There are two ways to run faster. They are very simple.
1. Increase your stride rate, so you are taking more steps per minute.
2. Increase your stride length, so you go farther with each step.
Your speed is (stride rate) x (stride length). Very simple.
Some months ago, Alan noticed that I have a very high stride rate, or cadence. The rule of thumb is that you should take 180 steps per minute, or 90 with each foot. Most people take fewer than this, and try to increase their stride rate up to this apparently ideal 90. Alan noticed that my cadence was approaching 100 when I was doing strides. That's pretty high.
Now that I have a super-fancy GPS watch with the associated accelerometer foot pod, I can collect data on this stuff. (Thanks, Gary at Garmin! Thanks, Rhode Runner!) As you can see from the graph below, I usually have a cadence of 95-96, and the faster I run, the higher it goes, up to 104.
This graph just shows averages for entire miles. I actually have a cadence over 110 when I am doing strides (sprints) sometimes.
A high cadence is not necessarily bad. However, it could be bad, if I were taking lots of tiny steps when I run fast. In particular, it would be bad if I were increasing my stride rate without increasing my stride length.
Luckily, I can figure out my stride length from the copious GPS data as well.
Did you think the first graph had pretty good data? Did you think it was pretty linear? You hadn't seen nuthin' yet. This is some of the most linear data I have seen. And it came from real life!
From this graph, we can see that as I run faster, I also increase my stride length, from a normal length of about 3.5 feet to well over 4 feet when I am going fast. By the way, that means my footprints would be 3.5-4 feet apart (it's not measuring right foot to right foot).
So, I don't need to worry: I'm increasing both stride rate and stride length as I run faster. That's exactly the way it should be. As for the high cadence, it's much better than low cadence, and it puts me in good company with many elites who have cadence near 100.
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