Runner’s World On Half Marathons
Runner’s World issued a Half Marathon Special edition in August, 2012, packed with interesting information. They surveyed 8,719 readers and found out, for example, that 37% of runners considered the half marathon their favorite distance. This compared with 20% for the 5-K, 15% for the 10-K and 13% for the marathon.
I also found out there is a move to rename the half marathon the Pikermi. Somehow, I don’t think that will stick: unless you’re Greek you’ll have a problem with the pronunciation. Pikermi, apparently, was the half way point on the original run by Pheippides from Marathon to Athens.
If we’re going to rename the half, it seems to be that 21-K would be a better name. By my reckoning, the half marathon is actually about 44 yards short of 21 kilometers, but they refer to the marathon as a 42-K and the half as a 21-K in much of the world. The Pikermi name has the benefit of history, and was originally proposed by a Filipino living in South Korea (Eric Hidalgo), according to Runner’s World.
Half Marathon Statistics
Runner’s World has plenty more statistics – if you want them all, you’ll have to read their article. The most startling information for me was just how popular this race has become in the last few years: the number of half marathons increased from 400 in 1990 to 1,200 in 2010, while the number of finishers went from 303,000 to 1.3 million! Maybe they’ll add the half marathon to the Olympics in time for Rio in 2016. Meanwhile, we continue to debate whether the name should be changed. Some people feel that a half of anything sounds like you didn’t really try, while others are perfectly happy with the name. What do you think: should we change it, and if so what should we call it?
Runner’s World has plenty more statistics – if you want them all, you’ll have to read their article. The most startling information for me was just how popular this race has become in the last few years: the number of half marathons increased from 400 in 1990 to 1,200 in 2010, while the number of finishers went from 303,000 to 1.3 million! Maybe they’ll add the half marathon to the Olympics in time for Rio in 2016.
Meanwhile, we continue to debate whether the name should be changed. Some people feel that a half of anything sounds like you didn’t really try, while others are perfectly happy with the name. What do you think: should we change it, and if so what should we call it?
People love to run.
So states Justin Levine in an article on Active.com titled Is Your Running Plan Appropriate for You?
The article concludes with the paragraph:
Random running without attention to progressions, strength development and smart tactics will lead to injury. You have to understand your body, pay attention to signs of overuse/overtraining symptoms and be willing to adjust the program accordingly. As an industry, let’s not bastardize running; let’s reward people for getting out there, pushing themselves and improving their health. The key is education. If you are a strength coach or running specific coach, hammer knowledge into the runners you train about smart training principles and get them to understand the complete picture. If you are a runner, be wise. Don’t just run without adding other elements to the program. Let’s remember, running is a sport that many people enjoy. Let’s encourage activity and promote smarter training so we can continue living healthy and taking advantage of every day!
I used to be a “random runner” until I started my own training plan, and I completely agree with Mr. Levine’s conclusion. Running should be fun, but too often it is not, due to setbacks caused by injuries. As Mr. Levine says, the secret is progression, strength training and smart tactics.
When I started running I had no intention of “racing”: for me, running was just a pleasant way of exercising and getting fit and healthy. A friend persuaded me to run my first 10K and I was hooked! After that I ran regularly without any plan and participated in 5K and 10K runs several times a year. I had frequent injuries, which took some of the enjoyment out of my running, but just believed they were a necessary part of the experience.
Training For A Half Marathon
It was not until I started running half marathons that I decided I needed a running program. In fact, I had already started mixing in some intervals, hill runs and fartlek with my routine runs, but had never really built a training plan. For the half marathon, though, I knew I needed more, so I researched several plans and developed a half marathon training schedule that worked for me.
As I was testing my plan, I recognized that different runners have different needs, depending on their starting point. That was the origin of the different schedules in my Half Training eBook, which contains various plans ranging from an easy beginner plan to an aggressive plan for experienced runners. Over the years, I have found little need to modify these plans.
As a runner, fitness counselor, and running adviser I have learned (sometimes the hard way) the truth behind Mr. Levine’s statements. If you are already a member of Half Training Schedule you will be receiving regular newsletters based on my own running experiences, in addition to the running advice on this website. Strength training was for me the final step in building the level of fitness I needed to enjoy my training schedule.
You will find no references to strength building in my training plans: I used to hate working out with weights. I now believe that strength training is an important part of overall fitness, whether or not you’re a runner. For runners, it’s vital as an aid to avoiding injuries.
Fortunately, strength training does not need to take nearly as long as running training. I now know that 20 minutes or so per week, provided you follow the correct plan, is sufficient.
Now that I can handle!
