Lessons from Elite Track and Field Runners #running

running-advice-bugAs we gear up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the fastest American runners are preparing to take on the world’s best competitors. At this past weekend’s USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, I got a glimpse of just how good, and how very fast, some of our talented American athletes are. Here are four ways they got so fast – and how you can boost your speed, too:

1. Build muscle.

Photo: Joe English, (C) 2016

Photo: Joe English, (C) 2016

The first thing you may notice about track and field athletes is that most look extremely strong and lean. You might think this is because they have to wear those tiny bun-hugging shorts; but in reality, their strength leads to their speed. A stronger body means more power. Sprinters, for instance, grip the track with spikes in the toes of their shoes, which pulls their front legs backward. Meanwhile, their back legs push their bodies into the air, making them literally leap forward. The greater the strength in their legs and cores, the more powerful these motions become. Generating more power means they go further with each step.

Coach Joe’s get quick tip: To make your legs and core muscles stronger, incorporate strength workouts – think weighted exercises, classes like CrossFit or hill running – into your running routine one to two times each week. By augmenting your runs with exercise to make your muscles stronger, you’ll be a more powerful machine when it comes time to push harder.

2. Quicken your cadence.

When you watch runners on a track, you may immediately notice how quickly they turn over their feet. In fact, most track athletes do so at almost exactly the same rate. However, unlike the cartoon character “The Roadrunner,” these runners’ legs don’t just disappear into a blur of dusty circles. That’s because there’s a limit to how quickly we as human beings can physically turn over our feet. High-level track and field runners tend to run at that limit. Almost all of the rest of us, meanwhile, could stand to improve in this area.

Coach Joe’s get quick tip: Focus on picking up the pace of your foot turnover during one to two runs per week. In order to quicken your cadence, you’ll need to shorten your stride a little – especially at first. Count your steps in a normal-paced run and focus on boosting that number when you’re running foot turnover drills. By increasing your cadence just a bit, you’ll improve your running speed quite dramatically.
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Video — World Masters Athletics (WMA2011) (Episode 3-29)

running-advice-bugCoach Dean and I were at the World Masters Athletics competition in Sacramento this past weekend. The games brought together 5,000 of the world’s best track and field athletes — who have attained 35 years of age or more. Listen in as we talk about WMA, masters track and field and how exciting the world stage.

On this episode:
– WMA2011 — what are they and who comes to them.
– Are you a good candidate to go to World Masters 2013?
– What should you expect at a world track and field competiton?

Watch and share on Vimeo or YouTube below.

Click here to link to our video series home page:

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in our last two season, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

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Quandary — Fastest of the Slow or Slowest of the Fast?

running-advice-bugNext week the World Masters Athletics competition heads for Sacramento, with almost 5,000 of the most experienced track and field athletes – including 1,900 from the United States — coming to show off their stuff. These runners, race walkers and field athletes are coming from all over the world are a diverse group from former Olympians to who knows what. One thing we do know about these folks who are still running circles around tracks in their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s (or even older) is that they either love their sport or are darn serious about it.

So here’s where my quandary starts. I’ll be there next week with my good friend Coach Dean. When we heard about the event last year, both of us knew that we had to sign up. I threw my hat into the 5,000M and have been training hard for it since. But in entering the event, I didn’t really consider that there would be people that might be two or even three minutes faster than me running — and I’m pretty darn fast. Things got more interesting when meet organizers announced the participants in each event a few weeks ago. Of the 45 runners who had signed up for the 5,000M in my age group (M40-44), I was about half-way down the list in terms of my predicted finish time. Since there are limits to the number of people that can run in one heat in a track race, there would be two heats — one with most of the faster runners and one with everyone else.

Of course, then the question became — as a guy right in the middle of the field — would I rather be in the heat in which I would likely finish last or the one where I might finish first?

Hmmm… well, I’ve considered the question over the last couple of weeks. On the one hand, as numerous people pointed out, potentially winning the second (slower) heat might be fun, but might also be a case of being the “fastest of the slow” — not that anybody is really slow here. But, as they pointed out to me, is it any fun to win when you know that a whole separate race would be going on and all of those runners would be faster than you? Most of these folks were not themselves runners, I should probably point out.
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Track & Field — Records Fall at Nike Prefontaine Classic

running-advice-bugEUGENE – 2008 Olympic Games bronze medalist David Oliver equaled the third-fastest time ever in the men’s 110m hurdles and the Hayward Field record book was shredded Saturday at the 2010 Nike Prefontaine Classic on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene. The action took place on a beautiful sunny day in front of an appreciative standing room only crowd for the 15th consecutive year.

