About 270 miles ago I purchased some Newton running shoes with the idea that they would help me become a more natural mid-foot runner, which of course is supposed to be more efficient that any other kind of stride... But as all runners know, everyone runs a little bit different simply because no two people are built exactly the same.
The net-net here is that after 270 miles, I'm realizing that I'm not a mid-foot runner; I'm more of a "flat foot" runner, trending towards fore-foot, but definitely not a true mid-foot runner. In other words, I'm not landing on the balls of my feet, but rather further back. Ok - so does that really matter? Not really. At least I don't think so.
I've probably spent a large portion of those 270 miles trying to run on my forefoot, i.e. land on the nubs on the bottom of the Newton shoes. But it just never felt right, I could not get into a good cadence, and I definitely could not keep it up for miles on end. For short distances, I was definitely running faster, but my stride could never quite get into it.
I finally sort of just let myself "run" and tried to pay attention to how I was running. I naturally lean ever so slightly into my run, but I also consciously think about making sure that my hips are forward. This keeps me from slouching and getting sloppy in my posture. I try to imagine that I'm driving my hips forward, almost like I have a wire attached to to the mid point of my hips and it is pulling me up the road or trail. The net result is that my feet follow and by conscienciously making sure that my feet are always landing under my hips, I don't heel-strike. But it's also not a forefoot stride - it's really more of "forward-flat-foot" stride.
My knees, hips, and ankles seem to be ok with it - I can do this for many miles, although I do mix up my stride a bit on on long runs just to ease my leg muscles. I'm also finding that I'm a tad faster. It may be an illusion right now (I haven't run any events, like a 5 or 10K to confirm it), but my splits seem to be better.
So what's the point of this? Simple: I like the Newtons and I think that they are helping me run better. But I also believe that I'm running better because I letting myself run naturally and not how someone is suggesting that I run.
166 days to the MCM!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Saturday, May 4, 2013
I’m doing 20-25 miles a week as I do my pre-training for the Marine Corp Marathon in October and once I get into the heart of my training routine I’ll probably peak out somewhere close to 40 miles during certain weeks. And to me, that’s a fair amount of running – and time… And I started to think about other people that I’ve met or read about that do 30-40 miles per week just on a regular basis, then amp it up to 60+ for their marathon training. Some of these runners are running multiple times a day. The question I have to ask is: do these people have a life outside of just running? Do they have jobs, errands to run, a house to take care of, have kids, a spouse, or friends? You know… a life? Do they go out for a beer on Friday or Saturday nights?
Perhaps it’s just me, but an hour’s run actually consumes more like 3 hours of my day if I take my pre and post run routines into consideration. All told, those 20-25 miles take a reasonable, but very enjoyable, chunk out of my life. So for those folks that are consistently doing 30-40 and more miles per week, either they run really, really fast or running is basically pretty much all they do. And I’m pretty certain that when they are not running, they are cross-training…
So my point here I guess is that there are varying levels of running fanaticism. There’s the guys like me that want to run, like to run, and want to be better, but are constrained by the different priorities and pulls of a “life”. And then there are those that live to run. I have this image of those that live to run literally wearing running gear under their work clothes and then do the phone-booth Superman transformation (ok – they probably do it in a bathroom or perhaps their car). Of course I’m assuming that they are actually working…. There was a story in Runners World about a guy who kind of had that way of life: as soon as 5:00 hit, he'd change clothes and be running down the road by 5:05 and then order pizza while running to be delivered to some corner so that he'd have something to eat for the run back to his car. But guys like that are so not the norm. C'mon man...
But nevertheless, I am hammering out my miles in the relentless effort to become more fit and physically capable of accomplishing a difficult goal. I struggle with balancing training-time and other-things-I-need-to-do and I know that I'm not alone. But in the end the personal reward is tremendous. It’s something that I can’t describe to anyone and I’m sure that other runners feel the same. And it’s more than just accomplishing something. It’s almost like it’s an internal digestion and reaching for a certain “zen”, whatever the heck that is.
I can’t wait for the MCM. I’m excited and I hope that I am fit and can toe the starting line healthy!
176 days to go.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Obviously, running without them is so much easier, but their companionship and the joy that they seem to get out of being out there with me is very cool. So many smells, so many things to pee on, interesting critters to want to chase...
These guys aren't much for distance; 3 miles with a break in between somewhere is about all they are good for. After a bit, the dog on the left starts lagging on me and I have to encourage him to finish with me. More than once we've had to finish at a walk rather than at a run because he got too tired, or perhaps because something was bothering him.
I give these guys a lot of credit for helping me run: in my early days (all of 4 years ago), they helped me run faster than the slow shuffle jog that I was calling "running". Back then, I struggled to keep up with them; at first I could only do it for short spurts; now they pretty much signal me to stop or slow down after a bit.
But it is so much pleasure when we get into an easy lope and they are just trotting along with me. The dog on the left puts his ears back, the black dog on the right seems to always have her ears out, and both of them always smelling for something. Woe is me if the black dog spots a squirrel or a rabbit and I'm not prepared to rein her in.
I wish that I felt confident enough to slip their leashes and just let them run, but I'm concerned about what they would get into.
