Sports Zone

SPOTLIGHT: THE HURDLES – Only for the brave at heart

American Sydney McLaughlin will be a compelling figure at The Trials.

”You need to be fast to be a great hurdler, and you need to be a good tactician to get over the hurdles as quickly as possible.”
Sydney McLaughlin, American hurdler
As I’ve said before, most fans of track and field imagine themselves in the event. A small part of them thinks, ”I could do that.” And it’s true because most of us can run, jump and throw.
I suspect this is not true for the hurdles, because when I stand next to a hurdle, the actual jump itself scares me. I imagine doing even one of the series of 10 perfectly timed mid-air splits (and not gently on a yoga mat) at world-class speed and feel my hamstrings tearing and visualize face-planting on the track. I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor have I ever imagined myself a hurdler. My wife, Nancy, seeing the hurdles, once remarked that she ”could do that if she didn’t have to jump over those things.”
Training for the hurdles is technical. To run fast, a hurdler must clear the jumps efficiently with fluid and consistent motion so that no time is lost either from adjusting one’s step or by hitting the hurdle. The hurdle is weighted, which slows the runner if contacted, but there is no penalty for hitting the hurdle as long as an attempt is made to do so.
Hurdlers develop rhythmic step cadences to time their jumps. In the shorter races, most jump on a three-step count: 1, 2, 3, jump; 1, 2, 3, jump. In the longer races, the step count usually is 13, 14 or 15 steps. The great Edwin Moses refined his step to 13 so he could maintain a consistent lead leg and never slow down: the smoother and more rhythmic the jumps, the faster the hurdler goes.
When you are close to a hurdle race, there is a musical rhythm and clatter as runners go down the track.
There is more range in body size and type than in the no-hurdle sprints. David Oliver, a former U.S. and world champion in the 110-meter race, had a physique that put Hercules to shame. Oliver ran at about 210 pounds, and converted that into tremendous force.
On the flip side, Dalilah Muhammad, the women’s reigning world-record holder, is long and lean and runs with a gazelle-like fluidity that belies her speed.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos