Thursday, May 30, 2019

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

Before you read this I want to say one thing and ask a question:
1.I wrote this for me as much as I did for all of you out there.
2. You ever read an article like this on any of the other running sites or in running mags? I'm talking about the particular mental aspects connected with aging and running here, not the physical.
Here we go:
Everyone 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.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Billy Mills-- Veteran and 10,000 Meter Olympic Champion

Since this is Memorial Day--watch Billy Mills, a Marine Corp veteran, win the 1964 Olympic 10,000 meters-- the last American ever to win that distance at an Olympics. A thrilling race. What follows are highlights from the race.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Dr. David Costill on Post Marathon Nutrition

With the Buffalo Marathon being run today I thought I'd repost this article I wrote nine years ago.
The picture above is of Dr. David  Costill.
Athletes who want to learn and find info on all things pertaining to exercise,nutrition and training need only to look to exercise physiologist Dr. David Costill.
Known for his decades with the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University,I should also add that for a period of time in his life he ran 70 miles a week while training for marathons.
His book, Physiology of Sport and Exercise, is an excellent resource that is able to be understood by us folks who have a minimal background in anatomy and physiology.
What follows is a continuation of posts that will pertain to all things marathon.
Again,with the fall marathon season coming, we all need to be informed and ready.This excerpt from Dr. Costill pertains to post marathon nutrition:
 "In order to recover as rapidly as possible, the obvious thing is to consume considerable carbohydrates.Probably the first meal after the marathon should be like the last big meal before. If the night before you have spaghetti or some other heavy carbohydrate,the meal after competition should be very much the same. You want to recover as much of that used up glycogen as possible. It takes 3 to 5 days to recover the glycogen. That's part of the problem of recovering from a marathon. A lot of people don't go after the carbohydrates hard enough,and that is part of the cause for the fatigue and difficulties in getting back to running form again."
Personally speaking, I wish I had read this a long time ago,recovering from marathons probably would have gone a whole lot better.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Marathon: Better Later Than Sooner?

There was a time when racing a marathon was thought to be something a distance runner worked up to during the course of his or her running career. The reasons for this belief are both sound and logical.
They were well articulated by Bill Rodgers many years ago when he said: "I believe you cannot reach your maximum potential in a marathon until you're in your middle to late twenties or early thirties. You must build your mileage up slowly over a period of years."
It's my belief that if you were to start racing marathons in your late twenties it should only be after having many years of distance base in the bank. I am not saying that young American runners cannot race fast marathon times, it's just that years of distance running, say 10 and more, help to prepare,condition and strengthen the body in a way that there is no short cut for. I have seen college age guys who had the potential to race well at the 5k go directly to the marathon and eventually become physically and mentally burned out. This is because marathon racing takes both mental and physical maturity.
Arthur Lydiard once said that no one should have been surprised that Carlos Lopes at age 37 won the 1984 Olympic marathon. He cited the type of training and racing Carlos had done in his career as laying the foundation for his victory in '84.
By the way, he was a silver medalist in the 10k at the 1976 Olympic Games.
Let's not forget that diminishing racing performances due to age are less pronounced as the distance gets longer.
What's the old saying, "to everything there is a season?"
Build your competitive running career in a way that has the potential to maximize performance in each distance you transition into.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Denying Oneself,An Essential Discipline,and Ultimately,the Key To Athletic Success

This article is for the distance runner who desires to run as well as he possibly can.
The title of today's post may be awkwardly phrased but is meant to convey an all too often forgotten piece to the training regimen puzzle,the athlete's ability to be disciplined.
As I've said previously,far too many self-described serious athletes believe that all they need to do to achieve personal running success is to train everyday.They go about their daily workout and then live and act like your average non-athlete.
Athletes,more than ever before,seem to believe they can have it both ways. If you truly want to be as good as you possibly can,then I say this,you must must control,discipline and deny yourself.
Ultimately,as you read in the post, "Are You a Stotan?,"having control and discipline makes for a better athlete as well as a person who is prepared to deal with the challenges of this life. The following,in no particular order,are things that the serious athlete should restrict or deny themselves of. I don't expect readers to agree with all of what I'm about to list but here goes, in no particular order:

1.Deny the urge to overeat and to eat whenever you feel like it. One of the least mentioned mistakes that people do to themselves nutritionally is to eat too much. Everyone it seems is hung up on what to eat, not how much they consume.Overeating is terrible for your health long term and unfortunately has appeared to have gained wide spread acceptance among athletes.
Also,unless it's a piece of fruit between meals,eat only at mealtime. When you get into the habit of doing this you will find that you enjoy your meals so much more.

2.Deny the urge to eat crappy foods. I'm talking snack foods,junk foods,sodas,etc. Why would any athlete consume the same type of foods that have made this country the fattest one on earth? These foods are no good for anyone!

3.Deny the urge to drink too much alcohol. Check the data,more than two alcoholic beverages a day is unhealthy. The long term effects of too much alcohol can be devastating to one's health.
Too many runners drink all week and then do it up big on the weekends. Their rationale is that they've "earned it."

4. Deny the urge to veg out on the couch and watch television. How much TV do you watch a day? This is one activity where less is better. The television is addicting, mind numbing entertainment that will eventually make you limited intellectually.
Read books,play games,write,do puzzles,whatever. Remember what Cerutty said about the necessity of the athlete developing intellectually.

5.Deny the urge to live vicariously through the lives of professional athletes and teams. I've known so many athletes who have an almost obsessive preoccupation with their favorite team and sports. The world stops for them when their team is playing and it gets real emotional when their team wins, or, loses.Hardly healthy behavior going on here,besides, athletes should be doers,not watchers. Obviously, I'm not talking about those who catch a game on the weekend.

6.Deny the urge to think that just running is doing enough training. Are you neglecting weight conditioning and the exercises designed to strengthen your muscles and tendons? Have you given consideration to swimming,certain types of yoga,circuit training and working out on the types of machines that will develop you aerobically?

7.Deny the urge to keep training "through" an injury. At the first sign of injury it is time to evaluate and seek other ways to maintain fitness while allowing the effected part to heal.Too many athletes cannot control the anxiety that comes with the thought of possibly being injured and foolishly continue training.

8.Deny the urge to get down on yourself when you feel that you aren't making progress. Persistence and patience are the keys to success, look at how you've been training,discuss your situation with someone who is knowledgeable about running.

In closing,there was a time when the athlete was known as someone who lived a little differently than most. People would speak of the way they were disciplined and focused on their sport,you couldn't help but detect the respect that people had for these athletes.These people were definitely unique.We should not forget this,if you say you are a serious athlete,it doesn't matter whether you are toeing the line at the National Championships or doing a local road race, you are as legitimate an athlete as any superstar.
Finally, denying yourself sort of reminds me of what Cerutty said about sacrifice and how it relates training,when you love what you do,their is no feeling that you are sacrificing anything in the process.
Denying yourself is all part of that process.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Article--The Greatest Long-Distance Runner You've Never Heard Of

The following is a link to an article by Brian Oliver about Yiannis Kouros. I have written about Yiannis many times.
The one thing that always perplexed me was how little significant press he got in the U.S. despite his incredible running accomplishments in the 80's and 90's.
Heck, he couldn't even get a publisher for an English language version of a book he wrote about his 6 Day Race record.
 I have corresponded with him over the years and tried to help him with this but the only positive response I got was from Meyer and Meyer, a German based book publisher.
Check out the link below and prepare to be amazed and inspired by this otherworldly athlete.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lessons From Ralph

As promised, Lessons From Ralph. Instead of posting the same picture of him as I did yesterday I put up a picture of the Nike Internationalist running shoe. A favorite of his for years.
Those of us who live for the run recognize that there is much to be learned from the veterans of this great sport. I always kind of chuckle when I see ads for books, programs and seminars that tout "a new and better way" to achieve running success. I say this because the ways to running excellence were discovered decades ago and have been validated and confirmed repeatedly since. If you have read the bios of the greats of our sport you realize this.
Recently I spoke with Ralph Zimmerman about training. For runners who don't know who Ralph is, I would ask that you go to my Jan.30,2011 post entitled, "On Running Mentors and Friends" before reading the following.
I will briefly mention a couple of Ralph's career highlights. At 37 he set an age group mark for the marathon, running 2:18:55 at Boston. A year later at the Mardi Gras Marathon he ran 2:17. I'd be remiss not to point out that he ran the Olympic Marathon Trials in 1980. As you can see, the man knows training and racing.
When we spoke, I asked Ralph to tell me some of the things he did that helped him to become the kind of runner he was. One of the first things he said was that he loved to run, he loved the training and he loved the racing. Another comment that stood out was,"there are no shortcuts, too many people are looking for shortcuts in their training." He cited some of the people I call the mileage moderation advocates of the 80's and 90's as impacting negatively on the sport.
At this point I will say a few things, although Ralph was a follower of the Lydiard system and spoke with Arthur from time to time, many of his workouts were distinctly Stotanesque. He often trained in the country at a place called Chestnut Ridge Park, an area that was remote and loaded with hills. Here he did gut busting time trials and tempo runs, as well as a variety of hill workouts.
 Another area he trained at was in Buffalo at Delaware Park around a 1.8 mile loop. Prior to his first sub 2:20, Ralph said he'd go to Delaware Park each day and run 10 laps, he did this because "mileage was what you did if you wanted to get good."
What follows are some random thoughts from Ralph on training,in no particular order: when running reps,say multiple sets of 4 reps in a set, Ralph found that there was a tendency to let down a little on the 3rd rep,he said he always made a point of reminding himself to work the 3rd one because, "you're always going to get through the fourth."
 In looking over his marathons,he discovered that he had a tendency to go a little off pace in miles 15 to 20. Again, Ralph said he made sure that when he hit mile 15 he reminded himself to maintain speed during that section." Note here folks,he realized what all great runners and coaches know,you have to think about and evaluate your running and racing if you want to improve.
Something else, "I never used a watch when I raced,I ran how I felt."
What Ralph meant by this is that many runners,if they don't hit their projected time at the mile markers,tend to get too worried or preoccupied with this,potentially causing them to alter their race plan,or worse yet,mentally give up.
What toughened Ralph for races at all distances? Try hour long runs where he did an easy 5 minutes to start, followed by 5 minutes hard, then 5 minutes easy,then 5 minutes hard, then 5 minutes all the way to the end of the hour.If that isn't a Cerutty workout then I don't know what is.
One other workout I was very familiar with,time trials around a 3.2 mile hill filled loop called"Big Mother" at Chestnut Ridge Park. Ralph staggered the starts with him starting last and chasing us,inevitably picking us off one by one. All the runners who did this workout ended up running their best times for the season.
There is more I could add but that's for another time.
I close by saying, thanks Ralph,thanks for your guidance and encouragement.

