Monday, July 20, 2009

Downhill Running

As the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon approaches I find myself starting to fret over some of the important details, things like:
  • Where will I park?
  • What will they be serving for the post race spread?
  • How should I handle the downhill course?
  • What if it’s really hot that morning?
  • Should the timing chip go on my right or left shoe? - (This is a trick question. Everyone knows that the timing chip always, ALWAYS goes on the right shoe.)
  • What shirt should I wear?
  • Should I wear a hat?
  • Compression shirt or band-aids to protect the nipples? Or both?

Of course all of those questions are important but the one that has been weighing on my mind the most is the issue of post race food. Is it going to be the same dry bagel and bananas that they had last year or will they upgrade to something better? Since there’s not much I can do to affect the post race spread (you can only e-mail pictures of bacon to the race director so many times before you get added to the junk mail senders list), I’m going to focus on something I can affect; learning how to run a race that is mostly downhill. As with any major life decision the best people to ask for advice on such topics are anonymous internet commenters, which is why I seek y’all’s counsel on this.

Last year I failed miserably at downhill running and had to slow way down at the end of the race. You can read the race report and see the splits here if you’re into reading about other people’s pain. Basically I think there are two strategies when it comes to running downhill. 1) Apply the brakes and control your pace and 2) give in to gravity and let yourself go. Last year I opted for number two because it felt so good (for 10 miles) and if Sheryl Crow has taught me anything it’s that if it makes me happy it can’t be that bad, right? Wrong! If it makes you happy, it’s probably only temporary and then the pain and leg cramps start, but that’s a little too wordy for song lyrics so I can see why Ms. Crow went with what she had there.

Anyway due to last years catastrophe, I’m obviously giving serious consideration to reigning in my pace a little more during the early miles of this race and trying to remain controlled on the hills, but in the interest of analyzing my running ad nauseam how should I do that? Run with a vertical posture? Slightly forwards or backwards lean? Gangsta’ lean? Chin up or down? Longer stride or shorter stride? Land on my heels or my midfoot? Hat on forwards or backwards? I just don’t know, which is why you’re here. Let me hear in the comments what you’ve heard or what you know about downhill running so that I can ignore you and do it my own way anyway. It will make it that much sweeter for you when you can tell me “I told you so,” after I fail again this year. Positive thinking, schmositive thinking!


  1. Can I vote for gangsta lean??

    I mean, anything EXCEPT sheryl crow will probably work. Seriously... sheryl crow?


  2. Why not just lie down and roll down the hills? Kids sure seem to have fun when they're doing it, and there's no impact (I guess it's all impact). I figure asphalt can't be all that different from grass, right?

  3. Isn't there a 10k you can drop down to? Oh, wait, that's RazZ's thing.

  4. Hey I'm running that race too and I have absolutely no advice for you because my strategy is to just run 'til I drop. I will try to bring my boobs, however.

  5. Carry a backpack full of bricks for the first half. Shed said backpack of bricks in the second half.

    You're welcome. That will be $50.

  6. Is backwards downhill running the equivalent to normal running? Because that would be my vote. While gorilla-suited? Just another thought.

  7. Bit late to follow their training advice, but I just came across this article from RW last weekend and have been trying it out - kind of scary but effective.,7120,s6-238-263-264-13100-0,00.html

  8. This one's easy: Carry a big piece of cardboard with you and toboggan down the hills.

  9. Much like iPod banning isn't really enforced, think they'd frown on a skateboard? It's worth a shot.

  10. If it makes you happy, it’s probably only temporary and then the pain and leg cramps start, but that’s a little too wordy for song lyrics

    Well, Dylan had a million-seller with "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With Teh Memphis Blues Again", which, itself as a song, went on for like over 7 minutes, so maybe you're onto something with this long title thing except for two things:

    1) "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With Teh Memphis Blues Again" never sold a million copies so whoever told you it did was an effin liar;

    2) Matt Dillon? A singer? I don't THINK so! I think that whole song is made up!

    Hope this helps with your running strategy.

    If not, there's always the Pink Floyd strategy:

    Run Like Hell.

    Ever think of that?

  11. I vote for rolling down the hill.

  12. Jess's suggestion is excellent. Other than that, I'd say just take big bounding leaps down the hill. You'll look like a flying drunk fairy. It'll be awesome.

  13. let the big G carry you as you run way faster than you should be able to...then crawl when everything fails.

  14. I totally agree with Xenia. Who doesn't want to look like that!? If all else fails, just do like I do when things get hard - tuck and roll.

  15. Do they let you run the coarse from finish to start? That way you're running uphill the entire time. Wait, that sounds way more painful. Nevermind. Get Heelies.

  16. I say learn to deal with the pain and give in to gravity again.

    Good luck.

  17. Why don't you try doing the Grapevine the whole way? That should keep you in check.

    But then, I'm a Downhill Whore; I'd get naked and give it all I got, fast and furious, aches, cramps and 13.1 be damned. For God's sake, it's downhill. (why, oh why did I pick Wild West Relay over GTIS?! sob)

  18. My downhill strategy: lean back a little bit to avoid speeding up and let gravity do all the work. Not sure if that translates into a 13.1 mile strategy, but that's what I've got.

    If that doesn't look like it'll work then revert to the gansta pose.

  19. There are several downhill techniques but which one is best, usually amounts to experience.

    The first thing I would do is to strengthen your legs and your core, expecially since form is more important in downhill running.

    I don't stay at Holiday Inn Express, but you might consider keeping your body straight (versus leaning forward or leaning back). If you can, keep your normal stride length, but don't pull your feet as high as you normally would. I'll probably do a post on this over at the Mixture.

  20. My chip is usually on my left shoe, I think. I should try to notice this next time!


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