Running style

After Sunday’s race, someone sent me a picture they had snapped as I was heading toward the finishing chute. A quick glance at it and I saw what I always see in racing pictures of me–my left hand was clenched. Not my right, though. This is something I do in races, during speed work, and toward the end of long runs. I’ve been aware of it for years and no matter how much I might try to change it–it sticks with me.

IG20121 225x300 Running style

That left had refuses to relax

I think that everyone has some sort of style “quirk” that makes their stride their own. I have a friend who is a super speedy, accomplished runner. Her recognizable style–a little kick out of her right foot as she extends her hip. I’d recognize her from a long way off, I’m sure, and I can say the same for many others.

The elites do it, too. How many times have you heard people talk about Paula Radcliffe’s head bob? How about Michael Johnson’s very distinct, upright style? Sometimes these styles might not look “pretty” or “right” but clearly some people make them work.

These individual styles also have nothing to do with heel striking versus mid foot striking. My fist clenching has been there since the start, long before I changed my form and it’s clearly not going anywhere. Good or bad, (ok, probably bad!) I’m stuck with it (and maybe too lazy to try to change anymore).

What sets your running stride apart? Ever try to change it? 


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  1. I think the clenched fist is fine. I have been working on my form. Often I twist at the hips and drive my arms across the median of my body….which is bad. I run more efficiently when I keep my arms to the sides and drive them forward not across. Very nice job on your race!

  2. No worries on the clenched fist. It looks badass. I find pics of myself running with weird, turn out feet that probably comes from lots of ballet training. Hate it and try to fix it, but it remains.
    Teamarcia recently posted..A Runner in Bike ClothingMy Profile

  3. In race pictures, it always looks like I’m running doing the Fonz thumbs up. It’s so strange.
    Kari @ Running Ricig recently posted..I’m really into positive thinkingMy Profile

  4. My left foot turns out while in the air and not too much that I have done seems to change it, I guess too many torn ligaments in my ankles, from when I thought I was a power forward at 5’7″ 150 pounds ;-).

    We all have little quirks when running, it is what makes us – us :-)
    Harold recently posted..Long Run Done and it Felt Good 8/20/12My Profile

  5. I did a post not too long ago about running quirks. I know I do some funky things. I over-supinate terribly so in race pics it looks like I’m just landing on the outer edge of my feet. I’m trying desperately to correct it. I flip my left hand in very oddly – I think it has something to do with trying to subconsciously adjust the garmin on my arm. But who knows really.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Running Rain or Heat & Grilled Veggies with QuinoaMy Profile

  6. Hmm, I haven’t thought to much about this for myself, but I do notice other runner’s styles–another distraction on my long runs!
    Coco recently posted..Do Numbers Motivate You Or Hold You Back?My Profile

  7. I’ve been told I run like a duck lol

    I noticed I hold my thumbs tight while I run. I make a mental note to relax my hands.
    Kierston recently posted..Part II ~ FFA Girls Talk Body, Mind and Goals!My Profile

  8. I think my stand out would be my shuffle as I start to fatigue. I go from 32 year old runner to 90 year old granny shuffler. I also drift to that when my knees get sore. I’m sure you’d be able to pick me out of a crowd no problem.
    Steph @fitmomtraining recently posted..Body After Baby: 6 Month Check-inMy Profile

  9. My form used to be good and then it turned into a complete disaster. It is slowly getting better, but it is still a work in progress. I think after my awful run last night I need to youtube forefoot running again. Something that I am doing doesn’t seem right, but my coach has never said anything….hmmm. Last night I felt some odd “twinges” in my left anterior compartment that has me all freaked out right now. Finally called my coach last night and he said not to run the 5k tomorrow. I am fine with that, just panicked and feel sick that maybe I am not healed yet. UGH.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..PRO Compression *Product Review*My Profile

  10. Ha, so funny! Yes, I flop my left hand hand if I need to get into to find my pace. It works, I get right into my zone. Congratulations on your race! You look amazing, so strong!!!
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..10 Back to School Outfits for under $66My Profile

  11. I lift my shoulders when I get tired! People have told me about it and tried to change it my whole running life. It’s just so instinctual that I doubt I’ll ever change.

