- Don’t Be A Hard Hitter. Run quietly to lower risk of injury. Excessive impact is the number one cause of injury
- Don’t Be A Bouncer. Avoid excessive vertical displacement by maintaining adequate quad strength and avoiding “prancing.”
- Don’t Be A Side-Swinger. Swing your arms smoothly from your shoulders, with elbows bent and your body still.
- Don’t Throw Your Hips Around. Strengthen your gluteus medius to avoid excessive lateral displacement, which can put stress on your IT band and cause hip and knee problems.
- Don’t Over-Do It. Running too much, too soon, too fast leads to injury.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the Delaware Running Festival, which provides runners with the increasingly available option of running in more than one race in a single weekend. The fun began on Saturday night with a 5k that started and finished at the same spot as the marathon, which made it perfect for shaking out my legs and to do a run through of the logistics of getting to the race start/finish line. The 5K was an out and back along the beautiful and historic Delaware Riverfront, covering some of the same ground as the next day’s half and full marathon. It was hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm, and I might have run a bit harder than I planned to, but the post-race pizza helped get my marathon preparations back on track.
Temperatures dropped overnight, and half and full marathoners were met by cool but dry conditions at race time. The course retraced the 5K and then looped out towards beautiful parkland along Brandywine Creek. From there we faced a challenging climb that covered most of two miles, but were rewarded with a tour through the stately slate-roofed Tudor homes of Brandywine Heights, and a quick run down the row houses and restaurants of Wilmington’s Little Italy. While there wasn’t much spectator support, aid stations were stocked with water, Gatorade, and several flavors of sports gel, and the course was well-marked, with plenty of police support.
From Little Italy, we ran downhill from the park to the finish line, where marathoners set off on another loop. Not every racer likes a double-loop course, but I appreciated knowing what to expect, and having the chance to revisit my favorite spots in this small but charming city.
At the finish line festival, were were treated to pizza (again!) and beer, along with protein bars and the usual bananas. For those of you interested in bling, I earned a medal for completing the 5k, another one for finishing the marathon, and then yet another oversized one for being a “Dare Devil” by taking on both challenges – three medals for two races! The race premiums were short sleeved and long sleeved technical shirts by Under Armour, as well as branded beer glasses. But for me, the experience of enjoying a true race weekend on a memorable course was the best part.
For more information, go to http://www.delawaremarathon.org.
Last week I ran the Trail Trashed marathon in Henderson, Nevada. The race proved to be true to its name. The winning time was just under four hours, which tells you something about how difficult it is. My race often felt more like a hike than a run, but while my finishing time was over six hours, I was never bored. It was my 182nd marathon, and it was one of the most beautiful.
The race, which also includes a 50 mile ultra, a half marathon, and a 10K, begins before dawn in Hidden Falls Park. The field of runners was small – under 100 marathoners – but very enthusiastic, with several taking up race director Heidi’s offer to begin with a wild dance at the start line.
The route begins with a double loop in Amargosa that offers great views of the bright lights of Las Vegas in the distance, and of a spectacular blood red sunrise. From there, runners head out to the McCoullough Hills and then a 10 mile lollipop-shaped loop through federal land. Race organizers were prevented by BLM from putting an aid station on this loop, but a well-stocked stop was located right at the entrance/exit. This was the most spectacular part of the course, as runners passed by and through canyons and high desert. Many of us were alone at this point, but that was a wonderful experience, as the course was well-marked and the sense of the vastness of the landscape was unforgettable.
From there there was a short out-and back before the final run to the finish like, where runners were rewarded with a unique wooden finisher’s medal, as well as with pizza and beer.
All in all, a trail run not to be missed!
On March 3d, Roger Bannister passed away. In 1954, he became the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes, a feat which was instantly recognized as one of the greatest sporting achievements of modern times. Since then, over 1000 athletes have run a sub-4, and the record stands at 3:47, but there is nothing like being the first. It’s hard to imagine what it must have felt like for Bannister – and for the other athletes at that time who were also chasing that goal – to push up against the unknown. There were doctors who insisted that the human body was not meant to push that hard, and that anyone attempting that feat would have their heart explode. Still, to borrow a modern phrase, he persisted.
These days, it’s easy to be jaded about all athletic records. Every time we hear about a new standard being set, we brace for a new round of revelations of doping. But let’s try to suspend out cynicism for a moment and imagine what it was like then to chase this magical goal, to, as Jack London wrote, “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of run.” Just for the sheer joy and challenge of it.
