The 10 most beautiful marathons

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Marathon is the supreme discipline of long-distance running. They are not only attractive for top athletes, but also for hobby runners. The choice of events is almost endless. So which marathons are the most breathtakingly beautiful ones? We have put together our top 10.

Jungfrau-Marathon

With its 1,829 meters of altitude (of which approx. 1,500 meters only start from kilometer 25), the Jungfrau-Marathon, might not be a marathon for beginners. The finish is at 2,320 meters above sea level. This means that – after you have already run 25km on flat terrain –  the actual showdown only really begins with the remaining 1,500 meters of altitude difference in ever thinner air. It is therefore important to divide up your forces well so that you don’t experience any nasty surprises at the end. But the long ascent is definitely worth it and the view is truly magnificent.

Image: sbb.ch

Website: https://www.jungfrau-marathon.ch/en/

Country: Switzerland

Month: September

Course records: 2:49:02 (Jonathan Wyatt, 2003), 3:12.56 (Maude Mathys, 2017)

Number of participants: Record at 8,572

 

Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon

The exceptional thing about this race is certainly the midnight sun, which gives it a unique atmosphere – granted that the weather plays along, of course. The combination of snow-covered mountain peaks and the sea is also very special. The course runs almost exclusively along the sea and is therefore much flatter than that of the Jungfrau-Marathon. On this course it is therefore much easier to achieve a good marathon time.

Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon

Image: msm.no

Website: https://www.msm.no/en/

Land: Norway

Month: June

Course records: 2:20:31 (Ebrahim Abdulaziz, 2019), 2:38:22 (Brynhild Synstnes, 2019)

Number of participants 2019: 1,022

 

Queenstown International Marathon

Although, for most people, New Zealand doesn not exactly lie around the corner, this running experience is definitely worth the trip. Queenstown is located in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. On the course you will pass several smaller lakes in an idyllic landscape consisting of mountains, meadows and forest. The last 10 kilometers lead along the famous Lake Wakatipu to the center of Queenstown. This marathon is a relatively “pleasant” run with its approx. 330 m altitude, the alternating surface (tar and gravel path) and the moderate climate. According to the motto of the relaxed New Zealanders: Stay relaxed and enjoy!

Queenstown International Marathon

Image: queenstown-marathon.co.nz

Website: www.queenstown-marathon.co.nz

Country: New Zealand

Month: November

Course records: 2:23:56 (Samuel Wreford, 2017), 2:52:21 (Hannah Oldroyd, 2017)

Number of participants: 11,062 (so far registered for 2019)

 

Big Sur International Marathon

This marathon follows the Californian coast from Big Sur to Carmel (between Los Angeles and San Francisco). From Big Sur Station, 108m above sea level, the route goes 665m uphill and 770m downhill, so that in Carmel you almost reach sea level (3m above sea level). The endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the beaches, cliffs and gentle hills make this marathon a wonderful experience.

Big Sur International Marathon

Image: bigsurmarathon.com

Website: www.bigsurmarathon.com

Country: USA

Month: April

Course records: 2:16:39 (Brad Hawthorne, 1987), 2:41:45 (Svetlana Vasilyeva , 1996)

Number of participants 2018: 3,291

 

Great Wall Marathon

The Great Wall Marathon is truly an extraordinary marathon and certainly one of the most demanding. Most of the course is directly on the iconic Great Wall of China! There are several meters of altitude to climb, many of them in the form of stairs. The gradient of the course is up to 10% in some places. Thus, it is not for those aiming for a fast marathon time. However, this run not only offers amazing sceneries, but also an unforgettable cultural experience.

Great Wall Marathon

Image: great-wall-marathon.com

Website: www.great-wall-marathon.com

Country: China

Month: April

Course records: 3:09:18 (Jorge Maravilla, 2013), 3:32:12 (Siliva Serafini, 2013)

Number of participants 2019: 645

 

Patagonian International Marathon

The event takes place at the southern tip of the South American continent in western Patagonia, east of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (the largest glacier area in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica) and south of Torres del Paine National Park. The landscape is hilly, quite rough and adventurous and will surely be remembered for a long time.

