Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Running Mentors and Friends

I believe that all of us, in our quest to be better runners, have been helped and encouraged by another runner along the way. In an activity such as running, which can sometimes lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with self, there are those who freely give guidance to runners who are new to this sport.For me,that person was Ralph Zimmerman. I first met Ralph in the early '80's when he had a group of runners that met for weekly runs out of the local YMCA. He was at that time a legend in our local running community. He had placed 28th at the 1978 Boston Marathon finishing in 2:18:55, a record for runners his age(37 yrs). Also, this race had an incredible 54 runners go under the 2:20 barrier,something never seen before at that distance. A year later, Ralph ran a 2:17 at the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans setting yet another age-group mark.Then, at the '80 Olympic Trials marathon, he raced to an age-group best of "2:20 and change". Interestingly,at this Trials', a new mark of 56 was established for the number of runners faster than 2:20. Ralph was regularly featured in Running Times for age group wins and records throughout the '70's and '80's. I'd be remiss not to add that he ran many marathon's in the 2:20's throughout the '80's as well as winning countless races overall. Blessed with natural foot speed(51 second quarter in high school),Ralph new what he had to do to get better,run lots of miles. For a period of time he ran 20 miles a day while working a physically demanding full-time job. As a believer in the Lydiard system, he knew that with mileage came the inevitable transition to hill training which he did at Chesnut Ridge Park outside of Buffalo,N.Y. Then of course came the interval phase. I'll always remember hearing several younger runners, who were top finishers at one race, talking about seeing one of Ralph's interval workouts which were comprised of his running 20x 400 mtrs. in 65 seconds.They were amazed at the apparent ease at which he seemed to be able run them. Let me quickly add that Ralph was probably just a little over 40 yrs. old at the time. Ralph loved running and training,he didn't have to say a thing,you knew he did by just taking a run with him.
My purpose in writing this is not just to give a listing of Ralph's considerable racing accomplishments. As mentioned previously in this blog,the worth of a man is not always measured in the races won and the acclaim received. The thing that made Ralph special is that he would always take the time to talk to and encourage those who sought his help.I recall being very excited when he first invited me out to Chesnut Ridge Park with a few other runners for one of his long runs. From this I developed a lifelong love of running in this type of area, in the natural surroundings with the hills and the quietness. I appreciated the advice he gave when he told me to move my arms more when I ran,particularly when going up the hills. His staggered weekly time trails over the "Big Mother" loop gave me a kind of physical and mental toughness that I probably couldn't have gotten anywhere else. I can still recall anticipating his catching up with me about 3/4's through the loop. Perhaps I learned most from Ralph by his example, by just running and training with him.It's no exaggeration to say that I would not be the runner I became, and still am 3+ decades later, if it wasn't for Ralph's influence.I am deeply thankful to him for this.
In closing,Ralph still gets "out there" but he has changed his running priorities in recent years. For the last several years, he has coached a local high schools' track and cross-country teams,passing on his knowledge,enthusiasm and love for the purest of all sports,running.
Thanks Ralph, more people appreciate what you've done than you'll probably ever know.
May we learn from your example.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Champion's Heart

I am the champion's heart,
Sometimes I'm called your spirit.
I'm a part of every true athlete's life.
I am what causes you to train when you don't feel like it.
I make you go outside when the weather tells you not to.
I'm the one who makes you crazy when you're injured.
I'm the one who tells you,you can do more,even after you've found victory.
I am the one who doesn't let you give up,even when everyone tells you that you should.
I'm the one who makes you feel guilty when you've told yourself you've quit for good.
I'm the one who keeps you coming back.
I am the champion's heart.

To me, a champion is one who keeps at it day after day,week after week,year after year. Most of the people I trained with decades ago,many of whom achieved great success, simply walked away from it when the victories stopped. I wouldn't trade a lifelong long love of running for any amount of temporary success.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Jack LaLanne Mattered

For those under the age of 40 years old and before this past Monday, the name Jack LaLanne probably brought to mind a likable old man you saw on television hawking a juicer bearing his name. Jack died Sunday at the age of 96 and the newspapers did a pretty good job of covering many of the things he did and what he accomplished during his life. I have a photo of him taken at the age of 85 doing fingertip push-ups with his arms extended in front of him. I found it interesting that he was covered mostly by the entertainment media and was pretty much ignored by the sports channels such as the ESPNS'. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Jack had a television show that ran from the '50's to the '70's. The show encouraged everyone,particularly housewives, to exercise and eat right. He did workouts that could be done right in your living room,he showed you how to do them and went heavy on the encouraging and inspiring of his viewers.The physical feats he performed during his life are legendary. In case you are not familiar with some of the incredible things he did, then simply do a search and prepare yourself to be amazed.I suggest you go to where you will read the best account of what he did and what he accomplished.If you have any interest in being fit and getting the most out of life,then this is a must read for you.I suppose it would have been too much to expect ESPN to give any coverage of Jack's life.After all, they had to give wall to wall coverage on whether or not a pro-football quarterback, who had played the day before and had sustained a Grade 2 MCL tear during the game,was being a wimp for leaving it. We were treated to endless cliche filled commentaries by barely articulate former players who act as the "experts" on ESPN saying things like,"in my day,if you could walk,you could play." Of course there was also my favorite,"This is the biggest game of his life,you have to step up,you may never get this chance again." Utterly asinine ramblings.
I digress,sorry. You see, Jack did some physical things that I doubt any athlete around today could do but that's not why he mattered. Jack mattered because for 77 years he preached that to live life to the fullest you had to be physically fit.He was right on the mark when he taught that with the pursuit of physical excellence came a positive outlook and attitude as well as an enthusiasm for life. He realized what many of us have come to realize,that a sedentary life eating crappy foods and satiating every desire you have is a road to ruin and unhappiness. He taught these truths decades before anyone else did.
Thanks Jack, for a life well lived.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Those Great Old Running Books

I suppose one of the many signs of getting older is becoming nostalgic for things that were around when you were younger. For me,it's simple things like being able to go somewhere and buy a cup of coffee for less than a dollar,walking on the beach where I live and not seeing almost every young girl covered with more tattoos than your average trucker,wishing the running shoes I bought this year and loved,weren't changed the next.There is one thing however that I really miss and something that was so readily available in the '70's, great running books.Be they "how-to train" or biographies,the '70's were the golden age for running books.For me,it only takes a trip to the local bookstore to confirm that this era is long gone. To make matters worse,most of the books that were such an integral part of a runner's bookshelf way back when,are now out of print, occasionally available online at outrageous prices.If you want to see proof of this, look on Amazon for some of the books by John L Parker and any by Percy Cerutty. As a matter of fact,the bio on Cerutty by Graem Sims,Why Die,is selling used for $99. and $ Until a few years back when they finally re-released Parker's classic, Once a Runner,it was selling used for over a hundred dollars.
My hope in this brief article is to acquaint some of the readers to the books that offered timeless instruction and inspiration.
One of the guys I trained with in the late '70's and throughout the '80's was Ralph Zimmerman. He was a very successful masters' runner who ran the 1980 Olympic trials' marathon. I recall the time he showed me the training schedules that Arthur Lydiard had sent him. I should add here that Arthur would always respond to inquiries. I still have the two letters he wrote me in the early '90's that were in response to some training questions I'd had.It's interesting how many of the great people like Lydiard do not regard themselves as too important or busy to take a moment and write back. Sometime after copying the schedules, Ralph lent me Lydiard's book, Running the Lydiard Way and what a treasure it was. I ended up xeroxing most of it at work.It was loaded with biographical info as well tons of schedules for a variety of distances and age-groups.It also explained the hows and whys in respect to why you train and race the way he recommended. As Lydiard used to say,if a coach can't give you a good reason as to why you are doing a particular work-out,then you need to get another coach. I believe this book is still available at a reasonable price online.It's a must have for those who live for the run.
In the early '70's, the people who published Runner's World put out a series of booklets on runners that are classics and very hard to find today. There was The Frank Shorter Story by John L.Parker,Tale of the Ancient Marathoner(Jack Foster),one about Gerry Lindgren and another about ultra-legend Ted Corbitt.I recently looked at Amazon for a price on Tale of the Ancient Marathoner and saw that it was going for $250., used!
Another great book was the one that I featured in an earlier post called,The Self-Made Olympian by Ron Daws. Other books that were similar in subject and content were, Running to the Top by former world marathon record holder(12 years) Derek Clayton and Always Young,a bio about George Young,a four time Olympian. I will always remember Derek Clayton's comments in response to Bill Rodgers and other top American runners who said they needed to be sponsored so they could train full-time and not work. Clayton said that he believed there were just so many hours in a day that you could devote to training and that having a job was,if anything,a help, not a hindrance to his running.
Then there was a book called,Van Aaken Method by Dr.Ernst van Aaken which heavily stressed long slow distance with careful monitoring of food intake.Some of his students included Olympic medalist Harold Norpoth and Manfred Steffney,marathoner and author of another excellent running book,Marathoning.
Some other must have books are, Serious Runners Handbook by Tom Osler,Marathoning by Bill Rodgers and Joe Concannon,anything by John L.Parker,especially Runners and Other Dreamers.Include on this list any of the Percy Cerutty books but number one should be, Athletics:How To Become A Champion. Occasionally you will see this book available on Ebay but it isn't cheap. There are probably a few other books that I have forgotten but I would be remiss not to include Kenny Moore. Fortunately,his books are available through his website and he will sign them for you if desired. His book, Best Efforts, is a phenomenal book that offers a variety of profiles on such runners as Pre,Mary Decker,Ron Clarke,John Walker,Lassen Viren,Bill Rodgers as well as several others.
There are two things that all these books I've mentioned have in common,one, is that almost all of them are out of print,the other is what I wrote about earlier,they all offered instruction and inspiration. There was a sense of optimism and getting personal in these books that I find lacking in the running books published today.This is just my opinion but the only really good running book I've read in the last 15 years was Born to Run.But, that's just my opinion. Perhaps I think like this because I've been spoiled by those great running books of decades past. To those who would like to get some of the books I've mentioned I'd suggest you continue to look online and never pass by a used bookstore without going inside.Take it from me,you may find a book that is going for a $100.+ online selling for two dollars on some grungy bookshelf.
I call it modern day treasure hunting for those who live for the run.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Something to Think About,pt.4

