It’s Not That Easy, Really

I’ve had a few problems in the last week in my transition. It’s not been all bad but I’ve been struggling to reconcile my coaches’ different emphases on how to run more efficiently. Coach B (not his real name) thinks that you’ll save energy if you take fewer strides and has been encouraging his athletes to extend their stride slightly on each step. Coach Helen is firmly of the opinion that a high cadence and short strides are the most efficient way to cover the ground. I’ve been working with Coach B for almost a year and I’ve made huge progress under his tutelage. I’ve only been working with Helen since we started the 8 Weeks to Natural programme but in that time, I’ve seen the benefits of her approach too. The truth of the matter is that I’m now very confused.

I thought my form had improved markedly but some photographs and film taken at the weekend have changed that. You can see the worst of the photographs below. (Thanks to Paul Homewood for the picture.)

And I thought it was going so well. Photograph © Paul Homewood, 2012

I’m just bimbling along here. There is no pressure so I should be able to run very nicely. This photo would suggest that I’m not actually doing that. My left heel is about to touch down first. I thought that I was landing nicely on my midfoot, allowing my heel just to touch the earth, gathering the energy in my foot and feeding that energy back into the next stride. The photo would suggest that here at least I’m landing on my heel.

The film Martyn Brearley shot shows that my feet were landing better but that I’m not really moving my left arm. That feeds through to my right leg which is imbalanced as a result. There is a difference in that I’m running barefoot in the video. Most people automatically assume a better posture when they take their shoes and socks off to run. You get that light, quick step thing going easily when you don’t have rubber and plastic surrounding your foot.

In spite of my dodgy form, I managed a nice, 75 second PB at the Bourn to Run 10k yesterday and posted a sub-45:00 time for the first time ever. It felt surprisingly easy. I haven’t run at that pace for such a long time in ages. I’ve been able to cane it over 800m, 1km or a mile but the more measured but still brisk pace I hit yesterday felt a lot more relaxed than I thought it would. I had a couple of wobbles around 4km when I just wanted to step off the course and drink beer until I felt better. My mood at that point wasn’t improved by a runner whose choice of music was more than obvious to everyone within six feet of him. I hope his ears were bleeding from the over-pressure in his eardrums by the end. I dropped him between 4 and 5km only to have him overtake me just after 8km. He slowed down after he passed me so I took the place back and pressed on. I dropped him easily between there and the finishing line.

Hills weren’t a problem. I kept my stride short and my cadence up and was taking yards out of the competition on each climb. I strode out as much as I could on the way down the hill but kept my cadence high too. There was a nice downhill stretch from 8km to the finish so I was able to dispatch the noisy young man easily enough. I tried to make up another place. There was a runner about seven or eight yards ahead of me and I made ground on him until we entered the park where the finish was held. My adversary ducked through into the park only three or four strides ahead of me. I burst through to see him vanishing into the distance. I kicked as hard as I could but I wasn’t going to make up that ground in only 80m.

My 44:25 chip time is almost five minutes faster than last year. That’s the difference that working with Coach B has made. It’s why I want to reconcile the new techniques I’m learning from Helen with his approach. I’d be foolish to do anything else.

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