First off, I wrote an article for Running Times online that is now up on their site.  It’s called: Avoiding the Hard/Easy Trap.  In it I discuss why moderate or easier workouts need to be included in your training plan.  So take a look and hopefully it helps you out:

Secondly, Niell Elvin, who is the professor at the City College of NY that provided the excellent 5th avenue mile video I posted earlier, captured some great high speed footage from one of the recent college conference cross country meets.  He suggested that we do a little experiment with the video and see how well everyone’s assesment of their running form correlates with the runners finishing order.

Niell has posted the top 16 finishers in the girls race randomly on youtube.  I’ll post these video’s below.  What you need to do is rank these runners 1-16 in the order you think they finished based solely on their form.  Essentially, watch the videos and rank them based on their running form. Post your best guess in the comments section and then I’ll post the results once we get a good response.

So, basically you’ll post “Runner 5= 6th best form, Runner 9=1st” or whatever you think it is.  Also, this video is from 400m from the finish.  You can also look at the video from earlier in the race because some of these runners are obviously under some great fatigue at 400m to go and their mechanics are starting to fall apart.

The Video’s are in the link below.  You’ll see that on the right side bar, the video’s are listed Runner 1 through Runner 16.

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    1. Joe Maller on November 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm

      Runner 1: hard slapping landings, seems to be using a lot of energy scrunching her shoulders, but not too bouncy
      Runner 2: Look fast, a little bouncy, but landings don't look too hard. Feels energetic.
      Runner 3: Heel strike, leaning forward, looks tired.
      Runner 4: Lot of upper body twisting, seems to be reaching for a longer stride. Footstrike looks good but feels like she's hitting the ground pretty hard.
      Runner 5: really long stride, pulls lower leg way up. Springy with hard impacts.
      Runner 6: Feels efficient and energetic despite her arms flailing a bit (I can relate) she looks fast and is barely letting her heel come down.
      Runner 7: Looks tired
      Runner 8: Arms are very low, wide open stride but not too bouncy and landings don't look too hard. (Difficult to tell with the blue lady in the way)
      Runner 9: (hard to tell, clip needs to be longer)
      Runner 10: (hard to tell, clip needs to be longer)
      Runner 11: Seems to be landing low, some shoulder scrunching and slightly slappy feet. Otherwise very smooth, seems fast.
      Runner 12: Seems like she's working too hard.
      Runner 13: metatarsal stress fracture. She's way up on her toes but not moving fast enough to transfer the toe-landing into the next stride, heel comes does pretty hard after initial contact.
      Runner 14: Nice form, looks fast and effortless.
      Runner 15: Eek. huge stride, tons of upper-body twisting and leaning back, hard landings. This girl is going to hurt herself.
      Runner 16: Nice footstrike and feels like she's gliding instead of bouncing, but feels kind of timid, like she's either holding back or out of gas.

      Predicted top three: 14, 6, 2
      Predicted bottom three: 15, 3, 8 or 13

      Funny to be critical of any of these girls since I'm sure they would all leave me in their dust.

    2. nerdz on November 1, 2010 at 7:33 pm

      top would be 16, 14, 12 for me All have good form from what I can see

      bottom would have to be 13 for sure, but don't about the rest.

    3. M. Mann on November 1, 2010 at 7:53 pm


      I noticed the following workout on your "Hard/Easy Trap" article: 5M then 8 x 200m at 2-mile pace with 200m jog rest. I know that you consider Jan Olbrecht's book "The Science of Winning" to be very influential to you…and in it, Jan recommends the faster pace work to be done at the beginning of the workout, with the easy mileage at the end. Have you found that it does not matter when the faster work is done during the workout, or is it better to do the faster stuff at the end? I was thinking about training myself following Jan's recommendation, but I wanted to know what you think.

    4. Anonymous on November 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm

      Top 3- 14,16, 2
      Bottom 3-13, 15, 7

    5. Anonymous on November 4, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      impossible to tell…

      Why is it that the only measure reference is a side view? A frontal view of the runners give far greater detail in running form than what's offered by the video.

      The biomechanic question is what measurements define a runner's optimum running form? That's a three dimensional task of documentation, thus a side view only is missing 90% of the picture.

      What's the runner's guage ratio measurement?

      Sports Jester

    6. stevemagness on November 4, 2010 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks for predicting guys. We'll post results shortly.

      M. Mann- I like doing 200's after the run because they are an easy/moderate workout, and I want that stimulus last because it is going to raise muscle tension.

      As far as when fast work goes. It depends on the purpose of the workout.

      Sports Jester- Side view provides the majority of the relevant information. A frontal view only shows crossing of arms, hip dipping, and whether or not the legs deviate to the side or inside throughout the cycle. The side view provides more relevant information in terms of performance enhancement changes.

      Obviously a technical 3d analysis would be the best, but you can fix a lot/learn a lot from the side view only.

      Not sure what you mean by gauge ratio measurement?

    7. Fitz on November 7, 2010 at 9:43 pm

      This is nearly impossible to predict, but I like the stride of runners 15, 6, and 11.

      Let's go 6, 11, and 16 – top 3.

    8. stevemagness on November 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      Here's the order:

      Finish order
      Runner 1 – 7th
      Runner 2 – 1st
      Runner 3 – 2nd
      Runner 4 – 13th
      Runner 5 – 8th
      Runner 6 – 5th
      Runner 7 – 9th
      Runner 8 – 8th
      Runner 9 – 19th
      Runner 10 – 15th
      Runner 11 – 13th
      Runner 12 – 4th
      Runner 13 – 10th
      Runner 14 – 11th
      Runner 15 – 3rd
      Runner 16 – 6th

      Interesting that

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