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HALF MARATHON

Lactic Acid – Friend or Foe?

Lactic Acid – Friend or Foe?

Another commonly held belief is that the warm down after a hard workout or the shake out the next day is important to ‘help get the lactic out of the legs’. However, again the science doesn’t back this up. Yes, walking or jogging does shorten the time it takes for lactate levels to return to normal, but this return to baseline occurs relatively quickly anyway. By the time someone is doing a shakeout the day after a race or hard session, the lactate generated by that effort has long ago left the muscles. And where is it going? This is where lactate being a fuel source again comes into play, according to Brooks, after ‘exhaustive’ exercise lactate then becomes the preferred energy source, being burned up by muscles that are no longer using anaerobic respiration, and by the liver to regenerate glucose.

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The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 2)

The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 2)

Discipline, honour, self-restraint. These are some of the stereotypical character traits people think of when considering Japan. However, devotion to athletics and a motivation to succeed are not enough, in isolation, to explain how so many athletes are competing at such a high level in Japan. Ekiden and the elevated position it holds in the collective conscience of the nation explains a bit more of the situation. However, a final factor that we found came up over and again was the integral role of corporations in the fabric of Japanese running culture. I’m not talking about Mizuno, Asics and Nike.

Many corporations within Japan – Honda, Japan Rail, Kanebo Cosmetics– employ athletes to race and train in-house. The living expenses of the athletes are taken care of, food is cooked by in-house chefs that prepare a menu laboriously agonised over by a nutritionist. Training takes place multiple times per day – some runners in the corporate system reportedly average more than 600 miles (965km) per month – and around these sessions the athletes spend time with the team’s physiotherapists, strength coaches and masseurs. In addition to such extensive support from the team, living expenses being covered, and daily tasks such as cooking being taken care of, athletes running in the corporate teams reportedly receive a salary of US$35,000 and upwards each, depending on performance and their stature within the sport – there are plenty of high performers on six-figure salaries.

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The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 1)

The Perplexing Depth Of Talent In Japanese Running (Part 1)

Japan. Nihon. The Land of the Rising Sun. A country globally renown for many things. A rich cultural history. A cuisine like no other. The world’s largest metropolis – Tokyo. And… running?

Japan is not one of the nations that first comes to mind when most people think about the global running scene. However, in the marathon distance, Japan comes in third place behind Kenya and Ethiopia when looking at the number of athletes in the top thousand marathon times in history. Japan has over one-hundred athletes that have run sub-2:10 in the marathon. Compare this to the USA: with a population nearing triple that of Japan – and massive infrastructure surrounding their collegiate athletics system – the States have only twenty athletes that have run sub-2:10 (thirteen if you exclude record-ineligible Boston).

Our interest piqued, we decided to plunge headfirst into the Japanese running scene and investigate what was going on.

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How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

It’s interesting that despite studies suggesting that the (already elevated) recommendations for protein intake by endurance athletes may be too low – failing to optimise performance – there are many top endurance athletes who controvert this. An interesting study looked at the dietary habits of elite runners in Kenya.

The athletes were consuming a diet very high in carbohydrates (76.5%, 10.4 g/kg of body mass per day) and low in fat (13.4%). Protein intake represented 10.1% of their total calories which worked out to be 1.3 g/kg per day, which matches the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine mentioned above. Another interesting point is that the estimated energy intake of the athletes (2987 ± 293 kcal) was lower than energy expenditure (3605 ± 119 kcal).

This aligns with what we witnessed whilst training with Kipchoge and other elites in Kenya. Coming in from a long run, there was no sign of protein shakes. The snacks of choice were bananas, white bread and milky tea saturated with sugar. The authors of this study also noted that fluid intake by the Kenyan athletes studied was modest, mainly in the form of water (1113 ± 269 mL) and tea (1243 ± 348 mL). Their conclusions: “Although the diet met most recommendations for endurance athletes for macronutrient intake, it remains to be determined if modifying energy balance and fluid intake will enhance the performance of elite Kenyan runners.”
Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

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How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 1)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 1)

Protein! A hype word like no other in the health and fitness world. Endless tomes of information and misinformation on the subject lurk out there on the internet, with mud-slinging fights aplenty in any forum you care to look at. There is likely no other dietary component that inspires as much debate, insofar as athletes are concerned, as protein. This article isn’t being published to add more fuel to the fire, and I must warn you that there’s no magical solution proffered in the conclusion. Nutrition is something that different bodies react to in different ways and if someone is trying to bludgeon you with a concrete opinion, it’s probably worth questioning their motives.

Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

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Jake Riley – Training for the Olympic Trials

Jake Riley – Training for the Olympic Trials

Troop detailed two key sessions that had been completed in the leadup to the trials.

One was completed at Teller Farm trails outside Boulder, as follows. 5km warm up. 4 miles of hills out, return and do a 5km press uphill back towards the parking lot. Jake closed the final 5km uphill in 16:45 in windy conditions, which Troop took as a good indication for his preparedness for the hilly course in Atlanta. He said that Jake’s cross-country pedigree would really favour his chances come race day.   

The other key workout which Troop uses is an eighteen-mile progression. This should be run eight and then four weeks prior to a race, with a three-hour run six weeks out. Troop aims to simulate race conditions as much as possible. The workout is completed on a three-mile loop, a drinks table is put out to practice taking on fuel. Practice makes perfect.

Three miles easy to warm up, change shoes. 

Miles 3-6: 5:55-6:00/mile

Miles 6-9: 5:30-5:35/mile

Miles 9-12: 5:15/mile

Miles 12-18: 5:00-5:05/mile – marathon pace (with a ~5second/mile concession for the 1600m elevation)

Jake ran this workout significantly faster in the leadup to Trials than when he was preparing for Chicago. Troop says he executed the session really well and looked comfortable.

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Training With Tokai University – Ekiden Winning Team

Training With Tokai University – Ekiden Winning Team

The athletes strip down to singlets and shorts. Next% adorn the feet of all but a few athletes, and we follow the fluorescent queue of feet out onto the track. There are a number of students at the infield next to the start line, wearing Tokai tracksuits but evidently not running. Noriaki says they’re the team assistants. The half dozen assistants are gathered around a cooler box and a small whiteboard. The athletes join them and form a circle leaving a gap for the two coaches to make their address. After attentively listening to both coaches speak, a collective bow by the students indicates the session is about to start. Five by one-mile, repeats followed by five two-hundreds. Jogging a lap between each rep. Noriaki explains that he and Moro asked the athletes to keep it very steady, make sure pace was constant.

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Thijs Nijhuis (2:10:57 Marathon) – Training Principles and Diary

Thijs Nijhuis (2:10:57 Marathon) – Training Principles and Diary

Week 51 (Denmark)
M: 10k in 4.00, commute to hospital + 14k in 4.00 commute back T: 8k in 4.10, commute to hospital + 20k in 3.59, commute back
W: 25k incl. 15 x 1k with 60 seconds standing rest. 1k avg. 2.58.
Th: 25k in 3.50 + 10k in 4.25.
F: 14k in 4.03
S: 26k incl. 5-4-3-2-1k with 3min light jogging rest. Times: 15.13-12.01-9.03-5.57-2.51. Overall 3.32 per k. Eve: 10k in 4.19.
Sun: 34k in 4.05, hilly forrest.
Total: 186k

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More Tempo Running – A Key Ingredient To The Kenyan Success

More Tempo Running – A Key Ingredient To The Kenyan Success

For reference, the Kenyan athletes were completing about 60% of their total kilometres as easy runs, 25% as tempo runs, just under 10% as short intervals, just under 5% as long intervals and around 1% as tests/competitions. For comparison the national level athletes completed close to 70% of their total kilometres as easy runs, 10% as tempo runs, around 6% as short intervals, 12% as long intervals and 2% as tests/competitions. 

When considering the application of this for either your own or another athlete’s training it is obviously extremely important to consider the goals, strengths and weaknesses of that specific case however the comparison between athletic levels presented in this study is definitely interesting. If working in a similar time period (10 weeks from major competition) and you’re doing a lot of longer intervals, it may be worth switching some intervals for tempo runs, and hey, Wilson Kipsang does it. 

