Head, shoulders, knees over toes
Finding more to say about Kelvin Kiptum's running form and how he runs so fast
I’ve got to say that I’ve been a bit distracted this past week, and that running has felt a little insignificant as I’ve watched with horror the unfolding events in Israel and Gaza.
We are witnessing huge amounts of suffering, piled upon suffering, piled upon suffering. On every run this past week I couldn’t help but think of the horror the people out there are experiencing, and I hope that somehow, by some miracle, a peaceful solution can be found soon.
Partly fuelled by my unease at these events, but also partly because of the Lone Wolf ultra coming up in two weeks, I ran my highest weekly mileage in six months this week - a whopping 45 miles (73km).
I admit that those are hardly earth-shattering numbers, but I can feel that old feeling of fitness finally returning for the first time since my six-day race in April. I had started to wonder.
It was taking so long to get back to some semblance of shape that I began to think maybe I was simply getting old, and that I was now destined to run slowly for ever more; that running would, from now on, always be a laborious trudge; that my days of racing along with the wind were done. I’ve had that thought on and off since I was about 40 (10 years ago), and I guess I’ll keep having it until one day it’s actually true. But for now I’m happy to announce that I feel a semi-youthful bounce to my stride again.
Talking of strides, I got so excited after watching Jae Gruenke’s analysis of Kelvin Kiptum’s running form last week that I direct messaged you all. It was so interesting because Joe Kelly had just been talking to us on our Natural Movement Day about driving the leg back and hiking up the hip, while rotating the body and shoulders. We all tried it and most people thought he’d lost it (I admit, even I thought he was going a bit far with this idea). It felt weird, and surely didn’t fit the way you’re supposed to run, which is surely much more straight, with everything moving forward in alignment. All this about hips rising and falling, head going side to side, upper body and shoulders rotating … this was, at best, sprinting form, or at worst, plain bad advice, right?
Yet here was Kelvin Kiptum doing all of that. And setting an incredible world record in the marathon.
I should point out that neither me, Joe nor Jae would suggest you simply take this on board and go out and try to run this way. Joe has certain cues he uses to get you to try it at a slow, mindful pace, exaggerating the movements, with the idea that if you do that, and, crucially, that it begins to feel right, then you will start incorporating it naturally into your running form, without thought - which of course is how Kiptum does it. He wasn’t told to run like that - he just does it naturally.
Jae, meanwhile, coaches using a wonderful technique called Feldenkrais to get your body to a point where it can functionally begin to integrate some of this movement, again without thought.