Unhappy with how you've been running or racing? Consider these words by Percy Cerutty from his book, Athletics: How To Become A Champion: "Prove him (the athlete) a failure after his career is finished; while there is life there can be some hope of singular success."

The common quality you find among people that achieve success is that they are persistent.If they encounter failure or become discouraged along the way,they recognize that this is only a temporary condition.That is because those who truly want what they profess, will re-evaluate,regroup and then continue on; renewed and revitalized in their quest to achieve their goal.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Angry Al's Advice

Years ago some friends and I used to do our Sunday long runs at Chesnut Ridge Park outside of Buffalo,N.Y. In the group of five or six runners was Al, a 2:50 marathoner who during the course of our runs, used to entertain us with his views on running,politics and life.Inevitably,the further we got into these runs the more critical and cynical he became, hence,the nickname angry Al. Even though I have moved from the area I still keep in touch with Al. Shortly before I started this blog I called Al to let him know what I was planning to do and to seek his opinion. True to form,he kiddingly(I hope) said; "great,just what the world needs,another running website." However, he was kind enough to send along some suggestions of things I should never do. Here they are as I remember them: "1.Don't bore me with daily posts on your mileage and how you are getting into the best shape of your life or some other crap like that.Doubt me? Then let me ask you this,how'd you like to read the blow by blow details of my workouts day after day? I don't care if you're an elite runner or not,it's boring. 2.Don't try to tell me how the newest running fashion trends are things I should have.That goes for things like arm sleeves(arm warmers) or those sissified knee high running socks. If I got two drawers full of long sleeve running shirts and two Gore-Tex running suits,then what do I need with those things? Runners need to admit to what they are, vain attempts at looking cute." I should add here that Al has never gotten over spending too much money on a heartrate monitor a few decades back that he used twice and gave away because he found it a "pain in the ass" to use.
3." Spare me with the hyping of books that claim to have a new and revolutionary way to train. Sorry,you can't reinvent the wheel,there isn't a new way to throw or catch a ball,so I'm supposed to believe there is a new way to train for distance running? It's base conditioning,strength conditioning and sharpening,that's how it is and always will be.
4.Please don't tell me about new foods, supplements,etc. that will improve performance. I've seen them come and go over the last 35 years. All are designed to pick your pocket.The only major advancements have come through the production of the Powerbar and Twinlab's Ultra and Hydra Fuels." Once again let me add here,Al has not forgotten that he,before the Revco-Cleveland Marathon, jumped on the carbo loading before a marathon fad and got so sick that he couldn't run it.
5."Lastly, don't bother with the, there is a resurgence in American men's distance running going on stories.Outside of Lagat,a naturalized U.S. citizen, and that Polish kid,there's nothing going on.If anyone doubts me then check the best in the world lists and the results of the most recent World Cross-Country Championships.While I'm on the subject,if I read another story on how some U.S. shoe company is funding camps and programs that are allowing our athletes to dedicate all their time to training and we are about to regain world rankings I'll puke."
Now you see why we call him Angry Al,he does bring up some interesting points though.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food,Diet and the Distance Runner,pt.1

