Lucy Charles-Barclay’s Running Form

Lucy Charles-Barclay Running Form Analysis, illustrated by a picture of her running the marathon during the 2023 Kona Triathlon World Championships

In this blog we will analyze Lucy Charles-Barclay’s running form. She is one of the world’s fastest and most popular triathletes.

If you prefer to watch this analysis on YouTube then check out the video here:

Lucy Charles-Barclay’s background

Lucy started her athletic career as an elite UK open water swimmer. She quit the sport after narrowly missing qualification for the 2012 London Olympics based on a committee decision.

Lucy was a swimmer before she became a triathlete. Her personal bests include 8:28.39 over 800 meter and 2:06.57 over 10,000 meters.

She then turned to triathlon as an amateur and soon became a pro. While the swim remained her strength, she soon also became competitive in the cycling and running portion of a triathlon.

In 2021 Lucy crowned herself the World Champion in the 70.3 Half-distance Triathlon. And by 2023 she had placed second in the full distance Ironman World championships no less than four times.

Lucy arriving in Kona 2023

As Lucy arrived that year in Hawaii for the Ironman world championships the big question was if she could make it finally to the top of the podium. Then – with only a week to go – disaster struck: Lucy strained her calf muscles in a training run.

In this analysis, we will look at Lucy’s running form during the marathon leg of 2023 world champs and assess how her injury affected her form. If you have not seen the race – we will also reveal the outcome.

Lucy started her race with a dominating swim, exiting the water first.

She followed that up with the fastest bike split of the day, finishing the 180km course in 4 hours and 32 minutes, averaging 24.8 mph or 39.9 km/h.

Lucy Charles-Barclay on her bike during the 2023 Ironman World Championships with an average speed of 39.9 km/h (24.8 mph)

That gave Lucy a lead of 3 minutes and 47 seconds over her closest competitor as she started the marathon. Lucy would later comment that from the beginning of the marathon she was in intense pain. Would it impact her running form?

Running in pain: Lucy Charles-Barclay’s running form in Kona

Decreasing cadence

We start our running form analysis by looking at Lucy’s cadence.

Lucy start’s the marathon with about 177 steps per minute and then slows it down to 170 steps per minute in the later parts of the race, likely due to fatigue.

Lucy Charles-Barclays Running form includes her cadence. In Kona 2023 she used a cadence around 170 steps pe rminute in the later parts of the run, which is lower than that of most elite marathoners.

While this cadence would be considered low for most elite marathoners, keep in mind that Lucy was already racing for over 5 hours when starting the marathon. The optimal cadence to balance endurance and speed may well be lower in long distance triathlon. We often see a similar effect of slower cadences in ultra distance running. If you would like to improve your own cadence check out some drills in our post here.

Lucy’s foot strike pattern

Next we are looking at Lucy’s foot strike. Lucy has eliminated a heel strike pattern on the left foot which she exhibited in earlier races and produces a mid-foot landing on both feet. This helps her reduce impact forces on her hip, where she previously experienced a stress fracture.

Lucy lands close to her center of mass with a low shank angle of 4 degrees, again helping with efficiency and impact forces.

While her maximum shank angle or swing is lower than for elite marathoners at 11 degrees this still gives her a respectable sweep of 7 degrees.

Despite her injury we don’t see a significant difference between her legs here.

Lucy’s ground contact time of .22 seconds is balanced and identical on both legs. It does seem to have been impacted by her injury or the resulting pain.

This possibly indicates that her remaining un-injured muscle mass was able to compensate for her torn muscles, and it is also a testament to her pain resistance and motivation.

Lucy’s Lean, Posture and Arm Movements

Lucy’s forward lean is in a good range with 3-4 degrees just before midstance. (If you’d like to improve your own forward lean, then you may find this mental running form cue useful).

Even hours into the race Lucy’s running posture is ideal, her torso, head and hips are perfectly aligned.

Her arm bend at the elbows of less than 80 degrees is ideal for long distance running.

Lucy controls her arm movement well with her wrist going to but not beyond her center line and her elbow only passing her torso’s centerline slightly

Hip drop and step width

After her previous stress facture of the hip Lucy put in a lot of time strengthening her core – and it shows.

A lot of the work to improve Lucy Charles-Barclays running form is done in the gym

Hip drop on both sides is now minimal.

Lucy has a relatively narrow gate but her feet do not cross over the center line.

How does Lucy Charles-Barcylay’s running form compare to elite runners?

Compared to top track runner and marathoner Letesenbet Gidey at the New York Marathon in 2023 we see that the key differences in Lucy’s and Gidey’s form are Gidey’s higher step rate and larger maximum shank angle.

Both of these observations can be explained by the higher speed and power produced during a stand alone marathon and the fatigue from the 3.9K swim and 180K bike leg during a triathlon. Gidey’s stand alone marathon time is about 30 min’s faster than Charles-Barclays time in Kona.

Winning with grit and good form

Lucy ran the Marathon in 2h:57 min and 38 seconds and was first across the line. After four 2nd places at the Ironman World Championships she achieved a well deserved win in 2023.

She completed a total distance of 226 kilometers swimming, cycling and running in a total time of 8 hours and 24 minutes. She finished three minutes before Germany’s Anne Haug.

Although Lucy Charles-Barclay's calf tear was aggravated during her run in Kona 2023, it did not hugely impact her running form

Lucy later reported that she was in a lot of pain from her calf strain. While the race had worsened her injury she has since made a full recovery, putting in plenty of time in the gym. Lucy Charles-Barclay’s running form and the strength she had built to maintain good running form late into a race were likely an important factor in this win. If you’d like to follow Lucy and learn more about her training and racing you can do so on Youtube or Instagram.

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