Patagonian International Marathon

Image: patagonianinternationalmarathon.com

Website: www.patagonianinternationalmarathon.com

Country: Chile

Month: September

Course records: 2:57:36 (Luke Meyer, 2012), 3:30:29 (Inez-Anne Hagen, 2018)

Number of participants 2018: 148

 

Virgin Money London Marathon

If you prefer to a real classic among the marathons, the London Marathon is the right place for you. It doesn’t offer spectacular natural scenery, but a city sightseeing along several landmarks of the British capital. For this day, it seems that the entire population of London is in the streets to cheer on the many runners. The London Marathon is not only popular among hobby runners, is also an absolute favorite among the world’s top runners, as it is considered to be the fastest marathon in the world. Both the women’s and men’s world records were run here.

Virgin Money London Marathon

Image: Derby Telegraph

Website: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

Country: Great Britain

Month: April

Course records: 2:02:37 (Eliud Kipchoge, 2019), 2:15:25 (Paula Radcliffe, 2003)

Number of participants 2019: 41,906

 

Mt. Fuji International Marathon 

The Mt. Fuji International Marathon is another jewel among the marathons. The race takes place in autumn, which means that it is relatively cool on the one hand, but at the same time the leaves on the trees have turned mesmerizing shades of red and gold. In combination with the white summit of Mt. Fuji in the background and the water of the two lakes you run around, you get an absolutely stunning landscape.

Mt. Fuji International Marathon 

Image: Spacebib.com

Website: https://fujisan-marathon.jp/english/

Country: Japan

Month: November

Course records: 2:21:36 (Yusuke Kodama, 2018), 2:39:47 (Tomomi Sawahata, 2018)

 

Kilimanjaro Marathon

The event takes place in Moshi, the largest city near Kilimanjaro, which lies about 800m above sea level. The route leads through parts of the city, many small farms and villages, banana and coffee plantations and forest areas, to the great delight of the local people who cheer the runners on. The highest freestanding mountain in the world dominates the whole area in the background with its presence.

Kilimanjaro Marathon

Image: World’s Marathons

Website: https://www.kilimanjaromarathon.com/

Country: Tansania

Month: Late February/ Early March

Course records: 2:13:50 (David Kiprono, 2012), 2:38:03 (Alice Kibor, 2016)

Number of participants 2018: 614

 

Petra Desert Marathon

The Petra Desert Marathon is a challenging adventure marathon in a beautiful desert region of the Jordan River. The race starts in an ancient city called Petra, from where the route leads around the city. The landscape consists of stone mountains, sand and bushes and the heat demands a lot of stamina from the participants. But the unique nature experience is definitely worth the sweat.

Petra Desert Marathon

Image: hdsports.at

Website: https://petra-desert-marathon.com/

Country: Jordan

Month: September

Course records: 3:15:03 (Salameh Abdel Karim Al Aqra, 2009), 3:43:25 (Inez-Anne Haagen, 2015)

Number of participants 2018: 121

 

We would like to emphasize that this list is subjective, and it was very difficult for us to make a selection. If you would like to add other marathons to the list, you are welcome to tell us in the comment field below. 😉

 

Article by: Marion Aebi

Running training at altitude

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Stimulated blood formation, but decreasing muscular performance – training at altitude can be quite the balancing act. Find the most important tips below.

 

Author: PD Dr. med. Christoph Dehnert, Specialist in General Internal Medicine and Cardiology FMH, Sports Medicine DGSP, Medbase Sports Medical Center Zurich

 

What goal do I want to achieve? This question stands at the beginning of any altitude training. Because altitude training has various faces: Is it about preparing for a competition in the mountains, for example an alpine marathon? Or should altitude training provide training incentives to increase performance in the lowlands? Depending on the goal, different aspects are important.

If your goal is to achieve the optimum performance in an alpine race, you have to acclimatize as much as possible to the corresponding altitude. To do this, you should have trained at altitude before the race, according to the motto “Train high – live high”, i.e. “Train at altitude and live at altitude”. This type of altitude training is – in the truest sense of the word – a tightrope walk: the danger of overtraining is much greater than in the lowlands. In order not to get exhausted, you have to reduce the usual training intensity and train more slowly than usual. The catch: the muscular performance adapts quickly – and consequently decreases in height. One way out of this dilemma could be to spread the acclimatization over several short episodes of three or four days each. So, for a few days you have to train regularly at altitude, but in between you need to train in the lowlands repeatedly.

