26 April 2017

Slip, slide, gazelle, glide - which stride is best?

Just as I was eager to track my friends who were running the 2017 Boston Marathon I was keen to see the outcome(s) of the 2017 London Marathon.  It's racing heaven for distance runners as these two Abbott World Marathon Majors are pretty much back-to-back within a couple of weeks' time, and there's almost always a star-studded field collected at the London Marathon start line.  This year did not disappoint with world record holders like Kenenisa Bekele, Olympic medalists like Feyisa Lelisa and World Champions like Ghirmay Ghebreslassie highlighting the men's elite lineup; and on the women's side the second fastest marathoner ever Mary Keitany led the field (from start to finish) which included perennial favourite Florence Kiplagat, 2015 marathon World Champion Mare Dibaba and multiple Olympic medalist/5000m WR holder Tirunesh Dibaba.

However, as a Canadian born in England I was also interested in how the British athletes were going to fare - and it was exciting to watch Alyson Dixon capture a berth to the World Championships with her PB finish of 2:29:09 (coming in 14th place).  I also noted this result for two other significant reasons:  Aly is 38 years old and her running stride would be described as employing the 'glider' technique.

Why are these two details worth pointing out? 

Well, normally (unless you're Haile Gebrselessie or Meb Keflezighi) you tend to slow down signficantly as you age - and the fastest runners are quite often those who exhibit the 'gazelle' running form (for a comparison of the two check out this post) ... but here again you might not want to argue that point with Kara Goucher.

Anyway, Aly Dixon is definitely a glider - the footage from the London Marathon showed her running with a noticeably high cadence (i.e. footfall/turnover per minute) and if you slow down the playback speed of this video you can see that her lead foot is extending out past her knee at the same time that her trailing leg is extended and leaving the ground (check it out at the 2:27:00 timestamp).

While some would contend that age is a determining factor when it comes to the 'glider' running style - such that even 'gazelles' become more 'glider'-like as they get older - it would appear to me that Aly has had the inclination to be a glider for at least a few years now as this clip from a race four years ago would indicate (best view is at the 23:00 timestamp).

I take this as an encouraging sign since I am most definitely getting older (!) and most of my race photos show off a pretty distinctive 'glider' form.

Down the finishing stretch of my fastest 13.1 last year

How about you?  Are you a 'gazelle' or a 'glider'?  Do you have greater top speed or long-distance endurance?  Would you think that your age actually does play a determining factor?

And in the end, does it make a difference?

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