Sunday, January 4, 2009

Run Fast & Injury Free

We all want to run fast and stay injury free, right? Well, I have a running book that I want to recommend that is entitled "Running Fast and Injury Free." Not only is it a fascinating read, but the book is free! It's written by Gordon Pirie (edited by John Gilbody) and is available as a free download via the Gordon Pirie Resource Center. I got the book back in 2002, but it has been added to since then (mostly with tons of new pictures and newspaper articles). You can still download the smaller version (63 pages) or you can go for the "ultimate" complete version (153 pages). Or download both--you never know when they might not be available online! I printed and bound the version I downloaded so it's easier to read and reference.

So why am I mentioning a book I found back in 2002? Because it fits right in with my more recent book finds on running technique like POSE & Chi Running. Gordon stresses lightweight and minimalist shoes, a quick stride with high turnover, bent knees, forefoot landing, and lots of base running complemented with sprints and intervals. He even talks about the importance of weight training. This guy was way ahead of his time (he was a British runner in the 1950s). Here is a great section from the book written about shoes:

The nerves conveying tactile sensation from the foot are predominantly located in the forefoot. When the ball of the foot touches the ground, these nerves “alert” the muscles of the legs, which involuntarily react to absorb the shock of landing. If a person hits the ground heel-first, this reaction of the leg muscles will be considerably less, and consequently more shock will be experienced at the point of contact of the foot, and be transmitted to the bones of the leg. This jarring is guaranteed eventually to cause injury to the ankle, knee and/or hip joints. It is therefore important that a runner lands on the forward portion of the foot, with the knee slightly bent, and with the foot placed beneath the body. By doing so, the runner will make use of the body's own efficient shock absorbers - the arch of the foot, the calf muscles, and the quadriceps muscles in the thighs - and in this way reduce the stress experienced by the heel, shin bone, knee joint, thigh bone and hip joint. It is these areas which are stressed the most when the heel strikes the ground. An examination of the vast majority of running shoes on the market today reveals that the shoe manufacturers have made the mistaken assumption that runners should strike the ground heel-first. Certainly, their advertising suggests that this is the correct technique.

Pretty radical insights from 50 years ago! I encourage you to check out the Gordon Pirie web site, browse around and learn more about this amazing runner, and then download the free book. You may not agree with everything he says, but it'll make you develop (or rethink) your running philosophy.

2 comments:

704 Studio said...

Thank you, Chris, for sharing this link!

I read Pirie's book Running Wild last year, and I love his style of running and training.

One of my favorite Pirie anecdotes was when he decided to take Zatopek's boot training idea one step further by having an iron insert placed in his shoe. He had to abandon the heavy insert, however, when he discovered that it was changing his stride.

I will make sure to read the online book, it looks like a good one.

I think the Clinton Lake race will fill today!

Chris said...

Clinton will fill up within a week. That makes me happy. It's so much easier to plan a race when it is full a couple months in advance.

I'll have to check out that Running Wild book by Pirie (if I can find it).