I've been talking to my coach, Jon Tilt. I now have a new proprioceptive cue, and I'm very excited about it! (I don't get out much any more...)
Jon had been talking to one of the Southampton AC sprint coaches, Gary Gray, about gait. Bearing in mind this is a third hand quote, please allow for variances in interpretation, but essentially, if Gary sees an athlete's feet drift from a forward orientation to one of pointing outwards ("splayed") then he stops that athlete's session.
I've practiced this cue, in a 4x300m session, and two days later in a 500/1500/2200/1500/500 pyramid, with immediate benefits. The fastest pace in these sessions was 2:40/km (one of the 300s) and the slowest 3:58/km (the 2200m).
As I ran all these reps, I concentrated on keeping the feet facing forward. (Bear in mind that I've got 12 months of honing all the other cues around foot landing under hips, torso erect, etc, so I didn't have to think about those).
What I immediately noticed is that, at the higher speeds, there is good improvement in consistency. I'd been complaining to Jon that, whilst balanced running is 'mine' at speeds of up to 4:00/km, at the faster speeds there's the odd foot placement that causes a leg to wobble, or the shoulders to dip, or a hip to drop. What I noticed, particularly as I got tired on the 300s, was that I suffered no such issues.
A week prior to the conversation referred to above, I was talking to Jon about my approach to the next stage in the training.
Jon highlighted the training variables: speed, distance, and number of reps. Prior to the session outlined above, I could manage a 300m rep, at 55s pace (3:03/km), with Good Style for 250m, but then the torso bends, the hips dip. I can manage 5 of these, before I get too tired, and the style breaks down earlier in the repetition.
Based on this, I should be able to plan 2 or three sessions ahead of time. The session may be longer and slower, or shorter and faster. But the aim is to get to the end of the rep without loosing form/style. As we now know, a new cue has significantly helped with this.
Finally, I've just finished Richard Askwith's truly excellent book about Zatopek. I'm not suggesting that I start hitting 100x400m reps, but there was one picture that caught my eye. It makes me think that Emil understood the benefit of good form, as he's clearly practicing some sort of cue (apologies for the stolen pic - I just couldn't find any other copies on-line.
And this is the result...
His arms may have been all over the place, but look at the torso in shot 2, foot placement in shot 6! (hard to tell if the foot is loaded in shot 5...)