Overview: How to Run

I'm a 2:42 marathoner. At about 6:10/mile for the marathon, I'm not a professional, but I'm in the top 1-2% of finishers in a given marathon.

At my peak marathon training, I run 70+ miles per week, including two-a-days and weight lifting.

I've learned a lot about running in a short amount of time, and am sharing here the key principles that have helped me along the way.

The three key concepts to better running are:

  1. Don't get injured. This deserves mention because a large portion of runners injure themselves each year. Consistency is king — running most or all days of the week is the key to getting faster — and you can't do that if you're injured. Not overtraining, paying attention to your form, and recovering well are all factors in avoiding injury.
  2. Better cardio. A car with a better engine goes faster. Most people intuitively know this. The main way to get better cardio is to run longer, faster, and more often. No shortcuts.
  3. Better running economy. If you take two cars with the same engine, one of them can go faster if it has a more efficient drivetrain, lighter wheels, etc. It is possible, with the same cardio output (which you can measure with a heart rate monitor), to improve your running speed by increasing your form and efficiency.

In the sections below I cover specific techniques that ladder up to the above concepts.

My Background

Cadence

One of the simplest improvements you can make to your running form is increasing your cadence (ie number of times your foot hits the ground per minute). Sub-optimal cadence is very common in beginner and intermediate runners — 80% of runners I see have this issue.

Even if you're running at the same speed, increasing your cadence will make your running smoother, easier, and less injury-prone. You'll heel-strike less (a big no-no) and with some practice the same speed will start to feel easier.

Use Your Glutes

Sitting in chairs all day interferes with our body's ability to run optimally.

Since our torso and quads are at a ~90deg angle when we're sitting all day, this causes tight hips and underactivated glutes. This is the opposite of what we want when we run:

  1. Loose hips — able to expand beyond 180deg and drive force behind you, like when kick-pushing on a skateboard.
  2. Activated glutes — use these powerful and efficient muscles to drive most of your forward motion and give your quads and knees a break.