I agree that running as a skill is much less emphasised generally, even though many distance athletes do drills nowadays. Drills in and of their own right do not teach correct mechanics (in my mind that is). Drills need to be combined with a mental appropriation and perception of what proper and efficient movement should LOOK and FEEL like when it is actually executed.
My experience is that many runners have become so skilled at performing drills, but still do not run properly, just as there are those who are experts at doing great interval sessions, but can't put it together in a race. There seems to be more difficulty in getting runners to acquire that intuitive sense of what running as a movement truly requires (myself included). This seems more prevalent in developed countries than in third world nations.
Drills seem to have become so much an offspring of technologisation rather than as a means to regain our innate sense of what our body can and should be doing when we run. That inner knowing of how to use our bodies seems to be more apparent in the Kenyans & Ethiopians, for example, than it is for westerners and the people from the more affluent Asian countries.
So many of our kids grow up running around in huge chunky footwear in a very much "concretised" environment, that it is a challenge to get them to CATCH an idea of how to run, rather than just try to mentally cram it into their heads.
To worsen things, there are so many schools of thought as to what constitutes 'correct' running form that people don't know what to believe. On this thread alone we have already had so many posts on the issue but nothing is truly conclusive.
Having written all this I am by no means against drills. Even the great African runners do drills regularly, the very same drills that western runners also perform regularly. Yet when it comes to actual execution during a race, the running mechanics between the two could not be more different (in my mind at least).
For me, there is a freedom of movement that accompanies African running that you just will not find in other countries. Most Kenyan runners do not look super pretty when they run, some of then even look imbalanced and tensed, but they give a sense of liberty and one-ness with their bodies compared to other athletes.
When interviewed by Runner's World regarding the POse method of running, Paul Tergat actually replied tha "form is God given", that when we attempt to systemise something as natural as running we actually kill it. Even though on one level I agree, I suspect we cannot apply this to runners across the globe because the modern reality is that affluent living has somewhat affected our physical coordination. The "curse" of poverty in Kenya has allowed them to retain much more of how they can and should use their bodies just as the "blessing" of prosperity has diminished that ability in us. We are therefore not as "fortunate" as Tergat to be able to say that "form is God given".
That's why people who say that just run more miles and your body will develop its own efficiency need to reconsider that notion. The reality is that many runners breakdown even on modest mileage, so how can they advance to higher volumes that would supposedly teach them good mechanics? So, we resolve that issue by introducing drills and other forms of skill & coordination training. But these modalities of training can only work if we are truly certain that we possess the optimal grasp of what "correct" running form should look and feel like, or else we shall just become excellent "drill doers" and not excellent distance runners.
Timothy Noakes has written in his book Lore of Running:
"Thus, perhaps the message of the Kenyans is that the best runners will come, in future, from groups of runners who train together, probably at altitude, and who come from those populations able to produce large numbers of truly exceptional athletes in an environment conducive to running. In Kenya this includes a cool climate at altitude; dirt roads over hilly, often beautiful and unspoiled countryside; and a level of material poverty that makes this physically demanding lifestyle desirable but is not severe enough to cause want in the basic staples of life, including adequate housing, food, and sanitation."
(from the chapter "Learning from the Experts", p. 447)
I may not fully agree with everthing Noakes has written on the issue, but he does have some strong points.
My question is, how can we acquire the intuitive as well as the technical aspects of the sport in the given environment that we live in?