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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — September 23, 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: Perfect marathon taper. How to fuel mid-marathon. 60 minutes of efficient training. 10 running tips to avoid. Super shoes compared in scientific testing. Marijuana and sports — too soon to know. Frank Shorter was right: Defizzed cola works. Should you train alone or in a group? “Women are not small men.” More.

The perfect marathon taper

It’s pretty obvious that we’re getting close to the start of the most jam-packed marathon season ever, because the “how to taper” articles are popping up everywhere. That’s good by me. I can’t think of anything more important than tapering well after a several-month investment in marathon training. Here, Richard Lovett, an experienced coach and researcher, outlines a full 28-day taper. That’s hard to get runners to do, because many suffer a lack of confidence when they taper, but a 4-week program might have physiological benefits. Even if you can’t handle 4 weeks, be sure to do significantly fewer miles while retaining most workouts (just make them short) and also maintaining your pace work (again, in short runs). More at PodiumRunner.

For mid-marathon fueling, you need high-carb drinks

Here’s an article about fueling before, during, and after a marathon. It’s the “during” part that caught my eye because nutritionist Lynn Grieger correctly points out that you have to be careful about the sports drink offered at your marathon. She notes: “Most runners think that electrolyte beverages also contain calories — some do, but most don’t.” Top marathon physiologists recommend that you consume at least 60 grams of carbohydrate (240 calories) per hour of running; a few suggest you can go even higher, but you’d better first practice in training. You’re not going to reach those totals with a no-carb or low-carb sports drink. So study your marathon race-day options, and be prepared to add some additional carbs (probably from gels) to your plan. More at Women’s Running.

Here’s a great, efficient 60-minute running workout

Triathlete Laura Siddall has run a sub-3-hour marathon at the end of an iron-distance race, so she knows her running. With two other disciplines to train for, she has to be efficient. She achieves this with a favorite 60-minute run that has 5 x 5-minute intervals at its core. Siddall runs these at her tempo pace — about 5- to 7-seconds per mile slower than her 10K race pace. She begins the session with an easy 15-minute warm-up and takes a 2-minute recovery between intervals. “This workout is one of my favorite sessions,” she says. “It gets the body moving with a little speed, but it’s still really controlled, and leaves you knowing you have another gear.” More at Triathlete.

10 running tips to avoid

It’s always good to review the best running advice to make sure you’re on track with your training. Following a solid plan? Check! Consistency? Check! Good sleep habits? Check! Lots of easy running with a mix of faster efforts? Check! It can also be helpful, and a bit of wicked fun, to make sure you’re not swallowing someone’s bad advice. Here are 10 frequently heard running tips to avoid. I like the ones near the end best. Don’t lose fitness in your taper. Don’t think a race or training DNF is the end of the world. Don’t wear minimalist shoes. More at Outside Online.

Results of first side-by-side test of 7 different super shoes

In the first side-by-side scientific testing of 7 carbon-plated super shoes, only the Asics MetaSpeed Sky and Nike Alphafly boosted running economy as much as the original Nike Vaporfly shoes. Other carbon shoes from Hoka, Saucony, Brooks, and New Balance fell short. (Note: Missing were super shoes from Puma, On, Skechers, Scott, and Adidas. Adidas has both a legal super shoe and an “illegal” one — too tall — which made headlines recently when a marathon winner was disqualified for wearing them.) In the side-by-side testing, subjects were 12 fit male runners with an average 5K best of 16:00. Each runner completed 2 treadmill runs with all shoes in a randomized order. Conclusion: “The current competitive running shoe market is not equal, and athletes choosing to race in any of the shoes shown to be inferior to these in the present lineup are likely at a competitive disadvantage.” Of course, your mileage may vary: We don’t enough yet about how the shoes work, let alone how they interact with runners at other paces, with different body weights and unique strides. More at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Eliud Kipchoge is greatest ever because he’s a student and whole athlete

What makes Eliud Kipchoge a runner like no other? It’s not one thing, but many things. Constant learning. Relaxation and emotional control. Recognizing the importance of his team, including coaches and training partners. Not trying to set records every day, but adding together dozens/hundreds/thousands of days. Wanting to make the world a better place. Here’s a terrific list of attitudes that make Kipchoge arguably the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) and equally so the MAAT (Most Admirable of All Time). More at Twitter/SteveMagness.

