AskDefine | Define footrace

Dictionary Definition

footrace n : a race run on foot; "she broke the record for the half-mile run" [syn: foot race, run]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A race run on foot

Extensive Definition

Running is defined as the fastest means for an animal to move on foot. It is defined in sporting terms as a gait in which at some point all feet are off the ground at the same time.

Human running mechanics

Running is a complex and coordinated process that involves the entire body. Every human being runs differently, but certain general features of running motion are common.

Lower body motion

Running is executed as a sequence of strides, which alternate between the two legs. Each leg's stride can be roughly divided into three phases: support, drive, and recovery. Support and drive occur when the foot is in contact with the ground. Recovery occurs when the foot is off the ground. Since only one foot is on the ground at a time in running, one leg is always in recovery, while the other goes through support and drive. Then, briefly, as the runner leaps through the air, both legs are in recovery. These phases are described in below.


During the support phase, the foot is in contact with the ground and supports the body against gravity. The body's centre of mass is typically somewhere in the lower abdominal area between the hips. The supporting foot touches ground slightly ahead of the point that lies directly below the body's centre of mass. The knee joint is at its greatest extension just prior to the support phase; when contact is made with the ground, the knee joint begins to flex. To what extent it flexes varies with the running style. There exist stiff-legged running styles which reduce knee flexion, and looser, or more dynamic running styles which increase it. As the supporting leg bends at the knee, the pelvis dips down on the opposite side. These motions absorb shock and are opposed by the coordinated action of several muscles. The pelvic dip is opposed by the Tensor fasciae lataeilio-tibial band of the supporting leg, the hip abductor, and the abdominals and lower back muscles. The knee flexion is opposed by the Muscle contractionEccentric contraction|eccentric contraction of the quadriceps muscle. The supporting hip continues to extend and the body's centre of mass passes over the supporting leg. The knee then begins to extend, and the opposite hip rises from its brief dip. The support phase begins to transition into drive.


The support phase quickly transitions into the drive phase. The drive leg extends at the knee joint, and at the hips, such that the toe maintains contact with the ground as that leg trails behind the body. The foot pushes backward and also down, creating a diagonal force vector, which, in an efficient running style, is aimed squarely at the runner's centre of mass. Since the diagonal vector has a vertical component, the drive phase continues to provide some support against gravity and can be regarded as an extension of the support phase. During the drive, the foot may extend also, by a flexing of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscle in the calf. In some running styles, notably long-distance "shuffles" which keep the feet close to the ground, the ankle remains more or less rigid during drive. Because the knee joint straightens, though not completely, much of the power of the drive comes from the quadriceps muscle group, and in some running styles, additional power comes from the calves as they extend the foot for a longer drive. This motion is most exhibited in sprinting.


When the driving toe loses contact with the ground, the recovery phase begins. During recovery, the hip flexes, which rapidly drives the knee forward. Much of the motion of the lower leg is driven by the forces transferred from the upper leg rather than by the action of the muscles. As the knee kicks forward, it exerts torque against the lower leg through the knee joint, causing the leg to snap upward. The degree of leg lift can be consciously adjusted by the runner, with additional muscle power. During the last stage of recovery, the hip achieves maximal flexion, and, as the lower leg rapidly unfolds, which it does in a passive way, the knee joint also reaches its greatest, though not full, extension. During this extension of the leg and flexion of the hip, the hamstring and gluteal muscles are required to rapidly stretch. Muscles which are stretched respond by contracting by a reflex action. Recovery ends when the foot comes into contact with the ground, transitioning again into the support phase.

Upper body motion

The motions of the upper body are essential to maintaining balance and a forward motion for optimal running. They compensate for the motions of the lower body, keeping the body in rotational balance. A leg's recovery is matched by a forward drive of the opposite arm, and a leg's support and drive motions are balanced by backward movement of the opposite arm. The shoulders and torso are also involved. Because the leg drive is slower than the kick of recovery, the arm thrusting backward is slower also. The forward arm drive is more forceful and rapid.
The more force exerted by the lower body, the more exaggerated do the upper body motions have to be to absorb the momentum. While it is possible to run without movements of the arms, the spine and shoulders will generally still be recruited. Using the arms to absorb the forces aids in maintaining balance at higher speed. Otherwise, optimal force would be hard to attain for fear of falling over.
Most of the energy expended in running goes to the compensating motions, and so considerable gains in running speed as well as economy can be made by eliminating wasteful or incorrect motions.
For instance, if the force vector in the drive phase is aimed too far away from the centre of mass of the body, it will transfer an angular momentum to the body which has to be absorbed. If a free body in space is struck off-centre by a projectile, it will rotate as well as recoil. If the projectile strikes the body's centre of mass exactly, the object will recoil only, without rotating.
The faster the running, the more energy has to be dissipated through compensating motions throughout the entire body. This is why elite sprinters have powerful upper body physiques. As the competitive distance increases, there is a rapid drop in the upper body and overall muscle mass typically exhibited by the people who compete at a high level in each respective event.

Elements of good running technique

Upright posture and a slight forward lean

Leaning forward places a runner's center of mass on the front part of the foot, which avoids landing on the heel and facilitates the use of the spring mechanism of the foot. It also makes it easier for the runner to avoid landing the foot in front of the center of mass and the resultant braking effect.

Stride rate

Exercise physiologists have found that the stride rates are extremely consistent across professional runners, between 185 and 200 steps per minute. The main difference between long- and short-distance runners is the length of stride rather than the rate of stride.
During running, the speed at which the runner moves may be calculated by multiplying the cadence (steps per second) by the stride length. Running is often measured in terms of pace in minutes per mile or kilometer.

