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Source: www.runningmonkeys.com

By Thomas O'Leary
Running fast just isn't what it used to be! When I was a kid, if I wanted to run I just sort of rushed my walking and then before I knew it I was running. If I wanted to run faster, all I had to do was try harder, and I would run faster. I could keep trying harder and harder until I couldn't try any harder and that was my top speed. Very simple really, and the sort of understanding you would expect from a kid. The problem is that a lot of us adults run with the same attitude. 

When, as kids, we did try harder, if we managed to speed up one of two things must have happened. Either we took more steps per minute or the steps grew longer (actually it could have been a bit of both, but let's simplify it for now). Once again, there are only two ways to go faster, without growing another leg, and they are travelling further with each step, or taking more steps in a given amount of time. Think about it and you know it must be true. No amount of screwing up your face or wildly swinging your arms will make you go faster. No amount of waving your head from side to side or lifting your knees high will pick up the pace. Unless you are going further each step or taking more steps you simply won't go any faster.
How about you try one of the direct paths to speed. They are very simple and guaranteed to work. If you can take more steps in a minute without making them any shorter, you have no choice but to go faster. Now this will place increasing loads on your cardiovascular system as you progressively stride faster and faster. So there is a sensible limit and it is generally accepted that about 180 steps per minute (90 with each foot) is about optimal. Now this may vary with leg length and the event you are in but not as much as you might think. As a base line, 180 strides per minute is a good goal. If that feels wrong at the moment, train up to it. Count your right footfalls for a minute and then double to get your stride rate per minute. If it is not 180 gradually work up to it. No matter what speed you are running you want this to be your ballpark stride rate.
As you run slower or faster the thing that should really change is your stride length. Now before we look at actual distance, it is obvious that if you have a consistent stride rate of 180 per minute, then the stride length you need to run 1000 m in 3 minutes will be double the length you would need to run your 1000m in 6 minutes. Today I watched the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan, and the winner ran approximately 2hrs and 10. Assuming that he was logging a stride rate of about 180 per minute then each of his strides would cover approximately 1.8m. Which was about as tall as he was (roughly 6 foot). Of course the person who came last (perhaps about 7 hours) was shuffling along at about 55cm per stride. Assuming that his/her feet are about 2030cm long there is not much gap between the front foot and the back foot at all.
Now to propel the runner forward these variety of distances in approximately one third of a second each time (60seconds divided by 180), will take a significant amount of power and endurance. Just about anyone can move forward 55cm (maybe even my 2year old could do that) but not necessarily for a full marathon. That is where endurance comes into it. And very few average mortals could move forward six foot in one step and especially if they have to do it for a marathon distance, and that is where the power comes into it. So if you can run 180 strides per minute the only thing coming between you and winning a marathon is power and endurance. This is where your training should focus. All of your running should be aimed at producing and harnessing leg power and enabling your endurance to keep it firing for the length of the race. A very simple formula really, but one that takes a lot of work.
Try this right now. If you know you average stride rate (in minutes), multiply this by your last (or desired) marathon time in minutes. Take the marathon distance (or any other event) in metres and divide it by the first answer. This is the length of each step you will need to take (or you did take).
eg. 2hr 45min marathon = 165minutes 165 times by 180 strides per minute = 29700 42200metres divided by 29700 (from above) =1.42m Therefore each stride was 1.42m long in order to get over the line in 2hours and 45 minutes.
Simple really. Stride rate times stride length equals speed. So I'm off to break a marathon record ... see you in under 2 hours!!
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