Sunday, 10 November 2013

Running like an Olympian

My memory tag for 9 November 2013 is getting below 23 minutes for a 5 km Saturday run in the park. It is not the fastest course as it has a couple of inclines and I've been trying for a while to bring my time below this threshold. I managed 22:55.

The book The Art of Running Faster has helped me with its tips on running with faster, such as running with faster strides, even if they are shorter. (This is an unsolicited recommendation).

I am still reading the book, but now I am trying to follow its advice to run so that my centre of gravity is above or slightly in front of my leading foot when it lands.

Today I watched the 5,000 metres at the London Olympics, won by Mo Farah of Great Britain.

I can see how the runners' feet strike the ground below their bodies and their legs extend to launch them forwards for the next foot to strike, with the knee of that leg bent.

It also struck me how high the feet of the runners rise behind them, to the level of their backsides, as they bend the knee almost fully, to bring their leg forward again. Julian Goater talks of following a cycling motion.

This slow motion film of foot strikes from a 10,000 metre olympic qualifying race show more clearly how the trailing leg fully extends to launch the runner forward.

This is far from the energy-conserving shuffle I fall into, where my mind is more on the leg traveling forward than the leg stretching behind me.

I tried it out running tonight and it felt very strange. As when I taught myself to juggle, I found it useful to concentrate on one thing at a time, in the hope that, with time, my subconscious would keep good control of the other aspects.

Doing some hill repetitions (actually over a hump-backed footbridge), I used very short steps, running on the balls of my feet to build up the muscle memory.

Running on the flat, I tried to continue that approach, landing on the balls of my feet, placing my feet underneath me.

Doing it the old way, stretching forward to connect with the ground, striking with the heel, turns my foot into a pivot I have to rise over - I am effectively braking myself with every stride.

Julian Goater speaks of falling forward and placing your foot to stop the fall, rather than reaching forward.

With my mind on the Mo Farah run, I tried to concentrate on extending my trailing leg to launch myself forward onto my other foot. This was a little difficult to do at speed, so instead of thinking of every step, I linked it to my rhythmic breathing count: two steps inhaling - "push!" - land on the other foot - one step exhaling.

This was effective, and also worked with the slower rhythm: three seps inhaling - "push!" - land on the other foot - two steps exhaling.

At other times, I tried to think of landing with the knee of my front leg bent, ready for the extension to propel me forwards.

It did not come together very well at all and my legs ached like bruised apples afterwards.

But I can reflect on the elements and try to bring them together in future runs.

Today is the first day I tried to run like Mo Farah.

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