Sunday, July 29, 2012

Aging,Running and Racing--It's More Than Just the Physical

Eveyone tends to focus on the physical when it comes to aging and racing. I can certainly understand why. That's because we experience certain things while running and racing as we age and these things can't be ignored. Declining speed,the need for increased recovery time and a tendency to be more easily injured are a few of the issues that arise as we get older.
Every runner has a different age where they realize that they are no longer that seemingly indestructable runner they once thought they were.For many though,this realization comes as a surprise because as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "Within, I do not find wrinkles or a used heart,but unspent youth."
I'm sure I am like many of you older runners out there, I believe I can still hit times at certain distances that I haven't hit in years.
In looking back, when we were young athletes we had a fear of failure. Many runners can become preoccupied with this fear,it can cripple them as athletes.As we get older,two things often happen, one is that we feel we are  capable of accomplishing certain things but are afraid to try.The reason for this may be due to an unwillingness to discipline ourselves and do the necessary hard work.But,perhaps the big reason for not getting geared up to take another run at  personal athletic success is that we become cynical,we tell ourselves that it just isn't worth it.
The fact is, is that it is worth it. It is every bit as worthy as it was when we were youths. This passion we have for running should not be allowed to be effected by the passage of time and the new challenges that aging brings.The key is to never give up, realize that when you rise to meet the new challenges and all that comes with it,you then experience life to its fullest.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pat Porter

The usual post for today will be delayed until tomorrow. I do this because it is so incredibly sad that Pat Porter died the other day. I should quickly add that Pat's son and his friend also perished in the plane crash that took Pat's life. Pat was the greatest American cross country runner this country has ever produced.He won 8 consecutive USA Cross Country titles. No American will ever match that record. He excelled in a sport that just doesn't get the respect it should. From his death we should always keep this in mind,tomorrow is promised to no one,live your life accordingly!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Often Looked Benefits of Doing Hills

Who out there doesn't know that hill training makes you a better runner? For instance, it's common knowledge that hill running strengthens ligaments and tendons. This of course reduces the potential for injury.
One writer noted:"Training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your  stride, expands stride length and enhances your running economy.There is no question that running hilly courses and doing hill training will make you a healthier, stronger and faster runner". What follows are a few other benefits you may not have heard about:
Studies done at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that "after 12 weeks of twice weekly hill sessions, the athletes running economy had improved by 3%, this improvement would have helped them take as much as 2 minutes off a 10 mile time or 6 minutes off a marathon."
They also discovered that runners who trained on hills have a significantly higher concentration of what are called aerobic enzymes.These are the chemicals in your body that allow your muscles to work for long periods of time at high intensity without fatigue.
And finally:"Those who run on hills have been shown to be less likely to lose fitness when they take time off from training. Scientists believe that hill training can improve the elasticity of muscles,tendons and ligaments, allowing these tissues to carry out more work with less effort and fatigue."
It looks like it's time for some of us to head for the hills.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pardon the Interruption, pt. 2

Moving back to the woods, leaving the ocean, more to come soon.  It wll take awhile to set up my internet connection.  Next post hopefully will be this Tuesday,make that Wednesday(July 25). 
Go long Sunday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bill Rodgers......Again

I believe Bill Rodgers is one of two U.S. distance running icons we've had in modern times,the other being Frank Shorter. Lengthy careers filled with a multitude of wins give credence to my assertion. We will never see two U.S. runners who perform so well on the world scene again.As I have said before,there never was a better ambassador for distance running than Bill Rodgers. Outgoing and approachable,Bill stands in contrast to the athletes who predominate the sports world today. The other thing that is so great about Bill is that he loves to run.Who can't relate to his quote: "I want to run until I cannot run."
Consider some of these quotes from Bill:
"To be a consistent winner means preparing not just for one day,one month or even one year, but for a lifetime."
How true that is.As Lydiard said, seeing optimal results from a good training system takes years. Also, for those who dream of success in this sport,distance running becomes a part of your lifestyle. While others may talk of their 401k's or the latest stock news,you are relating how next week you're catching a flight to Myrtle Beach to run a marathon.
Another great insight from Bill: "I often lose motivation but it's something I accept as normal."
I wish I'd heard that years ago. Back then I would become very rattled when I would occasionally feel totally fed up and unmotivated.Little did I know that others felt the same way.
On competition:"My whole feeling in terms of racing is that you sometimes have to be aggressive and gamble."
For many of us,there is a tendency to play it safe and just hang on,especially towards the end of a race.When we are fit, there is really no excuse to do so.
Look for more wisdom from Bill in the not too distant future. If you haven't done so previously,go to his website entitled, the Bill Rodgers Running Center.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why the Kenyan Distance Running Dominance?