As we were cresting one particular hill, a very large tan dog appears sans a leash.... He stopped when he saw us, effectively blocking the narrow trail, and so I naturally also stopped. Is this dog by himself or what? I didn't want to attempt to pass him and risk a confrontation of some sort, given how narrow the trail was and how big he was (he was huge!), so we all just starred at each other for a little bit until his owner showed up. It was only 20-30 seconds, but it seemed like a long time - I had enough time to start considering my possible options... It was just kind of weird how this huge dog was literally dominating the trail and waited for his owner to tell him what to do with us. It all ended well - the owner was a very pleasant lady who shoo'ed her dog onwards and around us, noting that her dog had never had a leash in his life.... nice.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
It took serious persistence and knowing some html, but I managed to get registered for the MCM, running Oct 27, 2013! The event sold out in 2 hours, 27 minutes. Registration started at noon, and crashed immediately as thousands of runners hit the site. I am just grateful that I had the time to be able to dedicate to getting registered. Now I'm just hoping for a strong training period and a good run!
HooRah! Here we go!
Goals? Right now my goal is to cross the finish line vertical and preferably running !
HooRah! Here we go!
Goals? Right now my goal is to cross the finish line vertical and preferably running !
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I suddenly realized today that I have been using a very subtle trick when running a route with hills. After running for a while, every hill I hit becomes harder and harder for me (hey – I’m not 20 anymore and I get tired…. not an excuse, it’s a fact).
I realized (today) that when I start running out of gas going up a hill, that I often tell myself to just get to the top and then I can walk a bit to recover. But I never do that, I don't slow down to a walk when I get to the top – I get to the crest and then I keep running – no walking.
And today, after all this time, it suddenly occurred to me why: once I get to the top and I’m on a level or maybe even a downhill slope, the effort diminishes so much that I feel good enough to continue running. Crazy, huh? The trick was simply telling myself to get-to-the-top and then reconsider my needs. I don’t know if that makes me a better runner or not, but for me it makes a psychological difference, a mental victory, that I didn't slow down to walk while on the uphill part. And in the end, it’s all about the small victories.
But maybe this little trick will help someone else…
Saturday, March 9, 2013
It’s almost like what I would imagine a religious experience to be. It is a sudden rush of release, of what I don’t know, followed by a flush of new endorphin's that make me feel like I could run forever, up any hill, through any wall. I’ll share that I am sometimes moved to tears as I run – me a mid 50’s guy who thinks that he doesn't stink and is bullet proof (my injuries clearly prove that I’m not, and yes I do stink).
It wells up on me at different moments, and at different levels of exertion, and it doesn’t happen on every run. It is so unpredictable, but is something that I am constantly chasing and hoping that will happen. And as it starts to happen I almost always say “here it comes….”
It’s the physical effort.
It’s the mental tenacity to continue.
And it is a great feeling - so good. It is awesome.
Friday, January 11, 2013
I’ve had an opportunity to run in the Great Falls Park of Northern Virginia and I’ve really enjoyed it. There are a variety of trails with varying degrees of difficulty and challenge. It’s January, so many of the trees have lost their leaves, but the views and the surroundings are still awesome. I have found trails that are predictably firm, modestly hilly, and well marked, and others that are rocky, slippery, steep, and not so well marked. But that just adds to the experience and the work out. I love the fact that this beautiful space is so close to where I’m staying – it’s almost like I’m in another world compared to the hustle and bustle of the DC/N VA metro area.
You can see from this picture how hilly the environment is. The Potomac River is to the left and I'm running a ridge trail. It is very steep off to the left, navigable, but steep. This trail was great to run on. It was fairly clear of rocks and I could get a reasonable pace going. Having said that though, I still had to pay a lot of attention to where I was stepping.
Being new to trail running it really has been a challenge for me, both physically and mentally. Physically because it can be very hilly, the ground gives in different ways (it’s not asphalt or concrete) and sometimes the ground is soft and sandy and other times quishy and muddy, I have to watch for rocks, roots, and slippery leaves, and mentally because I have to really pay attention to the ground. I can’t just run and put my mind on auto-pilot – I have to pay attention to where I’m going and where I’m stepping. One bad foot placement and I could be rolling an ankle (or worse…). But I can really feel the workout in my quads and hams. I can also feel it in my joints, and I’m wanting to carefully and deliberately develop strength and stability, so I am taking rest days when I need to.
The downer to running these trails though is that the scenery bears looking at, but I can’t take a chance to sightsee while running – so I have been stopping a lot so that I can look around. I figure that its ok to do that; I’m not racing, I’m training. I’m sure that if I continue doing trail running and enter a trail event that I’ll want to train for speed on a trail and my sightseeing time will be postponed. But that’s ok.
I also found that when I wander off any of the main trails that I really have to pay attention to where I’m going, because since the trail might not be well travelled, it’s sometimes hard to tell where it goes. I’ve had to backtrack a couple of time to reconnect with the trail that I think that I’m supposed to be following. I don’t have a map and there are few signs. Sometime the trail is marked by a dash of paint on a tree trunk, so I have to be watching for those… But all of this adds to the thrill of it. I figure how lost can I get? In one direction is the Potomac River and in the other is a road. And I know which way is North…
This is actually a great running environment. I’ve found that there are a long string of trails that connect to each other throughout the Potomac River area. I’m not sure, but I suspect that you could run from the Great Falls Park area all the way around to Alexandria and only have to deal with crossing or navigating a major road but a couple of times. I’d like to try that.
There is a trail called “Difficult Run”, which is actually a water way (kind of a natural stream) with a trail that runs along it. It’s pretty cool. Some of it is a hard packed trail and some of it you have to carefully pick your way around (at least the area that I tried). I’m hoping to run the entire length of that also…
I’ve decided that my near term challenge is to register and run the Marine Corp 17.75 event in Prince William Forest in March. Assuming that I finish, I would be guaranteed entry into the Marine Corp Marathon in October, which is my second challenge. So with that in mind, I am amped to getting prepped to run 18 miles! I have read that it’s a little hilly – all the better for my training. This is actually a good step up for me from my flat Michigan running!