Runners As Dancers

Wright Brother's Memorial

Wright Brother’s Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, NC

Reproduced from my post on Medium.

This will sound silly and you don’t have to agree, but I’m convinced that runners are a lot like dancers. Needless to say, I do run a lot and I pretty much dance whenever the opportunity presents itself. If I could put the two of them together and execute it gracefully — with my sneakers on — that would be ideal. Of course, that’s not the case.

So why are runners like dancers? Let’s start with rhythm.

As a runner, cadence is everything. Improving cadence is about becoming a more efficient runner and reducing chances of injury. Runners often recognize it as the “180 rule”, wherein you’re supposed to take approximately 180 steps per minute and, just so you know, wedo follow it.

For dancers, it depends on the music, but there’s always a pattern that you have to follow to be able to perform a particular movement. In Salsa, it’s the clave. I’m sure you’ve heard it in the past. Knowing the pattern tells you where to start counting so you don’t step on your partner’s foot or faceplant in the middle of a salsa rueda.

Let’s talk about form.

It doesn’t matter what type of runner you are, you’ve got your own unique form. Your gait, foot strike, posture, and cadence define your form. With dancers, some types of dances require more form than others. Anything ballroom is pretty strict but, the hustle? Not so much.

There’s also a lot of repetition.

I only started running about four years ago. On December 30, 2011, I decided I’d run everyday until I didn’t feel like it anymore… so I’m still running. I’m sure you’ve written, coded or designed something repeatedly over long nights and/or weekends just because you knew it had more potential. That’s how I feel about running.

The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life. —George Sheehan

As a dancer, it was perfection that consumed me. I got it into my head that if I heard my dance instructor tell me one more time that it’s the leader’s job to make my falls look good, I was going to volunteer to lead next time. Besides, why should he be the only one capable of making someone look good when they mess up? So I spent weekends staring at myself in a dance studio to learn both steps, because I needed to be both the guy and the girl.

So there you have it, my two halves in one. Oh, and in case you’re curious… runners may not be as graceful as ballerinas, but try watching Tirunesh Dibaba sprint (at 25:36) in the final stretch of the 10,000 meter run during the London Olympic Games and finishing 50 meters ahead — it’s a different kind of gracefulness, altogether.

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