Stretches to Help Relieve and Prevent Leg Cramps

You’re striding gracefully along at a quick clip, endorphins at full blast, loping toward a new personal best – then alarm bells go off, a sudden pain seizes you up in a targeted area, and you’re forced to screech to a halt.

Nothing spoils an otherwise perfect run quite like a cramp.

Maybe it’s an abrupt ache in the arch of your foot. Maybe it’s a stinging feeling all up and down your side. Maybe it’s the dreaded charley horse. Regardless of where it happens, every cramp feels bad.

Your body is telling you to stop and tend to it before you take even one more step. The good news: cramps are all temporary maladies, and there are some steps you can take to help prevent them from happening.

More persistent issues are another matter entirely. Simple stretching isn’t a cure-all for every kind of leg pain. Always ask a doctor for advice if you’re dealing with a running injury or long-term issue.

So what actually causes cramping, and what can you do to prevent and relieve them?

What causes muscle cramps?

A muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. They tend to be sudden and, in some cases, (e.g. charley horse) very painful. Most muscle cramps occur in the legs.

A whole host of different factors may contribute muscle cramps: pinched nerves, poor blood circulation, even holding one position for too long can cause them.

For runners, the most relevant causes are dehydration, overuse of a muscle, muscle strains, magnesium or potassium deficiencies and long periods of physical activity, especially in hot weather. All are important to consider if you’re looking to prevent leg cramps.

Can stretching prevent or cause leg cramps?

Stretching can help prevent some leg cramps, especially those that may be caused by a muscle strain. When your legs are warmed up and limber before going on a run, you’ll be less likely to strain a muscle. That said, stretching won’t always help prevent cramps associated with dehydration or a lack of magnesium.

Proper stretching shouldn’t cause muscle cramps, although “proper” is the operative word. Poor stretching form can contribute to cramps later on. If you feel any pain while stretching, stop the stretch immediately. Stretching can make muscle strains and tears worse, even if you’re doing it correctly. If the pain persists, seek advice from a medical professional.

Some runners prefer to avoid stretching, but it’s never a bad thing to do unless you’re doing it incorrectly. If you’re unfamiliar with basic stretching techniques, read our quick tips for running beginners. 

Stretches to help prevent leg cramps

There are many ways to stretch out your legs. It’s best to focus on the stretches that target the key leg muscles your body uses during a run.

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Calf stretch

  1. Stand with your left foot in front of your right.
  2. Keep your right leg straight and bend your left leg forward.
  3. Make sure your right foot is straight and stays planted on the ground.
  4. Straighten your back and hold the stretch for 20 seconds. 
  5. Repeat with your right leg. 

You’ll feel the stretch from your ankle up to the back of your knee.

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Standing quad stretch

  1. Stand straight up and pull your right leg behind you with your right hand. 
  2. Pull your shin toward your thigh.
  3. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. 
  4. Repeat with your left leg.

You can place the hand you’re not using on a table (or the like)  to help with balance. You’ll feel the stretch in the front of your thigh.

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Sitting hamstring stretch

  1. Sit on the ground and extend your right leg.
  2. Bring your left foot as close to your right thigh as possible.
  3. Lean forward, grabbing your toes with your right hand if possible. 
  4. Hold this position for 20 seconds, and be sure not to actually pull your toes back (it’s fine if you can’t reach them). 

You’ll feel the stretch on your upper back legs, from your glutes down to the top of your knees.

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Sitting calf and hamstring stretch

  1. Sit on the ground with both legs extended.
  2. Keeping your back straight, bend at the hips and lean forward, grabbing your toes. 
  3. Hold for 20 seconds

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Standing lunge

  1. Stand in a split stance, with your right front forward and your left foot back. Bend your right knee at about a 90-degree angle.
  2. Press down on your knee and push your hips forward. You’ll feel a stretch in your left leg. 
  3. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. 
  4. Repeat with your other leg. 

