Kona 2011: Running Technique Footage

Apr 4, 2012   //   by James Dunne   //   Biomechanics & Running Technique  //  17 Comments  //  Affiliate Disclosure  

Recently I came across some footage from Kona 2011 that I thought I’d re-blog and share for all those who are interested in taking a closer look at the running form and efficiency of some of the world’s top Professional Ironman athletes.

The two clips below come courtesy of the guys at ttbikefit.com and were filmed at 300 frames per second to provide the smooth, slow motion playback.

The male athletes shown, Crowie, Dirk Bockel, Mike Aigroz, and Timo Bracht, were all filmed on the Queen K at mile 23 of the marathon.

The female athletes shown, Caroline Steffen, Leanda Cave and Chrissie Wellington, were all filmed on the Queen K at mile 13 of the marathon.

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Leave Your Comments Below!

Rather than make another analysis video in the style of the our “Crowie vs Chris Lieto Running Analysis” blog post, I thought it might be fun this time to leave the discussion open and to discuss what we can all see in the comments section below.

Use the comments form below to tell us what you can see from the running techniques displayed in these videos, both positive and negative, and we’ll chip in with our coaching view points also.

 

About The Author

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.

 

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17 Comments

  • Lots of different running styles on show in both videos, none of which aided by the obvious fatigue!

    Tell us what you see, lets discuss…

  • Many heel strikers here :-) Or flat foot strikers. Didn’t see real midfoot strikers.

    • I agree, the common pattern is that they’re heel striking… but doing so under a flexing knee rather than over-striding. This allows for the heel strike to be very brief and lighter before loading fully at the point of foot flat.

      This type of heel strike is far more efficient than a heavy, over-striding heel strike. Yet significantly more sustainable for a marathon than landing midfoot / forefoot.

  • Good video – I am so over the heal strike vs forefoot etc. Seems to me that if a slight heal strike, under your hips (vs over striding) is good enough for professional Ironmen athletes, it’s good enough for me (as a MOP age grouper).

    Personally – I use to over stride and have a very heavy heal strike. I now focus on keeping my body in line, my arms swinging, landing my feet under my hips, taking shorter strides (especially on hills) and focusing on the horizon and not looking down. These have helped lessen the impact on my knees and I can now run further and faster than before the changes.

    • Chad, that’s awesome!

      That’s exactly the discussion I have with IM athletes on a daily basis. Really pleased to hear that you’re mastering a more efficient and lower impact technique – your body will definitely thank you for it…

      The extra speed for the same effort is always a nice bonus :)

  • Great footage James. Fatigue issues aside, how Chrissie manages to run so fast when her knees essentially knock together is beyond me!

    Leanda Cave has a nice running style. Do you think that her days as a short course athlete have helped her?

    • It’s certainly possible that her short course days have benefitted her in terms of developing a strong form. The challenge is then a case of holding on to the form for as long as possible!

  • Great vids mate. I watched the Leito one too. While I am no expert I would hardly say Crowie heel strikes. Maybe flat when under huge stress (doesn’t get much more stressed than end of an Ironman Marathon). I get your point on being sustainable but surely good form is the key and practising that over and over so you can hold it longer is the go. Can you get some video on top Kenyan marathoners to compare to dead tired Ironman marathoners?

    • Hi Alex, Thanks!

      That’s the point really. When compared to many sub-elite runners who visibly “pound” their heels into the ground while significantly over-striding, Crowie hardly heel strikes at all when fatigued (and not at all when relatively fresh).

      But in comparison to many Pros racing Olympic Distance such as Alistair Brownlee for example, who are much higher up on their forefoot – Crowie is much flatter.

      As Crowie fatigues through an Ironman marathon, he goes from a midfoot strike (see video), to what I would still maintain as being more of a heel strike. All be it a very slight, and glancing heel strike, before moving quickly through to load fully through the midfoot. As we see in the video above and the Crowie vs Chris Lieto video – both filmed in the latter stages of IM marathons.

      I plan to blog about the differences between Elite, East African Marathoners and IM Pros in due course. But for now, this slow-mo footage from the closing stages of Boston Marathon 2011 is worth watching.

  • I wouldn’t say they are all heel strikers. The 2nd male runner, Dirk Bockel, definitely is a heel striker and you can see the impact of his forefoot slapping the road are travelling up his legs, which I think would be reduced somewhat with more knee flexion. I agree in regards to stride length being very important though. The other positives about most of the techniques is the nice upright torso’s and limited up and down motion of their heads.

    I think this all has to be taken with a grain of salt as well when you consider how long they have been exercising up until this point. I know my technique falls away with fatigue!

  • Very interesting footage. I see a lot of discussion of heel strike vs. fore/mid foot striking. I strongly suggest you read Jay Dicharry’s “Anatomy for Runners.” (I have no financial stake in this book; I just found it very informative.) Dicharry talks about the relative unimportance of what type of foot strike you have but rather he emphasizes the extreme value of getting that foot to land as close to your center of mass as possible–that is very nearly right below you rather than out in front. The book goes into all the science behind the concept, the loading rate and all that sort of thing. Big picture seems to be that type of foot strike isn’t terribly important; where the foot lands is VERY important. Looks like most of these runners are putting the foot in the right spot.

    Thanks,
    Kyle Norman
    DenverFitnessJournal.com

    • Hi Kyle,

      I couldn’t agree more. The “where NOT how” concept of foot strike in runners is something I’m always talking to people about. The generic rubbish in the running media has a lot to answer for!
      Here’s the link to Jay Dicharry’s book:

  • Pleased to see heel strikers as i’ve spent too much time being told forefoot it better and even buying Zoots…. and getting injured! I noticed that most have a good upper body alignment using the power of the straight arm swing. However the last lady – was that Chrissie – I would have thought was not running efficiently due to the cross arm swing which definitely had a right arm bias. Her poor back!

  • I focussed on how far the foot is raised behind them, it’s never higher than 90 degrees to the vertical with Chrissie’s in some cases even less so. I had thought to go faster you need to pick up your heels more but that can’t be the case here as they still do sub 3 hour marathons. My view then switched to the stride length which I guess means they have a lot of flexibility in their hip flexors in order to be able to stretch that far after a bike ride.

    • Hi Richie, I completely agree. The height of heel lift is certainly linked to speed, but it’s definitely not the only factor. Hip extension is a massive factor, making a good tri-specific bike fit vital. Cadence also another big factor hard to judge in this video footage. While the heel lifts observed in these pros is low when compared to elite distance runners, it’s still much better than the ‘ironman shuffle’ we see from many age groupers!

  • Really interesting videos James, particularly how much variation there is in techniques of elite athletes. Clear proof I reckon, that there simply isn’t one ‘correct’ running style. It looked like Crowie was wearing Newtons yet not forefoot striking – does that kind of defeat the purpose of wearing them? I don’t know.

  • They first guy Cowie looks as if he’s planting on the outside of his shoe, I thought overpronating slightly, could this just’ve been because of fatigue? The 2nd runner was heel striking pretty clearly, looked fairly heavy as well..

    I could be way off on both counts, but just my opinion..I know that my running varies during a run at certain points..

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