Running Technique Analysis: Eliud Kipchoge
The idea of breaking the 2 hour record in a marathon is incredibly attractive. It actually does not matter what event we are talking about, as long as there is a potential for peak performance, potential to exceed what we thought was humanly possible – we all get emotionally invested. And due to popularity of running, breaking 2 hours in a marathon is of interest to many for various reasons. Anyone who dares to attempt such a feat deserves respect and support. This tremendous attempt by Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese in May 2017 at Monza racing track in Italy should be the subject of analysis in order for us to understand how it was done, what was good and what was missing so that next steps in this direction are more productive.
We’ll skip this discussion since quite a bit has already been proposed, discussed and written about an oversized display clock mounted on top of tesla and possibly serving as a windshield in disguise. (What disguise?) The car itself serving as a windshield. The 30 pacers that relayed throughout the entire race and ran in a laser-guided delta formation and of course the Nike shoes. Lack of competition should not be ignored either. While there were 3 key runners, this was really a one man performance, and interestingly enough Eliud Kipchoge was the only runner wearing red top. Coincidence? Maybe.
I don’t necessarily agree with the numbers and everything suggested, but those are interesting pieces of information nonetheless. There is no question that all of that helped carve out the seconds, the minutes necessary to attempt to break 2 hrs, Nike never did hide their desire to do whatever it takes to ensure a successful outcome of this publicity stunt. These efforts do help us break our mental barriers whether we want to acknowledge that or not.
Without a doubt no effort was spared by Nike when it came to training. That however does not mean that those efforts were right for the athletes. Leading up to the event the focus was primarily on physiology, equipment and environment. Everyone’s focus was on finding ways to trim the time by controlling runner’s effective weight via shoes and gear, and improving aerodynamics with the tactics mentioned earlier. The one thing that was absent was any discussion of optimizing runners’ technique. It is a shame that it is assumed that elite runners have that covered and it should not be touched. As a matter of fact everyone is afraid to tinker with individual technique. Technique is the one thing that offers ample room for improvement no matter what level the athlete is at. Things that many are so desperate to control – physiology, psychology, aerodynamics, etc – respond very well to improvements in technique. As a matter of fact that’s the only thing that makes a real difference.
Optimization of running technique at that level of performance and especially with runners like these whose technique is already very good, is not the same as on recreational or even professional and elite levels. After all, these guys are at the top due to a combination of factors that include superior technique. That said, it is vital to maintain and keep optimizing technique in order to keep on improving and to extend an athletic career. It is not difficult to look at statistics to notice that majority of outstanding athletic stars fade out too quickly and many do so way before reaching their full potential. This happens not from lack of will or desire to keep on going but simply due to injuries.
Running Technique Analysis
So, how did Eliud Kipchoge do? What aspects of his technique were good and what did he miss? From the Pose Method point of view he executed all three elements quite good. He maintained his running pose throughout the entire event, which is impressive on it’s own.
His cadence was a very good average for a marathon but a slight increase in cadence would have made a big difference. Time: 2:00:25, average speed 5.84m/c, average pace per km – 2:51.2; average 10km – 28:32. At start of the race (36 seconds): cadence was 185s/m-3.08s/s, SL – 1.90m; AngleF(AF) – 17.5 deg. From first minutes into the race and to Finish stretch average cadence was around 185s/m – 3.08s/s, SL – 1.90m; AF – 17.5 deg. Analyzing support time by frames, I found that it was stable over the length of the race – 2 frames to Pose from touchdown and 1 frame for falling (from Pose to the end of support). End of support consistently appears in running Pose (swing foot near the knee of support leg – figure # 4).
Big angle of falling was easily visible throughout the race. Indication of falling by support foot heel moving up was consistent and correlated with close to the vertical body position throughout the race. Also his trailing leg basically always was bent at the knee after finishing support, which is good indication of no push off. In comparison to his teammates, who had quite big visual deviations from technique standards, which lead to their failure to maintain a given pace and basically drop out of the race before the half marathon mark.
Not their ‘superior’ economy or oxygen consumption capacity, nor ‘superior’ shoes were of any help in keeping up with such demanding pace. Their technique and mental condition discrepancy, from my point of view, were the main obstacles in handling this demanding task.
In order for Eliud Kipchoge (5’6) to break 2 hours under the given conditions he needed to increase his angle of falling even more and his result would have been 1:59:24. Another way to achieve breaking the barrier would have been to increase cadence to 195 steps per minute in average and lessen the angle of falling a bit and result would have been be 1:59:19. Both ways were quite possible for this outstanding athlete with such high level of genetic capacities and successful performance in his background.
Interestingly his angle of falling was a lot bigger than that of Dennis Kimetto (5’7) in 2014 when Kimetto set a World Record of 2:02.57. According to my calculations, Kimetto achieved that with a smaller angle of falling and average cadence of 188 steps per minute.
While his angle of falling varied throughout the event, his ability to produce such high angle of falling and maintain the cadence for the entire distance is very much the evidence of his capacity to keep mental focus on technique in spite of increasing fatigue. His potential capacity to break existing World Record, in my opinion, lays in primarily improving his strength conditioning, which would allow him to get the necessary cadence and his perception which would allow him to maintain the necessary angle of falling.
Based on limited information in regards to Kipchoge’s training protocol and the results of Breaking2 effort, it is reasonable to suggest that there is a lack of necessary running specific strength training and a complete absence of perception development. These two crucial components are essential to moving forward and actually achieving breaking 2 hrs in marathon. Given Eliud Kipchoge’s current level of skill, genetic potential and fantastic mental strength, it is indeed possible for him to break 2 hrs under normal race conditions.
It is my hope that Eliud Kipchoge updates his training approach and dedicates the necessary effort to the areas mentioned above and allow us to witness what once was deemed impossible.
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Understanding and improving running training is part of the Pose Method Certification Course. Designed for health and fitness professionals, it is also a great starting point for anyone looking to become a coach. This seminar offers 16 CE hours towards continuing education for Physical Therapists.