Most of the readers of this blog have probably attended an “Expo” preceeding a race. Typically, Expos are held in a large room where vendors of various kinds of running-related wares display their products, hoping to make sales or at least gather leads for future sales. Usually the larger the race the larger the Expo. I recently ran the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon. There were 21,000 runners. The Expo was held in the Philadelphia Convention Center. It was huge.
Running Expos are very similar to trade shows in other industries. Over the years my job has required me to participate in numerous capacities at trade shows in my field (transportation technology). I’ve setup and broken down booths, staffed booths, or just attended in order to learn about the latest “stuff”. Typically vendors have something to giveaway, or a contest, or some other gimmick designed to make sales, develop leads, or just make a “splash”. Giveaways can be just about anything from pens to stuffed animals to USB sticks to coasters to mugs.
When my kids were younger they liked it when I went to a trade show because I typically came home with various giveaway items. After awhile my wife and I dubbed these items “treasures” because they had nominal value but made great little gifts/toys for the children.
So where am I going with this you ask.
Recently, there was a small Expo (and a lot more) in conjunction with the NYC Barefoot Run. The Expo was held at the South Street Seaport. There were vendors of minimalist shoes (note I didn’t say “barefoot running shoes”; the subject of a coming rant) and toe socks. There were authors of many of the popular books on barefoot running, including McDougall, Howell, Barefoot Ken Bob, and Michael Sandler. There were even vendors for wine and beer. I said hello to the authors and grabbed a few items like refrigerator magnets, etc. I entered a contest or two. But the table that I really wanted to visit was the Merrell table. The reason was that I have been reading about one of the shoes in their upcoming new lineup, the Road Glove. I’ve read some really good reviews about this model but I didn’t know when they were going to be available. I was hoping it was soon because I’m looking for something to wear this Winter when barefooting isn’t possible.
Unfortunately the Road Glove won’t be out until Spring. So unless a pair drops out of the sky I’m out of luck.
But all was not lost. The nice lady at the Merrell table was giving out free “running metronomes”. The purpose of the metronomes is to give an audible beat at a selectable rate, or cadence. Much of the literature about running form suggests that running at a fairly high cadence, around 180, improves running efficiency and makes it easier to run “lightly”.
I’ve used a number of cadence tools over the last couple years. I have a couple of iPhone apps that play songs from my iTunes music collection that have a beat close to 180. This is nice but it requires that I take my iPhone and earphones on the road. The Merrell metronome is MUCH simpler.
Once you turn the metronome on you can select the cadence you desire. The sound is a chirp, the volume of which can be controlled.
There is also a phone jack so you can practice stealth cadence listening.
The bottom of the unit is a clip making it easy to attach to the collar of your shirt, close to your ear.
And if all of this isn’t enough, this little diddy has another feature that I now put to good use. It has a “beat” function. This function changes the chirp sound after a selectable number of counts. I use this feature to practice my breathing cadence. I usually breath with a 3-2 pattern, three strides inhale, two strides exhale. Thus, I set the beat to 5 and then I know that I should start the breathing cycle whenever the special chirp comes around. I’ve taken this little “treasure” out on all my runs since the NYC event and I really like it a lot. I’ve been much more successful at maintaining a constant cadence and breathing pattern. Not surprisingly, on a 5-miler earlier this week all 5 mile splits were within 2 seconds of each other.
So while I’m still going to be looking for a shoe to try during the Winter months here in the Northeast at least I’ll have a good way to keep whatever shoe I find moving at the correct cadence.