Running versus walking

In walking, one foot is always in contact with the ground, the legs are kept mostly straight and the center of gravity rides along fairly smoothly on top of the legs; in comparison, humans actually jump from one leg to the other while running. Each jump raises the center of gravity during take-off, and lowers it on landing as the knee bends to absorb the shock. At mid arc, both feet are momentarily off of the ground. This continual rise and fall of bodyweight expends a tremendous amount of energy opposing gravity and absorbing shock during take-off and landing. . The act of running involves using more energy to accomplish travel over the same distance and running is a less efficient means of locomotion in terms of calories expended, though it is faster.

Running injuries

Due to its high-impact nature, there are many injuries associated with running. Common injuries include "runner's knee" (pain in the knee), shin splints, pulled muscles (especially the hamstring), "jogger's nipple" (irritation of the nipple due to friction), twisted ankles, iliotibial band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis. Stress fractures are also fairly common in runners training at a high volume or intensity. The most common running-related injuries are due to over-exertion or bad running form. Repetitive stress on the same tissues without enough time for recovery or running with improper form can lead to many of the above. Generally these injuries can be minimized by warming up beforehand, wearing proper running shoes, improving running form, performing strength training exercises, eating a well balanced diet, getting enough rest and "icing" (applying ice to sore muscles, or taking an ice bath). Ice immersion is a very effective modality in the treatment of subacute injuries or inflammation, muscular strains, and overall muscular soreness. For runners in particular, ice baths offer two distinct improvements over traditional techniques. First, immersion allows controlled, even constriction around all muscles, effectively closing microscopic damage that cannot be felt and numbing the pain that can. One may step into the tub to relieve sore calves, but quads, hams, and connective tissues from hips to toes will gain the same benefits, making hydrotherapy an attractive preventive regimen. Saint Andrew’s cross-country coach John O’Connell, a 2:48 masters marathoner, will hit the ice baths before the ibuprofen. "Pain relievers can disguise injury," he warns. "Ice baths treat both injury and soreness." The second advantage involves a physiological reaction provoked by the large amount of muscle submerged. Assuming one has overcome the mind’s initial flight response in those first torturous minutes, the body fights back by invoking a "blood rush." This rapid transmission circulation flushes the damage-inflicting waste from the system, while the cold water on the outside preserves contraction. Like an oil change or a fluid dump, the blood rush revitalizes the very areas that demand fresh nutrients. Make sure not to stay in any longer than 15 minutes; 10 minutes is usually sufficient. There is a strong consensus among the running and scientific community that all of those can be effective in both minimizing and recovering from running injuries.
Another injury prevention method common in the running community is stretching. Stretching is often recommended as a requirement to avoid running injuries, and it is almost uniformly performed by competitive runners of any level. Recent medical literature, however, finds mixed effects of stretching prior to running. One study found insufficient evidence to support the claim that stretching prior to running was effective in injury prevention or soreness reduction,. Another, however, has demonstrated that stretching prior to running increases injuries, while stretching afterwards actually decreases them. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that all stretching be done after exercise, this is when the muscles are most warmed up and capable of increasing flexibility. Recent studies have also shown that stretching will reduce the amount of strength the muscle can produce during that training session.
Inconsistent experimental methodology and the failure to use proper stretching methods are reasons given to explain the conflicting results. Because of this, members of the running community argue that stretching remains helpful.


Jogging is a vaguely-defined term which generally refers to a type of slow running, which may have originated in the UK. Previously called "roadwork" in the US when athletes in training, such as boxers, customarily ran several miles each day as part of their conditioning, in the 1960s to 1970s the word "roadwork" was mostly supplanted by the word "jogging," as the activity gained popularity.
The term jogging has fallen out of favour in recent years. Slower recreational runners now refer to themselves as "runners", rather than joggers. Jogging tends to imply that the runner is not trying whereas running implies someone at speed. The informal term "penguin running" has been adopted by many. The term "penguin" was coined by John Bingham.

Running as a sport

Running is both a competition and a type of training for sports which have running or endurance components. As a sport it is split into events divided by distance and sometimes includes permutations such as the obstacles in Steeplechase and hurdles. Running races are contests to determine which of the competitors is able to run a certain distance in the shortest time. Today, competitive running events make up the core of the sport of athletics. Events are usually grouped into several classes, each requiring substantially different athletic strengths and involving different tactics, training methods, and types of competitors.
Running competitions have probably existed for most of humanity's history, and were a key part of the ancient Olympic Games as well as the modern Olympics. Today, road racing is a popular sport among non-professional athletes, who included over 7.7 million people in America alone in 2002 .

See also


External links

footrace in Afrikaans: Hardloop
footrace in Arabic: ركض
footrace in Czech: Běh
footrace in Danish: Løb (sport)
footrace in German: Laufsport
footrace in Estonian: Jooks
footrace in Spanish: Carrera a pie
footrace in Esperanto: Kuro
footrace in Persian: دو
footrace in French: Course à pied
footrace in Western Frisian: Hurdrinnen
footrace in Korean: 달리기
footrace in Indonesian: Lari
footrace in Icelandic: Hlaup
footrace in Hebrew: ריצה
footrace in Dutch: Hardlopen
footrace in Japanese: 走る
footrace in Norwegian: Løping
footrace in Polish: Biegi lekkoatletyczne
footrace in Russian: Бег
footrace in Simple English: Running
footrace in Finnish: Juoksu
footrace in Swedish: Löpning
footrace in Tajik: Давидан
footrace in Ukrainian: Біг
footrace in Samogitian: Biegėms
footrace in Chinese: 跑步
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