Sunday, June 30, 2013

Here's One for the Stumblers

What’s with all this talk on running form?  Is it really critical to running?  Maybe.  Here’s my take on it with 40 years of running experience.

I think form is important – to a point.  And that point is if you want to be an elite runner, then maybe you should focus on form. 

But here’s my story.  And we have to go back years and years, to the beginning, and perhaps even further back then that.  But I will just start with me.  When I was 5ish.  Seems like a good place to start.

We (meaning my sis and I) didn’t have much structure with our childhood.  The translation being we were simply free to play all day.  No play dates were scheduled.  No organized activities.  No after school programs.

I never belonged to a track team, or any team for that matter.  I simply was.  That may be good to some and horrible to others.  But it was what it was.  A free flowing unsupervised childhood. 

When I was bored, I would run.  When I wanted to get somewhere, I would run.  When I wanted to play, I would run.  And in any pick-up game on the street, I would run. 

There was no coach to guide.  No mentor to instruct.  No older track runner to advise.  It was just play.  And to this day, it is still just play.

My form stinks, I am sure, if you were to look at me objectively. My physical therapist said I hunch when I run, but I can’t tell because I hardly ever run holding a mirror.

And even I, with my own form challenges, judge people based on form.

I have watched races like the Boston Marathon, both from the sidelines and as a qualified runner, and have thought to myself:

 “There is no way in hell that person is going to run 26.2 miles. They are already stumbling down the road all choppy right now – at Mile 4.  You, dear sir, do NOT look like a runner.  Good luck, dude, but I just don’t think so”.

And then I see them lumbering along – and passing me – as we across the finish.

But, in all fairness, some ways of running do help.  Here are some of my simple suggestions for form improvement.   After logging in tens of thousands of miles on all types of terrain, these few things are what I found helpful:
1.  Shrug your shoulders.  Up and down a bit.  It will loosen them up and you will run freer.
2.  Lengthen your stride.  The choppiness is tough.  On everything.  You, your joints, other people looking at you. 
3.  Jump on the grass, someone’s lawn (they won’t mind), in place of the sidewalk.  It’s softer and easier on your joints.
4.  Think about relaxing everything but your core.  Think of your core as propelling you forward, not your legs.  It really helps protect your back.  Also, it can stop you from hunching (note to self:  do this).
5.  Unclench your fists and jaws.  Sometimes, this happens.  Relax them mindfully. 
6.  Run anyway, today, tomorrow and the day after.

Perseverance trumps form any day.

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