Friday, April 25, 2008

26 Tips for Marathon Training and Racing #24: Lacing Up Properly

photo from

Saturday afternoon, John Kagwe of Kenya spotted a new shoe at a running expo, picked up a pair and thus violated a cardinal rule of marathoning: never run in a pair of untried shoes.

He triple-knotted the laces for yesterday's New York City Marathon, but by Mile 3 they had come untied. He stopped to tie the shoes, lost 30 meters on the lead pack and sprinted to catch up. At Mile 10, the same thing happened. Kagwe tended to his troublesome laces, the leaders pulled away and Kagwe exerted precious energy to rejoin them.

Just before Mile 23, as the course leaves Fifth Avenue and enters the exhausting hills of Central Park, Kagwe made his move and drew ahead, only to feel the laces of his right shoe flapping against his leg. The pair of Nike Air Vengeance shoes had come untied a third time. But he could not afford to stop; his slight lead would disappear and so might his chance for winning.

So Kagwe kept running. His shoe stayed on his foot and his lead kept growing until he had crossed the finish line ahead of an estimated 30,500 other runners in 2 hours 8 minutes 12 seconds, the second-fastest time run in New York. It was a remarkable performance over 26.2 miles on a miserably humid, windy and rainy day that left Kagwe only 11 seconds off the course record of 2:08:01 set in 1989 by Juma Ikangaa of Tanzania.

''I could have broken the record if my shoe hadn't bothered me,'' said Kagwe -New York Times, April, 2007

Lacing up shoes properly is important. Lace them up too loose and they may come untied, not to mention your heel possibly sliding up and down. To me, a loose fitting shoe feels noticeably uncomfortable, something I certainly do not want to experience during a marathon.

Lace them too tight, and you run the risk of irritating a nerve, causing pain and numbness. You can also do what I did seveal years ago running the Marine Corps Marathon and develop a nasty break in the skin where the lace is tightest.

The type of foot you have often determines what type of lacing technique will work the best. Check out this article from for some lacing tips.

Always make sure to double tie the knot, don't leave the loop too big (I tripped myself one time on a training run by catching my toe in a big loop on the other shoe), and tuck the long ends in under so you don't step on them.

As with everything else, don't try any new tricks on marathon day.

(c) Dave Elger 2008 All rights reserved

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