A Tribute To Ralph Zimmerman

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wisdom From Ed Whitlock

As the years go by I find myself seeking out runners older than myself who continue to run well. Perhaps I do this because I am looking for reassurance that I can train and compete indefinitely. Another reason may be due to the fact that so many of the athletes I've known from decades past no longer run.With that in mind, I've been thinking alot about Ed Whitlock recently. 
I can't imagine that there are many runners who haven't heard of Ed Whitlock. For those who haven't, he holds a multitude of age group records,most notable of which being a 2:54:48 marathon at age 72.Also, consider a 3:15:54 marathon at age 80 and a 42 minute10k during that same year.He has set other phenomenal marks you can read about on his Wikipedia page.
When there is a runner like Ed Whitlock who has accomplished what he has, it's a given that you would want to listen to what he has to say.
The following is just a few excerpts from a past interview he did for Running Times.If you could condense what he said in a few words they would be: simplicity,mileage and proper perspective.
Ed says:" I go out jogging. It's not fast running,just that I do it for a long time.I don't follow what typical coaches say about serious runners. No physics,ice baths,massages,tempo runs,heart rate monitors.The more time you spend fiddlediddling with this and that,the less time there is to run or waste time in other ways.Running should be a pastime. All sports should be a pastime. There shouldn't be all this professional stuff."
 Whitlock then goes on to say that a life that focuses exclusively on  performance as it does in the upper echelons of running is ultimately a life that is lacking.
A few thoughts on the above. In the quest for excellence, there is a tendency for athletes,especially newbies, to complicate the process by doing what are basically unnecessary activities.I'm sure many would disagree with what Ed has to say on sport and professionalism,I know at one time I would have. But,as the years have gone by, I've seen the cheating(doping,etc) that's gone on in every sport,all in the quest for victory,records and more$$,his view makes alot of sense to me.
Finally, Ed's runs are done at a very easy pace for 2 or 3 hours a session with tremendous results.Think back to the teaching Van Aaken.
I remember what Herb Elliott once said,the ideal life for an athlete is one of simplicity. Simplicity in his training and simplicity in his lifestyle.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

When Yiannis Kouros Speaks.....

When you look at the names of the greatest all-time runners,you must include ultra legend Yiannis Kouros on that list.
Many who consider themselves experts in the field of running continue to view ultrarunning as a fringe sport that is not particularly deep in talent when compared to say,the 10k. While that may or may not be true, the fact is,is that Yiannis Kouros holds, or has held, every ultra record from 100 miles to 1,000,as well as 12 hours to 6 days. Briefly consider this,Kouros ran 303k in 24 hours.That's over 188 miles in one day! Do a search of all his records and you will be astonished at the range of marks he has set. Still think ultrarunning is a sport slim on talent? Who cares! Yiannis' records would be remarkable whether or not there were other competitors.
Kouros is a deep thinker who expresses his thoughts articulately and has so many insights that can benefit us as runners. His documentary,Forever Running, is a must have for those who live for the run.The fact that he can't get a publisher for an English language translation of a book he wrote many years back speaks volumes of the state of running today, but, that's a story for another day.This is a quote from an interview Yiannis did years ago:
"Each horrid event should equip you with the necessary provisions so that you can confront the next one; it shouldn't make you yield. The continuous confirmation is that despair and hopelessness supply you with means--inconceivable at first, and they make you discover hidden unexpected powers."
I take much from the above quote because I need to remind myself that when the suffering comes, I must leave myself open to being aware and learning from that suffering in order to become a better runner and person from it.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Champion's Heart

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

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

What a Coach Should Look For In An Athlete

So, you've taken a job as the running coach for a track team,or perhaps you will be coaching a cross-country squad,then again, maybe someone has approached you in hopes of having you coach them.Coaching requires a commitment of time,effort and energy.
However,the rewards gained from coaching can be well worth the time,effort,and energy you put into it. I know it has been for me.
 Lydiard once wrote about the criteria he looked for in an athlete he was going to coach. I would agree with the attributes he listed but would add a few of my own to his list.
He began by saying he looked for sincerity.That would seem to complement some of the other things Arthur mentioned, such as being ambitious and determined, as well as having pride in themselves.
Lydiard did mention one other quality that is essential for a prospective athlete to have and that is coachability, a willingness to follow the program you prescribe for them. I have worked with certain runners,invariably older ones,who did not seem to have the confidence to follow a particular program for the period of time needed to see it to fruition. They interpreted every poor workout or performance as evidence that your program was not working. Or worse yet,they wanted to pick and choose from other coaching regimens they had heard or read about. The red flag with these athletes is when they casually reveal the number of programs or coaches they've gone through in the last 3 years.
Coachable, they're not. One characteristic that Lydiard did not list and THE quality I look for is a love and enthusiasm for running. This is just my opinion but I will take a less talented runner who has a love for the sport over one that isn't coachable or one who participates primarily because he does well at it. The beauty of distance running is that you can produce quality runners, even among those who may not be naturally talented, if they possess the qualities listed above. That is one of the things that makes this sport so great.
In case you don't know, that's coach, writer, Olympic marathoner, Ron Daws pictured above.

