Running over a distance of 26.2 miles requires a great deal of energy, which will vary dependent on factors such as body weight, heat, wind, hills, and running economy. The greatest marathoners often spend the least amount of energy. They are light, and run very efficiently.
Without making any dramatic changes in your running form that may predispose you to injury, here are a few tips that can help you become a more efficient, faster runner.
1. Take shorter strides. Over striding, identified by landing heel first in front of your hips, is a very inefficient way to run. More up and down movement increases energy cost, not to mention the increased contact time with the road and greater force of impact. On your long runs, tempo, and interval sessions, focus on landing directly under your hips, allowing your foot to take more of a glancing blow with the road as opposed to a hard direct heel first landing.
2. Faster turnover. To compensate for your new shorter strides, make sure your cadence is quicker. According to most experts, the ideal is 180 steps per minute, or 90 per 30 seconds. Time your foot strikes and try to hit that number, letting that tempo eventually become second nature.
3. Use you arms. It takes less energy to move a shorter lever through space. For this reason, elbows should be bent at a 90 degree angle or even less. Arms should swing freely, held close to the body with elbows in. Common errors you will see are elbows held out too far or too straight.
4. Relaxation. The best runners are usually the ones that look the smoothest and most relaxed. While this comes natural to a select few, most of us have to make a conscious effort to run relaxed.
5. Posture. Bending forward or slouching is the most common mistake. Former Olympian Jeff Galloway says "strong, upright carriage is one of the most important aspects of running."
Remember your objective when perfecting your running form- spend the least amount of energy without sacrificing pace.
(c) Dave Elger 2008 All rights reserved