Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Could Look Worse

This is where marathon world-record holder Paul Tergat nipped me at the line at the NYC Marathon. After posting the photo from the race this morning I had a few comments on my form. First Scooter wrote, "I looked at the picture and looked again, and from what I see, it looks like you're about to make a heel strike. I don't know when this picture was taken, but hope it's late and your form was suffering. Are you a heel striker? (I trust you recognize that if you are, your workouts beat you up far more than necessary AND you likely require heavier shoes, which will hurt times.) " Then my new buddy Sasha wrote-"Mike - do you have a way to get your VO2 Max tested? I would guess that yours would be quite a bit higher than Lucas' and Andre's. Yes, I know you saw through that. It is a polite way to tell a runner that he does not have a good form. I have the same problem, and unfortunately I do not quite know how to fix it. The only thing I know is that if I run downhill fast, things get better. I found that consciously trying to fix the form is mostly ineffective, at least in the heel/toe issue. I can force myself to run on my toes, but if I have to force it, I do not run any faster. One exception to this I've found is that focusing on relaxing the quad, and engaging the hamstring earlier helps me combat the onset of fatigue. If you feel you need to heel strike, do it. When your body is ready to run on your toes, it will without you having to think. Just make it run fast, and it will figure out the best form."

While I'm certainly no Baryshnikov while pounding the pavement, I don't have a huge problem with heel-striking. And for those who think it's dreadfully inefficient, I just had to put my foot-strike next to Tergats to illustrate that while I'm certainly carrying some extra pork-chops and my arm carriage is a little off-kilter, we are both heel-strikers and are hitting the ground with our feet at a similar angle.

I'll agree with Sasha that actively trying to "fix" my form while running at moderate paces hasn't really helped me, but I'll step in and say I'd never want to run on my toes. Maybe Baryshnikov could, but for the rest of us striking on the forefoot would be enough.

No evening run tonight, I'm saving up for tomorrow's long run after three doubles in a row. Whew.

11 comments:

Scooter said...

Ah, but if you could become more efficient, the you might crack 2:22 with all that means! I'll send you an e-mail.

Scooter said...

Not "the" - "then"!

edinburghrunner said...

Interesting discussion!

Duncan Larkin said...

Form-schmorm. You run fast. You have some outstanding times that are going to get better. Something to work on? Sure. Something to lose sleep about and tie up your valuable blogging time with? No freakin' way. I hear that Paula bobs her head really weird and that it might cost her MINUTES. Maybe we should collectively do something about it? Start up blogger.com! Strike the keyboard sails! Rally the crew! Seriously, form is very hard to perfect and work on. You know that. You run a certain way. If you are feeling relatively comfortable that way, go with it brother--it's not like you're new to running Mike. I know this posting will summon lots of responses to the negative. Entire Alexandria-esque libraries have probably been devoted to running form articles and to 'diss' constructive form feedback is probably going a tad bit overboard on the 'running rebel' scale. Just don't overanalyze yourself in this area. Your arms are carried up high and tight, but so are many of the world's best marathoners.

looky looky

I'm counting at least 4 in this pic.

Mike said...

If anyone is wondering what the hell is wrong with my blog, I wish I could tell you. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.

robtherunner said...

Man do you ever feel like you're getting beat up with the comments Mike. Thanks to Duncan for sticking up for you in the form debate. I guess everyones an expert.

Evan said...

It's also hard to say anything terribly constructive about form--which is a continuous movement-- from a snapshot of one point in the stride.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

fascinating discussion

i love the side-by-side comparison with paul tergat

angie's pink fuzzy said...

PS one of bloggers filers went kaput. all the blogs on the bad filer were down forever...yours was one of them, i guess!

Mike said...

Thanks Angie, hopefully it's all fixed now. Well, if people are going to be critical of a pic I post, I'd rather they say my form is ugly rather than my children. I try to take it in the spirit it's given.

Sasha Pachev said...

Mike:

It is good when the problems are apparent. Then at least you know what you need to fix to get faster. If everything looks good, and you are not yet where you want to be, you do not have a path to get there. My intuitive guess, which could very well be wrong, is that 90% of your improvement potential at this time is in the economy, and only 10% in the endurance.