Probably third on the list behind religion and politics of ways of starting an argument would be to bring up issues relating to food and diet.To help illustrate this point I'll tell you about something that happened to me recently. I posted on a vegetarian forum facts that pertained to veganism,facts that stated that a diet comprised of no fish or animal products was not condusive to living a long,healthy, vigorous life.One of the many things I brought up was the fact that we see no evidence of people, past or present,who followed a vegan diet living long, healthy lives. I added that I was referring to "regular",everyday people like us,not supposed groups of people who lived thousands of feet above sea level and whose air and water were pristine.Well,the response I got was remarkable,or better put,hateful. You'd have thought that I had criticized them personally.What I would like to briefly address is, what about food,diet and the distance runner?Is there a special diet we need to adhere to or does it even matter what we eat since we are so active?
Let me start by saying that I just read that 63% of Americans are either overweight or obese. That's shocking. It's shocking when you also consider that billions of dollars are made yearly on weight loss books,programs,equipment and related materials.The answer to this problem,as well as advice for the runner as to how they should regard food and diet comes in the form of a quote and a word. There is a quote that says: "there's nothing new under the sun." The word is, simplicity.I will add that many of the things that were once viewed as food faddism have now been accepted as the way to go. I point to things like the recognition of the value of whole grains,minimizing fat intake,eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on processed foods as proof of that statement.Here is a quote by Percy Cerutty from his book, Middle-Distance Running written in 1964:" Make it a rule--eat to live,not live to eat.Nature cannot be fooled.Nature never excuses ignorance,gluttony or drunkenness.For the many,food is something we place in our mouths,mostly without thought as to its effects upon us. The principle that should govern our eating is merely this: eat all foods as close to the state they are found in nature as possible." Percy studied diet and nutrition for decades and came to realize that there were basic principles in this area just as there are basic principles that must be adhered to in other ones.He also taught that being an athlete was not an excuse to eat whatever you want.
The advice he gave is the essence of simplicity, with no complicated schedules or gimmicks.
The only thing it lacks is the resolve a person must have to recognize and see the truth that is contained in what he and others came to understand about food,diet and nutrition.This resolve must also include the desire to act on what is learned. Sadly,it appears as though most of society now lacks that desire.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Injured,What Next?

Being injured,the dread of every runner. I'm sure it has happened to all of us at one time or another over the years. It is not my intention to provide familiar, what to do and how to treat information. The reason for this is because over the last few decades we have seen the publishing of truly excellent books pertaining to how to diagnose and what to do when you get injured.What I want to offer here is some things to keep in mind after you sustain an injury.
Those of us who live for the run realize that most injuries are a result of what is called overuse.Things like too much mileage too soon,too much intensity or overracing are the common culprits that cause us to be injured. Also,bad running shoes,continuing to run in worn-out ones and running in shoes that are just plain wrong for the type of runner we are, can lead to an injury.So what do we do when we first get injured? First off I would say,determine what brought you to the point that led you to be injured. The reason for doing this is obvious,you don't want to go out after you recover and do the same thing that got you there in the first place.Haven't we all known runners over the years that seem to be habitually injured? What's the cliche? "If one doesn't learn from their mistakes, they are doomed to repeat them."
Something else,and this should be obvious,don't try to "run through" your injury.If it hurts to run,don't run. I read somewhere that if you don't do any physical exercise for a week you lose 5% of your fitness level, after two weeks it was something like 10% and then after that point the drop-off increased dramatically.Another suggestion would be, if you get injured don't immediatedly call the Doctor. Now, let me add this disclaimer,if you have chest pains or trouble breathing, of course you seek treatment immediately. I'm referring to orthopedic and related injuries here.I can't tell you how many times I went to a physician many years ago for running injuries and his prescription was; rest,ice and motrin. I needed to go to a physician to find that out? Something else,keep things in perspective. Your injured,you're going to have to take some down time,do some rehab and find a suitable physical alternative to running.It's not like you(or me) are getting set to run the Olympic trials or something of that magnitude.Every weekend,month and year brings another race.Sure it is disappointing to miss a planned race but part of being tough is accepting,adjusting and moving on. The great thing about the improvement in technology is that there are a variety of things you can utilize to maintain fitness while recovering from an injury.In the "old days" it seemed like all there was,was a stationary cycle.One last thing I would suggest is that if you find you have the extra time while rehabbing,use this time to work your mind. Read things that strengthen you mentally as well as physically.Don't allow yourself to be someone who is one dimensionsal,a person who only works their body. If you look at some of the quotes by the greats of athletics,you will repeatedly read of the necessity of being trained intellectually as well as physically.This is how you become the complete athlete.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Something to Think About,pt.3

"It's important to enjoy what you do in life and not just concentrate on making money. After all,who wants to be the richest man in the cemetary." Quote by Arthur Lydiard from a Feb. 1987 interview in Running Magazine (British edition).

