Wednesday, December 24, 2014

One Runner's Christmas Wish List

For most of us, Christmas always brings back a flood of memories from years past. Hopefully, they are good ones for all of you out there and you are in the process of creating lasting memories this year. As kids, we at one time or another had our lists of what we wanted for Christmas. What follows is my grown up Christmas list. In no particular order:
1. I want running shoes that are the same year after year. Here's what I'm talking about and I'm sure many of you can relate to it: I've been buying Nike Pegasus for several years, I always get last year's model so I can get them cheaper. Each year they are changed in some way,the 27's I bought were,at least for me, negatively different than the 26's I bought the year before. The 25's were great and the 26th Pegasus' were OK. The same applies to the Asic Tigers' that go up in # each year,some are excellent one year and some are just plain bad the next. And now that I'm on the subject of shoes, what's with the, "shoe runs a half size small" warning? Right or wrong,I always get the feeling that this is a red flag as to the shoe's quality.
2.I want a truly great running novel to be published,one that incorporates the essence of long distance running. By essence I mean the sometimes hard to describe quality of distance running that causes some of us to have such a passion for it. Unfortunately, running novels are too often about someone going through various trials and then eventually competing in a national championship or the Olympics. You know,very formulaic stuff as some would say.
3. I want Yiannis Kouros' book to find an English language publisher. Let's see,the greatest ultra-runner of all-time,unquestionably,and he can't get an English language publisher? What is wrong with that picture? I will temporarily step out of my, "this is not a vanity blog" policy and say,in the 90's I attempted to find a publisher for his book,at his request, and was stunned by the lack of interest I encountered. It all basically came down to one problem, they didn't believe it would sell enough copies to warrant publication. For those who don't know the phenomenal personal records, and number of records Yiannis has set, do a search on the web and you'll be astonished. Begin with his record of 303km in 24 hours for starters.
4.I want a charismatic American born long distance runner to emerge who is able to compete with the best in the world. How 'bout another Pre,Shorter,Rodgers,Benoit,Slaney, or Salazar for starters? With this emergence would come a renewed interest in distance running in the U.S. Oh yeah,send along another charismatic coach like Arthur Lydiard,Bill Bowerman or Percy Cerutty while you're at it.
5. I want one more season of optimal running fitness and ability to race in peak form. That means no injuries and no interruptions in training.Come on, it's not as if I'm asking to be like the otherworldly and phenomenal Ed Whitlock.
6.I want new and challenging places to train.Preferably courses with trails and lots of hills that go on forever. If I must run on the roads may it be ones with minimal traffic and varying degrees of elevation.
7. I want a great running mag that I look forward to every issue that comes out.Remember when you used to anxiously await the arrival of a new issue of your favorite magazine? I do. You know what I'm talking about, a mag that has to do with distance running, not one that is filled with articles on cross-training,food,diet,dressing for bad weather,most beautiful marathon courses in the U.S., and 300 pounders that lost weight and have run marathons. Hey, I'll settle for an existing running magazine taking a small part of each issue and republishing their archived articles,interviews, and profiles from 30+ years ago.
8. I want more athletes like the one pictured in today's post,John Landy. Men who are not only great athletically, but men who possess intelligence,sportsmanship, integrity and dignity.Who hasn't read enough of the boorish,self-centered athletes from different sports that seem to predominate the athletic world these days? By the way,if you don't know much about John Landy,read the Wikipedia profile on him for starters.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cerutty on Training

"Too many merely train; they have no considered plan. They aim at little consciously and wonder why they get little spectacular improvement--perhaps fail to get improvement at all! Such experiences are due to a lack in the 'intelligence department' of the athlete. He is not alerted to his needs. he wanders through his training tasks somewhat aimlessly. His is the approach of the zombie. Athletics teems with them.
Cerutty always stressed that a truly serious athlete must be a thinking athlete, one who is working his brain as well as his body.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cerutty on Marathoning

"Little or no training should be done on the bitumen or concrete roads.I am one who does not believe that the body can ever get used to running fast with free movements if it is trained on hard artificial tracks and roads.It is bad enough that the athlete has to race on such mediums: to me another illustration of how far intellectual decisions made by officials differ profoundly from the conclusions arrived at by serious experimenters and knowledgeable performers.The marathon man must watch that his musculature does not respond to his type of training by a shortening of his stride and the development of a restricted gate that almost completely inhibits the possibility of being a a free mover with commensurate high speeds." Comments by Percy Cerutty.
And you thought that running on the roads and hard tracks only caused undue stress on your knees? As a sidenote,years of running and training on hard surfaces also greatly increases your chance of having back problems.If you desire a long healthy running life you should make it a priority to seek out parks and courses that have hard packed dirt surfaces.
Perc's above comments were made in reference to marathon training.He wanted runners to be wary of the restricted,shuffling gait that is sonetimes adopted by athletes who do alot of long easy runs.It was his desire that marathoners run smoothly and efficiently,maintaining good form.
Interestingly,although written sometime in the late 50's,Cerutty had very definite opinions on who should and shouldn't run marathons.Again,keeping in mind the era and mindset of when this was written,he said those who run a marathon just to finish it "tend to make a burlesque of one of the toughest events in any sport any man can compete in." Whew!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Old-Timer's View of Today's Road 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, often times for the better. I believe anybody who 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."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cerutty on "Hibernating"

I don't mean to be critical,think of this as an observation with a question: why is it that everywhere I turn I see people talking on cellphones? Be it in the car,going into a store,in the store,going out of the store,walking down the street, I see people on cellphones. What is most disturbing is the number of people I see texting while driving.There is no doubt in my mind that cellphone use is habit forming, and to many,addicting. However the purpose of today's post is not to rant about cellphone use and abuse but it did give me the idea for what you are about to read. Today we consider the necessity for athletes to "hibernate" periodically,to get away from it all; away from the noise and the busyness of everyday life. Cerutty addresses this subject quite nicely in the following excerpt from one of his early writings.
"Few or no animals would appear to function without periods of rest. Many have periods of hibernation. Man can benefit similarly.For many years I practiced this principle.At least twice a year it is good to get away from it all.This does not mean tearing off to some social place for a round of fun. Hibernation is when we go to some remote place and rest.I conceive it as perfect when we assume a hut or cabin,with or without companions,where we are 'snowed in'.There is food,firing,books.We lie about,resting alot; eating a little,reading resting,dozing,perhaps chatting a little.After two or three days a man will leave and return to 'civilisation' like a giant refreshed."
To the above I'd add that your place of hibernation should have no TV or other electronic conveniences like radios and cellphones.If you do bring someone along with you make sure that they understand fully what is,or better said,isn't going to be happening.Solitude and having the opportunity to think and rest allows you to "recharge your batteries",to consider things you might never have considered if you hadn't taken the time to "hibernate".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Favorite Running Books

