Perhaps you watched the women’s marathon in the World Championship. And perhaps you saw a runner from Japan named Mao Kiyota racing the entire distance with a stiff arm motion that kept her wrists well below her waistline. It was the most uncomfortable looking running form, yet she kept up with the leaders all the way through 20 miles and finished in just over 2:30 for the distance. Quite impressive.
Every other woman in the race had a relatively high arm carriage. Some pumped and even flailed their way through the 26-mile distance. Kiyota kept her stride length short and low. She kept her arms straight down by her side, and ran from the hips.
In the first few miles of the race, I wondered aloud: “What is that woman doing?” It figured that she would soon drop off. Yet she didn’t. On and on she went. Right there with the African and American runners that would place 1-3.
She never faltered till after 20 miles. I sat there slack-jawed. Her performance raised all sorts of questions in my mind. Were the other girls actually wasting energy using so much arm motion? Or was the Japanese girl by some cultural or coached dictum losing speed and pace with her low arm carriage?
I did an Internet search to see if anyone made comments about the unusual running form of the Japanese athlete. Nothing. So I captured video from the On Demand recording of the race and it to a running group of longtime distance people. The comments were mostly curious, with a few jokes thrown in, about the nature of her form.