R16 Blog: Marathon Running Technique

By Hayden Shearman // When running a marathon you will, on average, take about 42,000 steps. That is a lot of performing the same action over and over. And if that action is inefficient that is a lot of wasted energy … and a far more tired you at the finish line (assuming you make it). 

One of the most painful places to watch a marathon is at the 35k mark: shuffling strides, bent over postures, gel wrappers everywhere, cramping, blisters, groaning. I often head to this point on the course to offer support to the athletes I coach and to give them a few pointers that can help the next 7.2km go quicker and be more enjoyable.

Here are the main technique pointers I offer and they are great for you to practise in your long runs as you start to ramp up the mileage (now that we’re just 77 days from the Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon!):

Stand Tall

Let’s try a little experiment … Right where you are, do a fist pump in the air. Now try it again but put more of your body into it. And do it one more time while mouthing the word “YEEEESSSS” bringing to mind something good that is happened recently (the Black Caps series win over Australia perhaps!).

Do you feel more energised in mind and body because of this action?

Tony Robbins talks about how our emotions follow our motions. When we move in powerful and positive ways, we think in powerful and positive ways, he says. This principle is perhaps never so clearly illustrated as when running.

The default position when you are tired is to let your running posture slouch (flexing at the hips and knees), to lean forwards (at the waist), shoulders to come up and head to go forwards. These are all signals to the brain and to your emotions that things are going wrong and you need to slow down and wallow in your pain and misery. But now is the perfect opportunity to try Tony Robbins energising principle by adopting a tall and strong running posture:

  • Hold your head tall (as if you have a string tied to the crown of your head pulling your spine vertically);
  • Roll your shoulders back and down (opening up your chest to breathe);
  • Lift your hips up and forwards as though they are being pulled by two strings one vertical and the other one pulling you along the road.

Give this a try on your next run and feel difference it makes to both mind and body.

Stand Tall Running Technique

Up the Cadence

Most people tend to run with a cadence of between 145 and 175 steps per minute. But the most efficient runners tend to take between 175 and 200. While there is no magic number for the ideal cadence for everyone, as a general rule, quicker shorter steps are more efficient than a slow, loping stride.

When running for a long time our running cadence typically gets slower and slower. This is partly why the 35k mark of a marathon looks like a scene from The Walking Dead rather than a picture of perfect health and vitality. But a slowing cadence just means that our strides are becoming more and more laborious and, as a result, we are becoming more tired at each step. So we slow those steps even more and become more tired. It is a vicious cycle.

So, combat it by shortening your stride but increasing your stride rate. You’ll feel like you’re taking granny steps but it will give your legs a rest and send a signal to your brain that all is okay, and you’ll soon find yourself feeling more energised (just like our posture trick above).

Cadence Running Technique

Pump the Arms

Your arms are not just there as a GPS watch holder. When running, your arms actually help initiate the movement of each stride. Watch a sprinter come out of the blocks. They pump their arms in huge exaggerated movements that help create tremendous power and drive through the legs. While a marathon runner will never use their arms quite so strongly, the principle is still the same: use them to give power to the legs.

The other thing of note, is that studies have shown that your arms tend not to fatigue when your legs have been working (e.g. a few hard sets of leg presses don’t effect your ability to perform bicep curls immediately after). So, even though your legs might be tired, there will still be juice in your arms. Use it!

Pump the Arms Running Technique

Happy running.

This is the sixth blog of a fortnightly series all about getting you trained up and raring to go for the 2016 Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon (or half or quarter).  

Be sure to grab your race entry here and check out TempoFit’s TEAM R16 to be part of an incredible community of likeminded runners of all abilities who are all training towards the Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon 2016 (quarter, half and full distances).

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