Mechanics of Prolonged Downhill Running

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Approximately 25 runners were filmed at the 24.9- and 41.0-km points in the 1987 Everest Marathon. Their finishing times ranged from 4:53:10 to 7:14:37. Leg length, step lengths, step frequencies, knee angles at impact, and ankle-to-hip angles at impact were determined for each runner who appeared in both films (N = 20). The slopes at the two filming sites were −21.8% and −26.8%, considerably steeper gradients than have previously been studied. When compared to data from other downhill running studies at −10% gradient, these athletes had slightly slower speeds, shorter step lengths, straighter legs on impact, and greater minimum knee angles during stance. The results suggest that the runners used a variety of techniques to minimize the effects of ground impact while still allowing for the competitive aspect of the race, considerable variation in footing and terrain, and personal safety.

R.N. Marshall and P. Glendining are with the Dept. of Human Movement Studies at The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, W.A. 6009, Australia. D.J. Paterson is with the Dept. of Physiology at Oxford University, Oxford, England.

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