Over the past couple of years, I’ve figured out ways to run fast downhill half marathons, without doing specific half marathon/full marathon…actually anything over 1500m type training. I believe these downhill courses favor leg speed over fitness. Getting to the start line with legs primed to roll is the key factor to having a great race!
Many of my patients present to my clinic weeks before their downhill race over trained, and injured. Prior to their initial consult, they have already missed weeks of training, and are stressed that they won’t set a new PR.
Shockwave Therapy has worked wonders for getting most of these runners healthy just in time to toe the line. However, for many, despite being physically healthy, they show up at the race mentally defeated from missed training.
The month leading up to the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, I had to cut my mileage and intensity due to a mild case of plantar fasciitis. I was running 30-40 miles per week, and mountain biking on average 90 minutes a day. I took an entire week off from running, followed by easy trail running. Needless to say, this wasn’t your standard half marathon build up.
So how did I manage a new PR at the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon? Below are a few tips that I would encourage anyone running a downhill race to incorporate into their build up.
(Please note: this advice is coming from an athlete/doctor prospective, and not a coaching perspective)
Sprint work will improve your mechanics, and help with downhill turnover. I believe some runners struggle with steep downhill grades because they aren’t comfortable with running fast. Speed requires coordination. Your first few sprint workouts might feel uncomfortable, but after building tolerance and better mechanics, you will start looking forward to them.
Running downhill should always feel relaxed, otherwise you are just slowing yourself down. I tried jogging down Big Cottonwood Canyon this summer, and my body felt far more damaged than it did today while hitting top speeds. This is because jogging downhill does not allow my legs to turnover at their natural speed. Gravity is the best performance enhancer your can have in a distance race. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of it.
I prefer to focus on mechanics, increase my turnover on steeper sections, stay relaxed on sections where the course flattens out (or on the dreaded uphill sections that these downhill race directors fail to mention), and check in with how my body feels. I always anticipate and visualize a new PR as I’m running, rather than having a watch provide negative or positive feedback along the way. This keeps me excited and motivated.
I highly recommend yoga classes that incorporate dynamic stretching into their flow. In the two days leading up the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, I attended a power yoga class at Salt Lake Power Yoga, and then a faster paced, more dynamic flow at SEEK Studio. My muscles didn’t feel overstretched after these classes. Rather my legs felt light and springy.
Even if you’ve never attended a yoga class before, in the weeks leading up to your race, I would recommend giving both of these studios a try.