You just never know about running form

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.

Looks very uncomfortable
Maybe they’re saving their arms for the last three miles.
Some Chinese runners, mostly female, also have the straight arm carry. Notice the corresponding low knee lift, short stride, and high turnover. I’ve also always wondered about the East African runners with closed elbow and hands up to the collarbone arm carry like the Ethiopian woman next to the Japanese woman 
I remember a talk by Jim Spivey before the Chicago Marathon one year. When you get tired just focus on the arms, cause they move your legs. So, I agree …goofy
Her watch and rings are really heavy…
I’m impressed.
This changes where lactic acid is created

It may be a cultural thing. I see many Asian women walking and running with the same form.


Yes, was trying to ascertain whether this is a physical strategy or more an cultural indication or attitude
It looks like the cheerleader/gymnast style of running. very odd
It feels like repression. I ran that way when I was 5 because I was so shy.
Or….”Wait. Wait for me. Oh. Wait for me! Hey Girls! Wait for me. Please. Wait for me!”
Here is what the site JapanRunningNews shared from Kiyota’s perspective:
Mao Kiyota, women’s marathon, 16th in 2:30:36

Even if the plan is to hang on, the best thing to do is to go with it from the first half. But as it turned out, when the leaders made their move at 35 km I couldn’t respond and go with them at all. I had trained to be ready for that and I really regret that I was totally unable to move.

I’d seen the course a million times and my coach had told me that even if the pace sped up every lap it would definitely slow down again on the city center part. I didn’t do anything hasty and I was relaxed enough to be able to tell who was cheering for me, so I thought that I had enough of a margin to be able to keep it together.

I think I dealt with the back and forth in the first half pretty well. But if I had to pick something that I did wrong, maybe I was too emotional and impatient. Every time, I keep on doing things that make it impossible to deal with the move in the second half. I have to get control of that, and from that to develop the confidence to be able to lead it myself and deliver a hard-edged race. I have to reevaluate my training approach so that I can gain that kind of confidence.

So interesting to hear her take on the race, isn’t it? You just never know about running form. And it further shows that we all have to get from POINT A TO Z our own way, and never mind the second-guessers and the critics.
Just run.

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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