Saturday, March 25, 2006

Boston Marathon tips from L St. Running Club Coach Chris Forti

Thanks to L Street volunteer running coach Chris Forti for today's tips. Chris has impressive credentials - a former cross-country, indoor, and outdoor high school track coach, a Member and Competition Chairman of the HFC Striders Track Club, and a Member of the Massachusetts State Track Officials Association. Chris has also put up some speedy PR's: mile-- 4:28.56; 5,000m-- 15:21.24 10,000m-- 32:14.76; half marathon-- 1:14:20; marathon-- 3:03:44.

Today he'll provide some tips on running downhill and tomorrow I'll post his advice on you guessed it - running uphill.

Thanks Chris. Take it away...

I come from a background of running in high school and college, so my perspective on running is slightly different than that of people who pick it up either in college, soon after college, or in their 40s, 50s and beyond. Ever since I've come to run with the L Street Running Club, I've learned to listen, see, and understand the challenges that many people face when they first start running, which I can tell you as a former high school coach, are different than those of a freshman in high school. I find that once adults get the running "bug," they become a sponge, listening and trying new ideas and tactics. Adults are more open to new ideas and are not afraid to step backward to gain two or three steps forward.

The Boston Marathon presents a lot of challenges in both the training for and running of the race. Training in the middle of winter for a spring race, preparing for the uphills and downhills in the race, and dealing with the logistics of actually getting to the start line itself, and getting there healthy are all things you'll needs to work on and decide before race day.

If you are training for Boston, by now you've probably been on the course once or twice to familiarize yourself with the Newton hills. Since Boston is a race consisting of lots of hills, both up and down, spending time thinking about how you want to "attack" them is always a good idea. The race starts with downhills, so I'll also begin my tips there.

Downhill running sounds easy right? How hard can it be? You are not expending any extra energy, and you are going faster. We wish all races could be that way! But running down hills presents some factors that need to be addressed. I find is most runners are “afraid” of running downhill. They will lean back, allowing their heel to strike the ground first, and they don’t fully take advantage of the downhill surface on which they are running. For most people running downhill, their heel strikes the ground first and that sends the impact straight up the leg to their quadriceps muscles -- which makes them fatigue from absorbing all that shock. These are the same quadriceps you will need to rely on to pull your knees up when you enter Newton at mile 16.

A simple way to combat this is by adjusting your running form. Lean your chest ‘forward’ slightly and aim to have your midfoot or forefoot strike the ground first. Since most people are used to leaning backward while running downhill, by leaning your chest ‘forward’ it will in fact put your chest on the same vertical plane as the balls of your feet. Don’t try to reach with your feet or overstride while running downhill -- as this will take away from your ‘forward-leaning’ running form and you’ll be back to landing on your heels again. Using this running form will take some of the stress off your quadriceps and you’ll glide down the hills with ease.