The Journal: So Dave,how long have you been a Stotan and how did you come to learn about Percy Cerutty?
Dave:I was a first year high school track coach and while attending an invitational meet in Rochester(N.Y.),I ran into a good friend of mine who I hadn't seen in quite awhile,he gave me a xeroxed paper with Percy's picture on it that described what a Stotan was and what a Stotan wasn't. When I read his classic phrase that the human being cannot be reduced to the status of a machine and needs to train in a natural environment,that peaked my interest,I got really excited.Somehow,I can't recall how,I got ahold of his greatest book,Athletics:How To Become A Champion.That was back in May of 1988,so its been 10 years.
The Journal:How did that change your running?
Dave:It just didn't change my running it changed my life. But as far as running goes,I immediately sought out the trails in and around the area I lived(Buffalo) and began training on them 75% of the time.I also made a point of not running on the pavement anymore,I pretty much eliminated any kind of interval track work. As I now look back on it,I became a stronger runner,a better runner. Also, I became like an evangelist,talking up Stotanism to fellow runners,handing out xeroxed sections of his book. Before you know it I had gathered together a group of runners called the Stotans and was publishing a monthly newsletter called The Stotan News. Those were great times.
The Journal:So the concept really took off?
Dave:It did but it was mostly the younger runners who embraced it.Here I was 40 years old and most of the Stotans were in their late teens or 20's. Of course there was Joan Zirklebach,a really excellent master's runner who was around my age,she loved the whole thing,still does for that matter.It seemed the older guys were reluctant to give it a try,I had more than one tell me that they wouldn't run the trails because they didn't want to take a chance of turning an ankle.
The Journal: Did your Stotans do many races?
Dave: We sure did, and we consistently had success,on the trails and on the roads. The mecca for us though was the Finger Lakes Trail System and the great Virgil Mountain Madness Trail race.The trails were located in the Ithica,Virgil, Dryden area of N.Y. Words really can't adequately describe how great it is to train and race there.
The Journal:Did you incorporate your Stotanism into your coaching? By the way, what did you coach?
Dave: I coached freshman cross country runners and all the distance track guys. I immediately found a way to get my runners to train on the trails.Once a week we'd do the trails at a huge park outside of Buffalo,it was amazing how much these guys loved running the trails.Everyone ran better because of this type of training,everyone.
The Journal: What do you feel is the most common misconception about Cerutty and Stotanism?
Dave:That it's all about training hard in nature and eating what some call natural foods. To me,its Percy's anti-materialism views and recognizing that the athlete,when trained in mind,as well as body, becomes the ideal and complete person.
The Journal:Why do you think Stotanism is not embraced by more athletes?
Dave:It runs contrary to what is the accepted norm these days.People may have to leave their comfort zone as they call it.Also,you mean life isn't all about making money,having that big house, two cars, and season tickets to the Bills games? That's radical stuff in this day and age.
The Journal:What is the highlight of your running career?
Dave:Without question,it was attending an all day seminar given by Arthur Lydiard back in the early 90's. What an experience,it was just incredible! He took us through the drills,answered our questions,lectured....I still can't believe I was able to stand beside him,discuss training,ask questions. He was such a gentleman,a quietly dynamic guy. I had him sign my copy of Running The Lydiard Way,I still take the book out from time to time and read what he wrote in it. I recall some years before he came to town I wrote him a couple of letters and he answered both of them. I remember thinking,here was a guy,probably the greatest coach who's ever lived,taking the time to answer a letter from someone he doesn't know from Adam. Try writing a letter to someone who is at the top of their field these days and see if you get an answer.Oh yeah,before going to the seminar I made a point of wearing the first shoes he designed for Converse,not the ones that came later, these original Converse shoes were really light and flexible,I found them in a warehouse that sold nothing but closeouts,well, when Arthur saw them he sort of smiled and said, "those were a really good shoe." It was great.
The Journal: Who do you believe are the greatest runners of all-time?
Dave: Herb Elliott comes to mind but Yiannis Kouros is probably the greatest runner who's ever lived. When I say this to other runners they laugh at me but when I ask them to tell me if they know all the records he's set their clueless. Try 303km in 24 hours for starters,think a moment about how far that is.He owns every record from 24 hours to 6 and 10 days as well as the most prestigious point to point races in the world.He destroys the competition,and these are the best ultra runners in the world, most of whom can run sub 2:20 marathons. The big misconception that still exists regarding elite ultra runners is that they are basically mediocre runners who race long distances. It's pure ignorance to believe that.Do a search on your computer and see for yourself all the records he's set,break it down, look at the mileage and the pace,it's otherworldly,it really is. And consider this,Yiannis can't even get an English language publisher for his book. Meanwhile, the shelves are filled with the same old, same old stuff on running.
The Journal:To finish this up Dave,give readers some advice on how to get into what some call Stotanism.
Dave: It's really simple actually,head for the hills,literally.Stop abusing your body by running on the concrete and the track,go to a park,or better yet,seek out an area where there are Trails,preferably away from the "maddening crowds,"leave your watch at home and just let yourself go. Somehow,some way,get a copy of Athletics:What It Takes To Be A Champion,seek out archived articles that the man has written in decades past.They will inspire,invigorate and change your life.