Yesterday, the reunion of the 2014-2015 SMS T2 contingency culminated in a running clinic with Ben True on the Dartmouth track. Ben, who skied for Dartmouth before transitioning to professional running, is an old teammate of our Dartmouth grads and was generous enough to help us out with our running technique as we head into big summer training.
Walking onto the track yesterday was a little intimidating. After years of jumping into 2-3 hours runs without much build up, the group of us considered ourselves pretty good at running. After our 5 minute 800 meter warm up, we lined up with Ben True (who runs 5k in 13:02) and realized, very quickly, that we’re not as good as we thought.
We started by lining up against the track wall and moving through the correct running range of motion. Just like in skiing, a major negative tick is over striding, so Ben taught us how to appropriately position our legs to shorten our strides and strike the ground powerfully and quickly, all of which starts with the resting position called the dorsiflex.
After sufficient time balancing against the wall, we moved onto the field to experiment with dynamic strength and technique drills. After walking on our tip-toes, heals, outsides and insides of our feet, it became painfully obvious that our skier bodies were not used to the kind of coordination that competitive running demands. I for one discovered that I have a slew of undeveloped muscles in my feet and ankles, all of which I found to be quite sore this morning. Lucky for us, Ben is an In The Arena athlete, so he was experienced in teaching clinics with young kids, and had ample patience for our lack of coordination.
Yeah, my middle schoolers had trouble with that one, too.
Once we got the hang of the small drills, Ben moved us up to the medium drills. As we worked into proper butt kick and high knees drills (no, they do not look like what you high school football coach taught you) Ben kept on repeating the phrase “we’ll get to the hard stuff next.” Once we got the ‘hard stuff,’ he would again cheer us on “good job, now for the hard stuff.” It was then that I realized that, like skiing, in running, the better you are, the harder it gets. There is always something more challenging, more intricate, more demanding that goes into making yourself better. It made me respect Ben for finding so much success in running as fast as he has.
After tumbling over ourselves like adolescent giraffes for an hour, trying to get just the right angle in our ankles or just the right flex in our butts, Ben let us open up in some strides. (Strides are to running what speeds are to skiing). While almost nothing happening with my legs felt natural, my new stride felt much faster, and much more efficient than what had loped me around our 800 meter warmup. Running back and forth across the field, you could tell that everyone in the group felt something different. Simi, in particular, was quite excited to finally get the chance to race.
We are grateful to have the chance to make our training even better. Thanks to Ben True for lending us his time yesterday afternoon, to Gus for setting up the event and the Caldwells for feeding us afterward! Tomorrow is our uphill run time trial, can’t wait to put our new technique to the test!