|Although in a sprint to the finish line,|
very noticeable heel strike in 2011
As far as my running form, I've spent a lot of time and energy over the past two years analyzing and changing it completely too. And I can honestly say, I think it's never been better. I was a heel striker. I had always been a heel striker. High school sports photos were evidence of this way back before I had any idea what a "foot strike" meant. It was just natural.
But when I started running, the high volume of miles that were piling up year after year induced a lot of little nagging injuries and I needed to make a change. I needed to find something that cushioned the blow of thousands of foot steps I was taking each year ... 2,500 miles in 2010, and over 3,000 miles in both 2011 & 2012.
So I did a lot of research on forefoot and midfoot striking. Basically finding out how to hit the ground with the front or middle of my foot first, instead of the heel, with each stride. And honestly, I thought most of the things I read were flawed theories, and compensatory cobbled-up running styles that were half-baked from injury-prone runners who just couldn't hack it. I thought it was a passing fad trumped up to sell stupid looking flat running shoes (I'm still not convinced that's not part of it). And I thought trying to change someone's natural running style was stupid, ineffective, and would only lead to new injuries. Boy ... was I wrong!
|The evolution of a foot strike. Transitioning from a straight and rigid-legged heel strike on the left,|
to a gentler and more cushioned midfoot strike on the right ... this took about 12 months to feel totally comfortable
I began slowly. Too slowly for my taste in fact. But with each run, I started trying to make my initial contact with the ground with the front part of my foot, as opposed to my heel. It felt like I was running on my tip-toes ... and it sucked! My calves were on fire. My hip flexors hurt like never before. I had slowed to a friggin' way slower pace than normal. My mileage was at an all-time low and I knew there was no way I would be ready for upcoming races. I wanted to quit and honestly thought about it several times. But I kept going.
|Mile 9 of Rock The Parkway Half-Marathon,|
My fastest 1:28:58, but maybe my best race form ever
Fast forward to my half-marathon a few weeks ago. It was probably the overall best race of my life, and also one of the first race I've ran where I maintained the foot strike and pretty good form the entire way. The picture on the right is at mile 9 of the race. I was running under 6:30/pace at this point ... which is fast for me ... but I'm still upright, my shoulders are back, my heads up, I'm leaning slightly forward, and I'm striking the ground with my mid foot, not over-striding. Regarding form, it was about as good as I can get.
Now granted, being in good shape has a lot to do with this. I was only half kidding earlier ... I really am about the best conditioned I've been ... maybe ever. Which of course helps maintain good form for a longer period in a race. But more than that, it's the fruit of many hours focusing on form, stride, and efficiency in running.
It's not like I discovered electricity here. I mean many runners experienced success by modifying their form and improving the little things. I'll never be a world class runner, but I just finally decided that if I wanted to improve myself, I needed to focus on the form that the world class runners use. It was a long road, and I'm still working on it everyday. But for now, I can tell you that I'm evolving into the best runner I can be ... and between you and me, I don't think I'm done yet.
... be great today!