Guest Post: Race Prep tips #15: The efficiency of your feet

Caleb McInnes is a Sports Podiatrist (Co-Director) at Freedom Sports Medicine; Multiple Age Group Australian Champion Duathlete & Triathlete; 4 x Australian representative at World Duathlon / Triathlon Championships and qualified Lvl 1 Triathlon coach.

Your feet are the only things that contact the ground when you run and they are one of the biggest shock absorbers we have, but they are also static support and dynamic spring.

Most runners train almost every other area of their bodies … but when was the last time you whipped off your shoes and trained the 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles of your foot and the 13 muscles below the knee which assist with you foot function?

Running requires efficiency, and being inefficient increases the stress on your body. To reduce the stress on your body there are a few key things to address:

  1. Mobility
  2. Stability
  3. Strength
  4. Technique

Today I am going to touch on a small part of just one component technique.

So many people ‘over-stride’ especially as they fatigue, but over-stride is not really a word I like to use. To address this issue, words and phrases like ‘RUN QUIET and CADENCE’ are cues to consider in order to start becoming efficient.

For the majority of people who run a 10km event you likely take 10,000 + steps in a single run and hence you hit the ground 10,000 + times. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing but what if you could reduce the stress on your body each time you hit the ground by just 5-10%. Guess what – you can (!), and that results in a MASSIVE decrease in the amount of impact stress on your body.

Those of you who run with headphones in, try this. Take them out and concentrate on the noise you make – even if for only short periods of time. Try making less noise and think about what you have to do to achieve this.

Our bodies have multiple in-built shock absorbing systems, but so many people can’t or don’t use them well. There is good news though! We can get stronger, more mobile, more stable, improve our technique and become efficient, resulting in less stress on your body, less fatigue, fewer injuries and enhanced performance.

So many more things to consider but start small and see you will see the improvements.

Caleb McInnes (Sports Podiatrist; Director – Freedom Sports Medicine & Feet Alive Workshops)




Race Preparation tips #14: Find your place in the crowd.

Running is an individual sport –  but it isn’t a solo sport. As often as we run alone, we are always a community – on trails, pavements, track, suburbia and wild places.

Community in an individual sport means that we have particular responsibility and massive opportunity.

Opportunity: My first marathon I ran with Dave – an extrovert with a story. He talked, I listened. I learned. If I’d had the energy, I might have wept.  After all my 2 years solo training, it took that event to realise that truth about connectedness and community.

Recently I ran with Stan – an introvert with an addiction. As an introvert, a bloke and sometimes a bit slow to respond verbally, running is great for conversation for me. I don’t need to look anyone in the eye – and they don’t need to see me struggling to think. And silence isn’t awkward … it’s just running.

So running is an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t normally – addicts, astrophysicists, professors and hairdressers – and to value new stories that we get to join to our stories. One of the best questions to ask the person running along side you is, “So what got you into this running thing?”

Our responsibility is in both care and respect. Mid race it’s ok to ask a stranger how they are doing. Genuinely.  A conversation about cramping can chew up some miles; and it can also help ambulance or medical staff if you are present if your companion collapses.   When you grab water at the aid station, grab 2 cups and pass one on to someone else.

Respect is learned along the way: respect others’ journeys; respect the volunteers; respect the distance; respect the race director. Say thanks to those handing out water at aid stations; on Facebook after the race say thanks to the race director (who carries legal liability for you and thousands of others!); Cheer on the faster runners as they run past you!

That’s what I mean by community. No one else can run for us – but we never run alone. Those who try, only miss out on one of the sweetest parts of our sport – and don’t last very long.

Running tip #14: Find your place in the crowd – there is room for everyone.

Race Preparation tip #13: Don’t Burn

It didn’t get beyond 18deg C yesterday – I swear. But after doing drinks duty at my running club, I went out for my weekly long run – 25km. It was a beautiful day with sun shining, and a cool breeze in the shade at 11am.  Today my shoulders are red!

After months of winter running in sleeves (often with gloves), my pasty white shoulders must have been a glaring shock for the poor riders/walkers and children  walking the Dandenong Creek Trail (“Tommy, don’t stare at the poor old man with the pale and hairy arms!”).  I’m normally careful about sunburn – melanoma and I are not friends! But yesterday I didn’t think I needed sunblock. I was wrong!

Marathoners can be out there for 4-5 hours … and it could really warm up by midday on Melbourne Marathon day! So here are some ‘sun-tips’ for runners.

