Runners Connect Mon, 22 Dec 2014 02:26:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Read and Interpret the Wear Pattern on Your Running Shoes Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:00:01 +0000

One of the best things about running is that you can do it anywhere. It does not require expensive equipment or fancy gym machinery to run. The only thing you may need to invest in is some running shoes.

When we make the trip to a running store or look online at what shoes we want, one of the first things we tend to look at before purchasing a new pair is the wear pattern exhibited on the soles of the trainers we are replacing.

Wear pattern can provide a glimpse of how we run but misinterpretation of these patterns may lead us down a road of inappropriate shoe selection and running form modification that could potentially reduce performance and increase risk of injury.

Where Is It Normal To Have Wear?

It is always dangerous to use the word ‘normal’ when referring to running performance and injury prevention. What may be a healthy, robust, efficient way of moving for one runner could be a source of inefficiency and/or injury for another.

As a result, generalizations and myths evolve with regard to what we should and shouldn’t expect to see when looking at the wear on the sole of an old pair of running shoes.

Wear on the heel is a good example of this: For many runners, heel striking is still seen as a sign of inefficiency, despite what the research shows us.

A study by Dr. Pete Larson of at the 2009 Manchester City Marathon revealed that at the 10km (6.2 miles) point, 88.9% of the 936 runners he filmed were heel striking. Only 3.4% of these runners were landing on midfoot and 1.8% on forefoot.

We discussed why heel striking is incorrectly associated with inefficiency but suffice to say that if landing on your heel during a marathon is as ‘normal’ as this research shows, we should expect for many distance runners a certain amount of wear on the heels of their shoes.

The Three Phases of Foot Strike

Seeing wear on the outside of the shoe (heel or the forefoot) is also regarded by many as a bad sign. And yet, landing on the outside of the foot is part of the ingenious way in which our feet and body naturally work to propel ourselves forwards.

From the moment the foot lands in front of us (initial contact) to the moment it leaves the ground behind us (toe off), the foot goes through specific movement changes that allow the absorption of ground forces to be converted into propulsion. Most runners have heard of them already: supination and pronation.

Initial Contact

As the foot prepares for initial contact on the ground in front of us, it naturally tilts inwards (supinates). This is part of preparing for the impact of landing, and as a result the outer (lateral) edge of the sole comes into contact with the ground before the inner (medial) edge.

There is a lot of conflicting information on how to select the correct running shoes. We break it down simply into three phases of foot strike, and discuss where it is normal to have wear on running shoes, how much, and how wear on one shoe can affect your running.


Once the foot has made initial contact on the outside edge, it begins to distribute and absorb the ground force by tilting outwards, meaning the inner (medial) edge of the foot lowers towards the ground. This process is known as pronation, and is again a natural movement.

This continues to midstance at which the maximum amount of body weight is being supported by the stabilizing leg. It also the point when the hip, knee and ankle are at their most bent (flexed).

There is a lot of conflicting information on how to select the correct running shoes. We break it down simply into three phases of foot strike, and discuss where it is normal to have wear on running shoes, how much, and how wear on one shoe can affect your running.

Toe Off

Once you pass mid stance; your hip, knee, and ankle start to straighten to help drive your stabilizing leg back underneath your body. In doing so, the foot starts to supinate again, with the arch lifting away from the floor in order to provide a solid base on which to push off. The last point of contact is generally the 2nd and 3rd toes. Wear on the sole here may have implications which we will consider shortly.

There is a lot of conflicting information on how to select the correct running shoes. We break it down simply into three phases of foot strike, and discuss where it is normal to have wear on running shoes, how much, and how wear on one shoe can affect your running.

Hopefully you can now see that labelling a runner as a ‘supinator’ or a ‘pronator’ is meaningless. We need both of these to move!

Supination and pronation are natural movements that we should not try to think about or force whilst running.

The degree to which each occur will also differ from one runner to another in accordance with natural human variance, as we discussed in our Impact of Footwear and Foot Type on Injury Prevention post.

As humans, we are all built slightly differently, and must therefore expect to move slightly differently. If we cannot establish the existence of a ‘normal’ it thus makes it tricky to label anyone as an ‘underpronator’ or an ‘overpronator’.

Therefore, landing on the outside of the heel is perfectly common. Yes, if your old pair of trainers are worn on the lateral heel, they may well tilt inwards when you place them on the floor – but this does not necessarily mean you are an ‘underpronator’ or ‘oversupinator’.

How Much Wear Is Normal?

A problem also arises when we try and decide how much wear is normal. This is where use of full body gait analysis can be highly advantageous, as opposed to the Running Store Analysis, that May Not Help You Find the Correct Shoe.

By looking higher up the body, we can see if there is any other reason a runner may be landing particularly heavy on a certain part of their shoe. For example, a natural ‘bow’ in the long tibia shin bone (known as ‘genus varum’) will cause a foot to land more on the outer edge of the shoe.

Inappropriate trainers can also cause excessive wear on the outside of the shoe.

As we saw in the link above, the ‘overpronation’ model of running shoe recommendation is seriously flawed, meaning that some runners are sold shoes designed to provide extra support on the inside of the shoe (higher density foam in the midsole), that may not actually be required. This extra support under the inner arch of the foot could cause the foot to land on the outside which would again show up as excessive lateral wear.

Signs of wear on the inner sole are far less common than the outer sole. Inner wear would suggest that the foot is landing in a pronated state (tilted outwards), but would again require a full body gait analysis to see why this is so, paying particular attention to what is happening at the pelvis and hips.

This would also be the case for excessive wear under the base of the big toe, indicative of a ‘twisting’ motion at toe off, as if you were putting out a cigarette (not that any of you smoke of course). If the hip is unable to rotate sufficiently at this point in gait cycle, the movement is achieved by the foot twisting instead, typically to the outside. This in time can lead to a circular type wear pattern under the base of the big toe.

What If Only One Shoe Has Excessive Wear?

Just as it is natural for runners to show variance in degree of pronation and supination, it is also typical for one leg to be slightly longer than the other. Symmetry is remarkably uncommon in nature with some research suggesting that for most people anatomic leg-length inequality does not appear to be clinically significant until the magnitude reaches around 20mm.

If just one of your shoes is showing excessive wear along with an ongoing issue of injury and/or pain, it is worth having a full body gait analysis to see whether a significant structural leg length difference is the cause of inefficient mechanics at hip level.

It should also be mentioned that shoes do not always come from the factory identical, and relatively tiny changes in shoe structure can make a big difference to the way in which your feet land.

This is why it is so important to break new shoes in gently, even if they are exactly the same model as your old shoes. Rotate them with your old shoes by starting with just a few miles in the new pair, listening to your body as you give it a chance to adjust to any potential differences. If after a few test runs one shoe feels different, or even if both shoes feel different to the last pair, do not be afraid to take them back and ask for a replacement pair.


