Running on Empty: Searching for a Breakthrough Run

Let me start by apologizing for the phantom post of this blog the other day. I hot the wrong button and before I could correct it, the post had posted to Twitter, which then of course posted automatically ALL OF THE BLOGOSPHERE unintentionally. Hopefully it didn’t cause anyone anxiety or other issues, because I know so many of you hang on my every word. 🙂
Each part f the triathlon has been an issue at one point of the other. While I have managed to get some other control, most notably the bike portion, others still cause trouble from time to time (the swim). There has been one constant though, and that’s the run. As the title of my blog insinuates, I am a big guy, once tipping the scales over 300 pounds. I have since lost about 60 of those, but running still has been an issue, mostly due to my girth and the pounding my knees and feet take over a long course. Running is painful at times for me. I have never had a long course race, marathon, half marathon, half ironman, that did not end with me having hurt feet and sore hips. I have done extensive shoe research, spending entirely too much on shoes I end up wearing for 100 miles and ditching because they never feel right. The one pair that seem to alleviate the pain somewhat, the Nike’s, feel like running with bricks tied to my feet, which then cause lower back pain. Can’t win for losing.
Along with the shoes, I do a lot of reading. This is a normal thing for me when I get interested in something. An interest causes a direct correlation to my Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook library increases. I will buy a book just for a specific article or chapter. This, along with talking to fellow runners and triathletes, offeres numerous ideas on ow to combat this issue.
“Get a gait analysis at a Running Store” Done a few times.
“Get insoles” again, tied, but actually hurt more when I used them.
“Try shoes with more cushioning” … see my Nike comment. More cushion = heavier = back pain.
“Lose weight” … really? Never thought of that.
Smiling, but in pain, near the last 3
miles of Augusta 70.3. Girth in FULL
view. I HATE race pictures.
Usually it is well meaning, but the problem with talking to MOST coaches and fellow racers is that they have never been heavy, so do not understand the pain and issues associated, so their advice and plans, while well meaning, do not work as well for those of us running heavy. Running heavy causes many issues, from torn achilles, to shin splints, to rolled ankles, to torn meniscus and strained ligaments. It’s a never ending search for the “perfect run”, the one that you can finish with no pain (yes, I know that all races have some pain associated, but not this kind of pain). The irritating part is that, aerobically, I feel in good condition. I am never out of breath and usually feel I could keep running, but the pain in the balls of my feel is so bad I can barely hobble to the car.
The  I read an article about stride length and control. So when I went out to run two days ago I decided, since it was a 6 mile easy run, to give this a shot. I set my watch to beep at me every 30 seconds and started a run/walk session to try it out. Making myself walk every 30 seconds was hard, it is MUCH under my normal run split, but I wanted to make sure I could do this without being fatigues, so that I could maintain a somewhat decent running form (running form being an extremely subjective term in my case). I then concentrated on keeping my cadence at 90 per minute, counting my left foot strikes up to 45 per run split. Some things happened trying this:
  1. My PACE was actually FASTER when using shorter strides, actually reaching a 7:32 at one point and averaging while running a 11:42. 
  2. I had NO foot pain during the run or at the end of the run. None. Nada. Zilch.
My back still stiffened up, but this was a run after work so that is normal, but I am hoping that this was a running epiphany and not just a one time occurrence. 
I have a 12 mile run scheduled tomorrow, so I will try the same method for the longer version. I am hoping that I have the same result, even at double the distance. We shall see. I have a foot pod coming to help me keep track of cadence so I don’t have to keep counting (thanks to Jenny because I am poor).
In an online article from Runners World they offered the following tips, which are now making a lot of sense to me:
– Regardless of your running pace, run with a fast cadence of 180 to 190 steps per minute or higher (I counted at a half minute so in effect was using a 180/minute. This is because I am used to using cadence in the pool as only one arm stroking. Runners evidently use both feet counts).
– Run with an upright posture and a slight forward lean.

– Strike the ground below your hips and not in front of them to reduce braking. (Wearing lightweight, low-to-the-ground shoes with minimal midsole cushioning helps reinforce this stride.) Not sure about the “minimal cushioning” but who knows right?

– Strike the ground at the midfoot, not the heel or the toes — the actual impact area will vary based on body type — and allow your heel to naturally settle to the ground.

– When starting a new stride, develop the habit of picking up your leg instead of pushing off the ground. I have noticed this too, that I tend to start shuffling when tired. After reading this article I have tried to concentrate on lifting my feel, actually using my military style to allow this “marching” type of running.

– Use a compact and fluid arm swing, keeping your elbows bent at an acute angle and your hands close to your chest.

– Keep your head upright and steady and your eyes looking forward.

– Be “present in the moment” to allow yourself to concentrate on your stride but stay relaxed and don’t overanalyze. The more you adhere to good form, the quicker it will become second nature.

– Consider getting custom insoles to further your gait enhancement.

– A key to natural running form is high cadence with short strides, regardless of pace. 
Let’s hope for a BREATHROUGH this time 🙂  

3 thoughts on “Running on Empty: Searching for a Breakthrough Run

  • November 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm
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    i've been utilizing the run cadence as well, and i've found the same “breakthrough” – my overall pace is a bit faster and i am not quite as tired. plus the counting helps keep my mind focused on the task at hand. keep up the good work!

  • November 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm
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    i'll have to keep this in mind, i have no idea what my cadence is. and i'm a toe runner, maybe i'll try this midfoot, under the hips running. i'm currently running at 4.5 mph – i think when i upped it to 5 mph, my knees gave out on me. started this week again in a 15 min. increment and increasing it slooooowly.

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