Shoes on. Laces tied. Hamstrings stretched. iPod on.
I set off with classic era Oasis pounding on my eardrums. As usual I take the first part of my route like I’m chasing Road Runner – it’s mostly downhill and I usually don’t feel like I’m going into cardiac arrest until I’ve been running for at least ten minutes. It’s after that first long downhill stretch of woodland path plateaus and starts to subtly creep uphill that things start to go wrong. At that point that my knees, calves and thighs seem to form a trade union, threatening to go on strike unless I stop. Breathe. Say a silent prayer.
And this always happens. I’ve run this route three times so far and every single time without fail I manage a mile or so before my legs silently scream “stop you bastard! Stop!”
Today was different though. It was like my legs had an epiphany. They didn’t need to stop, they weren’t calling me a bastard and I actually felt good, comfortable even. For a while there I was coasting along and feeling serene.
But that couldn’t last for long. I made a horrific discovery today – I have duck feet. By that I don’t mean that I have web toes, I mean that my feet point outwards when I walk. When I run this motion is even more accentuated – I don’t propel myself forward like proper biomechanically correct people do. I have an awkward, rolling gait and I waddle, just like duck does.
I researched this phenomenon online and discovered that it has a really complicated sounding medical name – “Duck-foot”. The reputable sounding Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine website says that there is a cure for this condition though, and it’s farcically simple – just don’t run with your feet pointed out the way dummy!
“Turning out when you walk wears on the knees, just like tires that are crooked,” the Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine says. “To fix tire wear, you don’t stop driving or change the tires, and you don’t just keep driving that way. You check why they are crooked and fix that. Alignment work is the same for bad knee and foot posture –learn how to hold them straight by using your muscles, not just letting them sway and slump.”
Right, got that. So I just run with my feet straight then – I’d never really thought of that before …
I hate looking online for a diagnosis. Before you know it that runny nose and slight temperature are the symptoms of something ghastly and terminal and you’re going to die! Get to the hospital quick you fool! Your head’s about to drop off! You see, before I started researching this I didn’t think that there was a wrong or right way to run, I thought it was like your style of handwriting – everyone does it differently, but it’s still all the same somehow. Apparently not – you can run wrong. This BBC site (it’s BBC so it has to be true!) says that there is a special running technique that you need to use and if you don’t use this special technique then you’re being a biomechanical litter bug, dropping your heels in all of the wrong places.
In fact you shouldn’t even be landing on your heels, your feet should strike the ground with the ball of the foot first before thrusting forward from the toes. This running business is harder than it looks.
So will I try to change my running style? Probably not. I’m not running because I need to get anywhere quickly, I’m running to get fit, to feel that buzz you get from exercising, to be out there on the open road with the sun on my back and the wind blowing through my, um, scalp. So I run like a duck, who cares?