“Mileage wins medals” is an old running adage. The problem is that for recreational runners, relying on mileage to measure your progress can lead to stagnation and injury.
I am amazed when people in our running club say, “I don’t want to run faster.” But, they nearly all want to run further. If you cannot run faster, then the only way to run further is to run for longer. If you have 20 minutes to go for a run, then running an 8-minute mile compared to a 9-minute mile means you can cover 2.5 miles instead of 2.22 miles. The 9-minute miler would have to run for 22.5 minutes to cover the 2.5 miles.
You may think that 2.5 minutes more is nothing to worry about, but there are two main reasons why it is a concern for me:
- Most people are short of time and run for longer on every run adds up over the week and year.
- Spending more time on the feet running increases the likelihood of injury. This has little to do with mileage covered.
Unfortunately, many generic running programs offer advice for preparing for 10km and half-marathon races by giving distances to cover. This has been extrapolated from programs conducted by fast runners at the National level.
So the National level athlete preparing for the half marathon may go for a long run on Sunday and cover 15 miles. At a 6-minute mile pace (which is comfortable), that will take him 90 minutes. The recreational runner trying to emulate this and doing a 9-minute mile will take 2 hours and 15 minutes: 50% longer. While the volume of mileage may be comparable, the volume of time running is way too high.
While running distance races is an admirable hobby, it is worth considering choosing a distance suited to your time available for training. If you have an hour a day to train, you could achieve a perfect mile time. Roger Bannister ran sub-4 minutes when he was studying medicine at Oxford University.
It’s not the racing the distance that is a potential injury problem. It’s the time on the feet preparing for the race.
You Are Putting Air Into Your Running Tires
I liken the preparation for running to fixing your bike. On a bike ride with flat tires, a wonky front wheel, and a rusty chain, you can pedal as hard as you like, and you will get tired, but it will hardly be enjoyable. If the wheel is straight, the chain oiled, and the tires pumped up, your ride will be more fun and faster.
Prepare your running body for the journey ahead, you will run more efficiently, leading to fewer injuries than running inefficiently.
The foot, ankle, and hip have muscles and tendons that act like springs when appropriately trained. Instead of your energy dissipating into the ground when you strike with your foot, up to 50% can be reused for your next stride.
You can hear this when you run on different surfaces: sometimes you will feel light and springy on the soft grass and other times heavy and thudding on muddy tracks or wet sand.
3 Key Exercises To Help You Prepare For A Run
I demonstrate these in shoes but you can do them barefoot if the weather is decent. That helps strengthen your feet even more.
Skipping Low To High:
This helps your hip muscles and hamstrings of your swing leg work together and for your supporting leg to do a low-level springing action at the same time.
his helps you improve your balance and strength around your hips.
All of these exercises could be done as part of your running warm-up. The key is to do little and often rather than an hour of them.
If you go out for a run with an incorrect technique, no matter how hard you try, you will never go as fast or as efficiently as possible. Running with good technique and a strong body will help you enjoy your running more. If you feel that you are running well, you can choose a distance that allows you to maintain good form. This will usually be less than popular with recreational runners, but it might help you enjoy a long running career.