Sunday 1 September 2013

Coburg Half Marathon Race Review

I had penciled the Coburg Half Marathon into my race calendar a while ago and had originally intended to use it as a training run leading up to the Melbourne Marathon. However, after the congestion that I encountered at Run Melbourne, I started seeing this race as a chance to smash out a new PB in the half category. Organised by the Coburg Harriers Athletic Club and run along the Merri Creek trail, this was an event that would draw no more than a hundred people and so offered a chance to tear up the track without fear of being impeded by slower runners ahead. Alas it was not to be so, and various issues which I had been experiencing in the weeks leading up to last Sunday, reared their ugly head on race day and meant that I recorded my first ever DNF, a very deflating experience.

Coburg Harriers Entry Sign
Back to the Coburg Harriers for the Coburg Half Marathon. Unfortunately it wasn't to be a happy return!
Coburg Harriers Half Marathon 2013 start
At the start line for the Coburg Half Marathon

So what happened? Let me start by explaining my pre race ailments. A couple of weeks before I had pulled up sore in my attempt at my longest training run to date. About 16km into a 32km run, after coming down a sharp hill, my right knee stiffened up to the point where I decided to stop to avoid possible injury. It was my ITB flaring up again. You see I am an overstrider which means I generally land on my heal and in front of my body. This puts enormous stress on the knee joint and the muscles that support it. On flat tracks I'm usually ok, but on rolling tracks my legs really struggle. When coming down hill, the stress on my knees is amplified because I run downhill in a very uncontrolled and, from the point of view of my legs, in a very violent manner. Its not a pretty sight!

Running in the Coburg Harriers Half Marathon
You can clearly see my overstride and heal strike as I run downhill.

This action was also causing soreness in my left quads and I could see that it would be extremely difficult to complete a marathon with this action. My running mate from work volunteered to video me so we could see my form in action and sure enough we could see the extreme overstriding and heal striking at work. It was as if I was bounding from one leg to another and you could also see my landing leg collapsing under my body through the gait cycle. It was time for a change in running form.

At this time I probably should have gone back to my friend Unna at Panacea Movement Medicine (see my article Why Runners Should See an Exercise Physiologist) right away and seeked the professional advice that I've recommended to other runners but instead I tried to remedy things myself using research on the internet. Evidently, this didn't quite work out and now I'm further behind where I wanted to be in terms of my running schedule.

Coburg Harriers Half Marathon 2013 Run Map
My run as tracked by Runtastic Pro.

I had started focusing on shortening my stride and increasing my cadence. This has the affect of causing your feet to land under the body and reduces overstriding. It worked for the first few kilometres of the Coburg Half Marathon, however as my legs and hips tired, I started reverting back to overstriding. At around the 10km mark, halfway through the course and on track for a PB, I came down the hill from the top of Coburg Lake Park. My heals were hitting the ground hard in front of me and soon after reaching the bottom of the hill my legs were feeling so sore in so many places that I decided to stop and avoid the possibility of injury. My calves were burning, my left quad was really sore and my right knee was starting to seize up again. My legs just could not take the violent assault that my bad running style had thrown at them.

Running in the Coburg Harriers Half Marathon
I thought I was running strong but you can see my legs collapsing under my body here. This was just before I had to stop.

Luckily the course is 2 laps and at the 10km mark I was only a short walk back to the finish at the Coburg Harriers club house. I trudged the few hundred metres back as people who had previously passed now passed me.

I was really bummed. I had never previously failed to finish a run, let along stop in a run. I made it across the finish line with an unused energy gel in my hands in a time of 51:06 which was still good enough to finish 7th in the 10.5km race. The half marathon turned out to be quite competitive in the male category. The winner did it in 1:21:29 and 19 out of 36 runners completed the course in under 1:40:00.

Coburg Harriers Half Marathon 2013 trophies
The trophies which went out to the place getters.

Afterwards I got myself home, applied some ice and started the recovery process. I paid a visit to Unna at Panacea Movement Medicine during the week and she gave me a whole set of new exercises to further strengthen my core and legs. The next few weeks will be critical. I'm still holding out hope that I will be able to run the Marathon but it will all depend on whether I can get my form right and avoid injury. No one said it would be easy, but the journey continues!

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