Friday, November 15, 2019

Evaluating Yourself--Two Questionaires From Joe Henderson

While going through some of my running books recently I came across one written in the 70's by Joe Henderson. In it were some checklists that could be used to determine whether you were a serious runner or a fun runner. My first thought was, how hard is it to figure that out? But, many of  the questions do cause you to think and consider how you view your running.
 I will begin with Joe's questionnaire that asks if you are a Fun Runner and after most of his comments I'll add some of my own. Joe's comments are in quotes.
Are You A Fun Runner?
1."Have you started thinking of your daily runs not as training but as pleasant ends in themselves?"
A good starting point.Knowing how you view your running says a lot about the kind of runner you are.
2."If you still keep a running diary at all, is a time within five minutes, or a distance within a mile, accurate enough?"
In all my years of running, the majority of serious runners I've known, meaning over 50%, have not kept an actual running diary.That's not to say they don't jot down their daily mileage somewhere.
3."Do you run more by how you feel than by a detailed plan?"
4."Can you take time out in mid-run, stop early, or even skip a day without feeling guilty about it?"
It's a foolish serious runner who tries to gut out a run instead of stopping when he's hurting or feeling bad.Not doing so is a common rookie mistake.
5."However,when you must miss all or part of a run, do you feel like an old friend has left you for awhile?"
Hardly, because I know I'll  be visiting this "old friend" very soon.
6."Would you keep running as you do now even if you never race?"
If this was asked of me in my younger years I would say that I'd run as much as ever except that I would back off on the intensity.
7."Do you often decide whether to race when you wake the day of a race?"
I don't know many fun runners who would do that.
8."Do you race  without planning your pace?"
9."Can you run through a race at an easy pace and still feel good about the experience?"
That's part of what qualifies a person as a fun runner, not being overly concerned about finishing times.
10."Are you proud of your older, faster times--but not so haunted by them that you can't appreciate a race a minute per mile slower?"
There comes a moment in every serious runner's life when he has to take the time and evaluate whether or not the performance driven training he's been doing is still worth it.
Joe closes out the above by saying that if you answered yes to most of the above then you are a fun runner.

Are You A Serious Runner?
1."Is preparing for races your most important reason for running every day?"
No! It's a common misconception that serious runners qualify as being serious only because they run to race. My love of running is the reason I run as often as I am physically able.I'm sure I speak for millions of other serious runners.
2."Do you intentionally make your training hurt so you can tolerate the pain in races?"
No! It's just something that naturally goes along with the training schedule you follow if you are planning to eventually race.
3."Are you a high goal setter who believes a person's ability is limited mainly by his imagination?"
No! experience refutes that statement. I think of the great John L Parker's comment, and I'm paraphrasing here, the distance runner is the ultimate realist. This means his workouts show the difference between reality and his wishes.
4."Do you give up foods and drinks you like just so you can run farther and faster?"
Truly serious athletes will and do.
5."Do your athletic practices appear abnormal compared to the habits of your family and friends?"
Since I don't use altitude chambers,etc.,I'd say no.
6."Do you train with a group or team so you can run farther or faster than you would alone?"
On occasion, however, there is a certain kind of mental and physical toughness that only comes from training alone. It is an often overlooked component to a serious runner's regimen.
7."Is it important to you that you beat certain people or place a certain way in competition?"
Yes,that's why most compete in the first place.
8."Are you always asking yourself to go a little faster a little farther?"
Not usually,one should listen to their body and evaluate,look at the big picture.
9."Are you always comparing your current performances with past marks and expecting them to progress?"
Yes, but understanding that there will be times when I perform below expectations.
10."Do you think you must always stay a little bit dissatisfied with yourself so you'll keep trying to improve?
Absolutely not! That's a one way trip to unhappiness and a common rookie mistake. Take pleasure in doing well, let it be a validation that you are doing things right!
Joe says that if you answered yes to most of the above then you are a serious athlete.I say this in regards to Joe's assertion: his criteria are too rigid and shortsighted,my comments given below his explain why I believe this to be so.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Emil Zatopek--More than Just A Great Athlete