    I have a friend who ran on a treadmill in front of a mirror every single day for over a year to analyze his running style and he made drastic improvements and is very happy with the change. I don’t think I have the patience for that and I doubt I’d ever have the desire!
    Jen B. recently posted..A Whole Lot of RandomnessMy Profile

  12. You look fierce in that photo…clenched fist and all! I’ve noticed in race pictures that my left foot turns out after push off. I’ve always just figured it was due to the fact that I was a ballet dancer all my life before running. But I’ve wondered if this turned out foot in the air may be contributing to the little twinges I seem to constantly deal with in my left leg?
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..CIM Training Week 3My Profile

  13. I’m a bouncer! Everyone says they can see me coming because of my vertical stride. My PT told me it’s been awhile since she’s seen one of me and we’re working to correct it since it’s one of the many things contributing to my injuries, so I will sadly be losing my style. If it means more efficient running and speed, I’m okay with that. :-)

  14. I’m a head tilter and and fist clencher when I get tired or working hard. It’s part of my running charm :)
    Kristy (@KrisRunTri) recently posted..Booty BlockMy Profile

  15. In the Olympic marathon I was blown away by Jeptoo’s stride, seemed very awkward to me. But, this woman got the silver medal and can haul ass. Who am I to judge?

    I always stick out my left pinky for some reason. Kind of like I’m having a cup of tea. Weird.
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..The Time I Ran in ParisMy Profile

  16. You look as if you’re really moving.
    I have a problem with heel kick. I have none. My stride is low and its a sure sign I never ran races when I was younger :( Boooo!
    Joanne recently posted..Catherine Valley Half Marathon 2012My Profile

  17. Great job on the race! When we’re at top exertion/last gasp the body goes into whatever it takes mode.. you see it in Olympians and really a vast majority of pro athletes..suddenly form and poster deteriorate (may still be better than the rest of us but still).
    Chris Donnelly recently posted..Redefining your LifestyleMy Profile

  18. I have to be honest – I love the clenched fist…it makes you, you!!! My form isn’t perfect – there’s nothing blatantly so wrong with it, but you can definitely tell me from a distance just based on how I am running =) I have thought about working on it, but I feel like I haven’t been injured yet, so why change something that isn’t broken.
    PS. Love the picture – you look awesome!
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Gestational DiabetesMy Profile

  19. When i run I have this little weird thing, I kick my right leg back every so often. I think it may cause problems with my hip.

    I have tried to change my running from heel strike to running on the balls of my feet. It has helped a bunch and feels more natural.

  20. I’m not certain but whenever I get pictures back I’m making a horrible face (not stride related) and my feet barely look off the ground. Perhaps I need to look at my stride a little closer!! Your left hand just wants to punch through the finish!!
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..Word for WednesdayMy Profile

  21. I do this weird thing with my left wrist. It sort of hangs funny. My daughter does the same thing funny enough. I do try to conciously hold my wrist straight especially for photos but it’s hard and I most often forget so a lot of my race photos have the limp hand/wrist thing going on!
    Robin recently posted..Amelia’s 2nd TriathlonMy Profile

  22. Sometimes when I get tired or when a run gets really hard my thumbs go up.
    On both hands.
    I look like a dork, dying while giving the thumbs up sign.
    And every once and a while I kick myself. One foot hits the inside of my other ankle. Not sure, how or why but I bet it looks pretty cool. =-)
    Missy recently posted..Cinnamon Oatmeal CookiesMy Profile

  23. crack me up I swear we think alike. I have a post written that I haven’t published yet about our own unique stride. It’s true I think we can work on our stride for injury prevention, but some if it is natural and should be left well enough alone
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..Busting the too busy excuse: Clean EatingMy Profile

  24. I don’t know if anything sets my stride apart, but my husband was recognized 20 years later by one of his HS x-country teammates who knew him in a race by the way he runs. Weird, huh? They ended up going hiking together a couple of times.
    Terzah recently posted..Do You Trash Talk?My Profile

