This idea was beautifully illustrated in the television broadcast of the 1981 New York City Marathon, in which Alberto Salazar was filmed coming off the Queensborough Bridge. Only his head and shoulders were visible above the bridge wall, and it was clear that as he ran the top of his head remained absolutely parallel to the top of the wall. This indicates a negligible vertical component to the “Salazar shuffle.”
Arthur Newton (see post 5) had similar advice about running style.
Learn to run in an easy and serene manner without an atom of wasted energy. Use short strides. The longer your stride the more you bob up and down while enjoying it. You ought to almost slither your feet over the ground, going as near to touching it without actually doing it. (Newton, 1935, pp. 21-22, 36; 1949, p. 87)
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A possible explanation of these differences in running efficiency, which to my knowledge has not yet been resolved, is that with each running stride, the muscles of the landing leg store “impact energy” as they contract eccentrically to absorb the shock of landing (K.R. Williams, 1985). Some of the stored energy may then be used during the concentric muscle contraction that propels the body forward during the next stride. It is possible, although this is pure speculation, that the muscles of inefficient runners have less ability either to store or utilize this form of energy. Alternatively, other as-yet-unstudied biomechanical factors such as differences in limb lengths and body weight distributions could be equally, if not more, important in determining differences in running economy (K.R. Williams, 1985).
Finally, running economy may change for the same athlete during different types of exercise, for example, uphill or downhill running (Gregor, 1970), or during different activities such as cycling or step climbing (J.T. Daniels et al, 1985). Thus, it is possible that runners who are efficient on the flat may be inefficient while running either uphill or downhill. Alternatively, some efficient runners may be less efficient at cycling than are other runners who are less efficient runners.
The importance of running efficiency is that at any running speed an efficient runner will bum less fuel than will an inefficient runner. If depletion of body fuel stores explains fatigue during marathon racing, then the more efficient runner will be able to run farther on the same amount of fuel.
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