For years I didn't know a whole lot about Emil Zatopek. I was aware of the fact that he was a hard training Olympic gold medalist who ran with what appeared to be poor running form.
 I came to discover that he was much more than that simplistic perception. He was a kind,courageous person who was also one of the great runners of this past century.
 For those who don't know, Emil won 38 consecutive 10,000 meter races, he set 18 world records in distances between the 5k and 30k. He also won 4 Olympic gold medals and one silver.
I would be remiss not to mention that at the 1952 Olympics he won gold in the 5k,10k and marathon while setting Olympic records in each of those events.
I should ask this,what do you think the chances are of that ever happening again?
Oh yes,about that gold in the Olympic marathon,it was his first time racing that distance.
When I said Emil was courageous I wasn't only referring to what he did on the track. He spoke out publicly against a repressive Czech government and was condemned and persecuted for doing so.
He also had a knack of providing some interesting and provocative quotes.On the line before the start of the Olympic marathon he said this to some of his competitors, "Men, today we die a little."
I don't know about any of you but that is something I'd rather not hear before racing a marathon.
Emil was well aware of the essence of running when he said: "A runner must run with dreams in his heart,not money in his pocket."
 So much for being concerned with sponsorship,appearance fees and prizes.
On the reality of racing, "It's at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys." This last quote is one that can apply to life as well as the disappointments we may encounter in our running and racing: "What has passed is already finished with. What I find more interesting is what is still to come."
Well said.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ageless Running

As I was running a long loop through the trails last weekend, I felt much the same as I did running the Finger Lakes Trails 25 years ago. To me,nothing has changed mentally or physically.
I thought back to what Jack Foster once said regarding his running and getting older, I paraphrase: " I feel  I'm running as fast as ever but my watch says something different." In case you didn't know, in 1974 Jack set a master's world record in the marathon at age 41 with a time of 2:11:10
The following quote by Dr.George Sheehan(author of the classic book Running and Being) puts into words what I was thinking as I ran:
 "My fight is not with age. Running has won the battle for me. Running is my fountain of youth,my elixir of life. It will keep me young forever. When I run,I know there is no need to grow old. I know that my running,my play,will conquer time."
So true.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

On Physiological Testing and the Runner

I was reading awhile back where physiological testing was being done on some elite U.S. distance runners. The hope was that it would yield info that would highlight strengths, as well as the areas that needed to be worked on in order for the athletes to achieve optimal performance.
Decades ago former world record holder in the marathon(for 12 years),Derek Clayton, offered the following in response to what he thought about the extensive testing he had completed under the supervision of exercise physiologist Dr. David Costill.
According to Clayton, his test results were mostly unremarkable for a world record holder.He commented that he was happy that he hadn't been tested early in his career and been given those findings.
 He said: "Being tested would have eliminated the elements of the unknown. It would set limits that may only exist on machines that measure physiology rather than psychology.It is what a runner thinks he or she can do that creates success."
So true!
Derek closes with this statement that all of us should keep in mind, "Natural ability and determination are must haves,however, of all factors involved in distance running,I would say that the most important is determination."
Where most give up,successful runners and champions persevere.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Manfred Steffny: Regarding the Marathoner

As we are now into the fall marathon season, what follows is a description by German marathoner and author Manfred Steffny into what the sometimes forgotten benefits of being a marathon runner are,or for some,should be.
Too often the mental,physical and spiritual benefits of our training are overlooked due to our preoccupation with achieving excellence.Steffney writes:
"Civilization,hand-in-hand with its readily available poisons, is robbing man of innumerable physical perceptions: of the sensation and internal feelings through limbs and organs. Nowadays we are aware of our insides only when they begin to hurt yet the body is man's greatest resource. The marathoner has his body well under control. This gives him a decided advantage in his life. He knows how much he can do physically, and in many ways he's able to transfer his athletic abilities into the occupational or private sphere.
He becomes skeptical about blind acceptance of the automation of our lives and he is wide awake to assaults on the enviroment. The marathoner is aware that his car can take him quickly into beautiful running country,but he also knows that the auto is the reason he doesn't like to run around his own block.
The marathon runner counts his capital not in houses and cars,but in the reserves of his own body. Rising health care costs tell even the man who's nailed fast to the dollar that he is wisest to let overtime and penny-pinching go in favor of investing a few hours in his body."
The above,written in 1977, reaffirms many of the truths taught by Percy Cerutty.
For those of us who live for the run, we should never forget them.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Planning Our Training, Something To Consider

