Thursday, March 31, 2011

Learning From the Legends,pt.5

I have commented on Derek Clayton previously,he was a great runner. For fun,next time you're out on a run ask one of your buddies if they know who Derek Clayton is. I wouldn't be at all surprised if most don't have a clue. The following is an excerpt from Brian Lenton's book entitled Interviews.Derek Clayton was the first marathoner under 2:12,2:10 and 2:09.
He was the first marathoner to run sub-five minute miles for the marathon distance.His 1967 world record(2:09:36) at the Fukuoka marathon lasted 14 years and withstood the attempts of the greatest marathoners of the late 60's and 70's. On May 30,1969 Clayton again set the world marathon mark with a time of 2:08:33,this record stood until 1981. Between 1965 and 1974 Derek ran 22 marathons in which he had 14 wins and 4 dnf's. At 6'1" and 160 pounds he was physically a giant among the runners of his time and would be considered a big man even today.

I know I've said this about certain other runners before but when Derek Clayton gives advice on running,everyone who wants to do better in athletics should listen.Question: What advice would you give to those who want to achieve running success?"First off, decide what your goal is and make it a reasonable one.Then choose a training system that will lead to that goal. Stick to your training regimen,don't vary or change it to avoid training alone,be an individual. I always had a very logical approach to training,we all tend to complicate things too much in life. Next, keep a training log and,as I said, know your distance by running it many times in training. If you train properly you will gain mental fortitude. I believe the difference between myself and many others was mental fortitude. I ran believing in mind over matter."

Well, there you have it,the advice Clayton gives above is all someone needs to know to achieve running success.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Angry Al Speaks

In January I posted an article entitled Angry Al's Advice. Al was a runner who my friends and I used to do our long runs with. He was outspoken and opinionated but his rants voiced during the course of these runs always got you thinking whether you agreed with him or not.The following is something he wrote about recently,it pertains to the cost of entering races and prizes. I should preface this by saying that Al is writing of his experiences as it relates to the Buffalo,N.Y. road racing scene where the post race beer flows freely as provided by event organizers.Perhaps the road racing in your area is similar to his. I will admit that I am one of the people Al is critical of here,those of us who have complained about high entry fees. Al speaks: "I am so tired of runners whining about paying $25 to run a road race. Think about it; where else can you get a t-shirt,race over a measured course,eat food after and have all the beer you want to drink for $25? To top it off,the race fee you pay usually goes to some charitable cause that puts on the race. Let's get to the real problem,the majority of runners I've known over the years are cheap. They'll pay all kinds of exorbitant prices for shoes and gear but squawk when asked to pay $25 to race. If they want to complain about something,why don't they complain about the 5 year age divisions and the 5 deep prizes that seem to be the norm at races these days? That's costing someone a ton of money to pay for that."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cerutty Stories,pt.2

Sometimes overlooked is the fact that besides coaching Herb Elliott and 20+ other national and international champions,Percy Cerutty always kept himself in peak condition. He once said, "Herb may race faster than me ,but never harder." Lafayette Smith tells of a special moment in early 1960: "Not long ago Percy was timing Elliott and several other runners on a grass track at Portsea when another athlete appeared with a newspaper clipping from America. It described how Joie Ray of East Gary,Indiana,a world champion miler before World War I,always ran a mile on his birthday.That year,at age 64,he had run it in 5:50 and the papers heralded the achievement as a world's record for men over 60. Percy calmly handed his stopwatch to Elliott and trotted quickly around the quarter-mile track.Panting heavily he asked Elliott:"What does it say?" "5:32.5," said the young miler. "So much for Ray's record," triumphed Cerutty,"Now,back to the workout."