This stretch hits your hamstrings and your quads. You can also lunge up and down instead of holding for a more dynamic stretch. 

It’s also worth knowing a few stretches that target muscles that tend not to cramp. For runners, stretching your iliotibial band is crucial. Your IT band won’t cramp up, but you can get ITB syndrome, which is incredibly painful. Read our guide to ITB stretching for more. 

Stretches to help relieve leg cramps

When you get a cramp, stretching the affected muscle is the best way to relieve it. And the one good thing about a cramp is that you’ll know exactly where it is. The most common cramps affect the hamstring, calf and quad muscles. Any of the above stretches can help relieve a cramp, but there are many more you can do.

Stretches to relieve calf cramps

  • Heel drop stretch
  • Wall calf stretch
  • Seated calf stretch with band
  • Downward dog
  • Lunging calf stretch

Stretches to relieve hamstring cramps

  • Towel hamstring stretch
  • Wall (or couch) hamstring stretch
  • Kneeling hip flexor
  • Banded hamstring stretch (lying down)
  • Child’s pose

Stretches to relieve quad cramps

  • Lying quad stretch
  • Frog pose
  • Lying pigeon position
  • Kneeling quad stretch

Other ways to prevent leg cramps

Beyond stretching, the most important thing you can do to prevent leg cramps is to stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, especially if it’s a hot day. 

Magnesium and potassium deficiencies have also been linked to cramps, so you want to get enough of each. Have a banana in the morning – or carry one with you on longer runs. If you do get a cramp and think it’s due to dehydration or a mineral deficiency, replacing those substances can relieve the cramp.

You also want to make sure you’re not over-exercising. No amount of water, stretching, or bananas will stop cramps if you’re pushing your legs too hard. 

Preventing and relieving cramps is all about being prepared. Stretch before a run and stay hydrated. Memorize a few stretches to relieve stretches when they do happen, and don’t let cramps get in your way. 

The perfect run is always right around the corner. It’s Time to Fly™

Want more information on cramps, stretches and stretch techniques? Check out the following:

Resources:

Runner’s World – The Complete Guide to Stretching for Runners

Healthline – Essential Stretches for Runners

Good Housekeeping – 3 Easy Moves to Get Rid of Leg Cramps

WebMD – What Stretches Can Help With Muscles Cramps?

Cleveland Clinic – Leg Cramps

Healthline – Running Tips: 3 Essential Quad Stretches

Healthline – Stretches and Treatment for Tight Calves

 

 

Couples Running: The HOKA Guide

Running inspires passion. Those who love it love it: the early mornings, the drive to improve, the taste of fresh air in your lungs. Sharing a common passion with someone is one of the greatest joys in life, especially when that person is your partner. 

ArahiCouple2 (The Arahi 5 are featured in this image)

Exercising with a partner can be thrilling. You’ll have someone to hold you accountable, challenge you, and encourage you. Whether it’s a long run or a breezy couples’ jog, it’s always nice to have someone to talk to. Coupled running has its own unique benefits.

That said, running with a partner isn’t always as simple as it may sound.

Before you venture out on the road or trail together, you’ll want to be aware of a few key considerations not involved in solo running. Unspoken decisions such as pace, the length of the run, and when to break for water now require healthy communication with someone else. Thankfully, this isn’t all that hard –  you’ve just got to know what to plan for.

Benefits of couples running

ArahiCouple1 (The Arahi 5 are featured in this image)

Running as a couple can benefit both your relationship and your running.

Even if you love it, running consistently is tough. There are days when you’re exhausted, busy, or simply unmotivated. Your partner can be a huge help on days like that. With two people invested in exercising together, you’ll be much more likely to get out there and go for it. And once you do, it helps to have somebody encouraging you to push for the finish.

If one (or both) of you is new to running or starting again after a long break, the accountability and encouragement of a partner will be a massive help. And don’t discount the benefits to seasoned runnersa partner can help shake up your routine and even give you some competition (if you both want it, of course!). 

