MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (XXXIII) – Beijing 2008: SAMUEL WANJIRU (1986-2011)

Wanjiru running to victory in Beijing 2008 Olympics

"The speed of the falling water is constant. I think that is how a marathon race is supposed to be run on both sides of the halfway mark - consistently, like the water through the falls" Samuel Wanjiru

Sunday August 24 at 7.30 was the scheduled time for the men´s marathon at the Olympics of Beijing 2008. Ninety-five athletes from 56 nations were ready for the start.

From the top-10 finishers in Athens 2004, only the defending champion, the Italian Stefano Baldini was returning. That meant a lot of new faces, but not at all newcomers to the distance.

The Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Gebrselassie, world record holder, decided not to run the marathon due to air pollution levels and save himself for Berlin, where he had established the WR of 2.04.53 the year before. Despite his absence in the marathon distance, he competed again in the 10000 metres, where he managed to finish 6th in an event where he had been Olympic Champion in 1996 and 2000.

Kenya had never won an Olympic Marathon title yet. Famous for its distance runners, it was sending its strongest team ever: Martin Lel (x3 London and x2 NY winner), Luke Kibet (World Champion 2007) and Samuel Wanjiru. Besides the runners from Ethiopia, already with 4 golds in the marathon distance at Olympic level, other top contenders were Abderrahim Goumri from Morocco (national record 2.05.30 obtained in London 2007) or Ryan Hall from the USA (2.06.17).

Samuel Wanjiru was born in Nyahururu, a town in the Rift Valley, in Kenya, and was brought up in poverty by his single mother, from whom he took the surname. Unable to afford the school fees, he had to abandon school when he was 12. After winning a cross-country race Samuel, only 15, moved to a high school in Sendai, Japan. He had success on the Japanese cross-country circuit and in 2005, after graduation, joined the Toyota Kyūshū athletics team, coached by 1992 Olympic marathon silver medallist Koichi Morishita. He continued his progression and aged 18 broke in the space of two weeks the 10000 metres world junior record (26.41,75) and the half marathon world record (Rotterdam, 59.16). He still managed to break again the half marathon world record to 58.33 in 2007, improving the 58.53 from Gebrselassie in 2006. Debuting in the marathon distance Wanjiru got the third fastest debut marathon ever at the 2007 Fukuoka Marathon with 2:06:39. He arrived at Beijing with high expectations.

Just as soon as the marathon start Kenyans decide to run at world record pace, a strategy unusual for championships.  Running sub 3 minutes kilometres only a small group can follow them. Ten runners at front, mostly from African origins, cross together the 10k in 29.25. Ryan Hall is already falling behind.

After the 10k the pace slow down slightly, but it is only a matter of time before Wanjiru attack again after the kilometre 16. This attack leaves only 5 runners at front, that will probably fight for the medals: Lel and Wanjiru from Kenya, Jaouad Gharib from Morocco, Deriba Merga from Ethiopia, and Yonas Kifle from Eritrea. They cross the 20k in 59.10, and the half marathon in 1.02.34. The WR is still in sight.

Between the 25 and 30k Merga and Kifle do a series of attacks with the goal of reducing the group even more. The 30k os crossed in 1.29.15 with only Merga, Wanjiru and Gharib in the front.

Wanjiru runs easily, waiting for the right moment. Around the 37k he makes his move, with a short but decisive attack. In 3 kilometres he opens a gap of 18s with Gharib, while Merga, who has slowed spectacularly, is losing around 40s per kilometre until kilometre 40, which Wanjiru crosses in 1.59.54.

Nobody can catch Wanjiru. The Olympic victory is his. Twenty-one years old and his third marathon, but more importantly, the first gold for Kenya in an event such important as this. His winning time of 2.06.32 improves in almost three minutes the previous Olympic record set by Carlos Lopes in Los Angeles 1984.

The silver medal is for Gharib with 2.07.16 with bronze going to Tsegay Kebede from Ethiopia with 2.10.00. Ryan Hall finishes only 10th, with Baldini being 12th and Chema Martínez, the best Spanish, 16th with 2.14.00.