One of the Three Essential Components

I don't think many would disagree with the statement that there are three essential components needed in being a healthy runner: one is proper diet(including hydration and supplementation,another is an appropriate training regimen for the individual, and lastly, adequate rest. I have written in other posts that far too many runners disregard dietary issues because they believe that lots of training gives them license to eat whenever and whatever they choose. When you stop and think about it, most realize the absurdity of that belief. What I'm going to address today is the issue of carbohydrates and the runner.It is an important issue because it potentially impacts on not only your running but your overall health. Our bodies' seem so resilient to abuses that we forget that the consequences of years of abuse can be,well...deadly. For ages runners have been told that carbohydrates should predominate their diet. The reason being is that they quickly convert to fuel thus providing the necessary energy for workouts and races. Myself as well as countless other athletes have accepted this advice as the way to go. However,one thing I have noted, as well as others runners I've spoken to over the years,is that with a carbohydrate rich diet you often feel hungry not too long after eating.Also, athletes have mentioned having difficulty maintaining their ideal body weight on a carbohydrate based diet.Some people taught,and still do to my knowledge, that 60% of calories taken in should be from carbohydrates. When searching around to find answers to my persistant hunger I repeatedly came across the writings of a Dr.Barry Sears, a biochemist. I will quickly add that the following is not an endorsement of any of his books but I found his observations to make alot of sense. When I cross checked them with a few nutritionists I know who are athletes,they confirmed that what he has to say is correct.Sears has worked in the past with elite athletes. He says: "People need to start thinking of food from a hormonal perspective, overdoing carbohydrates causes a hormonal reaction that increases our stored fat, impedes our ability to burn that fat and restricts the flow of oxygen to the muscles. Dietary fat alone isn't so disruptive but the hormone insulin can be,one of the quickest ways to trigger an increase of it is by eating too many carbohydrates." Sears, as many of you might know, advocates a diet consisting of 40% carbohydrates,30% protein and 30% fat.This is also the way to go for runners. The reason being is that a more even distribution of these three dietary components means more even hormone levels to sustain steady endurance efforts. An exercising body's most ready and burnable fuel is muscle glycogen,a stored form of glucose. Since the best source of glycogen is carbohydrates, the conclusion has always been the more carbohydrates the better for athletes.However,too much carbohydrate intake leads to too much glucose consequently stimulating the release of insulin.This all leads to the excess glycogen being transported to the liver and eventually being stored into the adipose tissue of fat cells. So,the bad news,taking in more carbos doesn't mean more energy it means your body has more "sugar" to convert to fat. Sears states that "insulin secreted as a result of a carbo rich meal takes the now converted glucose out of your bloodstream causing you to feel hungry way before you think you should. The craving that comes 90 minutes after a huge pasta meal means that the insulin has carried the glucose away and it's preventing your body from getting at the glycogen that's stored in your liver. Hence,your sugar-starved brain is telling you more,now!" Can I ever relate to what he just said. Sears claims that when protein is eaten with and in near equal amounts to carbohydrates a steadier level of blood sugar is maintained thus avoiding the feeling hungry not too long after eating syndrome. "A good rule of thumb is that whatever size serving of low-fat protein you eat should be accompanied by twice the quantity of a high-fiber carbohydrate source,something like steamed vegetables," writes Sears. He believes the best types of protein are chicken,fish,low-fat cottage cheese,egg whites and soy products. Good carbohydrates include broccoli,spinach and some fruits such as cantaloupe,strawberries and grapefruit. Unlike what some nutritional faddists are advocating,or better put,discouraging these days, is that fat is an essential component of an athlete's diet. Fat is a source of added energy when your body runs low on glycogen. Needless to say unsaturated fats (vegetable oils,nuts,nut butters,avocados) are preferable to fat derived from animal sources.In case you are wondering,the carbohydrates that convert to sugar in the bloodstream the fastest are: bananas,bread,rice,raisins,corn chips and bran cereals. Those carbohydrates that do so significantly slower are:apples,beans broccoli,cantaloupe,cauliflower,peanuts,plums,peaches and grapes. Since being aware of the above and making the necessary changes, I have definitely noticed a reduction in hunger, less of a tendency to gain weight and not becoming totally depleted(bonking) during long runs over tough terrains. Tomorrow another article will be posted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Portsea Daily Training Schedule

What follows is an excerpt by Herb Elliott of the daily training schedule at Portsea in Australia.

7a.m.--A five-mile run before breakfast in any direction our whim took us,followed by a dip in the ocean.
8a.m.--Breakfast of uncooked rolled oats(without milk) sprinkled with wheat germ,walnuts,sultanas,raisins and sliced banana. Perhaps a few potato chips to follow.
9a.m.--Swimming and surfing or outdoor chores like chopping wood,painting and carpentry.
Noon--Training and lectures at Portsea Oval,followed by another swim.
2p.m.--Lunch--fish and fresh fruit.
4p.m.--Weight lifting.
5p.m.--Ten-mile run along dirt roads ending once more at the beach.
7.p.m.--Tea and a general discussion led by Percy on a wide variety of subjects.
11p.m.--Lights out.

