Downhill Running

One aspect of your running which can quite readily be quickly and vastly improved is downhill running.

Many runners “take a break” during the downhill sections of a road, trail or cross country race, but the benefits in practising the skill of this area can be seen in the gap one can open up over fellow competitors who have not given much, if any, thought to utilising the downhills to their benefit.

Practice should be carried out on grass, forest or woodchip downhill areas. A gradient of 5-6% is preferable. The key features to address are:-

  • concentration
  • relaxation
  • gravity
  • short strides
  • avoidance of heel strike first
  • body angle
  • driving off the ball of the foot

Let us look at these areas one by one.

Concentration

Focus on the fact that you are trying to get down the hill as quickly as possible then concentrate on the following factors.

Relaxation

There should be no tension in arms, shoulders or legs

Gravity

Let your body weight do most of the work.

Short strides

Increase your leg cadence relevant to that on the flat

Heel strike avoidance

If you land on your heels this will act as a brake. Concentrate on landing on the ball of your foot.

Body angle

Aim to lean forward slightly so that your body is at 90 degrees to the slope.

Driving off the ball of the feet

This is the final factor to take into account once the rest are in place.

Practice the above regularly and you will be surprised how the skill of downhill running quickly becomes part of your weaponry in a race.

Mel Edwards

Mel Edwards is a former international marathon runner with a personal best of 2 hours 18 minutes 24 seconds and was one of Britain’s top distance runners in the late 1960’s.

He is a UK Athletics Level 4 endurance coach and has dealt with cancer on three occasions. Mel was recently awarded an MBE for his services to athletics and charity

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