This topic on 100-up running has come up in a couple of threads (usually with me being cynical about just another guru worshiping fad) and we currently discussing the topic of running form in the Chi running thread
, so I though I would post an essay I recently wrote on 100-up running, so if you come across a runner doing it, you know what it is (the references did not cut and paste, sorry about that).
100-up running is a running drill from the late 1800’s that was recently publicised in a 2011 New York Times article by Christopher McDougal (author of Born to Run). There was a lot of publicity in the blogosphere following his article where it was billed as the “lost secret of running”. The blogosphere was generally gushing with praise with only a few critical appraisals of it . There was no science or evidence presented in the article. The approach advocated in the 100-up drill is based on the principle that there is one best way to run and this drill helps to achieve it.
To quote McDougal: “W.S. George’s “100-Up,” and I’d been doing the exercise regularly. In George’s essay, he says he invented the 100-Up in 1874, when he was a 16-year-old chemist’s apprentice in England and could train only during his lunch hour. By Year 2 of his experiment, the overworked lab assistant was the fastest amateur miler in England. By Year 5, he held world records in everything from the half-mile to 10 miles.”
In the 1800’s runners did very little training by today’s standards and the better runners were those who were the most gifted and got by on that talent and not any training they did. Just because George could break world records using this 100-up technique does not mean he did it because of the technique
The method that was developed by George has the runner running in place lifting their knees as high as possible and repeating this 100 times, at least once each day. There is a video demo of the technique on the website from the New York Times article.
There are similar drills advocated for those who want to use the Pose running technique. One Pose coach has raised concerns that there is too much hip flexion in the drill, therefore should not be used (and, of course, suggests using the Pose version instead!). Most competitive runners already do high knee lift drills as part of their training and hill running involves a higher knee lift.
There are a lot of comments that the 100-up drill is a good way to teach the correct forefoot strike, however that is based on the assumption that forefoot striking is better for everyone, which has not been demonstrated as being correct. Most of what is written on the 100-up drill is based on anecdotes and individual experiences with no data to support it.
There is probably nothing wrong with the drill for those that want to transition to a different running form with a forefoot strike bearing in mind the caveats discussed eleswhere that what the individual runner is transitioning to is most appropriate for them. The 100-up technique is not a short cut or magic bullet to learning a new way to run, but theoretically a tool or part of a package that needs to be used. At worst the drill will not do any harm if done properly and transitioned too properly. At best, it should help the running technique transition if that is what is indicated and desired.