There is something to be said about the communal aspects of training with others. I don't know if you ever were able to go away to the summer camps they would hold prior to each cross-country season, but if you did, you'll understand what I mean. Getting together with other athletes while living and training together is a great experience,something that you will remember for the rest of your life.
Cerutty's camp was probably a little more difficult than the ones I was familiar with,Elliott recalled:Pain, not euphoria,set the tone of Cerutty's camp,and he preached on and about it, "Pain is the purifier..thrust against pain...walk towards suffering,love suffering,embrace it..."

One of Elliott's fellow athletes wrote this poem about Cerutty's regime:
A runner at the Pearly Gates,
His face was worn and old,
He bravely asked the man of fate
Admission to the fold.
"What have you done," St.Peter said?
"To seek an entrance here."
"I trained at Portsea,that was my task,
For many and many a year!"
Then wide the gates did open,
The angels clanged the bell.
"Come in and take a harp," he said,
"You've had enough of Hell."

Consider establishing a Portsea-like training camp with other runners for a week or over a weekend,doing so could make you a better and more focused runner.

Learning From the Legends,pt.4.

Herb Elliott was asked this question by an interviewer: What is the key to achieving our very best performances in running? He responded, "We must realize we have much more strength in our body than we think. The key to that strength is the mind. The relationship between the mind and body is still something we are really just playing around with. We don't understand the enormous power that we have within us and that is touchable."
When Herb Elliott speaks on running everyone should pay very close attention. What he says above is quite similar to comments Yiannis Kouros has made in the past. I would add that the majority of us are the ones who are most critical and pessimistic in regards to what we are capable of doing. We must make it a point to stop imposing self created limitations on ourselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Challenge Yourself

I spoke with someone the other day who I used to run with about 25 years ago. He lamented how he had just sort of gotten out of running in order to advance his career. Steve was an excellent runner blessed with natural footspeed and an ability to run lots of mileage. He had raced two or three marathons in the 2:30's but began to experience recurring sciatic problems. This was probably as much a reason for his giving up running as was his desire to further his career.Steve was in his late 20's when he quit and was now starting to get back into it. He told me that he should have listened to his body when his physical problems began and then backed off. He went on to say if he would have done so he could have continued to run all these years. The good thing that came out of his experience was that he has rediscovered his love of running. Steve said,"I became too goal oriented,I wanted a sub 2:30 marathon so badly I became obsessed, that obsession totally overcame the reason I started running in the first place."
What Steve had to say got me thinking about the need for us to periodically look at and re- evaluate how our running is progressing. I am not only speaking about being preoccupied with performance and the potential problems it can cause,that's been addressed enough in other posts. No, the questions that need to be asked are: are we letting our prime running years pass by without pursuing personal goals and aspirations? Are we in a rut or state of complacency as it relates to our running? Are we hesitant to committ or accept a new challenge? Are we dismissing the possibility of doing so because we don't want to leave our comfort zone and venture into the unknown? As Yiannis Kouros once said: " an ideal life is one that presents challenges."
May we resolve today to challenge ourselves'.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Marathon

Perhaps one of the more unfortunate myths perpetuated by the mainstream running media is that the be all, end all of ones' running experience is to run a marathon. Although this may not always be said openly, it is certainly inferred in a variety of books and articles. There is a whole industry that has grown up around taking runners from basically a handful of miles in a week, to being able to run a marathon within a year or less. I have seen training "plans" that say you can get to the starting line in 6 months. Jeff Galloway has made a career out of preparing people for marathons,people who you would classify as "fun" runners. I'd like to quickly add here that I am not criticizing anyone for attempting to run a marathon. As you may have seen in a previous post or two,my view of runners is that anyone who gets out there everyday is equal no matter how fast their per mile time is. Also,it appears that most of these 0 miles to your marathon in X amount of months organizations are linked to charities and that is commendable. However, I have a problem with taking people with virtually no real running or mileage history into that twilight zone that can be what the marathon ends up being.Those of you who have run marathons know what I'm talking about,I have run several and not one of them have been easy,not one,and that goes from my slowest one to the fastest.The only marathon that didn't beat me up as much as the others was a trail one I did several years ago. Most other runners I have spoken with over the years confirm what I have experienced. So what am I getting at? It is my belief that no distance or quest for a certain time is worth it if it ends up causing you to give up running. I have spoken to countless runners of varying abilities that have quit running as a result of mental or physical burn-out that occurred after preparing for, and/or racing a distance they were ill-prepared to run or just weren't suited for. I paraphrase 9 time New York City marathon winner Grete Waitz here,she said,"I see too many people running the marathon who would be better suited running a 10k or half-marathon." Running should be a lifelong activity,despite the naysayers,running is a healthy endeavor when approached intelligently.That means you know and listen to your body. As Harry Callahan said: "A man's got to know his limitations." That goes for women too. I am also talking here to the runners who run and race well. I'm sure I am showing my age but there was a time when distance runners sort of "graduated" in their running to the point where they then ran a marathon after having years and years of miles under their belt.Google Carlos Lopes and you will read an excellent example of this.Unfortunately, this school of thought changed decades ago because of several reasons,not the least of which is the "glamourization" of the marathon by the media.Can a young runner have success in a marathon? Of course he can. Is it wise? Often not.The training and racing involved in the marathon distance can take a toll on a runner's body and psyche. Here's the standard I use,unless you will be able to toe the line at the upcoming Olympic marathon trial, then potentially committing your running career to a distance prematurely could be foolish. Look at the alternatives,5k's, 10k's 20k's, half-marathons,30k's.Explore and reach your goals at these distances before moving on to the marathon. I should also mention trail runs at varying distances. Again,there's a big difference between racing on the trails and racing over pavement.

