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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — August 19, 2021

Your weekly guided tour of the best new research and articles on running from around the web.

Each week, Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, also the world’s most experienced running editor, curates the latest and most useful content on running and health from around the internet. “I spend hours finding the best new research and articles, so you can review them in minutes.”

THIS WEEK: Run like the Olympic champs. A holistic view of running injuries. What’s the best pace for long runs? Small muscles are efficient muscles. Molly Seidel got fast by training slow. First-time marathoners face no hip damage. More.

Run like the Olympic champions

Jacob Ingebrigtsen and Eliud Kipchoge produced two of the most remarkable gold-medal performances in Tokyo, winning the 1500 meters and marathon respectively. And here are two Podium Runner articles explaining how they became world-beaters — the training, the physiology, the biomechanics, the mind set, and more. (Truth in advertising: I wrote both of these). This won’t guarantee that you can win a gold medal, too. But it’s fascinating to learn more about how they do it. Ingebrigtsen. Kipchoge.

It’s time for a holistic view of running injuries

As it becomes ever clearer that no one has a surefire recipe to prevent running injuries, leading researchers are arguing for a broader view. At the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. Physical therapists Chris Napier and Rich Willy call this a “causal framework.”  It’s not just that you made the mistake of tackling too much speedwork and hill repeats; it’s that these workouts particularly stress the Achilles. The 10 percent rule can’t protect you if you don’t understand that it could lead you 50 percent closer to “tissue failure.” Or if you aren’t eating healthy. As Alex Hutchinson notes in a related article, the search is now broadening to look for a “grand plan” that includes “intrinsic factors, as well as extrinsic factors like footwear, training surface, and training load.” More at Outside Online.

What’s the best pace for your long run?

Boston is less than two months away, and I need to get my butt in gear. Which always brings up the inevitable long-run question: How fast should I move said butt? I’ve always had the most success with EZ long runs, roughly 25 percent slower than my 5K race pace. Others run much harder, because it’s easy to go faster on long runs, but I think that’s a potential trap. Here, Pete Magill, possibly the clearest-thinking runner-coach I know, reviews some long-run options. More at PodiumRunner.

When it comes to endurance muscle, small is beautiful

Wherever possible, I try to link several related articles together. So, in a vein similar to the above, an intriguing new paper suggests that long, slow training might reduce the size of your Type 1 slow-twitch muscle fibers. Small muscle is good muscle, because you don’t want to carry around any extra weight during a marathon. The authors point to research suggesting that small muscles have a closer connection between the fibers and the mitochondria, making the whole unit more efficient. I know, this is mind-boggling stuff. But also fascinating and maybe instructive. More at Frontiers in Sports & Active Living.

Molly Seidel got fast in the marathon by training slow

When sports scientist, coach, and self-described data freak Alan Couzens decided to partition a Molly Seidel training week (115 miles in total), he found that she was doing most of her running at a relaxed pace. Or, stated the other way around, she did only 3% of her training at 5K pace or faster. Maybe Seidel knew the Tokyo Olympic Marathon was going to be a sufferfest, not a sprint. Or maybe she and her coach believe, like Couzens, that easy aerobic work is the key to marathon success. More at Twitter/Alan Couzens.

First-time marathoners face no subsequent hip damage

The study began with 28 healthy young males and females of average age 32 who had registered for their first marathon. Researchers performed MRIs on the runners’ hips 16 weeks before the marathon, and two weeks after. They found that “Runners who completed a 4-month beginner training program before their first marathon run, plus the race itself, showed no hip damage on 3-T MRI scans.” I noticed something interesting about dropouts from the training program. While two out of six had running injuries (one at the knee and one at the Achilles), but four had non-running setbacks–skin disease, family bereavement, illness unrelated to training, and foot injury unrelated to training. Life throws more curve balls at us than just running injuries. More at Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

A short stride reduces forces outdoors, too

Most stride frequency studies have been conducted on treadmills in laboratories. This one went outdoors. The subjects, all recreational runners, were monitored twice during a 2.4-mile run. When they increased their stride frequency by 7%, their average peak force dropped by 5.6%. The researchers speculate that this could reduce injury risk. They also found a metronome useful to help runners increase their stride frequency. More at Int. J. of Sports Physical Therapy.

Looking into the sprinter’s stride vs the marathoner’s

When the New York Times puts its resources into a running-related project, the result is sometimes greater than any running media can produce. Even though the NYT is hardly a running newspaper. That’s true here in a great explanatory video (from the biomechanics lab of Southern Methodist University’s Peter Weyand) illustrating the difference in stride biomechanics between sprinters and marathon runners — in this case Jared Ward. The sprinter cares mainly about force–hitting the track hard and generating a long stride. The marathoner opts for economy; this demands less muscle and a shorter stride. More at NYT.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

>Meta analysis: “Dietary nitrate supplementation benefits performance-related outcomes for endurance sports.”

>Exercisers have less Covid, less severe Covid, and fewer deaths than non-exercisers

>Why Eliud Kipchoge smiles while running, and you should too


“Poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude–they were what developed enormous spiritual strength. I came to realize that spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race.”—Herb Elliott, 1960 Olympic 1500-meter winner (new world record)

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week. —Amby