Athletics Magazine

Running Form–It Matters

By Brisdon @shutuprun

We hear it all the time: running is simple and basic. Lace up your shoes and go, right?

Not so much.

In theory, running should be simple. When I was a kid it was simple. I didn’t wear shoes all summer. I’d run out the front door first thing in the morning, only pausing for a second when my feet squished into a fresh, warm pile of dog crap. I’d run all day to friend’s houses and while playing kickball. I’d run all night (or until 9:00 p.m. when Love Boat came on) during a rousing game of Ghost in the Graveyard and Capture the Flag.

Running was a means to an end. A way to get places and to get there fast.  Running meant freedom and being alive in my body. It still does. Yet, it is no longer simple. As we get older, we forget how to run. We forget how to relax while running.


My son at his recent track meet where
he finally broke 6 minutes in the mile (5:45).
Decent form I think – although the arms need some work. But what do I know?

Most things appear basic on the surface. Have you ever done a home improvement project? Usually you have your ideas of what is to be done, the supplies you will need and the time it will take. Always, you find out there is more to be done than you thought, more supplies to be purchased than anticipated, and that it takes 95 times as long as you projected. Or, maybe this is just how DIY goes in my house.

Running is kind of like that. When I started running 3 ½ years ago, I bought a good pair of shoes and a pair of running tights. For a long time, I did not purchase anything else (yes those tights got stinky). Then came the Garmin, the second pair of shoes, the gels, the race entry fees, the roller to roll my ass on, the massage appointments, the running books, the air fare fees to travel to races. You all know exactly what I am talking about. You need a part time job just to support your recreational running habit.

This brings me to today. If anyone told me 3 ½ years ago I would hire a running form coach, I would have laughed my ass off. Talk about random. Oh yea, and I also need someone to coach me on colonics and making rice that doesn’t stick. Why do a need someone to coach me on my form? It is perfectly fine. So what if I don’t look like some elite Kenyan runner? I never will and not just because I have shitty form.


My first marathon in 2009. Talk to the hand. This shit is hard.

What I have discovered about form, however, is that if you run long enough and far enough with poor form, it will catch up to you. You will get injured. You will recover. You will get injured again. You will stop getting faster. You will be inefficient in your muscle and energy usage.

This is the hole I have dug for myself. In all of my joy about becoming a runner, I literally ran myself into the ground. Now I am having to slow way down, back way off and almost start over. Sometimes I think to myself, man if I could BQ and have shitty form, what could I do if I was actually running “right”? Or, maybe I’m just too old to ever do that again.

Today was coaching session #1 with Douglas. A lot of progress was made today. Perhaps the sweetest words ever spoken to me with the exception of “I do” and “It’s a boy (girl)!” were, “You will make some changes to your form, it might take some patience and time, but then you will be able to run as much as you want to.” I almost cried. For the past year and a half, I have felt so limited due to recurring pain. I have lost some of my confidence.

Here’s what we focused on:

  • Grounding my body – getting centered. Relaxing.
  • Leaning into the run at my ankles (think falling forward to get momentum). I tend to be very straight up, almost leaning back.
  • Landing under my center of gravity.
  • Relaxing my upper body. I am so stiff when I run from the waist up.
  • Using my core, not my legs, as my power.

{More info on running form HERE from Runner’s World}

Douglas rode in his car along side me behind a 7-11 with a video camera. Kind of like a creepy stalker who I pay to watch me. He would yell out things for me to focus on which really helped. The bottom line with making form changes, even if they are subtle, is that what you think  you are doing is not what you are doing. You need someone to watch and give you feedback.

Remember this picture? It’s true.

Running Form–It Matters

After the videotaping we went back and watched the videos. Ugh. Who hates having themselves videotaped, raise your hand. Mother shocker of all shockers - with this few gentle shifts in my form, I actually kind of liked how I looked. My cadence was quick and very light. I was landing under my hips. I really just need to work on leaning into the run and relaxing my upper body. It will take practice and diligence. It will mean slowing down and backing out of some races. The payoff will be huge.

Light at the end of the freaking tunnel. Feels good. I know this is not a panacea (that means “cure all” for all of you all drop outs out there), but it is a start.


Yes, I’m on the stairs again. And my boob is glowing. Bite me.

In your gut, do you think you have decent form or that your form needs work?

Have you ever hired a running coach to help with form issues?


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