With the London Olympic Games having drawn to a spectacular close, I’ve reflected on my own still-evolving journey towards running with better technique.
When the last Games rolled around I was deeply into my running second coming, beginning to put together some respectable performances in the cold, but rarified air of Australia’s running Mecca, Ballarat.
Not long after Beijing I succumbed to yet another running injury – the kind I’d experienced on and off for 20 years and that had always prevented me from fully embracing and enjoying running with any consistency. Since then I’ve researched and written a book about running technique and launched a coaching business focused on helping non-Olympians such as myself to move with a little more purpose.
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But where it all began was with the realisation that there must be something that good runners were doing that I wasn’t. After all, my body was breaking running 40-50 kilometres per week; an average Olympic distance runner would have completed more than three times that volume at much higher intensity over a period of many years. To my mind, simply dismissing talented runners as genetic freaks with some God-given, unattainable method of running seemed a cop-out. Surely there was something they were doing that I could practice to help my running?
As it turns out, there was. I wanted to know how they moved, rather than just sitting back in awe and being blown away by the impossibility of it all. I wanted to understand at a deeper level what consistent movement patterns, postures and even muscles were being used at different stages of the running cycle. So through research and observation, this is what I learned.
Benchmarking running movement patterns
Good runners are mostly well-aligned: their thighs running on the tram tracks that are the hips, they very efficiently apply force down and back to propel their torsos ahead of their hips. Twisting and rotation of the legs is minimized, with little energy leaking sideways.