There are many reasons your shoes may exhibit the wear that they do. It is important not to jump to any conclusions without having a full body video gait analysis.

It may be that the shoes you are wearing are not suitable for you; it could be that your running form requires modifying. But it could also be that the wear you see is to be expected given your unique physical makeup, and has nothing at all to do with a particular injury or pain you have been suffering.

As is so often the case when it comes to running analysis, wear patterns are just one piece of the large jigsaw to help you become a faster, more resilient runner. Success comes in being able to put the jigsaw together correctly and not focusing too much on just one part.

Happy Running!


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How Your Hip Joint Mobility Can Predict Your Running Injuries Thu, 11 Dec 2014 10:00:44 +0000

Your hip joint range of motion could be the source of your injuries, we look at the research on hip mobility, and what you can do to improve it.Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the different sources of information telling you to take different approaches to get the most out of your running?

We do!

It can be difficult to sort through what is real, and what could do more harm than good.

Everyone is always looking for the latest and greatest research to find “the secret” to running fast. Depending on your age, and your interest in the latest running news, you will notice that some of the same topics seem to come up over and over again.

The importance of hips in staying healthy is one of those topics that seem to come up over and over.  If you stay on top of the latest news about running injuries, you’re probably familiar with the increasing body of scientific evidence connecting hip strength, or a lack thereof, with injury.

We would like to highlight the research on hip range of motion to make it a little easier for you to follow. You can even find our sources at the end of the post, so you know this is not just a case of Chinese Wispers!

If you are interested in learning more about Biomechanics, check out our Introduction to Biomechanics and Which Biomechanical Error is Holding You Back posts.

The role of hip range of motion in predicting injuries

As it turns out, hip mechanics have a profound impact on the workings of your lower body when you run. However, the puzzle cannot simply be put together by strengthening some muscular weaknesses.

Hip muscle weakness definitely plays a major role in many different injuries, but the correspondence between hip weakness and abnormal hip mechanics is not entirely one-to-one. Other factors appear to play a role in determining your hip mechanics too.

One of these could be hip range of motion—do “tight hips” cause injuries?

Healthy vs injured range of motion

A little-known study published in 1992 by researchers at the University of Amsterdam contends that hip range of motion might be linked to injury risk.1 In this study, researchers measured the hip and ankle flexion/extension ranges of motion of sixteen male runners who had suffered an injury during the previous year, then compared them to the hip and ankle range of motion of sixteen male runners of similar age and weekly mileage who had remained healthy.

Ankle range of motion was not linked to injury: runners with a history of injury had no better or worse mobility in their ankles than the healthy runners, and they also had equal ankle mobility when comparing their previously-injured side to their healthy side.

In terms of hip range of motion, the runners with a history of injury, had a hip joint range of motion that was ten degrees less than the healthy runners.

The difference in range of motion was similar when comparing sides of the body, meaning that the injured runners had the same limited hip mobility on their injured side as on their healthy side. This suggests that it is less likely that the difference in hip mobility was a result of the injury as opposed to one of the causes.

Surprisingly, there was little follow-up to this study. Perhaps research focus simply shifted to hip strength and coordination, or maybe scientists just weren’t impressed by the small size and experimental limitations of the study. Regardless, there are no later studies that further explored this issue, so more research is undoubtedly needed.

Improving hip mobility for injury prevention

If we accept that there is at least some evidence linking hip range of motion to injury risk, how would we go about increasing our hip mobility?

Fortunately, there is better evidence in that area. Even though it is commonly criticized, old-fashioned static stretching is a reliable way to increase hip range of motion.

A 1993 study, found that three weeks of twice-weekly hip stretching sessions improved hip extension range of motion by ten to twelve degrees.2 A 1980 study found that hip mobility exercises are helpful at increasing hip range of motion too, to the tune of about fifteen degrees.3


One study published twenty-two years ago is not much to go on as far as making broad recommendations.

The most we can say is that there is some evidence that shows limitations in your hip flexion and extension range of motion could be related to injury risk. If you do feel like poor hip mobility is affecting your running, or if a doctor or physical therapist notes that you have “tight hips,” you might want to try stretching and mobility exercises to rectify the problem.

These are all short and easy additions to your training routine that could make a big difference in your hip mobility.

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How is Your Stride Frequency the Same as Your Two Year Old? Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:00:05 +0000

Believe it or not, there are many ways your running form is the same as a young child. Stride frequency is not a limiting factor in running faster, stride length is, read how you can improve your running form to go faster!Do you remember when your parents celebrated the first time you ran across the room with flawless running form?

Of course not, because it never happened!

Running is such a joyful experience for children, so why would we remove that joy by weighing them down with thoughts and considerations about how to run for maximum efficiency.

To a child, running is a form of play, and adults can learn a lot from children about finding joy in the simplicity of running. Today we are hoping to learn from children in a more practical way.

Last time, we looked at some research on the very basic elements of running biomechanics in an effort to learn how we can maximize efficiency of your running form. Today, we are taking on a similar challenge, but we are going to take it a step further to compare how children and young adults run.

We will be looking into what changes can be found when you compare the biomechanics of a two-year-old running across the room to a 10-year-old running across the playground or an adult running a marathon?

Other than the obvious increase in distance, what can we take away from the science of how our running mechanics change as we grow?

Running mechanics: children vs. adults

The most comprehensive study of running mechanics in children and adults was conducted by three researchers in Italy, and published in 1998. Schepens, Willems, and Cavagna studied 51 children ranging in age from two to 16 years old.

The subjects in the study ran at various speeds across a force plate in a biomechanics lab, and the researchers compared their mechanics to reference values collected from adults aged 25 to 30. Schepens et al. made a number of observations with some interesting implications.

At slow speeds, running can be compared to a simple spring oscillating up and down.

Starting from the “top” of your stride in mid-air, gravity pulls you downward, and as you hit the ground, your muscles and tendons absorb the impact, and proceed to accelerate you back upwards and off the ground.

The up-and-down cycles of this spring-like action mean that it is possible to predict someone’s stride frequency with reasonable accuracy, because it will be equivalent to the natural frequency of the spring model.

A weight hanging by a bungee cord has a natural frequency that you can see and measure by tugging on it—this is just like the natural frequency of your running stride. However, this model is only valid at slow speeds. Schepens et al. noted that the freely chosen stride frequency of children at all ages begins to diverge from the natural frequency of the spring-system model at the same speed: eleven kilometers per hour, or about 8:45 mile pace.

Running at a speed faster than this will cease to follow the simple, symmetric up-and-down of a spring because your vertical acceleration—how hard you push off the ground—exceeds the downward acceleration of gravity.

