My Sundays orienteering were spent with my best friend, Malcolm. On a couple of occasions our friend Steve joined us but it didn’t last, I suspect Malcolm’s parents didn’t want the responsibility of all three of us. I was enough to handle as the add-on and Steve had kind of self-invited himself so he got the boot. One thing I recall is him pointing out how noisily I ran, I think his words were “sounds like a baby elephant” and in fairness he wasn’t wrong about it.
I’ve never been a quiet runner. Sometimes I’m aware of this more than at others. I noticed it on my Sunday long run a few months back as I ran up into Broadstone Broadway and my feet were slapping so loudly on the pavement that an old woman looked round and commented that she’d been expecting a herd of runners to come through!
Another morning, as I was warming up on the way to my 800m speedwork session, I was hammering down the road closing in on a slower runner. She looked round well before I reached her, I assume because she heard the commotion, so as I passed I could only think to comment “Yes. I’m a noisy one, aren’t I?”
The problem with being a noisy runner isn’t so much being embarrassed by other’s opinions (although it can be); it’s that making a loud noise implies there is a big force going straight into the pavement rather than being used to propel you along. It’s said that a group of Kenyan runners will go past with a light tappity-tap sound. Of course it would be useful to be able to see this “noise as ground force” quantified in the lab but that’s the realm of university departments which few of us have access to.
After all these years of running I’d come to the conclusion that perhaps I’m simply a noisy runner, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing anything wrong. But then one Sunday morning my legs were relatively fresh and I noticed I wasn’t as noisy as normal. I thought about it for the first mile or so, noticing what happened on the first incline (stayed relatively quiet) before my attention shifted to rising breathing and heart-rates.
Three miles into the run I’d reached Gravel Hill and bumped into Mike and Nigel from Poole AC. Naturally I tried to look relaxed with good posture as we passed each other. But once past, with the road empty at that early hour, I noticed I’d become noisy again. I was on a downward stretch so I wondered if that could account for the difference, Realising I was stretching forward for each step, I experimented by tilting my pelvis back slightly and the noise disappeared. I returned to the lighter tappity-tap which I’d begun the run with. I also noticed that my left glute began to ache as it became more engaged.
I tried to maintain this feeling of pelvic tilt and glute engagement through the rest of the run. By the time I reached mile eight, I started to get a pain in my core muscles to the right of my belly button but it disappeared after a minute or two. I pushed through the rest of the run concentrating on my form.
Now I should point out that what worked for me is not an instruction for others. It may be useful but it depends on what they’re already doing. When I say that I tilted my pelvis back, it may be that it was already tilted too far forward (“posterior pelvic tilt”) and needed to be tilt to get more neutral. For another runner, making an adjustment from neutral would give them an undesirable anterior pelvic tilt.
The important thing to understand is I did two things which both revolve around awareness. Firstly I was listening to how noisy and slappy my feet had become so I played around with my pelvic tilt. Doing that I was then able to find a position which reduced the noise and where I could feel more engagement of my left glute. Using awareness in this way can be a great way to improve your running. It remains to be seen how this affects my running in the longterm but I’m hoping I can get the swiftness and lightness of a gazelle rather than the baby elephant!