• Melbourne Marathon Festival 2019 - Technique tips from Tim Crosbie

Grab your bestie, your dog, your motivational playlist and your specially fitted running shoes. It’s your last chance to train. That’s right, it is only eight days until the roaring crowd of thousands cheer you into the MCG.

The Melbourne Marathon Festival is in its 42nd year. With a crowd of over 40,000 in 2018, this year is set to be even bigger. Participants get a rare opportunity to experience Melbourne’s famous landmarks with five scenic courses for all ages and abilities.

Melbourne Marathon 42.195km
SriLankan Airlines 21.1km Half Marathon
ASICS 10km Run
Westin 5km Run
3km Walk

Tim Crosbie -Melbourne Marathon Runner and Coach

Runner and coach, Tim Crosbie

One of your key mottos is that running is for everybody. What is your advice to people just starting out?

Be patient…. Reconditioning your body to running, something you did so effortlessly as a child, can take time and dedication.  Start slow, include walking breaks and over time weave running and general exercise into your lifestyle.  Evolution has provided every human with a running body, you may just have to re-awaken the muscles, bones and ligaments that propel you forward.

What are the most common errors you see with running technique? And how do you correct these?

Every individual has their own technique which develops around hereditary, fitness background and body make up.  Initially we concentrate on improving fitness over technique as this then provides the base from which improvements to style or form can develop.  One key area of focus then becomes cadence… the rate at which the legs turn over.  Many recreational runners have a cadence of around 140 steps per minute, while experienced runners tend to be at 180 steps or more.  Increasing this over time will results in smoother movement across the ground and less stress on the musculoskeletal system due to reduced ‘ground time’, or the length of time the feet take to move through the gait cycle.

How would you describe the technique of an expert runner?

Competent runners demonstrate smoothness of movement.  This can be seen through balance between the arms, little or no shoulder and hip rotation and the head staying on a relatively even plain throughout the gait cycle.

However, technique isn’t everything as we have seen world class runners not demonstrate all of the above attributes yet still win championship medals.  You could have the best technique in the world, but it’s the training that really delivers results.

What are the benefits of running with good technique?

After developing good fitness levels, working on technique can then be one of tools we use to protect against injury.  Being a highly repetitive sport, running does tend to put participants at risk of overuse injuries, so to combat this a combination of developing overall bodily strength and working on smoothness of movement can assist to keep these injuries at bay.

Can you tell us a success story of one of your runners who started as a beginner and what they have now achieved?

Kirstin Bull and I have had a coach/athlete/friend relationship for over 10 years now and to be part of her running story is perhaps my greatest achievement.  Kirstin started as a treadmill runner before venturing outside on to the roads.  Not long after, she joined our training group and started to do some events.  Her debut Half Marathon took over 1hr 50min, and while it was a great run it didn’t indicate what was to come.

Roll the clock forward six years and Kirstin competed in her first 100km ultra marathon, with her second being a few months later at the World Championship where she placed 8th and broke the Australian record.  A year later Kirstin returned to the World 100km Championship where she took victory and once again rewrote the Australian record.  So from the treadmill to a World Champion proves that anything is possible in this sport.

Post-race, Tim Crosbie with Kirsten Bull

Why do you love running?

For many of us running becomes a lifestyle, not just a sport or means to achieve fitness.  This lifestyle brings with it the benefits of not just a healthy body but can also help with a healthy mind.  Running can be many things… a chance to socialise with other like minded runners while on the run, or an opportunity for ‘me time’ where you can escape your day and just enjoy some solitude.  Different runners will prefer one or other of these approaches, others like me will combine both into our normal routine.

So once you accept the physical challenge and discomfort that can be associated with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the joys of mastering distances, terrains and climates can be central to your life.

Where can runners get more information to improve their running technique?

Australia is lucky to have a growing network of coaches and clubs that can assist runners at all levels.  Coaching was once the domain of ‘athletes’, however the growing number of recreational runners plus the introduction of an Australian coach education framework geared directly towards non elite performance has seen a substantial rise in our coaching stocks.  Victoria alone has over 350 accredited Recreational Running coaches.

But be careful when sourcing a coach as there are people who advertise as coaches, particularly ‘technique coaches’ who have no qualifications or accreditation.  Similarly, when looking for a good club – make sure they have a coaching structure and the coaches are actually legitimate!

How is running a marathon different to other competitions? How should competitors train or plan differently compared to other events?

Ahhh the marathon, twice the distance of a half marathon but six times the effort level!
The marathon presents as a challenge to any adult Australian, which with the right level of conditioning can become one of those lifetime achievements you’ll always be proud of.  But with finish times ranging from 2 hours to 7 hours plus, it is an event you must specifically prepare for as there is no fluking running 42 kilometres.

So if you do contemplate running a marathon consider these tips:

1) Progress through from 10k to Half Marathon distances before making the step up

2) Allow at least six months to prepare.  Three months to build or consolidate your training, then three months to do the specific training that will prepare you for the distance.

3)  Seek some advice and consider taking on an accredited running coach

4) Remember there are no shortcuts to marathon success and that in order to successfully complete the distance you must condition the musculoskeletal and energy systems to cope with several hours of movement.

What advice do you have for people running a marathon for the first time, and what advice would you give to seasoned marathon runners, for this year’s Melbourne Marathon Festival?

The key to the first marathon is to enjoy the experience as much as possible.  Preparation plays a major role in this and ticking off those long run milestones in training along the way adds to the whole experience.  First timers should concentrate more on getting to the finish line as opposed to setting time goals, although I’m sure they all have them.  And don’t forget that all marathons are subject to the climatic conditions on race day, so if you need to change plans due to heat or wind DO IT, otherwise it may not turn out to be the experience you want.

For experienced runners they may well be chasing higher levels of performance… in others words they are going for a PB.  To achieve this can be as simple as just continuing on from your previous marathon campaign as we know that runners develop ‘marathon hardness’ simply by completing the distance on numerous occasions.  But if you really want to change things up then you have to go longer, harder or both!  Doing the same training will elicit pretty much the same result, so by tweaking long run distances or introducing more specific tempo or quality sessions will certainly give you a performance lift.

But remember, just like playing golf, never think you’ve mastered the event or lose respect for what’s required to do well.  Otherwise lots of bunkers may suddenly appear in your way, especially once you enter the danger zone beyond 32km.

Melbourne Marathon Festival  

Sunday 13 October 2019