You'll find below a link to an Excel file for drawing a proper run-up existing of a straight part and part of a circle. It is not meant as a prescription for a good run-up but it gives, after filling in some elements of your run-up, the circle you are in fact using.
To the left you see an example of the cells in the spreadsheet that are important. The cells within black rectangles are the ones you have to change. By the way, jumpers coming from left have to mirror the resulting drawing. (And Americans: go metric ;-).)
The poor jumpers way to set up a run-up is by using their feet as measuring tape. I go 11 feet to the right from the post and because my spikes are 0.28m long I in fact go 3.08m to the right, which is calculated by Excel. When you do use real measuring tape ignore the black rectangle and put your measure in C3, the red cell.
You have to fill in your point of take-of too (toe of take-off foot). As an example I took a point 0.50m left from the post and 0.70m away from the bar. (Men jumping very high maybe have a take-off point to the right of the post, in that case fill in -0.24m for example.)
The last element needed is how you are flying above the bar. I took 30 degrees. A higher number means flying more perpendicular, a lower number means flying more parallel to the bar. Ask someone to help estimating this angle.
These elements are enough to calculate the ideal form of your run-up. In red the results are shown, the radius of your circle, the point where the linear and circular parts of the run-up intercept (in this example 3.08m to the right and 6.90m away from the bar) and the centre of the circle (in this case 4.08m to the left and of course again 6.90m away from the bar). The picture to the right shows all these numbers and some gray guiding lines. The picture of course also shows the pit (blue rectangle), the bar (red/white) and the posts (big black dots).
(The spreadsheet contains a second worksheet, there you see the full circle, the axes, many numbers, some Dutch words and more that is only important for the calculations on worksheet 1.)
And now? You can draw the circle in reality and mark it with chalk or small pieces of tape. Now go to the track, run a curve and follow the line between lanes, not watching the line. Let someone look carefully how you place your feet. Some place their feet on the line, others place them a little away from the line. Now you can run your high-jump run-up, do not look at the drawn circle and someone can mark the imprints of your feet. When you are not following the drawn line as you did on the track something is imperfect.
Common 'faults' are running straight, then making a sharp bend and continuing in a straight line again. Another possibility is making a 'side-step' which gives the feeling of running a curve while you are not really doing so. It is also quite common that jumpers leave their straight line, go to the right and run a completely different circle.
In all cases the cause likely is that your attention is on the bar and not on the run-up. Forget the bar, with a good run-up you will reach the bar inevitably!
Download High-jump Run-up. (xls 64 K)
Weia Reinboud (weiatletiek (@) xmsnet.nl) (More on athletics here.)