Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Bit Of A Run

It was about three weeks ago, tops, that I got a Groupon update email with 50% off the entrance fee to the US Half Marathon in San Francisco.  A quick, couple minute conversation with the girl later, we had two registered runners.  Oh boy.  Now I am by no means an inexperienced runner, with 12 marathons under my belt, along with a 50-mile ultra, I have logged my fare share of miles.  But, that being said, the longest I had run in a year (last November was my last marathon) was around 8 miles or so.  My girl had an even longer break going for her (she'd run 1 marathon, about two years, and not too much distance since), so we both were a little rusty to say the least.

So how the hell did I expect to make it, healthily, through 13.1 miles without having any sort of up to date run training?  Well, I actually was not worried at all.  Here's why:

Simply put, CrossFit.  And to be honest, even if I had none of my distance running background, I still would not have been worried.  A regular CrossFitter has more than enough cardiovascular and muscular endurance to last a couple hours of basic running; and when the body starts to wear down a bit, CrossFitters will have no problem enduring the pain.  If you regularly strength train (building overall functional strength in all major muscle groups), incorporate intelligent metcons (building solid cardio and muscular endurance, as well as "pain" endurance, or, "toughing it out") and practice mobility work pre and post workouts (enforcing increased range of motion through all your muscles and joints), you are more than prepared for about 90% of the physical aspect of any extended endurance event, and 100% of the mental aspect.  This leaves the final 10%: impact.

This is the one and only issue I find in CrossFitters attempting long runs, they sometimes lack the ability to handle the constant impact that is inevitable in the sport of long distance running.  Your feet, ankles, knees and hips (along with the muscles and tendons keeping those joints together) take an absolute pounding.  But, there is hope for those struggling with this issue yet!  If you train CrossFit correctly, if your programming incorporates proper supplemental/support work along with focused attentions on form and range of motion on all lifts, and plenty of running-based metcons, you'll do just fine.

Think about it, when you plant your foot while running, your joints just smash together.  If you have solid, balanced strength in all your main movers (quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves) those joints will be protected from any form of repetitive pounding.  Heavy squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts and cleans will pretty much do the trick for the strength.  Now, add mobility and stability work to your programming (foam roll, stretch, dynamic warm ups, body weight movements, unilateral lunges, step ups, isometrics) and those joints will end up being stronger than most die-hard runners.  But you can still get better!  Get a handful of sprint intervals, 1-3 mile runs, weighted running (sled pulling and pushing, sandbag running) and chipper style, or 20+ minute metcons and you will not only be able to finish a 10-miler or half marathon, but do it with a damn respectable time as well. 

To be a great runner, don't just run.  In fact, I would argue that for most runners out there, incorporating a steady CrossFit style program into your training, while decreasing your total miles per week will help you smash all your running PR's.  And to take it a step farther, even elite runners would benefit from a similar shift in programming.  A phrase I like to share with my athletes: "the more overall athleticism you have, the better at your sport you will be."

So on to my personal experince.  I finished in 1:49:01.  I really wanted to get 1:45 or better but it just was not in the cards today.  But what a fun run this was!  For starters, it was POURING rain the entire time.  And I mean, some serious rain!  But this just made it that much more fun.  I made a huge running fopa by wearing a pair of super minimalist Saucony shoes that I had purchased the night before...thank god this did not come back to bite me in the ass.  And then, my girl and I shared a banana for fuel before driving in circles to find parking and literally running up to the start line as the gun went off.  Needless to say, we were not completely prepared for this thing.  But, despite all that, we both had a good experience.  It's just fun getting outside with a massive group of people and being active, what else can I say?  And after it all, with my recovery tights on as I write, I am feeling pretty damn good and confident to get back into the gym tomorrow for regularly scheduled programming.  Not too shabby at all!

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage

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