Last week I wrote about the top women finishers of the 2016 Boston Marathon. Today I have some observations about the top two men, Lemi Berhanu Hayle and Lelisa Desisa.
The two men run a bit differently and both run well, so while we could use the images below to compare them to each other, the greater value is in using the way they echo each other to help us see running more clearly overall.
Here are Hayle and Desisa right before footstrike. See how their upper bodies are turned towards the forward leg. You can also see Desisa’s left hip is more lifted than Hayle’s right; this is the core action at work, and Desisa is moving more than Hayle.
Here they are just past midstance. See how their chins and necks align with their stance feet. Their inside hips (Hayle’s left, Desisa’s right) are a bit lower than their outside hips; as they have stored elastic energy in their torsos at the point of maximum compression in midstance by slightly undulating the stance side of the pelvis up and the swing side down.
Right before footstrike on the other foot, see how their heads have moved to align over the forward foot. Their outside shoulders have moved up, away from the swing foot that has just left the ground; this shows the lengthening of the entire side of the body that occurs around the time of toe-off. Their upper bodies have turned away from their swing leg and towards the front leg. A particularly beautiful illustration of how trunk movement and limb movement are interwoven in running.
Here Hayle and Desisa are on the same leg in midstance. You can see Desisa’s body has compressed more than Hayle’s — his pelvis tilting, shoulders tilting the opposite direction, and head tilting. His trunk movement (or core action) is larger than Hayle’s and though this is connected with smoother running and, in my professional experience, lower perceived exertion, in this particular case it was also a signal that Desisa’s legs were fatigued and he was moving his trunk more to compensate. The line between optimal core action and excessive core action (indicating fatigue) is a fine one.
Here are Hayle and Desisa in the same part of their gait cycle but from a different angle, and again, it’s the similarities that are most pronounced. You can see the compression through the entire stance side of the body, with the pelvis tilting away from the stance leg, the shoulders towards, the head away (chin points towards the stance leg) and neck aligned over the stance foot. We focus so much on leg movement in running, and the compression and extension of the legs, but from these pictures it’s easy to see the torso participates meaningfully in these actions.
What do you see in these pictures?
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Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.