The Wood-Fired Blog

A New Trick for an Old Dog

A quick note on running and getting older — something that happens to even the best of us. haha. For the past year or so, I have been struggling a little bit with general soreness in my feet and ankles, and my training paces have been slowing down somewhat. It started before my personal best marathon race time last December, so I haven’t been panicking, but I was a little concerned. Train slow; race fast only gets you so far.

There is a general rule of thumb for distance running, which is that most runners get faster for about  6-8 years before peaking, regardless of how old they are when they start. The upward force of increased training and endurance is counterbalanced by the downward forces for of gravity and aging. Which makes sense.

Except that I have been running for only 4 1/2 years, so it’s too early for me to plateau.

So I took my problem to my online runners’ club, a forum very similar to the Forno Bravo Forum — but for distance runners. I got a lot of advice, from friends and strangers, ranging from run more, to run less, and from training for a fast 5K (a short race) to training for ultras (long races). The advice was great and a lot of fun.

But the best piece of advice came from an Australian runner, who recommended that I contact Keith Bateman, a well-known Aussie runner and running coach, who focuses on bio-mechanics, not training schedules. Keith is the 55+ world record holder in five distances between the mile and 10K. We got introduced and I explained my issues, and he agreed to help. He asked me to send him video of my running and then we would talk about it over a Skype lesson. Only in the Internet age could you get personal lesson for a world record holder by video conference.

It turns out that I have a couple of flaws in my running technique that can be pretty easily fixed that might make a big difference. Basically, my leading foot lands in front of my head, effectively knocking me back each stride and putting a lot of strain on my feet and ankles. Keith created graphics showing me what I’m doing wrong and gave me a series of exercises designed to fix it. Incredible. The lesson itself felt like a golf or tennis lesson, with technique, visualization and a lot of real-world “do it like this” instruction. Keith is, of course, incredible to watch doing demonstrations. Unreal turnover.

I have changed my technique for the past four days on 12, 12, 12 and 17 mile training runs, and the difference is clear. Perhaps stunning. I can run faster, with less effort and less pounding than before. It’s like running in someone else’s body, where I need to concentrate on running differently, and running correctly, or I fall back into bad habits. Just like golf. Right? But so far, so good. Everybody needs good hobbies, and good hobbies give all of us the ability to learn new things and to expand our minds and our horizons. This has definitely expanded how I think about my running hobby.

One last thing. Keith is a remarkable runner. He is the 55+ world record holder in the mile, 1500, 3K, 5K and 10K, and he is the oldest person to ever break 32 minutes for the 10K. He also runs a 1:11 half. That, to say the least, is incredibly fast. He is both a remarkable runner and a remarkable coach.

This is what a world record holder looks like running the 10K at 55. Maybe I can get there some day.

One thought on “A New Trick for an Old Dog

  1. Thanks James – glad to help – that’s a 1500m race BTW (Sacramento july 2012 4:12.35) , not a 10,000m – hope you are still improving :-) Following the experiment with you I am setting up a system for video upload/Skype conference now :-)

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