Ultimately,running should be something that brings about positive feelings such as joy,happiness,peace of mind,etc. If your running, training or racing is making you neurotic,discouraged or feeling mentally or physically fried, then you need to change something,the sooner the better.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Distance Runner

"Team sports were never for me,
I can't see depending on others to play.
Gyms,courts and fields are all too confining,I crave the freedom of the roads and trails. My first thought in the morning is where my next run will be.
Some say I'm foolish but I know better, See I'm a distance runner,that's all I want to be," (author unknown). There comes a point when you realize that running is more than just a sport you do in your free time,it has become a part of who you are as a person. Those who don't run or share your passion may view your zeal for running as inappropriate or misguided. In response to this I ask, what makes one man's passion more or less worthy? To paraphrase Cerutty, "those who don't do, can never know." Ideally,involvement in a sport such as running should lead to the betterment in character of all those who engage in that sport.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wish I'd Said That,pt.1

"The overcoming of belly hunger is the first step to the overcoming of all hungers and drives," from Be Fit or Be Damned by Percy Cerutty.
The above is a truly insightful comment when you stop and think about it. If you wonder why I say this,I would ask when was the last time you consciously stopped eating for awhile? Abstaining from food,particularly as you get older,is not as easy as it sounds.But, as Cerutty said,if you are able to control what, when and how much you eat, then you are definitely a person who is in control of their body.I mentioned in a prior post that runners and other athletes too often feel that since they train hard they can pretty much eat and drink as much as they please. This is clearly not a good belief to hold.In reality,someone who is training should be even more vigilant about what and how much they eat than the average person. I don't want to sound as if I am encouraging the development of eating disorders but isn't thin better than thick as it pertains to a distance runner? As a sidenote,there are many health experts who suggest that periodically we should fast for a day,taking in only water and/or diluted juices. They add that this is best done when you are not working or engaging in strenuous activities. The rationale for fasting is that it has a cleansing and healing effect on your body.
Are you in control of your body?

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Harve and Sean Got Their Groove Back,pt.2,Off to Virgil