It's easy these days to get caught up in a lifestyle that controls you instead of you being the one in control.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Revisiting "On the Edge"

I wonder how many readers recall the 1985 running movie "On the Edge" starring Bruce Dern?An avid runner who according to his bio ran many ultramarathon races,Dern had a desire to make a realistic running movie.It was only because of Dern's financial backing, his Hollywood influence and promotion that it was ever released.After a period of several years I watched it again the other night and came away thinking it's probably one of the best running movies I've ever seen.
This movie tells the story of a former top U.S.runner banned from amateur competition during the '60's for taking illegal payments. For those too young to remember,there actually was a time when taking something as trivial as a pair of running shoes as a gift could lead you to being banned from competition. For reasons known only to himself,Wes Holman,the character played by Bruce Dern,decides at age 44 that he wants to make a comeback by running a prestigious, yet grueling, trail/mountain race in California.I should say at this point that if you are looking for a polished "Without Limits" type movie you may be disappointed. This is a reflective and compelling study of one man, who in returning to the sport he loves, is also dealing with a variety of issues,not the least of which is,questions about personal integrity and the worthiness of sacrificing for what you believe in. There are lots of incredible running shots of Dern making his way through the hills and trails while training. The other thing I particularly loved about the movie was that it shows the respect and comraderie real runners (distance) have for each other that comes from a shared love for the sport.The ending of the movie further demonstrates this truth. As a sidenote,I also loved what they did with the timeclock at the end. After watching it, I thought to myself how unlikely a movie such as this would have being made today. I am very thankful that Bruce Dern put together a film that he once described as a labor of love.

You can still get this movie used online at a reasonable price,new is quite expensive.People have told me that you can rent it through Netflix or sources like that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Something to Think About,pt.2

Kenny Moore is one of the two best writers when it comes to the subject of anything having to do with running,the other is John L.Parker. As you may know, he was a great runner whose accomplishments included being a member of the '68 and '72 U.S. Olympic marathon teams as well as a six time consecutive winner of the prestigious Bay to Breakers race. I should also add that he finished 4th in the 1972 Olympic marathon.
What follows is a quote from an article he wrote in Guide to Distance Running,(1971).
"The enduring satisfaction of distance running is not in records that will eventually be broken,not in knowing that you were the best or ran well on a given day. It lies in knowing that you learned how to be brave and do something better than you first thought you could,and perhaps in knowing that you surprised a few people along the way."
A recurring theme of those who have allowed themselves to look at distance running as being more than simply racing and pr's, is the discovery that it can offer so much more to the runner.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Lesson of Ron Daws

