I’ve been running for a little over 3 years now. In that time I’ve shared pavements and paths will all manner of experienced athletes, I’ve read countless magazines, blogs, and websites about running as well as several books. I’ve had advice on events, injuries, equipment, but I have never had anyone tell me how to run.
I’d been managing. Putting one foot in front of the other with greater urgency than if I was walking had so far been treating me well. I’m not sure how it looked from the outside, but inside my running bubble I felt content and had happily negotiated many miles.
However I recently won the chance of a session with Conor Graham, founder and coach of Cheltenham Running Club, in a competition in conjunction with the Cheltenham Half. So today I went to speak with an expert…
The first half of the session we talked about a training plan. Conor had started to piece together a plan for the Cheltenham Half, but as soon as I threw the Bournemouth Marathon 3 weeks later at him and then further complicated things with this triathlon in 3 weeks it was clear a rethink was needed. It was great to talk over a training plan and have some input in to it, rather than just pull one from a magazine and worry about how to fit it around my life. Conor explained the benefits of each session, how to structure the increase in mileage and then taper etc. None of it was new to me, I’d heard it all or read it all before, but never actually had a chance to question it or have it explained in a way that was relevant entirely to me. Scheduling training around the club runs and existing commitments has resulted in a bespoke schedule I’m much less likely to have to adjust.
Then came the practical, and a quick warm up on the treadmill. Conor videoed me running and it was the first time I’ve ever seen myself plodding along. We talked about the areas that could be improved on quickly, namely my wayward arms and heavy heel strike. Conor took me through a series of increasingly daft looking drills starting with walking along lifting one high knee and pumping the arms slowly to try and get the elbow and knee in sync. Through alternating knees, something akin to the ministry of silly walks, some skipping and finally a roadrunner impersonation Conor had instilled in me the idea of driving my arms differently and helped me realise how that automatically brings my knees higher, lengthens my heel flick and makes me land lighter and drive off more efficiently.
Back on the treadmill to put it in to practice and the difference was huge. I almost felt like a runner! Again Conor videoed me and this time on playback it didn’t look like I was labouring at all. In fact I was able to take the treadmill up higher than I normally would brave and comfortably ride it out with my legs turning over faster but more efficiently underneath me. Once or twice I forgot to focus on my arms and they got lazy, but when they did I could feel the difference in my stride and correct it again quickly. The trick now is going to be making this unnatural feeling arm movement second nature, so it happens without me concentrating. That’s going to take some doing, but the relatively short speed work of the next few weeks is the perfect time to make changes and hopefully carry them in to marathon training in July.
It was definitely worth talking to an expert and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon to work on further improving my style and efficiency. It may just be about time I tried being the best runner I can be, rather than just turning up for t-shirts and medals…
I’ve just found this blog post by Conor about the art of arms which covers some of the stuff we did this afternoon which made such a huge difference. If you want to improve your running it may be worth clicking HERE and taking a look. More information about Cheltenham Running Club and getting expert advice can be found HERE.