ARM ACTION FOR DISTANCE RUNNERS – 4 LESSONS FROM KIPCHOGE

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ARM ACTION FOR DISTANCE RUNNERS – 4 LESSONS FROM KIPCHOGE

As a PE Teacher we often talk about using model performers.  Someone with better technique than our own that we can compare ourselves too, and highlight areas we can improve on.  Read on and I think you will get some great tips to improve your arm action.  Watch the clips of Eliud Kipchoge in full flow and see what you can pick up from watching his arms.

But first…

What do you do with your arms when you run?

How do you use them?

How do they move?

A sweeping statement to sum up the arm action for amateur runners is that it is a vital area that so many can improve.  What better time to analyse the technique of the greatest male marathon runner of all time after his world record in Berlin last weekend?  What an amazing athlete who not only performs to the highest possible levels, but behaves in such a humble, positive and gentle way.

I did not think much about it until I started to visit a running coach.  Even in my marathon PB, in Paris 2016, I was not using my arms effectively.  I can remember running through the Jardins de Vincennes at around the 10 mile mark, about 10 metres behind a close friend who had been seeing a coach.  I was watching his arm action and thinking how good it looked and how different it was to my own.  Since then, I can confidently say my arm action has developed significantly and it has made a huge difference.  An effective arm action creates less bounce (my vertical ratio has dropped from around 10.5% to 7% at race pace), it generates more horizontal force, and helps set the cadence and tempo of the run.  Perhaps above all else it helps conserve energy, so important for the final miles of a full 26.2.

What are the basics of the arm action?

  • Your shoulders should be low and relaxed.
  • You should have a 90 degree (or less) bend in your arms.
  • Your arms should remain close to the side of your body with the a focus on the elbow driving backwards.
  • The arms should set the tempo of the run with a rhythmic forward and backward motion.
  • The hands should never cross the mid line of the body.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ELIUD – THE GREATEST MODEL PERFORMER?

I love this clip from the London Marathon in 2016.  He looks composed, relaxed and displays all of the technical points above.  His shoulders are relaxed, he has less than a 90 degree bend at the elbow, you can see from the early part of the Berlin clip that his arms remain close to the side of the body, his elbows drive dynamically backwards and his hand never cross the mid line.

Other things that I have noticed that you can try and your next run:

  1. The angle at the elbow is much less than the suggested 90 degrees.  I have experimented a bit with the angle of elbow and I am convinced that an arm action like Kipchoge’s of closer to 60 degrees is preferable.  I focused on this in the Edinburgh Half Marathon this year and it felt great.  Tired shoulders and tightness in the neck are a thing of the past.  Please try it and see what you think.
  2. The elbow – it drives backwards dynamically as I have already said.  But it is interesting that it never drives forward past the line of the body.  This is very different to a sprinter.  I would describe it as “connected”.  It generates the tempo without wasting energy and promotes that desirable fast cadence.
  3. His hands drop to around the height of his belly button and rise to the height of his chest.  It is again a very “connected” action, generating rhythm and positive momentum, setting the cadence without wasting energy.  This is again in contrast to the action of a sprinter who has greater movement with a “pocket to socket” type hand action.
  4. He has some rotation of the shoulders while running which is absolutely fine.  It is a natural part of the athletic running action but he does not overdo it.  However, it is less than that of Biwott who is seen running with him in London.  Kipchoge’s shoulder rotation allows him to remain relaxed, gives him a beautiful flow, but crucially does not waste any energy.

He sustains an unbelievable pace of close to 21kph, but it is so energy efficient.  He is a legend – the best ever!  Why not see if mimicking his arm action can help you run faster for longer?