Of course, to run at any speed, you need to accelerate upwards against the force of gravity, just to get your feet off the ground.

Schepens et al. discovered that, at slow speeds, you push off the ground with an acceleration that mirrors gravity: just like the weight on the bungee cord, your center of gravity spends exactly the same amount of time oscillating downward as it does oscillating up.

However, the picture changes at faster speeds.

To run under 8:45 mile pace, you need to generate more force and do it more rapidly—you’re pushing off the ground much harder, and in less time, so you actually accelerate up while in contact with the ground faster than you fall down at the “top” of your stride (i.e., in midair).

This has some interesting implications for runners whose training or racing paces straddle this 8:45 per-mile threshold.

When you run faster than this pace, your mechanics will change substantially. You will have to push off the ground quicker, and you will spend more time “floating” up in the air. Your muscles will also have to produce more power in a less time, as your time spent on the ground is reduced as you increase your speed.

These findings might also mean that stride frequency is more strictly regulated at slower speeds.

Other research still supports increasing your stride frequency, even at slow speeds, to decrease stress on your body, but Schepens et al.’s results (as well as other work on stride frequency) indicate that this might come at the expense of efficiency.

Research is limited on the effects of stride frequency manipulation at faster speeds, meaning the importance of the 8:45 mile pace “barrier” for faster runners is unclear.

Changes in top speed

Another source of useful information is examining changes in top speed. Though anyone with small children knows they can run deceptively fast, teenagers are still much swifter than two year-olds.

In this study, 16 year olds were able to reach a maximum running speed of 26 kilometers per hour (3:45 per mile), while two year-olds and 10 year-olds were able to reach six (16:20 per mile) and 20 kilometers per hour (4:50 per mile), respectively. As it turns out, this increase in speed comes almost entirely from increases in stride length.

When running at top speed, 16-year-olds and two year-olds have essentially the same stride frequency!

When running at slow to moderate speeds, stride frequency increases in tandem with stride length to produce faster paces, but perhaps the term “turnover” is a misnomer. To significantly increase your speed, a high stride frequency does not appear to be a limiting factor; stride length is.

To increase stride length, you will want to increase your leg muscle strength, especially the hip extensor muscles like the gluteus maximus.


The results of Schepens, Willems, and Cavagna’s research demonstrates two important points.

  • There is a marked change in running mechanics that occurs around 8:45 mile pace. Speeds slower than this involve a smooth and symmetric stride, where the “up” portion lasts just as long as the “down” portion.   Running faster than this demands an asymmetric stride, with a more rapid and explosive foot contact, and a greater relative proportion of the stride spent in the air. Because this is gravity-dependent, this speed is the same no matter how tall you are or how much you weigh! This might also explain why so many runners get hung up at the four-hour barrier in marathon running—that speed is just a bit slower than this running-mechanics threshold.
  • This research shows that having a high enough stride frequency is not typically a limiting factor when it comes to how fast you can run. Even a two-year-old can turn over his or her legs just as fast as you! The difference is in stride length. To run faster, you should work on developing powerful leg muscles, particularly in the hip extensors.

Strength exercises like lunges and squats are great for this, as are plyometric exercises like bounding and skipping, and fast uphill running (make sure you read our guide on how to run hills correctly).

Picking through dense biomechanics papers like this is not always easy, but as you just read, it can lead to some surprising and useful discoveries!

When was the first time you realized you need to pay attention to your running form? How do you make sure you continue to find joy in running?

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What Biomechanical Error is Holding You Back? Thu, 04 Dec 2014 10:00:34 +0000

To be able to run fast, it is important to make your running biomechanics is as efficient as it can be. This post explains how to fix the common weaknesses.Believe it or not, you have been running almost as long as you have been walking.

Unlike swimming or dribbling a basketball, nobody really needed to teach you how to run. To some extent, running (and walking) is pre-programmed into our nervous system from birth.

Despite how naturally running comes to us, there is still a lot to learn about how to become a faster and more efficient runner by looking at some of the fundamental aspects of human gait.

So, in this article, we’re going to look at these biomechanical aspects and help you determine which biomechanical error is holding you back.

Biomechanics and running

There is an overwhelming body of knowledge on the biomechanics of running, which can make it difficult to know what to trust.  The best way to get a broad picture of what conclusions there are about running biomechanics is to look to a review paper.

One of the most authoritative review to date was published in 1998 by Tom Novacheck, a pediatric orthopedist and gait specialist at Gillette Children’s Hospital in Minnesota.

His aptly-titled paper, “The Biomechanics of Running,” has been cited over five hundred times, indicating that it’s a pretty good resource.

The basic question we’d like to answer is: “how do biomechanics change when we compare slow versus fast running?”

Fortunately, Novacheck’s paper covers this in great detail.

Running stride

By looking at the electrical signals in the muscles at different stages of one’s running stride, it is clear that different muscle groups have different tasks to accomplish.

The muscle active for the longest proportion of the running stride is the tibialis anterior, otherwise known as your shin muscle.

While your leg is in the air, the tibialis anterior dorsiflexes the ankle to prepare for landing, and during impact, it prevents your foot from slapping the ground too hard. But it would be a mistake to conclude that the shin muscle is the most important muscle because of how much you use it.

In fact, the greatest demands are probably placed on the hip extensor muscles, such as the gluteus maximus, which “kick back” your leg.

This is the muscle group that is active for the shortest period of the stride. Its importance lies in the fact that the hip extensors have a limited time to complete their job, which requires a lot of muscle strength and power.

The hip extensors also control a much larger portion of your leg than the smaller muscles like the tibialis anterior, meaning they have to do a lot more work for each step you take.

Additionally, as your speed increases from a walk to a slow run, and then to a fast run, the relative proportion of your energy that comes from your hip extensors increases as well. While walking, only seven percent of the energy used to propel you forward comes from your hip extensors. When you run slowly, this increases to 14%, and when you run fast, this share increases to 24%.

By increasing the strength and especially the power of the hip extensors,  your ability to run at fast speeds should improve.

strength routine that focuses on hips and glutes, such as squats, lunges, or bounding exercises are a great way to accomplish this, and hill repeats should help too.

Joint angles

Another method for examining the running stride is looking at joint angles.

Intuitively, you know that running faster means your joints are working through a broader range of motion, and biomechanical research confirms this.

When running at a slow speed, your knee angle during the “swing” phase of the running stride is only about 80 degrees. As you increase your speed, this angle increases as well.

Faster speeds push the angle of the knee beyond 90 degrees, and all-out sprinting can increase it to over 130 degrees. Hip flexion increases as well: slower speeds result in hip flexion of about 60 degrees, while sprinting pushes this up to over 90 degrees.