The following is what I can remember of Sean's account of his and Harve's weekend on the Finger Lakes Trails.Driving down towards the Hauck Hill campsite on a narrow logging road,Harve and Sean were struck by the solitude and the beauty of the area. Huge trees on either side of the road pretty much blocked out the sky above. It was probably 5:30 pm on Friday when they arrived. John,from the Finger Lakes Running Club, was there to meet them. They set up their tent on the mossy green,the coolers were stocked with only the bare essentials food-wise but they made sure the case of beer was on ice and secure.Sean later said that there were certain things he was not willing to deny himself in his quest to follow the Stotan way and beer was one of them.
After setting up camp, John took them on an easy 50 minute run down the roads and through some of the trails to give them a preview of what was to come. Sean and Harve liked what they saw.In the cool of the early evening they ran over trails covered with pine needles with occasional tree roots exposed,ferns were everywhere.They were again struck by the fact that the sky was obscured by the denseness and the enormity of the trees.
The evening was uneventful except for Sean saying that sometime in the middle of the night "weird" noises coming from "somewhere"led him to spend the remainder of the night sleeping in his car.The following morning John was there early stating they would be running about 17 miles over the original Virgil Mountain Madness course.Sean and Harve told me they smiled when they heard that the run was "only" going to be 17 miles because they were used to going at least that far on their long runs each weekend. Little did they know what awaited them.The run started unremarkably as they ran downhill away from their campsite,they soon cut onto the trails which were well marked with white blazes on the trees. It was 9am and the coolness of the morning was already changing to a steamy haze.For close to an hour their run went over trails,up and down fairly short hills,over shallow creeks and along narrow dirt roads.This relative ease soon gave way to longer,steeper hills interspersed with gradual,seemingly endless inclines.Despite the increasing difficulty,Sean and Harve described how they were both able to get into a rhythm as they ran. Sean later said," I don't know if I would call it effortless but I felt incredibly smooth and relaxed,my legs felt good,not like they would have after putting in the same amount of time on the roads.I thought at that moment I could have gone on forever,it was such a great feeling." Somewhere around the 2 hour mark they began a long climb up a dirt road,at the top they could see a lake below.Something else they noticed as they ran was that except for their foot strike and breathing, there was virtually no sound,Sean said, "we're cruising through this forest and I felt a combination of peace and otherworldliness,I really can't describe it adequately." As they returned down the hill the reality of the continuing effort began to let itself be known. Quads ached on the downhills and consequently they came to be dreaded more than the ascents. What a difference a few hours make.Interestingly,they then started to heed John's earlier instruction to walk the steeper inclines because little time was to be gained by trying to run up them. Anticipating finishing their run,Sean and Harve began repeatedly checking their watches as they made their way through a long slow climb called Rossiter's spur which turned onto Hauck Hill Rd and ended at their campsite.As they walked to the tent they each grabbed two waters and a beer,John informed them that they weren't finished yet. Leading them down the hill where they started, he led them to a pool of water fed by a creek. John told them they needed to get in and soak for at least 20 minutes or they wouldn't be able to walk Sunday,much less run."Your quads will be shot if you don't," he said. The water at first seemed way too cold but it soon gave way to a feeling of great relief. The next few hours were taken up with recounting the run,eating and drinking beer. After taking a short nap,they began a 45 minute easy run around 6pm. John took them through a different section of trails making it a point to avoid areas with steep inclines and declines.Sean said that night he didn't hear anything,"an M-80 could have gone off and I wouldn't have heard it,I was dead tired."
On Sunday morning,except for some stiffness that went away after a few minutes into their run,they overall reported feeling good. John told them that since they now knew the trails,it was their turn to lead the way. The run was for about an hour and a half,the pace was a little faster than the day before, but again,it felt easy and smooth.Upon finishing, it was time for another soak,this time they took the cooler with them and stayed in longer.
On looking back on their weekend the following Tuesday Harve had this to say,"the whole time I was there I saw no one else and heard only the sounds you hear in the forest,it was incredibly peaceful and calm,it was just like Cerutty described in the book.The runs,even though they were over tough terrain, I came away feeling strengthened,not beat up like I figured I would. On Monday we did our run at Delaware Park. I found myself feeling sort of bummed,I missed the quiet and the way my legs felt running on the trails.If I trained at Virgil on a regular basis there is no way I wouldn't become a better runner. Like Cerutty said,training shouldn't be like work,all regimented and lacking any spontaneity and that's the way it was becoming for me.
It came as no surprise when I heard that a few weeks later Harve,Sean and two other guys went back to the Finger Lakes Trails. What did surprise me though was when I learned that two or three months after that they rented a small rundown house near the edge of the trails in or near Dryden.There they trained extensively and raced occasionally, but that's a story that will be written about in a future post.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How Harve and Sean Got Their Groove Back

