The need for speed
We all want to be faster, regardless of ability or pace. There’s a part of me that wants to run another marathon only to run it faster. Not sure when I will, but I have a feeling another marathon is in my future. You can turn to a structured plan and training methods to help up your pace and efficiency, but one of the best places to start is with body mechanics. Focusing on ankle dorsiflexion, i.e. moving your toes towards your shins or flexing your ankle, during your next run is one tiny tweak that can yield big benefits for all runners.
Pretend to run through wet grass
Run like you just got a fresh pair of white kicks that you’re trying to keep clean while running through wet grass. This simple tweak immediately improves running mechanics. The idea is to decrease ground contact time. The lighter you are on your feet, the faster you run. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise compared elite and novice runners on different terrains and found that the elites exhibited more ankle dorsiflexion at toe-off when running at the fastest speeds. Another study showed that as you start picking up the pace, the body lowers its center of gravity by increasing flexion of the hips and knees and dorsiflexion of the ankle.
Less time on the ground = faster race times
It’s estimated that runners who pull their toes up spend 1 or 2 percent less time on the ground. This may not seem like a lot, but it can add up to seconds, even minutes, shaved off a race time. Rather than landing toes first, or forefoot striking, dorsiflexion favors a midfoot landing. Keep in mind it takes time to alter mechanics. It’s best to focus on a tiny tweak for a small segment of the run (i.e. 100 meters or two to five minutes), and gently increasing from there. Before you know it, you’ll be flexing without thinking about it.