Because the air is “thinner” at altitude, the red blood cells take up less oxygen than usual. In order to improve the oxygen supply to the organs, the body first eliminates blood plasma and “thickens” the blood. In addition, the heart pumps faster and thus increases the volume of blood pumped per minute. However, there is no rule of thumb how much faster the pulse beats in the mountains. Therefore, the training levels from a performance diagnosis carried out in the lowlands cannot simply be transferred up in altitude. Also, the subjective assessment of the training intensity is often far off, especially when experience with training at altitude is missing. The best way to transfer this assessment to altitude is by looking at the respiration. As in the lowlands, during basic endurance training, one should be able to talk in short sentences while running. If you want to have a clearer picture of your performance, however, you cannot avoid performance diagnostics at altitude. Still, this is usually difficult to achieve.

While studies clearly prove that altitude training before a competition at altitude improves the performance there, the data situation is not too clear as far as altitude training for the purpose of increasing performance in the lowlands is concerned. The mechanisms of altitude training to improve performance in lowlands are not yet completely clear. Nonetheless, it is considered certain that the blood formation stimulated by the lack of oxygen at altitude has a performance-enhancing effect. However, this process only begins after two to three weeks of continuously staying over 2000 to 2500 meters. During this time, however, the muscular performance decreases due to the lower training intensities at altitude.

In competitive sports, therefore, two forms of altitude training have become established in recent years: firstly, the concept of “sleep high – train low”, i.e. sleeping at altitude to take advantage of the positive effects of oxygen deficiency on hematopoiesis, but training as usual in the lowlands so as not to have to reduce training intensities. And secondly, to shift the high-intensity training up to a considerable altitude in order to exert an additional stimulus. However, these two logical concepts do not always lead to an increase in performance. There are substantial individual differences here.

If at all, altitude training to improve performance in the lowlands is therefore only useful for top athletes who have exhausted their training in the lowlands to the maximum. But even with them it is controversial whether it really brings the hoped-for benefit. Amateur athletes have rarely optimized everything in terms of training. For the best possible result at the peak of the season (assuming the competition takes place in the lowlands), they probably benefit more from training optimization than from altitude training.

Those who nevertheless decide in favor of an altitude training camp should bear in mind that experience has shown that the maximum performance can only be expected about two weeks later. But here, too, everyone has to make their own experiences.

Tips

  • Staying at height acts as a stress factor for the body. For example, it takes about ten to fourteen days for the body to acclimatize to an altitude of 2000 to 2500 metres.
  • If you want to prepare seriously for an alpine competition, it is best to keep a training diary and train regularly at altitude.
  • When it comes to systematic preparation, the ultimate for a competition at altitude is an experienced trainer and/or performance diagnostics at altitude. However, this is expensive and there are very few providers.
  • If the time before an alpine run is not enough for a good high-altitude training, you should train at least a few times at altitude to gain experience.
  • If you don’t have the possibility to do so, it is best to arrive immediately before the competition. The performance at altitude is best in the first hours (maximum on the first day) after arrival. After that it decreases.
  • Training at simulated altitude only makes sense if specific training is possible.

 

Translated by: Denise Kaufmann

 

The limits of the human endurance performance: is it all in your head?

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There are limits to the human endurance. But what role does our brain play in it? As Alex Hutchinson, a Canadian scientist and journalist for renowned American magazines, will tell us in this interview: a big one!

Alex Hutchinson is himself an experienced runner and regularly publishes articles in the well-known endurance magazine Outside (after several years of writing for Runner’s World), where he covers a wide range of topics in the field of endurance sports. In his book Endure, he looks into the limits of human endurance performance and investigates influencing factors. According to Hutchinson, the role which our brain has in this is underestimated, while it is actually able to influence our performance considerably. We wanted to know how…

You write in your book that the limiting factor on our performance is not physical or mechanical, but pyschological. Do you mean by that that mental barriers prevent us from unravelling our full potential?

