What Can You Learn From Brigid Kosgei’s World Record Breaking Running Form?

Running Technique Analysis of Brigid Kosgei

You may have seen Brigid Kosgei win the women’s race at Chicago Marathon this year (2019) with an incredible world record time of 2:14:04, absolutely obliterating the long-standing previous record of 2:15:25 held by Paula Radcliffe.

I always find it fascinating to study the running styles of elite athletes (here’s my analysis of Eliud Kipchoge’s running form), to gain insights into how they run so efficiently.

Well… if not EFFICIENTLY then definitely EFFECTIVELY!

Brigid Kosgei is, in fact, a great case study to demonstrate how a runner whose technique is far from what might be perceived as “textbook”, can still perform to the very highest level in the world of distance running.

There’s hope for us all!

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Notes on Brigid Kosgei’s Running Form

There are a number of aspects of Kosgei’s running techinque that I want to highlight, and points from the video above that I want to re-iterate.

Specifically the way in which she heel strikes, her lack of hip stability (and subsequent hip drop) and her very pronounced swiniging arm action.

Let’s take a look at these traits one-by-one…

Kosgei’s Foot Strike

It’s clear to see that Kosgei run with a heel striking running gait, which certainly is contary to what some people will have you believe in suggesting that “all elite Kenyan runners forefoot strike”!

What’s clear to see, however, when it comes to Brigid Kosgei’s heel strike is that it occurs close to beneath a flexing knee. Achieving this landing position relative to her centre of mass allows her to run without signifigantly overstriding.

Even when she’s running all-out at world record marathon pace!

This type of “light” or proprioceptive heel strike allows Kosgei to run in a way which is natural and sustainable for her body without being hindered by the braking forces that come with a more typical “heavy” overstriding heel strike, as we see from many recreational runners.

Hip Stability & “Hip Drop”

Watching video footage of Brigid Kosgei running in slow-motion from the front (or rear), it’s clear to see a noticable hip drop, or Trendelenburg sign in both left and right side stance.

This indicates that glute medius in particular isn’t doing a great job of providing lateral stability around the standing hip.

I have no knowledge of Kosgei’s injury history, so I’m unable to make any sensible comments about how this does or doesn’t affect her.

Clearly she’s able to log the miles in training from week-to-week to get into world record form, so I’m going to assume she’s not suffering from any significant running injuries!

However, aside from theoretical injury risk, this type of poor hip and pelvic control when running can have knock-on consequences for the upper body and arm carriage.

Simply put, her arms and torso have to alter their natural running action to create a counter-balance for the movement around the hip and pelvic region.

Which brings me on to her very distinctive running arm swing…

Brigid Kosgei Running Technique

Arm Swing & Torso Rotation

When we all run (and walk for that matter), our arms fulfil an important role in providing a dampening mechanism for the rotation of the torso.

In fact it’s the rotation of the torso that counters the opposite rotation of the pelvis on each stride.

If you didn’t have your arms swinging efficiently by your side as you run, you’d feel much more rotation through your torso.

Try it – next time you’re out for a run, cross your arms behind your back and keep running.

You’ll immediately feel as if you’re rotating more from side to side with each stride!

Understanding this rotation and counter-rotation should hopefully help you appreciate the way in which, if there’s excessive movement around the hips and pelvis, the arms will try and counter-act the movement to find overall balance.

That’s exactly what appears to be happening with Kosgei’s running style.

Now the question is: What would I do about her arm swing as a coach/therapist?

As described in the video, even if I did see her arm swing as being “inefficient” I certainly wouldn’t ask Brigid Kosgei to change anything consciously with her upper body. Her arms are doing what they need to do to find balance, as a result of the instability around her hips.

Instead, I’d use the observations made about her arm swing as a clue as to where the weak links might exist, and what to work on from a strength and conditioning perspective.

I’d maybe get her working on a little more hip stability work.

Then again, she just smashed the world record… so what do I know?!

Applying the lessons from studying Brigid Kosgei’s Running Technique

As ever, there’s a lot to learn from watching elite runners, and of course running technique is just one piece of the puzzle. I haven’t even touched on footwear, which is hot topic right now with the Nike Vaporflys, her physiology, or training of course.

When it comes to taking what we learn and applying it to our own running, sometimes we can be really specific with one really tangible tip (like running with a “short lever” arm swing).

This time, I feel the biggest take-home learning point is more holistic…

While we can see that Brigid Kosgei’s running technique ticks many of the usual boxes in terms of not particularly overstriding, running with a high cadence, and minimising vertical oscillation, she also has a very unconverntional running style in other ways.

It just goes to reinforce the idea that there is no single “best” way to run, and that moreso we should be looking for the best way for our own individual bodies.

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Posted on October 31st, 2019
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