But Wanjiru´s successes in the marathon weren´t over. In 2009 he won in London with 2.05.10, and Chicago with 2.05.41, breaking the course record in both events. The WR of Gebrselassie seemed achievable in a near future. In 2010 he revalidated his title in Chicago with 2.06.24. Although his future seemed bright, destiny had different plans. In May 2011 he died after falling from a balcony at his home in unclear circumstances: murder, suicide, or an accident? It was never clear. His personal life wasn´t as successful as his running career. Alcohol related problems and various familiar issues ended a promising career when Samuel died, aged 24, depriving the marathon scene of one of its more talented runners.

 

Sources:

https://olympics.com/en/athletes/samuel-wanjiru

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_2008_Summer_Olympics_%E2%80%93_Men%27s_marathon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Wanjiru

http://www.marathonguide.com/news/exclusives/2008MensOlympicsMarathon/MensOlympicsIAAFPreview2008.cfm

https://sportsscientists.com/2008/08/beijing-2008-men-marathon-report/

Beijing Birds Nest Olympics track

BLOOD FLOW RESTRICTION TRAINING (BFRT): THE ULTIMATE TOOL IN SPORTS TRAINING?

 

Blood Flow Restriction Training, or BFRT, is a training method that places a cuff or band around a muscle of interest, inflate it to reduce blood flow and then perform resistance exercises at low intensity (20-30% maximal) but high number of repetitions (15-30 repetitions/set).

The first question that comes to mind is…

 

Why do restrict blood supply to muscles when is a key factor for performance?

Restricting blood flow to the muscle being trained limits the level of oxygen available to its cells. This hypoxic environment increases the anaerobic metabolism and the production of lactate. MORE lactate translates in MORE fatigue, even during low intensity workouts.

But then arises another question…

 

Why having a more tired muscle will improve my training?

The adaptative changes to the muscles during BFRT will be similar with those occurring with high intensity exercises.

When comparing 6 weeks training programs including high intensity, low intensity, high+low intensities with BFRT and low intensity with BFRT, the high intensity group and those including BFRT produced similar results in muscle endurance.

Greater and faster fatigue on the muscles, giving the athlete enough time to recover, allow muscles to develop and adapt more quickly.

 

How do the BFRT works?

Although the technique has been in use since the 1970s there is still much to be studied.

Some of the reasons behind the beneficial effects of BFRT may be due to:

  • Increased release of Growth Hormone and lactate, which drive muscle growth.
  • Development of additional blood vessels.
  • Increase of the size and number of mitochondria, that are the energy “factory” of cells.
  • Increase of the amount of protein that can be used by the body.

 

How about BFRT in runners?

Among runners BFRT causes “slow-twitch” Type I muscle fibres, which need oxygen as fuel, to become less active. The resulting outcome is the recruitment of “fast twitch,” Type II muscle fibres, capable of turning a runner faster.

 

Who else can benefit from BFRT?

Besides the already mentioned benefits on performance after including BFR training sessions on your schedule there are other populations to benefit from this technique:

  • Injured athletes

After an injury there must be a healing process, in which heavy loads and high intensity sessions are inappropriate. BFR helps to attenuate muscle atrophy in a low-load environment while speeding up recovery.

  • Post operative patients

After procedures such as Achilles repairs or knee replacements BFRT techniques allow muscles around the treated area to keep working without much strain.

  • Old people

Ageing often involves limitations of mobility. It is in these situations that BFRT is useful, keeping the muscles working in arthritic conditions or people with difficulties to raise from a chair.

Thus, it is worth noting that even wearing a cuff at low pressure WITHOUT EXERCISE can be beneficial.

 

Who could have BFRT contraindicated?

People with vascular insufficiency or cardiac conditions should be careful with this technique and look advice from a physician before trying it.

 

Did you have any experience using these techniques? If so, we would love to read your opinion. Anyway, we hope this information was useful for you.

 

Sources

https://mikereinold.com/the-science-of-blood-flow-restriction-training/

https://www.physio-pedia.com/Blood_Flow_Restriction_Training

https://theconversation.com/blood-flow-restriction-training-how-olympians-use-it-to-boost-performance-165559

https://complete-physio.co.uk/blood-flow-restriction-training/

https://www.podiumrunner.com/training/what-is-bfr-and-can-it-make-you-faster/

Video from Blood Flow Restriction Therapy After Knee Surgery: Indications, Safety Considerations, and Postoperative Protocol. NN DePhillipo et al. 2018

FATIGUE AND THE RAPOPORT ENERGY MODEL FOR THE MARATHON

Photo by Martin Sanchez (Unsplash)

Long-duration exercise is associated with fatigue, but what is fatigue?

