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The hot new shoe for fall marathons

SEP 15, 2023

Minute 1: How good is a 6 minute mile, anyway?

It should come as no surprise that in our opinion, running a 6-minute mile is a pretty dang impressive accomplishment. Don’t just take our word for it, though, because we’ve found the numbers to back it up in this new piece from MarathonHandbook: “Is A 6 Minute Mile Good? + Good Mile Times By Age And Sex.” For both men and women, running a mile in under 6 minutes will put you well below the average runner’s pace. According to the data, running a sub-6 minute mile means you’ve probably been training for between 2 to 5 years, so if you aren’t quite there yet, don’t feel bad. Just follow the tips and strategies listed in “How To Run a Faster Mile.” Strength training, especially with moves that target your legs and core can improve your top speed. Combine that with 1 or 2 tempo or interval workouts a week, and you’ll be on track to a PR eventually. You can give yourself a strategic advantage as well by fueling up on fruits for a rapid source of energy that won’t weigh you down at race time. Once you’ve done your prep, look for a competition to test your skills, like the famous Fifth Avenue Mile produced by the NYRR. The full results table from this year’s edition is here if you want to see how you’d fare: “2023 New Balance 5th Avenue Mile.” This year, the overall average finishing times were 6:46 for men, 8:24 for women, and 6:41 for non-binary runners.

Minute 2: Runners will love these 16 books

We’d like to think our newsletter is the espresso of fitness advice; a distilled shot of the most vital information available. As effective as that can be, there’s no substitute for understanding the full scope of a topic through detailed study, and that’s the kind of knowledge best attained through longform content like books. If you’re looking to do a deep dive, pick up one of these: “Top 16 Books For Runners Of All Levels.” We were happy to see our all-time favorite, Running With The Buffaloes, rank #2 on the list. There are a few other notable inclusions on the list, starting with Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Murakami’s meditative and inspiring novel tells his story of going from an out-of-shape, chain-smoking bartender to world-renowned author and ultramarathoner. The kicker? It all started in his 30s, making him living proof that it’s never too late to adopt a better lifestyle. We’d also note Alex Hutchinson’s Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Hutchinson is a regular contributor to Runner’s World and Outside Magazine, and we’ve frequently covered his data-driven approaches to optimizing your fitness in our own work. Endure examines the role mental and physical barriers play in determining our athletic capability, and it’s a must-read for anyone who’s looking to cultivate the mindset of an elite athlete.

Minute 3: What is the current state of AI-driven fitness?

Every time we see AI pop up in the news these days, it feels like we’re getting eerily close to computers that think for themselves. It’s straight out of a sci-fi film, and we sure hope we end up with ones like TARS from Interstellar, not Ava from Ex-Machina. Tools like ChatGPT have garnered most of the media attention, but now trainers and athletes have found ways of transforming their approach to fitness with AI tools, according to “Capabilities And Challenges Of AI-Enabled Fitness Applications.” Engineers are optimistic about the integration of AI and machine learning in fitness wearables to give greater accuracy and tracking without the use of visual inputs. Movement analytics apps may soon be able to check your form and track things like running strides and yoga routines with a level of detail we’ve never seen before, boding well for those looking to decrease their risk of injury. AI also promises to increase the level of personalization you receive when searching for training plans. For instance, you can ask ChatGPT for workout recommendations based on your age, sex, body type, and more, and to learn how to use it effectively, you can read one athlete’s experience in “A man lost 26 pounds with a beginner's running plan ChatGPT created for him — and a running coach said the workout plan is legit.”

Minute 4: Shoe Review: Hoka Rocket X 2 ($250)

Like our shoe reviewer, Brian Metzler, we have long held a soft spot (pun intended) in our hearts for Hoka. Battling some nagging injuries a few years back, we switched to the then-awkward-looking new shoes and felt better almost immediately. While we continue to enjoy a range of shoes in our quiver, we will always cheer for Hoka. This week, Brian dives into a model that is a far cry from those clunky early Hokas, the revamped Hoka Rocket X 2, built for speed on a fall race course near you. The highlights of Brian’s Hoka Rocket X 2 review are below, while the full review is here.

One shoe that’s likely to be on the feet of a lot of age-group marathoners this fall is Hoka’s Rocket X 2. Although it was worn by several pro athletes at last year’s Boston Marathon and the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kona, the much-anticipated Rocket X 2 wasn’t released to the public until this past March. Since then it’s made a big splash, both in half-marathons and marathons around the world. And in the recent men’s edition of the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Nice, France, 6 of the top 10 finishers wore a pair of these energetic speedsters. Expect to see a lot of these on the feet of fast runners in Berlin, and in the Oct. 8 Chicago Marathon and the Oct. 14 women’s edition of the Ironman World Championship.