There’s also the social aspect. Many people rely on the social component of running as a major motivator. With new safety considerations impacting race events and running groups, running with your partner can be a safe way to bring that social component back into the mix.

Running with your partner can give each run a different purpose. You might run just for exercise, and it’s ok to keep that as your main goal. But with your partner, you can set other goalsbonding, competitionto keep things fresh and interesting. On a larger scale, you and your partner can coach each other. A goal like “I’m going to work on my form” is much more effective when you’ve got someone who can watch you on a day-to-day basis. 

It’s also just nice to be able to share something like running with your partner. It’s an invigorating way to spend time together, and a nice change of pace (no pun intended) from your average movie or date night.

How to develop a rhythm with a running partner

Gaviota-Couple (The Gaviota 3 are featured in this image)

With all that said, there are some things to keep in mind if you want to run as a couple. Running with a partner requires some pre-planning, especially before the first time.

The top consideration to discuss is pace. Barring an amazing coincidence, you and your partner will naturally run at different speeds, and you’ll each have your own preferred pace. You’ll need to meet in the middle, and agree on ways to communicate your preferences before you head out together.

It makes sense to run at the pace of the slower runner. The simplest way to do this is to let the slower runner lead. But you could also run at the slower pace for part of the run and split up midway, slow things down to a jog but go on a harder route, or run laps on a field or track at different speeds. There are a ton of ways to go about it, but in general, it’s a good idea to start slow if you’re going to run as a couple. You can always speed things up as you learn each other’s pace.

You’ll run into differences beyond pace the more you run together, such as water breaks, how much you prefer to talk, or if you want to listen to the same, different, or no music. You can experiment with all of these until you find something that feels right—like any other aspect of your relationship, just make sure to keep the lines of communication honest and open, with the idea in mind that you’re both trying to make it work

It’s helpful to set expectations before every run. Is this run going to be more social or exercise focused? Is it going to be a race, or are you going to stick together the whole time? If your partner just wants to go for a relaxing jog, the last thing you want to do is start a run in competition mode.

You’ll want to nail down the details too. Plan your route and agree on a pace ahead of time. Make sure both of you know how long you plan on running, and on what schedule. You can still keep a cadence that includes solo runs. But make sure your partner knows when that’s the case, so they don’t feel left out.

Again, some things you won’t be able to control. It might take a month or two to figure out the best way to run as a couple. So take it easy, don’t put undue pressure on your ability to mesh perfectly as a running unit, and don’t sweat it if running with a partner doesn’t come naturally at first.

Fun workouts and races for couples

GaviotaCouple2 (The Gaviota 3 are featured in this image)

It’s fine to simply treat running with your partner as “we’ll do a normal run, together.” There’s something to be said for a light jog and a conversation. But when you have a running partner, it opens up new aspects of a running regimen that wouldn’t work alone.

For example, one of you doesn’t have to run at all. Try a day where one person runs and the other rides along on a bike. This will work for mornings where one person doesn’t feel up for a run, or if they want to focus on watching and coaching the other person. It’s great for when the faster runner wants to push themselves. They can run hard while the biker rides along and encourages them.

Relays and sprints are also an option. Sprint relays can be a great change of pace, though you’ll want to find a track or park where you can do it undisturbed. Long relays are a little odd to set up with two people—one might have to walk ahead to set up for the baton pass. But it’s a blast, and you can only do it properly with a partner.

And then there’s the race. Simple and short, complex, hilly and long: there’s nothing quite like running a race. As with all things couples running, make sure your partner is ok with a little competition. If they just want to go for a jog and spend time together, don’t push them.

It’s all about figuring out what works for both of you. It’s ok for this to be something you do every so often, instead of running as a couple each time you lace up your shoes.

And if you’re unable to make it work at all, don’t worry. Some people may simply prefer running solo (or not at all), and your compatibility as runners isn’t a magic indicator of your compatibility as partners.

