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So you have run a few 5 and 10km. races and you have made the decision to move up to new challenges; perhaps a Half or even a Marathon.
Before you do, take yourself to the finish of a longer road race and OBSERVE.
Watching from the sidelines without specific involement is often more instructive to the coach, runner or even knowledgeable spectator.
Just looking across the finish chute in longer races several points are emphasised simply by the demenour of the individual finishers and gives the prospective distance runner the opportunity for a bit of lateral thinking.


Runners finishing well up usually walk on briskly since they feel confident after doing well. Those further down the line feel less so and tend to stop at the finish line, often looking a picture of misery and dejection.
The "quick's" recover quite soon, the dejected ones take a lot longer to recover normal breathing, illustrated by loss of physical control such as hanging one's head or doubling up the body.
This action merely inhibits recovery from oxygen by constricting the windpipe or the diaphram's room for lung expansion, when the most important task is the removal of lactic acid and oxygen replacement --
walking and breathing!!!
Out on the road during the middle and late stages of an event, other uncontrolled features are evident as fatigue begins to set in. Hands drop below hip level, shoulders tense, the chin comes up as the head leans back, strides shorten, the body sways, the head leans over sideways or lolls and the running action looks stiff or even disjointed.
Obviously, any good running form that may have been there in the beginning has been lost , the RUNNING ACTION has become WASTEFUL of energy that suddenly is more PRECIOUS than ever.
Several factors contribute to this, usually its a lack of specific strength as different parts of the body lose power and do not contribute to the runner's efforts. Even more common among road runners and fitness runners is the fact that few ever pay attention to developing good running form by using running drills in their training to improve the coordination of all body parts for the effective use of energy.
Just running by itself will certainly make your leg muscles strong and able to withstand a lot of punishment but can the rest of the body cope with the punishment when it only recives scant attention if any at all?
Of course the answer is NO.
There is little point in me going into the various drills and strength exersises etc. here, there are many books available with literally hundreds of variations on a theme.
The point that I want to drum into your heads is that whatever course is taken (take carefull note coaches and would be coaches) it has to come together FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL to improve the running form and strength in EACH CASE.
Its not a matter of finding the perfect answer when none exists!!!!
It has to be worked on at ALL THE TIME as the body itself never remains static, it develops with activity and goes from one level to the next.
The method that has brought about a certian result, is not the same as the one that will bring a different result. It is lazy thinking which makes people believe "more of the same" brings better results.
I am not talking about fundamentals of running but of application, they are the ones who have to change with the growth of the individual, the fundamentals of good running form are the expression of effectiveness of the methods that have been applied.
Its no accident that almost all top runners look easy and relaxed and are said to be "in good form" as they win their races. This "good form" has a background of years of 'honing' the running capabilities of a runner.

Now most of us are never going to be champions in spite of trying very hard, but you can get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing how much you can improve your skills and get the thrill of achieving your aim in line with YOUR OWN assessment of a desirable target. Even just finishing a long run without distress is an achievvement in itself, as it is proof of good health and ability to withstand stresses of more than average impact.

I can remember the joy of running at the break day, once I understood the interaction of good running principals, at peace with the world around me.
To get there, it was just a matter of doing 15mins. of running drills, basic body weight exersises then about 10mins. of stretching after my work out.
The bulk of my run was simply EASY RUNNING with a check every now and then as to body position, rythym of arms and legs and breathing.
Sure, there were many intesive sessions, too many looking back in hindsite, their impact was more towards mental toughness and absorption of discomfort.
There is a question mark as to other benefits.

I have rambled on a bit, but it may be of some help.
comments.....

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I've never really thought about watching the races before actually running them. Sure, it seems logical, but it just isn't something I've done. I saw the winner of a marathon finish, but that was only because I stuck around after the half. I've looked on at others, mostly out of curiosity, but never intended it as a learning experience.
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you talkin' to me?

good stuff Phar lap.
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So you have run a few 5 and 10km. races and you have made the decision to move up to new challenges; perhaps a Half or even a Marathon...

I don't think Phar lap is recommending this approach, just stating what most people do. However, I did want to point out that moving up in distance quickly is the most common mistake runners make that limits their progress in the sport. Often a person's goal is simply to become a marathoner, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if the goal is to become the best runner you can reasonably be, then jumping up in distance after "a few 5 and 10K races" is a key mistake. Probably the subject for another thread...

Runners finishing well up usually walk on briskly since they feel confident after doing well. Those further down the line feel less so and tend to stop at the finish line, often looking a picture of misery and dejection....

I can't say I agree with this accessment. The winner will often look better than average, simply because he probably won because he ran a well paced race and didn't fall apart before the finish. But, once you get past the winner, I would say there is no difference on average between how the 2nd place runner looks finishing vs. the last runner. No matter how fast your finishing time is, you will finish with good form if you ran within your limits. This could mean you ran a good, well paced race, or it could mean you ran much slower than you could have. I would much rather fall apart in the final yards of a race and run fast, than finish slow and look good.

I do agree with the value of drills and supplimental strengthening. Not only will this help you hold form and improve form in general, but it is helpful for injury prevention. I do not recommend that runners attempt to make major changes to their form, especially from the waist down. However, upper body form can generally be changed without risk, and it is just a matter of practice and concentration to hold it. Most obvious to accomplish this is by doing form drills, which also help make subtle improvements to lower body form. But strengthening excercises and weight lifting is also very helpful. If you don't have the strength to hold your body position through an entire race (or training run for that matter) in the face of general fatigue then your running efficiency will suffer. Running efficiency is a much more significant factor in racing success than most people would imagine.
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Yep. Looking back at the last 5 - 6 months of running, this is what got me into trouble. I was trying to go faster (and longer) at the same time in the Fall... after an extended time away from running. Now I'm pretty much laid up with a runners knee. Unable to do anything fast or long (+25 minutes) without knee tenderness or pain. :umno:
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Yep. Looking back at the last 5 - 6 months of running, this is what got me into trouble. I was trying to go faster (and longer) at the same time in the Fall... after an extended time away from running. Now I'm pretty much laid up with a runners knee. Unable to do anything fast or long (+25 minutes) without knee tenderness or pain. :umno:
But the question is: will you learn from this????? From my own experience is you only get smarter in how to deal with the early signs. I was laid up for 3 months with my first runners knee over 15 years ago and we all know what's ailing me now......well, actually my knee feels pretty good today....'cuz I freaking pulled a hammie
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I have a goal of running a marathon, but after that i suspect i'll drop back down in distance. It's good info in that post, and some stuff to think about.
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Oh yeah. I'm learning. It sucks big time. I just hope my tennis doesn't interfere with my runners knee recovery.
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