If you’re a fan of the sport of running and follow professional running even the slightest bit, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Eliud Kipchoge.
Kipchoge is probably best known for being the fastest marathon runner in history and the first runner to ever break the two-hour barrier in the marathon, running time of 1:59:40.2 at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria, in 2019.
Although this jaw-dropping performance doesn’t qualify as an official marathon world record because it wasn’t an open competition, Kipchoge also holds the official world record in the marathon in a blistering time of 2:01:09.
While Kenyan marathon runner, Kipchoge, is indeed the fastest marathon runner in history, he’s also one of the most beautiful.
With an exemplary running stride and flawless running form, watching Kipchoge run is like watching the most graceful dancer execute every single step with perfection and ease.
The best part? Kipchoge manages to smile through most of his races, even when he’s putting the pedal to the metal.
So, while runners can certainly look to Kipchoge for inspiration and awe, there’s also much to be gained by studying his running form and seeking to emulate it with our own running technique.
After all, you might as well learn from the best of the best. In this article, we will look at running form and training takeaways we can all learn from Eliud Kipchoge.
In this guide, we will cover:
- 7 Running Form Takeaways from Eliud Kipchoge
- Running Like Kipchoge
Let’s dive in!
7 Running Form Takeaways from Eliud Kipchoge
Ready to learn and be inspired? Here are 7 running form takeaways we can all learn from Eliud Kipchoge:
#1: Landing On the Midfoot
Many runners are heel strikers, which means that they land on the rearfoot with each step.
Heel striking puts excessive stress on your feet because it doesn’t position your foot in a way that can allow the arch to naturally compress and absorb the shock of impact.
In fact, most surveys and estimates in research literature note that about 30-75% of runners experience an injury over the course of a year of training, with evidence demonstrating that injuries are especially high in rearfoot strikers.
Landing on your heel also inhibits your forward momentum by essentially applying a braking energy to your stride. In turn, your running economy and speed are reduced.
Runners are told to land on the midfoot, as this allows the arch to compress gently and then bounce back, absorbing the load of impact.
It also positions the center of mass of your body right above your foot rather than behind. This encourages forward momentum and reduces torque on your hips and knees.
Kipchoge lands lightly on the balls of his feet while still remaining firm in his limbs to maximize the elastic return of energy from the ground.
In other words, he’s wasting no energy and keeping his velocity in the forward direction.
#2: Efficient Stride Length
Although Kipchoge has a graceful stride, it’s not overly long and loping. It’s a perfect balance of being long enough to cover ground quickly and maintain a fast pace without being too long.
Overstriding occurs when you extend your leg too far ahead of your body. This positions your center of mass behind the knee, which, again, can lead to heel striking and increases the risk of injury.
If you recall back to your days in physics class, the torque going through a joint is a product of the force multiplied by the moment arm, or the distance that force is applied from the joint.
If your body weight is well behind the ankle and knee when you land, the weight of your body plus gravity is being applied from a greater distance than if your center of mass was directly over your knees and feet.
Therefore, the torque on your joints is higher, which places you at an increased risk of injury.
Moreover, when you overstride, the body must decelerate more before moving on to the next stride. This reduces your running economy because you’re losing forward momentum.
When you watch Kipchoge run, he lands with his shin vertical under his knee so that his foot is not as far in front of his center of mass as it would be if his knee were fully extended with his shin reaching forward instead of straight down.
#3: Fast Cadence
Kipchoge runs with light, quick steps as if his feet are gently kissing the ground.
Aim for a cadence of 170-180 steps per minute. This will also help prevent overstriding. Research suggests that increasing your cadence by about 5-10% above your current stride frequency can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal stress and resultant injuries.
Running with a faster cadence reduces the impact and loading on your hip and knee joints, decreases the braking force when your feet contact the ground, and reduces your vertical ossification (bouncing motion).
#4: Slight Forward Lean
Kipchoge runs with a very slight forward lean of the torso from the hips, which optimizes forward movement.
#5: Minimal Vertical Oscillation
If you watch Kipchoge run, you’ll notice that there’s very little extraneous bouncing or vertical oscillation. He keeps his joints and limbs “stiff” though still relaxed.
Limb stiffness maximizes energy return from the ground to improve his running economy.
Try not to sink into your hip and knee when you land. Keep your body firm and concentrate on moving forward, not up and down.
#6: Economical Arm Swing
A lot of runners waste energy with excessive upper body motion, swinging their arms across the body rather than front and back. Any lateral movement detracts from forward momentum and makes you a less efficient runner.
It’s also common not to use your arms enough. It’s important to drive with your arms because they provide a counter-rotation for the legs and pelvis.
Kipchoge runs with the ideal balance of gentle upper-body rotation and an economical but powerful arm swing.
His arms drive his legs forward and release potential energy stored in the hips and trunk from stride to stride. They come to the midline of his body but not beyond to the other side.
#7: Relaxed Face and Hands
Kipchoge runs with a relaxed face, hands, and shoulders, which allows him to keep the energy cost low.
Holding tension in your body wastes energy and can cause fatigue.
Running Like Kipchoge
You can watch some of the beautiful poetry-in-motion that is Eliud Kipchoge’s running form in this video of the final kilometer of the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
It’s impossible not to be impressed with how graceful and relaxed he looks, and then if you remember that this is the last kilometer of a 42.2 kilometer race, the real awe sets in.
Would you like to learn about how Kipchoge trains for his marathons? Check out his tips here.