By Tom Fairbrother

First of all, if you have no idea what The Egg Test is please click here before continuing. Note it's not about either chickens, or cooking.
 
So after identifying two faults in my running technique, the strive for perfection led to me taping three eggs to my body. The things a runner will do for a PB.
 
I ran three runs; 10 miles, 8 miles and 12 miles, all of various surfaces and terrain. The goal was to try not to break any eggs and in doing so improving my technique when I am fatigued by preventing me slipping into bad habits. 

Here is how I got on...
 
Run 1 - 10 miles

For Run One I chose a 10 mile route, from my house in Melton to a place called Rendlesham and back -both in Suffolk.

Pretty flat on the whole, what hills there were very short and shallow.  99% of the route was on tarmac roads and concrete pavements.
 
I picked this route as it is very rural so less chance of being laughed at, bearing in mind I had an egg stuck to my face (as you do).

Going by the recent so-called 'drought' it was a rare dry day and also quite mild. Perfect for causing a bit of a sweat and putting my energy levels to the test.

After taping the eggs to my chin and wrist, something I have to say is a first for me, I hit the road confident and optimistic as to what the run had in store for me.

I reached Rendlesham with no problems at all, running quite well at a decent pace (around 6:50 per mile) keeping my head still and level, eyes focused on the horizon and not at the ground whilst ensuring I did not get lazy, keeping my arms moving front to back and not my usual sailor side to side style. 
 
I was expecting that, if I was to break any of the eggs, it would be those on my wrists for the reasons documented in part one of this Test. How wrong I was! At roughly the 8 mile mark, the egg resting between my chest and chin designed to keep my head still, broke into pieces.
 
So yes, I literally ended up with egg on my face. And there was me thinking it was just an expression.
 
Well to be honest, as you can see here, it actually probably looked more like I had been sick. I'm not sure which is better really, real egg on your face or uncontrollable vomiting!



It happened as I was reaching probably the largest hill on the route, as I began to climb I seemed to recall ducking my head slightly to try and drive myself up it, only to crush the egg with my chin.
 
Without any further egg casualties, I completed the run with two eggs intact. Certainly the eggs on wrists helped me with my arm movement and I have to say that I honestly did feel as though it helped haul me forward as I got a bit leggy towards the end. Clearly though my head movements were still deteriorating as I tired. 
 
Eggs broken - 1/3

Run 2 - 8 miles

With 10 miles the day previous and 12 to follow, I chose to run the 8 mile route second to break up the two longer runs.
 
This route is one I run regularly as seems me follow the river wall along the River Deben in Suffolk from my village of Melton, through the town of Woodbridge to Martlesham, then loop back through Woodbridge incorporating part of the town's annual 10k race route, and back to my house. Very hilly.
 
Now it just so happened that the day I chose to follow a river pathway consisting of dirt, gravel and concrete paths, it tipped down with rain and the wind was howling.

Not pleasant conditions, but perfect for putting my technique to the test. Run 1 was dry. flat-ish roads, where as this would be slippery, hilly, almost cross-country trail like conditions

Already my mis-hap the day previous had had an effect as I found myself particularly focused and determined not to break anymore. Immediately therefore what could have just been a run just going through the motions had an objective and a purpose.

The headwind was by far the toughest of all three runs for the eggs on my wrists. It is easy when running into a strong wind to really drive your arms to keep your momentum going, especially on a longer run where the pace is likely to be slower.


As you can see by the photo above, in parts the route was also ridiculously slippery, so just trying to keep my balance put all three eggs at risk!


Not so sunny Suffolk
As I said in my previous blog where I tested Barefoot Running, I am the ultimate of bad losers so there was not way I was going to break an egg on this run, even if it meant me falling in the river! 

Overall I certainly felt as though I had to think less about keeping my head still. I don't want to say it was solely because of the egg incident the day before, but whereas I was very conscious of my arm movement, my head seemed to naturally stay very still keeping my shoulders low and loose despite the demanding conditions.

Progress, very small progress!

Eggs broken - 0/3
 

Run 3 - 12 miles
 
Ominous signs early on

Okay this was the real test. I survived 8 wet slippery miles with some tough hills, but could I do it for 12 miles.
 
