Does Diving For The Finish Line Work?
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
The science of flying
By Matt McCue
According to Ralph Reiff, the executive director of St Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, Ind., the best way to finish a race is by running – not flying – through the line.
“Speed, from a mechanical standpoint, is how much force you can put into the ground from your torso to your glutes to your upper leg, all the way to your big toe,” says Reiff. “If you put your force into the ground and follow that up by flying through the air and don’t drop your other foot, you start to decelerate.”
Reiff, who managed athlete care at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, likens it to a baseball player diving headfirst into first base to avoid being thrown out. “Rarely does that become a successful play,” says Reiff. “You lose all of your forward motion.”
The “If I need to, I will do it,” mentality is what often propels someone to dive at the line. “The art of running is emotional,” Reiff continues. “There becomes that point where you, as the competitor, feel compelled to do whatever you can do to give yourself an advantage.
“But over time I think it will be proven that the higher percentages of people who go first, second and third are going to be people who drive their foot plant through the finish line,” he says. His advice for all athletes – from Olympians to high school students to recreational runners – is to pick a secondary point of finish two to three metres past the finish line and run through it so that you maintain your level of energy when you cross the actual finish line.
“That is optimal,” he says. “That is the science of running.”
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