That’s a fair summary of what I wrote in Endure, but it’s maybe worth clarifying what I mean. To say that the limits are psychological doesn’t mean there are no physical or mechanical constraints and you can just “decide” to do whatever you want! It’s more subtle than that.

Imagine you’re running a 10K race. Is there any point during the race where, if someone pointed a gun at your head, you wouldn’t be able to accelerate? Maybe very close to the finish, but otherwise you’re always pacing yourself. If so, what is the physical or mechanical “limit” that’s holding you back during the first 9.9K? If often feels like you can’t go faster, but that’s because you know from experience that you shouldn’t go too fast early in a 10K or you’ll pay the price. So when you put it that way, I think pretty much everyone would agree that the limits to endurance are in some sense psychological. Who among us can really claim that their race execution was so perfect that they were right at the limit of their sustainable pace for every metre of the race?

Whether our body’s “full potential” really is a lot greater than we know is another tough question, but we’ll get into that below!

What exactly is the process in our brains tricking us into thinking we can’t go faster and how did you find out about this?

Nobody really knows the final answers at this point, but in the 1990s a scientist named Tim Noakes proposed that our brains act as what he called a “central governor” that prevents us from pushing to our true physical limits, presumably to protect us from serious damage. Since then there has been lots of scientific debate over how and why this might happen, and whether it’s really true.

The current theory that I find most convincing is that we’re guided by our subjective perception of effort. All the physiological signals we hear about—core temperature, lactate levels, heart rate, and so on—contribute to our general sense of how much effort it takes to continue. When that effort level gets too high relative to what we think we can sustain to the finish, we slow down. This is why on a hot day, we slow down very early in the race, long before we’re actually overheating: we’re responding not to the actual temperature, but to the perception of effort that is affected by the temperature.

How can we try and counteract this and learn where our actual limits are?

I think the question of “actual limits” will always remain hypothetical. There’s no such thing as the perfect race. So it’s more a question of learning to fight against our brain’s desire to slow down, so that we can get a little bit closer to a goal that we’ll never reach.

To some extent, I think just knowing the role of the brain in setting our apparent limits can help. In the middle of a race, if you feel that you’re slowing down, you might blame this on elevated lactate levels or something. If that’s what you think, then there’s nothing you can do but accept the slowdown, because it’s an unavoidable physical truth. But if you believe that you’re slowing down because the elevated lactate levels are making the race feel harder, then maybe this helps encourage you to keep fighting.

More generally, I think the type of positive mindset exhibited by runners like Eliud Kipchoge can make a difference, helping to alter your perception of effort. There’s been some fascinating research demonstrating this over the last few years.

So, are you saying that we can somehow “battle” the lactic acid?

You can’t use your mind to change your lactate levels. But perhaps you can change how you respond to those lactate levels. The thing to remember is that during a race or workout, we’re almost never running at a true “10 out of 10” effort. It would be physically impossible to run like that all time. Instead, we’re always trying to sustain a lower effort that gradually increases so we only hit 10 at the end of the race.

Maybe you’re at 8 halfway through the race, and then rising lactate levels make it feel more like 8.5. But maybe that subjective assessment of 8.5 is partly because you haven’t done a lot of anaerobic training this season, so it’s an unfamiliar sensation and you’re overreacting to how it feels. If you’re able to mentally reframe that feeling of lactate in the legs, perhaps your subjective assessment of effort goes back down to 8.3, and you’re able to sustain a slightly quicker pace to the finish.

Of course, no one actually calculates these numbers midrace! I’m just trying to illustrate what sort of calculations you’re constantly making, without even being aware of it, when you race.

How big an effect do you think it has on the performance of people if they get rid of those mental limits? For example, how much faster do you think the marathon World record could be in the future?

To be honest, I suspect the potential improvements are biggest for recreational athletes, and smallest for elite world-class athletes. One of the traits that enables an athlete to reach the top is the ability to push through discomfort. That said, I do think that even the best athletes can sometimes reach another level. When Eliud Kipchoge ran his 2:01:39 world record last year, I think that performance was partly enabled by the confidence he got from running 2:00:25 under artificial conditions at the Breaking2 race the year before. It changed his perception of what was possible, freeing him up to be aggressive in the second half of the world-record race.