This was going to test my mental concentration levels, as well as my fitness and of course my technique.
So far there had been signs of progress, particularly with my arms, where the movement was beginning to feel a bit more familiar and natural.


Anyone who plays golf will now, the minute somebody alters your swing, whether it be your grip or posture, it feels awful and you just want to revert back to your old method.


However, if you can look at the bigger picture you will know it is a long term gain if you persevere. And the minute the new method begins to feel natural, you know you are on the right track.
This was how I was beginning to feel, although obviously instead of a golf club in my hand I had an egg stuck to my chin!


It was again a wet day and incredibly windy. This route I chose was mainly road similar to Run One, but was far more undulating and was going to be really difficult to maintain my technique and concentration levels in the latter stages with so many hill climbs.
Listening to Fleet Foxes, the first five miles passed uneventfully, moving quite well and feeling no stiffness despite having ran 18 miles in the two days prior. At school the 'warm-up' always seemed like a waste of 10 minutes of the PE Lesson, but now I know this is why you have to stretch people!
The middle section of the route was really hilly, the pace dropped well down but despite struggling a little bit, in the back of my mind I was still conscious of keeping me head level and ensuring I kept my weight going forwards and not side to side like a sailor.

One of the toughest parts of all three runs was the downhill section of one of the hills after roughly 9 miles. Strangely I thought that it would be uphill where my technique might fall down as I hauled myself up it, but actually the most difficult to maintain my posture in particular was running down a steep hill.

As anybody who has snowboarded  will know, the first time you go down the slope, your body's reaction is to back off and therefore you lean back. However all this does is make you go even faster and inevitably you fall over. 

I found that as is often the case, my body naturally wanted to slow me down as I was picking up speed. This is normal as most runners will know, so nothing to be surprised about here.

But what I had never considered was how your technique and form quickly goes out of the window in doing so. By leaning back with my arms slightly out to the sides, it made me realise that this could be where I have lost time before in races, whilst also putting extra strain on my lower back landing with my weight on my heels. Certainly something on my next run I will look at.

Most importantly though, I got through this section with all eggs in tact! And the final 3 miles passed off fairly eventfully. Although my mind did start to wander onto my energy levels, I quickly refocused before any eggs could break.

Eggs broken - 0/3

Total Eggs broken 1/9

Conclusion

I guess this Test has to be deemed as a success with only one egg broken in 30 miles. Okay so eggs are not the most scientific of tools, but they are very cheap and as ridiculous as this may sound, they do make an effective training aid.
 
The progress I saw after the first run reminds me when I was a child. As a kid my dad was watching Arackniphobia and I walked in, and he said you don't want to watch this it will give you nightmares. Being a tough 7 or 8 year old I shrugged the warning off and joined him on the sofa. And I have been terrified of spiders ever since!

Anyway I'm no psychologist or Derren Brown but I think this is similar to me, as I think part of me wanted to break the egg just to see if I could, even though I knew what would happen. Doing this then gave my mind a negative memory to associate with the head movement and so even though I was focusing on my arms, subconsciously I was still able to keep my head level. Make sense? Didn't think so.
 
I am not going to claim that after three runs I am now in possession of the perfect running technique, because after running most days for almost two years and like with most things, it will take much longer to get out of my bad habits.
 
However what this Test has done is to help identify my weaknesses and begin to correct them, and to give me some mental focus points. Things what I can think about instead of thinking "My god I am tired!"

From now on, during long hard runs when I look like hitting the wall or if I begin to lose interest, just having these two things to concentrate my mind on; arms forwards & back not across, and keep my head level could be the difference between giving in and walking the last 500m or securing my new personal best by providing me with some motivation at a crucial stage.

And by most importantly, it made all three runs fun and actually really enjoyable, something I didn't think 12 miles in the rain with an egg taped to my face could be!

I honestly believe that this experiment has improved my technique and especially my awareness of it. However with my hometown's 10k race coming up on 20th May, the big test now will be if I slip back into my bad habits when I am eggless!

@runworldguide

http://runnersguidetotheworld.blogspot.co.uk/