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Long Distance Running

Long distance covers the 5 kilometre, 10 kilometre, half marathon and marathon events. Comparing past and present world record holders it would appear that athletes in these events would reach their peak at the following ages:

  • 5 km - Male 27 and Female 29
  • 10 km - Male 29 and Female 31
  • Marathon - Male and Female between 31 and 37

Running Technique

Guidance on the running technique of the long distance runner is provided in the form of a series of pictures and associated notes that highlight the main technical points.

Running technique fig 1
The foot strikes the ground below the centre of gravity (which is around the central area of the hips) The strike is slightly on the outside of the heel of the foot and the forward movement is then down the outside of the sole onto the ball of the foot. The leg's role is supporting and driving.
Running technique fig 2
As the foot strikes the ground there is also some flexion in the knee. This should not be too excessive so leg strength must be developed to ensure stability in and around the knee. There is also some movement around the hip girdle. This can be excessive, so strength exercises for the whole region, especially abdominal and lower back are required. It is very important that this region is kept stable thus giving a strong platform from which to drive.
Running technique fig 3
As the torso moves ahead of the foot, the drive is initiated and the achilles and calf are placed under great stress. It is therefore important that stretching and strengthening of this area is incorporated into training. Muscle fibres in the calf respond to a reflex action as they are placed in near full stretch and contract quickly, thus apparently straightening the foot, forcing the athlete back up higher on their fore-foot. (This makes the foot a further lever, often forgotten by many runners). The foot "grips" the ground as the torso moves ahead, forcing the leg into full extension. Once again, strength and flexibility of the hamstrings are important.
Running technique fig 4
After the athlete has reached almost full stretch, a reflex action occurs in the muscle fibres of the hamstring, quickly shortening it and pulling the foot up off the ground. This allows the whole of the limb to swing back a bit further. Hip mobility and the ability to stretch the quads at the front of the leg are also vitally important.
Running technique fig 5
The upper part of the leg is drawn forward by the action of the quads and hip flexors beginning to shorten. The foot continues on an upward curve with the help of the contracting hamstring and the hinge effect of the knee joint. It swings into the gluteus maximus (backside) so shortening the lever and making it easier to bring forwards.
Running technique fig 6
The thigh continues forward and then swings upwards, the head of the foot drops from its high point and accelerates downwards and forwards. The knee reaches its high point, which is not quite as high as that of a sprinter (i.e. at an angle of around 90 degrees to the rear leg).
Running technique fig 7
The foot ends its swing through at a point just ahead of the knee. The leg maintains a slight angle at the knee (the leg is not straight). Having reached its high point the thigh starts a downward swing; this initiates an acceleration of the foot backwards.
Running technique fig 8
The foot once again strikes the floor in a backward motion, adding to the athlete's forward motion.

Training Programs

A training program has to be developed to meet the individual needs of the athlete and take into consideration many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. As all athletes have different needs a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible.

Training Pathway

Pyramid

Athletes in the Event Group stage

The following is a basic annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event Group development stage:

Athletes in the Event stage

The following are event specific annual training programs suitable for athletes in the Event development stage:

Evaluation Tests

The following evaluation tests can be used to monitor the long distance athlete's development:

Endurance Time Predictors

Based on test results it is possible to predict potential times for a long distance event. The available long distance time predictors are:

Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event can be obtained from:

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Long Distance Running [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/longdist/index.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page:

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

  • How to Teach Track Events, M. Arnold