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Puddles and gait analysis

20 December, 2009

It poured all night and hadn’t stopped when it was time for me to go for a run. Normally, it’s a bit of a bummer when you’ve got 11 or 12 miles ahead of you and you’re already soaking wet. But, as long as you do you what you have to do to stop the chafing and blisters, then it’s really no big deal. Vaseline is icky but it does the trick. Besides, if it dries out then you expend less energy actively cooling (sweating), and you dehydrate less quickly. And if it doesn’t dry out then it really won’t make any difference. Once you’re wet, you’re wet. Since I started doing a little trail running here and there, I tend to think of myself as being in a clearing in a forest, rather than a city, which makes the sogginess a lot more bearable, somehow.

One time it was a problem was about three months ago, when the downpour really was torrential. It is no exaggeration to say that in many places the water was ankle-deep and flowing. And that was along the seawall, which is normally well-drained. I finished that long run with new aches and pains I’d never previously experienced. Part of it may have been because I had to pick up my feet a little more than usual, and so there was more bounce and I was landing harder. I suspect also, however, that the foam in my runners lost some of their protective qualities, and that all of a sudden I was landing harder not only after coming down from a greater height, but also because the cushions weren’t working.

So, it is one of those situations where you just have to make the best of it, and let your inner four year-old have fun with the puddles. As I was running almost constantly through puddles today, I got to listening to the sound of my feet. Now and then I play at making no noise while running, but today I was kind of enjoying the splashing about. I heard the sound of my foot hitting the puddle in two parts, the initial splash of the heel, and the slap as the rest of the foot comes down. Of course, if the puddle is deep enough to make a splash then what you’re hearing effectively is the pitch/flexion of the foot just before it lands, according to how close together are these sounds. So, even if you’re landing mid-foot, you might still hear the heel first. Perhaps if I pay enough attention to the puddle splashes, then I’ll be able to glean something about my gait, over time. It’s impossible to analyze your gait in any meaningful way by looking down at your feet! For one thing, just by looking down you’ll affect how you run. Puddles are no substitute for the whole treadmill and video rigmarole, but maybe it’s something to work on while on the soggy seawall.

Ain’t no change in the weather, ain’t no change in me.

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