I probably could have entitled this "Why the African Distance Running Dominance?" but it's the Kenyan male runners who've had the greatest success in distance running in recent years.For instance,20 of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon since 1988 have been Kenyan.Naturally, there has been speculation for ages as to why this is so. I'm sure we've all heard the stories about Kenyan children running miles to and from school everyday. The inference is that this conditions their young bodies aerobically so when they get older they are just about ready to become champions.This story however has been discounted in recent years due to the fact that research doesn't validate it.When 20 Kenyan race winners were questioned,14 said they'd walked or had ridden the bus to school.Personally, I always assumed that people being born and raised at 8,000 feet above sea level were going to be aerobically fitter.This belief was also dismissed by researchers because they cited other places of high elevation in the world where no world class runners have emerged.So, what is the reason for the Kenyans ongoing phenomenal success in distance running? Researchers have come to find that it may be due to genetics.However,in these politically correct times, many westerners have complained loudly that such assertions are racist.I suppose they'd rather continue believing the quaint tales of children running many miles to school each day while subsisting on a unique diet and enjoying superior health throughout their lives.Once again,the facts refute Kenyans having a better diet or superior health.
Here's what research from two European led studies have found and I quote the following from an article written in The Atlantic magazine: "Studies have found significant differences in body mass index and bone structure between Western pros and Kenyan amateurs. The studied Kenyans had less mass for their height,longer legs,shorter torsos and more slender limbs.They wrote that these traits would make them more efficient runners,especially over long distances.Also, running would be less energy intensive."
On a related note consider this,studies have found that because of their bone structure,females are more prone to ACL injuries than males.This is a fact based on study and research. Following the logic of those who say that people who attribute Kenyan running success to genetic differences as being racist,would they then accuse others of being sexist who report on women and ACL injuries?
As one looks around this world you cannot help but notice that there are significant differences in the appearance and structure of the people who inhabit it.Isn't that one of the things that make this such a unique and interesting world? As the bumper sticker says: Appreciate and Celebrate Our Differences.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Listening To Lydiard

Lydiard was a wealth of wisdom on all things about and related to running.The man had a passion for the sport like few others I have seen.Consider the following written several decades ago:
"Successful training is intelligent training: intelligent training is knowing the why of an exercise,as well as the what and how."
One of the nice things that have happened in recent years has been the availability of information which explains what your training is supposed to accomplish. How many of you,when you were starting out,just did what the coach told you to do,or perhaps you just went out and ran? Knowing what you are trying to achieve in your workouts adds an importance and a purpose to your training.
"Once the fun goes out of training and racing,the true value of running to the individual has also gone."
This doesn't mean that training is always a joy but we must keep things in their proper perspective. I have seen dozens of people get into the sport with loads of enthusiasm only to crash and burn years later because they got hung up on performance and where they placed.They seemed to forget what initially drew them to running. One runner I knew would get very angry if he didn't reach the times he desired at the local road races. I finally said to him,even if you got that 36 minute10k you were shooting for,where does that place you in comparison to everyone else in the area? For those of you who may be like my friend,how many runners in the next race you're in will eventually be running in a national championship? Like I said,keep things in perspective.As nice as medals and pr's are,running is so much more than awards and prizes. The run is what really matters.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thoughts on the "World's Greatest Coach",Who it Isn't,and Who it May Very Well Be