If you were to ask most runners today who Ron Daws was they would probably say something like, "who"? Ron was a distance runner who was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team,he also wrote one of my favorite all-time running books,The Self-Made Olympian. Part autobiography,part training guide,this book is unfortunately out of print. I have seen used copies selling on the internet for $70. and more. Fortunately, I found my copy for $5. in a used book store in Ithica,N.Y. years ago.
So what makes this book so good? You'll soon see as I give you some of the highlights from this great book.
Ron writes that he really began to run seriously as a freshman in high school where he competed in cross country and track. His running continued through college where he had one,two and three mile bests of 4:30,9:43 and 15:22. Before I go on, let me say what most of you readers realize, that these times are not what you would expect from a future Olympian.To say they are unremarkable would be an understatement.Now, let's take a look a look at what he accomplished during his career:
1.Held the American records for 15 miles and 25 kilometers.
2.Four top ten finishes in the Boston Marathon.
3.A member of the Pan-American Games marathon team in 1967.
4.Qualified for the 1968 U.S. Olympic marathon team by finishing third at the trials race in Alamosa,Colorado. In doing so he beat several world class distance runners who held much better credentials than he.
5.Finished 22nd at the 1968 Olympic marathon.
After looking at the accomplishments listed above,one would have to ask,how did he get from being what appeared to be an average runner to one who became an American record holder and Olympian?
What made Ron Daws so special? Throughout the pages of his book the answers are given,answers that we can utilize to achieve our running goals. To those who believe you must have the genetics to succeed in athletics Ron said this: "I realized my physical talent was limited."
His quest began after watching Abebe Bikillia in the '64 Olympic marathon,Daws decided he wanted to make the next Olympic team.He then set a sequence of goals he wanted to achieve that would lead up to his ultimate objective.He began by formulating a training system that would prepare him physically.Ron was a big believer in the Lydiard system,about which he said: "Lydiard developed basic concepts 25 years ago that still remain the latest word in conditioning.....The whole purpose of his build-up was to prepare the runner to survive the grueling workouts and time trials that lead up to the racing season." Message to us runners,pick or devise a training system if you have racing aspirations.
Ron also believed in paying attention to all facets of his racing and making adjustments when necessary.This included everything from acclimating himself to the heat and altitude, to customizing a pair of running shoes he bought from,believe it or not,J.C.Pennys'. He says: "I paid more attention to details than the others and was willing to pay the price required. Beating the odds is not all enthusiasm and hard work. It's also devising detours around seemingingly insurmountable obstacles." Stop for a moment and really consider the truth of what this man just said,it's so true.
Then there was Daws' attitude,he would not be deterred from reaching his goals. He said this:"It's just a matter of how badly one wants to get to the top. The ones who find it too much trouble devise excuses. In the end, it just means they really didn't want it. Ron then says: "Running is made in men's minds,it's owning the feeling that no matter what,nothing can stop you. No runner is so untalented that he cannot improve vastly enough to beat the more talented ones whose approach is less intense...who knows,you may venture into worlds never dreamed of."
Whew,that's intense. The big lesson you learn from Ron Daws is that the only thing that can stop you from success is yourself.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thinking About a Running Revival

While out on a run the other day I got to thinking about how distance running was so much more popular in America back when I was growing up than it is today. I grew up watching guys like Tom O'Hara, Jim Grelle,Gerry Lindgren,Jim Beatty, and 0f course,Steve Prefontaine. Track meets were the highlight of weekend sports shows such as the Wide World of Sports. The runners I mentioned,as well as others, inspired me and thousands of others to become involved in distance running. I look around today and see how much things have changed in regards to running. Reports indicate that overall,across the nation,distance running is way down on the list as a choice for kids who get into sports these days. If you don't get ESPN then you will probably never see a track meet or major marathon,forget about having the opportunity to see what I believe is the best sporting event,the World Cross Country Championships. I realize that there are certain parts of the country that thankfully still cover the local running scene but the national media has in recent decades developed an unhealthy preoccupation with almost every sport but distance running. Professional football,baseball,hockey,golf and basketball as well as collegiate football and basketball dominate all facets of media coverage. Oh,I forgot to mention NASCAR,what's with the heavy media push on this "sport" over the last 10 years? This formerly regional activity has been promoted incessantly.
So why has the sport we love been relegated to the back pages of most newspapers and virtually disappeared from television? I believe there are a few reasons,some I know and some I may not. First and foremost I think it all boils down to money. There is big money to be made off the major pro sports from attendance,television coverage and related merchandising.As they say,money talks. In the media,it's all about the money. Track and distance running are only going to generate so much revenue and it pales in comparison to the professional and major college sports.
Probably the second reason why distance running gets so little attention is that we have been lacking a charismatic America runner who can capture the attention of this country and media. Steve Prefontaine did, and that was not just because he was an electrifying runner,he also promoted the sport and fought for runners to be compensated for devoting their lives to the sport. Many forget that the rules and regulations on amateur athletes back then were beyond what you would call unreasonable. Also,recall what happened after Frank Shorter won the Olympic marathon in '72? It set off a huge running boon in that decade,the benefits of which are still being seen today. I would say that the last two American distance runners who have generated a lot of press would be Mary (Decker) Slaney and Alberto Salazar.It was interesting to watch how the media covered Alberto when he lost his first big marathon in Rotterdam.I am mentioning this because it appears that most of today's sport's media doesn't even understand the nature of running and how it relates to competition. I believe he came in 4th or 5th at Rotterdam against the best runners in the world yet the press acted as if he had failed miserably. They had no clue as to the fact that this happens in distance running to the best of runners.You are going to lose eventually.Much later,after years of injury,Alberto came back and won the 52 mile Comrades Marathon in record time and it barely got any coverage. This event by the way, held in South Africa, is one of the premier sporting events in the world. I personally believe it was the sports performance of the year by a U.S. athlete. Still,it was ignored on most year end, sports highlights of the year.
The logical question is,will we ever see a return to the days when running got the coverage it deserved? I certainly hope so but I doubt it. We are a different country now then we were when I was growing up. We're more sedentary, and as mentioned above,we have developed a preoccupation with other sports and interest in those sports is growing not diminishing. However,that does not mean that we simply give up. As we continue to run and encourage others to do so, we can attend and support the local road races as well as the high-school cross country and track events.I am sure there is more that we can do but this is a start in supporting the purest and greatest of all sports.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Something to Think About,pt.1

