2015: A year in running

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2015 has been a busy year in the world of running. Russia has been banned from the next Olympics amid an international doping scandal, our shoes have veered dramatically between zero and super cushioned, we’ve juggled ice baths, hot tubs and uncomfortable compression wear in our bid to recover faster and we still can’t decide what to eat. We take a look back at the running developments in 2015 and see what we’ve learned.

The elusive sub-two

After Dennis Kimetto recorded the first sub 2.03 marathon in Berlin last year we thought we were inching closer to the elusive sub-two marathon, but so far the achievement has evaded even the speediest Kenyans. Earlier this year Ed Caesar published the book Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon arguing that the goal was within our sights. Sadly as the race to go sub-two intensifies, so does the doping speculation. While we live in hope that this marvel of human achievement happens within our lifetime, let's pray it doesn’t come at a price.

What we learned in 2015: Humans can probably definitely run a marathon in less than two hours; we just haven’t done it yet.

Max vs min

When the barefoot running trend first struck many runners switched to minimal trainers, with interesting results. In a study of 566 runners in the Journal of Injury Function and Rehabilitation, almost a third of runners had at least experimented with minimal shoes, but quite a few returned to their tried and tested stability trainers afterwards. While 29 per cent of those runners suffered pain or injury (typically to the foot) with the change of footwear, a pleasing 31 per cent said an injury had improved (most commonly the knee). In a dramatic U-turn maximal running shoes have taken centre stage of late, with brands such as Hoka inching up the leader board with their highly cushioned shoes.

What we learned in 2015: Changing footwear fashions have proven that no one style of shoe fits every runner and we are all different, so listen to your feet.

Ice ice baby

Since our school days suffering from scabby knees in the playground we’ve all been led to believe that ice holds the key to recovery. But in a dramatic change of heart, experts including Dr Gabe Mirkin, the specialist credited with coining the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) now thinks ice may hinder the healing process. A recent study showed that applying ice to injured tissue restricts blood flow to the area – dampening the inflammatory process. Some say this response is a vital part of the natural healing process, but the debate continues.

What we learned in 2015: If you’re a bit sore after your run, do absolutely nothing. If you’re really sore, call your doctor.

High-fat low-carb diet

In his latest book The Real Meal Revolution, Professor Tim Noakes has been challenging conventional wisdom and causing controversy in running circles by promoting a high-fat low-carb diet. Noakes maintains that we’ve got it all wrong and eschewing carbs in favour of fats will aid weight control and improve endurance. His research could have a dramatic impact on runners, as most of us rely heavily on carbs to facilitate our running. For an interview with Professor Tim Noakes check out the January 2016 issue of Runner’s World, available in all good newsagents

What we learned in 2015: Read more scientific studies as big developments are afoot, but approach dramatic lifestyle changes with caution. If you’re really keen to run a marathon on fats alone, speak to your doctor before you head out the door.

Motivational quotes

Cheesy motivational tweets and corny posters tacked on to gym walls might be more useful than you think. A new study found that when endurance athletes were flashed positive cues, such as happy faces or positive words like ‘go’ and ‘energy’ – albeit so fleetingly that they weren’t aware they’d seen them – they were able to continue for longer than when they were exposed to sad faces or negative words, such as ‘toil’ or ‘tired.’ The researchers from the universities of Bangor and Kent, believe the fact that visual cues influence perception of effort and affect performance has implications not just for enhancing elite athletes’ performance but also for people new to exercise, who could use them to keep up the good work. Next time you see a cheesy inspirational quote with a kitten attached to it, don’t forget to press retweet. You friends will think you’ve gone soft, but you’ll know you’re secretly aiding their running performance.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to cheer on your buddies in the real world too. A review in Sports Medicine has found endurance performance is positively affected by encouragement, so head down to your nearest race and yell your head off at your fellow runners. If you cheer hard enough, hopefully you’ll encourage them to do the same.

What we learned in 2015: To guarantee your place in heaven retweet, text and share soppy motivational quotes with wild abandon while simultaneously shouting positively at other runners.