Its definition depends on which fatigue model we use. Among them we find:

  • Cardiovascular/anaerobic fatigue

Fatigue comes when the cardiovascular system is unable to supply more oxygen or remove waste products from the working muscles.

  • Neuromuscular fatigue

The muscular response diminishes in response to the exercise electrical stimulus.

  • Muscle trauma fatigue

Fatigue is related to muscle damage.

  • Motivational fatigue

Associated to a lower interest in exercise performance.

  • Central governor fatigue

Central nervous system uses signals from muscles and organs to regulate exercise performance and therefore protect vital organs from injury or damage.

 

Marathon and the Rapoport´s energy model

A key moment associated with fatigue in a marathon is when hitting the wall, and Rapoport´s energy model tries to explain it. Thus, speed of glycogen stores (liver and muscles) depletion, linked to the fatigue, is associated with:

  1. runner’s aerobic capacity (or VO2max)
  2. density of muscle glycogen
  3. relative mass of leg musculature (larger legs = more room to store glycogen)

In this model a runner moving from A to B will need a certain amount of energy (calories) per kilometre and kilogram of body weight. 

Hitting the wall happens when running out of carbs and although they are the primary energy source, fats are also involved. Depending on running speed percentages of one source or another vary.

Substrate Usage (fat=RED or carbohydrates=BLUE) depending on Exercise Intensity (as % of VO2max) (from Rapoport 2010)

On a typical easy run, a runner uses 60% carbs and 40% fat. Carbs percentage increases with running speed, reaching 90% at intense paces.

The chances of hitting the wall in the Rapoport model are mathematically modelled and represented in the figure attached.

Considering that the average runner can run at an intensity between 60 and 85% of VO2max during a marathon and estimating the amount of carbs stored (shaded region indicates the range of energy storage capacity for a typical male runner, which is around 21.4% of body mass), would be possible to determine the distance where that runner would hit the wall.

Obviously, this is only a mathematical model subject to error (uncertainty around 5-10%), although it shows the importance of loading carbs adequately the days before a marathon.

Rapoport energy model

 

Briefly:

When carbs are out, then comes the wall
More carbs stored = less chances of hitting the wall

 

Good running and marathon(s) to you all!

 

Bibliography

Metabolic factors limiting performance in marathon runners. Benjamin Rapoport. PLoS Comput Biol. 2010 Oct 21;6(10): e1000960. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000960.

How recreational marathon runners hit the wall: A large-scale data analysis of late-race pacing collapse in the marathon. Barry Smyth. PLoS One. 2021 May 19;16(5): e0251513. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251513.

https://runnersconnect.net/marathon-hitting-the-wall/

LISBON MARATHON (17/10/2021 – 102)

Race start

We revisited the Lisbon Marathon for the fourth time after a 3-year absence, and after it abandoned the Marathon Rock n’Roll Marathon Series. Doing the consecutive marathons in Madrid and Logroño, 2 weeks of rest seemed enough time to recover.

The bib-number collection at the runner’s expo was, as on previous occasions, at the Altice Arena, in the Expo area. Despite its size, there are absolutely no other stands. Along with the marathon, there are also a half-marathon and 8.5-kilometer mini-marathon races, and even a 4-kilometer family walk. Unlike other events, here in Lisbon the marathon and half marathon have separate routes and starting areas. Al events only converge in the finish area.

As before, the start of the marathon is in Cascais, with the finish line at Praça do Comércio, although previously it ended in the Expo area. The organization offers the train trip from Lisbon to Cascais for the departure, as well as the use of the entire Lisbon transport system for free, showing only the bib-number, something that other cities, such as Madrid, should apply.

With departure at 8.00, it is time to get up early. Weather forecast is more benevolent than previous days: a milder temperature, with a maximum of 23⁰C and overcast skies. I arrive in Cascais around 7.15. It has not yet dawned, but in the starting area the nervousness of the race is in the air. Half of the runners are foreigners, which makes this marathon a multinational event.

Ready

Despite the indications to wear mask to enter the designated starting areas, only some of us wear it (and distances are not respected much either). In this regard, Mapoma, by comparison in terms of the number of runners, was much stricter.

After the start, we leave Cascais towards the Guincho beach, in the opposite direction to Lisbon, until kilometre 7 of the race, where we will turn around. The sky is completely covered, and the temperature is mild for running, although without a breath of breeze to cool us off.