Just enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you. It’s Time To Fly™.

 

How Often Should You Replace Your Running Shoes?

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How often should you replace your running shoes?

Every case is a little different.

Shoe construction, body weight, biomechanics, running surface, weather, storage, and maintenance can all contribute to the overall pace of wear for your running shoes.

The typical lifespan for a pair of running shoes falls in the 250-500 mile range, which in itself is very broad. Some people may find they get less than 200 and others more than 700. So miles might not be the best way for you to measure unless you want to start up a spreadsheet to track step counts and distances.

Here’s how to tell when it might be time for your next pair of running shoes, and what to look out for as you pile on the miles.

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How can I tell if I need to replace my running shoes?

Just like refilling your car’s gas tank, the best time to replace your running shoes is before it becomes a desperate need. There are indicators to help you know when that is, and they’re easier to spot than doing mileage calculations in your head.

Running shoe lifespans can depend on the shoe, how well their features match your biomechanical patterns, how you use them, and how well you maintain them. Regardless of the timing or mileage involved in your case, one thing’s for sure: all running shoes will eventually wear out their welcome.

Signs that your current shoes are worn out can include:

  • Initial Discomfort – it’s possible to choose the wrong shoe for your running style and gait, resulting in discomfort that never improves even as you break in a new pair of running shoes. Adjust lacing and tightness to see if it helps, but if you’re still blistering after your third run in a new pair of running shoes, you might need to move on sooner rather than later. After all, you do want to enjoy running. Even a pair that you’ve always loved will eventually cause discomfort, but that should only happen well after you’ve put some miles on them.
  • Uneven Wear Patterns – similar to initial discomfort, uneven wear on the treads or uppers of your running shoes can be an early indication that your running shoes are not a great match for your natural gait. If you’re seeing uneven wear, look into replacements with stability features that can help your next pair of running shoes spend more time on the road with you.
  • Balding Tread – just as bald tires can cause a car to skid all over the road, running in shoes with bald soles can lead to slippery footing. If your rubber outsole is worn nearly flat, you’ll want to upgrade soon – more on the immediate side if it’s completely smooth or worn through to the midsole.
  • Reduced Performance / Increased Fatigue – always keep an eye on your pacing and feel your legs. As your running shoe midsole cushions start to compress and wear thin, the reduced springiness will tire you out faster. If your usual run feels more arduous or takes longer than usual (or both), a replacement pair of running shoes should be on the horizon.
  • Wear, Fraying, or Splitting – if your running shoe uppers or inner lining are beginning to wear out, it doesn’t necessarily mean your shoes are past their useful lifespan. However, if any aspect of normal wear gets to a point where it causes discomfort during your run, such as pilling in the inner or a heel split causing new blisters, it’s time to get a new pair of shoes.

While all of the above are potentially useful ways to know when it might be time to invest in a replacement pair of running shoes, there’s an even simpler method available to anybody. Ask an expert.

You can always visit a local specialty shop for an informed opinion. Since they’re local, they’ll be able to answer most of your other specific questions as well.

Find a Local HOKA Retailer

Can I run in worn-out running shoes?

You can. But you probably shouldn’t.

Many people want to know if old running shoes can cause lower back pain, Achilles pain, or any number of body aches and maladies. The answer is complicated.

Much as an outdated eyeglasses prescription might cause eye strain and headaches, worn-out running shoes may contribute to soreness or injury. But there are plenty of other explanations that could also be the source of trouble. While a fresher pair of running shoes can help support proper posture and reduce the impact of each foot strike, they’re not a cure-all for chronic pain, and certainly not a replacement for medical attention.

The effect of newer running shoes on acute pain is a little more clear cut. Worn-out running shoes increase the likelihood you could slip or fall while running, and any awkward or unplanned body movements that occur at an elevated velocity may increase your risk of injury.