David Oliver ran 12.90 in the 110M hurdles to equal the American record in the event and for his efforts he was named the Visa Athlete of the Meet. Oliver had a strong start and grabbed the lead by the fourth hurdle and continued to lengthen it all the way to the finish. His performance equals the American record first posted by Dominique Arnold on July 11, 2006 in Lausanne.

2010 USA Outdoor Championships runner-up Ryan Wilson finished second in a season’s best 13.16, with USA Outdoor Champs third-place finisher Ronnie Ash placing third again in 13.19, which equals his personal best set last week at Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa. Two-time World Outdoor Championships bronze medalist and 2008 Olympic Games silver medalist David Payne finished fourth in a seasonal best 13.24.

Barrier finally broken in Nike Men’s 5,000 Meters

Prior to this afternoon the 13-minute barrier had never been broken in the United States. Now it’s happened twice.

Coming down the final stretch the Hayward Field crowd was delirious as Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia approached the finish line looking as though he would finish before the clock hit 13 minutes. Bekele crossed the finish line in 12:58.93 in setting a Hayward Field record. Bekele was closely followed by Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia, who also bettered the 13-minute barrier with his runner-up, personal best time of 12:59.30. Imane Merga of Ethiopia was third in 13:00.18, with Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge finishing fourth in 13:01.17.
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Track & Field — Gay sets world record in 200M

running-advice-bugMANCHESTER, U.K. — Tyson Gay set a new world best in winning the 200 meters on a straight track Sunday at the Powerade Great City Games in Manchester, U.K.

A triple gold medalist at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships, Gay ran 19.41 seconds into a slight headwind on a specially constructed 200m straight track on the streets of Manchester. The previous world best of 19.5 was set by the legendary Tommie Smith back in 1966 on a cinder track in San Jose, Calif. Smith was trackside for Gay’s race and told BBC Sports “It was a great race.”

Watch the video of Tyson Gay breaking the world record on YouTube below.

Gay came into the race having run 44.89 over 400m on April 17 in Gainesville, Fla. His impressive time over 400m made him the first man to run under 10 seconds for the 100m, 20 seconds for the 200m and 45 seconds over 400m.

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Running Terminology Series — Paces and Workout Intensities

running-advice-bugAs we continue our series on the various types of running workouts, we’ll now explore the intensity or pace of each of the various types of runs. To start at the beginning of the series with Part I, click here.

Long-distance Running Terminology Part II — Paces and Intensity of Running Workouts

By Coach Joe English
with Coach Dean Hebert
(C) 2010 Running Advice and News

Introduction
In the previous section of this series, we looked at eight major types of running workouts. Each of the workouts that fall in what we would call the “quality” or “goal pace” categories has a specific intensity range attached to it. In other words, each of these types of workouts comes with a pace target attached to it. If the workout is done too fast, the runner will not be able to maintain the pace through the entire distance of the workout. If the pace is too slow, then the runner doesn’t reap the full benefit from the workout.

Intensities and Types of Long Distance Workouts

Gauging pace may seem like a difficult exercise, but through practice everyone can learn the “feeling” of these paces. The key here is “practice”. Runners need to spend time running at each of these paces to learn the feel of the pace. Over time they will become more confident and be able to replicate the target pace for a particular workout on their on volition.
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Running Terminology Series — Types of Long Distance Workouts

running-advice-bugWhether you are new to running or just confused by terms like “speed workouts” and “tempo runs”, this series of articles is for you. We’ve distilled some of the most important terms related to running workouts, paces and lingo related to the track into a series of three short articles. Here in part I we tackle the different types of long-distance running workouts.

Long-distance Running Terminology Part I — Types of Workouts

By Coach Joe English
with Coach Dean Hebert
(C) 2010 Running Advice and News

Introduction
Runners build fitness by doing a variety of different workouts. No matter whether they are training for their first 5K or to trying to qualify for the Olympic Marathon, a workout plan built on a variety of different types of workouts makes runners faster, more efficient and keeps them progressing toward their fitness goals.

Just like a diet built of many different foods will help provide the many different kinds of nutrients that we need to stay healthy, providing the body with a variety of different running workouts helps make a stronger and healthier runner. And, to take the analogy one step further, doing the same workouts over and over leads runners down a path toward diminishing returns. Too many runners force-feed themselves with a steady diet of slow miles run every day and this is like eating junk food for lunch every day – it yields little in the way of nutrition or happiness in the long-run.

