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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

When the going gets

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

For those that have ever watched the legendary marathoner Eliud Kipchoge race, you would have noticed an occasional smile across his face. Is he just enjoying himself tearing around 42.2kms at 2:50min/km pace? No, Kipchoge’s smiles are a deliberate tactic to relax and work through the escalating pain, & there is research to support it.🤓

🔑A 2017 study by Noel Brick had 24 runners complete a series of four 6 min runs & measured their running economy & perceived effort. During the runs, the volunteers were instructed to either smile, frown, relax their hands & upper body or just think their usual thoughts.⁣

🔑The results showed a surprising 2.8% improvement in running economy when smiling versus frowning. What makes this improvement even more significant, is this amount of change is often seen after months of undertaking plyometrics or weight training!

What this equates to in terms of time: a 2.8% improvement in running economy equates to shaving 1.4% of your race time. So if you run a 10K in 60 minutes, you can shave 50secs off your race time, & if you’re covering 5km in 25 minutes, smiling can cut 20 secs off your time!⁣

So next time you are out on your hard track session or pushing to the limit in a race, SMILE :)😊🙂😌


Brick, N. E., et al. (2018). "The effects of facial expression and relaxation cues on movement economy, physiological, and perceptual responses during running." Psychology of Sport and Exercise 34: 20-28.


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