Mark Cucuzzella MD, Professor West Virginia University School of Medicine, LtCol US Air Force
2006 and 2011 Air Force Marathon Champion and Air Force Marathon Team Member since 1988
So how do you know you are running in your best hybrid mode?
This is difficult because the sense at this level (Aerobic Threshold) is not as profound as Lactate Threshold (or Anaerobic Threshhold). A slight increase from your optimal pace will switch you from hybrid to all gas without you realizing it, and the effects are felt miles later. Charging up hills early will tap your gas quickly. If you want to speed up early….DON’T. Relax and maintain effort, not speed. You should feel easy in the early stages, it is a marathon.
You must rehearse a bit in training. I focus on relaxation and breathing. If I’m breathing one cycle to 5 steps, then I’m hybrid. If I’m breathing faster I’m using mostly glucose as fuel. Belly breathe- allow lower belly to blow up like a beach ball on inhalation and pull your belly button back to your spine on exhalation. Then you will fill the lower lung areas where oxygen exchange occurs. Notice the breathing efforts of those around you and many are rapid breathing- they tend to suffer somewhere past half way. Rehearse complete relaxation from the top down- eyes, jaw, shoulders, allow your legs to relax and extend behind you, relax and soften your knees and ankles. Find you own cue for this. If you use the Heart Rate Monitor in training strongly consider one during the event.
In a marathon, the last 3-4 miles you will be mostly gas to maintain the same speed as fatigue sets in and heart rate rises. The breathing is usually on a 3 to 4 steps per breath cycle- that is OK. Still stay relaxed and use the cues that you have rehearsed to keep your form. Speed up only when you can “smell the barn”, this occurs when you see the Citgo sign (Mile 23).
Land softly, especially on the early downhills. I run with a forefoot/midfoot landing harnessing elastic recoil. Focus on posture and hip extension. Use a slight forward lean from the ankles (think “face forward” and look ahead). I’m never sore after marathons now and feel I can keep doing them until I enter the retirement home. I won the Air Force Marathon in 2:38 four weeks ago and feel fine now for another effort. With good form it is “No pain…thank you”.
Your shoes matter too. Make strong consideration to not running in minimalist racers unless you have trained substantially in them and adapted your structure to a natural barefoot style gait. I advocate gradually adapting all of your training into more minimal and level shoes. If you relax your lower legs and load the springy tendons in your feet and Achilles, these shoes with no heel elevation put you in perfect position to allow natural elastic recoil of plantar fascia, Achilles, calf muscles, and hip flexors. New research and runner’s experience is now making the case for running with a more efficient stride and questions modern running footwear. The evolving world of modern sports medicine is going back to the future too and rediscovering what evolution has taught us. My shoe for the last 3 years at this race has been the Newton Distance. A fast and efficient shoe for those who have worked on form. For a library of information of footwear, running form, and biomechanics visit our website at The Natural Running Center( http://naturalrunningcenter.com). You can view lots of minimalist shoe information on http://www.tworiverstreads.com
Tomorrow: Now a few extra ways to get from start to finish quicker on the same gallon.