I spent some time reflecting on the Atlanta Half Marathon over the weekend, and how I managed to improve on my 2010 time this year.
It’s undeniable – from the standpoint of mileage between August and race day, I dropped more than 70 miles (about 1/3 of my total last year) from training this year. That’s a significant decline in mileage as I see it when you are preparing for a race of a half marathon distance.
So how did I improve my time by more than a minute versus last year, and run a half marathon at a 7:30 per mile pace?
I would say that over the past year, my form has greatly improved. A big part of it has been the use of “Barefoot” and “Minimalist” style running shoes and being more conscious and aware of how I land my foot every time it lands.
Back in July, I added Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS to my assortment of running footwear. While Vibram runs only accounted for about one-fifth of my total distance, I think that the form correction that’s required to run in the Vibrams did carryover to my other runs.
Overall, I increased the number of runs I did over 10 miles this year versus last. At the same time though, while last year I tried to go out and run as fast as I could on every run for the distance I was running – this year I varied pace and tried some new training techiques like Yasso 800’s.
Experience counts in running. There’s no denying it – when you look at the Masters’ Running division, the highly experienced runner can carry on with times and distances that younger runs that totally rely on their ability to recover quickly may not be able to do.
A part of it is knowing your body’s needs during the race – whether that’s fuel or fluids, and planning your run more strategically to take advantage of the aid stations less frequently.
I knew after my first half marathon, and several races after that – I wasn’t running an efficient line through the course. I was dodging other runners, and might quickly alter course to hit a aide station or avoid the crowd slowing down for it.
Thus this year that was another goal – avoiding unnecessary steps and taking a more gradual line and making more of my steps go forward.
There’s no denying that I’m more fit than I was 12 months ago. I credit some of it to my improved diet over the past three months (and the steps I had started earlier this year before starting Paleo) but the time in the gym lifting weights has paid off in running as well.
I’ve re-centered my weight lifting program this year to focus more on big, full body type lifts – moving weight from the floor to overhead in many cases. These exercises activate many parts of your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, arms and shoulders. I see it as building practical strength that will allow me to perform my best in any sport.
When I started with Paleo and Primal earlier this year, I accepted that I needed to sleep more. I had regularly been clocking six hours or less over the past several years due to work and family demands.
I worked to rearrange some of these demands, and made a conscious decision during the fall to run a little less than I did in August so I could get more sleep!
I think that running can be a destructive activity – it can injure joints, bones and muscles as well as deplete your stores of energy. Without adequate rest, you will never be able to achieve your best performance.
What I Learned
I’ll try to use these new learnings as I continue in running, but also in my other sports endeavors. I’m an analytical person by nature – and the Internet has helped me find new insight to my performance and develop my programs.
Sleep and proper fueling will continue to be a priority for me for all of my sports.
Self-analysis and learning by observation will continue to be methods to learn my sports. I’m watching Premier League football matches more often to help gain insights to the methods of the best defenders in the sport.
I’m also thinking about more sprints as a exercise and training tool for all sports. The NFL-style 300 yard shuttle run (either 12×25 yard or 6×50 yard) is going to be a regular part of winter training, as well as 400 and 800 meter sprints.