Running quite fast (for me), I cross kilometre 5 in just 25 minutes, mainly uphill. Last week’s workouts had gone well, although my legs now feel differently.

After the turnaround, we come across runners going already in the opposite direction. There I see Lolo, with the 3h group. From this point on, the marathon will keep the same direction, first returning to Cascais and then following the seashore and the Tagus to Lisbon.

Not without suffering, I cross the half marathon in just over 1h53m. There is still half the race left and it is already feeling long… I just dedicate myself to subtracting the kilometres towards the finish line, trying to keep up the pace to get under 4 hours. Remaining 10k, I still have a little more than 1 hour to spare. From the Champalimaud there are about 8 kilometres, on a route already known, because of many training sessions and passing through some of the most touristy points of Lisbon.

Until kilometre 35 I hold the pace, although I can already feel the option of 4 hours eluding me, especially when the 4h00m group catches me and I cannot do anything to get in their wake, despite the encouragement of his pacer…

Throwing in the towel, as one might say in boxing terms, I reach the finish line with more pain than glory, with a net time of 4.05.17, for my worst record in the Portuguese capital.

Praça do Comércio (finish area)

Sometimes you enjoy the distance from Pheidippides, and sometimes you don´t, as has been the case for a race in which I have suffered more than usual. Each race is different, and you can always learn something new from them.

Next stop: predictably Badajoz, on November 7.

MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (XXXII) – Beijing 2008: CONSTANTINA DIṬĂ (1970-)

Diṭă victorious at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Marathon

Beijing won the voting to hold the 2008 Summer Olympics, defeating bids from Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka. The Chinese government invested heavily in renovating and constructing the venues that would host the competitions. Athletics would take place in the Beijing National Stadium, known as the Bird´s Nest.

The women´s marathon was planned for August 17 following an urban course designed specifically for the event. The main concerns for athletes during the Games had been pollution, heat, and humidity. On marathon day though, cool temperature, overcast sky and occasional drizzle were going to keep the race bearable.

There were 82 women classified for the marathon. The strong field included 6 of the 10 fastest marathoners ever, including 29 runners who had already been in Athens 2004, including the three medallists Noguchi (Japan), Ndereba (Kenya) and Kastor (USA). Again, among the favourites was Paula Radcliffe, from the UK and WR holder, trying to overcome her earlier Olympic failure.

Constantina Diță was born in Turburea, Romania, in 1970. She grew up in a farm, where she spent much time running around the animals. At high school she played handball but changed to running after participating in a race where she managed to win all the guys. As many other runners she started competing in cross country events, although she included many other distances in her racing calendar. Her first marathon was in 1997 when she won a silver medal in the European Championships of 1999. Focused more on the 42k distance she was 10th at the World Championships of Edmonton 2001, 20th at the Olympics of Athens 2004, and 3rd in the World Championships of Helsinki 2005. Her PB of 2.21.30 achieved on the Chicago Marathon of 2005 was her best credential for Beijing 2008.

The race started slowly, with many runners in a big group when crossing the 10k in 36.10 for an expected finishing time over 2h30m. Despite this, Deena Kastor, one of the favourites, was already out by the 5k.

Around the 16k, another of the medallists from Athens 2004, Ndereba, started to lose contact too, although she managed to keep the leading group close enough to maintain her ambitions. The half marathon was crossed in 1.15.11.

At that point things got interesting, when Diță decided to shake things up. She went in front and run the next two kilometres in 3.20 each, opening a 30 second gap with the still large group of around 20 runners. But they were not prepared to make things easy for Constantina: none other than the WR holder Radclilffe took the responsibility for the chase.

Nevertheless, they lacked coordination, and Ditä´s lead continued to increase. With Radcliffe suffering and the chasing group down to 10 runners, Zhou Chunxiu of China went in front pursuing Diță, who crossed the 30k in 1.45.04, 57s ahead of them. Ndereba, coming from behind, caught with the group again.

With 7k to go, Diță had an advantage of 1.10. Her 5k intervals had been unreachable. But she still had to suffer before grabbing the gold medal. Her pursuers efforts were paying off in this last section, with the gap between them closing fast. But it wasn´t enough, and Diță crossed the finish line first, in 2.26.44, only 22s ahead of Ndereba, who managed to get again the silver medal after surpassing the local runner Chunxiu in the track of the Bird´s Nest by only 1s.