If the tread on your running shoes is wearing thin and you’re not getting adequate traction as a result, you may be running on borrowed time. Always experiment with replacement running shoes until you find the right pair for your gait, and continue to replace them regularly once they get worn down.

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How do I make my running shoes last longer?

While all shoes eventually wear out, you can prolong their lifespan with a careful maintenance regimen.

Consider the following:

  • Only use them for running – it stands to reason that the less often you wear your running shoes, the longer they’ll last. It might not feel like a quick trip to the grocery store puts significant strain on your shoes in comparison to a ten-mile run, but every step adds up.
  • Avoid machine washing or drying – these can jostle, melt, or otherwise prematurely age your shoes. For more specific tips on how to clean and maintain your HOKA running shoes, visit our HOKA Support Center.
  • Alternate between pairs – if you stagger your shoe purchase timing so that one pair is newer while another is broken in but still working fine, you can alternate between two reliable options – this approach is especially advisable if you live in a wet climate like the Pacific Northwest.
  • Start every run with dry shoes – if your shoes get wet due to running in the rain, let them fully dry before starting your next run – you can speed up the process by removing the laces and pulling the tongue forward, and stuffing your shoes with paper wadding.
  • Take care every time you put them on and take them off – the toe-to-heel-scrape method of removing your shoes puts additional wear on the seams that connect your running shoe’s upper to its mid and outer soles. Jabbing your heel in when you put them on can fold your inner padding and mess with your fit. So if you want to get the most out of every pair, sit down, loosen your laces, and handle each shoe carefully when you put them on and take them off.

And of course, if you are in the market for a new pair of running shoes, we’ve got a few recommendations:

SHOP HOKA ROAD RUNNING SHOES

Good luck, and happy running. It’s Time To Fly™.

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Look Good, Feel Good with Tisha Lanni

Tisha

My name is Tisha Lanni, and I’m a 44-year-old Jamaican native and mom to Kyra (16), Kayla (12), and Mariana (11). I ran track and field throughout most of my youth, owning the 200 and 400-meter sprints. I was raised in a very religious household and knew at a very young age that I wanted to inspire people and change lives. Still, I knew I did not want to be a pastor, even though it would have made my grandmother incredibly proud!

At the age of 18, I moved to South Florida where I spent most of my adult life. It was there where I met Marc Lanni, who introduced me to the gym where I found my first fitness community. Even though I knew no one’s name for the first six months, my spot would be saved in every class. The gym became a lifestyle. At the time, I was attending school, majoring in Human Resources Business Management. But because of my love for this new community, I decided to also obtain my Group Fitness certification, which came in handy immediately. To my surprise, one day while attending my regular Friday 5:00 PM cycle class, the instructor had an emergency and was unable to make the class. I, Tisha Wisdom at the time, jumped in and taught my very first cycle class. And now, 22 years later I’m still loving it!

In 2006, I earned my 1st-degree black belt in mixed martial arts (that was the most disciplined five years of my life). I later moved to New York, where I capitalized on the opportunity in the small town of Vestal and opened my own fitness studio. It was an immediate success and I had clients of all ages. The “Factory of Fitness” quickly became the local fitness community, and it was trending with the latest workout equipment and programs. Still, the key ingredient to our success was creating a community of like-minded people that found value in living a mentally and physically healthy lifestyle. As successful as The Factory of Fitness was, a different opportunity presented itself in Houston, Texas, which ended up being another life-changing experience for me.

I relocated to Houston in June of 2011, where the most significant chapter of my life started. Being a hands-on mom in a new state with a three and six-year-old and no close family or friends, owning my own studio was not an option. A mom I met through my youngest daughter invited me to Life Time Fitness. “It has your face all over it,” she told me. Of course, she was one hundred percent correct. Soon after, I took my very first group fitness class, “Strike.” Strike kickboxing is a martial arts-inspired class, and I loved it. Immediately after the class, I decided to join Life Time Fitness. I loved everything that the organization had to offer. Not being able to own my studio at that point in my life, Life Time offered all the tools and resources to continue doing what I loved the most. Nine months later, I found myself as a Studio Manager. This journey that started with my own small studio in New York has now led me to an organization that supplies all the tools and resources for me to continue doing what I love, without the responsibilities of being a business owner.