I posted this article on my other site at 7 Minutes 2 Fitness and decided it was worth reposting here.
The March issue of Runner’s World has a two-page article about Ed Chicoine and his family, and the Marathon of Health. If you have been following their exploits, you will know that they decided not to complete their circuit by running the last leg from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Hence, they “only” ran 15,000 kilometers!
Ed is a Canadian chiropractor who decide to tun across Canada and the U.S. to raise awareness about obesity and diabetes – twin scourges that he had found in his patients in 29 years of chiropractic work. When he told his family about his goal, they all decided to accompany him. You can read about this incredible achievement in the March Runner’s World and watch a short video about it here:
For more about this family and their epic journey, see my previous post Marathon of Health.
Ed and his family discovered that running is not enough for fitness, and they are now promoting the 7 Minute Workout. To see what that’s all about, go to this link now.
There has been a lot of controversy recently over barefoot running, so when I found this article on the subject I decided to republish it. I would love to hear your experience, or views on the subject.
Barefoot Running, or Just a Minimalist Shoe?
By Ben Pearl, DPM
Mention barefoot runners and most people’s first association is probably the legendary 1960 Rome marathon victory by Abebe Bikila. To some advocates the conversation can get heated up quickly as if you were talking about politics. The fundamental question that has yet to be fully answered is whether one can accurately track a population of runners who are barefoot vs. shod.
From the Savannah to the Track
Anthropologists such as Daniel Lieberman believe that the human foot developed to run barefoot. His hypothesis is that we were built for endurance running. Prospective studies and randomized controlled trials of barefoot and shod running are difficult to achieve for obvious reasons. Robbins and Gouw argued that plantar sensation induces a plantar surface protective response whereby runners alter their behavior to reduce shock. The less-cushioned shoe permitted increases in plantar discomfort, a phenomenon that they termed “shock setting.” Coaches such as Brooks Johnson and Vin Lananna have used barefoot running as part of an overall program to train the body to run long distances fast. In their opinion, to run properly, the foot needed to grasp and release on a variety of surfaces such as dirt, grass, road, concrete, and gravel.
The Shoe Industry Steps in
Several companies have weighed in with their versions of a running shoe which simulates barefoot running. Adidas’ approach was to try and copy the shape of the foot. In theory this will produce smaller lever arms that react faster. The idea for the Nike Free was born out of a visit by a couple of researchers to Stanford where Lananna was having athletes running barefoot as part of their training regimen. Many competitive runners I spoke to use barefoot running or shoes like the Nike Free as part of their training. Nike had students test it for 6 months and those using the Free for 6 months had greater flexibility and strength in the foot.
I interviewed researchers Tobie Hatfield from Nike’s Innovation Kitchen and Jeff Pisciotta from the Nike Sports Research Lab to find out how the shoe industry has incorporated the concept of barefoot training into their shoe design. They seem to be spearheading the shift back to their spirited roots to the old Bill Bauerman days when they made prototype soles on waffle irons. They studied 20 competitive runners on grass, and kinematics analysis demonstrated a general trend towards full foot contact. If you watch the footage of Abebe Bikila’s Rome marathon you will notice the same thing. The perception of some of the runners tested was that they were landing more toward the forefoot than they actually were.
Many believe that racing barefoot is difficult unless you have been running without shoes all your life. Many recreational runners are also starting to try barefoot running in an effort to prevent injuries and improve technique. The problem with this is that some of them will not have the conditioning to handle the transition to barefoot running. Experts in the field agree that any transition to barefoot running be done slowly.
The Cushion Illusion
The running shoe industry has built much of its platform on cushioning. The theory goes that very soft shoes will bottom out when loaded, producing higher impact forces than firmer shoes that do not bottom out. Yet for any of us who have run downhill on concrete, the more cushioned shoes seem to be less jarring. So how do we reconcile this? I interviewed Benno Nigg, one of the foremost biomechanics gurus on running shoes, and he was able to offer a new paradigm.
He started by telling me that there is no article in the literature which supports the notion that peak force transmission will be altered with varied levels of cushioning. In fact peak force transmission does not occur during heel contact as we might intuit, but in midstance, where the internal forces on joints, muscles, and tendons are 4 to 5 times greater than during impact.
There is something else that accounts for the perception that we are more comfortable in a certain level of cushioning. Nigg’s vibration model explains that when we impact the ground, our soft tissue compartments (e.g., calf, hamstrings, etc.) start to vibrate. The human body does not like vibrations. Consequently, muscles are activated to dampen these vibrations. The degree of dampening that occurs in various types of shoes is what leads to our perception of comfort in the shoe. So we have an innate sense of what works for our bodies that is probably more accurate than any test could demonstrate for us. We must also consider the fatigue that occurs within the muscles that are working to distribute the vibrations. We know from other studies that fatigue can lead to injuries and this may be part of the answer.
