Freedom To Run - Ease, Efficiency, Speed

Jon Burdon, Chi Running and Chi Walking instructor based in England and Wales

Freedom To Run - Blog

This blog is all about my journey with Chi Running. I try to discuss all aspects of the practice. I also write a book review for every book I read about running. Please DO post comments below - you don't event need to have an account - just leave your name :)

The Chi Marathon Principle

The Chi Marathon Principle

I thought I'd put a few thoughts together to summarise some of the key messages from the Chi Marathon book by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

"I had won three major marathons, Berlin (1997), London and Amsterdam (both 1998). I had very fruitful years with four world cross country silver medals, one European cross-country gold medal, countless national titles, two Olympic games, the Irish records in the 10k, half marathon and marathon, and a smattering of European and world championships achieved.

But I began losing my battle with niggling injury. Irish newspaper headlines regularly led with stories of me pulling out of big events due to injury. Running is meant to be enjoyed, not endured, I thought... I got my hands on a copy of Danny and Katherine Dreyer's book Chi Running, and I couldn't put it down. After enduring years of pain and injury and wondering what was the cause of it all, I found that Danny's book was providing me with all the answers."

- Catherina McKiernan, the forward to Chi Marathon

There is a reason why my business name is suffixed with 'Ease - Efficiency - Speed.' it's because I believe we need to get form right before we build up distance. Running beyond our form is not good for us. You've all seen that marathon runner who has lost all form and is struggling to keep going even at a walk. Chi Running is about listening to your body and enjoying your running more!

I think of the essence of the Chi Marathon principle as:

Form - Distance - Speed

or

Form then Distance then Speed

Perhaps you prefer to imagine it in the form of a pyramid, where we build up the basics first:

Speed

Distance

F     O     R    M

The Chi Marathon book actually has a 24 week training programme, with no fewer than 7 separate phases. These are all focussed on training the whole person, and keeping you enjoying your whole experience. The principle of gradual progress is an essential for Chi Running, and this also underpins the Chi Marathon approach.

The seven phases are as follows:

1 Vision, Goals and Planning

2 The Technique Phase

3 The Conditioning Phase

4 The Mastery Phase

5 Taper Time

6 Race Weekend

7 Rest and Renewal

It's the development of technique first and foremost that makes the Chi Marathon principle so powerful. Building up the distance over which you can maintain good technique comes next. The speed at which you can run, maintaining that form, is the 'icing on the cake.' 

How many runners do it the other way around? They launch themselves into speed intervals or massive mileage. It is only when they are injured that they think 'why.' I'm not wanting to sound judgemental here - I must assure you I've been there too and I feel the draw to get pulled in to that way of thinking. The truth is that it is only when I put technique first that I find I can run pain free.

What can you do to help prepare for your marathon?

  • Remember Form - Distance - Speed ... in that order. Trust the principle through your training
  • Work on your technique early on - Use Chi Running focusses such as posture, relaxation, alignment, cadence, lean
  • Be very strict with yourself about gradual progress
  • Remember speed work is fine, in facts it's GREAT, but it's not more important that anything else. The same applies to distance and mileage.

 

Chi Running isn't magic and it isn't a guarantee, but it has helped a lot of people and it's worked for me. I can't see how you can argue with the principles. Comments anyone?

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The Geneva Marathon 8th May 2016 - Review

Why Geneva?

We headed out to Geneva to run Becky's (my wife’s) first marathon. To be honest we hadn’t heard of the event when it popped up in a Facebook advert. We looked at the cost of the event (£50 each) and then waited until Easyjet flight prices from Manchester (£50 each) were announced. It was only when we had worked out the combined price of the race, flights and hotel that we decided it was pretty good value really. Plus, of course, we were really drawn by the chance to visit a beautiful part of the world.
 swissflag

Organisation

 
The way the whole event was organised was pretty much flawless. The registration (also the race finish) is easy to find right in the centre of the city. It was so easy to find your way round as each area (bib collection, race information etc) was all signposted very clearly. Everyone was very helpful and even though we had a few questions these were all handled quickly and efficiently by people who had all the information that they needed to answer our questions. There was plenty to drink, and it was nice to be provided with some free sun block as the forecast was hotter than expected.
 

Photos and Video

The HD quality race video that you receive afterwards was great. We bought the extended version and thought it was worth the money. The photos were also great but it was a bit disappointing that they were all taken in the city and there were no shots of the spectacular mountain backdrop.
 
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Course information

The course was flat. Very flat. The finish is actually 50m lower than the start. There are some very gentle inclines in the first half but these are nothing to make a difference to speed by more than a few seconds. The last half of the race is absolutely pancake flat. It runs along the side of the lake and in to the city centre before a spectacular finish on the Pont De Mont Blanc (the big famous bridge right next to the jet d’eau fountain.) If you are looking for a PB course this could be it, especially as there are relatively fewer runners (less than 2000) compared with most big marathons. That is in part due to the fact that 16,000 people do a wide range of events over the weekend. 6,000 did the Half Marathon and there is also a relay marathon.
 

courseprofile

 

Did we enjoy it then?