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This brings me to today; at 44 years old, I am living my healthiest and best life ever. Within my ten years at Life Time Fitness, I have held the position of studio manager, regional area lead, and national talent scout recruiter. With all these experiences under my belt, it has been a fantastic journey and a life fulfilling experience. I work among a team of like-minded individuals who live to positively change lives daily, which helps me live each day with authentic passion.

This pandemic has made me very honored to have the platform I have today. Like I mentioned earlier, I knew I wanted to change lives, but I did not want to be a pastor. Having this platform allows me to create a community where we can all come together, be inspired, motivated, and encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically, humbles me every day.

As a Studio Manager, I lead a group of 33 elite individuals. I get to teach and take their group fitness classes. I love Strike Kickboxing: it’s my martial-arts outlet. Cycle is how I started group fitness, so I love the format, and after years of track, it’s very easy on the knees and hips. I enjoy and take all group fitness formats and indulge in one or two classes daily.

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I do believe that if you look good, you feel good! So my workout apparel not only needs to be practical but also trendy and fashionable. Because I love high-intensity classes which include a lot of agility and lateral movements, I need my shoes to be light but very supportive of my skinny ankles. My obsession with HOKA started during quarantine, as I had to start running outside. I had invested in a pair of HOKA Elevon 2 shoes, which turned out to be the best pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. My joints did not get fatigued from all the outdoor running!

Then came my HOKA Hupana Flow; I am obsessed with them for Strike Kickboxing because they are incredibly light and super supportive. My favorite thing about them is feeling like I’m barefoot but still get support. It also makes kicking a whole lot smoother and easier on my joints. Lastly, I love my HOKA Mach 3 shoes for cross-training because they are lightweight with a low profile and good heel cushion that allows for support when doing lunges and squats. If I had to pick my overall favorite, it would be my Hupanas because they make pivoting a world of difference. I feel like a butterfly:) Call me crazy, but like Muhammad Ali said, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and that’s exactly how I feel during Strike Kickboxing wearing my Hupanas. I also just received my Hupana Slips, and I can’t wait to rock those and I’m looking forward to the no-lace.

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I’m a huge fan of the HOKA performance crop tights because the stitching causes no discomfort while sitting in the saddle on my bike, and the pockets are perfectly placed to store credit card, cash, and office key. The bonus with my performance crop tights is the fabric doesn’t stick to me while riding or working out. Another bonus since I do work eight hours a day is that they dry so fast that I don’t have to change immediately after a class. Another one of my must-have HOKA apparel items is the women’s performance knit 3″ shorts…love, love, love them for Strike Kickboxing and kickboxing classes. They make me look and feel like an MMA fighter. Range of motion is everything when it comes to martial arts and my woven shorts allow me to be fully mobile and ready to kick. Having a slit on each side allows for various ranges of motion including side kicks, roundhouse kicks, knees, basically any form of strike you can think of. I love the cut and the fit. Not to mention it’s not flamboyant but still feminine with a little sexiness and a little badass at the same time. I also can wear them for day to day activities. Like when I’m riding my cruiser on a hot day!

My other favorite piece of the HOKA workout apparel is their sports bra! Like I mentioned earlier, I like high-intensity workouts, so I need real support while maintaining my fashion sense. The design, razorback cut, and straps anchor the bra close to the body, providing more support. The fit is perfectly snug without being too tight, has enough support to control up and down movements while avoiding discomfort and pain. The padding in the performance sport bra is extremely thin, which is important for me.