The trend in the shoe industry seems to be toward offering shoes with more minimalist designs. Barefoot training can help train the small muscles that are not trained in stable running shoes. Yet, it is hard to isolate all the force vectors because of the complex arrangement of the joints of the lower extremity. And Robbins’ association between injury and wearing shoes may be mitigated by other factors: perhaps in developing countries barefoot runners may be too poor to seek medical attention; also, shod runners may wear shoes because they have problems running barefoot.
Certainly runners that have grown up running barefoot in areas where it is more prevalent, like Kenya, have been conditioned to run more efficiently barefoot than more industrialized countries. Beyond that elite athletes are exceptional in their foot musculature and would have an easier time in general running barefoot than others.
For more information on Dr. Pearl, visit http://docforjocks.blogspot.com.
One question I had was “Where do you put the racing chip?” This picture answered it for me.
Let me know your views on this controversial subject by leaving comment.
A 22-year old runner died in the Chicago Half Marathon yesterday, probably a victim of the record high temperature. When I ran the Nashville Half Marathon in 2009, also in record high temperature, we had a similar experience: another young runner died. Why does this happen?
I found myself asking this question as I went for my morning run today. With 101 degrees forecast, we are under a weather advisory, with the National Weather Service advising us to “reschedule strenuous activities to the early morning or mid- to late-evening hours.” I intended to take a long run this morning, but decided to cut it short when I realized how hot I was getting.
As runners, we are always tempted to push past our limits: it’s in our nature to see how much harder or faster we can run. With experience, though, we learn that sometimes pushing too hard can be dangerous: we want to live to run another day! It’s generally the younger, less experienced runners that succumb to the heat.
The lesson? Know when to quit! During the 2009 Nashville Half Marathon, I recognized that I was becoming dehydrated and overheated, with a section that had a paucity of water stations. I didn’t drop out, but I decided it was safer to quit running and walk until I could obtain some relief. No, I didn’t beat my anticipated time, but I finished strong and healthy, and was able to run again in 2010.
It’s fun to break your personal record, but not if you lose your life in the attempt.
It’s race day morning, and you’re fired up!
Your training didn’t go quite according to schedule, but you took my advice and left enough lagniappe to take care of it. You’re trained and ready, and excited to be going in for your first really big race.
You set out all your gear the previous evening to be ready for your big day. The start is at 8:00 am, and you have been told to be there by 7:30. It’s an hour’s drive, but with 50,000 runners arriving at 7:30 you decided it would be safer to leave at 6:00.
To give yourself plenty of time to get a snack and a bathroom break, you got up at 5:00 am. Now it’s 7:45 and you’re in the line getting ready for the start. Being a middle-of-the-pack runner, you’re in group #23 of 50. (Sometimes these are called “corrals” or “carousels” or some other name, but I’ll call them groups for today.)
The excitement builds, your adrenaline is kicking in and you’re getting thirsty. You drink another bottle of water as you listen to all the build-up. Now it’s 8:00 am, and the elite runners are off!
Suddenly you realize that you need another potty break. The excitement, the water you drank, the unfamiliar routine have all conspired. You realize that a diarrhea attack may be coming and you might need to find a porta-potty fast.
You’re embarrassed, but don’t be! It happens to the best of us. Poor Paula Radcliffe got caught during a race (with no porta-potty) and, of course, a press photographer could not resist really embarrassing her.
But the race has started, and your group is moving up fast. What to do?
First, calm down. It’s not the end of the world, but you do need to take care of your problem. Your group will probably have gone long before you return, but so what?
These days, big races are all chip-timed, so your time will be taken from the moment you start, not from when your group starts. So, even if you’re not sure if you need the break, it’s better to take it now rather than during the race, when the time out will be included in your race time. So take the break, join a later group if necessary, and start when you’re ready: you’ll be more comfortable, and your time will still be good!
Take care of yourself, enjoy the race, and accept the pre-race jitters. (They won’t hurt, and might even help your performance.)
As a runner, I suffer from the desire to go faster, as does every runner I know. Consequently, I read all sorts of advice on how to go faster and put it all into practice. The result?
Generally, I go slower!
So what is the problem? Is the advice bad? Am I misusing it? Or is it something else?
I believe that we are all different, and what works for one person can be disastrous for another. We each have strengths and weaknesses; most of the advice we receive purports to overcome our weaknesses. It is seldom geared towards consolidating our strengths.