Most runners already have pretty good hip and quadriceps flexibility, but if this is a weakness for you, it might be holding you back from running faster.

Stretching out your quads and your hips, in addition to using a foam roller and doing some hip mobility exercises, can ensure that your range of motion is not going to be a limiting factor in your training.


A third way to look at mechanics is to consider timing. As you increase your speed, the amount of time you spend on the ground decreases.

Additionally, the percentage of your stride that’s spent on the ground decreases as well. When walking, each foot spends 62% of its time on the ground. At a slow run, this drops sharply to 39%.

At a faster run, this decreases again to 37% for most people. The foot of an elite sprinter spends only 22% of its time on the ground!

Despite this decrease in time spent on the ground, the amount of work done by the ankles increases proportionally with your running speed. This means your ankle power—the amount of energy exerted over a certain amount of time—drastically increases.

To make sure that a lack of ankle power doesn’t inhibit your ability to run fast, you can do plyometric exercises like ankle hops and skipping, and add hill repeats to your training regimen.


By looking at out how our bodies generate more power as we increase our running speed, we can identify specific parts of the running stride which play a major role in enabling faster running. Three pieces stand out: hip strength & power, hip and quadriceps range of motion, and ankle power.

  • Running-specific strength exercises like squats, lunges, and bounding can increase hip power, while ankle power can be increased by doing hops and skipping.
  • Uphill running, which puts a great demand on all of the major muscle groups of your legs, is a fantastic way to improve both hip and ankle power.
  • Quad and hip range of motion can be addressed with hip mobility exercises, stretching, and foam rolling.

Take care of these three aspects of your stride, and you’ll be well on your way to getting faster.

Have you ever taken the time to look into your biomechanics for improving your performance? What area of your body would you consider your weakness?

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Everything You Need to Know About Progressing Your Long Run Mon, 01 Dec 2014 10:00:40 +0000

The long run can be a daunting challenge for many runners. Runners Connect makes it easy for you to progress your long run to be race ready, and explains what else you need to consider to get the most out of your long runs.When you’re just starting out with running – when a 5km is an awesome achievement – it can be hard to comprehend how it’s possible to run a half marathon, marathon or even further.

Believe me, everyone feels the same and it’s one of the most common topics of conversation at my beginner group.

Each time you run further than you’ve ever gone before, it’s a step into the unknown, and that can be unnerving and scary. For that reason, many runners shy away from going longer, staying within their comfort zone.

It might be safe, but you’re also holding yourself back, and missing out on a whole heap of fun and fitness benefits. As they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone!

Building up your distance, and in particular your long run, really isn’t complicated; or at least it shouldn’t be. Going long should be embraced and enjoyed, not feared. But it’s easy to fall into some common beginner traps when trying to increase distance, especially when enthusiasm and motivation are high; which can lead to burn out, injury, or poor performance.

Last week, we covered how you can determine the correct pace for your running, and today we are going to put this into practice with your long runs.

How to progress?

Now you know what the right pace is for your long runs, the next step is to know how to build up the miles. If you used our calculations in our correct pace post last week, you should be able to increase your long run without too much trouble using one of the following methods:

Method 1

  1. Chose ONE of your runs as your designated long run day. Leave your other runs (and any other cross training) at the same time/distance you have been running.
  2. Find your longest run from the past six weeks. Plot a route so you run one extra mile (or 10 minutes) further.
  3. Keep your pace comfortable, just like we talked about last week, walk up hills if you need to (yes you’ll still get a great training benefit!)
  4. The rest of your runs for the week should at an easy pace. To progress safely, and to prevent injury, you only want to change one variable at a time. When you are building up your long run, you need to avoid increasing the intensity of other training runs.
  5. On your next designated long run day, increase the distance by another mile or 10 minutes. Do the same the following week.
  6. On the fourth week, drop your long run distance down to shorter than your starting point. This will allow recovery and adaptation to the training. This may seem unnecessary, but it is extremely important.
  7. The following week, pick up where you left off before the “down week” and continue with the pattern of increasing by one mile each week.

Here is an example of your long run training log:


Long Run


6 miles


7 miles


8 miles


5 miles


8 miles


9 miles


10 miles


5 miles

Before you know it, you’ll be at 10 miles and a half marathon or marathon will suddenly become a temptation.

Method 2

  1. Chose ONE of your runs as your designated long run day. Leave your other runs (and any other cross training) at the same time/distance you have been running.
  2. Find your longest run from the past six weeks. Plot a route so you run one extra mile (or 10 minutes) further.
  3. Keep your pace comfortable, just like we talked about last week, walk up hills if you need to (yes you’ll still get a great training benefit!)
  4. The rest of your runs for the week should at an easy pace. To progress safely, and to prevent injury, you only want to change one variable at a time. When you are building up your long run, you need to avoid increasing the intensity of other training runs.
  5. On your next designated long run day, return to the distance you initially started with.
  6. The following week, add one mile to your long run two weeks prior to increase your distance.
  7. Repeat for the remainder of the segment, alternating regular runs with your increasing longest run.

Here is an example of method 2


Long Run


7 miles


5 miles


8 miles


5 miles


9 miles


5 miles


10 miles


5 miles

You can see that at the end of the 10 week block you’ve achieved the same long run distance as in method 1.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong method. It is best to find out with the distance and recovery which method best suits your lifestyle and fitness background. Method 2 might work better for more ‘injury prone’ runners, older runners, or those recovery from illness or who haven’t exercised much before.

Of course how far you get, will depend on your goal and training aspirations. For a 10k, it’s ideal to run up to 8-10 miles in training for your long runs. Half marathons will require up to 14-15 miles. To ensure you recover correctly, reduce your long run for two weeks following one of those 14-15 mile runs.

If you are training for a marathon, you will need to continue increasing your long runs over time. However, it is best advised to train for a half marathon before you begin marathon training.

Building up your long run is not as complicated as we initially think. Just make sure your pace stays easy and you build up slowly. It is okay to throw in a walk every now if you need to. Running easy will help you enjoy running more, and pay attention to your body for pains and tiredness so you can adapt accordingly. If you feel a niggle coming on, get some treatment or advice from a physical therapist immediately to prevent it from ruining your chances of racing.

Other Long Run Considerations

Measure your Improvement

If you’re monitoring heart rate, you should find that over time your average pace will quicken at the same heart rate or intensity. This shows your body has become more efficient. Your hard work will pay off when you get to a race or run a time trial over the same course.

Choose your route with care

When going long, choose a route which is relatively flat and not too technical underfoot. There is enough stress on your body with the increase in distance, without adding additional stressors through hills and tough terrain. In time, you can add in sections of trail or some hillier routes when you’re stronger and less at risk of injury.