Someone sent me a link to a list of the 50 best running books (thanks Jason), I always enjoy reading Best of Lists on most any subject. The thing that struck me about this list was the distinct lack of older running and related books. The following is my list of great running books, books I believe should be listed above any of the 50 on that list. In no particular order:
Self-Made Olympian Ron Daws, The Olympian by Brian Glanville, Athletics: How to Become A Champion Percy ...Cerutty, The Golden Mile aka The Herb Elliott Story,Herb Elliott, Running To the Top by Derek Clayton, Serious Runner's Handbook Tom Osler, Running the Lydiard Way Arthur Lydiard, No Bugles No Drums Peter Snell, Beyond Jogging Mike Spino, Van Aaken Method Dr. Ernst Van Aaken, most anything by Kenny Moore (Especially- Best Efforts), Runners and Other Dreamers John L Parker, Marathoning by Bill Rodgers and Joe Concannon, Pre by Tom Jordan, Middle-Distance Running by Percy Cerutty, Running To the Top Arthur Lydiard, Why Die by Graem Sims(Cerutty bio), I could go on but.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cerutty's Camp at Portsea

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."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cerutty's Athleticism: Walkin' the Talk

Cerutty said this regarding coaches--"Those who can't do, can't teach."
So what could Percy Wells Cerutty do?
Cerutty returned to competition in 1943, 24 years after his last race.The following is a list of 'best times' Cerutty ran when he was 50 years of age and over.  His last 'official' race was in 1950.

1 mile--4:54---2 miles---10:20---3 miles---16:57---4 miles---24:04---5 miles---28:45--

10 miles---61:05---20 miles---2:07:59---30 miles---3:34:00---50 miles---7:00:15---
60 miles- 8:28:50-100 miles---23:45:00---Marathon---2:58:11.

In 1957 at the age of 62 in an exhibition he ran the Mile in 5:32:05. At 68 he could run a mile in less than 6 minutes.

The following is from Middle Distance Running--Appendix xi--
"In his late 60's, the Author 'curls' over 100lb at a bodyweight of 130lbs. Dead-lifts over 230lbs, and is capable of 100 sit-ups and 50 Prone-presses as routine."

For many years Cerutty continued to train hard with his athletes from his International Training Center at Portsea in Australia.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wise Words From Cerutty

"Do not be discouraged because you may affirm that you were not born strong. It is true that some types seem to inherit the factor of physical strength,just as some seem to inherit more brains.However,life has taught me in very many examples I have known personally,that with some natural flair for anything at all we can achieve heights quite exceptional if we will only believe in ourselves, and do the essential work,find the true way."
"Indeed--those who are hell-bent to succeed are those who often do what others believe to be implausible or impossible ".  Percy Cerutty.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Diet and Courtesy

They say that a way to avoid the possibility of arguing amongst a group of people is not to discuss religion or politics. I'd tend to agree with that statement. However, I would add one more topic to the mix and that is diet, or more specifically, what type of diet someone embraces. What I'm referring to here are diets like vegetarianism, veganism, paleo, raw,etc, etc. Online you can see some of the nastiest and most hostile exchanges when people get into it over the worthiness of one diet over another.
The idea for the following article came about after to talking to someone who had been planning a large gathering of people for a dinner party. This person told me she was surprised by the number of calls she got from invitees who informed her of their particular dietary needs, or better put, restrictions. This one didn't eat this, that one only ate that, and so on. My friend, being the plain spoken type, said she informed the callers that they might considering bringing their own food because they weren't coming to the K and W (as in cafeteria).
This all got me to thinking of something Cerutty wrote in one of books, and as it is with most of what he wrote, it's as relevant today as it was when it was first written.
Consider the following:
" I do not believe our lives need be made miserable by isolating ourselves too much from the customs of our country, even in the matter of food. What is called for is some intelligent discrimination. There is never any need to offend the susceptibilities of a kind host by not accepting, and consuming, some item of diet that ordinarily we would not consume.
Nature can make amends for almost any or all indiscretions as long as such indiscretions are not habitual. Also, it is not proper to vaunt one's peculiarities publicly, nor are we called upon to proselytize our neighbor. If we are asked why we do certain things, a serious inquiry justifies a serious reply. Otherwise it is for the teacher, and lecturer, to advance public ideas on these matters of food and conduct. The athlete will be too busy developing themselves to worry overmuch about the habits and conduct of his contemporaries."

Well said!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Are You A Stotan?

By now, most readers to Stotan Runners probably realize that Cerutty taught more than just a particular way to train. He was the "whole package," his Stotanism was, and still is, about a way of living and how one views life. Throw in how one deals with life's challenges while we're on the subject.The following is a brillant essay on Stotanism written by Cerutty. I'm fairly certain most readers have not read this previously. It's for those of you who may be a Stotan, wanna be a Stotan, or want to learn what Stotanism is all about. Cerutty writes:
"A Stotan is one who hardens,strengthens,toughens and beautifies the body by consistent habits and regular exercises,which are consciously and irrevocably made part of the life plan of the individual,as well as consciously determining that the mind will be cultivated upon such abstractions as purity,beauty and logic. Erudition,in as complete a degree as possible,shall be the lifelong aim: Truth,in relation to all aspects of life,the unending search.
Stotans will,by virtue of their philosophy,be nature lovers,with a respect and appreciation of all evolved and created things.They will appreciate the sanctity of creative effort both in themselves and in others. They will strive to understand the significance implied by reality,will be able to discern the real from the spurious.
Stotans,for all the reasons that their philosophy stands for(viz:hardness,toughness,unswerving devotion to an ideal) would look upon the sea as their pristine element and endeavor to associate themselves with their primeval source of life by going into the sea at least once per month in all seasons of the year. No practice is more disposed to toughen,both the body and the morale,than this.
Stotans believe that neither the body nor the mind can be maintained at a high pitch of efficiency unless sufficient rest and recovery is maintained. Stotans shall so regulate their lives that at the end of a period varying with the intensity of the effort,each shall realize that they have attained,without conscious striving,to a state of knowledge,and a position of leadership in the community(editor:as several Cerutty trained athletes eventually did).It is axiomatic that only the pure can understand purity,only the cultivated appreciate beauty, and only the strong truly measure their strength. Therefore,only the self-disciplined can command genuine respect.