Why is this shoe so hot right now? Two main reasons: First, it has a remarkable fit, feel and ride. Second, it’s Hoka’s first true top-tier high-performance racing shoe and the brand is one of the world’s fastest-growing running shoe brands. (It’s Hoka’s third model of a carbon-plated racing shoe after the original Rocket X and Carbon X models, but the first one that has had impressive high-level results.)

What’s New: The original Rocket X carbon-plated racing shoe debuted on a handful of runners’ feet during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta, including women’s winner Aliphine Tuliamuk. That shoe had a more traditional low-to-the-ground design with a first-generation superfoam midsole, so, although it allowed for fast and efficient running, it wasn’t as inherently energetic as most contemporary supershoes. The Rocket X 2 is an entirely new maximally-cushioned long-distance racing shoe built on a midsole platform of a new formulation of Hoka’s super-critical PEBA midsole material that produces a high-rebound sensation. That’s combined with a curvy carbon-fiber plate embedded between two layers of the foam, a one-piece, breathable micromesh upper and small, thin segments of outsole rubber for traction.

Why You’ll Love It: You’ll love it because it’s a shoe that can help you run more efficiently, even if you’re tired and running with a very fatigued heel-striking gait. The fact that so many high-level triathletes are wearing the shoe should be intriguing to age-group and recreational marathoners. Why? Because those athletes are running their marathon segments at the end of a triathlon under considerable fatigue, which means they’re relying on the shoe more when their running gait is already compromised. For an age-group marathoner like me, it means I don’t have to be able to run with the form of an elite runner like I need to do with some supershoes. The rocker shape and carbon plate design help compensate for my less-than-optimal form, especially when I’m fatigued late in a race or long run.

For Brian’s full review of the Hoka Rocket X 2, check it out here.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Thank you for the positive feedback on last week’s launch of a partnership with our friend Rebecca Trachsel, publisher of the popular blog, Running With Music. Not only is Trax a sub-3:00 marathoner and celebrated HS XC coach, but she is also a music aficionado with a particular expertise in selecting songs for runners. She is the cool friend you turn to when you are bored with your playlists and need a suggestion. This week’s selection is Run by Night Panda, featuring Anjulie. According to Rebecca, Night Panda never fails to please with their super upbeat, highly motivating jams that make you want to drop what you're doing and cut a rug or go for a run. Or both. Their entire catalog is worth a deep-dive if you’re looking for more uptempo tunes for your playlist. I went with their song ‘Run’ this week for obvious reasons. Check it out on Spotify here. #turnitup

  • We know that many of you are runners who like to cross train by cycling. When we come across interesting bits of advice, we like to share it with our two-wheeling friends. A properly tuned bike will make a world of difference in your performance, and one often overlooked aspect is your bike’s crank arm length. If you’ve never optimized this feature of your bike, check out: “Should You Be Using Shorter Crank Arms on Your Mountain Bike?” The short answer is that research indicates crank arms that are roughly 20% of the rider’s leg length will yield the best results.

  • When we’re in stressful situations, our bodies have some strange ways to cope, even though we aren’t even aware of what’s happening. The phenomena known as “screen apnea” is a perfect example. It refers to our tendency to hold our breath during stressful events like checking a chaotic email inbox for the first time in a while or bracing for a delicate client/colleague call. If you want to understand and avoid the pitfalls of such behavior, read “Do You Suffer From ‘Screen Apnea’?

  • It’s been a huge relief to return to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak. That being said, COVID hasn’t disappeared entirely and appears to be spreading as we head into fall. If you are considering the new booster shot and want to know who should get it, take a look at: “The new COVID boosters are coming: Here's what you need to know.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

When we watch athletes perform on the world stage, it can look like they’re simply born to win. What we don’t see are the hours, days, and years of preparation it takes to get to that point, and it can be discouraging when we aren’t making the progress we want fast enough. @marathon.princess knows all about it, as she took over 30 marathon attempts to run a sub-4:00 marathon. Her story is proof that perseverance will take you far, and she’s not the only one. Our new music contributor Rebecca Trachsel has a similar tale about her path to a sub-3:00 marathon which you can read about in this heartwarming blog post. The video below offers some good perspective and advice from @marathon.princess on how to handle the long journey to your goals.


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