Although professional sports people have experience in trying to get as close to their limit as possible, they still have to learn and relearn every season. There’s some great data showing pain tolerance increases in elite swimmers over the course of a season, maxing out as they approach their goal race. It takes constant practice to suffer well.

Does it work only for endurance sports or also for others?

As a rule of thumb, I’d say the longer the event, the greater the role of the mind. But there are some great experiments showing that mental factors do a play a role even in short bursts of activity. There was one famous study from the 1960s where researchers snuck up behind their subjects and fired a starter’s pistol in their ear right before they did a maximal lift. The fear boosted their strength by 7 or 8 percent!

We hope that some of the thinks Alex mentioned here will also help you to improve your performance in the future!

 “The difference only is thinking. You think it’s impossible. I think it’s possible.” – Eliud Kipchoge before he ran his World record in Berlin

 

Photo: Florence Tsui

Alex Hutchinson is a science journalist who specialises in writing about endurance sports for Outside Magazine and other publications, and he is the author of the New York Times bestseller Endure. In his own running career, Alex ran for the Canadian national team as middle-distance and cross-country runner. His best times were 3:42 (1500m), 8:00 (3000m), and 13:52 (5000m). These days, Alex still runs most days and competes occasionally in road and cross-country races.

 

 

 

 

Edited by: Marion Aebi

Running according to heart rate or pace?

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Time and time again the question arises as to which method is best suited for intensity control in training: Pace, heart rate or instinct? We discussed this complex topic with sports scientist and lecturer (e.g. for athletics and endurance training) at the Institute of Sports Science at the University of Bern, Roland Schütz.

Basically, endurance training is about wanting to complete your units in certain intensity ranges. Sometimes the goal of training is to push yourself to your limits, while other times you consciously do a more relaxed training. But what is the most suitable method for monitoring this intensity? Some people think that this is easiest with the heart rates, while others prefer to orient themselves towards the speed and again others rely entirely on their gut instinct. In this interview, we aim to explain why the different methods are difficult to compare and when which method might make more sense.

How can the heart rate and tempo values for the different intensity ranges be determined?

For both methods, the intensity ranges must first be determined individually. The main goal is to determine the anaerobic threshold (when the body can no longer break down the lactate produced in muscles, cells and blood quickly enough and it starts to accumulate). This threshold can be determined by specific tests. There are several variants. The most common are the lactate level test and the Conconi test. The lactate level test measures your heart rate values and the amount of lactate in your blood as your intensity levels increase, which can be used to determine your anaerobic threshold heart rate and speed (corresponding to the limit between intensity zones 4 and 5), your maximum pace and the heart rate and speed zones for the intensity ranges 1-5. In the Conconi test, you run a certain distance (25m, preferably on a 400m track) several times in a row, increasing the pace slightly each time. Here, too, you run until you are completely exhausted. The heart rate curve can be used to estimate the anaerobic threshold and thus determine the heart rate and velocity rates for certain intensity ranges (however, the lactate level test provides more accurate results). For an estimation of the threshold pace (not the heart rate!), a 30′-tempo run or a maximum 30-minute competition on a flat track is sufficient. The average pace of the run is a good estimate value for the anaerobic threshold.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of intensity control according to heart rate?

Advantages: Heart rate control is particularly suitable for zones 1-4, where the heart rate increases linearly with increasing intensity and a relatively wide heart rate range can easily be assigned to a certain intensity range. The heart rate also tells me in hilly terrain or in headwinds whether I am loading in the desired intensity range. The estimation of training loads on varied routes is thus possible.

Disadvantages: Interval trainings in zone 5 can hardly be controlled with heart rate, because the heart rate always lags a moment behind the load (the shorter the loads, the more difficult). In addition, the HR is always in the range of HRmax anyway at the end of interval training in zone 5.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of intensity control according to pace?

Advantages: A speed control makes sense if you want to determine your position (i.e. like saying: “today it was easy for me to run at this speed”). If you train for a certain competition goal (e.g. half marathon under 1h 30min), you can set clear speed targets for the intensive training on a flat course. During interval trainings (zone 4 and 5) you can set clear speed targets, or at least you can check whether the speed can be maintained up to the last load. This way you learn how to ration your energy.