Fuel up

Good nutrition becomes more important when you start going longer. You’ll find your appetite increases and it is important to match that with additional fuel; timing your meals and snacks will need a little more thought. Good post-exercise nutrition is vital especially after long runs and will help you replenish your muscle stores and aid recovery, protecting your immune function.

Try to include all food groups in your diet focusing on protein for satiety and recovery, and consume a good balance of fats and carbs. Correct fueling before, during, and after your long runs can make or break your ability to ‘go long’. Not eating enough or at the right time is one of the more common newbie mistakes. You will know never to make that mistake again if you get it wrong.

Before your run:

Fuel up for a long morning run, but don’t overeat. Many runners overload with carbs and end up gaining weight. Simply eat a decent meal the night before your long run, with a focus on carbs (but just a normal size portion), and top up with a good breakfast containing slow release low GI carbs about an hour or two before you set off.

Oatmeal or a smoothie made with banana, protein powder and milk are great pre run fuel to be consumed 3-4 hours before your long run. Making sure you are properly hydrated is also extremely important.

During your run:

By training at the right intensity (at that comfortable pace covered last week), your body will become more efficient, and better able to use fat for fuel and preserve glycogen stores. However, once you get over 70-80 minutes of running, you’ll need to start taking in some carbohydrates – either in the form of a drink or gels/blocks or chews.

But don’t overdo it, you do not need huge amounts and many runners overfuel in the hope it will make them run faster. Check out the nutrition info on the packet and aim for 30-60g of carbs per hour during the long run. Start at around 45 minutes in and keep topping up as and when you feel the need.

Post run:

And finally, the golden hour after your run is the optimum time to refuel your muscles and help your body recover. Current thinking is to have a snack or drink containing a ratio of 3:1 carbs:protein is optimum. A humble glass of chocolate milk is considered to be one of the best choices.

In a nutshell

So there you have it, a step by step guide on how to build up your long run, get your pacing right for that long run, and avoid some of the common pitfalls that new runners often make.

It’s not rocket science and it really doesn’t need to be complicated.

Too many runners – and coaches for that matter – make training too scientific, too hard and overwhelming. I’m a huge advocate of learning to listen to your body, get in tune with what it’s telling you and just get out there to enjoy your running.

Keep it simple and avoid overcomplicating things.

What goal race are you currently chasing? What is the longest you have ever run?

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Are You Sabotaging Your Long Run by Running the Wrong Pace? Mon, 24 Nov 2014 10:00:11 +0000

The long run can be a complicated and daunting part of training for a longer race. Runners Connect takes the fear out of the long run by breaking in down into a simple, but individualized structure to make sure you are getting the most out of your long run.The underlying principle of any training program, regardless of your goal or ability, should be the development of a solid aerobic base.

It’s the fundamental structure followed by almost every elite runner, in particular that of Kenyan athletes who spend around 85% of their time running at an ‘easy’ or ‘recovery’ pace.

Mo Farah reportedly runs around 120 miles per week, of which 80% at an easy pace. No doubt he and Galen Rupp are having a good old chat as they run up and down the hills in Boulder. Not the picture of hard elite training that you might imagine? Well, we can all learn from their approach.

Yet this is what most recreational runners get wrong. Running ‘easy’ doesn’t feel right (or hard enough), so they intuitively run at a ‘moderate’ pace, kidding themselves they’re running easy. Struggling to hold a conversation, a heavy sweat, and red face post run is a giveaway that you did not run ‘easy’!

Running at an easy pace – and by that I mean well into the aerobic zone around 70% of your maximum heart rate – is actually quite hard to do.

You have to slow down A LOT and it feels like you’re going nowhere. But it’s important to stick with it.

In time (usually just a few weeks), your body will adapt, your pace will quicken (for the same effort level) and you’ll have developed a super efficient fat burning engine. So, stick with me here…this is the bedrock of your future training.

Why running easy works

When I work with my beginner runners, we just focus on gradually increasing the length of time they can run for, and build up consistency of training – it’s simple and it works.

This is not the time to think about speed and pace, it is best to just get used to comfortable running where your body can adapt, stay healthy, and develop an efficient running rhythm.

Too many training plans out there have you doing speed intervals, tempo runs, and hills when you are just not ready. Of course it’s important to include a little of this ‘high end’ work, but a solid aerobic base is the fundamental foundation on which you’ll build everything else.

Regular aerobic training will train your body to utilize oxygen, preserve glycogen stores by using fat for fuel, and generally become more efficient.

However, I estimate that at least 75% of runners – of all abilities – run too fast too often, and end up in the ‘mid zone’; training neither the aerobic or anaerobic systems correctly.

Many coaches, myself included, recommend an overall balance of hard/easy training (whilst avoiding the moderate zone), a method now becoming known as ‘polarized training’. The avoidance of ‘moderate’ training is the key, and runners focus on ‘easy’ paced running for the majority of time, with a sprinkling of really hard work (where you really can’t chat!) mixed in for approx 20% of the weekly mileage.

Not only do you train a more efficient fat burning body, but the benefits mean you recover faster, and can therefore put in some harder efforts, rather than being chronically fatigued from ‘mid zone’ running’

Recent research from Dr Stephen Seiler et al from the University of Agdar, Norway, backs up this methodology; finding that high volume, low intensity training stimulates greater training effects for recreational runners, in particular when using the 80/20 split of easy/hard training.

A conclusion backed up by the 2014 Salzburg study published in the Frontiers of Physiology, found that the concept of ‘polarized’ training demonstrated the greatest improvements.

After a 9 week training period, runners using the 80/20 easy/hard split had improved their ‘time to exhaustion’ by a whopping 17.4% and change in peak speed by 5.1%.

This group had completed 68% of their training in the low intensity zone, and 24% at high intensity, with only 6% in the ‘moderate’ zone.

So what does that mean for you? How do you put this into practice?

In a world of high intensity training fads, advice to slow down might seem counterintuitive, but it works The key to running further, and ultimately faster is to slow down, especially for your long runs. Easy to say, but harder to do. If you take only one thing away from this article, it’s this – faster is NOT always better.

When you first start out running, you’re likely to have one pace. As you get more experienced and your fitness improves, you will need to develop a wider range of paces. Your long run or easy pace may be 90 seconds – three minutes slower than your ‘top end’ pace.

US Marathon Champion Esther Erb likes to make sure she takes her easy running seriously, “I see hard recovery runs as an indicator of insecurity. When it comes to recovery, it takes more confidence to run slowly than it does to run fast”. Erb runs the majority of her easy runs between 8:00 and 9:00 per mile! Although that pace may seem fast, keep in mind that her race pace is around 5:45 per mile!