A program shall be aimed at which shall be designed to train each Stotan:-
a. withstand severe physical hardship,to accomplish feats of strength and endurance,to understand orderliness,and the true meaning of intelligence.
b.To know himself as an organism and a personality.
c. To emerge,eventually emancipated,from all dogmas,creeds and beliefs,as well as worldly and unworldly hopes and fears.
d. To habitually function upon the highest planes of thought and physical effort.
e. To place the objective of an alert,informed intelligence,and a perfected body,as primary in Life. And to arrive at the conclusion that all else will follow on.
f. To learn that on this basis the whole world,and all that it has to offer,opens out as a vision,splendid,normal and realisable.
g. To understand that Past,Futures,Fates,Fears,Death,Selfishness,Egoism,Pride,Envy,Hate,and Prejudice can be replaced by Intelligence that controls emotion,dominates destiny,manifests completeness,and exults in life.
h. To understand that in actuality,evolved man is a King,but without the trappings. That Kingship is his right and destiny. That we can make ourselves,in time,all that we would. That we honor real men but are subservient to none.
In addition,Stotans shall train themselves to withstand, stoically,personal criticism,also,skepticism as the necessity or wisdom of such a Way of Life. In this regard,Stotans soon learn they command knowledge,experience,and ability not available to the prejudiced,the ignorant,or the slothful.
There is no giving up throughout life. The first pre-requisite for a Stotan is tenacity.
To live this Way of Life can be hard. It is not for weaklings.It is the Way that is travelled by all the truly great ones.It requires strenuous effort of body and mind."
It would be an understatement to say 'Perc' was intense but the big question that comes to mind after reading this is, are you in control of your life? Are you happy with the way things are going?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Do You Have What It Takes, pt.1

There are certain traits that are evident in successful athletes.Many of us have the traits I'm about to list below but certain athletes have it to a greater degree than others. Cerutty believed in self-evaluation as being essential for those who desired to do well. The following is a partial list devised by Dr. Ogilvie of what he called championship characteristics.Examine Yourself!
1. Desire to win or be successful.
2.Aspires to accomplish difficult tasks.
3.Sets and maintains high goals for himself in athletics.
4.Responds positively to competition.
5.Desires to attain athletic excellence.
1.Willing to practice long and hard.
2.Works on skills until exhausted.
3.Often works out willingly by himself.
4.Persevering, even in the face of great difficulty.
5.Patient and unrelenting in his work habits.
6.Doesn't give up quickly on a problem.
I believe #6 is the key to running success, sticking with it well after the time the average Joe would have bagged it.
Mental Toughness
1.Accepts strong criticism without feeling hurt.
2.Does not become easily upset when performing badly.
3.Can bounce back quickly from adversity.
4.Can take rough coaching.
5.Does not need alot of encouragement from others.
I'm almost afraid to ask what rough coaching is. I used to wonder why professional boxers, when they were beaten convincingly,always seemed to come up with a rationale as to why they lost,some would call it an excuse.Perhaps # 2 and 3 listed under Mental Toughness is the reason. Yeah, I did poorly but............What is the alternative? I got whipped,he's just one of a slew of guys that can beat me. Once an athlete says and believes that his ability to compete is seriously below others, he is done as a competitor.

Do You Have What It Takes? pt.2

It is said that particular personality traits can be indicators as to whether or not someone will achieve success in athletics. Last month we examined a few of them, today we'll look at three more.Many thanks to Doctors Tutko and Ogilvie for the research they did on this subject several decades ago.Remember,these traits may be present in all athletes to some degree but stronger in those who achieve success. Obviously, the following is not the definitive survey on what qualities are needed for success, there are exceptions to what you are about to read, but, Tutko and Ogilvie did research this subject extensively. This article was taken from my Blog: To Run is to Live. Oh yeah, comments by yours truly will occasionally appear in parentheses after some of T and O's.
1.Believes one must be aggressive to win.
(Although there is the portrayal of the "laid back" distance runner this doesn't mean that they don't possess a fiery determination and aggressiveness.It is a mistake for those outside the running world to believe that only the contact sport athletes possess these qualities).
2.Releases aggression easily.
3.Enjoys confrontation and argument.
(An interesting finding,something I wasn't aware of but it definitely fits in with what,at least in part, constitutes aggressiveness).
4.Sometimes willing to use force to get their way.
(I can see already I'm falling a little short in the aggressiveness profile).
5.Will not allow others to push them around.
6.May seek to "get even" with people whom he perceived as having harmed him.
(I worked with a psychiatrist years ago who had contact with athletes who excelled in their chosen sports and he said that they were not always people of exemplary character,that often they were very self oriented).
1.Has unfaltering confidence in himself and his capacity to deal with things.
2.Confident of his powers and abilities.
3.Handles unexpected situations well.
4.Makes decisions confidently.
5.Speaks up for his beliefs to coaches and players.
(Such a necessary trait is self-confidence. Regarding #4, ever find yourself waffling on a decision you've made?).
Emotional Control
1.Tends to be emotionally stable and realistic about athletics.
2.Is not easily upset.
3.Will rarely allow their feelings to show and their performances are not effected by them.
4.Not easily depressed or frustrated by bad breaks,calls or mistakes.
(Not easily frustrated,patience is the key).

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Little Recent Stotan History, pt.1

Before I begin I should say that a better title for the following might have been--A Little Recent History of the Sotans, in the U.S.
Also, many have asked, just what does the word Stotan mean?  Stotan was created by Percy Cerutty, he combined the words stoic and Spartan. The word Stotanism encompasses his teachings and the way of life he advocated.

A Little Recent Stotan History
Back in the mid-1980's, Greg Walters gave me a Xerox that had a picture of Cerutty on it along with a brief description of what he taught and advocated.At the time we were both coaching at a Track and Field Invitational being held in Rochester, N.Y.I had never heard of Percy Cerutty before but was attracted to his message. Soon after I purchased a used copy of Athletics: How To Become A Champion and began following his dictates(as best I could). Trails and Parks took the place of concrete and tracks. I formed the Stotans, it grew and thrived, hardy turnouts were the norm at Chestnut Ridge Park. We raced with great success along the Finger Lakes Trails and other places.
The Stotans are still at it today. Although you don't have to be a member of "our club" to be a Stotan, you do have to believe and live Cerutty's teachings which are described fully in his many articles and books. Some of his essential teachings are: a highly conditioned mind is as essential as a fit body, a life can only be lived by doing, keeping all things natural and living for more than just having and 'getting' things.
I believe Cerutty's message is as relevant today as it was when it was first published decades ago. Taking a look around these days I'd say it's needed more now than ever.
It's always been my desire to get the word out on 'Perc' to as many people as possible. I'm very appreciative to all who have responded over the years.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Ideal Athlete