The following is based on actual events that involved a few guys I met and later became friends with. I changed their names and added a few things but the gist of this whole account is true.
Harve and Sean were runners in the Buffalo area who had alot of success at the local road race scene. It was not uncommon for them to win or place in the top 5 of most of the races they entered. Both had graduated from college a little over 3 years prior to my meeting them. A mutual friend had invited them out to Chesnut Ridge Park on a Wednesday evening for one of the Stotan trail runs we did.He did this in part because Sean and Harve had told them how bored they were becoming with the local racing scene.They had both even considered training for a marathon just to sort of create a new challenge or interest. I laugh now when I recall Sean telling me that he was a little concerned about doing the trails because he was running the Subaru 4 miler the following week and didn't want to risk turning an ankle. I told him the only way he was going to get injured was if he allowed himself to be come preoccupied with being injured,and,if he followed to close to the runners ahead of him thus limiting his view of the terrain ahead. Since I knew that even on the trails they were would be running fast and strong, I told them to go out and stay behind Stotans Yac and Jason. I'll always remember passing Sean towards the end of the 45 run,he looked flushed and somewhat drained. However,when we finished and got back to the casino a familiar thing occurred,something that always happened when runners did their first real trail run,they were for lack of a better word,exhilarated by the run. They talked at length about the sections of the course,how they felt going out and coming back.Over a few beers I told them a little about Cerutty,what he taught and advocated. They became totally psyched. I then said if they wanted to they could borrow my copy of Athletics:How To Become A Champion but they absolutely had to get it back to me within a week.Being somewhat paranoid about losing the book I also told them it was out of print and had cost me close to a $100 dollars on Ebay. Well,about four days after lending them the book,Sean came over to my house and handed it back. He told me that they both had read it and had gone to Kinkos' and made a copy. Sean said that when he read the part about the Stotan philosophy that said," The mastery of the true self and the refusal to permit others to dominate us is the ultimate in living,and self-expression in athletics," he knew this was something for him. Then when he read,"My Stotan philosophy is based on communication with nature,this communication takes place when the person sleeps under the stars at night,hears the birds in the morning,feels the sand between his toes,smells the flowers,hears the surf. Nature can bring the mind and body into perfect harmony and balance with the universe. This is one of the factors that allows the athlete to reach new levels of excellence," Sean said he knew he had found what he was looking for. He then described being totally "fried" and sick of twice weekly interval workouts and running the same old routes.He said that if it was possible, Harve was even more into it than he was. I then suggested they go to the Virgil Mountain Madness with us to do a 21 mile race that is run on the Finger Lakes Trails around Dryden,N.Y. Because both had to work he said they couldn't go. I asked when they had a weekend where they could. To make a long story short as they say,I arranged to have them go up to the Virgil race site from Friday evening to Sunday late morning. The plan was to camp in the woods at the Hauck Hill campsite and meet with a runner I knew from the area who would run with them over the trails. This campsite,at the time, was near the start of the trail races held there. To say the site is primitive would be an understatement.
Pt.2, Off to Virgil to be posted later today.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cerutty Stories

The following is an account of an incident that occurred while Percy Cerutty and Herb Elliott were touring California sometime before the 1960 Olympics. I am uncertain of the source of this excerpt but it possibly is from the first bio on Percy called Mr.Controversial written by Graem Kelly. Cerutty was always blunt and often tactless but he always told it like he perceived it.This is a great story.
"Aside from softness,perhaps nothing annoyed Percy more than a coach who failed to practice what he preached. While in Los Angeles, soon after Elliott ran the fastest mile ever recorded on American soil,they both attended an instructional clinic on track and field at UCLA. All of America's leading coaches were there along with their athletes who went through prescribed paces and demonstrations while the coaches lectured to the audience of nearly 2,000. Puffing their cigars and cigarettes,the American coaches glibly ordered their athletes around taking about 15 minutes each on the microphone system. When it was finally Cerutty's turn to speak, he was told he had two minutes. He didn't need three. According to Elliott, his coach "electrifed the arena" as he called "all the coaches a pack of pompous clowns who had no right teaching students in that fashion." When he'd finished, the coaches were bristling with anger and embarrassment."
If only we had some more coaches like Cerutty around today,how interesting it would be. You can bet it would generate more stories on running.

Tomorrow I will be posting an article. I've been delayed from writing as many as usual in the last few weeks because I have been taking a few day trips to run some trails.
The good thing about living on an island is that you've got the beach. The bad part is if I'm caught running up the sand dunes I can be fined. The other disadvantage is that there are no trails anywhere close by.But,it's still a great place to run.

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Old-Timer Looks at Today's Racing Scene

