Bicycles and cars roll right down the road, but what about runners? Given the analogies used in some of the chapters of the book, it probably won’t surprise you that the movement of the wheel is an ideal representation of the biomechanical essence of running. In chapter 13, we compared the torso of the body to the cab of a car, but we said virtually nothing about the wheels under the car. Here we go…

The 3 Key Points

The wheel is one of the most perfect appliances in existence. Despite its apparent simplicity, the wheel is a complex mechanism with three mechanical properties that have significant implications for human movement.

  1. First, the wheel is mechanically effective, in that it facilitates forward movement with minimal vertical oscillation.
  2. The second significant property is the relationship between the support point of the wheel and the body (General Center of Mass or GCM) it is moving. During the entire cycle of a wheel, the distance between the support and the body it is moving never changes. Similarly, the relative position of the two also remains constant.
  3. The final critical detail is that the point of support is constantly changing, no matter what the forward speed of the wheel might be. Further, the forward speed of the body being moved is exactly proportionate to the speed at which the support point is changed.

The Unicycle

To give a visual representation of these mechanical properties, let’s simplify our car analogy a little bit and think of a person riding a unicycle. In this analogy, the “body” is both the frame and saddle of the unicycle and the rider perched on it. Underneath is a perfect moving circumference, the wheel. At any point in the rotation of the wheel only one point on the wheel is in contact with the ground. This is the support point, upon which rests all the weight of the body.

“Unicyclist riding.” The movement happens when the unicyclist leans towards desirable direction

Reflecting the first critical mechanical point, as the unicycle rolls down the road, the wheel is turning, changing support points, but there is no vertical oscillation. The rider’s head remains perfectly level. Why is this important?

As they say on TV, let’s go to the tape, specifically the broadcast of the 1981 New York City Marathon. As Tim Noakes explained in his 1991 book, “The Lore of Running”, the broadcast included a dramatic sequence of Alberto Salazar, then the world’s top marathoner, as he crossed the Queensborough Bridge. In the angle shown on TV, only Salazar’s head and shoulders were visible above the bridge wall and it was clear that his head was remaining absolutely parallel to the top of the wall. In other words, there was no vertical oscillation created by his stride, no energy wasted in lifting and lowering the body. The “Salazar Shuffle” was indeed an efficient means of forward locomotion.

The Wheel Concept

Going back to the unicycle, we note also that as the wheel rolls forward, neither the distance between the point of support and the rider nor their spatial relationship changes. The point of support is always directly beneath the saddle, the torso and ultimately the head of the rider. This relationship is the most efficient for retaining forward motion in the horizontal plane, minimizing any potential braking effects.

Going further, we can look at the rider’s feet as the pedaling motion goes through its cycle. Whenever a foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke, where is it? Directly beneath the rider’s torso, with the leg slightly bent. Remove the unicycle from your mental image and what do you have? A runner in the Running Pose, both legs bent, support on the ball of the foot with the body in a straight line above the point of support. Landing with all the weight of the body directly above the point of support on a leg, that is bent to minimize shock, substantially decreases the load on muscles, ligaments and joints and thus decreases the chance of sustaining injury.

Key to Faster Running

Now put the rider back on the unicycle to consider the final critical mechanical property of the wheel: the proportional relationship between the speed at which the point of support is changed and the speed with which the body moves forward. Very simply, the faster support is changed, the faster the body moves. The lesson here is that the faster a runner’s stride, i.e. the faster he changes support from one foot to the next, the faster his forward speed will be. Stride frequency, not length, is the key to faster running.

It is true that while the wheel constantly changes support from one point to the next, the human can’t duplicate this exact biomechanical efficiency, given only two feet to trade the support. However, we can approach the feeling of uninterrupted change of support. The faster we change support, the more we can visualize our legs as a wheel. We can indeed roll down the road, just as we suggested at the top of this chapter.

