How to Run Downhill Efficiently September 21 2012
Most runners look forward to descents. Provided the hill is at a gentle angle and you haven't just had knee surgery, running downhill feels like relief. It's a chance to catch your breath and relax a little after a grueling hill sprint. Until you start mountain running. Once you hit the trails, descents suddenly become twisted obstacle courses that you stumble through on jelly legs while employing various *ahem* interesting descent techniques. One day it will dawn on you that it's pretty much impossible to look cool while running as fast as you can down a muddy single-track carved into the side of a mountain. Until then, here are some of the tried and true approaches to wrestling with gravity on your way to the finish line.
The preferred method of serious mountain runners. You can’t beat the efficiency and speed at which you descend while utilizing this technique. Side effects include broken limbs, bruised ego, and blood. Bring band-aids.
Sticking your arms out at odd angles while dropping down a single-track greatly enhances your ability to maintain an upright position while descending. Those who aren’t comfortable with falling down the mountain generally utilize this method. For best results, stick your arms out and wave them wildly.
Newbies to mountain running can be identified by their all-fours approach to descending down the rock-infested trails. With anything involving loose rocks, muddy slopes, boulders, or rain-slicked grass, beginners can be found cautiously sliding down the mountain and cursing the idiot who invented mountain running.
For switchbacks, experienced runners take advantage of extraneous objects like trees, rocks, or fence posts to help make the turns. When done properly, runners hardly need to slow down as they catapult themselves around a bend in the trail. Side effects include splinters, extremely bad wipeouts,* and general awesomeness.
For those snowy patches of the trail, employ either a sitting or standing glissade. Essentially, a combination between falling and crawling. Side effects include freezer burn and torn running shorts.
Leaping over uneven parts of the trail as they descend generally leaves runners feeling like they’re in the Matrix or filming the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Side effects include sprained ankles.
While not as safe as crawling, you're far less likely to twist an ankle. Side effects include public shaming as other runners bomb past you while employing "falling" and "catching air" techniques.
*According to Merriam-Webster, the act or instance of wiping out: complete or utter destruction.