2011 IAAF World Championships: One photo tells all

While in Daegu, Korea last week, I caught this photo during the preliminary heat of the IAAF World Championship 3,000 meter steeplechase where the USA’s Stephanie Garcia, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, was running (she is fourth from the left). Our middle daughter, Kellyn, got to hang out with Stephanie a couple days before the heat thanks to our good friend, USA Throws Coach and remarkable OESHer, Carrie Lane, who snuck Kellyn into “Athletes’ Village” where the athletes were lodging and training.

I didn’t intend on this photo becoming a lesson in gait analysis but looking back at it I realize how nicely it depicts how we are vulnerable to injuries, not at impact (as everyone has always assumed) but when our foot is fully planted.

Look at their feet. No matter whether you strike the ground with your heel (as Stephanie does here) or with your mid or forefoot (as does the woman to the right of Stephanie), you always land on the outside part of your foot. The stresses to the body are minimal at this point. Note the lack of any muscle definition, which is an unsophisticated but fairly accurate indicator of total body stresses relating to peak joint pressures, stresses through bones, strains through injury prone tissues, etc., etc.

It is not until midstance, when the foot is fully planted, when the opposite knee passes the stance knee, that the stresses to the body are at their maximum (and are the culprit to all injuries). This photo catches only Parker during this critical, vulnerable, moment. Look at the muscle definition in her thigh and lower leg. It wasn’t there a split second before and it will be gone a split second later. Note that Krause and Chewya, who have passed beyond midstance, no longer have that muscle definition.

This photo illustrates elite running–a pure, clean example of the human frame in movement. But the same phenomenon occurs in everyday walking. Exactly as in the split second of this battle amongst the world’s greatest competitors, the substantial pressures through our joints that contribute to osteoarthritis do not occur at impact, but rather when our foot is fully planted.

Kellyn, Carrie, and I rooted like crazy for Stephanie. She held her own in this highly talented pack, with a remarkable time of 9:53.47. For her first World Championship event, it was truly awesome to see our hometown hero officially become, in a world of 3,000,000,000 women, one of the fastest 30 of them all.

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