What does science say about marijuana and performance?

Cannabis (marijuana) is a big national story with wider legal availability in many states, and of course, it’s going to be a health and performance story as well. Already we have seen books (here and here), blogs and more claiming benefits. This new scientific report aims for an objective view: “Investigations of whole cannabis and THC have generally shown either null or detrimental effects on exercise performance.” There’s more evidence for CBD and recovery due to its beneficial effects on “sleep quality, pain, and mild traumatic brain injury.” Stay tuned. More at Sports Medicine.

Defizzed cola good for intense intervals

It turns out that Frank Shorter might have been onto something. Almost half a century ago, in the 1972 Munich Olympic Marathon, Shorter famously consumed flat Coke en route to his runaway victory. Now scientists have found that defizzed cola, with and without sugars (one cola was a diet cola), improved performance in high-intensity intervals after a 45-minute steady ride. The boost presumably comes from the caffeine content of both types of cola. So, if you’re a cola fan, give it a try in your next hard workout or race. After appropriate defizzing. More at European J of Applied Physiology.

Should you train alone or in a group? 

Should you train alone or with a group. It’s a great question, and one that runners have long discussed and debated. Here’s a good overview of various pros and cons. There is no one right answer. As a general rule, it’s helpful to have training partners when you want to push yourself a little more on interval days or long-run days. On recovery run days or controlled run days (tempo runs), it might be better to go it alone. So don’t do just one or the other. Do both, each at the appropriate time. More at Precision Hydration.

For runners, Time Restricted Feeding enhanced weight loss but not performance

Many have gained weight during the Covid pandemic, nonathletes and some runners too. As a result, there’s increasing interest in weight-loss regimens, particularly one of the new kids on the block: time-restricted feeding (TRF). In a typical TRF regimen, you eat during 8 hours of the 24-hour day, but not during the other 16 hours. For example, you might only eat between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. When this was tried for 4 weeks by a group of good 10K runners (average time about 36 minutes), the runners lost a significant amount of body fat without losing muscle mass. In theory, this should have improved their running. But it didn’t. The researchers speculate that liver glycogen supplies might have drifted lower during the 16/8 diet, but they aren’t really sure. More at MDPI Nutrients.

You don’t need 10,000 steps just 7000

One of the better known fitness goals in common conversation is the 10,000 steps a day rule. Far more people know this one, I’d bet, than the scientific recommendation to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. Yet 10,000 steps has a history more myth than fitness math. A Japanese pedometer company simply dreamed it up as product promotion in the mid-1960s, and it’s been hanging around ever since. Recent research has found the number too high. A large new study of middle-aged Americans concluded that those taking at least 7000 steps a day vs those under 7000 steps “had a 50% to 70% lower risk of mortality” during an 11-year follow-up period. That’s huge. Keep stepping. 7000 steps is about 3.5 miles. More at JAMA Network Open.

“Women are not small men”

We hear and see this statement often in sports science these days, and it carries several important messages. First, far too much sports science research has been conducted with young, male subjects. Second, women have important hormonal and other physical differences from men; these could even extend to the brain. Why, for example, do women pace marathons better than men: Because they have more fat power or brain power? Women are also far less likely to die during a marathon than men. This paper, titled “Sex differences in cardiovascular adaptations in recreational marathon runners” suggests that women experience different heart function and aorta function after marathon training and racing than men. More at European J of Applied Physiology.

SHORT STUFF you’ll want to know

> Marathon running is good for brain and retinal blood vessels, supporting “the idea of a neuroplastic effect of exercise.”

> When you should skip your planned workout.

> Balance exercises that can improve your running performance.


“Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’ The answer is usually ‘Yes.’” —Paul Tergat, former marathon world record holder (2:04:55 in 2003)

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