This is the key to building up your long run. Simply slow down – to a walk if you need to – spend more time on your feet and just extend the time/distance bit by bit.

How slow?

Using heart rate as a guide

But how slow is slow? If you want to be scientific about it, you can work out your heart rate training zones and try to keep your pulse at around 70% of your max. If you want to go down this route then use the following calculations:

1. Calculate your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):

Women: 209 – (0.9 x age) = MHR

Men: 214 – (0.8 x age) = MHR

2. Calculate your Working Heart Rate (WHR) by subtracting your resting pulse (RHR)- measure as soon as you wake up in the morning (while still in bed) from your MRH.


3. Calculate 70% of WHR (0.7 x WHR) and add to your RHR. That should give you your 70% zone HR. This is where the bulk of your running, including your long run, should be. For the vast majority of people it will be around 130-140bpm.

You can also use our training zones calculator to assist you with this.

To work out your ‘top end’ zone, do the same but calculate 85%.

Using pace as your guide

If you don’t like heart rate (we don’t :), then you can use pace as your guide.

Your optimal long run pace is between 55 and 75 percent of your 5k pace, with the average pace being about 65 percent.

From research, we also know that running faster than 75% of your 5k pace on your long run doesn’t provide a lot of additional physiological benefit. Therefore, pushing the pace beyond 75% of 5k pace only serves to make you more tired and hamper recovery.

In fact, the research indicates that it would be just as advantageous to run slower as it would be to run faster. 50-55 percent of 5k pace is pretty easy, but the research clearly demonstrates that it still provides near optimal physiological benefits.

Need help converting your race times to optimal long run pace? Download our FREE calculator and we’ll do the math for you.

Get My Calculator Now!

Additional Notes about Easy Long Runs

  • If you do not use a heart rate monitor, run at a comfortable pace where you can chat easily, without gasping for breath. If you can hear yourself breathing, you’re going too fast. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being super hard) you’ll be around a 5. It should feel really comfortable and the sort of pace you keep going at that pace for hours.
  • Forget about measuring your ‘pace’ and distance on your GPS watch at this stage. Focusing too much on your watch will only lead to you push on too fast, and undo all your good work.
  • Learn to run to ‘feel’ rather than keeping to a pace. Don’t forget, that ‘feel’ should be easy. Walk up hills, keep it steady and don’t put any pressure on yourself other than to go a little further.
  • Run with a friend (find one slower than you normally), have a nice chat, and check out the views. It might take a bit of time to get your head around it, but this is exactly the methodology that will take you to the next level.

You can also use our training zones calculator to assist you with this.

Those long easy runs – through the countryside or on the trails, with your partner or running buddy – are to be treasured. Use the time to catch up with your spouse or kids, explore new routes and revel in the joy of going long. There’s nothing else like it.

Now you know what pace to run your long runs at, check out the second part of this post next week, focusing on how to build up distance in your long run.

Are you guilty of going too fast on your long runs? Have you ever struggled with your training because you did not take your recovery runs easy?

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Why Your Big Toe Might be the Cause of Your Running Injuries (And How You Can Fix It) Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:00:15 +0000

Even though it is not talked about very often in running communities,  a “stiff big toe” (or as it’s often referred to, ‘hallux limitus’) can actually be a very common source of pain in the ankle, knee, hip or lower back.

hallux limitusNormal big toe movement

Imagine you are running, and one of your feet is about to touch the ground in front of you. The foot is pulled back slightly (dorsiflexed) in preparation for initial contact. The big toe (hallux) is probably also dorsiflexed but as your foot is still off the ground this is not significant.

However, once your foot touches the ground and starts to support your body weight, the degree of dorsiflexion that the big toe joint is able to go through becomes important.

As your body passes over the supporting foot, there comes a point called mid stance, when the hip, knee and ankle stop flexing (bending) and begin to extend (straighten). The technical term for the ankle when it extends (i.e. the foot points downwards instead of pulling back) is plantarflexion (annoying, I know).

As you can see in top image of the diagram below, normal joint motion involves the first metatarsal (bone behind the big toe) plantar flexing, and as the arrows indicate a slide & climb of the metatarsal head up onto the sesamoids (two small bones underneath the first metatarsal).

This movement permits the degree of big toe dorsiflexion required for stabilizing of the foot (via the windlass mechanism) during propulsive loading.

If slide & climb movement within the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joint becomes restricted, the big toe will not be able to dorsiflex sufficiently, causing alternative foot mechanics to be sought, which in the long term could lead to discomfort and possible degenerative arthritis.

Functional hallux limitus

The presence of limited movement in the MTP joint (as opposed to no movement at all) is referred to as hallux limitus. It is important to differentiate two distinct sources of this limited movement: functional vs. structural.


The middle image in the diagram illustrates functional hallux limits; although movement is limited, this is not the result of joint degeneration. During assessment, the toe moves freely whilst there is no weight on it.

The reduced movement is due to a ‘jamming’ of the first metatarsal with the big toe, i.e. no slide & climb.

Repetitive jamming often stimulates extra bone growth over the top of the joint, causing a characteristic bunion.

Research is still unable to determine what causes functional hallux limitus. It may be that particular dynamic foot biomechanics lead to the jamming. In some cases, the first metatarsal being abnormally long or short is thought to place extra stress on the big toe joint.

Other possible causes include: running on the toes, wearing shoes that are too small, wearing high-heel shoes too often, or as a result of a trauma e.g. stubbing the big toe or dropping a heavy object on it.

There are many ways to treat hallux limitus that do not involve surgery, so it is important to get it taken care of earlier, rather than waiting until it becomes totally restricted (hallux rigidus).

Structural hallux limitus

The last of the three images in the diagram illustrates structural hallux limitus, often thought to be a progression of the above but can also be a result of a trauma. The repeated jamming we saw in functional hallux limitus can cause a wearing down of the joint cartilage and eventual degenerative arthritis.

If present, this will show up on an X-ray, and in contrast to functional hallux limits, movement can be restricted even when you are not weight bearing. If it goes untreated, range of movement can will decrease, until eventually there is no movement at all, i.e. hallux rigidus.

Compensation and pain

Both hallux limitus and hallux rigidus can cause immense pain, so it is hardly surprising that the brain finds an alternative (compensatory) way of getting that foot off the floor.

However, compensation patterns do not eliminate the load (force) experienced when hitting the ground during running; they simply shift it to other parts of the body which can lead to pain elsewhere.

Lower leg pain

If your big toe has limited dorsiflexion, your lower leg will not be able to move correctly over your weight bearing foot (limited ankle dorsiflexion).

As a result, the calves shorten with each stride, and can become extremely tight, causing altered dynamics in the lower leg and pain in both the calf and Achilles tendon.