Perhaps the following would be most appropriate in referring to the competitive athlete.C.Al Huang wrote the following. The ideal athlete is:
Has the courage to risk failure,learn from setbacks and forge ahead.
Sees the event as a means to gain greater self-realization.
Knows his or her vulnerabilities and trains to strengthen them.
Sees success as one part of the process of sports.
Understands that performance is a roller coaster and has the patience to ride the ups and downs.
Enjoys the sport for the pleasure it gives."
The athlete who views his sport the way Mr.Huang details above is a thinking and sensitive person.Consider his reference to self-realization.You learn alot about yourself when you compete against others.Those who have seriously raced,or do so now,know what I'm talking about.You also become aware of your vulnerabilities and weaknesses along the way.
The runner who thinks his training and racing are strictly physical endeavors,something to push through with little thought,gain nothing in the mental and emotional departments.Consequently,this person loses out on the opportunity to grow as a person.
The ideal athlete knows failure and disappointment are part of the process,he expects it and deals with it when it comes from time to time.Who he is as a runner and a person is not determined by how he did at his last race(or workout).
The final entry says it all,"enjoys the sport for the pleasure it gives." The ideal athlete doesn't lose sight of that no matter how much success,or failure,he encounters.
The ideal athlete is a unique individual.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Old Runner Reflects: Going Out My Way

No slow decline or painful fade to black for me.
No,I want a night before filled with trading stories and drinking beer with my friends
Followed by a morning after run along an old forest trail under a misty overcast sky.
Let me feel that effortless glide as I go that only comes but once in a great while.
Just give me an hour,no make that two,as I cruise on down that increasingly dark trail
that will suddenly turn to light.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Person Who Thinks They Can

As we approach the fall racing season most runners will reflect on the months of preparation done prior and consider their readiness for "the big race." One's mental and emotional state will go a long way towards determining if a runner will achieve their goal(s). There are certain moments during a race when fatigue or pain can raise doubt in our ability to reach those goals. Football coach Vince Lombardi uttered this famous quote that probably most of us have heard before but is worth repeating: "fatigue makes cowards of us all." If that isn't a quote applicable to running and racing I don't know what is. So,if we've done the preparation for THE race and the weather is not a factor, then what else do you think could potentially sabotage your race? You guessed it, it's your head,your mind,the way you think.The following by Walter Wintle may seem simplistic to some but it brings up truths that need to be considered before a race which you have spent countless hours preparing for.

The Man Who Thinks He Can

"If you think you are beaten,you are;
If you think you dare not,you don't;
If you want to win but you think you can't,
It's almost a cinch you won't.
For in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will,
It's all in the state of mind.
For many race a race is lost
Ere even a step is run,
And many a coward fails;
Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you'll fall behind;
Think that you can and you will---
It's all in in the state of mind.
If you think you're outclassed,you are,
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins,
Is the fellow who thinks he can."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Aging,Athletics and Goals, 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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


"The athlete,through being trained and practised properly,will find that the mind can dominate the physical body,and he can maintain an effort long after other competitors have abandoned all hope of holding the speed required to win." Quote by Percy Cerutty.
"Percy helped me to world records not so much by improving my technique,but by releasing in my body and soul a power that I only vaguely knew existed." Quote by Herb Elliott.
A strengthening of the mind and will should be the product of a well planned training regimen.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Percy Cerutty--For Those Seeking Athletic Success

Consider the following by Percy Cerutty:
"1.Realization that,as Wordsworth the poet says, 'Life is real,life is earnest'.which denotes that there is no time for wasteful ideas and pursuits.
2.In place of wasteful hobbies there commences a period of supervised and systematic physical training,together with instruction in the art of living fully.This replaces previously undirected life.
3.Swimming will be done all year round.It is obligatory to swim in the open sea at least once every month. This especially strengthens the will and builds resistance to quitting the task ahead.
4.The programme implies the cessation of late hours.Amusements,both social and entertaining,should be reduced to a minimum and then only in the nature of relaxation from strenuous work..
5.To become a leader it must be accepted that the first requisite for leadership is being able to give wholehearted loyalty,obedience and support to the leader at the time.
I hold that the human being cannot be reduced to the status of a machine--and I attribute the success of the athletes who received their early training at Portsea on my specialized fartlek methods,not so much to the initial ability of the athletes,but to the form of training we favour at Portsea,and the terrain we train upon.The introduction of resistance in the form of sand and hill is too important to be ignored and the track can never fulfill the lack nor the scientific formula replace 'natural and instinctive' effort."
Words of Wisdom from the Master, they're still relevant and needed today. Keep your life and training simple and natural.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What It Takes

Dr James Loehr writes that there are nine qualities an athlete must have to attain athletic success. Read the following and evaluate how you stack up against the nine steps.The comments made below the numbered qualities are by Joe Vigil, the outstanding former distance running coach at Adams State College.
An athlete must:
"1. Be self-motivated and self-directed.
Motivation and direction comes from within.
2.Be positive but realistic.
The athlete's trademark is a blend of realism and optimism,with an eye always fixed on success,on what can happen and what is possible.
3.Be in control of his or her emotions.
Anger,frustration,and fear must be controlled or they most certainly will control you.
4.Be calm and relaxed under fire.
Athletes don't avoid pressure. They are challenged by it and are at their best when the pressure is on and the odds are against them.
5.Be highly energetic and ready for action.
The athlete is his own igniter and can do this inspite of fatigue,personal problems or 'bad luck.'
6.Be determined.
They are relentless in their pursuit of  goals.Setbacks are taken in stride as they move forward.
7.Be mentally alert.
Athletes are capable of long and intensive periods of total concentration.They are capable of tuning in that which is important and tuning out that which is not,regardless of the pressure.The athlete has attention control.
8.Be doggedly self confident.
The athlete must display a nearly unshatterable sense of confidence in their ability to perform well.They do not succumb to self defeating thoughts and ideas.
9.Be fully responsible.
The athlete must take responsibility for his or her own actions.There are no excuses.They must be fully aware that their destiny,as an athlete,is in their own hands."

An excellent comprehensive list with relevant,thought provoking comments by Vigil.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Self-Examination and Not Fooling Ourselves

Part of the process of becoming a champion,or at least achieving some degree of personal athletic success,is having the ability to look at ourselves in a critical way.Are we really who we think we are? Have we been doing the necessary work or have we just "been playing the game?" It's of course easy to find fault in others but not so easy when it gets personal.
Consider the following questions: how active are we in trying to improve ourselves? Except for the fact that we work out, are we basically living the same kind of life as the guy who is a spectator watching endless hours of television while eating and drinking whatever he wants? When was the last time you read a book,did some study on the science of your sport,went to a seminar or did the disciplines that could improve you physically as well as mentally? I've known alot of people who thought they were much more committed to athletics than they really were.                                                                                                                                                          
I know this sounds crazy but for those of us who seek athletic excellence, it's almost like a calling. Why else would we spend a great deal of time pursuing something that offers little or no financial gain and a minimal amount of recognition? The answer is that for most, it begins with a love of the sport. There's more though. It's also about something deep inside that wants it and it's an activity, for lack of a better word, that is as worthy to you as any other that's out there.
Cerutty touches on this subject as he tells us that we must evaluate ourselves.
"Thus it is far better to study oneself than to study others.When we have mastered ourselves as persons:accepted our weaknesses,and tried seriously and conscientiously to overcome them: when we have discovered by trial and error(such as by tests,pitting ourselves against standards) we can then have a chance of reasonably evaluating ourselves as against our fellows."
"When we have mastered ourselves"---that's a process that takes time and effort,but,it's a labor of love if you have a love for what you are doing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Finding the Way

