Tales of Running: The Bull and the Cheetah

I am, in no uncertain terms, a bull.  I am broad, have legs like tree-trunks--whether fit from running or not--and will never fit into anything less than large (and even that is stretching it--literally).  It is clear that my genetic predisposition set me up for brute--not skillful--labor.  I've come to utterly appreciate that about myself and my body.  Like I've said before, I'm more like a mule when it comes to physical prowess. 

But getting to this certainly wasn't easy.  Our society appreciates the cheetah more than the bull.  In part, this probably results from both our Puritanical need for being productive and our Industrial Revolution desire for mass (that is, fast) production.  Though some facets of sports focus on the bull (tackling, hitting or kicking the ball), many more rely on cheetah (out-maneuvering your opponent, running the bases, getting to the other side of the court or field first).  Lacking any real cheetah-like abilities and being a meatball as kid significantly disinclined me to sports when growing up.  Even in the more bull-related sports like football, I floundered.  They still focused too much on cheetah skills and those were not in my wheelhouse.  

Because so much is based on the cheetah, I always thought speed was of the essence.  If I was going to do a sport, I needed to be fast or push myself to be faster.  Trying to reconcile being a bull in a cheetah world took a very long time.  In fact, you could say that it took until I was about thirty-two years old, when I finally took up (and stuck with) running.  

Embracing my bull-hood has helped me come to running with a new disposition.  The goal became sustained movement (running) for a prolonged amount of time.  Moving quickly wasn't nearly as important as to keep moving.  I often asked how it is that I went from loathing running to absolutely loving it and one part of my answer is that I needed to really slow down before I could even consider running fast (whatever that relative term means).  Of course, what helped me slow down significantly were using the Vibrams since I loudly and clearly felt the impact of each step. 

While I know I will never be a cheetah, running races where I'm anywhere in the top one-third of best times, I do know that I can be a better bull when I run.  That is, there are definitely lessons I can take from cheetahs that can help me--bullish that I am--run better and more effectively.  

Take a close look at these two creatures in mid-stride.  


IMG_2269


And he's off!

While the cheetah looks to be nearly hovering in mid-stride, the bull still has at least one hoof on the ground.  You can see it more closely in these two videos that illustrate running bulls and a running cheetah.  





The cheetah running is the art of nature.  It nearly flies when at peak performance.  Absolutely beautiful.  By contrast, when the bulls (or cows in this case) run, they clop along with little rhyme or grace.  They're still beautiful creatures but have little grace or form in this regard.  

That's me, the bull.  Yet, I've recently been reflecting on my different runs what changes when I'm running at a natural gait and when I'm trying to push for a new personal record.  I soon realized that during my regular runs, I run like the bull that I am.  However, when it's time to push hard, I become a cheetah-bull (not to be confused with a cheating-bull, right?).  In watching the cheetah video, there is an economy and repetition of motion that aids in increasing the cheetah's speed.  No move is wasted and while the hind legs drive the run, the front legs provide the temporary balance until the rear can push off once again.  The cheetah uses most likely what would be called its core to keep the body from flopping about once it has boosted forward with the hind legs.  

I came to realize that when I'm running just to run--not paying attention to speed, I like the bull have a less fluid movement--it's more staccato.  But when I'm trying to reach speeds, my body changes.  My core contracts to keep my body unified, my arms swing in a more measured cadence and close by my sides, my steps become more precise.  I begin pulling in air through my nose and releasing it in controlled bursts through my mouth.  I can feel the muscles in my abs, back, and shoulders syncing together to propel me further.  

I have no clue how this looks to the outsider.  I may still look like the bull, storming down the runway, likely to trample small children and the elderly.  But I feel like the cheetah.  I feel fast--whatever the hell that means to me and it feels great.  

So to my fellow bulls out there, trekking along, embrace your bull but don't hesitate to try out your inner or fledgling cheetah.  You may find that your cheetah-bull run is rewarding, if only because it makes your bull trot all the more enjoyable.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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