Anyone who does organized races knows the pain of being stuck behind the walker, the slow runner, and the person with the jogging stroller. The question is, how do you train to get around them?
Not long ago I bought a SKLZ Quick Ladder. (Let me note that I am not sponsored by anyone. So all the gear I review has been purchased by me on my own volition. If that were to ever change, I would disclose it. Either way, I will work to keep my reviews as honest as possible.)
The ladder is flat rungs joined together by black nylon webbing. It is nothing particularly fancy, but it gives athletes a chance to work on the quickness of their feet. It came with a pamphlet of drills that include things like lateral shuffles, base rotations, and lateral in and out movements.
I had used agility ladders and other tools before as part of training in karate and other sports. When I started doing the drills in the pamphlet, I thought they were kind of interesting, but I didn’t know that they had any value to me as a runner.
Then, I was out running a path laid out in one of the maps from the “Running on the Road” post. In front of me was a couple out for their morning walk. As I stepped sideways to maneuver around them, I was able to pass them without breaking my stride. The movement felt exactly like a movement called “Lateral Shuffle with Hold” in the pamphlet. I felt more agile in that moment.
As an average runner, I tend to put myself towards the middle of the pack in races. This usually means that there are a lot of people around me until everyone settles into their pace. This takes about half a mile to a mile, depending on the course. The agility ladder drills give me some practice in dodging around people without needing other people. (So does running on local tracks, but that is another post.)
So, I think there is real value to agility ladder training for us middle runners that can help us improve. But let me say that despite my buying a ladder, there is no requirement to buy something formal if it doesn’t fit the budget.
You can create agility ladders on a sidewalk or driveway with chalk, or use tape in your living room if that is better. You could also get creative with the tiles in a kitchen or hallway. I once had a hexagon in blue painters’ tape on the floor in my living room. Someone thought I was measuring for a table, but it was a variation on an agility ladder that I had found on a Web site.
So, if you find yourself frequently stuck behind other runners or on crowded paths, set up an agility ladder, google some drills, and start to experiment. You will likely find that the crowds aren’t as troublesome. (Though it will still be a blow to the ego when you are passed by the people who seemed slow or the ones pushing a jogging stroller.)