Understand that I am writing this for the average person, not the would-be Olympic champion. For them the rules are different – it’s all about pushing to the limit in a competitive world. For most runners, though, we are concerned with just doing what we already do, but doing it as well as we can without destroying the rest of our life.
For example, I read that to improve my speed I must increase my turnover (or cadence) – the frequency with which my feet hit the ground. The problem is that it means shortening my stride, otherwise I cannot sustain the increased effort. I practiced this for a while, recognizing that at first my overall pace would be slower.
The more I did it the more I hated it and the slower I ran! Clearly something was wrong. My gait became uncomfortable and I found I was not enjoying my running.
Running is the simplest sport there is – all you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and repeat! So why do we complicate it? It’s also the most natural sport. If you don’t believe me, watch children: the only time they walk is when they’re too tired to run or when an adult has told them to quit running and walk!
You have a natural running style, and it is the best style for you! In my case, I run with a slow, long stride, not a short, choppy one. Admittedly, it’s slower and shorter than it used to be, but I can improve my pace and enjoy my runs much more by easing into a longer stride than by speeding up my turnover.
In the words of the old song, it’s “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” that gets results!
Sure, it doesn’t hurt to experiment: trying new things is always good, even if only to find out what doesn’t work. But in the end, you know what your natural style is: that’s where your strength lies. It’s good to stretch yourself by moving out of your comfort zone, but don’t abandon your natural strength to do so.
Consolidate your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and enjoy the journey!
If you run on the roads, what do you need to do to avoid running accidents?
I just got back from a 6 mile training run and noticed that, despite the recession, the traffic seems to keep increasing. I am aware of two fatal accidents to runners in the past year, caused by vehicles whose drivers evidently did not see the runners until too late. The most dangerous time to run is when the light is just changing (at twilight) to or from dark: this is the time when it is most difficult for a driver to see a runner.
So how to be safe?
Apart from dealing with potholes, animals and criminals, the biggest cause of running accidents is vehicles. To avoid being struck by a vehicle:
Run in daylight
Run on the opposite side of the road to the traffic
Wear light, reflective clothing
Run on the sidewalk if possible
Make sure the driver of the vehicle has seen you.
Run in Daylight
Don’t run in the dark or at twilight. This is a counsel of perfection, I know. For some of us, early morning or late evening is our only opportunity to run, so we accept the risk of unexpected potholes or other obstructions and take care to avoid vehicular traffic. Just take extra care.
The biggest danger is at intersections, because drivers making a turn in poor lighting conditions cannot see a runner in the intersection. However reflective our clothing, the driver’s lights will only pick up the reflection when they are aimed straight at us, which may be too late for the driver to stop. Be extra careful, then, at intersections, and always assume the driver has not seen you.
If you must run in the dark, carry a flashlight to attract the driver’s attention. Don’t point it at the driver, but shine it on yourself when you see a vehicle approaching. Wave it around to get the best chance of attracting attention to yourself.
Run on the Opposite Side of the Road to the Traffic
Even if you are on a sidewalk, this is a good idea, because you will see any danger approaching. If it is dark, however, you may prefer to use the sidewalk on the same side as the traffic to avoid being dazzled by oncoming headlights. If there is no sidewalk, though, always run against the traffic.
Wear Light, Reflective Clothing
Light colored clothing is always easier to see, and is especially important on cloudy days or at twilight. Reflective clothing is available from all sporting goods supply places these days. Running shoes always have reflective patches, as do running shorts, shirts and jackets.
The more reflective patches are on your clothing, the easier you will be to to see, but don’t ever assume the driver has seen you just because you think you look like a well-lit Christmas tree! It is your responsibility to avoid running accidents.
The best deals I have found on reflective running clothing are here (at my favorite running store.)
Run on the Sidewalk If Possible
Some sidewalks are so broken up that they are more dangerous than the road, but generally the sidewalk, when it exists, will be much safer. If there is a running path, of course, that is even better.
Make Sure the Driver of the Vehicle Has Seen You
We tend to assume that drivers have seen us: bad assumption!
It pays to attract the driver’s attention, even in daylight. I always wave at approaching drivers to make sure they have seen me: they will either wave back or swerve to avoid me. Either way, I know they have seen me, even if they were busy texting on their cell phone – the latest hazard we experience.
These are five rules to help you avoid being an accident victim when running on the roads. Observing them will make you safer and allow you to enjoy your running for many more years! And finally, here is a bonus tip that I have found useful:
At an intersection, after you have the driver’s attention, point in the direction you intend to run. That way he or she will know which way you are going and be prepared to avoid you if necessary. Sure beats making the driver guess!
Here’s to your safe running!