This weekend I started watching some of the Prefontaine Classic that is held in Oregon. Some of America’s best track and field athletes were competing. I saw local Columbus athlete, Ryan Wilson from Westerville North, compete in the 110 high hurdles and get a sixth place. Ryan is someone I personally know and it is always neat watching someone on national television that you have a personal relationship with.
I then started watching the 2 mile race. I was a sprinter when I ran track and the 2 mile was usually a race I used to warm-up during before I ran the mile relay. Basically, I never paid much attention to it. So, I started watching this event, hoping it would pass by quick. You run 8 laps in the 2 mile.
As I started watching this race, I actually became intrigued with their strategy, but more importantly their running form. Way back when, the prevailing wisdom was that sprinters ran on the balls of their feet, while distance runners ran on their heels or at least a more flat foot and didn’t really pump their arms that hard. The reason was that type of running form conserved more energy and was more efficient.
Watching this 2 mile race, clearly that philosophy is thrown out the window. Nowadays, no one who wants to run well, will run on their heels. It causes too much shock through the body for possible injury, whereas the ball of the foot is designed better for shock absorption and generate power. These distance runners now are so fine-tuned that they are pretty much running fast the entire race (or fast compared to us non-distance folk).
So, after the sixth lap, the leaders were 3 Kenyons, someone else, and an American, Bernard Lagat. Their running form was awesome. Landing nice and soft on the balls of their feet, great leg stride, and an awesome turnover or leg rate. Their arms were pumping, but at an efficient pace.
Then, they rang the bell for the last lap and the leaders kicked it into a higher gear. Around the 200 mark, Lagat broke to the outside and positioned himself so that when he rounded the turn for the homestretch, he would be in the lead and that is exactly what happened. At the 100 mark, he took off, arms pumping furiously and legs churning. If you had put 30 pounds of muscle on the guy, you would have thought he was a world class sprinter. It was awesome!! Lagat won by about 10 yards.
I guess the point is that speed training and mechanical work isn’t just for sprinters. If you are a distance runner, you have to know how to sprint and sprint well. You have to be able to get those legs going fast and the greatest range of motion possible to help with that leg stride. If you can’t sprint well, your kick towards the end will stink and that will cost you the race.
So congrats to Bernard Lagat for winning the race Saturday. And opening my eyes to a distance event, that I didn’t particularly pay too much attention to back in the day. It will help me out more with future distance runners that I have to work with.