Running Cadence & Marathon Performance

In a recent article by our friend @SportInjuryMatt, he shares data and his analysis on some interesting ‘in the field‘ testing he recently did at Brighton Marathon 2013.

At the race expo, Matt collected cadence data from over 50 long distance runners, of all levels of ability. He then tracked the performance of each of these runners on race day.

Testing Cadence on a TreadmillMatt is the first to point out the many flaws when looking at his testing methodology and data from a strictly scientific view point!

However, I personally believe that we need more of  this real-world “coaching data”, to complement the many great insights provided by the scientific and clinical research community. None of us have all the answers, but this sort of work helps us understand more!

Read Matt’s Full Article

What Does Matt Say About His Data?

As overall race time increases, cadence tends to decrease. The two participants with a cadence of over 190spm both managed sub 3:10 race times.

For runners who exhibited a high cadence but slow race time, maybe this is evidence that they need to focus more on other aspects of running fitness: strength, posture, mobility, etc.

My Thoughts…

Running cadence (stride frequency) is one of the key factors in determining running pace. Another being stride length. As Matt alludes to in his own commentary, there were runners with a high(ish) cadence but slow race time. Perhaps indeed, these runners need to address their stride length, amongst other technique-based factors.

One common bit of feedback I hear from runners new to increasing cadence is that they feel like they’re “cutting their strides short” to accomodate the new rhythm.

This is how I see it… If a runner is accustomed to achieving the required stride length to run at a given pace, by reaching the foot out ahead of the body (over striding). As soon as we tell him/her to increase cadence and stop “reaching out” , they feel like they don’t know where to find the stride length. This creates the stride-chopped-short feeling many report with increased cadence, and the subsequent inability to increase pace comfortably. Often they get frustrated and give up working on cadence.

Thus it’s important when working on cadence to also learn where to find the stride length needed for a given pace. Learn not to reach the foot out forwards, instead try picking your feet up a little more to speed up.

It wasn’t within the remit of Matt’s testing to look at stride length, posture, landing position (relative to center of mass), body type (limb length) or any other element of running form. Nor was it possible to look at each individual running outdoors.

All ideas for future in the field research perhaps? 🙂

About The Author 

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.



  • I’ve been feeling a dull pain in the back of my right thigh and knee. Though I’ve been developing a midfoot strike, is this caused by overstriding?

  • High cadence/low speed runners (shufflers) tend to swing legs at hips & rely on greater forces from lower leg – using their calf more like many ultra runners. That motion has speed limiting factors. You don’t see many shufflers running faster than 3 hours in a marathon. Faster runners have better heel recovery – they actually shorten the lever complex in the recovery phase.

    Technical suggestions for elite runners are less suitable for most shufflers. Running mags almost need to have different sections – runners/joggers/shufflers/etc – so that people are finding info that suits their body & running style.

  • My sports therapist told me I needed to increase my stride length and I’ve managed this over the last couple of months. I’ve noticed that it requires less effort to run at my ‘steady’ pace and that I no longer get tight calf muscles, which is making marathon training a little bit easier.

    I also found increasing my stride length to be beneficial at the Brighton Half Marathon. The longer stride alongside the increased cadence / effort of racing meant I started off faster than I had planned. As I felt comfortable with the resulting pace I decided to just keep it going. The result was a massive 4:21 off my previous PB and a to finishing time of 1:58:40.

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