27 April 2006

The Knees, the Heels and the Two Angles

24 April 2006
48.07 min. 6 miles, cool, cloudy, no wind.

It pained me to see a fat celebrity chef running in the London Marathon last Sunday. Not that I have anything against celebrities adding some colour to the run - and to themselves. I thought of his knees: one often overlooked effect of being overweight is the strain you put on your bones, the structure that carries us, humans around. Knees probably get the worst of it. Even the slouchest of slouches has to move from the sofa to the fridge occasionally.

I had my own bit of trouble with knees. At one point my GP told me I shouldn't run at all. After a while I developed a stride where you hardly allow your heels to hit the road. It is as though you are running on tiptoes. At first it was difficult, and it put a lot of strain on my calves, but took it off my knees...
"keeping the heel off the ground,
allows animals a faster, more economical, springy run."

The idea came to me when I was watching Zoe, my border collie running buddy. I wondered why is it that there seems to be two angles in her hind legs, one, upper, pointing forwards, and one, lower, pointing backwards. The point of the lower angle, in humans, is the heel. Keeping the heel on the ground allows us to walk upright, but keeping the heel off the ground, allows animals a faster, more economical springy run. I watched horses - and in their anatomy it is even more pronounced. When dogs sit, the front of their hind paws lies on the ground, horses can't do that...

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