HOKA offers all the apparel that I need for training. As we all know, if you look good, you feel good! #TimeToFly

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Unfinished Business: Jim Walmsley on Project Carbon X 2

HOKA ultrarunner Jim Walmsley set the running world on fire with his 50-mile world record at the 2019 edition of Project Carbon X. However, he has some unfinished business, as he wasn’t able to hold that pace through 100K (roughly 62 miles). With the upcoming Project Carbon X 2 on January 23rd at 7am MST, Jim has a chance at redemption, so we sat down with him to learn about 2019’s race, how training has gone this year, and what his goals are for Project Carbon X 2, and more.

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HOKA: Before we dive into this year’s event, tell us about 2019’s Project Carbon X. How did that race go for you?

2019’s Project Carbon X was a really good day for me. I was able to break Barney Klecker’s American Record from 1980 of 4:51:25 and Bruce Fordyce’s World Record from 1983 of 4:50:51, with my own time of 4:50:08 for 50 miles. It was a little nerve wracking trying to decide on which distance to target for 2019’s event. It was a pace of 5:48/mile for the 50 mile WR or the 100K WR pace of 5:56/mile. On paper, I had thought those might be close enough paces to be able to target both goals in one race, and that’s what HOKA set up for me to try. With warm temperatures in Sacramento in May, some unexpected hills along the chosen route, and running some impatient early miles, it all added up to not be my perfect day. Instead, I was realizing as I kept getting closer to 50 miles, that it was going to take my full gas tank in order to just pull off the 50 mile WR time. In reflection, the 50-mile World Record has a rich history, dating back to before I was born. It was very rewarding to target the record held by Barney Klecker and Bruce Fordyce. I wasn’t able to hold onto the 100K WR pace from there, but I still took away a really great experience.

HOKA: 2020 has been a tumultuous year; how has training gone for you since the 2020 Marathon Trials?

Like most runners this year, races have been few and far between. Since the Trials, I tried to mix in some other training like indoor cycling on Zwift in my garage, as well as still going out to Colorado for a summer of camping and big mountain running. In 2020, I’ve gone through confusion like most people. I have felt periods of being tired or unmotivated; I have sometimes struggled with distinguishing the difference. Despite that struggle, training has been really great overall for me. I’ve had long blocks of steady mileage without reaching too much for big weeks and I have avoided taking much time off. I ran a really fun 72-mile run in the San Juans with 25,000ft of climbing and I got to race my first ever stage race on super technical trails in the Azores Islands. Both were a nice, much-needed change from road training earlier this year. 2020 will be the first year of my life, that I know of or I have documented in training, that I will reach 5,000 miles for the year. That mileage also has about 800,000 feet of elevation gain in it.

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HOKA: What are your goals for this year’s Project Carbon X 2? What did you learn from the 2019 race? Has anything changed in terms of training for this year’s 100K?

My goal for this 100K is to put my best foot forward and to put things together from what I’ve learned from my previous attempts at 100K road races. This will be my third attempt at a road 100K. I feel that my results in the 100K road distance are still disproportionate to my capability. So ultimately, I would like to take away the feeling of a good result. Going into this, I will be setting my sights and pace goals in line with trying to break Nao Kazami’s World Record of 6:09:14, at 5:56/mile pace. The biggest thing I learned from 2019’s Project Carbon X is not to lose patience. I want to maintain patience even when I am feeling good. I can’t start to wind up the pace and speed up too much too early. I need to stay with the goal pace and trust myself to be strong later. Perhaps closer to 55 miles is when I can start thinking about running below 5:50/mile pace. It would be a very positive feeling to run an evenly paced first 50 miles and build onto that the last 12 miles. Like many people, I have self-doubts about how I will feel late in races. I need to trust my training and fitness and make this about running the full 100K and aiming to break 6:09.

