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Home / Training / Run / Stronger, faster, fitter 4/5: Run

Stronger, faster, fitter 4/5: Run

The fourth part of our performance analysis feature is the run leg

Issue ID: October 2012

Now is the time to analyse your racing year, make the necessary tweaks over the winter and set yourself up for your best season ever in 2013 says Andy Blow. Part four is run

If you can finish with a strong run leg it’s possible to do a lot of damage to your competitors in any triathlon, even after a relatively mediocre swim or bike. It is, after all, the last discipline, so everyone’s hurting and battling their own demons just to reach the line.

Whether you consider the run to be one of your strengths or not, it’s worth thinking about how you can squeeze some more time from the final leg in 2013, using the suggestions here as a starting point.

Jelly legs off the bike

Anyone who’s done a tri before will know the weird and off-putting ‘out of body’ experience you can feel when setting off on the run portion of the race.


There are two dimensions to getting rid of jelly legs at the start of the run. The first: do more brick sessions in training to accustom to the changeover. It’s well worth running even for 10-15mins after one or two bike rides each week over the winter, to convince the legs that this is normal behaviour.

The second, perhaps less obvious, is to work on your bike fitness and pace judgment, as the easier you find the ride, the better you’ll run. Running performance is probably hampered more by having to work too hard on the bike than it is by pure run fitness alone.

Blisters and rubs

In short-course races in particular, many athletes choose to run without socks to speed up transition times. However, this can cause blisters and sores that can then equate to lost training time post event, if they don’t heal quickly.


For long-course races it’s almost always worth spending an extra 20secs in T2 putting socks on to bring the risk of rubbing down to a minimum. For short-course events where sometimes seconds do count, it’s sensible to prepare both feet and shoes first to minimise any issues. Firstly, train once a week in your
racing shoes, without socks, to ensure there are no hotspots, and to toughen your feet up in the right places. Secondly, apply Vaseline to any areas of the shoe (typically the heel and under the ball of the foot) that are prone to friction. And finally, make sure you stick the innersole of your shoes down with glue to stop them rucking up as you stuff wet feet into them straight out of the swim.

Going off too hard out of T2

Many athletes receive a second adrenalin rush when leaving transition, especially when spectators are around, which can lead to a painful slow-down as the race progresses.


Perform acceleration runs in training. These are runs where you start steady and speed up each kilometre so that the last is the fastest. The accelerations don’t have to be dramatic (in fact it’s better if they’re not); just 5-10secs per km over a session of 6-10km is enough, but the overall effect is to run a negative split.

In a triathlon, negative splits can be devastatingly effective as 95% of the field are crawling in the last few minutes while you’re moving at full pace. Three to four acceleration runs per month over the winter are plenty to get you into the groove for 2013.

Running injuries

Of the three sports, running tends to be hampered by injury the most, due to the repetitive nature of the movements involved and the extreme levels of force the limbs are subjected to.


Through the winter, training off-road is a great way to reduce the risk of overuse injuries that road running can cause. Uneven surfaces and softer ground reduce the repetitive strain that comes with logging miles and miles on the tarmac. As fitness builds with consistency of training, minimising time off running should lead to better conditioning when the season does arrive. Off-road running is also often more enjoyable, so helps keep life interesting over the autumn and winter.

Run nutrition

What you eat before a run seems to affect most people more than it does prior to a bike ride due to the intensity and nature of the exercise. Because of this, and the fact that run sessions tend to be shorter in duration, the appeal of running in a fasted state is greater.

If you do choose to run on an empty stomach then it’s a good idea to prioritise refuelling promptly afterwards, to make sure you’re recovered for the next training session.

For sessions of less than 75mins, nothing should be required during the run except, perhaps, a
small drink if it’s warm or you’re doing multiple sessions per day.

If you’re running for more than 75mins and the intensity is reasonably high for all or part of the run, it’s almost certainly worth taking some fluids and maybe a gel or two to see you through the duration in
good shape.

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.