  1. Get a Sport sunblock – it stays on longer with sweat. SPF 50 is a good number – you are NOT out there to get a tan, people! (And they have expiry dates for a reason – it pays to check them!)
  2. Use it! (and keep it with your daily running gear, alongside the Sweet Cheeks)
  3. When applying sunblock pay attention to the backs of your legs – especially the tops of your calves and near your sock line – shoulders, the back and sides of your neck … and don’t forget your ears.
  4. When putting it on your face DON’T put sunblock on your forehead. When you sweat it will run into your eyes … and that’s just painful to think about (I’ve been blinded more than once!) You are better off wearing a cap or visor. If you put sunblock on your nose and under your eyes do so lightly … and remember its there. When you wipe sweat off your face, you can run the sunblock back into your eyes!
  5. In summer you can get burnt on overcast days and later in the morning.  If you are out after 10am in training or race day, get lathering!
  6. Speaking of sweet cheeks, in the heat your chafing parts will chafe! Lucas Pawpaw ointment is good, but Butt Butter is better (see what I did there!) as it is not petroleum based.
  7. Get some good sunglasses. If you get sport-specialist ones they should not fog up, and they will stay on your face even when you have sunblock on your nose!  Mine have interchangable lenses, meaning I can use them in various levels of light.
  8. Run in the shade if it is sunny. If you can choose your training route, chose the shaded side of the street. On race day try to run in the shaded part of the course (This is true for Melbourne as well as Gold Coast marathons).
  9. Keeping a Thir Band / Buff on your wrist is good for mopping up sweat and stray liquid sunblock.

None of this will stop Tommy staring at the blanched athlete gliding past at a snails pace, but it will mean you won’t suffer the next day … giving Tommy’s mum an object lesson in sun-care.

Running tip #12: Be a sun-smart runner.

Guest Post. Race Prep tip #12: Mental Fitness

Kate Atkinson is an inspiring marathoner, coach, personal trainer and co-owner of 360-wellness. She also manages to pack in a full life as a wife, mum, vegetarian, and a prolific writer across facebook groups on fitness, food and family-fun! You can catch her here.

Below is an edited version of a post I wrote last year in my 360 Running group on Facebook. Hopefully it helps a few of you who are running Melbourne Marathon or Half Marathon!

It’s aimed at RACE WEEK, but mental training is important to practice throughout your whole program. The main aspect I focus on in the last few weeks of training is MENTAL training;

  • Meditation
  • Visualisation
  • Mantras
  • Self-talk
  • Self-belief and confidence

Mental training is part of the program and just as important (if not more important) than other aspects of training.

Meditation: Many runners are active, goal-driven and focused, so calming the mind doesn’t come easily. Meditation isn’t easy. I recommend starting with a few minutes at a time and I often refer people to apps like Buddhify. It has short, guided meditations for different scenarios. You may already practice meditation, but if not you can still benefit from it in the last weeks before an event. Deep belly breathing is a form of meditation and again, even if it hasn’t been part of your program, you can still benefit from introducing it now.

Visualisation: this is a technique I became familiar with when I competed in gymnastics (my coach was a sports psychologist). I soon realised the power of the mind! I visualised my routines (like watching a movie). You can visualise yourself running with correct technique; close your eyes and see yourself with a forward lean, strong hips and core, tall posture. Or you might choose to visualise the time on the clock as you cross the line.

Mantras: Mantras are my favourite aspect of mental preparation because there are so many inspiring phrases. It’s fun to make up your own mantra. Mantras I’ve used include –

  • Light, Fast & Strong
  • You’re stronger than you think and faster than you realise
  • You’ve done this before, You can do it again!
  • I’ve trained through worse than this (weather, pain… whatever your ‘block’ is at the time)
  • This is the final lap
  • I have mental toughness, I can do it
  • Harder, Faster, Stronger
  • You’ve got this!
  • Strong legs

… and many more.

There are other conversations you can have with yourself on race day. You can count, do your times tables, sing songs, go to your ‘happy’ place. You can tell yourself it’s easy or you feel like you’re getting your second wind. You can use cues (like, Toe off my big toe).

Self-talk: Positive self-talk is KEY! I’m a big believe in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). The more we repeat a habit the deeper our neural pathways become. If you tell yourself you hate running hills, then you’ll hate running hills!! If you tell yourself you hate the heat, then you’ll hate the heat. The more you talk to yourself in a negative way, the more difficult it becomes to change that thinking. Positive self-talk means privately and publicly backing yourself; recognise how far you have come, highlight your strengths, talk about what you like or what went well.

I developed a positive habit of saying I have mental toughness (one of my mantras) and I have said it so much, now it’s true! It doesn’t mean you’re conceited or you must live up to other people’s expectations. It means you’re choosing to focus on the positives.  A key example is in regards to race day goals like your time goal; If you tell yourself you can achieve a certain time, then you have a much better chance of achieving that time.

Meditation, Visualisation, Mantras, Self-talk. These skills combined will help develop Self-belief and Confidence!

On race day, it is important to visit all of the above. Take a few minutes in the morning to meditate or visualise. Be mindful of your self-talk. And choose a powerful mantra!

