Running Training Tips

Quick Hits

Greg Wenneborg


Don't Buy the Shortcut Lie

Distance running is hard work. We spend year after year lacing up the shoes and heading out the door, even on days when we think an extra hour of sleep would do us better. Sometimes we slog through a dreaded 4 miler that never gets better. But it does. Every day we log those miles, our body is responding to the effort and becoming more and more a running machine. John L. Parker put it best in his novel, Once a Runner. "Running to him was real, the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free."

But there are those who claim there is a shortcut or that you can get there using a "new" method. The truth is that training theory has evolved and that we can get more from the workouts we do. But don't buy the shortcut lie. I hate to tell you this, but you cannot get to your best marathon on three days per week. Also, you should not focus solely on a secondary aspect of running, like reconstructing your running form from the toes up. Doing so takes away from the most valuable part of training... logging miles and training smart. One of the great things about our sport is that it is difficult. If you forget the PR's, the age group efforts, the prize of simply finishing a race, what is left over is the journey of the miles that starts at the beginning of the season and ends some months later. It is the fiber of who we are as people and as runners. It defines us. Take the miles of trials away and we are just shells. So I say embrace the training and revel in how monumental the effort is to achieve our running goals. As Randy Accetta so aptly puts it, "This is not a microwave oven sport."

Running Form - Downhill Tips

Downhill running can be punishing and downright frustrating at times. Most runners are either very successful or vexed by it. Although we don't recommend running downhill hard as part of the training regimen, there are things you can practice while running down hills to make you more efficient and speedy. The first thing to remember is that all good running form utilizes gravity in a small way to help us be more efficient. On flat surfaces or on hills, a slight forward lean from the hips or even heals (think downhill ski jumper) will keep us from dragging our torso behind us. When the foot is planted and weight is transferred to that foot, it should be just below the hips. When the lead foot lands in front of the hips, there is a tendency to create a stopping motion and significant jarring. This is the reason that running downhill marathons or half marathons is so painful to the quadriceps.

We have a tendency to lean backwards as we run downhill because it is the body's defense mechanism to falling. When running downhill, use one of several cues to keep you from leaning backwards. Keep your torso in front of your center of gravity by trying the following:

  1. Dip the chin just slightly
  2. Pick up your feet quicker. Think of running on hot coals.
  3. Visualize being a ski jumper and lean from the ankles.
  4. Close the joint in your elbow slightly to increase turnover.

Instead of trying all of these things at once, try one at a time as you run downhill on a favorite course. You may find that one simple cue achieves the desired result and gives you some free downhill speed. Downhill running should mimic good general running form and should not allow you to get out of control.