in the M40 category so have a long way to improve.

But I feel I am still on the journey and have not yet arrived at my destination.

I also have a map to follow.

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