As I have written previously,Runners World magazine performs a great service for thousands of runners and has been doing so for decades. Their website,to me at least,is far superior to the mag.However,they do often come out with what I believe are irrelevant articles as it relates to running. RW really stepped in it sometime in the 90's when they did a cover story on a certain U.S. exercise physiologist/coach and described him as  the "world's greatest coach." The outrage from informed runners was immediate.How could you say that a person who had never coached a world champion, a world record holder or an Olympic medalist,qualified for such a title? The controversy however, did cause me to consider who might be worthy.Not surprisingly,Arthur Lydiard readily came to mind but in all fairness, there are many other coaches who could also be considered.After awhile, I assumed that this was the type of discussion that could never be resolved.Then recently, I came across an article about a man who would have to be deserving of the title, "world's greatest coach." The reason? His athletes have produced the Olympic medals,world championships and the world records to validate such a claim.The man is Brother Colm O'Connell,an Irish priest who has his headquarters in Iten,Kenya. Now before you think,"well he has Kenyan runners to work with what do you expect?," let me add this point: there are dozens of other coaches from Europe and other countries around the world based in that same area.It's not like he has a lock on all the runners in the Rift Valley.
What makes this man special?What's different about him in comparison to other coaches? What follows are a few things I came across while looking into Brother Colm.
First off,he dismisses the thought that there are any secrets to his success,"people come to find what the secret is,but you know what the secret is? The secret is that you think there is a secret.There is no secret," he says.
The success of Kenyan runners over the years has led others in that country to follow suit hoping to find their way to a better life.Of course it doesn't hurt either that there aren't a multitude of sports the populace can engage in.
When former 1500 meter,mile,and 5,000 meter champion Eamonn Coghlan went to visit Brother Colm, he said that he was struck by the simplicity of it all.The simplicity of the training as well as the simplicity of the way they lived and the food they ate.Elliott's thoughts on simplicity and the athlete again come to mind. Coghlan also noted that the athletes train three times a day and that out of 18 or19 workouts in a week, only three could be described as all out.Building up the mileage is the focus.
The reality is,is that the Brother has no use for the technical aspects connected with the sport these days,measuring VO2 max, etc."Why must we analyze everything?" he asks. Colm's lack of rigidity in his training regimen is cited by one of his former athletes as being a reason for his success,"he understands people, their needs,their strengths and where they come from."
According to Brother Colm, what separates good runners from the world's best, is not just talent but mental strength. This is believed to be the key to his ongoing success, as one writer noted, he has the ability to spot the athletes "who have the right raw material and then help them hone it." From this point he works on the man,developing his confidence and psyche.
Sure, there are other things he does with his runners,like developing what we call the core and stressing the importance of a smooth,rhythmic gait,but,we keep getting back to a familiar theme, the keeping it simple and natural,avoiding rigidity in training,and the necessity of building aerobic mileage. All things we've brought up previously when referencing Lydiard,Cerutty and Van Aaken.Could it be that there is "nothing new under the sun" as far as training and running go?
With 25 world champions and 4 Olympic gold medalists so far,and we're not even counting silver or bronze winners here,it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Brother Colm O'Connell has the right to be called "the world's greatest coach." And to think,he refuses to collect any salary for what he does.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Consider the Following

Depending on where you live in the U.S.I'm sure many of you got your run in early to avoid the oppressive heat and enjoy the holiday. The following are some things to read and consider with the hope that they will inspire you along the way. The author is unknown.
1."It is very easy to be ordinary but it takes courage to excel."
As they say,"nothing ventured,nothing gained." Who wants to live a life of familiarity and no risk?
2. "Knowledge makes for confidence."
Know that your training was right for you,know your racing distance,know your course,know your competition.
3."Persistent people succeed where others fail."
Persistence is what separates the also rans from the successful people. Some people,and they are in the minority,refuse to give up.
4."Most everyone has more talent than they will ever develop."
A nice companion to #3.People tend to underestimate what they can accomplish.
5."Accepting defeat can be habit forming."
Have we come to accept performances that early on in our racing career we wouldn't have?
6."An opponent may be faster than you on a particular day but they should never beat you in fighting spirit and determination."
7."The key to success is a continuing enthusiasm for the sport."
Don't allow the rigors of training and racing to negatively effect the love you have for distance running.