Finding the way to athletic success, a quest of mine and millions of other athletes. I recall that at one time I bought into the 'you're born good' mentality, then I read about 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 the great all-time running books,The Self-Made Olympian. Part autobiography,part training guide,this book is unfortunately out of print. It is probably still available used on Amazon.
So what makes this book so good?
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 then that 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."
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."
It's not all about talent, it's about really wanting it, it's about finding a way, having the right attitude, using your brain as well as your muscles. That's the lesson of Ron Daws.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Stotan Way--Will Power

Your Will Power
George Hackenschmidt was a Russian born wrestler and strongman, as well as a fitness and strength innovator.Born towards the end of the 19th century, Hackenschmidt lived to be 90 yrs old.He was an example of the truth of what he taught regarding health and physical training.Cerutty was influenced and encouraged by Hackenschmidt and referred to him often in his writings,in later years they became friends.Described as a deeply spiritual(Editor:not in a conventional way) and thoughtful man, a writer said this about him:"George Hackenschmidt was the epitome of calm,self-assurance and inner peace,with full awareness of his own capabilities and thus like all masters,found no need for machoism or outward aggression. His tactic to win was skill and speed,born of confidence in his own ability." The proof of a truly unique and remarkable athlete is the one whose entire life exemplifies what he believed in and espoused. These days,after most athletes retire from competition, the majority move away from sport and on to the business of, well business, translation...making money. Although you can't blame them a bit for doing so,I hold special affection for people like Cerutty,Lydiard,LaLanne,Hackenschmidt and others who devoted their entire lives to helping others through training and athletics. The following is a quote by George Hackenschmidt and is a reminder as to what conditioning one's willpower can accomplish."The frequent employment of one's will power masters all organs of movement and trains them to perform feats which otherwise would have been difficult,painful and even impossible. The man becomes independent and self-reliant; he will never be a coward,and, when real danger threatens,he is the one who is looked up to by others. The knowledge of one's strength entails a real mastery over oneself; it breeds energy and courage,helps one over the most difficult tasks of life, and procures contentment and true enjoyment of living." It's not hard to see the similarity between the above and what Percy taught.What Hackenschmidt has to say is true but cannot be experienced unless we set about the process of developing our will power. For many,that should begin by understanding what will power actually means and all that it comprises. Self discipline and challenging oneself are the keys. The benefits as described by Hackenschmidt should be irresistible to those seeking to live life to its fullest.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Percy Cerutty--The Way He Sees It

Cerutty taught the necessity of staying relaxed while running and provided useful instruction on how to physically do so.In the following, which is a testament to his ability to think "outside the box," he provides some reasons for athletes not being relaxed.They are things that one would not usually consider but they should cause us to stop and think.If anything, the following is provocative.
"I go further,I hold that as long as people retain fixed prejudices,rigid ideas,and convictions,lack a sense of humour in their attitudes to themselves,their fellow men, and life in general,there must be,and will be,tensions which extend from the mind to the physical body and its movements.
So relaxation,in the last resort,if we would be perfect,depends upon,firstly,freeing the mind of all restrictive attitudes and beliefs,and adopting,if it is possible, the carefree(but not irresponsible) attitudes of the child,trusting in our instinctive likes and dislikes,responding to,and giving to others,kindnesses to others more than ourselves. In a word--living fully,freely,with as little restrictions upon our good impulses,in particular,as possible.
Never was it more truly said that to enter the athletic kingdom of heaven one must become as a little child."
Well Said!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This Stotan Life---Words to Live By

If you have read the Percy Cerutty bio,"Why Die," you learned about the poverty,depravation and illness he experienced during his childhood years.These hardships and the way he responded helped to mold him into the kind of person he became. Cerutty had the desire and perseverance to overcome many obstacles during the course of his life. A little known fact about him is that in 1945, at the age of 50, he became just the third Australian to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours.This was accomplished after years of poor health. Cerutty knows what he is talking about when he writes on subjects like obstacles, failures and overcoming. He offers the following: "It is said the darkest hour(in human experience) is just before the dawn. Be grateful if you have blundered: proved to be ignorant: made a mistake. It is only through such experiences that greatness can ever be achieved. When you experience frustration: discouragement: even a feeling of futility and hopelessness--it is then you should take heart: resist the temptation to abandon your objectives: to give up striving and trying. It is commonplace in human experience that--when we are about to abandon hope: when we are on the point of quitting--the miraculous occurs: we break through: we achieve(and what seemed only yesterday--the impossible)--the goals we dreamed of: but we must never have ceased believing and working towards those goals. In our moment of desperation something heartening occurs: the letter arrives: the invitation is received:we are added to the 'team'. So: never--whilst you breathe,whilst you have life,entirely give up hope: cease to try: abandon the search: cease doing. No one,until we have turned it,knows when we shall turn the corner, even which corner we may turn! But it is always well to remember: there is no road but has a turn somewhere: there is no problem but has a solution--if we can but find it: that there is no limit to what we may accomplish--at least whilst we have life in us." Perseverance is the key to success,you read this over and over again in the bios on successful people. Unfortunately,most people appear to lack the desire to persist and continue pursuing their goals. That is really too bad because I believe people are capable of accomplishing much more than they think they can. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

I Teach

Percy Cerutty wrote, "I teach: It is not important that we merely compete; that it is important that we endeavor to excel. That means, we do with all our heart and soul that which we find at hand to do. That we leave no stone unturned: no page unread:nothing frustrates us---since with the difficulty is the means of overcoming---and this once we have resolved upon a course of action. There are much more priceless things than winning, especially if the victories be unearned or cheap.It is the training: the way, that is valuable. That winning is only evidence of something and may be valuable, or not. That value is only earned when there has been self-discipline: exhaustive effort: and the development of intelligence through experience and thought. That without these factors preceding winning---winning itself,rather than be an advantageous experience,can hinder the personality---not add to it." Quite profound if I say so myself. Again, Cerutty understands that when seeking athletic success,when approached in the proper manner, it will have a postive impact on all aspects of your life and build character.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cerutty on How Your Running and Training Should Be

