Saturday, May 05, 2012
Owen Anderson (who I believe is one of the most knowledgeable individuals on running) suggests increasing leg-muscle power during pre-marathon preparations, rather than by focusing on long, slow runs. I agree with Anderson and this was the key to how I trained and how I train people today.
Here is what Anderson has to offer. If you take 180 steps per minute when you run, and it takes you about 3 hrs and 30 min to run a marathon, then you are taking a total of 37,800 steps for the race. By increasing leg power you will spend less time on the ground with each foot strike as you contract your muscles more explosively. In addition, you will increase your stride length meaning that you cover more ground between steps as your muscle contractions become more forceful.
Let's follow what Anderson says further. He states that if you improve power and this results in .02 seconds less time on the ground per foot strike, then this equates to 756 second improvement in your marathon time (37,800 times .02 seconds). This is an improvement in time from 3:30 to 3:17:24.
Anderson goes on to suggest that if the improved power also gives you an extra half-inch of distance between foot strikes, then you save about 500 meters (37,800 steps X .5 inches). This means that you would shave two minutes off your time. Your time would now be down to 3:15.
Strength is the pre-requisite to becoming more powerful. Hill running and running-specific strengthening movements help to increase your strength. After increasing strength it is important to add plyometric drills such as hops, bounds, one-leg hops in place, step-ups, split squats, etc.
Another important component of training for a marathon is to incorporate marathon pace runs. Instead of plugging through and doing a long 20 to 22 mile run every weekend, try incorporating marathon pace runs every other weekend. Start with 3 miles and gradually increase to 10 miles. For example, run 6 miles at an easy pace, then run 3 miles at marathon pace, follow this up with 6 miles at an easy pace. Eventually, increase the 3 miles to 10 miles over the period of training toward the marathon.
Of course, incorporating various types of intervals during the week is another important element to improving times. However, just by changing things up through the addition of what is suggested above, huge improvements can be made.