Saturday, 1 August 2015

Introduction, context, and objectives.

I am going to change my running style (my gait) at 48 years old, according to the methods of Keith Bateman and Heidi Jones in their book Older Yet Faster. I hope this will lead to an improvement in performance.  I am going to blog about my progress.

I'm a runner of 37 years experience (this being 2015), with a chequered history of commitment. 

It all started well, with school and club cross country taking me from 11 thru mid teens.  Girls and cars distracted me from running, until I got to University, when unfortunately I went longer (I'm built for shorter) and had 5 years of mediocre 10k thru 1/2M competition, probably because I thought 3 runs a week was a lot.

A nine year sojourn into windsurfing but with no running left me overweight and top-heavy by 33.  An engaging career and great family left me with not much time.  So I thought a little light jogging would mean I could still drink beer, but keep the belt size in check. 

Only this time I got hooked.  Completely hooked! By 34 I'd lost 15kg, by 35 I was running 7 days a week.  My 10k thru half marathon personal best times I set at university all fell by the time I was 39.  I ran 6 marathons in those 5 years too.

But then at 40 something happened that changed my focus yet again.  A change of training group brought me into contact with a top national coach, Tony Fern.  He saw me and without hesitation or irony said "you're not a long distance runner mate, you're middle distance." And so started my relationship with the 800m.  Only 30 years too late.

From 40 to 47 I took about half a second off my 800m time per year, as my gait matured, and gained experience.  At 48 I won the UK national championship for 800m in the 45-49 age group.

And now I want to change that gait. At 48 years old.  After 37 years.

I know [mainly because of photos] that I over-stride badly.  I'm at that stage now, in 2015, where I know what good looks like.  If I'm running at less than 100% effort (and I know my coach is watching!) then I know how to not over-stride: I can look like Seb Coe (the 1975 version not 2015)!.  But as soon as I'm at 100% in a race, or speed training, it's right there - leg extended out front, locked straight, coming down about a metre in front of my hips (almost!) heel first.  Bang.

This summer (2015), I met Keith Bateman and Heidi Jones.  I'm very logical (career in data!) and everything they say about biomechanics makes sense. But it's the way Keith explains it that makes a difference.  As we are running, it's knowing what to concentrate on that's the key.  Sure, better style is about not heel striking, not over extending, keeping shoulders back, not crossing the arms over the torso etc. etc..  But none of those things are what should be concentrated on.  Rather, it's the hips.  I won't try to paraphrase Keith and Heidi's book here more than to say it's about every step thrusting hips away from the ground, and all the rest (pretty much) will fall into place.

I've decided, after conversation with my coach, to practice what Keith and Heidi preach.  After my perennial post t&f season break of between 2 and 3 weeks, I'm going to cut volume right back, and concentrate on style.

I've also decided to blog the results. I suspect there will be a flurry of entries in the first few weeks, followed by a dramatic decrease in posts as things in the running department become more natural.  But lets give it a go and see.

Thanks for reading!