It had been a tight end: a total of 7 runners finished the marathon below 2.28.00, among them other of the Chinese runners, Xiaolin Zhu, in 4th, and the other Romanian, the veteran Lidia Simon, 8th in her 4th Olympic appearance.

For Constantina Diță her victory in Beijing 2008 was the pinnacle of her sports career, at the late age of 38. She managed to classify for the marathon in London 2012, although she couldn´t repeat her success.

Her PB obtained in the 2005 Chicago Marathon (2.21.30) is still the Romanian national record.

 

Sources:

https://athleticsillustrated.com/the-constantina-dita-interview/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantina_Di%C8%9B%C4%83

https://sportsscientists.com/2008/08/beijing-2008-womens-marathon-splits/

Beijing National Stadium (Bird´s Nest)

LOGROÑO MARATHON (03/10/2021 – 101)

Ferrer Sport, for runner bib collection

Hesitating between the Logroño and Ibiza marathons for the first weekend in October, I opted for the first one for logistical reasons, with the chance of going to the Palma de Mallorca marathon on the following weekend (which in the end I had to discard).

After a bus trip of more than 4 hours, I arrive to Logroño in the afternoon. After a short break I head to Ferrer Sport to collect my runner bag. Chema Martínez is also there, presenting his latest book. From the short list of marathon participants, it seems that there will be only 70-80 for the 42k, with many more enrolled in the other two distances available: the half marathon and 10k.

The start and finish of the two long races is in El Espolón at 9.00, with weather forecast ensuring rain from 8 to 14. Although I go to rest early, the accommodation, close to the start, but also in a party area, does not allow me for a very restful night.

With noise outside until 5 in the morning, I am awake and prepared early. Raining heavily since 8, I leave just in time to leave my backpack at the starting area. Sheltered like so many runners under a nearby arcade, we reluctantly move to the starting line just before the race start.

El Espolón: start and finish area

There I coincide with Txema, whom I had not seen since the Covid truncated calendars a year and a half ago. Looking forward to his reunion with the marathon, we go out together, close to the 3h30m pacer, although we soon let it go.

The first kilometres go quickly as we move away from the centre of Logroño towards peripheral neighbourhoods. As they say out there… the kilometres speaking “do not count.” On a slope around kilometre 16 I let Txema go. From this point onwards there are a few slope mores, one of them a tunnel, and another just facing the last meters towards the finish line. The half marathon goes in 1.55.46, not too bad after the Mapoma from the previous week.

Finishing the first lap

If firstly there was rain, secondly is rain and loneliness. Once the runners of the half marathon are out, the distances between the remaining runners stretch for long. Around the 24k, I find the 3-hour pacer running back. Surely, left alone, has decided to finish his race.

From that point onward I feel better and recover some positions. Or maybe going from more to less I’m still better than the others. First, I catch the second classified female, and with 5 kilometres remaining I see Txema far away.

Chasing others is more fun than being chased. I catch him around the 39k. We only must cross a bridge and head back towards the city centre.

Finally, I cross the finish line in a net time of 3.59.34, with Txema a few seconds later, also entering below the 4h barrier. Position 40 out of 62 finishers. It is only a short walk to the excellent facilities available to take a shower, that were missing in Madrid (as was the cloakroom service).

Marathon 101 on my account, and eighth in 2021. Next stop, Lisbon in 2 weeks, to repeat for a fourth time, after 4 years of absence.

The bridge of the 37k
Wet and tired, but finishers

MARATÓN POPULAR MADRID (26/09/2021 – 100)

(Some) Maratoniacs

postponed until now, was for many the reencounter with the “great” races, those with thousands of participants filling the streets that were usual before.

Organizing the calendar before the summer, there was the option of reaching the 100th marathon in Madrid, as it finally happened. On one hand, it seemed like the logical place, alpha and omega of my marathon career.

I visited the runner’s expo on Saturday afternoon, in a gigantic IFEMA pavilion. Perhaps due to its large dimensions it had a certain soulless air, with few booths of other marathons (although there were those of Maspalomas Gran Canaria, Castellón, Oporto and Funchal). Still, there was enough to be entertained for a while.

