Champ: Bermuda runner Chris Estwanik won last year’s May 24th men’s race. *File photo by Ras Mykkal
Champ: Bermuda runner Chris Estwanik won last year’s May 24th men’s race. *File photo by Ras Mykkal

I have run the May 24th Half Marathon Derby three times now and can say it is the best event that I’ve had the pleasure of participating in.

It’s a hard slog but the support from start to finish is amazing and the atmosphere is second to none. There is no better feeling than crossing that finish line after 13.1 miles and I would truly recommend the race to anyone just for that sense of accomplishment at the end. A half marathon is a great distance as it is long enough to feel challenged but not so long that the training consumes your life.

The main complaint about the half marathon is the weather. People say it is too hot and too humid. I am a firm believer that if you fail to prepare then you should prepare to fail! If you have been preparing properly on the roads of Bermuda then you will become accustomed to the heat come May 24. As you get nearer to that all important date, you will be clocking up the miles in temperatures similar to those you’ll experience on race day. This is the cardinal rule of specificity which means the most effective training mimics the event you are running in.

In order to run a half marathon competently you need to give yourself at least an 8 to 10 week training window. It takes this long for your body to physiologically adapt and become conditioned to running such a distance. The main problem I have found with runners is the pain they experience and injuries they pick up during training. In my career, I have trained rugby players, martial artists and even boxers but I have never found a sport to be more injury prone than running. The main complaints are the ankles, knees and hips.

The problem is runners tend to be more focused on mileage rather than biomechanical movement. Although mileage is very important to be able to sustain running long distances, strength and mobility are hugely overlooked. Most people who partake in running can be commonly described as ‘weekend warriors’ where they spend most of the week sitting behind a desk then spend their spare time pounding the roads.

Body alignment

Poor body alignment and faulty mechanics derive from a sedentary work life and cause joint restrictions and dysfunctional movement patterns. I am not against running in the slightest but I do feel we can all improve performance by conditioning ourselves for such a high impact activity.

Running is performed 85 per cent on one leg and our body predominately moves in a rotational plane of movement.

If you observed a runner from a birds-eye view you would see how much that person is actually twisting. In addition, our heel strikes the floor with a force of up to seven times our own body weight.

Running can then be described as series of twisting one-legged squats at speed with up to seven times our own body weight. It’s no wonder runners pick up injuries.

Every time our foot hits the floor, force travels through the ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, spine, shoulder and skull.

This impact force needs to be dissipated through our muscles and fascia before it gets to the brain in order to protect it.

Therefore the body will do anything to ensure this force is absorbed from the foot upwards. This transfer of energy is known as the kinetic chain and any restriction in the kinetic chain will inhibit movement in one or more of the joints. If we repeat this faulty movement thousands upon thousands of times every time we go running then it is easy to see how weakness and restriction manifests throughout the body.

We then need to re-educate movement around the ankles, knees, hip, spine and shoulder in order to improve our mechanics during running otherwise we will keep picking up injuries and experiencing pain. Running should be fun and enjoyable. These basic guidelines will help make that happen:

  • Mobilize the ankle, knee and hip joints prior to running. Seek out a fitness professional who can demonstrate how to perform these drills correctly.
  • When running, place the head in a neutral position without looking up or down. Focus on looking at the horizon and relax the neck and facial muscles.
  • Maintain a slight lean forward from the hips. Too much of a forward lean will cause a shortened stride. Keep the hips forward by imagining being pulled with a rope tied around your waist.
  • Decrease heel striking and emphasize mid-foot striking to minimize impact forces on the lower body. To do this, aim for 90 strides per minute (counted on one leg) and plant your foot as close to under the body and the centre of gravity as possible.
  • Limit bouncing. It is a waste of energy. Run forward rather than up and down.

Colin Ayliffe will be directing his popular Run Strong programme for all those wanting to run the May 24 Half Marathon. It is an eight-week training camp designed to get you in the best shape possible for the race. Investment starts from $250 for the 16-sessions. Contact Colin directly at cayliffe@courthouse.bm to book on the course or if you have further questions. Places are limited. Runs from Monday, March 25 through to Thursday, May 16. Runs commence every Monday and Thursday from 5:30pm onwards.