I’m halfway through Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve spent a lot of my afternoons or early mornings running the flight line, and I’ve been pleasantly reminded of how enjoyable the pure experience of running can be. This has also been a good chance for me to reflect on how I’ve improved as a runner…
Over the past few years I’ve run three marathons and logged hundreds of miles training or just running for fun. Based on my own experiences, I think the biggest contributor to my ability to stay injury-free during this time was changing the way I run. Back in the Spring of 2010, I was living in Oklahoma City, and I wanted to start running faster. I went out hard on a few training runs (of distances ranging from 400 meters up to two miles at any given time), and I quickly developed a painful case of the shinsplints. The pain in my lower legs was persistently so bad over two months that I had difficulty driving, walking up stairs, and even jogging. After taking time off to recover, and going through a few months of physical therapy, I slowly started running again.
I eventually ran a half-marathon and three marathons over the course of a few years. While training for my second marathon, I learned to stop running “heel-to-toe” and instead to take quicker, almost choppier, steps. I forced myself to change my stride–keeping my feet under my body, not slapping my feet, landing on my mid-sole, and mentally imagining my shoelaces were tied together to keep myself from over-extending. I also gradually transitioned to a pair of minimalist running shoes (New Balance Minimus 10s), which helped immensely, by allowing me to feel the ground when I ran too hard. This was important, because thick running shoes allowed me to run sloppily, oblivious to how my feet were hitting the ground since they were so insulated. Minimalist shoes, on the other hand, gave me sensory feedback, so I got the message that “this hurts” if I ran with poor form; and that, in turn, reinforced proper running form. If you’re at all interested in minimalist running, I encourage you to try it out; I was initially a skeptic but I am now a true believer. Also, I recommend reading “Born to Run” for a narrative perspective on some of the leading ultra-runners who helped popularize minimalist/barefoot running.
I was recently looking into buying a new pair of running shoes (again, New Balance Minimus 10s, since I’ve enjoyed them so much), and I found this really helpful video, which quickly sums up a lot of the information on good running form that I discovered through trial-and-error.
Incidentally, I’m now running faster than I ever did before I started long/medium distance running (and I went with minimalist shoes); if you want to get faster, then go longer!