If you are a runner who is trying to improve their running stride and efficiency, you have likely read many articles regarding mid foot stride, stride length, and what certain coaches may have recommended to people they train.
What makes a great runner vs. a good runner vs. someone who seems to be working just as hard and runs so much slower maybe how they use their body. Some runners may have an awful looking running gait but may be highly efficient in how they run. Others may have great looking running form, yet they are much slower. What is our definition of running efficiency?
Coaches often use philosophy with their runners based on new evidence, an article they may have read, and how they trained when they actively participated. Their opinions are usually based on what they see, without objective evidence.
It had been my experience during my years working with USATFNJ that every once in a while, you would see a runner who just broke from the pack in a race and then moved so gracefully while doing so, leaving the pack in the dust. Whether these skills were learned or were just innate, it was more about how they used their body, not necessarily about how they hit the ground or about their stride length.
A new study in the European Journal of Sports Science used 121 coaches that viewed the video clips of 5 different runners and rank them according to efficiency and then compared their assumptions to how much oxygen they consumed. The result was that the coaches got it wrong. There are of course other studies that show the same thing.
Some of the best runners such as Paula Radcliffe have horrible running styles and postures, yet are at the top of their field and winning the NY Marathon. Should their coaches change what is working for them?
Outside magazine explored the idea of efficiency and running stride from the point of view of coaches. Their findings bring into question the wisdom of tweaking a runners form which may be an adaptive response to their body style. Is this type of tweaking making the runner slower or causing them problems as they try to compete at faster times? Check out the article below
Don’t Judge a Runner’s Efficiency by Their Stride
A new study asked coaches to rank the most economical runners after watching video footage. It didn’t go well. Before you tell someone to change their running stride, you should be pretty confident that they’re not already efficient.
By Alex Hutchinson Sep 30, 2020
In the spring of 1984, Craig Virgin—already a two-time World Cross Country champion and one of the most decorated runners in American history—was running a 10,000-meter race in Eugene, Oregon, against a relatively undistinguished field. But there was one runner he couldn’t shake: an unheralded 20-year-old from Newfoundland named Paul McCloy whose unorthodox running style evoked the famous description of Emil Zatopek: “like a man wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt.”
As the race proceeded, according to the apocryphal version of the tale long circulated in Canadian running circles, McCloy was delighted to hear the Eugene crowd begin to cheer him on, chanting “Newfie! Newfie! Newfie!” Virgin himself looked puzzled by the continued presence of this tortured shadow behind him—but in the end, it was McCloy who sprinted away to victory, head bobbing wildly, in a time of 28:11.72. It was only later that someone explained to McCloy that the crowd had actually been chanting “Goofy! Goofy! Goofy!”