"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." Quote by Percy Cerutty.
The above is the essence of Cerutty's philosophy,sure there was more to it but this was at the core. If you doubt the above I say give it a try. Let me add that I don't mean you go to the crowded local park and do a couple of miles along the bike path. Seek out an area that hopefully is somewhat secluded and has a long trail system or a mountain area that has trails,go there early in the morning and do a long run. You will then understand what he is talking about. Cerutty also believed that training should not become routine and predictable,doing the same workouts over the same places day after day has a dulling effect on an athlete's mind,body and soul.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Learning From the Legends, pt.1

Herb Elliott was the 1960 Olympic champion in the 1500m, as well as a world record holder at that distance and the one mile run. His 3:35.6 at the Olympics set a world record that lasted for over seven years.He lost only once in his career and that was at age 14. As Percy Cerutty's most famous student, Elliott became the ideal of what a real athlete should be (see Coaches and Coaching, pt.2,Percy Cerutty).He retired at a young age and went on to be very successful in his post athletic life.Articulate and insightful,Elliott always has much to offer when interviewed. Here is what he said in response to an interviewer asking him if there is anything that runners can learn from his career: "Running is a tool by which you can learn alot about yourself and develop yourself both physically and spiritually as a person. That's the way it should be viewed. People who focus totally on the evident achievement of winning races or winning gold medals often are the ones that run into all sorts of psychological problems when they retire because they haven't fit it into their life.They shifted it out of their life and made it a selfish focus."

May we all learn from what Herb Elliott says above. There is more to be gained from running than just the physical benefits but we must be open and receptive to looking deeper.

Monday, January 3, 2011

For Those New to This Site

Since this is the start of a New Year and it may be the first time you have visited this blog,I'd encourage you to click the link on the right for 2010 and read the entry; First Post, What This Site is About. It is my belief that I can offer many things about running that you don't commonly find on the Web.

Keeping it Simple,pt.1

Sometimes while I'm out for a run I'll think back to what many call those,"carefree younger days." You know,the days when you had minimal committments and responsibilities,days when you could come and go as you please. For most, its an inevitable part of the aging process that we get married,perhaps have children and then assume such things as auto,credit card,rent and mortgage debt.For most,life also seems to become more complicated as we age. Those of us who live for the run are at some point in our lives presented with the challenge of balancing our running with these growing responibilities. How many of you have known guys you used to run with, people who seemed to be as into running as you are, just drop out of the running scene?This often occurred after a marriage,getting a full time job, or a house.I had friends who did and when I asked them what happened they would usually say rather sheepishly,"you know Dave,I'm older now,I got responsibilities." My response was always,"you mean you can't take 45 minutes a day or so during the week and maybe a little longer on weekends to do something you love?" They'd say, "yeah I know,I just don't know where the time goes...".
Here's some things I'd offer to those people who may be reaching that point in their lives where it seems all their time is spoken for.Lets start with your significant other; if your girlfriend/boyfriend doesn't understand your love for running and devotion to it and that it is often a trouble point in your relationship,then you may want to reassess whether or not this is the right person for you.Think this sounds extreme? Well, if someone does not respect your participation in something that is an integral part of who you are do you really believe that,that mindset will not carry over into other areas of your relationship? If you don't, then I say dream on. Another thing,ask yourself,am I a free person? Seems like an absurd question doesn't it? But,many of you are,or have become slaves to paying for a lifestyle you can't afford and often don't even need. Ever know people who are buried under heavy debt, be it for mortgages new car payments or for things I call adult toys? People, who because of their expenses and lifestyle never seem to have time for themselves,where every moment of their time seems to be "spoken for", even weekends?
In closing I say this, at the end of the day, what do most of us want? We want to enjoy life,we want good health and good relationships. None of that is possible when you are operating under a daily burden of debt and overcommittment. Anything more depressing than talking to a former hardcore training buddy who says he lives for the two or three weeks he gets each year to vacation somewhere and get away from it all? For us who live for the run, that ain't living,that's existing. For those of you who may be approaching a lifestyle that you sense will be leading you down the wrong path I say, simplify! More on this subject in the future.