After the usual early start it is a short walk to the starting area, where some had arranged to meet for a group photo, around 8.00. Without having a clue, the marathon family offers me a medal for my 100 marathons, which I still have to earn. Circumstances force them to offer it before the race. Due to the pandemic, the starts are staggered every 2 minutes, in groups of 500 participants, and predictably it will be difficult to meet after the race.

Already in my box, letter I, I listen to the successive starts from the previous groups, with the first one at 8:45 and mine at 9:01. Just before it, a minute of silence for the victims of Covid, and then we advance towards the starting arch. My 42k begin exactly on time.

Runners Expo
Sunrise in La Castellana
Starting area

Strangely, in the first kilometres, slightly uphill along the Paseo de la Castellana, what draws most my attention is the silence, despite the runners. As if the minute of silence had been extended, each one in our inner world, perhaps thinking of what the last year and a half meant in our lives.

Trying to enjoy the 100 marathon experience I don’t care much about my watch. Shortly after I meet Gonzalo, who had started in the previous box, and run with him for a few kilometres, until parting ways at the 10k refreshment station. It seems that I have started with more energy than on previous occasions. Anyway, this is my first road marathon since February 2020. Later on I also surpass David and Lola, although assuming they will probably catch me later.

At that point I suspect that something is wrong with my chip, as I do not hear the passing beeps on the control mats.

When crossing the half marathon my predicted final time is around 3h43m, but Madrid is Madrid, and all of us who have run there know what it means to arrive at the Casa de Campo. It is the hardest section of the race, also including the 32k wall. Until kilometre 28 I hold well the pace, but soon after I start slowing down.

With 4 kilometres to go, Gonzalo passes me again, and soon after Lola, but I cannot run at their pace. The “caceroladas” on the Avenida de Valladolid are missing, and the Chariots of Fire arriving in the Sol area, which is now avoided. The public, which until then had been mostly absent and not very enthusiastic, increases, and their cheers provide energy for the last effort. La Castellana is there, and so the finish line.

I finish the 100th marathon, winning one more medal, the second of the day, in 3.54.47.

The result is as important as the path travelled to reach this point.

Finish area
The medal
The 3 from Pucela

In the credits of the first 100 marathons I must include to: Catherine E, for her initial impulse in search of the 100; Raúl L, for the “magical” shorts that gave me my PB in Valencia 2010; Enrique B, for introducing me to the world of the “crazy” marathoners when I returned to Spain; Filomena G, for her logistical support and patience in reaching marathons that would have been unattainable; Pepe T, whose “hunt” for being the first runner from Valladolid to get 100 made me realise that 13 marathons in a year were for the lazy ones; David P, Lola G and Javi del Val, without whose presence and “clandestine” marathons the Covid “drought” would have become longer; the other “maratoniacs” for their welcome… And all those, runners or not, who over the years shared my passion for running.

See you at the next start…

The 100

ADAPTATION TO DOWNHILL RUNNING: IS IT POSSIBLE?

Photo by Alessio Soggetti (Unsplash)

Muscle contractions in sports are usually isotonic, involving changes in length of muscle fibres, that can be classified in concentric and eccentric contractions.

Concentric muscle contractions

Muscle generates tension, to overcome a resistance. There is a shortening of the muscle fibres and a movement of a body part. An example could be any exercise with weights or running uphill.

Eccentric muscle contractions

Opposite than in the concentric contraction, in the eccentric there is a lengthening of the muscle fibres against a resistance. The force applied to the muscle exceeds the force produced by the muscle itself.

Another type of contraction, without changes in the length of the muscle fibres, would be the isometric contraction.

 

Downhill running (DR)

Downhill running involves repetitive eccentric muscle contractions, which cause mechanical strain on the musculotendinous system of the lower limbs and exercise-induced muscle damage, or EIMD, whose physiological alterations last for several days after the exercise.

In many off-road races taking part in natural environments the sections involving DR are very common. Among these races we could talk of trail running, mountain running or the more specific fell running modality, although many road races also include important downhill sections.

Scientific evidence suggests that previous exposure to DR is the most effective strategy to help reduce the extent of EIMD among runners. Thus, it helps improve resultant effects of EIMD: force losses, changes in running economy and mechanics, structural alterations, and inflammation levels.

The effect of this pre-exposure is known as “Repeated Bout Effect”, or RBE, and there are studies showing that it can be achieved performing only a couple of bouts of DR separated by several days.