From Cerutty:
"Man is an animal. Naturalistically he fluctuates from day to day---his feelings, strength, abilities, desires. Capacities vary from day to day, hour to hour. His strength ebbs and flows. Civilization, the daily routine of school and work, disciplines him, conditions him, and mostly reduces him to an automation, a robot. How futile to add to such a regime to his athleticism. How much better to use his training, conditioning and racing as a means, as it should be, to at least temporarily to remove him from this artificial, and harmful, civilizing mediums that result from normal school and work. In his ordinary life he has little chance to escape from the humdrum, the routine. Why, then, as I say, add his exercise, his athleticism, to the list of compulsions. Athletics should be, and with me is, the prime means to escape from these imprisoning conditions, to exult in our liberty, free movement,capacity to choose. Our training should be a thing of joy, of hard,battling exhaustion and enthusiasm,not a daily grind upon a grinding track,artificially hard and carried out under full circumstances and unaesthetic enviroments as a rule. How much better to run with joy,shear beauty and strength,to race down some declivity,to battle manfully to the top of another. At Portsea we train along paths that are found along the cliff tops,descending at times to beach level,in the midst of of some of the finest scenery in our state.We run for miles on the heavy sand with the great waves crashing and pounding and swirling,at times,to knee depth as we run. Or we run upon the the golf links,or moors,or some speed work,occasionally on the grassed oval in one of the prettiest and most natural amphitheaters,surely,in the world. Here, in this enviroment, over this terrain,the spirit of beauty and high endeavor enters our souls. Seek out your Portseas,train and run as the impulse comes on you. An hour,two hours of training slips away as so many minutes. You become tired,exhaustingly tired, but never unhappy. It is work,but it seems only fun. Exhilarating,satisfying fun." Whew--that about says it all to me as far as what is the essence of Stotan or Cerutty inspired running. Something to especially take note of is written near the end when he says: "Seek out your Portseas..." You can establish your version of Portsea somewhere around where you live. When you do, your running will reach a whole new level in regards to enjoyment and performance.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cerutty Says: Be A Rebel

Cerutty often spoke about going against the norm in an era when it was not so common to do so as it is today. He was not only talking about doing this in athletics but in one's daily life as well. The following is an excerpt from his book, Success in Sport and Life: "Be a rebel against the perfunctory, the orthodox, the traditional, even the secure, the safe, the satisfactory,the conforming. It takes courage with a blend of so-called stupidity to burn one's bridges. I would hazard a guess that all great men at some time in their careers, burnt their bridges, said Good-bye to what looked to others sane and sensible. It is true that not many will not pay the price. It would be awful if everyone wanted to stand on the summit of Everest at one and the same time! But many can, if they rebel against mediocrity and complacency."  I think of a saying that has become almost a catch phrase, "leave your comfort zone." I expect to see it written on a Nike or NB running shirt soon. It is a saying worthy of consideration though. After 30+ years working in the psychiatric field I've seen the effects brought on by people living a life or having a mindset of "going with the flow" or doing what others expect. Things like frustration, unhappiness, and damaged relationships, along with alcohol and drug abuse, are often the consequences of suppressing who you are and what you really want to be. The bottom line is this, be who you really are and live the life you love while respecting others and being responsible.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Real Runner,pt.1

The following question came up on a forum recently and it was an interesting one,the writer asked: "Just interested in people's views on this. At what point and at what level of ability can you honestly and truthfully say that you're a runner, as opposed to a jogger or a fun runner?"  To this I answer: It's not uncommon for people,especially younger ones, to equate performance with being a bonafide,or as I call it, a real runner. Those of us who live for the run know better,it's all about your passion and love for this sport, not the fact that you can run fast.What it all boils down to is that running is a priority in your life because it's something that's a part of who you are. I believe the following pretty much nails it in regards to how you know you're a runner: You can say you are a runner when you live for the run--when running is THE thing in your life---it's about scheduling your days around your runs not your runs around what you think you should do first before you go out for a run----it's NOT about whether you run this or that time for some distance, it's about a passion and a love for the sport where only serious injury or death will keep you from running.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cerutty Stories, pt.1

The following is from the book Beyond Winning--The Timeless Wisdom of Great Philosopher Coaches by Gary Walton. It gives an insight into the nature and person of Percy Cerutty.

"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 (this was in the late 1950's),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 'electrified 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."
Blunt and outspoken, sometimes to a fault, Cerutty  believed that if a coach couldn't do it he couldn't teach it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What It Takes To Be A Champion

The following is THE classic Cerutty essay, there's really not much more I can say because the following says it all.

What It Takes To Be A Champion

In the beginning a world class or world champion type of athlete must have the ability above the average but not necessarily be at the top of his age group or other classification.
Indeed, even above inherent natural ability it is important that innate worth be born with the athlete. He will be found to be persistent not easily discouraged (indeed, set-backs will be a spur and goal), intelligent, self- reliant and ambitious once he sees the road ahead and the means to get to his destinations.
I myself believe that nature does not fool us. If we feel within ourselves real potentiality, abilities, we can reasonably attain to any goals that we may conceive of for ourselves, and when these ideas or feelings about ourselves persist. We all know the youth and man who is going to do something but in a week or month has forgotten all about that goal, completely abandoned all goals or switched to others, most equally fatuous. But if the feeling of ability to achieve in something, sometime, somewhere, persists with us, becomes part of us, we can be assured of results mostly beyond our earliest dreams. To cleave to your ambitions, have faith in yourself and believe that if you do the work results must be achieved. But also believe that if work alone did things, then all good laborers would end up rich. We know that many don't.
 It is intelligent work that does things --  intelligent training methods, new ideas, especially when proved, that can work miracles.We must be receptive to the new ideas, be prepared ourselves to march into the future, and either discover new methods, new training concepts or find someone who has done so.
   Seek, and you do find, in time. Ask, and you do get the information, but perhaps not from the sources you thought. Knock and some superior person, coach or teacher will take you in, but you may have to try many doors.
Summed up: You can become what you think you can become. But you must find the teacher or discover new methods for yourself, as did Parry O'Brian:
   Remember: Work does do things, but it is superior work, highly intelligent work, often exhausting, soul killing work that gets one out of the rut, makes one a world figure, no matter in what field. Never entirely give up when discouraged, frustrated.

 Every difficulty carries within itself the means of its own solution. The test for you is to find that means, that teacher. There is a teacher, a way-shower, at every cross road in life. You never know that until you reach the cross-road. He is not available while you are on the journey to his place in life.
    You cannot be taught until you are ready to be taught. And you cannot function until you are ready to function.
    In the ultimate, if you are to succeed, you must believe in the worth whileness of your goals, find the means to attain them and do the essential work, make the personal effort. No one can do it for you. No one can travel the road for you, do your training and your thinking. At the best you can only find a way-shower and teacher. I hope you will feel, in reading this small exposition, that you gain something to help you to your ends, your goals, your successes.
   I would have it so-- so it merely remains for you to do your part.

