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Innocent Observations – From A Man Who Only Runs When He Is Late

January 15, 2012. Kyoto. Marathon.

Unable to understand what the announcers are saying, having never watched a marathon in my life, I have only my eyes to inform me.

Heads move.  Some heads poised upon soft, supple necks, other heads with chins up, back of skulls pressed down against short, tight necks.  Some heads swinging from side to side, like metronomes, others centered, buoyant.

Shoulders move.  Some shoulders rotate and swing easily, maintaining their horizontality, others move too little or too much, one side more, the other side less, one or the other side dropping down.

Arms move.  With some notable exceptions, not too much deviation among the runners here – occasional hands and forearms that look too low or too high, an over flexed wrist here and there, varying degrees of effort in the arms.

Spines move.  Some spines more rigid than others, especially lumbar spines – when lumbar spines are tighter and compressed, the ribs become over lifted in the front, arching the body back when the runner is attempting to move forward.  It looks good, like mastheads, like those beautiful women carved heroically in front of great ships slicing through the waves, cutting through the wind, forging forward. But my guess is that runners would like to feel that gentle and powerful western wind against their backs.  Some thoracic spines over-rotate, often more to one side than the other, others thoracic spines don’t rotate quite enough.

Whole bodies move up and down.  Perhaps coming up too far off the ground between steps shortens the stride and makes impact upon landing on the front foot heavier.  Sure, a lively spring in the step must be good, but how much spring? Without some loft, without some spring there seems to be a lack of room for the knees to shoot forward and for the lower leg to make its full pendulum swing.

Bouncing like a ball is maybe not the best idea. Perhaps running more like a wheel, which some of the runners seemed to be doing, could be helpful.  Some runners appeared to be gliding along the ground, so strongly supported within their own bodies as to be ever so slightly floating forward. Less impact. More momentum.

Pelvises move.  If the spine is supple and flexible, especially in the lower back, and if the psoases are really doing their jobs, the pelvis will move, creating a gentle rippling up the spine, and a deep, clear flexion in the hip joints. The femurs will incline ever so slightly toward the midline of the body, placing the knees precisely under the hip joints, but the knees will face squarely forward in the exact direction of the feet.

Ankles move.  When the back foot seems to slightly linger and lengthen behind the runner, the ankles opens fully, (relaxed extension), as the knee is beginning to shoot forward, and slightly up, like an arrow.  The back foot then leaves the ground and for a fleeting moment that foot is falling freely, sickle-ing slightly inwards before landing upon the ground exactly how and where it wants to go.

And let’s not forget faces, those beautiful human faces, the expressions of pleasure or pain, fear or peace, effort or ease.  And the more minute details – mouths open more or less, nostrils more or less dilated, jaws tighter or looser.  The eyes, some seeing inward, preoccupied with their thoughts and dreams, with their technique, or with their pain, while other eyes are sparkling and open and seeing the world whirling by through their peripheral vision. More daylight enters the body and being, the face widens, the hint of a smile.

The best, which for me are the most functionally beautiful runners, whether they win or not, seem to exert themselves less, and enjoy themselves more.  They don’t try to run.  They are moved to run, like wild horses along the coastline, like rivers running into the sea.

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