Annaka Price can take one look at a runner and recognize their propensity toward injury. “It’s just like when you observe a musician, you can see when there are inefficiencies and potential problems.”
The clarinet performance DMA student knows because she was an injured runner herself. In 2011, she suffered stress fractures that cracked both her shin bones. “I spent a year learning how to run again,” she explains. “I did a lot of research and took a class on running form, and that’s where I learned how your cadence can affect how your run.”
As a musician, Price knows all about cadence. The idea that her two passions were related—indeed, that one could help the other—eventually led her to Operation Cadence.
Finding the beat
“It seems like running should be so easy and natural,” says Price, fresh off her third half marathon since returning from injury last year. “But a lot of people haven't explored how to run and end up frustrated.”
As she recovered with cadence in mind, Price did what any good musician would do: she brought her metronome on her runs. “An increased cadence more naturally facilitates a smaller stride and a more efficient foot strike,” she explains. “When your stride is too large, your skeletal system cannot function optimally and your muscles must overcompensate, increasing the risk of injury.”
In her research, Price learned that 180 beats per minute on her metronome was the ideal cadence for running. That many steps per minute may sound fast to the casual jogger, but Price says cadence isn’t necessarily related to speed. “It relates to how many steps you take. You can take smaller strides and more steps, without your run turning into a sprint.”
After a while, the metronome got old. “I started talking to some friends who laughed at me for running with a metronome, but we were unable to find music to run to … even among the playlists already designed for running.
“I wanted to make quality music available for runners.”
Adding the melody
Price got to work finding and creating that music, casually referring to her new venture as Operation Cadence. “I just started calling it that because I really wanted to educate people about cadence, since it’s so important to me and my development as a runner. The name caught on, and just stuck.”
This spring, she started commissioning pieces from composers with the goal of recording an album available for digital download. Several have already signed up, including a friend of Price’s who wants to create a “dub-step” piece for bass clarinet. “I want the music to be diverse, with broad appeal,” Price says.
“By recording newly composed music at 180 beats per minute, I'll have a resource to teach others about effective and efficient running form, while simultaneously increasing awareness and appreciation for contemporary classical music.
“So many people outside classical music have such a narrow conception of what it is. When you can showcase a wide variety of styles, it’s more accessible and enjoyable.”
Price is currently working with local businesses to secure support for Operation Cadence, which she also hopes to make part of her dissertation project. “Running is so popular, and Boulder is such a good place to be while working on this project—it’s an active community that’s engaged in the arts,” she says.