Usain Bolt and Eliud Kipchoge…Lessons from the Greats!

Usain Bolt and Eliud Kipchoge are the fastest runners in history. They are among the greatest athletes of all time, with Bolt recently retiring from well over a decade of domination in the sprints and Kipchoge continuing to reign supreme in the marathon. These athletes provide outstanding examples of the alignment of training and competing to a body type for peak performance.

Bolt and Kipchoge are the subjects of this week’s blog and podcast. The show takes a deep dive into the analysis of body type (using the AnimalFit system) and running technique of these athletes. I’m going to summarize the key points here and you can always have a listen if you are inspired to learn more.

Starting with Kipchoge, he is the current world record holder in the marathon (2:01:39), the reigning Olympic champion, and winner of the recent London Marathon. He also ran the unofficial fastest time ever, at 2:00:22, in the Nike Sub-2 Project, and just this week announced that he will once again be shooting for a time under 2 hours in October 2019. This target equates to a 4:35 per mile pace for 26.2 miles.

Beyond Kipchoge’s amazing talent and work ethic, which should be readily recognized and immensely appreciated…how does he do it? The answer lies, in AnimalFit terms, in that Kipchoge is  a quintessential coyote, and he has a body with practically perfect running economy. At 5’6” and 123 pounds, and with running mechanics that effectively transfer force with no wasted energy, Kipchoge uses Zen-like focus to gracefully pour out his talent (down to the last drop) over 26.2 miles. His body is optimally designed to do what he does, and in ancient times he would have been the greatest messenger. Today he delivers the message of just what is possible in distance running performance.

While none of us can run like Kipchoge, we can take some lessons from him. He trains consistently but actually somewhat moderately given his talent. In other words, he runs 120-140 miles per week, with much of this mileage under 6 minutes per mile and intervals well under 5 minutes per mile, but this represents a high volume of training that is actually in a comfortable zone. Most recreational athletes tend to “train over their heads” and would probably get better results if they did more (but not all) of their training at easier levels. Kipchoge also works on his graceful running form by incorporating drills, calisthenics, and multi-speed training in his regimen. Refining mechanical properties in our technique is just as important as focusing on metabolic conditioning.

Bolt, with world records in the 100/200m at 9.58/19.19 seconds, 9 Olympic gold medals, 11 world championships, and countless major meet victories, is a household name. He has clearly established the standard for sprint performance.

At 6’5” and 207 pounds, Bolt is a tall panther. He has immense elasticity and explosivity that he uses to accelerate like a shorter athlete, and then to take advantage of his long stride once he is up to maximum velocity. A great biomechanics lesson indeed. And when it came to training, Bolt worked as intensely on his metabolic conditioning as he did on his mechanics. We break down the phases of sprint racing and discuss how Bolt harnesses his abilities with phenomenal success.

In the show, we discuss the unique nature of each athlete’s body. We explore the anatomical, physiological, biomechanical, and psychological nature of their performances. We also examine some of the popular opinions or arguments regarding marathon training, sprinting technique, and other generalized assumptions in athletics. This one is a great listen if you’re eager to get some answers that can help you unlock your own potential.

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