I trained all summer for the Mesa Falls Half-marathon. During my training I concentrated on the Chi Running focuses that I thought would best help me through my first half-marathon in over 30 years.
1. The mid-foot strike and the wheel in the back that keeps on turning (thanks to Journey for the song that I use to remind myself if I find myself getting sloppy.) Why? I have a defective right foot – more precisely, a hyper-mobile first ray. This technique, combined with arch supports, has brought me from seven to 13.1 miles without pain. Even with arch supports, I find that foot pain is a sure sign that my shoes are wearing out.
2. The lean. I lived all summer in the caldera of an extinct volcano, so every run started out uphill. It’s really true even if it seems counter-intuitive – leaning into the hill is more efficient. And that goes for downhill runs as well.
3. Swinging my arms to the back. It really does help balance #1 and #2.
When I first started my Chi Running practice, I fought the concept of “technique first, then distance, then speed.” I was completely wrong. After practicing the technique, I gained distance without injury. 13.1 miles, to be precise. I finished the half-marathon in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 39 seconds, for an average pace of 9.36. It wasn't enough to take first place in my age division, but it was enough to take second. So now that it’s time to work on speed, I know the time I have to beat.
And speaking of speed – I checked in with my cadence a few days ago and found I've slipped a few beats. I’m down from 88 bpm to 84 bpm. Yikes! I thought I had cadence down pat and didn't practice it all summer long. My bad. The good news – if I gradually increase my cadence I should be able to pick up some speed in the higher gears.
A few weeks ago, Danny Dreyer posted a tip on Facebook about walking backward. He shared that walking backward will put your body into the proper C shape and put your core muscles in the right place. I tried it for the first time on September 24, and all I can say is “Wow.” I've been making this SO much harder than it actually is. I've now added a short backward walk before I start running – just to get the feel for where my core muscles should be.
And the practice continues….