Monday, May 6, 2019

About Training Systems

Go to any running forum and you will see that one of the most common topics discussed deals with training systems. Questions about them, as well as debates as to which one is best, are usually the focus of the discussions.
The following is by an unknown author and brings up some points to consider as it relates to the training system you choose.The author begins by cautioning runners not to assume that the training methods that give the quickest or best results for other runners will be the best for you. "Only the good results of a method become public and often a runner succeeds, in spite of, rather than because of the way he trains. Failures of a system and comparisons with other systems aren't easy to see. It appears too that the methods which work best on a short-term basis aren't always the best over the long haul.
 Tom Osler wrote: 'It is ironic that those techniques which produce the quickest improvement over a period of a few months do not result in the greatest possible improvement when continued for several years. This is because their effects are short-lived and do not necessarily result in significant gain in conditioning of the body'." Osler knows conditioning like few others do. It only takes a read of his Serious Runner's Handbook or The Conditioning of Long Distance Runners to realize this.
 You need time to build and strengthen a distance runner's body. I believe Lydiard once wrote that it takes seven years of continuous training to reap the optimal benefits of his system.
However,the process of getting there is a labor of love for those who live for the run.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

No Pretensions

I know I have posted this previously but I like to put it up again from time to time.
In an athletic and entertainment world that is filled with poseurs and people trying to effect a look of toughness, I was inspired to write this not too many years ago.
Undoubtedly the following was influenced by reading Cerutty's writings over the last 30+ years.

Looking Into the Heart Mind and Soul of a Running Warrior

Standing alone, I am what others see and hear,
Without pretension,
Having no need to effect a look or manner by adopting vain extraneous appearances.
I exude a quiet confidence derived from a life that is disciplined, yet open and welcoming to new challenges.
I view my physical training as an opportunity to grow and be fulfilled in all aspects of  life.
This training is as vital to me as my relationships and my vocation, it makes me complete.
I feel no need to explain or prove the validity of the way I have chosen.

The merit of one's life can be measured in part by his disposition and how he treats others,
Yet one's words and actions often betray what he espouses.
My running and training burn away my weaknesses and faults, but the fire must be kindled each day.

Life can be hard and filled with uncertainties that overwhelm the unprepared,
For many, the joy in this life is thus lost.
The way I live, though strange to most,
Provides a peace and comfort that cannot be measured and is not tangible,
But it is the path I've chosen and it's worth is validated each day of my life.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Another View of Racing and Competing

I think we've all "been there" in regards to racing. Whether we started racing in school or at the local road races,there was a time when racing was the prime motivator for making sure we got "out there" every day. Many of you may still have this mindset and if you enjoy this aspect of running then that is good.
What I am about to address is the subject of racing being viewed as the be all end all for many runners. Have you ever known runners who have either stopped running or become chronically injured as a result of their preoccupation with racing? I have, plenty, myself included. I recall a runner who was extremely successful at local road races telling me that he viewed the training he did as a job.To me, that sounded downright depressing. Not surprisingly, this guy no longer runs.
I know another runner who got a lot of attention about the fact that he used to run the Boston Marathon and then another marathon two weeks later.His whole identity as a runner was connected to the fact that he was tough and placed well at races. Today,chronic back problems have limited his running dramatically.
As for myself, I got so neurotic over doing well in competition and following very specific training regimens, I actually began to dread racing.I was mentally and physically spent. For awhile I just bagged the whole thing after getting reinjured, again. I of course resumed running because life without running wasn't an option. Running is as much a part of my life,and yours too I'm sure, as eating and sleeping. Years later I discovered Percy Cerutty and began running and racing on the trails with a whole new way of looking at competition.
So,I think you know what I'm getting at but it still must be be said and runners need to be reminded, don't let a preoccupation with competing ruin your love for running.