Knee pain

The human body is a kinetic chain. What happens at one joint will have a knock on effect at another joint. Lack of ankle dorsiflexion when running can lead to an early bending in the knee, which in turn can disrupt the whole efficiency of the gait cycle

Hip/lower back pain

Reduced ankle dorsiflexion can increase the duration of time in which the heel is off the ground. The resulting change in foot biomechanics can cause a decrease in hip extension, which may in turn force the hip flexors (on the front of the hip) to work harder than they normally would had optimum hip extension been reached.

This may manifest itself as pain in the hips and/or lower back.

Testing for hallux limitus

In reality, all therapists should be testing you for reduced big toe mobility when you present yourself with any of the above symptoms.

You can also assess yourself by watching your big toe when you walk. Does it bend back easily and push off the ground without the need for extra effort?

Bear in mind that simply pulling your big toe back is not a test for functional hallux limitus. It is the dynamic weighted movement that creates symptoms.

If you have structural hallux limitus, pain is likely to be elevated when you try pulling the toe back when not standing on it.

If you do suspect limited movement, consult a running specific sports therapist or physiotherapist as they will be able to investigate further using gait analysis and more tests. An X-ray will show up structural changes such as joint narrowing and bone spur formation.

Norms for range of movement

The average dorsiflexion range of motion of the first MPJ during walking is thought to be around 45 degrees.

A grade system of 0-4 is used to describe the extent of hallux limitus/rigidus. Grade 0 represents a dorsiflexion range of 40-60° with no symptoms. The other end of the scale is a Grade 4 in which 0o dorsiflexion is presented along with severe joint degeneration.

Many people assume that running requires a greater range of movement in all joints than walking does.

This is not always true.

In fact, as far as dorsiflexion of the big toe goes, the required range of movement is actually less when running. This explains why some people with hallux limitus suffer less pain when running compared to walking.

Treating hallux limitus/rigidus

As we have already mentioned, diagnosis in the earlier stages allows more treatment options to prevent surgery. Depending on the cause of the symptoms, a podiatrist may be able to fit you with a suitable custom foot orthotics that will restore normal motion to the joint when weight bearing.

  • A simple change of footwear can also help: wearing something with maximal stiffness across the forefoot may decrease the dorsiflexion moment across the MTP joint and help avoid the big toe from jamming.
  • Some runners find success by swapping their running shoes for a lightweight hiking shoe.
  • Ground surface can also make a difference: try swapping the unforgiving hardness of roads (asphalt) to grass or dirt trails.
  • If the condition has progressed, and you are in severe pain, the number one priority first of all is to reduce that pain. The typical PRICE protocol (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation) should be used until the acute symptoms have dissipated.
  • Corticosteroid injections may be help reduce severe pain, but they must be regarded as a short term way of reducing pain, and not a solution to the problem. The same goes for taking NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories) like Ibuprofen. They can help relieve pain but are again not a long term strategy. Whilst you mask the pain, deterioration of the toe joint can still occur.
  • Manual therapy such as joint mobilization is thought to help increase range of movement in the first MTP joint. Strengthening of the muscle that pulls down the big toe (flexor hallucis longus) and the plantar intrinsic muscles of the feet is promoted to help improve stability of the first MPJ.
  • If the restriction is structural in nature, surgery may be advised. There is little research on the long-term effects of surgical treatment for runners, but given that less dorsiflexion is required for running than walking, even if surgery does not see a full return to the 400 generally regarded as necessary for pain free walking, you may see a return that is enough to allow running.
  • In severe cases of joint degeneration (Grade 3 and 4), fusion of the first MTP joint (arthrodesis) has shown good results with regards to eliminating pain.

In summary

Hopefully this article has shown you the relevance of adequate mobility in the big toe. If you are suffering from the symptoms described above, the time to do something about it is now, rather than waiting and risking a need for surgery. If you are suffering from persistent ankle, knee, or hip pain, make sure your therapist has considered hallux limitus/rigidus.

Have you ever considered your big toe as a source of pain? 


Matt Phillips is a Run Conditioning Coach, Video Gait Analyst & Sports Massage Therapist with over 20 years experience working within the Health & Fitness Industry. Follow Matt on Twitter

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Does Correct Head Positioning Make You Run Faster? Mon, 17 Nov 2014 10:00:01 +0000

“Keep your head up”!

Go to a race course of any kind, and you are likely to hear this phrase. Running coaches are fond of this advice, because it conveys both a metaphorical and literal message: keep a positive attitude, and HEY! get your eyes back on where they should be; on the person in front of you, not at the ground with your neck bent at a weird angle.

Almost everyone will agree that an upbeat attitude is critical to peak performance in training and racing, but if your head is tilted down or your chin is pointed to the sky when you run, is it really that big of a deal? After all, you run with your legs, not your head!

Lets look at how your head position affects your entire body.

Running form

According to research presented at a scientific conference this year, the answer is a little more complicated than a straight “yes” or “no.” A group of researchers led by Dan McCann at Gonzaga University attempted to try:

  • The study recruited 16 female distance runners from Gonzaga’s DI track team- impressive with respect to both the number of subjects and the caliber of their running ability.
  • Each subject underwent a series of three treadmill runs while wearing a specially-designed neck brace set at a predetermined neck angle. In random order, the athletes ran one mile at seven-minute pace with the brace tilting their head down, keeping it straight forward, or tilting it back.
  • Each runner’s oxygen consumption and heart rate was measured during the treadmill runs, and they all rated their perceived effort level during each condition.

The results showed that neck position had no influence on any of the physiological variables measured; however, the runners’ perceived effort level was significantly higher in the tilted-forward and bent-back head positions.

This study hints at an emerging trend of research on minor changes to running formsmall alterations in form, especially in the upper body, have a small or nonexistent effect in the absolute physiological cost of running.

Research published earlier this year by Christopher Arellano and Rodger Kram showed that running with your arms completely locked behind your back, not swinging at all, only increases the metabolic cost of running by three percent.

Unfortunately, Arellano and Kram did not investigate the perceived effort level of their subjects, which means we cannot make a direct comparison with the first study.

McCann’s research suggests that perceived effort should be examined in addition to physiological variables like oxygen consumption or heart rate.

Perceived effort

Some may find it hard to believe that perceived effort could have any impact on running performance, but a growing body of research supports the idea that your exertion level has a substantial impact on your pacing in a race, time trial, or workout.

In a 2009 review article, Ross Tucker at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa cites a number of studies in support of this theory, which used clever tricks including giving athletes in a time trial inaccurate splits or distance information, to show that rating of perceived exertion affects pacing strategy.