The following is an excerpt from an article written in Ultrarunning magazine many years ago by Gary Cantrell. In it he reflects on the changes he's observed in the road racing scene over the last few decades. I find Cantrell's observations insightful and humourous. What he wrote led me to think about how my view of runners and running has changed over the years. After the excerpt I will offer a few comments.
"There was a time,only a few decades ago, when those of us in the tiny running community used to smugly tell one another that running would never be popular---No one will be willing to work this hard but us---The running boom of the 70's disspelled that myth and changed the face of our sport.It seemed that the cozy, insider atmosphere evaporated and we were absorbed into the huge mass of newcomers.As the 90's kicked in, an excursion into sub-marathon racing is as disturbing as a visit to our childhood home. Once we were the masters of the sport, dispensing our hard-earned wisdom to eager novices. These days,the old-time runners are peculiarities, outcasts among the denizens of the sport we once called our own. The same people who found acceptance into the running community required nothing more than showing up and giving it a shot,now huddle in cliques with a dress code for acceptance. Battered racing flats that once bespoke a foot warrior who had paid his dues now draw stares of derision from those who spend over a dollar a mile on footwear. Faded shorts and moth-eaten t-shirts are ostracized among the tight little circles of polyester peacocks. Maybe I am too touchy but it is a little irritating for my baggy shorts to draw snickers from men who come to race in their wife's underwear.
It's ironic when I consider the running scene today that it has come to pass that the real running community of the 90's is just as small and just as isolated as that of the 60's.There can be no question that today's running is sterile and poor by comparison with that of the "good old days" Growth and progress simply do not always go hand and hand."
I understand what Cantrell is getting at here. He sees a running scene that has evolved and has lost some of the qualities that made it unique.Personally,I can't take going to road races that make me feel as if I'm in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Also,like Cantrell,I would not be comfortable wearing some of the "fashions" and accessories being worn in running circles these days.But on a related note,years ago I used to think that if you weren't training like me then you were probably not a "real runner." It's funny how age changes the way you think,thankfully, often times for the better. I believe anybody that runs regularly,be it at a 5 minute,or 15 minute per mile pace,is worthy and legitimate as a runner.I remember what Percy Cerutty said after some of his athletes lead the charge up the sand dunes at Portsea, "You may run faster than me but never harder."
In closing,talent and speed are not always indicators of a level of committment that one has for running. So to paraphrase a song by AC/DC I say this,"For those about to run,I salute you."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Learning From the Legends,pt.3

Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter were the big names in American distance running during the 70's. Rodgers was probably the most popular of the two due in part to the fact that he was very approachable and personable.Also,it certainly didn't hurt that he was a prolific and very successful runner.He ran countless road races,ran 59 marathons,won 22 of them and ran 28 under 2:15. I believe there was one stretch in the mid-70's when he won 44 road races in a row.His book written with Joe Concannon entitled Marathoning, is a must have for all runners.Bill Rodgers was,and continues to be, the goodwill ambassador for running. What repeatedly comes through in his interviews is his love for running and all that it has to offer the athlete.The following quotes confirm this and offer some basic yet insightful truths about the purest of all sports.
Here he speaks of the simplicity and appeal of running: "Anybody can be a runner...We were meant to move.We were meant to run.It's the easiest sport. Being a runner means you are now free to win and lose and live life to its fullest."
To the above quotes I add this,to those who don't run or don't love running, they cannot understand the statement that being a runner can help you to "live life to its fullest."
Those who live for the run may very well have said this last quote at one time themselves': "I want to run until I can't run." Amen to that Bill.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ernst van Aaken on Health and Disease

Dr.Ernst van Aaken was a physician from West Germany who was often referred to as the "Running Doctor." He is remembered for his advocating long slow distance(LSD) and being an adviser to Harold Norpoth who won a silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the 1964 Olympics. Van Aaken was also a zealous runner who influenced and encouraged countless others to recognize the health benefits of running.His book,Van Aaken Method, is a classic and whether you agree with everything he says about training,it contains alot of good and useable information,especially as it pertains to food,lasting health and disease.The following quote should be of interest to runners.It's been my experience that too many athletes think that because they run it will negate a multitude of dietary "sins." This of course is foolishness with a little denial thrown.Van Aaken correctly taught that attaining and maintaining health involves so much more than just exercising.
He probably wrote the following sometime in the '60's: "Nowadays,we talk about "diseases of civilization" as something obvious and acceptable,and it's hard not to notice the undertone of rationalization for our own sins against healthy living.We've discovered a whipping boy to take the blame for damage caused by filthy air,water pollution,lack of sunlight,noise damage,the flood of sense stimulation,speed craze in traffic and in occupational life, movement laziness,cigarette addiction,dietary damage and greed,chronic over-fatigue,nervousness,alcoholism,dope addiction and today's most visible catastrophe,coronary problems and cancer."
He went on to write: "All the above-named damages can be boiled down to three basic causes:
1. Oxygen deficiency(from lack of exercise)
2. Overeating
3.Weakness of will"
For Van Aaken, it was all about personal accountability as it pertained to ones' health.There is no question as to the importance of us doing likewise.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Staying Focused,Staying Motivated