Disadvantages: The intensity control with speed only works with a standardized lap, so that I can compare my run time, or on a flat course. On flat tracks I need a GPS clock or measured track markings. The accuracy of GPS watches for me is not yet beyond all doubt. The displayed instantaneous speed is often not correct (with my not quite cheap watch, deviations of up to 50 seconds per kilometer at constant pace are not uncommon…). On the other hand, average speeds over longer distances are quite good. Running by pace can also tempt you to try to set a record on your laps every time or to get a certain average mileage (even if you are in bad shape or in unfavourable conditions). This can tend to lead to too high intensity even for basic training.

The issue with the flat track also applies to heart rate control. Do I have to slow down the pace uphill so that the heart rate does not leave the desired intensity zone, or can I compensate with a below-average heart rate downhill?

If you want to stay in the intended intensity zone, you have to slow down and possibly even march. Uphill you are quickly in zone 3. This has to be considered when planning your training (consciously plan the basic training on hilly or flat tracks). Compensation is not possible. The average heart rate of a training on a hilly track doesn’t really say anything. Otherwise you could also compensate a tough interval training by the low heart rate in the breaks and when running out and it would suddenly only be a medium hard training. But that’s not going to give you accurate results.

BY THE WAY: In our running.COACH app there is the GAP function (“grade adjusted pace”), which converts the speed of your training lap to the pace you would have run on a completely flat track. This way you can easily compare your performance on different tracks! Have a look at the value on the right in the screenshot below.

What kind of intensity control do you suggest if you want to succeed in a race?

If you want to monitor a competition by heart rate, it only works for the first half of the competition. This way you can prevent starting too fast. In the first few minutes, however, you need to have a sense for the intensity, because at this point the heart rate does not always correspond to the performance. In the second half the heart rate is no longer a reliable control factor. Among other things, this is due to the so-called “cardiac drift”. The term stands for the increase of the heart rate with constant effort, caused by factors such as increased heat in the body. In principle, as for the competition tactics (concerning the rationing of your energy) on a flat track with no wind a control of the pace is suitable. If, however, after the first kilometer you notice that you have started much too fast, you will pay for this in the further course of the competition.

Is one option more suitable for beginners and another more suitable for advanced athletes?

If we assume that beginners do not immediately start with intensive training (rule: first increase the number of training sessions, then the length and only then the intensity) and do not yet have a good sense for intensity, heart rate control is suitable for them. It presupposes, however, that the ranges are individually determined as described above. Rules of thumb such as HRmax=220 age are useless in individual cases. For advanced users I would recommend: Primarily to train the personal sense for intensity, to control basic training from time to time with HR, from time to time – on standardized distances – also with speed. Interval training should predominantly be done with speed control. In general, an exact adherence to certain intensity ranges is less important for beginners than for athletes with a lot of training.

Conclusion:

Both heart rate and pace do not take into account fluctuations in daily form or external conditions (e.g. heat, distance profile) enough. It would be better, as running.COACH recommends, to develop your sense of intensity so well that you can feel which intensity range you are running in. If you have a good body awareness and/or some training experience, you can usually do that well. However, heart rate and speed control can be used to check this sense of intensity. In basic training (zones 1-3) the instinct can be well supported by heart rate control (the pace can be an interesting additional information) and in intensive training (zones 4-5) it can be well supplemented with speed control (there the heart rate is the interesting additional information). Performance changes at constant heart rate or heart rate changes at constant pace can give longer-term indications of progress or problems (e.g. deficiency symptoms or overtraining).

If you train with running.COACH, you do not have to worry about whether you train sufficiently in the different intensity ranges, because running.COACH automatically calculates the optimal intensity mix for you (regeneration run, endurance run, interval, average speed, long jog). As long as you have filled in the settings correctly and your training is according to our recommendations, the different intensity ranges in your training are covered.

Roland Schütz is a 57-year-old former middle- and long-distance runner (personal best time at the Grand Prix of Bern: 51:24), today an orienteer. He is also a long-time trainer in medium and long distance running in the ST Bern, advisor of orienteering cadre runners for running training and lecturer at the Institute for Sports Science at the University of Bern (athletics, endurance training, performance diagnostics, etc.).

