One of the things I feel like I have worked the hardest on this training period is form. When I first started running I was an overpronator, which means when I ran my toes pointed outward, my knees moved inward, and my heel was the first thing to strike the ground. While this form was OK for short distances like the 5k, If I ran any longer, I usually got shin splints and blisters.
The reason I began focusing on my form was comfort at first, and then speed. With the correct form, you can gain speed without even trying, just because you’re running so much more efficiently. But proper form is more than just practice. It requires strength.
About a year after I had my third and final baby, I joined a boot camp class for one reason: my posture. Simply put, being pregnant, nursing, and carrying around babies one my hip had ruined it. I was a hunchback. The bootcamp class built core and upper body strength, and after waking up at 5:00 am for almost a year, my posture had changed, and so had my stride. Exercises like squats and lunges gave me enough hip and core strength to stride from my hips rather than my knees. Standing up straighter helped me breathe easier, too.
I’m not a running expert, but I do know what I feel like when my form is good, and I know when it’s good because I run faster with little to no difference in my effort level. When I think of good running form, I think of a wheel. It feels bouncy and good. I find a rhythm with my breath easily and I just go. My shoulders are back and down, my core is tall, my arms and face are relaxed. All the energy comes right from my hips—they are the engine.
The hardest thing about running this distance, without a doubt, will be focusing on maintaining an efficient form throughout the 26.2. As we tire, it’s tempting to slouch, sink back, hunch over and bring the arms in. You just kind of curl up like a dead bug on your running legs. But running like this takes so much energy away from the legs, and it will actually wear you out faster.
Holding an efficient form is much like holding a yoga pose. There are many aspects to focus on, and if you concentrate on them, there’s no room for a wandering mind. The opportunity to focus so hard on something that your mind stops running a million miles an hour is what draws so many people to both running and yoga. They are both just a little zen.