• Mark Villani


Have you ever been on an airplane and actually listened to the safety instructions that are supposed to save your life in the case of an emergency?

No? Me neither.. In fact, most of the time I’m already half asleep or in the process of asking myself how I always end up behind the one guy who wants to recline his seat ALLL THE WAYYY BACK... 

These are the consequences of flying like a peasant... on an eight and a half hour flight to Germany...

Only another eight hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds to go.. but who’s counting? 

Anyway.. there’s one safety announcement that always messes with me.

“In the event of a change in cabin pressure, please place the mask over your head and BREATHE NORMALLY.”

What does that even mean? Since when did people start thinking if every breath they took was “normal?” 

Naturally, I’m going to hyperventilate. I’m going to panic. There’s no time to lose.

Seriously. In 2007, Airbus issued a “cabin decompression awareness” note that said people have as little as 18 seconds of “useful consciousness” if they are starved of oxygen.

But don’t worry. “Breathe normally.”


So ‘what’s the deal with airplane masks?’ (You might ask yourself in the tone of Jerry Seinfeld)...

It’s life or death situations like this that I relate to my experiences while running.

Often times, I think of my breathing patterns and the way my muscles contort every which way with every step I take during a marathon. 

Like grabbing for that mask on an airplane, I realize that every step out of form, every shuffle, every slouch and every single incorrect foot placement is losing me valuable time during each race. 

So I decided to diagnose the problem with a local running movement specialist who specializes in the study of human motion and body mechanics (AKA ‘a gait analysis). 

Meet Malc Kent: A ‘gait analysis’ extraordinaire who works for Versa Movement right here in Calgary.

Malc Kent/ LinkedIn

Kent was born to a Kenyan mother and a British father. He’s always been a natural-born runner and his Kenyan roots have been a strong influence on his philosophy of the sport.

“I started analyzing athletes and what runners were doing about 18 years ago,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a connection with Nike and with some of the top level big name runners on the planet, most of which are based in east Africa.”

The most famous runner of them all of course is Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. 

Courtesy: INEOS 1:59 Challenge

That’s right. The best of the best! Kipchoge just smashed the marathon distance record in under two hours on a closed course in Vienna, Austria last October.

Kent was one of the members of the Nike team who collected data from that run. 

Although not considered an official record — due to the use of pacers, controversial shoes and a pace car — Kipchoge made history by accomplishing a human feat that no one ever thought possible just decades prior.

He ran a full 26.2 mile marathon (42.2km) in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. In other words, his average pace was 4:34 per mile... THE GUY IS NUTS!

Back in Calgary, I was in awe of the fact that I got to work with just one member of Kipchoge’s team.

**I know I’m fan girling hard.. but this was such an amazing accomplishment in the running world!**


Opening The “Gait” 

Kent started my analysis with some stretches to test my flexibility and strength in every aspect of my body.

“So what we’re trying to do here is understand how a runner moves mechanically in space so this gait analysis will bring in different elements starting with those functional tests,” he said.

How hard could it be? Just a few tests right?... 

We did everything from knee, hip, hamstring and quad flexion, foot and ankle strength exercises, and groin stretches in an effort to measure my flexibility.

UPDATE: It was hard..

I thought standing on one foot was easy, but it gets tough to stay put for two minutes. Once I closed my eyes it was only a matter of seconds before I’d lose my balance all together.

“There’s two things I’m really interested in,” Kent said.

“The first one is the overall number that I get from each test and the second is how we compare the left and the right side of your body.”

As it turns out, Kent almost immediately pointed out that the right side of my body is a bit stronger than my left/

“Up in the hips we saw quite a lot of details there and we found out that one left hand side you just had a little bit of functional issues compared to the right - it’s something that can be ironed out over time to make you moire symmetric.” 

My imbalances additionally became more evident as we conducted this test that involved me standing on one foot for two minutes with my other leg flexed in the air.

Kent noticed that my ankle strength dwindled in these moments, which pointed to the fact that I pronate my feet with every stride I take when I plant my foot during a race.

Malc showing me the pronation in my strides

“Your feet come in and they roll inside and you’ll notice you’re coming in on the outer rails of each stride,” Kent said.

“You have a fractional over-stride, but it’s small - that being said it’s pretty much impossible to land with the foot right underneath your hips because you’d pretty much fall over.”

So now it was time to get on the treadmill and see how the rest of my body moved.

At first we went slow at a comfortable pace. I was running two minutes at a light job, then at a relatively comfortable marathon pace and then all out!

UPDATE #2: I sweat... a lot...

So let's slow things down just a little bit...

With the video replay, we can see my back legs in every step were not parallel, but if I tuck my back leg in, I found out that I can get just a little more distance in every step.

“And that will have the effect of putting you in the air for longer, lengthening your stride and making you faster.

As the great Al Pacino once said...”It’s a game of inches!”

In the mid stance i stayed pretty tall and Kent thought I could get just a bit taller in my legs, but overall I was doing well.

So what’s the verdict?

You’re in a great position,” said Kent.

“You’ve already got some good enough time to predict a sub-three hour marathon so you’ve clearly got the tools in the tool box.”

“Now, it’s just a matter of refining the marathon-specific training because you’ve clearly got the horse power to do it!”

So qualifying for Boston is in the bag right?  At least on paper... all I have to do is breathe... "normally."

HAMBURG MARATHON TRAINING STATS (beginning of Dec, 2019 to beginning of Jan, 2020)

Week 20 - 37.2 miles (59.868 km)

Week 21 - 55.9 miles (89.962 km)

Week 22 - 33.8 miles (54.396 km)

Week 23 - 47.0 miles (75.639 km)

Week 24 - 39.1 miles (62.925km)

Week 25 - 33.4 miles (53.752 km)

Week 26 - 39.4 miles (63.408km)

Total distance to date - 1,015.18 miles (1, 633.774km) 

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