In 2019, Eliud Kipchoge made headlines after completing the first sub-two-hour marathon. Kipchoge was already the world record holder for the fastest marathon under standard competition rules, with a time of two hours, one minute, and 39 seconds. However, in a special event in Vienna, the Olympic gold athlete managed to shave one minute and 59 seconds off his personal best.
But how did he achieve this fantastic feat of human endurance? The answer: equipment, technology, and conditions. Of course, these only contribute to Eliud’s own incredible skill.
This amazing achievement may have inspired you to challenge yourself. Can you shave a few minutes or seconds from your personal best? Like Eliud, you may feel the benefit of a pair of quality running shoes and other equipment that can help boost your activity or endurance. Here we explore how and why the right running gear, technology, and running conditions can give you a huge time advantage, and how you can use these to plan your next personal best attempt.
Can the weather really affect our running abilities? There’s no doubt about it. When Eliud ran his sub-two-hour marathon, the conditions were just right. Conditions were dry, and temperatures between 9°C and 12°C.
To maximise your running efforts, it’s recommended that you run in dry conditions between temperatures of 7°C and 15°C. Runners outside of these conditions tend to become slower, on average.
Think about it in terms of energy. If the weather is too cold, the body must preserve energy to maintain its temperature. If the weather is too hot, energy is concentrated on cooling the body through circulation, breathing, and perspiration.
In fact, one study found that elite runners will slow by 4.5 per cent in temperatures of 25°C compared to temperatures of 5°C. Meanwhile, amateur runners can slow by 12 per cent in the same situation.
Rain can also make you slow down because, even subconsciously, you’ll be running more cautiously. Rain can also weigh down clothes and may cause discomfort in shoes after running through puddles. Estimates suggest that rain can add as much as two minutes per mile to your running time. So, aiming for those dry and ideal temperatures is key to improving your personal best.
The type of shoes you wear is essential for boosting your running speed and beating your personal best. But how would you go about finding the best shoe for running? There are a number of factors to consider. These include fit, comfort, and weight.
A well-fitted running shoe should leave no space for movement of the foot. Equally, there should not be excessive pressure. In turn, this creates stability, allowing control at the ankle. Comfort is also important, with cushioning helping to dampen the impact of the ground on feet and joints. A flexible running shoe should also allow runners to launch off the ball of their foot. Meanwhile, a breathable shoe allows for cooling, less swelling, and dissipates sweat.
While all these factors are important, the weight of your running shoes can still have a large impact on your running time. One study analysed the effect of shoe weight and found that when adding 100 grams to the weight of a running shoe, runners will slow by 1.36 per cent. Meanwhile, an extra 300 grams can slow runners by 2.37 per cent. This may not seem like a lot, but world records and competitions can be decided by a fraction of a second. When beating your personal best, consider how your running shoes affect your speed.
Time for technology
When Eliud achieved his sub-two-hour marathon, he was aided by a range of technology. For example, pacing lasers projected from a vehicle indicated where the runner should be during the run to achieve the record time. The purpose of this was to ensure a precise pace without unwanted acceleration that would waste energy.
While we don’t expect you to chase lasers on your morning run, there are lessons to be learned from preserving energy through precise pacing. Music could be used to help set your tempo for running.
Dr Costa Karageorghis found that when “recreational athletes run to a music cadence, there is a performance benefit of 10 to 15 per cent”. However, the reasons for this are psychological as well as physiological. Music can create an impression of enjoyment when running, while heart rate and respiration can also be affected.
If you’re looking for the best playlist to run to, find a collection of songs as 120 beats per minute. This is the dominant walking pace, and as such reflects our natural rhythm when running. A slightly higher tempo at 130 to 150 beats per minute can also help boost your workout activity.
If you’re looking to save time on your personal best, consider taking some headphones with you. Besides, you’re already likely to have your phone with you to track your route and time when you’re running – why not use it for some music too?
There are several things we can do to improve our running time. From the shoes we wear, the conditions we run in, and the technology we use, understand that everything has a part to play in your race for time.