Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Running Form Natural or Taught?

This past Sunday I witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly of running form. The good might be the two most beautiful runners of our time. The bad and ugly from a guy who has run 14 marathons winning 11 of them.

First the good. I was at the Rock n Roll Marathon San Diego waiting for my wife (with "perfect" form meaning it's perfect for her) to finish. I got the chance to see the the front of the race (1/2 marathon) finish. When I saw Birhane Dibada and Rita Jeptoo turn on to the finishing stretch my mouth dropped.

The two women were running side by side. Before they came by it was man after man. With the men there was a force and a mess about their form. These two women show up and running quieted down. Their form was flawless. Not a single movement out of place. Perfect arm swing, perfect flow with not even a hint of bounce. They were sprinting all out and you would never know it. They look the same sprinting as they do at mile 1. Rita is the most feared runner right now. She ran 2:18:47 at Boston in April. 

When I returned home I found myself watching the Stockholm Marathon and again my jaw dropped. This time however was because Bitok Benjamine was pulling away in the final 10K of the marathon to win. When he runs he looks like he's about to fall over. He leans so far forward it's looks painful. His chin sticks out and his foot plant is terrible. Yet he is running fast and winning. 

That's Benjamine in blue at the Stockholm Marathon

So I started to wonder if anyone ever taught them running form. Then I questioned what would happen if somebody tried to teach Benjamine proper running form. We would tell him to stand upright with only a slight lean. We'd probably tell him to dip his chin and we'd surely tell him to shorten his stride. I guarantee he would run slower too.

As you know most African runners didn't start as runners. They started as kids running to school and back. In fact if you look at Benjamine you get the feeling he was often late to school. My point is their form was developed long before they started to formerly train. Their form has become very efficient and I say that because they win often. Their form works because they run often. I've said this so many times and I can't say it enough. If you want to develop perfect running form for you, run as often as you can. The more you run, the more efficient you will become and don't let anyone tell you how to properly run. There is no single best way.

It's a good life....
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