For many of us, Roger Bannister represented more than the attainment of a new record. He represented that striving and almost childlike disregard for caution. He ran the sub-4 because no one convinced him that he couldn’t. We could all use a little of that attitude in our lives. He will be missed.
I’m asked this question all the time: is running on the treadmill as good as running outside on the roads? This is more than a fanciful question, since many people are training for spring races and want to make sure that they get as much benefit from their training as they expect.
To answer this question, let’s compare how they stack up.
Ease of Access
Road running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise available – it can be done anywhere, at any time. At least, in theory. In practice, there are concerns that limit a runner’s options. Running in the dark or alone can create anxiety about safety – made all the more potent by news stories about attacks on runners. Bad weather is also a concern; even with the best of gear, it’s hard to get motivated to run on icy streets when the temperature is in single digits, or less.
Treadmill running, on the other hand, provides the same experience every time: a predictable and replicable workout in a temperature-controlled, safe environment.
Road runners report all manner of injuries from running on uneven, hard surfaces, from shin splits to sore knees, to bruises from tripping.
Treadmills generally provide a softer, more even and predictable running surface.
Road running is the best exercise to prepare the body for running on the roads, like in a race. That’s an example of the “specificity of exercise.” By running on the roads, the body learns to deal with impact, hills, and uneven surfaces.
Treadmills provide a somewhat artificial experience, since it feeds the road to you and doesn’t challenge you to deal with wind or uneven surfaces. But it does give you a good sense of pacing because once you set a speed on the treadmill, that’s what you’ll be running. You can’t lack and surge on a treadmill, or you’ll find yourself thrown off.
Advantage: road running.
Road running allows us to each become explorers as we check out new neighborhoods and paths. In DC, our options include streets, bike trails, and off-road trails. With a little planning, every run could be an adventure.
With treadmills, the benefit of predictability is matched by the tedium of repetition. On a treadmill, there is no journey, there is no adventure, and there is no exploration.
Advantage: road running.
If you want experience the joy of running, head outside. But if you want really improve as a runner, go indoors to treadmill to work in a controlled environment on your form and speed. Or best of all, include both in your routine to get the best of both worlds.
Ultimately, though, it matters less which format you choose than it matters that you run consistently.
This past weekend I was in Tennessee to run in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. The Race was a joy, with the mostly flat course passing along the mighty Mississippi, past the blues halls on historic Beale Street, past the Gibson guitar factory, and along beautiful mansion row on North Parkway, to a welcome finish at the AutoZone baseball stadium. Along the way there was live music and plenty of support from the locals (including free beer at the unofficial rest stations, for those brave enough – or foolish enough! – to drink and run).
The highlight of the weekend wasn’t the race, however, or my sampling of the famous Memphis bar-b-que. It was my visit to St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital. Founded in the 1960s by entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Judes is dedicated to helping save children from live-threatening diseases, especially cancer. It now treats over 7,800 children a year, providing free treatment, and also free lodging, food, and support to their families. Its research division has produced new protocols and life-saving drugs in they battle, improving the survival rate of some forms of blood cancer from a heartbreaking 4% to a heroic 96%. Hearing this story, and seeing the bald but happy children in the kid-friendly facility was a life-changing moment.
Over 24,000 people participated in the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or marathon this past weekend, but the important number is this: together they raised almost $10.5 million dollars to continue the mission of the St. Judes Hospital. To find out more about the hospital and next year’s race weekend, visit http://www.stjude.org/memphis-marathon.html.
Some 50 hardy souls lined up with me at the start line, drawn with a heel in the dirt. At exactly 7:30 we were off for an out-and-back run (once for half-marathoners, twice for full marathoners). The route was lined with beautiful fall foliage, which occasionally gave way to vistas of a distant hillside covered with windmills. Aid stations were more like what you would find in an ultra marathon – PB&J sandwich wedges, cookies, m&ms, in addition to water and gatorade. This was no coincidence, as race co-counder Mike Samuelson is himself an ultra-runner. Most runners were local, though one came in from Oregon for the race, and one, Bill Howes, was visiting from England and was running his 440th marathon.T-shirts were optional for a small fee, which seemed appropriate for a crowd that likely owned plenty of race shirts already, but a finisher’s medal is always appreciated, and the Gap Marathon did not disappoint, providing custom steel medals to all who completed the course.
All in all a great experience, for around half the price of most big city races.For more information on the GAP Marathon and other races produced by Altis, visit altisendurance.com, or go to their Facebook page.