 

Edited by: Marion Aebi, Translated by: Denise Kaufmann

Tips for running on sand

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This blog post is provided by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE. If you’re interested in reading informative articles about running and endurance sports on a regular basis, click here (Website and content in German)

What is seldom found in everyday life, is often available in abundance during the holidays: a grainy, fine sandy beach and the desire to run on it. Let us show you the best tips for injury-free running training on sand.

When the sun bathes the beach in a golden light at dawn and the waves slosh gently over the sand, endurance athletes feel the urge to run. For enthusiastic runners, beach runs are just as much a part of a perfect holiday by the sea as homemade gelato on the piazza in the evening. But what applies to ice cream also applies to running training on sand: high quantities are rarely digestible. It is therefore worth planning your training carefully and moderately to prevent injuries.

Quite the workout

Important note: Not all sand is the same. It plays a decisive role whether you walk on soft sand or close to the water on solid (and sloping) sand. The soft sandy soil absorbs the forces actively developed during running. For a similar propulsion as on asphalt, almost twice as much energy is needed. Anyone who almost exclusively runs on tar in damped shoes in everyday life will suddenly feel his foot and calf muscles considerably when running on ankle-deep sand. All the more so when doing it barefoot, as the running style naturally shifts to the forefoot or midfoot.

The other side of the coin: Frequent running in the sand quickly leads to overloading of the locomotor system if the foot and calf muscles are insufficiently trained. Heel spur, shin split or hamstring problems can be the result of an excessive training on sand.

Hard sand is harder than expected and therefore similar to running on asphalt in terms of its effect on the muscles. Whoever euphorically completes an hour-long barefoot run on hard sand at the beginning of the holiday will certainly be punished the next day with sore muscles in the calves. The most important rules of thumb for sand running are, in brief:

  • Start with short units and carefully increase.
  • The looser the ground, the shorter (but more qualitative!) the running unit.
  • The longer the training, the more compellingly, shoes have to be worn.

With running shoes on the beach

For those who do their running training on sand with shoes many possibilities for training design will open up:

  • Warm-up: To train your coordination skills, walk and trot alternately through loose sand at a slow pace for about 10-15 minutes. The deeper the shoes sink into the sand, the more demanding. Experts can also run sideways or backwards as they like, incorporate small jumps or butt kickers.
  • Strength training: Run through the sand for 5-20 minutes to strengthen the ankle joints and leg muscles. Start on firmer sand at a slow pace, then vary the surface and duration. Do not exaggerate, slowly approach the harder intensity!
  • Endurance run: A relaxed endurance run of 45-70 minutes (depending on your training condition!) should ideally be carried out along the waterline. This means where the damp sand is firm and the sinking in is reduced to a minimum. If the beach slopes steeply, do without longer units and change the running direction regularly. In an inclined position the risk of injury and overstraining is high!

Barefoot in the sand

If you walk through the sand with bare feet, you not only do something good for your muscles, you also treat your soles with a soothing massage. Barefoot is the most comfortable way to walk on soft sand.

It should be noted that, depending on the walking speed and the nature of the sand, the skin of the soles of the feet is stressed and coarse-grained sand can quickly cause chafing. It is therefore advisable to incorporate the following exercises into a “sand programme”:

  • Walking exercises: Walk either on the tips of your toes or on your heels, focusing on or crossing the inner and outer edges. In between, draw shapes or letters in the sand.
  • Strength training: Run through the sand for 5-20 minutes to strengthen the hocks and leg muscles. Start on firmer sand at a slow pace, then vary the surface and duration. Do not exaggerate, slowly approach greater intensity! Also install skippers or long jumps and walk a few meters to relieve the strain. Stop immediately in case of pain.
  • Foot gymnastics: These are done best before running training for 5-15 minutes. Dig your feet loosely into the sand and rotate against the resistance to the outside and inside as well as take flex and point positions. Pick up small stones, shells or branches lying around on the beach with your toes. Run in a straight line, one foot in front of the other. The are no limits to your imagination.

 

Translated by: Denise Kaufmann