 You can, if you but will.
May all success be yours. It can!
{Percy Wells Cerutty
Portsea, Victoria
                                                                   Febuary, 1959

Monday, July 21, 2014

Training With Cerutty, The Marathon, pt.2

We learned in part one that Cerutty viewed the marathon as being an event in which only the serious, well conditioned athlete should compete. He also believed that training on hard surfaces were a detriment to a runner. The obvious problem with this type of surface was the stress it causes on the body which increases one's susceptibility to being injured. There was another reason and that was: "athletes who train most continuously on hard surfaces are noted for short(er) strides and mincing gaits. So the marathon man, meaning the road runner, must watch that his musculature does not respond by shortening his stride as a result of running on these hard surfaces, thus causing the development of a restricted gait that almost completely inhibits the possibility of being a free mover, with commensurate high speeds."
As previously noted in part one,  Cerutty was a believer in being able to run the marathon distance in training. Once you could do that he taught that marathoners should do a lot of their training at their projected per mile marathon pace. Consider--"He will get his body used to his hoped for marathon speed by running 3 or 5 miles at this pace then easing down between the efforts sufficiently to recover. If he can manage two or three repetitive efforts he will have had a very good workout."
Cerutty also thought that marathoners had to be careful that they didn't develop into 'plodders' as a result of doing miles upon miles in workouts. He advocated the practice of surging distances up to a mile throughout the course of their long runs. He acknowledged that doing so required time but it was an essential component of training because--"As we train so we race. And we shall race as we have trained." (a great quote).
Cerutty also urged athletes to run, "not necessarily any great distance, even five miles, and learn to race faster over the last quarter mile." The rationale for this practice was to develop a 'conditioned response'. Developing this conditioned response "makes fast finishing efforts normal and automatic."
As he wrote--"How futile to have run 26 miles and then be beaten because one was unable by an effort of will to increase pace."
In closing Cerutty said---"Marathon running must now be considered as we once considered 10 and 15 mile events: a distance event, but one in which speed is a very definite factor. It is all a matter of concepts: stepped up training and added power(strength)."
Well said!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Quiet Strength

Part two of the Marathon article will be on Monday, Consider the following--

A Quiet Strength
It's a quiet strength, not one borne from slogans printed on t-shirts or bodies. It's a strength acquired from a conditioning and lifestyle that has no need of vain proclamations. It's a strength earned by challenging yourself daily within the simplicity and sometimes harshness of nature while striving to obtain victory over oneself in the process. Ultimately, it's a quiet inner strength gained from a life you've chosen, understanding that there are no sacrifices in this process, it is a labour of love devoid of pretense.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Training With Cerutty, The Marathon, pt.1

The following is not meant to be a comprehensive view on training for the marathon by Cerutty. Instead, it is intended to provide a few insights into ways of preparing for a marathon.
Cerutty believed that the marathon was not to be taken lightly as far too many runners do today. It is no surprise that he did not hold to a --'to finish is to win' mentality.I would quickly add here that thousands of people are being done no favors when they are led to believe that they can go from zero to marathon in 6 to 8 months. I often wonder how many people give up running after trying to run a marathon before they are ready. In fairness to them, there are lots of running 'experts' out there who teach that you can run a marathon by following what basically amounts to a 'crash' course.
The great Greta Waitz said it best decades ago--"Many of those who attempt a marathon would do better if they ran a 10k instead."
Cerutty was less diplomatic when he said this--"Too many poor types get an easy ego gratification by plodding in poor form and style over the marathon distance in what amounts to really poor times and performances that tend to make a burlesque of one of the toughest events in any sport any man can compete in." Ouch! I say this, I give credit to all who attempt the marathon, prepared or not, but, I hold to the school of thought that racing this distance should come after years of training and many miles under your legs. I've seen lots of people short circuit successful running careers at other shorter distances by getting into the marathon too soon.
Cerutty believed that a newcomer to the marathon should work towards covering the full marathon distance in training. I know that for years the staple of marathon training was the weekly 20 miler. Personally, as I look back, this didn't really work for me. I say this because the last 2 or 3 miles of the marathons I raced with this kind of training we're quite painful, to say the least. It was when I ran for 'time out on my feet' as Arthur Lydiard used to say, that things greatly improved for me in the marathon. Adding a few 3 to 3 1/2 hour runs were the key. I would quickly add that those workouts did involve some walking breaks.
Cerutty offered another suggestion for newcomers and that involved hard mountain walking of up to 30 miles to supplement their early training. It is also no surprise that he recommended gymnastic work and weight training. It's all about building mental, muscular, and overall body strength. Doing this type of preparatory strength work greatly work reduces the likelihood of getting the injuries that are all too common in marathoners.
Cerutty was also against training on blacktop or concrete. He correctly noted that doing so made a runner more prone to injury. I am well into my 5th decade of running injury free because of the fact that towards the middle of the 1980's I started training exclusively on dirt roads,trails,in parks and on hard packed sand. It's a sad fact that as you get older you will notice, as I have, friends leaving the sport because their legs, knees and backs could no longer take the pounding on these hard, unforgiving surfaces.
Coming in a few days, pt. 2 of Training With Cerutty, The Marathon. It will offer some specifics on marathon preparation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Training the Stotan Way: Suffering in Silence

The planned post on Cerutty and marathon training will be delayed by a few days. As I was about to begin my weight workout today I thought it would be nice to put on a little Marley (as in Bob) while I was lifting. I never listen to music while working out but I was having trouble getting motivated, it felt like it was a hundred degrees in my garage. A thought then came into my head, what would Cerutty do?  Well, if you've read anything by Perc (as he was often referred to), you'd know that there would be no music. Although a great lover of music, Cerutty believed there was a time and place for everything.
All this got me to thinking. We are always surrounded by some kind of noise most of our waking day. Think about it, talking, music, cars, TV, phones, etc.,etc. The mind needs a reprieve and rest from all this 'noise.' We need time to be alone with our thoughts, to think and consider. When I lift in silence, I find myself thinking about the workout, am I maintaining proper form, stuff like that. When I'm out on a long run I think of and ponder a wide range of things. I think back to what Dr. George Sheehan once said, "I do my best thinking when I'm out on a long run."
No 'noise' helps us to focus on the task at hand. If our goal is optimal fitness and/or performance, we deserve to give all our attention to the task at hand.
Stotan up!
As a treat, the link below will take you to poetry in motion--22 seconds of Herb Elliott destroying the field, in silence, at the 1960 Olympic 1500 meter final.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Percy Cerutty and Coaching

Readers of my other --may recall that there were several posts relating to Cerutty's views on the nature of coaching. The following, although not written by him, certainly are in line with what he taught.
In teaching your athletes instruct them to:
1. Set reasonable goals.
2. Use only positive statements in discussions with your athletes.
3. Help the athlete rationalize and understand poor or disappointing performances.
4. Help the athlete plan intelligently for a race.
5. Be knowledgeable of the sport, as in the psychology, physiology and mechanics.
6. Be strong-willed; don't waiver in your  determination or lose yourself emotionally during the competition.
7. Don't convey the coach as indispensable--rather work to build self-reliance in the athlete.