Another Race Day tip: If you are the type to get nervous, stay off social media! Social media make our lives public and expectations can be overwhelming. Keep it in perspective and stay focused on YOU.

And most importantly when it comes to RACE DAY… ENJOY IT! You have trained for this. You are strong, capable and competent! Now go out and RUN!

Running tip #12: What goes on in your head affects your body. Mental fitness can be trained! Practice and train your mind (as well as your body) to prepare for race day.


Race Preparation tip #11: Ouch!

Sleep, run, stretch, eat, rest … and OUCH! It’s just about race time and something starts hurting … abnormally sore. Do you back off, stop running … or just suck it up and do the next session?  24 days out … a snip over 3 weeks from race day. This weekend could be the longest run some of you do before race day … which means you’ve been training hard.  Your body has taken a pounding and has experienced various versions of ecstacy and agony.  But suddenly your calf/hamstring/glute/foot says “ENOUGH”.

So what do you do? Here’s my recommendation to anyone who asks**. If it hasn’t put you in hospital or left you unable to move for an hour, take 2 Nurophen plus (if you can) and sleep on it. You could even chuck some Comfrey Gel or Fisiocrem on it. Most of these injuries also need ice (NOT HEAT!) for the inflammation. If it is a sharp pain, skip the rest of this paragraph!  If it’s still sore in the morning, gently roll it out and try light running. If you are still limping after 1km, turn around and take the rest of the morning / evening off.

If that doesn’t resolve it you have two options. First, STOP intensive training for a few days … do some pool running, or a gentle short run, or cross training (cycling, swimming, etc).  Second, book in with your sports physiotherapist / sports podiatrist (who is probably a facebook friend anyway!) (PS If you don’t have a sports physio / podiatrist on your team, it’s time to get one!!) DON’T wait a week; DON’T go out and do the next track or interval session; DON’T consult Dr Google!  If you’ve got this far with little injury, it’s likely that you can repair in time for The Event;  Rest and investing in good medical advice are as integral to training as any workout session!

** I’m a runner with experience, not a medical professional. The suggestions here are general and not specific to any particular situation. If in ANY doubt, consult your Physiotherapist or Sports Podiatrist.

Running tip #11: If it hurts … Slow down, stop and consult.

3 Encounters and an invitation

Encounter 1

As I watched him race the men’s Marathon at the Rio Olympics for a little over 2 hours, I had no idea that Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa’s people are being imprisoned, their lands stolen, and his people dispossessed.  I had no idea why Lilesa crossed his wrists over his head as he crossed the finish line in second place.


And I had no idea, until the reports emerged, that this gesture would likely lead to his imprisonment or death should he return home. This action was a public protest against his government’s actions against his people. “I did it for my relatives in prison.” Lilesa, an Olympic silver medalist, may never be able to return home. (

That single gesture invited the world to connect with Lilesa’s story, and that of the Oromo people group in Ethiopia. It also invited us to search out further stories of wonder and pain in the lives of all those with whom we interact every day.

 Encounter 2

“We often speak of creation as if it were separate to us, as if we were ‘other’ in our being created. When we acknowledge that we share the same soil, drink the same water, breathe the same air, and share the same Creator, we will learn to live more care-fully and justly with the whole of creation.” (a note from my journal)

EcoTheology was the subject of Rev Dr Vicky Balabanski’s presentations at the recent Presbytery Ministers conference. She talked about the stories of the Bible and Indigenous people; of spirituality and land; of how being ‘Made in God’s Image’ has an impact on how we live out and interpret the words of God in Genesis 1.28 to ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion’ … How might God the creator do this? Should the words be translated ‘to serve and cultivate’?  Vicky’s challenge to us was, “What do we believe about ourselves in relation to the world? Do we leave the world better than we found it?”

We live on a planet with hungry mouths and fragile ecosystems; and in a society where there are no seasons in our supermarkets and too many (extra) chemicals in our food. The challenge of living on our planet in 2016 is the challenge to a Global story and an Intimate one; to BOTH feed and house 6 billion people, AND to pay attention to the flowering gum and flowing stream in our back yard.

Stepping out of the seminar, I felt myself invited to touch the earth differently; to view trees, birds, animals and people from this creation / creator perspective – and found myself noticing things I had not perceived before.


 Encounter 3

We have seen her twice; outside a shop and in a gallery; meticulous with her painting and generous with her time. Heather Bradbury’s paintings resemble photographs, revealing single moments … when a lone raindrop is about to fall from a leaf, or a wave is frozen in time. But beyond the canvas, for Heather painting is also an excuse to meet people – like the paint is lubricated with conversation and social interaction.


