As a veteran runner, I've tucked away countless do's and don'ts along the way. For instance, try not to lose sleep two nights before an important race; and don't run a hill race unless you've trained on hills during the previous two months (I've seen outstanding flat race runners become back-of-the-pack also-rans while trying to negotiate the steep hills of the famed Dipsea Race in Marin County).
One sees all kinds of runners these days -- along shoreline paths, on trails in the Oakland hills and on the racing tracks. As a longtime runner and coach, I tend to watch a runner's foot plant and arm carriage as well as the leg action. Especially after I learned the basics of running from world-class coach Mihaley Igloi.
On foot plant, Igloi put it simply, "You run like you walk. You don't reach forward and land on the balls of your feet while walking. Don't run that way!"
A runner's foot should land lightly heel first, then roll forward so the whole foot grabs the ground and propels him forward. I used to tell my runners to imagine they are grabbing the ground and shoving it behind them. This also tends to eliminate the energy-wasting up-and-down bobbing we see in some runners.
As for the arms, they should hang loosely at the sides in a relaxed "L" shape with a fairly even forward and back movement; the hands move no farther forward than the elbows thrust backward. But relaxation is the key if the runner hopes to cover several miles (or even one mile!).
If you're a runner, try this while on a leisurely run: suddenly begin thrusting your elbows back rather vigorously about six or eight times. What happens? You'll automatically speed up without even thinking about leg action. Watch a sprinter coming out of the blocks. You'll see the arm opposite his first step fly back vigorously. I ran for years before I figured that one out.
How important are the arms in running? I once asked famed Olympic coach Payton Jordan how I can sprint in the final stretch of a race when I'm tired.
Again a simple answer, "Bring your arms in and move them fast. Your legs will go with them." No wonder he coached champions!
Finally, the feet -- my high school track coach at Oakland Tech was walking by me in the hallway one morning. He stopped, looked down at my feet, then said, "Joe, don't stand like a penguin. Point your toes forward. And check to make sure they're pointing forward while you walk. Do that, and you'll run that way too!" (Wonder if he ever met Igloi.) If you run or jog just for exercise, most of the above information is of little importance. But if you're out there running in a hurry, reread it and try to adopt the advice those famous coaches taught me.
Contact Joe King at firstname.lastname@example.org.