The mechanisms associated with this effect would include:

  • Neural adaptations
  • Adaptations of the muscle-tendon complexes
  • Increased sensitivity to inflammation
  • Improved muscle remodelling

The RBE could be summarized as simply as:

Your body's response to a stimulus decreases with each repeated bout

Other alternative strategies such the use of lower limb compression garments or specific running shoes have shown potential in the adaptation to DR, although more studies are needed.

If you have races involving DR your best strategy should include a few sessions of training in similar conditions to those you will find on race day!

Good training!

 

Bibliography

Downhill Running: What Are the Effects and How Can We Adapt? A Narrative Review.

Bontemps B, Vercruyssen F, Gruet M, Louis J. Sports Med. 2020;50(12):2083-2110. doi:10.1007/s40279-020-01355-z

Image from textbook OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology, 2016

THE WHERE AND HOW OF HITTING THE “WALL” IN THE MARATHON

Photo by Denise Denicolo (Pixabay)

Most experienced marathon runners know about “the wall”, although for novices or first-timers to the distance, there is a significant chance of hitting it inadvertently.

Hitting the wall can be defined as a significant slowing of pace, usually after the 32k, because of a sudden fatigue linked to the depletion of the body´s energy stores. In the worst cases it can incapacitate the runner to finish the race.

But what factors affect a marathoner hitting the wall?

It is usually accepted that poor race nutrition, inadequate pacing (starting too fast) and even psychological factors can be implicated. But experience is also important, as more experienced runners seem more capable to avoid the worst of it.

A recent study using data from 4 million race records from big city marathons has tried to determine where and how marathon runners hit the wall, according to parameters such as sex, age, and ability.

Thus, the study calculated the degree of slowdown using as a reference the base-pace during the 5km–20km (excluding the initial 5k because of usually crowded starts) portion and comparing it with the latest sections.

The main limitations of the study were their limited pacing data (5km splits), age ranges and an incomplete dataset of race records for every runner included.

Despite this, and thanks to the very large scale of the data, useful information was obtained.

 

Key findings

  • Male runners hit the wall more often (28%) than female runners (17%).
  • Male runners begin to slow down slightly later (29.6km) than female runners (29.3km).
  • Male runners suffer from this slowdown for longer than females (10.72km vs. 9.61km, respectively).Therefore, as females tends to recover more quickly, they usually finish faster than equivalent mean race-pace males.
  • The cost of hitting the wall in the finishing time, relative to PB times, is greater for faster runners.
  • Age plays a minor role in terms of the start, distance, and degree of slowdown in hitting the wall, although there is a strong relationship between these metrics and runner´s ability, estimated through arunner’s recent personal-best time (PB).
  • Starting too fast was associated with slower finishing-times, because it increased the likelihood of a runner hitting the wall later in the race.

 

Bibliography

How recreational marathon runners hit the wall: A large-scale data analysis of late-race pacing collapse in the marathon. Barry Smyth. PLoS One. 2021 May 19;16(5): e0251513. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251513.

London Marathon (photo by Ian Wakefield)

HAS COVID-19 CAUSED A NEW RUNNING BOOM?

During the recent lockdowns, our most common activities have been compromised, and among them the outdoor activities. Thus, we have come to appreciate even more our freedom to choose where and when to exercise.

Running has not been an exception. A recent survey among 3961 runners found that up to 29% of them started running during the global pandemic. This is an important rise that should not be underestimated.

But although it is a lot of potential “new” runners they may differ from “old” runners.

A recent survey found interesting findings among these new post-pandemic runners differentiating them from their pre-pandemic counterparts.

 

Key findings

  • 32% of post-pandemic runners are looking to run a virtual race against a 15% of pre-pandemic runners. Conversely, only 65% of them are looking to participate in in-person races against an 85% of pre-pandemic runners.
  • Physical health was the primary motivation for 72% of post-Covid runners, while it was the main reason for only a 18% of pre-pandemic runners.
  • Post-pandemic runners were less likely to run for competition or achievement (34% less), social interaction (31% less) or mental/emotional health (15% less) than pre-pandemic runners

 

Main conclusion

Running as an outdoor activity has suffered a significant boom since the start of the pandemic, with new runners differing from the old ones in motivations and race participation preferences.

 

Did you run before the pandemic or is it a new activity in your life?

What is the main motivation to do it?

 

Source:

https://runrepeat.com/new-pandemic-runners