The following pertains to everyone who lives for the run but it should be of particular interest to those who have competitive aspirations.
To one degree or another the athlete has to deal with staying motivated and/or focused. A sage once said: "it is so sad when one gives up his dreams and aspirations for a life of familiarity and comfort."
There is no doubt that when we were young most of us had some pretty wild aspirations. As we got older and "matured," for most, these hopes just sort of faded away. Why? Many say it is part of the aging process that supposedly includes the belief that we become wiser and more practical as each year passes. In reality,the reason for abandoning our dreams is due in large part to a cynicism that seems to accompany getting older, a cynicism that leads us to think that our dreams are impractical and foolish.What is also inferred or said directly is that if you're not making money from what you do or preparing for a "secure" future, then you are wasting your time. The irony of such thinking is how in recent years many peoples' investments and 401k's have been lost to an unstable economy.But I digress. Here are some rules to follow if you want to stay focused and motivated. Rule #1. Set a goal or goals. Pay no mind to those who scoff at, or dismiss what you dream. Those who truly love and care about you will be supportive even if they don't totally understand why you are doing what you do. Make your goals short-term and long-term. Few of us can hang in there for a goal that is 2,3 or 4 years down the line. Performance goals and mileage goals are good for the short-term. Being ready for certain big races and qualifying for teams are good for the long-term. An example of this is when the Stotans planned to race in a trail triennial relay,we practiced periodically over sections of the course 2 years prior to the event with each member attempting to run certain times for each leg. #2. I probably don't have to say this but make the daily preparation towards your goal a priority.We all have times when we don't feel like getting a run in. If you have difficulty doing a workout at least once a day put yourself in a situation where you can't blow it off. Example,say to yourself, I don't go to work or I don't eat dinner or drink that beer till I run.The funny thing about it is,is how often have you reluctantly started a run only to say to yourself after how glad you are that you did? As Ralph Zimmerman used to say,sometimes you have to play these little tricks with yourself to get things done. #3. Surround yourself verbally and physically with those of like mind.Many years ago I recall reading how the Kenyans,Italians,Brits,and Aussies all trained together and had great success because of it. Interestingly,the elite American runners as a rule didn't train this way. Also,talking with others about their running and their goals as well as yours keeps you psyched. #4.Resist becoming a creature of comfort. What is it about getting older and having less tolerance for discomfort? Avoid saying: "I can't go out because it's too hot,or too cold,or.....". Don't succumb to the temptation to live vicariously through the lives of sports "stars" and sports teams. There's nothing sadder than seeing an old running friend now fat and obsessed with watching pro sports.Stay hungry,don't satiate every desire and lust each time it arises.Rewarding yourself is best enjoyed when it's earned and not too frequent.#5.Keep reminders of goals and what you need and want to do all around you. Post notes,pictures,etc. all over. Read inspiring,motivating and educational materials daily,share what you feel with those who care. Learn the thoughts and secrets of champions.#6. Be thankful for your ability to physically pursue your goals,take a look around,so many people don't have the mental or physical capability to go for it. Don't take anything in this life for granted,tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. And finally,as you dedicate time to yourself to achieve your goals,do not neglect those who love and support you. Part of being the complete athlete is not becoming so absorbed with yourself that you don't care or are oblivious to the needs of others.
I honestly believe that most of us can accomplish much more than we think we can.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Sometimes Forgotten Benefits of Running

We sometimes forget or take for granted all the benefits of running. We love to run for a variety of reasons,some we may realize,some we may not. The two quotes by Roger Bannister and Joe Henderson that you are about to read give some thoughts on why we run and why we need to run. Taking into account the state of the world and society today,what is quoted below is more relevant now then when it was originally written 40 years ago.
"We seek individual freedom in a world that of neccessity imposes more and more restrictions. The less we find freedom in our work,the more we shall need to find freedom in the games we play,"( from The First Four Minutes by Roger Bannister).
"Running is(or can be) a highly valuable aid to getting our values and priorities screwed back around. And it can give a meaningful anchor we can grab ahold of to keep from being tossed about quite so much by all the alienation and irrelevance swirling around us, (from a 1970 Runner's World article by Joe Henderson).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Challenge Yourself

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
The above is from the opening pages of Derek Clayton's excellent book Running To The Top. The quote is attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and reminds me of what Percy Cerutty wrote,"We never fully grow as a person unless on occasion we challenge ourselves."
The questions we should ask are, have we allowed our running to become boring and unchallenging? Do we approach it as a routine,much like we would a household chore or a job? If you suspect so,than why not take the time today and challenge yourself? Set some new goals, even if they might seem a bit difficult or unreasonable. You will find that in doing so it will add a whole new dimension to your life and running. We must resist the inclination to say,"I can't do this ...I don't have the time to do that.....". As I have said before,in running, sometimes the journey is equal to the satisfaction you achieve in arriving.