It’s a treat for the everyday runner to get the opportunity to watch elite runners in person. It’s not the same watching on TV or online. Their power, grace, determination and talent are ar more inspiring in person.
Ever since returning from LA watching the US Olympic marathon trials last week, I’ve replayed the images of the over 300 men and women who competed that morning. I am struck however by something beyond how fast they run compared to the rest of us mortals (men at five minute miles and women in low to mid-five minute range – for 26.2 miles). Running form.
I noticed that among these elite athletes – arguable the absolute top couple hundred US distance runners – male and female; the wide variety of running form. And just as with the millions of everyday runners, there were the heel strikers, forefoot strikers, mid-foot strikers. There were motionless upper bodies with arm swaying uppers; low arm carriers and high arm carriers; shuffling strides and bouncy middle distance track-like strides; upright postures to more forward leans; feet that tracked in perfect straight lines to those that splayed outward and some with loping long strides (for their height) – to short choppy strides. Yes, there are some who may epitomize what most runners view as a “perfect” form. You could point to Galen, Meb, Shalane or Amy (and perhaps to that runner in your club or on the street you see).
The one thing however that unites every one of those elite runners is not running form. Discipline. Hard work. Dedication. Pain tolerance. A mindset to do what it takes to optimize their own genetic talents and not to run like someone else.
Coaches (including myself), runners, physical therapists, biomechanists often simply get too technical. The #1 controllable difference between everyday/age group runners and elite runners is the fact that they are highly trained specifically for their event. It is not their running form. Great running form minus great training yields slow racing. They train better. They have comprehensive year round training programs. They train specifically for their event (not every weekend race that pops up).
My take-away: If you want to be a faster runner then focus on training better to become a better runner. Stop trying to become someone else. Stop comparing your running form to someone else’s. Stop trying to make your running form like someone else’s. Optimize YOU.
[As an aside: I’ll give a nod to #1 difference being genetics. Even if we trained like elite runners most of us would never be as fast as them.]
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