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VO2Max – What is it and Does it Matter?

VO2Max – What is it and Does it Matter?

So why does all this science matter and what does it mean for you? First of all, VO2max is the strongest independent predictor of future life expectancy so everyone out there should be at the very least slightly interested in their own value, athlete or not. Additionally VO2max  becomes especially useful once we consider its impact on athletic performance. 

In order to walk, run or move at all, our body needs to produce energy; we can either produce this energy without oxygen (anaerobic) or with oxygen (aerobic). Any exercise will require energy production from both aerobic and anaerobic systems however their relative contribution is determined by the duration and intensity of the effort. As anaerobic energy production is only possible for a very short period of time, our bodies will always try to meet the energy demands aerobically. In trained individuals it has been shown that during a maximal effort the switch to predominantly aerobic energy systems occurs somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds into exercise as by this point we have “run out” of anaerobic fuel. The rate of work, power output or running pace that an individual can maintain aerobically is determined largely by their VO2max. 

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Beat The Heat – Elite Marathoners Training Tactics

Beat The Heat – Elite Marathoners Training Tactics

Elite marathon runners are by no means unaccustomed to scorching temperatures, and the enervating effect of both extreme heat and humidity on performance. It only takes a brief glance at their competitive calendar to understand why, yet it demands delving below the surface of physiology and heat acclimation to understand how they outrun the searing sun.
The 2020 Summer Olympics set to take place in sauna-sweltering Tokyo, which has since been postponed to 2021, was predicted to be the hottest on record. So hot in fact, that the 26.2 mile marathon course was resurfaced with a heat-reflecting material called ‘Perfect Cool’. While reducing the surface temperature of the track by up to 10 degrees Celsius on hot days, further analysis found there to be hardly any cooling effect at head height, deeming their heat expelling attempt to be rather futile.

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German Silva – The Wrong Way to the Top

German Silva – The Wrong Way to the Top

A major chunk of running history and culture of which I was completely oblivious until last year was the dominance of Mexican athletes on the roads throughout the 1990s. On a run through a valley near Sululta, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Knox Robinson regaled us with stories from that period: the athletes who were so dominant, their successes and their missteps. As well as what he experienced during his time spent there, learning from some of the most colourful characters in running.

One such character that kept popping up was German Silva.

Delving into some research on the topic, I was fascinated. A beautiful article in the New York Times depicted a committed group of elite athletes living in austerity and tackling some alarmingly tough conditions, training at altitudes well above what most elite runners would deem productive as they ascended into the crater of the 4680m volcano, Nevado de Toluca.

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Emil Zatopek – Marathon Training Insights

Emil Zatopek – Marathon Training Insights

Once described by an observer as resembling “a man wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt,” Zatopek’s style was unorthodox. But he was notorious for unrelenting grit, not smooth running. “I shall learn to have a better style,” he retorted, “once they start judging races according to their beauty.” His was not an effortless lope that carried him smoothly across the track, Milne of Athletics Weekly once reported on a race: “He ran as only a Zátopek could run such a distance one moment looking like a super-tuned machine, the next like a fugitive from justice; grimacing painfully in one lap, smiling contentedly in the next, and finally winding up with a last lap that would have done credit to a first-class miler.”

Interval training wasn’t invented by Zatopek, but after a lull in its use by athletes during the period of WWII it was Zatopek who began to push its use to new extremes. When he first began his experiments with startlingly high-volume interval training in the forests of Stara Boleslav (often run in his army boots, through the snow and mud), contemporaries were appalled. ‘Everyone said, “Emil, you are a fool!”’ he reminisced. ‘But when I first won the European Championship, they said: “Emil, you are a genius!”’

At the time the use of such techniques was not standard practice. Emil was not known for his natural speed, and the training was aimed at running a fast pace, with recovery allowing repetitions and a gradual extension of the cumulative distance that could be run at that increased pace. “Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.”