I see there are two big differences in my build up this time around. The first difference is there is no goal race, like Western States, looming afterwards. I am able to take full advantage of this race opportunity. The second difference is that this training block has the benefit of more speed training from my marathon block from the 2020 US Marathon Trials. My speed and efficiency on the roads have never been better in my ultra running career than this current block. Speed sessions from 2018 were really eye opening for me. They were a bit frustrating. I was able to knock a lot of rust off to run 1:04:00 for the half marathon in Houston in 2019, where I initially qualified for the trials. Then, revisiting that leg speed later in 2019 for another half marathon, workouts clicked differently than my first time back in the saddle in 2018. I was able to take a minute off of my half marathon time the month before the trials. Now, training for the 100K, I am currently feeling good about being able to hit threshold work in the range of 4:45/mile. However, I am still including sub-70 minute climbs out of the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab trail once a week into my training. This provides more strength for my long road runs. It is now about one month out and I am getting very excited about my training leading into Project Carbon X 2. I have kept a nice balance in my training so far.

HOKA: The Carbon X shoe has been updated; what are your thoughts on the Carbon X 2 compared to its predecessor?

Compared to the original Carbon X, this shoe feels faster, no question. It has a nice heel to lean back into when I’m focusing on staying relaxed, while having a responsive forefoot to run at a quicker pace. I find my position while running is more ideal. I don’t feel as far forward as I did with the original shoe. It makes for a great tempo pace shoe and I am excited to feel even better for this 100K.

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HOKA: How do you feel about this year’s field in the 100K? Who do you think will be your biggest competition?

I am still learning more about who has confirmed for this year’s race. COVID-19 is playing a much bigger role and making it difficult to have as many international athletes as we would have hoped for. That said, HOKA is making the most of the situation in a creative way that should enhance the event greatly. There will be a concurrent 100K race held in Japan. Japan, as a country, has been the kings and queens of the road 100K event. Knowing they will be time trialing as well, it will add a really great benefit for us in the US. It adds a type of ghost on my shoulder all day. I hope it will push us at the front of the race towards breakthrough times, knowing they are aiming for the same goals.

It will also be fun to see many HOKA athletes I haven’t gotten to see at races in 2020. Elov Olson, Joacim Lantz, and Johan Lantz from Sweden sound like they will be able to travel in for the race. I’ve become good friends with them over the years. We should have some really interesting dark horses traveling in from South Africa. Many of us Americans don’t know as much about those athletes. South Africa, like Japan, is another ultra road-running-crazed country engulfed by the great Comrades Marathon race. It is their Super Bowl of events in the country with a 56-mile road race in June every year. Tyler Andrews, Tim Freriks, and Jared Hazen have been training up here in Flagstaff with me. I know they are ready to chase fast times. It will also be great to line up as HOKA teammates again with Hayden Hawks. I would love to get him back a little for breaking my course record at JFK last month! haha

HOKA: What do you think about this new course in Arizona compared to last year’s 100K course?

A lot of planning went into Project Carbon X 2 to make it even better than the course in Sacramento. In retrospect, 2019’s course ended adding some difficulty with the May temperatures in Sacramento and some of the punchy, little hills along the course. 2021’s course has all the right ingredients for a fast course. I am excited to have the opportunity to chase a world record in my hometown.

I feel humbled that HOKA is able to take the necessary precautions to hold an event like this during the difficulties of 2020. I have a little bias, but the desert in Arizona makes for a perfect place to race in the winter months. Good temperatures and flat land in this area of Phoenix make this area ideal in January. Project Carbon X2’s course should be very fast and we should be able to maintain a good flow of pace all day out there. At HOKA, we all learned from 2019’s Project Carbon X. I feel like Christian Moore and the team at HOKA have really dialed this 100K race course in on near perfect. It’s on myself and the other HOKA athletes now to show up ready to run fast!

Jim is seen above wearing the new Carbon X 2. Good luck Jim, and to all the athletes racing at Project Carbon X 2 on January 22nd at 4pm MST in Japan, and January 23rd at 7am MST in the US.

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