While my son is waiting for the official results from USATF Connecticut for yesterday’s Junior Olympic cross country meet in Litchfield, we do know that he did not qualify for the Region 1 meet in Augusta, Maine, and we are therefore reflecting on the concluded cross country season and thinking about accomplishments and lessons learned.
I have enumerated and described his goals in previous posts. One that I may not have highlighted, but is nonetheless an important goal, is for my son to improve his running form. Improved running form should reduce the risk of injuries and improve performance.
The 2013 Cross Country Retrospective contains a few photos from various meets that show his form at that time – pay particular attention to his arm carriage. The more recent 2014 Wilton Cross Country Invitational in September shows his form two months ago – see especially the 6th photo, and also the 2nd and 3rd photos.
Over the past 6-8 weeks, we invested about 30 minutes on weekends to perform form drills on the track using a 15 foot “agility ladder”. We follow the form drills immediately with a 6 mile trail run to reinforce what we practice. In addition, I work with him throughout the week to make adjustments.
The photos below show the improvement in running form after a few weeks. Keep in mind that race conditions were not optimal (freezing temperatures, flurries, wind gusts, challenging course) and note especially that my son retains his form even late in the race.
At the start, ready to race (son with number 323)
Race Timeline: About 400m into the race.
Form Observation: Both hands slightly turned down, elbows somewhat turned out, shoulders square and relaxed, posture leaning forward.
Race Timeline: Cresting a grassy hill, about 800 m point.
Form Observation: Overall good form, driving arms and legs coming over top of hill, right hand up, left hand slightly turned down, elbows parallel, shoulders square and relaxed, torso leaning forward.
Race Timeline: Steep descent after challening uphill, approximately 800 m to race.
Form Observation: Good form on steep and dangerous downhill (slippery leaves, roots, rocks) with nice driving arms and legs – good leg lift and planting feet under knee and landing with ball of foot, both hands turned up, elbows parallel, shoulders not quite square, leaning forward on descent.
Race Timeline: Small uphill near finish, 150 m to go.
Form Observation: Excellent form, driving arms and legs uphill at end of challenging cross country race, shoulders relaxed and square, both hands up and elbows parallel, good leg lift and planting foot under knee, landing on ball of foot.