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Taking To The Trails – How It Will Help You Be A Better Runner

Taking To The Trails – How It Will Help You Be A Better Runner

Recently the Sweat Elite Podcast has featured ultrarunners Jim Walmsley and Tom Evans, and just this week we sat down and had a chat with the undisputed king of the mountains, Kilian Jornet. These three strong athletes have many things in common, but a standout is that a huge proportion of their training is on trails. They do most of their competitions in the mountains, so that makes sense… but all three of them, along with many other athletes, agree that running on trails offers myriad benefits the road cannot.

Getting off sealed surfaces doesn’t mean you have to immediately direct your focus towards running a mountainous hundred miler, it can form an integral part of training for shorter distances on the road and track. Many athletes who have seen great success in more traditional running have also spent a great deal of time running off road.

The Ethiopian greats Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele have spent hundreds of hours running the uneven, hilly terrain through the forests surrounding Addis Ababa. Many of Kipchoge’s runs are along muddy, rutted roads and paths through the Kenyan countryside. Nick Willis recently wrote the following in an “Advice to my younger self” letter posted on the World Athletics site: “Based as you are in Wellington, you are surrounded by hills and the city is home to several world mountain running champions – so why then are you so terrified of running hills?”

What is it about getting out onto the trails that can be so beneficial? Here we will look at just a few ways that it can help you to reach your running goals and become a more well-rounded athlete in the process.

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Tokai University – Training for Hakone Ekiden

Tokai University – Training for Hakone Ekiden

The ekiden is what lies at the core of the Japanese prowess in long distance running. Ekidens are long distance relays, which can take place over multiple days and have legs of varying lengths. The most prestigious of all is the Hakone Ekiden, a race which sees the top universities of the Kanto region around Tokyo compete, captivating the nation every January. Hakone Ekiden was inaugurated in 1920 by Shizo Kanakuri – known as the father of the marathon in Japan – with teams running from 108km from Tokyo to Hakone on the first day (January 2) and 109.9km back to Tokyo the next.

Tokai University took the crown in the 2019 edition of the race, with the ten athletes covering the whole course in a stunning 10:52:09. That’s 3:00.2/km, the fastest time ever run on the current version of the course. This year’s iteration of the race, the 96th time it has been run, saw a demolition of the records. Seven of the ten segment records were beaten, and Aoyama Gakuin University was the winner with a total time of 10:45:23, Tokai came in second in 10:48:25, also well under their old course record.

During our trip to Japan this year Tokai’s assistant coach – Noriaki Nishide – kindly invited us to join a session taking place on the university’s royal blue track. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Nishide working closely with head coach Hayashi Morozumi, overseeing the orderly procession of their athletes ripping through mile repeats.

Morozumi was one of Japan’s most successful high school coaches before moving to Tokai. Suguru Osako, the national record holder for the marathon (2:05:29 – set at the Tokyo Marathon 2020, the day after the session we watched), rose to prominence under his tutelage, among many other top athletes. Under Morozumi’s guidance the Tokai team have made steady improvement over the past few years.

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Jim Walmsley – The Road to Atlanta

Jim Walmsley – The Road to Atlanta

His training is heavily volume based. Jim’s huge aerobic base that has served so well in the ultras is the foundation for his performance in these shorter road races too, with the speed work and increased leg turnover serving as the icing on top. At the end of a 283km/175 mile week in December, balancing heavy training with the stresses of having family in town over the holiday season – think, fitting in Christmas celebrations around a 49km run… – was becoming a bit much. Despite feeling strong, the accumulated miles were amassing in the legs, leading to feeling slower and entering the realm of overtraining. It was decided to abandon the plan for a 300km+/186 mile week and hold constant at the 175 mile mark. All of this was relatively slow running, with few structured sessions – but finishing each session with some strides to work on “hidden speed”.

Following this he started to lower the mileage and ratchet up the speed work, preparing for a half marathon in Phoenix. With only three weeks of speed sessions, sometimes two sessions in a day, he jokingly says he was “cramming for the half marathon”. He decided to take to the track, wanting to see some fast times on the watch. “Before the half marathon I was trying to stay on the track a bit more to get the leg speed up, and my confidence with running that speed a little higher.” A lot of these sessions were on a track down at Sedona (4,300ft/1,320m) rather than Flagstaff (7,000ft/2100m) where Jim lives and does most of his training.

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