Confirmation of this comes from practical studies that demonstrate that elite runners have a faster stride rate than run-of-the-mill athletes at all distances. In his 1997 book Daniels’ Running Formula, the respected American coach Jack Daniels noted that there is data from his many years of practical observation that indicates elite runners tend to run with a stride frequency of not less than 180 strides per minute, which he links to good technique.

The Takeaway

If you look at this statistic “backwards”, i.e. first noting that elite runners run with high stride rates, the critical importance of perfect form and efficiency becomes obvious. It is simply impossible to maintain such a high stride rate over any significant distance with poor form. There’s a common phrase race commentators use when the form of a competitive runner begins to deteriorate in the latter stages of a race and it couldn’t ring any truer. “It looks like the wheels have come off,” they say, and when you look at the runner, you know exactly what they mean. The form and efficiency are gone and the runner is now struggling to finish, no longer a contender for victory.

The meaning of the wheel concept is really very simple: to move with wheel-like efficiency, we must minimize bounce (vertical oscillation), land with support directly under the body and maintain a high stride rate. The Pose Method of Running is designed to accomplish all three of these goals.


Usain Bolt could run 100m in 9.11 seconds. Given his constitution, genetics and his running technique he has what it takes and then some. The difference between calculated potential and actual performance is the athlete’s ability to deliver and especially do so when it matters the most. For example, Bolt’s performance in Berlin in 2009 vs the following Olympics in London in 2012 – World Championship (9.58) vs Olympics (9.63). Less pressure vs more pressure, plus additional factors of course.

Everyone from fans and sports writers to former world record holders and astrophysicists have been speculating about human potential when it comes to dashing for 100m ever since Bolt clocked 9.58. However, all predictions seem to still only hover around 9.4 with the maximum human potential claimed to be at 9.36… nobody dares to even utter anything lower than that because just a ‘blink in history’ ago 9.58 seemed out of reach. Researches even announced that they had to reassess their calculations because they couldn’t have predicted Bolt.

That was in 2008, so all eyes were on 2012 and we were amazed with the new 100m men’s Olympic record of 9.63. But in the world of sprint it’s miles away from 9.36. Running at that speed is beyond most humans. At least for now. Tracking the 100m world records through the years it’s almost painful to look at the tenths of seconds involved and most humans couldn’t be bothered. After all, some of us blink slower than that.

But, 9.11 is possible, and at this point and time, if anyone can do it – it’s Bolt. Yes, his physique is a factor, so is his character and mind. But most importantly – his technique, it is his gateway to greatness. The calculations that produced the 9.36 as the maximum human speed were pure mathematics based on accumulated data of best times posted.

However, to calculate human potential based on what humans have been able to achieve thus far is to severely limit that potential. In order to correctly assess the possible potential what we need is a correct and clear conceptual model. In our case, it’s a conceptual model of running. According to Dr. Romanov’s calculations based on the Pose Method of Running, Bolt is capable of running 100m in 9.11 seconds.

Bolt has already demonstrated that his mind is as strong as his body. Yet to break his own records he would have to slightly adjust his technique and, most importantly, break through his own perception of his own potential. There are no “handcuffs” stronger than the ones in our mind. He’s been talking about 9.4 for a while now.

Though the world’s fastest man has been hampered by a recurring hamstring injury, which points to the fact that his technique is suffering and needs attention, he’s been able to produce great results and tonight he might surprise the world yet again.

I want to do more to make it even bigger“, a quote from Usain Bolt’s Olympic profile seems to point to his desire to achieve more. Well, he sure can. The only question is – will he be able to deliver?

Usain Bolt, the golden boy of sprinting, is set to entertain the world yet again. And there is nothing more fascinating and exciting than watching someone so gifted in action, racing towards greatness and looking to outdo himself.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do” he says. Well, young man, so are we. Godspeed!

Here’s a link to Dr. Romanov’s analysis of Bolt’s running technique and recommendations on what he needs to adjust in order to run even faster.