We have one of her calendars in our house. It’s called “Brush with the Creator”. 12 month’s of paintings from Heather, and a story from MarDee Kaylock (both Mt Dandenong locals). “The Brush with the Creator calendar follows the story of Traveler, an individual whose journey is one of awareness and growth. The artwork does not reflect the physical seasons as much as the moments within Travelers year. By seeing the artwork as symbols of Traveler life, we invite you to reflect and perhaps glimpse your own story in her journey.”

As I look at the paintings and read (and re-read) the story, I’m invited to give my attention to the detail that Heather and MarDee see in shape and colour and shade and contrast and reflection and wrinkle – in creation and in people.   /

The Invitation

All 3 of these stories from the past 2 weeks open an invitation: To listen and look with more detail; with new eyes, to observe and pay attention to the people around me, the world in which I walk/run/play/work, and my own heart.  In Heather’s art, it is attention to detail in a single moment; In Vicky’s challenge it is taking time to wonder about my place in the created and changing world; In Feyisa’s story it is listening for the narratives of joy and pain in the life of a stranger or a new friend.

So here’s a Spring invitation for September to November:

Capture images, snapshots, words and phrases that catch your attention each day (one per day?). They might be photos on your phone or camera, screenshots from a computer, phrases in books or newspapers, prayers (your own or someone else’s), or moments in a day captured in a journal.  Then create a calendar for next year – either buy a cheap 2017 one and paste your montage over the images; or create one on a computer. You might want to hang it in your kitchen as a reminder to yourself, or create multiple versions and give them as Christmas presents to friends and family.

The invitation is to observe, record … and then tell your own story through this media.

Guest Post: Race Prep tip #10: Don’t go out too hard

Today’s guest blogger is Les Corson – a marathoner and ultramarathoner, with a love for trail running and his running mates.  He posts occasionally at

So, you’re about to to run your first marathon, and armed with all this advice about how to run it. One piece really stands out, “Don’t go out too hard!”. Easy really. I mean, simple, straight to the point, it’s not ambiguous. Or is it? What does that really mean, and how do I apply it to me?

Quite simply put, there is a pace (and ultimately effort) that you will be able to sustain for the marathon that will enable you to hit your target time. You do have a target time? You don’t? Then how do you know how fast you want to go? (And this can often can be remarkably different to how fast you CAN go!) This post is aimed at those who have a target time; but those that don’t, read on – pacing applies to all of us.

The faster you want to run, the more likely you are going to experience “The Wall”, that moment when energy stores fail, and lactic acid builds up to the point that the body cannot expel it efficiently enough. How do you know the pace you need to avoid this? There are many ways, doing V02 tests, lactic threshold tests on treadmills are one way. But the simplest way is to incorporate race simulation into your training. In other words, find that point of crossover in training before you find it in racing.

These run types are as follows;

  • Tempo runs (i.e. short warm-up, medium distance run (say up to 10k) run at somewhere between 60 and 70% effort, where 100% is completely flat out),
  • Increasing pace. At the end of a long Sunday run, use the last 5k’s to increase your pace to your expected marathon pace. This gives a twofold benefit. Firstly it allows you to run the majority of your run easy (saves the legs), then you get to experience the increased effort required for late in the race. And no matter your skill/speed/experience, late race fatigue will be experienced by most, if not all of us. Running at marathon pace also gives you an insight into what that pace actually feels like.
  • Consistent mileage. Seems strange this one, but the more consistent runs you do, the more you will fatigue, but you will also toughen up those legs. The better chance you have of holding that pace just that little bit longer. (assuming you rest and taper effectively)

And getting back to that expected marathon pace, how do I know what it is? Well, there are many online pace calculators that will help. If you’ve run a race (and I mean really raced it, not just turned up and trotted through) you can plug that time and distance into a calculator and get an expected race distance time. Be warned, the bigger the gap between race run, and target race distance, the greater the degree of inaccuracy. For a marathon, a half marathon time is ideal, 15k not too bad, 10k at the very least. You can use a 5k time, but my experience is that they just don’t stack up. One such calculator is Run Coach. They have a Basic and Advanced calculators.

On race day, follow these simple rules;
The first 15k should feel deliriously easy. And I mean deliriously… You should be able to get to the 15k feeling like you’ve done next to nothing. The 2nd 15k should feel much harder, but still being at a comfortable effort. The last 12 will be hard. That is a simplified breakdown, many factors on the day will affect performance.

Be careful using pacers provided at the event. They are not foolproof, so make your own Plan B in case it all goes pear-shaped with them.

Be prepared to slow down early in the race even more if heat and or humidity are a factor. Windy conditions will also affect your performance.

Above all, keep things simple for your first marathon. Too much information, particularly too much tinkering with your programm will leave you with inconclusive results (dunno what worked, and what didn’t).

Enjoy it and it will be worth it – whatever happens on the day.