If only all coaches were able to convey the above to their athletes. I know in my experience I had far more bad coaches than good ones. I would quickly add that these men were not bad people, they just didn't understand the fullness of teaching and guiding athletes. Perhaps this was due in large part to the fact that, as Cerutty wrote, "those that can't do, can't teach." In doing, I'm sure Cerutty wasn't just referring to the physical aspects but also to the mental and emotional aspects that go along with 'the doing'.
Next post will be on Monday, it'll deal with Cerutty's take on marathon training. The fall marathon training season is upon on us, so  it seemed like a good choice. He has insights into marathon training that are certainly unique.
By the way, I'm on Facebook, go to Stotan Runners.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Stotan Way: Create Your Own Portsea

The International Training Center that Percy Cerutty founded was at Portsea in Victoria, Australia.It was right by the ocean, the 'center' was basically what some would call a very large shack on one half acre of land. However, from this seemingly nondescript facility, great things happened; future champions and non-champions were trained, but perhaps more importantly, they were instructed on how to live and experience life to its fullest.
We may not have a Portsea that we can go to but that doesn't mean we can't create one of our own. If you have access to parks, trails, beaches, pools, and a set of weights you can develop your own Portsea. Here's what I have, in my garage I have weights and a bench. The weights were almost all garbage picked and bought at Play it Again Sports. Behind my house is a dirt service road that is 8/10's of a mile long. A quarter mile away is a park and not ten minutes away is the Atlantic Ocean. In these areas exist all the components needed to train like a Stotan. I'm sure all of you out there,have excerpt for the ocean, the potential for similar training opportunities.
Something else you may want to think about doing. The following is a sample of the daily schedule at Portsea. Consider following something like it for a day or weekend. Obviously, there are certain areas where you would have to improvise but you can still maintain the intention of the schedule, building the body and the mind. May we not have become so jaded that we view the following as childish or frivolous.
7 a.m.---A five mile run before breakfast in any direction our whim took us followed by a dip in the ocean.
8 a.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.
9. a.m. Swimming and surfing or outdoor chores like chopping wood, painting and carpentry.
Noon- Training and lectures at Portsea Oval, followed by another swim.
2 p.m. Lunch--fish and fresh fruit.
3 p.m. Siesta.
4 p.m. Weight-lifting.
5 p.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.
11 p.m. Lights out.
Maximize your life!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Stotan Way: The Necessity of Weight Training

"A normal rate for muscle loss with aging has not been established. A 1998 article in the "Journal of Nutrition" reported on a cross section of research that showed the overall loss to be 35 to 40 percent between the ages of 20 and 80. Some research reports changes as early as your 20s, but most agree the most significant changes take place after age 50. Both genders lose the same percentage with aging but women lose less mass overall." (From an article found online)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I rest my case on the subject regarding the necessity of weight lifting. We all know how Cerutty felt about strength work. In his mind, it was vital and necessary. Cerutty was greatly influenced by the works of George Hackenschmidt, a man he met personally later in his life. Hackenschmidt,besides being an author, was also a heavyweight wrestling champion and reportedly was the 'strongest man in the world.'
Hackenschmidt lamented man's separation from nature and his increasing urbanization. Keep in mind folks that he wrote this a little after the turn of the 20th century. Here's what he recommended we do as a remedy for our increasing softness and urbanization:
"Since he has separated from the natural physical advantages, which were freely offered to him in bygone centuries, he should surely avail himself of the efficient substitutes which are offered to him by trained and practiced physical culturists."
"For it is only by exercising with heavy weights that any man can hope to develop real strength. The knowledge of one's strength entails a real mastery over oneself, it breeds energy and courage, helps one over the most difficult tasks of life, and procures contentment and true enjoyment of living."
And you thought you were only building muscle.As an aside,  I gave myself over to strength training for six months and can say that what Hackenschmidt and Cerutty taught about weight training is true. If you call yourself a Stotan, you lift weights.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ten Characteristics of Truly Great Coaches

1. Committed to individual integrity, values and personal growth.
2. Profound thinkers who see themselves as educators, not just coaches.
3. Well educated (either formally or informally).
4.Long run commitment to their athletes.
5. Willing to experiment with new ideas.
6.Value the coach/athlete relationship.
7. Understand and appreciate human nature.
8.Love their sport and work.
9. Honest and strong in character.
10. Human and therefore imperfect.
The above is really a great list. Percy Cerutty fits everyone of the 10.
Percy was all about experimentation (#5), just read Athletics: How To Become A Champion.
Although not formally educated (#3), he read extensively on a wide  range of varied subjects. I recall in 2000 much of his personal library was up for sale on Ebay. In the description of his 'library' it said the books covered such subjects as yoga, philosophy, weight training, religion, and nutrition. The seller also added that the books were underlined and filled with notations by Cerutty. It still pains me that I didn't have the funds to make the purchase.
Read Cerutty's bio Why Die by Graem Sims and you'll understand why he at times behaved in a way that was less than exemplary(#10).
Cerutty had a  deep love for athletics (#8) and recognized that it was so much more than training and competing.
Although he's gone we have his books that show the truth and the way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living the Stotan Life: What Would Cerutty Do....And Not Do,pt.1

Anybody remotely familiar with Percy Cerutty knows that he was all about keeping life simple and natural. For those who aspire to the Stotan Life consider the following---
Imagine if you will Cerutty  at his training center at Portsea in say, 2014, not 1960. He's talking with his students, dressed like they are, in only their shorts. Suddenly, the sound of a Beethoven symphony bursts forth. Cerutty reaches for his cellphone clipped to the side of his shorts, it's Herb(Elliott) calling saying he will be at camp this coming weekend. Percy puts his cellphone back and continues instructing his athletes, minutes later, Beethoven returns, it's a reporter inquiring about doing a feature story. Cerutty looks at his schedule on his phone, makes the appointment and returns the phone to his hip..
It all sounds absurd doesn't it? Would Cerutty have a cellphone if he were around today? Maybe, maybe not. But, I'm sure he would not be obsessively calling,looking and checking it. As one who has witnessed the tremendous growth in cellphone use in recent years, I have come to the conclusion that cellphone use is addictive. I will add that in fairness to its users the addiction has been fueled by what I believe are called the 'apps' that have turned cellphones into hand-held computers.
People need to stop, especially those who are Stotans or desire to be Stotans. Leave them in your car, home or your desk when you go for a workout, an event, a date, shopping or whatever. Saying you need them for work or family is an excuse to continue obsessively using. That's why we have message or answering machines. You can leave, if you desire, a message on your cellphone as to why you are not answering every call that comes your way 24 hours a day. This excessive use is mentally and emotionally draining.
Put the beast down, discover again what it's like to be alone with your thoughts, uninterrupted by intrusions from with out. To the severely addicted I say this, yes you can drive to the supermarket, shop for half an hour and drive all the way home without using the worst invention created in the last several decades. Maybe I'm extreme, but maybe I'm right. Stotan up people!