Tuesday, September 20, 2011
This Saturday morning I'm running the Akron Marathon Half Marathon. This will be the fourth time I've run the race. It's a very well-organized race with lots of home-town participation. It starts in downtown Akron and end there in the Akron Aeros (AA baseball) ball park. Mayor Don Plusquellic shakes EVERY runner's hand at the finish line. Now that's a politician!!
Last year I finished sixth in my age group. Several thousand people run this race. There is the marathon, the half marathon and a 10-K relay.
Since I've run this one before, my goal this year is to improve on my time and maybe move up in the standings in my age group.
I've been training for the race for 2 months now. I have used a half marathon training plan from Runner's World. It's very aggressive, with a mixture of long runs and track interval work.
It teaches your body to find its "gears" when running. In particular, you learn to hit and maintain your goal race pace and 2 faster gears. With good practice you can reproduce many laps on the track within a second of each other for pace.
There are two other sources I've used for inspiration with my running recently.
One is the Maximum Aerobic Function training of Philip Maffetone. His method helps you build a strong aerobic base by exercising at the top of the aerobic threshold. This is the maximum heart rate at which the body is only burning fat. Above this zone, (roughly 60-70%) of your maximum heart rate, your body starts burning sugar. This higher rate is much harder on the body. By building a strong aerobic base you delay the depletion of glycogen and the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles (that's what causes the burn when you exercise) that occur during an endurance event like a marathon. This makes for a more pleasant experience, is easier on your body and can result in faster times.
Using a heart rate monitor you target a specific heart rate zone and stay in it. Over time the body becomes more efficient in its use of oxygen and you speed up while maintaining the target heart rate zone.
I did this kind of work in June and July and use it during my "off" days now. It's a good way to avoid over training, injury, etc.
The other method I've studied is called Chi Running. It uses posture and principles from Tai Chi to build more efficient running form. Working on such problems as over striding, pushing off hard, etc. it re-directs attention to the core muscles as the place where the energy of running is centered. It uses the runner's natural twist of the spine and the pendulum action of the arms and legs to help the body work as a system.
Here are some video demonstrations of Chi Running:
The musicians reading this may recognize some cross-over to postural issues involved in holding and playing an instrument.
Speaking of core muscles, here's the workout I do to strengthen my core. It's devised by Lolo Jones, a world-class hurdler, especially for runners!
Wish me luck on Saturday! It should be fun! You can follow my results on the race website.