Just Smile And Glide
Finding your perfect form.
My friend Alan is a very good runner. Better, he’s a beautiful runner. Among mutual friends there’s a running joke when we discuss form. Reaching for the right visual example nearly always ends in:
“You know, like Kipchoge. Or…Alan.”
Few things are more pleasing than watching someone run with perfect form. Someone who glides. That’s what stands out when Eluid Kipchoge runs. It’s not the breathtaking splits, or the fact he’s in a historic echelon all by himself, it’s the fluidity of his movement. Kipchoge runs with astounding grace. His form is so perfect it looks ethereal.
Watching him glide for 26.2 miles, at an average pace of four minutes and thirty-seven seconds per mile, looks not only like he’s just out for a jog, but that he was designed purely for running.
But the beauty of running is that you don’t need to be a beautiful runner. I’ve long accepted I’ll never be a beautiful runner. That’s fine. Most of the running I do doesn’t require perfect form anyway. There’s the rough terrain, for a start, which mostly nullifies traditional form, or at least makes it less relevant than strength and boldness. But there’s also the fact I value joy over speed, every time.
Plus, running form’s a bit like your accent, or a birthmark. It’s good to be different. It’s the quirks and kinks that make us interesting.
Alan had some advice for me recently about descending over rocky, technical terrain. He said he likes to have his feet touch the ground as little as possible.
Great, I said. So you’re telling me the secret is to…hover?
Good advice, surely, but not within the realms of possibility for everyone. Take me and Alan, for example. There might be a thirty kilo difference between us. (No prizes for guessing who’s at which end of that scale.) We’re the same age, more or less, but he’s been running all his life and I’m a late starter. We’re different in personality, too. And though you might think this has little to do with how you run, I think it does.
Take note of Eluid Kipchoge’s smile. He doesn’t just smile when he wins, he smiles throughout the whole race. It’s in no small way part of his ability. More importantly, it’s something we can all do right now that will immediately make us feel faster and stronger. Try it. It might not make you Kipchoge, but it will make a difference.
You’d be unlikely to emulate Camille Herron’s running form, but you’d love her ability to run immense distances, and you’d certainly want to adopt her attitude. She, too, wears a constant smile.
Honestly, I’m not great at smiling through life. Most of the time I wear the slightly pained expression of someone working through a mental checklist of worries and tasks whilst trying to adhere to social niceties. Because, well, that’s exactly what’s going on. Running is a place to smile freely, and I know it makes things feel better.
Some people’s feet fall heavier than others, in running and life. But lightness can be a state of mind.
You’ll never glide without first imagining you do. Sometimes I imagine I glide. Sometimes I even feel it. And if I feel this, does the reality even matter? Darkness adds to this sensation, or trees, or long bends in the road to lean into. Objectively, I know my form isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t make my experience any less joyful. In truth, my best runs are as much a cognitive experience as a physical one.
Our relationship with running can be complex, like any relationship that involves love or reward. Right now I’m fortunate to be on an upward trajectory. My runs feel light and free, as they often do at this time of year. I’m smiling a lot. I seem to follow a pattern inverse to the seasons. Doldrums in summer, followed by a burst of life in autumn. Running taught me that.
A running habit can help you find your own rhythms, and it will teach you more than just how to move a bit faster. There’s room for every style and approach. All you need to do is get out and find yours. Form isn’t really important, what’s important is that we’re putting one foot in front of the other as best we can.
In running, there are those who glide and there are those who plod, and everything in between. We can’t all have perfect form, like Kipchoge, or…Alan. But we don’t need to.
What we can do is smile, and hope the glide will follow.