Running Cadence

I’ve always been interested in understanding running cadence. Most running books you read will have a section on this topic and most will point towards striving for the magical 180 steps per minute. This has been backed up by well known research on Olympic medal runners. Also intriguing is the idea that it will help you ward off injury, as the increased stride rate will force the runner to shorten his stride, thus avoiding over striding and stepping out in front. At 6ft 2 I have fairly long legs and presumably a fairly long stride length. I believe my tendency is a slow cadence and I’m all too aware this “lazier” action may hold me back, as it could open the door to injury and slow me down generally.

So today for the first time I wore a foot pod and measured my cadence over a 5km effort at Newcastle Parkrun. I’d tried the pod a few times on easy runs and I found that there was no way I could achieve 180 steps per min (spm) on a slower run. I did try but it just felt wrong and, ultimately, to get as high as 178 involved moving out of the easy zone. I would say it did promote a mid to forefoot strike though, helping to avoid over striding and heel striking.

I was since glad to find an article on Kinetic Revolution which actually comforted me in my early findings. Indeed the article stated that for easy runs it would not be expected to achieve more than 84-86 strikes per foot, short of the magical 180. However, they did advocate 180 and higher for threshold runs and faster. Trying the pod on an easy run post reading this article did find that I could comfortably maintain 82-85 spm per foot. Fine, I was in the right ball park.

Results for today though (finish time 18m 36s) –

1st km, 3m 35s pace, av. cadence 178
2nd km, 3m 39s, 174
3rd km, 3m 43s, 172
4th km, 3m 50s, 168
5th km, 3m 39s, 168
80m, 2m 24s, 190 (over distance, sprint finish)

So the above would suggest I have something to work on. I am falling short of the optimum cadence even in the quickest first km and lose turnover speed as tiredness kicks in and my splits slow. So there is a direct relationship between pace and cadence and presumably if I can work on increasing cadence in sessions in training I can translate that to quicker times in races. Obviously this needs to be in conjunction with improved stamina and general fitness.

The interesting thing is the 2nd and 5th kilometres were both completed in 3m 39s but my cadence was 6 steps lower in the 5th, presumably due to tiredness.

As I get fitter I’ll be looking to review this again as and when I run 5k time trials.

Off road running, new training plan

So I’m in my fourth week of “getting back to running” after my holidays. It’s gone well. My calves have done the usual “are you sure?” routine etc but I’m getting there. I probably did a bit too much on grass and I’m slowly moving back to ~50/50 concrete/grass. The grass sessions are great for reducing the pounding but they probably give the muscles and tendons more to do due to the uneven surface. Beware of pot holes too. But ultimately it’s good to get fully used to off road running in preparation for the cross country season. The “cost of running” is undoubtedly higher off road so it’s good to get completely used to that feeling. Your typical easy, threshold and race paces will be slightly slower than on the road, so it’s a whole new ball game. Anyway, I prefer it to road running and I’m putting my thoughts and plans togetherĀ as to how I want to tackle this new season. Last year was a learning curve, this year I want to make more of an impression both personally and for the club. I feel I have something to prove myself and the men’s team at the club will be keen to show we can mix it in division 2 against arguably more well established clubs. Bring it on.

The plan for my training now is to draw a line under this 4 weeks with a decent 5km effort this Saturday. I’ll not be busting a gut for a pb but I’ll be looking for a strong run and see where it lands. The key reason is to set a benchmark or line in the sand as I embark on the next phase of training.

I’m excited to be starting a new training plan and also working with a coach. I think having someone help and guide will really move me on from where I am now.

I’ll be getting my head down so that I can line up at Blaydon in the best shape possible. Whilst all this is in progress I’ll have one eye on improving my 5km pb as well.

Back from holiday and a fresh start

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t finding running a struggle before I went on holiday last month. My Po10 doesn’t lie. I haven’t raced since June and haven’t managed a parkrun recently either. That wasn’t the summer plan. But the great thing about having a break from something is it gives you time to recharge. The Beat generation writer William Burroughs said (talking about writers block) – “if it ain’t coming I do something else”. I’ll certainly keep this in mind in future as I now know that a break is a good thing. I think a lot of runners would do well to take this advice also, to help avoid overtraining and injury.

I went to Morocco for my holiday and its inspired me in many ways, some of which will feed into my running over the next few weeks and months. One of my running heroes is Hicham el Guerrouj and it was great going up into the Atlas mountains at High altitude. This is the environment where Guerrouj did most of his training. I’d love to go back and tackle Toubkal, the highest peak of the Atlas at 4,167m above sea level. One day I might even manage to set aside a trip to go and train over there, now that would be exciting!

I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and hospitality of our hosts in Imlil in the Atlas mountains. It was obvious that the family had very little, but they had happiness! And what they did have they extended to us. A realisation of how privileged you are every once in a while can only be a good thing and I hope I can appreciate more what I do have.

Whilst in the coastal city of Essaouira we were lucky enough to pick a restaurant that had some local music on show that evening. As we were ordering the band were sound checking. I must admit, they sounded terrible! However, I was soon gripped by the repetitive tribal call and response music. Straight away I thought this would be great to run to! So I asked one of the musicians if I could buy a CD. He said yes, 100 Moroccan Dirhams (about 7-8 quid). Off he went with my cash. Twenty minutes later still nothing. A little disappointed I tried to forget about the money, just another lesson learnt in Moroccan business dealings, i.e. don’t hand money over before item received! Anyway, it transpired that the guy had obviously just ran to the nearest music shop to buy a CD! Unfortunately it isn’t by the band I saw but it is in the same style. I’ve listened to it a few times and can’t wait to get it on for my next long run.

So, onto my running plans. I’ve had a low key week this week. I’ll be doing about 20km building up to around 20 miles by the end of this month. I’ll then be starting a new training plan which I’m really excited about. Again this will be building my mileage further and developing speed. I’ve said previously in the blog, my key goal is sub 17mins for 5km. I also have a further stretch target of getting into the medium pack for the cross country. To do that I need to finish in the Top 30 in a race. If I was to do this I’d be over the moon!

Really looking forward to the challenges ahead!