You bet we did. The warm air was such a welcome after training in freezing temperatures in England. We also loved running through stunning yellow fields of Rapeseed with swiss villages peeping out and, of course, a backdrop of snowy Alps which kept our attention in the far distance. The atmosphere was very friendly and it was great to be amongst such an international group of runners.
 
genevaroute
 

Hints and tips for anyone considering running

 

Stay central

Even though you will have a ticket for free transport around the city on the day of the marathon, I suggest staying within walking distance of the city centre. We stayed near the airport and although we benefitted from cheaper restaurant prices and it was only a 20 minute bus ride this is a long way when you are tired and you could access some of the city centre hotels more easily.
 

Check the weather

We have very hot (26 degrees) running conditions. In 2015 the weather was very wet and colder. As you would expect with any running event in Spring, be prepared for anything and make sure you check the forecast carefully before you travel!
 

How to prepare yourself for the this race

This is a pb course with relatively less support from the crowd compared with most big city marathons. Get used to motivating yourself and also using the natural environment around you for motivation - there’s enough of that around the course.
 

Remember you are well supported with energy

The aid stations were excellent - water (in cups), isotonic drink, energy gels, crackers and fruit were all easy to access and handed out by really friendly people.
 

It’s in French!

Of course everyone speaks some English but we LOVED the international feel to this event. There were people from a massive range of countries and we all had our national flag on the front of our race number which was great. You might need to be prepared to cheer your fellow runners on in their language but you’ll soon learn what to say just by listening.
 

A final word

This was a very emotional race for me as I ran it alongside Becky who had previously suffered from C.F.S. / M.E. for over 11 years. During that time she couldn’t even walk without becoming exhausted. Crossing the finishing line was such a great testimony to the progress she has made. If you would like to sponsor her to raise money for our local hospice (Kirkwood Hospice) we would really appreciate it.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Becky-Burdon?utm_id=13
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London Marathon vs Fairfield Horseshoe Fell Race

From one of the best City Marathons in the world, to a classic Cumbrian fell race. I ran a totally contrasting challenge just 3 weeks after the London Marathon. You can read my blog on the London Marathon here. 

Fairfield was a totally different (and wonderful) experience. These photos testify to the amazing views.

fairfield3

I really enjoyed the race, finding the challenge of the incredibly steep hills and technical ground a refreshing change from flat tarmac. I'm not as well practised on technical downhill at the moment (never my strength anyway). This meant all my overtaking was confined to the smooth grassy and bridleway sections.

 

Here is my attempt at comparing the two events, if that's possible. 

londonvsfairfield

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My London Marathon advice and tips

I absolutely loved the whole experience of training for and running the London Marathon.

I normally run and compete on hilly trails and fells, so this was a bit of a departure. I found myself really enjoying my training sessions because running on the flat is so easy compared with running off road and on hills. From a Chi Running perspective, doing most of my running on the flat meant I could really get a strong sense of running from my centre, and allowing my running to feel like a controlled fall. Getting lean right and using that to create and control speed became much easier during these sessions. This lovely feeling of floating along is what Chi Running is all about and it brought back the reality to me that Chi Running is best practised at a slow pace on the flat. This really helps bring out the joy and effortless of the technique.

 

London Marathon and Marathon Running tips

The following are my own points to myself for next time. I hope they help you too. They are very much a collection of things I've read and conversations with people, so it's nothing too new really. Advice to myself for next time...

Before the event

Blue Start, London Marathon

Race specific training. I very much believe in training on routes that are as similar as possible to the race you are doing. Therefore I got serious about long flag runs - hard to find in Yorkshire. If I'm doing a 5 mile steep race that starts up a hill, make sure I train on the course or on a similar route, so the same principle applies whether it's a matathon, a night race or whatever.

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Running Ritual

I just love this quote from Chi Marathon by Danny Dreyer:

"A great workout for me will feel like a ritual that you perform with regularity and consistency. My dog can tell it's time to go for a walk when I go to the front of the closet to grab a jacket; her whole body wags in anticipation. When you create a ritual around your running, your mind and body will also begin to fall in to certain patterns (and maybe even wag with enthusiasm).

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Why don't we think about the way we run?

There are countless examples of training plans for races on the internet. Just google them or check an example like this one http://www.lucozade.com/perform/running/half-marathon/. These plans all focus on speed, power and building up miles / time on the legs. The Chi Running book calls this 'Power Running.'

But is this really all we need to do to improve as a runner? I suppose if you just happen to have the ideal running style then you can just stick to the plan and expect everything to click in to place. Personally I know loads of runners who do massive mileage each week or do a lot of interval training etc and see disappointing improvement or experience injury problems.

So this leads me to believe that concentrating on our running technique, or form,

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Where to find me

 

I live in the Holme Valley, near Huddersfield and on the very northern edge of the Peak District National Park. Workshops are in venues easily accessible from:

Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Halifax, Wakefield, Barnsley, Cumbria, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Wales.

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I am a qualified Mountain Leader, registered with the Mountain Training Association.

Photos of the Holme Valley Landscape are by Andy Leader of Made in Holmfirth

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