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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — September 16, 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,” Burfoot says.

THIS WEEK: Weirdly wonderful endurance foods. Pain vs. enjoyment in training. Do women have more endurance than men? The value of marathon-pace long runs. The perfect 3-step taper. Injury risks for teenage runners. Running might improve cartilage. Fantastic (free) plant-based diet guide. Mindfulness and running. More.

4 unexpected (and slightly weird) foods with sports performance potential

Seaweed. Crickets. Pink power. Chicken broth. These are all foods that, according to some recent sports nutrition research, could improve your performance. I’ve enjoyed several wonderful visits to Oaxaca, Mexico, where markets are filled with large pyramidal piles of crickets, and I’ve yet to force one down my mouth. I guess I need to brave up. Maybe next time. I don’t think I’ve tried spirulina yet either. The others, for sure, and what’s not to like? Experimenting with different foods, for both taste and performance potential, is one of the great joys of life. More at PodiumRunner.

Which is it: No pain, no gain? Or no fun, no gain?

Matt Fitzgerald is one of the best running writers out there: prolific and evidence-based with plenty of marathon and other ultra experiences on his legs. When Matt writes, I pay attention. And occasionally I spot contradictions. Recently he has written two articles that seem quite different. One makes the argument for “pain tolerance” in training. In effect, this is the old “No pain, not very much gain” approach. In the other article, he says there’s a close link between “improvement in fitness and the level of training enjoyment.” Pain? Or fun? Do we have to choose one over the other? These are good questions to ponder and resolve for yourself. (By the way, I can accept “multitudes” in Fitzgerald, myself, and others. It’s not a crime.) More at Trail Runner.

Women keep beating a lot of men in ultra races

A number of women ultrarunners have been killing it in recent races, including Courtney Dauwalter, who finished 7th overall at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Here, Cindy Kuzma, author of an athlete-recovery book titled Rebound, does a great job of summarizing results and trying to explain possible reasons for the long-held theory that women have more endurance. I’m not convinced yet, as we’re dealing more with anecdote than evidence. But the anecdotes keep piling up, and the story-line is tantalizing in so many ways. More at Women’s Running.

Should you do long runs at marathon pace?

Here we have one of the eternal questions faced by marathon runners. How can I race 26 miles at pace X:xx if I’m doing 15- to 20-mile training runs slower than X? The answer, same as in the movie “Shakespeare In Love” is: “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” But have faith; it will work out. Coach and book author Jack Daniels has always preached: Do the least possible work to get the effect you want. For him, when it comes to long runs, this means taking them slow and relaxed. Others feel the need to build confidence by hammering “fast finish long runs” or completing them with one or several segments at tempo pace. I think there’s a better way to build confidence: Know that you have saved your biggest effort for race day. Remember: “The training run is not the thing.” Go long, sure, but don’t go long and hard. Not in training. More at Canadian Running.

3 easy steps to the perfect taper

Here’s an article written for competitive cyclists on the topic of achieving two peaks in a racing season. But I’m pointing it out because it presents a simple, 3-step mathematical formula for your next taper period. Starting a week or several before your big race, do the following: 1) Reduce your total training mileage by 50 to 90 percent; 2) Reduce your total runs by just 20 percent, making most shorter than normal; 3) Maintain 100 percent of the pace of your fast runs or tempo runs, but do fewer or shorter intervals. For example, you might run 3 x 800 where you would have done 6 x 800 several weeks earlier. On point 1 about total training, I’d advise: Aim closer to 50 percent than 90, especially before a marathon. More at Training Peaks.

When mentally fatigued cyclists face a busy intersection

Every once in a while you see a study that’s novel, bizarre, fascinating, and perhaps important.

Road cycling is a popular exercise for many runners, and it can also be dangerous, due to falls. Ethically, you can’t ask cyclists to complete a long, fatiguing ride, and then to navigate a busy intersection. But a virtual reality test? No problem. This paper reported that fatigued cyclists presented with a virtual world of “complex traffic situations” had slow reactions. They made “a less thorough visual inspection of the scene and delayed braking response.” Oops, that’s a concern. More at Accident, Analysis & Prevention.

What causes injuries in teenage runners?

We know that adult runners suffer from frequent mostly running injuries that are nonetheless frustrating and difficult to prevent. But what about teenage runners? A new study, with an impressive research group, looked into that question, and observed the lack of “comprehensive longitudinal studies.” Yet the group concluded that “there is strong evidence to support prior injury and sex (i.e., girls)” as injury risk factors. In addition, there is “more limited evidence to support menstrual dysfunction and low BMI” as issues linked to adolescent stress fractures. More at Frontiers in Sport & Active Living.

9 running form mistakes to avoid

I’m not one to harp about bad running form. I’ve seen it all in the last 60 years, including runners who get from point A to point B with amazing success despite some of the weirdest footfalls, leg motions, and arm swings you can possibly imagine. My basic mantra: Run tall, run relaxed, run with a comfortably short stride. Still, we’re all intrigued by running form, and the many “Do this” and “Don’t do this” lists that coaches and others love to construct. Here are nine “don’t do this” pointers. I agree in particular about not thrusting the neck forward, not running on tiptoes, and not over-striding. More at Marathon Handbook.

Fantastic free guide to plant-based diets

Here’s a fantastic, free, evidence-based guide to “Plant-Based Diets and Athletic Performance.” The researcher-professor-authors conclude that “well-designed PB diets that include some fortified foods can provide adequate macro- and micro-nutrient intakes in athletes and active individuals to support health and performance.” Along the way, the guide answers all your key questions, often with info-packed tables such as one listing top plant sources of protein. The big three are: seitan, tempeh, and edamame. Or maybe you want to know about iron. The big three plant-based sources are lentils, chickpeas, and tofu. More at Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal.

Running doesn’t damage cartilage, it might just make it better

Two new papers on cartilage health among runners indicate that there’s little to no problem. Cartilage is the flexible tissue that keeps joints fluid, and cushions the bones. In the first report, non runners, recreational runners, and serious college runners had the same amount of cartilage, meaning that more distance and pounding didn’t disrupt cartilage health. In fact, there was some indication that more was better. Also a meta-analysis and systematic review found: “Repeated running exposure did not cause changes to foot and ankle cartilage thickness or composition.” Therefore, “cartilage recovers well from a single running bout and adapts to repeated exposure.” More at Sports Medicine.

Running brands are pushing mindfulness

Damn, I hate it when I miss a mushrooming trend. But apparently that happened with regard to a new emphasis on mindfulness by several big running brands like Nike, Asics, and On Running. I guess I don’t frequently enough consult the “Center for Inner Peace” when seeking research nuggets. But I do know this: A recent study of female college students found that “mindfulness training has a promoting effect on college female students’ mental toughness in endurance sports.” The students rated an 800-meter test run as significantly less difficult after 8 weeks of mindfulness training. Unfortunately, their 800-meter times were not recorded. More at Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine.

When knee replacement is on the horizon

I know several people who are considering knee replacements, which means there are many in the same boat out there in the larger endurance population. Here, Chris Carmichael of cycling and coaching fame tells how he has dealt with knee pain while anticipating a wintertime surgery. It’s a good read, because he explains what worked well (and less well), and also because all of us can feel the mental anguish of someone facing surgery. In fact, we know we could be next. More at Train Right.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> Fight the ill effects of too much sitting by moving around for at least 3 minutes every half hour.

> 7 steps to mental recovery after a bad race (or workout).

> Children consume nearly 20 percent of calories from junk foods, adults nearly 15 percent.


“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

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