Superheroes Not Necessarily Super Runners

Marvel cast - Civil War

Marvel cast – Civil War

Like millions of moviegoers, my family and I enjoyed the mega-opening for Marvel’s Civil War this weekend. Yes, we were relaxing, but it seems, our inner coach is always on duty. Sort of like the dentist.  No matter who they meet, the evaluation is happening, consciously or not. Overbite. Underbite. Man, that guy could use a new crown. . . .

So it will come as no surprise that the analysis continued this morning when we saw the picture attached to the newspaper article that proclaimed Civil War the runaway winner at the box office over the weekend.

My husband called me over. “Hey, Anne, which superhero has the best run form?” My evaluation took about half a second. “Ant-man,” I said. My husband agreed.

Haile Gebrselassie - distance running great

Haile Gebrselassie – distance running great

Notice his lead foot landing right underneath his center of gravity. Great heel lift in the back. The classic S-shaped running form, or as we call it, the one-legged pirate. When you look at an efficient runner head on (see photo of distance running great, Haile Gebrselassie, to the left) only the upper leg—hip to knee—will be visible on one side.  This means that the heel is coming up cleanly behind the runner, no wasted motion, and is setting itself up to land under the runner’s center of gravity.

Maybe it’s the wings that are impacting Falcon’s run gait, but that’s quite the over-stride.  And Scarlett Witch? Yep, she’s an over-strider, too.

Hawkeye’s leg flares away from his body, and he’s lifting his thigh to begin the run stride. Captain America has good heel lift, however, his thigh is also lifted forward. When the thigh lift is exaggerated like this, the lower leg often follows, setting the runner up for an over-stride.

Why is over-striding a big deal? Well, when your foot lands in front of you, you’re decelerating—slamming on the brakes—and it’s a horribly inefficient way to run. Ant-man definitely has it right by getting that lead foot down underneath him, nothing slowing his forward progress, just like any elite runner would do.

And finally, Winter Soldier. He exhibits a side foot flare similar to Hawkeye, and he’s shrugging his shoulders, which does not result in a natural, fluid arm carriage. Granted, his left metal arm is probably unnaturally heavy, so he’s compensating, but still.

So here’s to Ant-man! A superhero and a super runner!

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