As we plan our training it is important to keep a few things in mind.
The great running coach Bill Bowerman articulates so well what we need to do as we formulate the plan and set our running goals.
He says: "I think a person can make the most of his running experience if he is enjoying it, if he has a plan, if his objectives that are realistic and if he carries on over an extended period of time. If he becomes tired of running,he should lay off for awhile.If he's still tired of it after that,maybe he ought to look for another activity."
Cerutty wrote, in so many words, that our training should not become like work.
To me, and I am sure most of you, running is a release from every day events and pressures. The last thing we need to do is add running and racing to our list of potentially stressful activities.
It's a sad thing when an athlete follows a training schedule that takes all the joy out of running. I'm sure most of us at one time or another have experienced this. Hopefully,with time, we come to realize that we can have it both ways, achieve optimal fitness without losing our enjoyment of the sport.
On a related note,too many people sabotage their running by not making changes to their training despite being repeatedly injured.
Be realistic in your planning, by doing so you can break the cycle of setting goals that you either give up on or don't come close to achieving.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Final Interview, Arthur Lydiard

I hesitate to say that the following is the final interview Arthur did before he died because it seemed as if he was continuously doing interviews.
With that said, it would not be a stretch to say it was one of his last ones. I've singled out portions of the interview that contain information I hope is unfamiliar to most readers. I'll put my "two cents" in here and there.
A reader has suggested to me recently that I should not assume that in this day and age every runner knows who Arthur Lydiard was. Quite simply, he formulated the basic fundamentals of distance training. They are time tested and rock solid principles.
He also coached many champions and world record holders. I would highly recommend that you read his bio on the Wikipedia page if you don't who Arthur is. It's brief but you'll get the picture as they say.
The interviewer begins by asking: How much stretching should a distance runner do?
Arthur: "You should do some,particularly when you do faster training.However,if you do lots of hill running or cross-country running,your muscles will be stretched."
A few thoughts come to mind regarding the above. If you are one who desires peak conditioning and/or racing excellence,you are making a serious mistake if you exclude cross-country and hill running from your training regimen.The benefits are irrefutable.
As an aside, I have known many runners who won't do cross-country or the hills because they:
#1. don't want to bother finding or travelling to a locale to do that type of training.
#2.the uneven footing and terrain are uncomfortable when compared to the roads.
As far as stretching? Personally speaking,I agree with Lydiard, it's need and benefits are overrated.There was a time decades ago when stretching was considered essential to a runner's ability to continue running injury free.All types of stretching routines,yoga workouts,etc., were being endlessly promoted in books and magazines. Sometime after, articles came out stating that runners were often doing themselves more harm than good by stretching improperly.
The reality is, for most, when beginning a run, you can warm or stimulate the muscles by doing some walking, followed by a period of easy jogging after which you start your workout. You should finish a workout by jogging slowly, then walking and ending it with a few basic stretches(quad and calf) familiar to most every runner.
If you talk to those in the running community whom I call the "old-timers", you will rarely find one who has found it necessary to spend too much time stretching.
Another interesting subject Arthur addresses, how many quality marathons a runner will be able to run? This subject was brought up because it was once believed,and may still be for that matter,that every serious marathoner(emphasis on serious)  has only a handful of excellent marathons "in him." Arthur responds to this school of thought. The interviews asks:
One elite marathoner said to me that he thinks there might only be about five good marathons in the body. Is there a limit an elite athlete should race at the marathon distance?
Arthur:"That's alot of rubbish. You can run more than that. That's the question of recovery. With so much money involved in marathon running today,some elite runners have run a marathon,picked up a check and moved on to the next marathon to get paid again without adequate recovery. That shortened their career. But, if you're careful about recovery,you can keep on running marathons and keep improving."
The above goes for us mere mortals too. I've known many runners who have started running road races less than two weeks after racing a marathon. As I've said before,just because your body may be able to tolerate doing so,doesn't mean you should or that it's good for you.
Interviewer:What is the most important component to marathon training?
Arthur: "The most important thing in running a marathon is muscular endurance.If you want to run a good marathon,you've got to do long runs.If you are a serious runner,it helps to go as far as 30 miles in preparation."
I guess the key words here would be,a seasoned runner, as well as a serious runner.It only makes sense that you'd have to have put in the time and the miles before going out for a 30 mile jaunt. Lydiard also advocated,for novices and those who were gaining in experience, running for a certain amount of time as opposed to counting miles.
I call it time out on your feet. I have found that in preparing for a marathon,that by going out for a run interspersed with some walking breaks for a total of 4 hours has been very effective. I should add that previous to this I had done some 20+ mile runs. Once again, you work up to that over time.
I close with some words by the Master that sums up what is needed to train successfully:
"If you want to be a successful runner,you have to consider everything.You have to take a long view and train on all aspects of development(anaerobic,aerobic,etc.) through a systematic program. It's a lot of hard work for five,six or seven years. There's no secret formula. There's no shortcut to success."
Athletes who aspire to achieve running excellence recognize that hard work is a part of the process,however,for those of us who live for the run,that work is a labor of love.