10. Up-Down Motion
Whether jogging or in an all-out sprint, watch the runner’s head and you will see that his head is moving up and down. Figures 1 and 3 show how the body floats higher off the ground after kicking against it with the feet, while Figure 2 shows the lower trajectory when the feet make contact.
The important thing is not to kick backwards when your foot comes in contract with the ground, but to push against the ground directly beneath your body as shown in Figure 2. It is as if you are springing your body directly upwards for a split second.
Maintenance of Maximum Speed and Deceleration
It is said that national-class and world-class athletes achieve maximum speed at around the 65 meter mark. This phase is called acceleration.
It is also said that athletes can maintain their maximum speed for around 20 meters, and this maintenance of speed is the second most important component of sprint racing after acceleration.
Even world-class athletes like Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell and Floyd Heard show some drop-off in speed; the key to sprint technique is how to minimize deceleration, which is thought to occur over the course of a dozen meters or so.
The maintenance of maximum speed and minimization of deceleration can be thought of as a single technique. Some speak of changing gears in the second half or switching to the pitch technique just before the finishing tape, but these techniques do not apply to sprints.
Running technique at this stage of the race is basically the same as the acceleration stage. In the US, coaches will urge their runners to “stay” “hold” “keep going” “stroke” and “push” in the second half of a race. Let’s take a closer look at what those words actually refer to. “Hold,” for instance, means coming upright with the upper body relaxed, looking straight ahead, relaxing the jaw, swinging the arms fully back and forth, not raising the thighs so far that they become parallel to the ground, and using the legs to give a robust push off the ground directly under the body.
The second half of the acceleration stage can be summed up in five actions:
1. Bring the body upright.
2. Feel should make contact with the ground directly under the body and push up rather than kick back.
3. Swing the arms.
4. Let the legs make the return stroke naturally.
5. Relax, especially the jaw and shoulders.