  25. For some reason I often have my thumbs up on both hands. Not sure why, but it is my thing I guess. LOL!!
    Jolene Cannady recently posted..Wear That Paper BagMy Profile

  26. Just last Thursday I ran into one of my squad members while I was out on a run. He told me that he knew it was me from the way I ran. I knew it was him for the same reason. I’m not sure what my gait quirks are but I definitely have some.
    Char recently posted..Stacks of Inspiration, Guilt and ColourMy Profile

  27. I run with two thumbs up like a weird hitch hiking attempt.

  28. My quirk is I tend to lean backwards at the outset of speed and then lean forward and go. It is as if I need a reminder that I should be leaning forward.

    Other than that we will have to ask Karen what defines me in my running style. For her it is these short little steps.
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..Pass The SaltMy Profile

  29. That’s something that I do too!! It’s so weird! BUT i figured out that if I try to concentrate on it while I’m running, I can’t focus on my running lol… go figure ;) So I guess that little quirk is here to stay ;)
    Zaneta recently posted..Weekly Roundup: August 13 – 19My Profile

  30. That’s a great race picture, you look super fast and strong! Eventhough I have worked on switching from heel striking to mid-foot strike, occasionally a race picture will pick up a little heel striking going on. Darn, it’s been a long road to change this and I’m still not quite there.
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..My MS Story on CNN’s WebsiteMy Profile

  31. I don’t know of any style quirks per se (unless a slothlike pace can be considered a quirk, lol), but my palms always get hot when I run so I’m frequently shaking my hands…like waist-level jazz hands. :)
    Kate recently posted..Facing the fearMy Profile

  32. Funny you mention this. My daughter ran CC in high school and won 2 awards in her jr and sr years. They took a picture each year and enlarged it and we laughed when we saw the second one because it hey almost look exactly the same. Same arm position, hand position, facial expression. I’ll tell her shes not alone :)

  33. I’ve never seen myself running! Now I’m curious what I look like!
    Mom’ s Home Run recently posted..Mum on the runMy Profile

  34. I used to keep my arms close and tight near my chest. Then a friend told me to pretend I had a balloon in front of my belly and to pretend I was rubbing the balloon as I ran. I think it’s helped me relax my arms while running : )
    Molly recently posted..What I Did On My Summer Vacation.My Profile

  35. The only thing I’ve tried to change is lifting my feet up instead of pushing off back, but otherwise I try to just stay relaxed and not worry about it.
    Kovas – Midwest Mutisport Life recently posted..WaxeleneMy Profile

  36. That is crazy – I know i do something similar. I always cross my left arm across my body at the end of races and/or stick my tongue into the side of my mouth. I often do the tongue thing while concentrating and apparently I did it more when I played bball in college.
    J recently posted..Triple DoubleMy Profile

  37. So funny! I tend to clench my right hand!
    Laura recently posted..Between the sheetsMy Profile

  38. I’m just recently starting to get into running on a more serious. I suppose I need to start considering things like stride and form. You look real badass in that pic, BTW.
    Yum Yucky recently posted..Greedy Recipe! Lightlife Portobello Mushroom Burger With Feta And Warm Wilted Baby SpinachMy Profile

  39. If I’m not careful, my right food turns out slightly when I run. I try to not allow that, because it leads to hip pain for me, but I can’t seem to permanently change it. As for a running look, sometimes it is even hard to put a finger on what makes someones look distinctive. I know I can spot my husband from a long ways away by his form. He spots me by my blonde ponytail bobbing :-)
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Native Foods, I Love You. Please Come HomeMy Profile

  40. I’m new enough to running that I don’t know what my quirks are yet! But it’ll be fun to find out!
    Missy | Literal Mom recently posted..Back to School Week and a VacationMy Profile

  41. My hips usually look weird and I’m a bad heel striker! Your foot work looks really good though!
    Christine recently posted..Enough is EnoughMy Profile

  42. Nothing that I can think of though I’m known to break out into disco moves about mid-way thru a half marathon. :)
    Jen recently posted..Suck it cheerleadersMy Profile

  43. Amazing running styles!! I have never observed my style how i really look while running. Sure to observe this time.


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