Comrades Marathon

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As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Just noticed that my short article about the 89-km Comrades Marathon in South Africa is now posted on the Canadian Running website. I happened to be there this year while doing some reporting for another story, and I have to say it was a pretty inspirational experience. It almost, maybe, sort of made me think I’d like to try an ultra-race someday. Maybe.

If you’re interested, Matt Leduc, the pride of Ajax, Ont., blogged about his preparations and experiences for this year’s race. However, you’ll have to look ahead to 2012: the entry deadline for the 2011 race closed on Nov. 30.

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Needless to say, Marathon Man had finished long before the 12-hour cut-off.

First day of track in Delhi

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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My report on the men’s 5000 metres, along with a few other notes from the first day of track and field action at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi (and a short video of England’s Chris Thompson, who finished fifth), is now available on the Canadian Running website. I’ll be posting occasional reports there, focusing on the distance events. I’ll also live-tweet some of the distance events (as I did for the 5,000 metres tonight) at @sweatscience.

Barefoot running and the difference between biomechanics and injury rate studies

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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I just noticed that a short article I wrote for Canadian Running‘s May/June issue is now available online. It’s my attempt to provide some context for the studies on barefoot running that made lots of (somewhat wild) headlines at the beginning of the year. It doesn’t offer any definitive conclusions, mainly because I don’t think such conclusions yet exist. My main point is the distinction between biomechanical studies and injury-rate studies. Everyone has been beating up on the shoe industry for years because it relies on the former rather than the latter — but that distinction is suddenly being “forgotten” now that biomechanical studies supporting barefoot running are appearing.

A short excerpt:

[…] There’s no doubt that thinking on footwear has evolved in the last decade or two. For instance, plush cushioning is no longer considered the ultimate defence against injury. “I wish running companies would stop rattling on about ‘gel’ and ‘air’ and so on,” says Simon Bartold, an Australian shoe researcher who consults for Asics. Newer shoes reflect this thinking, he says: Nike has introduced the Free, for example, and Asics has completely abandoned the concept of “motion control.” But rushing to the opposite extreme and claiming that runners of all shapes and sizes should give up shoes makes no sense either – and the new studies certainly don’t support this position. […]

CRM: The charity runners controversy

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

The March issue of Canadian Running magazine is on newsstands now (including my Science of Running column). It includes an interesting look by Kevin Mackinnon at the sometimes controversial topic of charity runners in big marathons. Mackinnon makes the case that charity runners are responsible for a major boom in road running participation that started in the late 1990s:

The development of large marathons in the 1980s saw the number of participants double over a 10-year period. A decade later participation had doubled again, which, according to many marathon experts, was because of the steady growth of charity running groups…

“It was the fall 1994 marathon debut by Oprah Winfrey that caused another ripple in marathon participation,” [Dave Watt, executive director of the American Running Association,] says. “… As the 90s came to a close, women’s participation numbers in the marathon had doubled from the late 80s. At the turn of the 21st century, the marathon added a new twist: the charity runner.”

Mackinnon also gives a brief nod to some of the criticism the charity runners have attracted, mentioning the Jean’s Marines scandal from 2006, and some more general complaints:

Critics say that the increased cost of taking care of charity runners – for example, having to keep race courses open longer for slower athletes – inevitably gets passed down to the rest of the competitors in the field. Since so many charity competitors tend to be beginners, more experienced runners complain that these rookies display a lack of runner’s etiquette. There’s also a feeling amongst more serious marathon competitors that the charity runners aren’t truly involved in the sport – once they achieve their goal, they move on to another challenge or simply stop running altogether.

To me, none of these criticisms hold any water. Having more runners at races is fantastic, and mobilizing people to raise money for charities is also fantastic. My only quibble, on a personal level, is when people use these programs to earn themselves free or subsidized trips to run races in exotic locations like the Caribbean — paid for, in effect, by the donations they’ve raised from friends. To me, if you want to visit New Orleans and run a race, the money to fund that trip shouldn’t come from the same hat that you’re passing around to solicit donations for a worthy cause. (Or least be honest and say, “Would you like to donate $20, $10 of which will go to cancer research and $10 of which go towards my plane ticket and hotel room.”)

To reiterate, I think these programs are a great idea for charities, because even if they have to allocate some money towards travel costs, they still end up with more money than if they just sent out a bunch of junk mail asking for donations. I’m just calling on individual runners to do their own accounting to make sure their personal contribution exceeds the benefits they’re taking. (And if you can’t afford to fly yourself to the Cayman Islands, run something a little closer to home.)

I know this can be a touchy topic — so please do let me know if you think I’m not being fair or if I’m missing the point.

Canadian Running magazine: Jan.-Feb. issue

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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A belated note that the Jan.-Feb. issue of Canadian Running magazine is on newsstands now. My top picks for this issue: a hilarious back-page essay by Canadian miling legend Harvey Mitro on runners’ obsession with stopping their watches, and an interesting piece by nutrionist Matthew Kadey on which foods it’s worth paying more for, and which you can skimp on. (For example, he argues in favour of dark poultry meat — a policy I’ve long advocated in order to save $1.19 at Swiss Chalet!)

And, of course, there’s my regular Science of Running column, tackling hyponatremia, deep-water pool-running, “dynamic compression” technology, and other topics.