Perceived effort, Tucker says, is a two-way street: perceived effort influences our pacing, and is also influenced by factors like heat, fuel availability, caffeine, and other external factors that impact your performance.

Therefore, it’s at least plausible that an uncomfortable or awkward neck position could hamper your performance.

In addition, if you hold your head at a strange angle, it gives others around you a psychological boost as it is well known that when you are struggling, your form will begin to break down. This can lead to a competitor passing you, which brings in more negative self talk, and a higher perceived effort to maintain the same speed.


So, what does this mean for neck position during running?

  • Try to keep a level head, both literally and figuratively.
  • If you keep your neck relaxed, in a natural position, it will help you feel more relaxed when you run, which will help you to maintain speed.
  • However, if you have to dig deep at the end of a workout or in the final stretch of a race, don’t feel too bad—it’s only impacting your running physiology by a negligible amount.
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Meet Our New Coach; Tina Muir! Wed, 12 Nov 2014 18:30:04 +0000

I am very excited and proud to announce we’ve added a new member to the RunnersConnect team!


Tina Muir originally hails from England, but moved to the States in 2007 to pursue her running and education.

An 11 time Division II All-America athlete for Ferris State University, Tina capped off her collegiate career by finishing 3rd in the 10k at the 2012 Great Britain Olympic Trials.

Tina spent two years working as an Assistant Coach for La Salle University, a Division I University in Philadelphia, while completing her MBA.

Tina juggled a full workload with her post collegiate training, improving her personal bests to a 16:08 5k, 32:24 10k, and 1:14 half marathon.

DDC 2013 4

Tina is a member of the Saucony Hurricanes Team, and recently ran a 2:45:51 in the Chicago Marathon, but is hoping for big things in 2015 as she prepares to race on her home course at the London Marathon in April.

Tina has a very popular training and fueling blog; Fuel Your Future with Tina Muir, which attracts readers from all over the world as a source for recipes on how to fuel correctly to maximize performance, as well as training advice and inside information on what life is like as an elite athlete. You can check out Tina’s blog at

Now living in Central Kentucky, Tina is preparing for a wedding with her fiancé, Steve next summer. Steve was recently appointed Head Cross Country and Track Coach at Morehead State University.

Tina’s official position is Community Manager, but she’s more like our Ambassador of Buzz.

Her passion for running is palpable and she wants to help bring that same excitement to you! You’ll see Tina on our social media platforms, authoring articles on the blog, forums and anywhere she can help you train smarter!

We’re excited to have Tina on the team and if you ever get in touch with us via social media or email (which we encourage), I am sure you’ll hear from her!


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Are Race Conversion Calculators and Race Time Prediction Charts Reliable? Mon, 10 Nov 2014 11:00:41 +0000

What pace can you run for a marathon if you just ran a 25:00 minute 5k? What about for the half marathon?

That’s a question almost every runner has at least a few times in their training cycle.

As you may well know, it can be tricky to figure out what’s a realistic goal for an upcoming race, but fortunately, conversion charts can make this process a little easier.

Most runners are familiar with race conversion and equivalence charts or calculators, like the tables in Daniels’ Running Formula or various tools online, all of which are easy to find with an internet search.

But when a chart says that a 20:00 5k converts to a 41:20 10k, what is the significance of this?

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at how these calculations are made, and under what conditions they are valid.

Understanding race conversions

Broadly speaking, there are two different ways to look at how one race distance converts to another.

One is by calculating the physiological “expected outcome” of a runner of a given fitness level running a particular race distance; the other is calculating the equivalent performance from a competitiveness perspective.

Option 1: Expected fitness level

In the first case, the basic question that’s being asked is this: “Among runners who are currently in, say, 18:00 5k shape, what is their average time when they run a 10k, half marathon, etc.?”

While it’s pretty easy to look at either a list of lifetime PRs or season-best performances over a range of distances and determine a formula to convert from one race to another, there are several assumptions that go into this sort of project.

  • First among these is the race course and conditions: a flat, fast road 5k will overestimate your performance in a rainy, windy, hilly 10k.  Since the most easily accessible databases of lifetime or seasonal running performances are from elite runners, times in the 5k and 10k usually come from the track—which is, of course, much faster than any road course.
  • Second, the predictions made by a conversion formula are only averages. Some runners fare better at one distance than another. Even a conversion that is very accurate in the statistical sense can be pretty vague in the real world: a 2% difference in a 5k time, for example, could be over 30 seconds!

Another major assumption is that you are equally well-prepared for the two distances you are converting to and from. While it isn’t too hard to be in shape for both the 5k and the 10k, you can’t always say the same about the 5k and the marathon!

Because of this, a converted time doesn’t always mean “you could run this time right now” — it might mean something more along the lines of “you might be able to run this if you train for this event.”

Additionally, conversions become less valid the further you get from the race distance you’ve been training for.

For example, a lot of high school runners can hit five minutes for the mile, but very few can run under 2:50 in the marathon—even though this is an “equivalent” performance!

Option 2: Equivalent performance calculation

Calculating an equivalent performance is a slightly different undertaking.

These sorts of charts attempt to answer the question of “how good is my time?” by looking at the relative competitiveness of that race performance compared to another event. The best way to picture this is in terms of “world ranking.”

It’s a bit absurd to think about your world ranking if you’re a 25-minute 5k runner, but this doesn’t mean the statistics don’t have merit.

There are sets of equivalent performances in the 10k, marathon, and so on.

This is also the same concept behind age-grading percentiles: these tell you “how good” a certain time is for a certain age group.

While performance equivalences work reasonably well as conversion charts too, they do have some shortcomings.

  • By their nature, they overestimate your performance in less-common race distances. Using our world-ranking analogy, it’s easy to see why: far more runners have recorded times in the 5k or the 10k than more exotic races like the 25k or quarter-marathon (yes, those do exist!).
  • And a performance equivalence chart is going to be less accurate for slower times, since these charts are almost universally made by referencing elite times—running a 13-minute 5k become a very different event than a 20-minute 5k.

Final thoughts

Conversion and equivalence charts can be very useful training tools, but don’t put too much stock into them.

They are best used for getting a rough idea of what you can run for an unfamiliar race distance, or figuring out which race distance is your best.

Specifically, you must factor in weather and course conditions and, more importantly, whether you’re training for the specific demands of that event.

To help you understand exactly how you should be training for the specific demands of your goal race, we’re conducting a series of webinars over the next few weeks. If you’re interested, you can see the available times below:

Help with marathon training

5k and 10k specific training

Half marathon specific workouts

Finally, you shouldn’t let a conversion chart beat up your ego. If you can’t run an “equivalent” performance, it might be for any number of reasons: you may not be training for that particular event, you may have run your first performance in better conditions, or you might just be better at shorter or longer races!

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