What follows below is a description of several types of run workouts and their place among the “diet” of the healthy runner. Building a training plan should be viewed like putting together a puzzle. As you place each workout into the puzzle, eventually the picture of a runner comes into place. What that runner looks like depends on the puzzle pieces – which are the number, length and intensity of the workouts themselves.
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Track and Field — 2009 Clubs Crowned at USATF Club Championships

running-advice-bugNew York, N.Y. — Shore Athletic Club (New Jersey) and Greater Boston Track Club (New England) claimed the men’s and women’s team titles, respectively, this weekend at the ninth annual USATF National Club Track & Field Championships at Icahn Stadium in New York City. More than 500 athletes representing 64 USATF clubs from 21 different states competed in the two-day event where eight meet records were broken. Shore Athletic Club used a well-balanced effort by both its men’s and women’s squads to also claim the combined team title over Greater Boston Track Club (New England), 246 to 234 points.

In the men’s competition, Shore Athletic Club dominated the team scoring, outdistancing the second place team ConnQuest by 111 points (199 compared to 88). Southwest Sprinters Track Club (Southwestern) placed third with 85 points, fourth place went to Greater Boston Track Club (New England) with75 points, and rounding out the top five was Club Northwest (Pacific Northwest) ending the day with 66 points.

It was a close competition on the women’s side, but in the end Greater Boston Track Club (New England) edged out last year’s champions Central Park Track Club (Metropolitan) 159 to 154. Following in third was Norfolk Real Deal Track Club (Virginia) finishing the day with 105 points. With a great effort to finish fourth, Southwest Sprinters Track Club (Southwestern)totaled 68 points, and Brockport Distance Project (Niagara) finished fifth with 58 points.

Sesar Figueroa of the On the Run Racing Team (Gulf) was the Most Valuable Male Athlete, scoring 24 points. He finished second in three events, the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m. Joeane Jadotte of Greater Boston Track Club was Most Valuable Female Athlete, also scoring 24 points. She won the Shot Put, Discus Throw, and finished fifth in the Hammer Throw.
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Track and Field — Goucher and Flanagan to battle at Eugene Outdoor Championsips

EUGENE – Rivalries lead the way in the women’s distance events as Jenny Barringer will face Anna Willard in the 1,500m and 3,000m steeplechase, and Shalane Flanagan will go toe-to-toe with Kara Goucher in the women’s 5,000 and 10,000m at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 25-28 at historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The USA Championships will feature the nation’s finest professional track and field athletes competing for national honors and spots on the Team USA roster for the 2009 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin, Germany. The World Championships will be held at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium, where National Track & Field Hall of Famer and American icon Jesse Owens won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

5,000 and 10,000m double double
2008 Olympic Games 10,000m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan is set to go head-to-head with 2007 World Outdoor 10,000m bronze medalist Kara Goucher in the Nike women’s 5,000 and 10,000m next week.

Flanagan has made her mark on the record books over the past few years, setting American records outdoors in the 5,000 and 10,000m and indoors in the 3,000 and 5,000m. At the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, she won the 10,000m and placed third in the 5,000m and followed that up in Beijing with a bronze medal and an American record at 10,000m along with a 10th-place finish over 5,000m.
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Track and Field — Top US Men gun for Outdoor National Titles

EUGENE – Bernard Lagat, Nick Symmonds and Galen Rupp will headline the men’s middle and long distance running events at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 25-28 at historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The USA Championships will feature the nation’s finest professional track and field athletes competing for national honors and spots on the Team USA roster for the 2009 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin, Germany. The World Championships will be held at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium, where National Track & Field Hall of Famer and American icon Jesse Owens won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

800m
At the 2008 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field, Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating, Christian Smith and Khadevis Robinson staged a race for the ages during the 800m final that created a roar whose echoes can still be heard in Eugene.

Recognized as one of the favorites to win the race, Symmonds, a Eugene-area resident, assumed command down the final straightaway of the last lap to win the race convincingly, with University of Oregon star Andrew Wheating finishing as the runner-up. Shortly thereafter they were joined on the Team USA roster for Beijing by fellow Eugene fan favorite and then Oregon Track Club member Christian Smith, who dove across the finish line just ahead of 2004 Olympian Khadevis Robinson for the third and final spot on the Team USA Olympic roster, which sent the sold-out partisan crowd into hysterics. Smith’s time of 1:45.47 bettered the Olympic A qualifying standard, which officially punched his ticket to Beijing.
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