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Run Long, Run Healthy Weekly Roundup — November 4, 2021

Your weekly guided tour of the best new research and articles on running from around the web.

Each week, Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, also the world’s most experienced running editor, curates the latest and most useful content on running and health from around the internet. “I spend hours finding the best new research and articles, so you can review them in minutes,” Burfoot says.

THIS WEEK: Should you train in “illegal shoes?” Consistency + control = long term success. Downhill running takes skill. Watch a CPR video today. Run safe this winter. More gel is better. Improve your running economy with external thinking. More.

Should you train in “illegal shoes” to improve performance?

I don’t think there’s much debate any longer about those super shoes with their new foams and carbon inserts. Lab results + race results = near definitive proof that they enhance performance. The new question is: Will training in “illegal shoes” make you faster? (Note: There aren’t any regulations on training shoes, only competition shoes.) So I posed the new question to Geoff Burns, the biomechanist-ultrarunner who wrote the article linked here. His response: “Yes, they could prove helpful in two ways. First, the augmented cushioning might lessen the muscular trauma of training to allow better recovery or slightly higher mileage. Second, the high stack height could produce a novel mechanical stimulus, like running on different surfaces. This could be beneficial or detrimental, depending on the person and the dose.” More about ultra-thick shoes at PodiumRunner.

Deek’s secret: Focus on consistency, keep it controlled

A modestly-talented running friend of mine once lived for a time in Australia and used to do some running with Rob de Castella, who won the first World Championships Marathon in 1983, then set a personal record 2:07:51 in winning the 1986 Boston Marathon. My friend often commented on how easy most of Deek’s training was. Here’s a hard day with Deek, and it’s not actually very hard. That was part of his secret sauce: Focus on consistency; keep it controlled. More at PodiumRunner.

Great downhill running takes a bit of skill

You don’t need much skill to run. You probably learned most of what you need by age three. An exception: downhill running. Uphill running takes strength and fitness, which are acquired through training; downhill running takes good technique—a certain skill, in other words. It took me 15 years to learn the technique, then I went from bad-bad-bad to top-notch overnight. And once you “get it,” it’s like a switch that you can flip on at will. The techniques described here are very similar to what I learned on my own in the way-long-ago. Especially: Run with fast feet, as if you’re on hot coals and a bicycling-like “circle” stride. More at Triathlete.

Don’t sweat the small stuff when treadmill training

Some runners love training on a treadmill; some hate it. (Although let’s face it, there’s not much to argue against a treadmill vs. freezing, dark, icy, dangerous conditions outdoors.) Those who favor treadmills sometimes tie themselves in knots worrying about what incline or temperature or fan speed best mimics outdoor running. But that’s sweating the small stuff too much, as this article points out. Go as fast or slow as you want, as flat or steeply uphill as you want. Treadmills can help you put in the work you need, and work-effort is what ultimately pays dividends. Just be sure to do some good tuneup runs on a hard road surface before racing outside. More at Trail Runner.

Run safe this winter

As the days get shorter and darker, it’s time to re-emphasize safe running strategies. Some women don’t want other women running at all in the dark, but that’s not realistic for many. A training partner makes a big difference, reflective or flashing equipment is a must, and if there’s ever a time to run nearby out-and-back courses or short circular loops, this is it. Run defensively, and never, ever assume that a driver sees you. Also, do some investment math. A home treadmill or other home equipment might seem expensive at first glance, but the cost goes down substantially when you divide by hundreds of workouts over a few years. More at Women’s Running.

Please watch a “hands only” CPR video today

Megan Roth started the Boston Marathon thinking that she might have a chance to improve her 2:44 PR. Instead, she suffered a cardiac arrest, falling hard to the road after about eight miles. A quick response from the spectator crowd and then her fellow runners probably saved her life. Such cardiac arrests are rare, as shown in a 2012 study from Boston Marathon co-medical director Aaron Baggish, but dangerous. They’re not caused by the cholesterol deposits that afflict older individuals but by underlying electrical issues. Every runner should review basic CPR. The life you save could be that of a fellow runner. Here, in a Boston Marathon video, Baggish and friends explain “Hands Only CPR,” which does not require mouth to mouth contact.

How Molly Seidel prepares for a marathon—by “just f___ing around”

Seidel, the U.S.’s latest marathon star, finished second in the 2020 Olympic Trials, third in the Tokyo Olympics, and is running New York City this weekend. She self-identifies as obsessive-compulsive in many ways and knows that she needs to counterbalance this as race-day pressures mount. So she gets silly to relieve the tension. More at Insider.

More frequent gel (carb) ingestion = improved performance

Many marathoners rely on carb-rich energy gels to get them through 26 miles, and recent research has suggested that more carb consumption can improve performance. Here, researchers looked at gel-taking frequency during a two-hour laboratory bike ride followed by a 15-minute time trial. The cyclists consumed a gel every 30 minutes or every 45 (which happened to be the schedule recommended by an unnamed gel company.) Both procedures proved consistently better than no carb-gel ingestion at all. The 30-minute ingestion schedule led to a 5-7 percent boost in the time trial distance. Conclusion: “The suggested ingestion schedule may be sufficient for exercise less than two hours, but more frequent ingestion [every 30 minutes] may benefit exercise events lasting longer than two hours. More at J of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Run better by directing your thoughts externally through “dissociation”

In a famous 1977 paper, researchers asked elite and non-elite marathoners: “What do you think about during a race?” The elites tended to monitor the body while non-elites thought about random, external stuff that was “dissociated” from their running body. One built a house in his head, one composed letters to friends, and one, I kid you not, stomped on the faces of “two imaginary co-workers she detested.” Newer studies, like those explored in a recent NYT story, have linked mental approaches to physical measures like oxygen uptake and RPE (relative perceived exertion). Here dissociative thinking appears the clear winner: You should direct your thoughts at something completely external to your running. Don’t count your strides or breathing rate. Instead, think about all the fantastic vacation destinations you’d like to visit someday. More at J of Motor Learning & Development.

SHORT STUFF you won’t want to miss

Ditch your watch and other gadgets to run better, feel better

High consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids linked to lower injury rates

New strength training technique, “offset loading” with unbalanced weights, could improve overall neurologic and metabolic strength.


“Running gives freedom. When you run you can determine your own tempo. You can choose your own course and think whatever you want. Nobody tells you what to do.” —Nina Kuscsik, the only woman to start the 1970 NYC Marathon. She didn’t finish that day, but she raced and won many other marathons.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Stay well, and see you next week.