Regarding New Posts

Before I post today's entry entitled, "Keeping it Simple," I would like to say that due to work responsibilities,running,etc., I will usually put out new articles on Friday,Saturday or Sunday.I say this to give everyone a heads up so that if you visit this blog at other times and see nothing new you won't think its gone inactive.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Running Barefoot vs Running Shoes

One of the things that happened as a result of Christopher McDougall's excellent book,Born to Run, was that it ignited what I will call the barefoot running craze. Over the past few years there have been countless articles in the magazines and on the Web touting the benefits of running barefoot. In fact,there is a covering for your foot,I can't call it a shoe,made by Vibram Five Fingers that has become incredibly successful as a result of McDougall mentioning it in his book. You get the sense after reading all the info out there that running barefoot is the way to go.The reality,as it often happens with what I will call fads,is that this is not necessarily true.
There is no doubt that there have been problems with running shoes for years. Arthur Lydiard, who was a shoemaker early in his life and advised a few of the running shoe companies decades later,referred to the modern running shoe as "gumboots." He said they were heavy and restrictive to natural foot movement and too often were the cause of a variety of injuries. One time,in response to a runner who enquired about his pronation problems, Lydiard told him to take off his running shoes, take a run in the sand and see if he could see any evidence of his pronation problem. His point was,your shoes were the problem,not you. At a seminar that Lydiard gave back in the late '80's he surprised many in attendance by saying you should train in the same shoes you race in. It was the belief then that you trained in the clunky well cushioned shoe and raced in the light flexible one.Lydiard knew that running shoes should be light and flexible while providing some cushioning. He added that a simple test on most running shoes at the time of this seminar would reveal that they were anything but flexible.
You may know the following but for those who don't I'll say this,the foot is an incredible and complex appendage.It's made up of 26 bones,33 joints and 107 ligaments. When it has spent the last several decades inside a running shoe for some part of the day,the transition to activity without a shoe,as you might suspect,must be a gradual and careful one.There are many sources out there that tell you how to make that transition in a sensible,timely manner and I'm not going to go into that here. It is my opinion that running barefoot on things like concrete,pavement or blacktop at any time is foolish and asking for trouble.If you want to run over a football field,a golf course or on the beach, then that's a different story but a period of transitioning is still essential. Ultimately,something better than running barefoot has come from this craze or fad. In response to the heightened interest in barefoot running the shoe companies have started making lightweight,flexible running shoes. My goodness, once again, Arthur Lydiard was ahead of his time.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I was going to write about the barefoot running phenomenom today but decided that since this was the beginning of a new year maybe I would do something on New Year's resolutions. There's little question that making resolutions for the new year is not as common as it once was. In recent times the practice of doing so has been increasingly ridiculed. Many have replaced the phrase New Year's resolution with New Year's affirmations which to me gives the whole thing a new-age,feel good, no demand slant to it. The common reason provided for discarding these resolutions is because no one keeps them anyway. I don't know, does that sound like a good reason to you? I think for those of us who live for the run making resolutions are a great idea.
One of the definitions given for resolution in the American Heritage Dictionary is: "A course of action determined or decided upon."
As a committed runner,or as I like to say,a real runner,today might be a good day to examine things and possibly make a few of your own resolutions. Ask yourself some of these questions: Have you allowed your running to become sort of routine during this past year? You know what I mean by this, you run the same old routes because they're close and you know them. Have you tried to encourage other runners,especially the newer ones, that there is more to running than racing the local road races week after week? Have you tried taking them out for a trail or park run? I remember when I used to take the high school kids I coached at Canisius High School in Buffalo out for trail runs they would come back totally enthused and psyched about training and getting back out on the trails again.Something else to think about,have you,and this relates to the article on Percy Cerutty I wrote the other day, worked on your brain as hard as you've worked on your body? Or do you sit stupefied on the couch channel changing incessantly or watching and living vicariously through the lives of the overpriced professional sports "stars"? When's the last time you've read a book?
I could go on but I think you know what I'm getting at. I'll close with a suggestion,perhaps this will be the year that you make a resolution to challenge yourself. Pick something,it doesn't have to be something relating to competition which is what people think of when they consider a challenge in relation to running. Perhaps this will be the year that you go somewhere and run up a mountain or run a marathon in training or run for 2,4,6,or 8 hours through the trails or around a park. Think about it,challenge yourself.