I found an email in my inbox on Wednesday from Robert Johnson, one of the founders of Letsrun.com, the top running news site on the internet. He wanted to know whether I thought Hellen Obiri has the best running form for a marathon–or even workable form for that distance.
It had just been announced that Obiri would be running the Boston Marathon this coming month, and after she bonked in NYC in the fall, Johnson wanted to know if her form would prevent her from being a good marathoner.
In truth, he thought her form looked lumbering and wasteful–many people seem to agree–and that’s what made him ask the question.
Have a look at Obiri winning the 2019 Kenyan XC Nationals:
There is generally a kind of beauty to good running form, it’s true. But then we get into the whole eye-of-the-beholder thing and, in this case, body-of-the-beholder. Have you felt what it’s like to run this way? If so, that will shape how you see it.
Here’s what I saw in Hellen’s form, which Johnson published on Letsrun.com.
But the real question is how this affects you. Should you aim for the kind of power Obiri has? What’s the running form you should adopt to run a fast marathon (relative to your own abilities)?
The answer is that aiming to make your running feel easier will generally yield your best marathon performance. You can aim for a feeling of power, or of pushing off dynamically, in shorter races, but in a marathon you’ll risk running out of steam before the finish line.
Having trouble getting your running to feel easier? My free one-week Mind Your Running Challenge is the best place to start. Sign up here: