It’s been a very quick week since we got back from holiday and I’m back into full swing with my training for Loch Ness Marathon in September. With just over 8 weeks to go, I’m now focusing on quality from my training as much as quantity.
It’s nearly 4 weeks since I did the Ironman 70.3 so I’m not exactly starting from scratch and then I’ve had a couple of weeks of relaxation mixed with some 5km runs so I’m now feeling fully refreshed and ready to tackle the training ahead. I got straight back into Parkrun last Saturday and ran 19:34, my second fastest Parkrun this year so that was a good sign! I followed it up with an 8 mile run on Sunday. Sunday’s run was a case of getting the miles in and the pace wasn’t important as I just needed to get the legs acquainted with running a longer distance and to help flush out the tiredness from the journey home from holiday.
It’s good to have a plan for marathon training and while most plans simply involve long runs with the odd hill reps or speed session thrown in, my one is taking a different focus – to be able to maintain the form I had in the Half Marathon at the end of the Ironman 70.3 over 26.2 miles but at a quicker pace. My form that day consisted of running at a quicker cadence while driving my knees forward.
The quicker cadence is something I got into by accident as it’s what my body felt it wanted to do when I went for a run after my long bike rides and it served me well on race day in Edinburgh and also at Cool Summer Mornings 5k and Parkrun whilst in Florida. I’ve been working on my knee drive for a while but lost my focus on it when I had the pelvic issue in the build up to Paris.
In order to perfect the form, I went out on Thursday morning to do an interval session and did 10x1km shuttles with 90 seconds recoveries. The purpose of the intervals was to work on maintaining my form for each interval rather than going for maximum speed. It took me a few intervals to stop myself running as hard as I could with the form and try to run at around 80% of my top pace so that I was able to hold my form and feel like I could speed up at any point, something I want to be able to do for the whole of the marathon.
What are the benefits of a quicker cadence and a knee drive while running? It’s designed to improve efficiency in my running and I look forward to see how my performances are over the coming weeks. Every time our foot strikes the ground, we lose energy and so the key to running faster is to create an efficient foot strike where the foot lands then springs straight off. Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter which part of the foot you strike the ground with, it’s about time spent on the floor. I’m testing this myself so that I can teach others how to do it at my Improvers Running Group
To achieve this, I’m working on two main aspects – my knee drive and my cadence. I have found over the last couple of years that improving hip mobility, and the forward drive of the knee, has improved the efficiency of my running and has seen my 5km time drop from just over 20 mins to 18:57 without doing any specific speed work and I smashed my Half Marathon PB in Inverness in March by simply focusing on driving my knee forwards. Considering cadence when you run also improves efficiency by taking shorter steps and so I’m now working on combining both.
How did it work in the interval session? It worked quite well as with each interval, I was able to make each one better by slowing down a little bit and counting the tempo I wanted in my head until my watch bleeped at the end of each interval. I managed 6 good reps but found I lost the form in the 7th, 8th and 9th reps and had to focus really hard to maintain the tempo in the 10th one.
It’s healthy to review every run, celebrate the good ones, remember what was good about them so that you can repeat next time and with the runs that aren’t so good, think about what you can do next time to make them better. For me, when I go to repeat the intervals next week, I will do 8 repetitions and work on my mobility between now and then so I can do 8 good ones.
Look out for my vlog next week as I will be explaining more about the knee drive and demonstrating the exercises I do to help me master it.
Do you review your training runs regularly? What was the biggest thing you learned from your last training run?