If I’m going to write about running technique, or at least try to convince people that it’s worth thinking about at every level of the sport, it’s worth a moment to define exactly what the objectives are. We all run for different reasons, and our ultimate goals are generally wrapped up in that. Some people run for fun, others for fitness, and still others for the purpose of going fast. It seems obvious that really fast people need to look for an extra competitive edge anywhere they can so technique must come into play, but what does it matter to everyone else?
Stop for a moment, though, and shift perspective. Let’s compare running to something outside of endurance sports. What does typing have in common with running? Both involve highly repetitive motion, sometimes performed nearly daily over long periods of time, and possibly for long sessions.
Typing is particularly interesting because it doesn’t involve any great stress. For any single action, one finger moves, one key is struck. But what happens if one types for a long period of time with poor form? Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, etc. Each of the thousands and possibly millions of key presses does little damage, so little that it’s not noticable incrementally, but the cumulative damage takes its toll. Sound a little like running?
Typing is like running in another way too. There are businesses with products intended to help prevent typing injuries. Just do a search for ergonomic keyboard. Many of these are designed to allow the wrists to align naturally, others encourage a nice rounded curve of the fingers.
What differentiates these keyboards from running shoes is that most of these products are designed to encourage good form. Think about most running shoes on the market and how they’re marketed and sold. Instead of shoes encouraging runners to avoid heel striking, most have a heel built up with cushioning to lessen the perceived impact. Instead of pushing runners toward a form that minimizes unnatural pronation, most running shoes add structural support to essentially disallow pronation. Rather than encourage good form, most running shoes attempt to provide workarounds for poor running form.
Many people define “running well” against some arbitrary standard of race performance or training miles per week. I’d like to define it as running the way your body was meant to function, thereby avoiding cumulative damage and minimizing chances of injury. This idea is catching on, and I hope to see more and more runners practicing good form at all paces, slow to fast!