Saturday, August 31, 2019

Evaluate Yourself

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 are we just "been playing the game?" Of course it's easy to find fault in others but not so easy when it gets personal.
Consider the following: how active are we in trying to improve ourselves? Except for the fact that we workout,are we basically living the same kind of life as the guy who is a spectator watching endless hours of television, eating and drinking whatever they want?
When was the last time you read a book,did some study on the science of your sport as it pertains to you,went to a seminar or did some disciplines that could improve you physically as well as mentally? I've known alot of people who thought they were much more committed to running then they really were. I know there was one point in my career when I did. It took a look at the stopwatch and reading Cerutty's writings to wake me up to reality.
 In many ways, for those who seek athletic excellence,it's almost like a calling. Why else would you pursue something that offers,for most at least, no financial gain and minimal amount of recognition? It's because there's something deep inside of you that wants it.and it's as worthy to you as any goal that's out there.
Cerutty touches on this subject as he tells us that we must evaluate ourselves in order to adequately evaluate our rivals.
"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 28, 2019

Internal Motivation

 Canadian coach Brent McFarlane answers the question as to where an athlete's internal motivation comes from.
He says: "Each athlete is responsible for providing his own internal motivation.And nothing can compensate for the lack of will to fight when the situation demands. In every race,there may be one moment(or more) when the runner wants to quit and needs internal motivation to survive the crisis.Otherwise,the penalty is defeat.There is no defeat,no failure like ceasing to try."
Two thoughts come to mind when I read the above:first,the internal motivation,to some degree, can be developed and nurtured through workouts,time trials and races.Ideally,the athlete keeps in mind that this is what he wants to develop via those three scenarios(workouts,time trials and races) before he starts them.
Secondly,very insightful and perceptive is Mr.McFarlane's statement that,"There is no defeat,no failure,like ceasing to try." How true!
Ever have the realization that you just sort of gave up at some point during a race? Losing or racing below expectations is bad but knowing that you didn't give it your all makes you feel like more like a failure than a loser.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Never forget this truth!
Cerutty taught this----I will paraphrase him here--
Achieving great things takes time--achieving the seemingly impossible takes a little longer.
Persistence, dedication and patience are the keys.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Looking Back on Six Decades of My Involvement in Running

Today on my 70th birthday I think back on many things, not the least of which has been my involvement in running. I've been fortunate enough to have been a coach, writer, and most importantly, a runner for a very long time. I know I have touched on what follows a bit in the past so forgive me if I am being repetitive.
As you age, there is a tendency to look back on the "good old days".
In my case, I occasionally think back to the 50's, and particularly for me, the 60's, when Track and Field was given the same amount of media coverage as baseball, football and basketball. For you younger athletes this may seem hard to believe but it is true. I am sure thousands of kids were inspired and motivated to take up running because of what they saw on a regular basis on television and read in the newspapers and magazines. Profiles I read in Sports Illustrated about Herb Elliott, Jim Ryun, Tom O'Hara, Jim Grelle, Jim Beatty, Ron Clarke and many more got me incredibly inspired and psyched. But, those days are long gone and they aren't coming back. Fortunately, the Blog--once upon a time in the vest (vest not west) is a huge resource on the Golden Age of running.
Then there is coaching. I started what I will call formal coaching in  '86. I coached high school T&F as well as X-Country athletes. What I soon found out was that most of my peers in coaching really didn't know what they were doing. I won't go into detail but most had an over emphasis on speed/anaerobic training. They had the faulty "ya gotta run fast to be fast" mindset. A schedule of progressive, ever more stressful workouts ala Lydiard was foreign to them. Training for distance running is not a complicated thing despite what many people trying to sell something "new under the sun" may tell you. A lot of it is just common sense.
Last but not least, is my involvement in running and racing. Something I've been doing since age 8 when my father entered me in a 50 yard dash (yes, that's 50 yards) at a local AAU developmental meet. From there I went on to H.S. track and cross-country to all kinds of road races. THEN, in '86, a close friend, Greg Walters, gave me a single mimeographed sheet with a picture of Percy Cerutty and a two paragraph description of his philosophy. I was immediately hooked on what he taught and I totally changed the way I trained and looked at life. The fact that I changed where I trained, from concrete to trails, parks and dirt, is why I am still running today while 90% of the people my age I ran with have been forced to quit.Racing means nothing to me these days. 
I am very thankful to still be able to get out there.
And, more than that, very thankful to be alive!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Wisdom From Bruce Lee

Bruce has been in the news recently but not in the way he should be. A recently released movie chooses to disrespect him, but, this is 2019 and it is coming from Hollywood, so I am not surprised.
I stopped going to movie years ago for a variety of reasons.
As I've written before, there are many people who by their lives exemplify the Stotan life. Bruce lee was one of them.
Those who excel in other sports often have much practical advice to offer those in distance running.Bruce Lee was much than just a martial artist and actor.He was a deep thinker and voracious reader who throughout his life challenged himself physically and mentally,not unlike Cerutty.

 Consider the following:
"The doubter's said,
'Man cannot fly.'
The doers said,
'Maybe,but we'll try,'
And finally soared
Into the morning's glow,
While nonbelievers
Watched from below.

The doubters claimed
The world was flat.
Ships plunged over its edge,
And that was that!
Yet a brand new world
Some doers found,
And returned to prove
This planet round.

The doubters knew
'Twas fact,Of course,No noisy gadget
Would e'er replace the horse.'
Yet the carriages
Of doers,sans equine,
Came to traverse
All our roads in time.

But to those who kept saying
'It can't be done,'
Never are the victories
Or the honors won.
By the believing,doing kind,
While the doubters
Watched from far behind."

Lee added this to the above,"I warn you that negativeness very often unknowingly creeps up upon us.It helps occasionally to stop all thoughts(the chattering of worries,anticipations,and so forth,in your head) and then once more refreshingly march bravely on."
So much is determined by what is in our head and by our attitude.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Don't Be A One Dimensional Athlete

If we are desiring to be at the top of our game mentally and physically we should associate with those who are fellow seekers and avoid or limit our contact with others who are basically living for self pleasure.
This was something Percy Cerutty repeatedly wrote about and taught.
 He also preached on the necessity of his athletes educating themselves on more than just........athletics.
He was a big advocate of reading good books. He had a massive personal library. 
Reading books is becoming less common then it once was. The increasing options provided by the television,computer and the internet have been the major reason for this development.
 I would be remiss not to include America's obsession with watching pro-sports as another reason.
There is something very special about taking time each day to read. We should make reading an essential part of our lives, like eating, bathing and sleeping. It is that important for those who want to become all they are capable of being.
As far as what to read?
For starters, try reading biographies of people who have done positive and great things for themselves, their country or world.
Turn off the television--or as Peter Tosh used to refer to it as-------'Tell-a lie-vision".
Every minute of your life is precious, don't waste it!

Pictured above are a group of what I call our Southern Stotans headed by Emmitt Harrigan. This picture was taken prior to a 24 hour trail race they ran earlier this year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

For The Youth

I was taking an afternoon run in a nearby park last week amd came across a preseason high school cross country invitational. It took me back to the days when I coached cross country runners at Canisius High School in Buffalo,N.Y. There is a special kind of enthusiasm and excitement at these "invites" that make them great to watch and be a part of.
In the archives I found a copy of a handout I gave to the cross country runners I coached just prior to the start of their competitive season. It's purpose was to inform,instruct,calm and instill confidence,everything a coach must do before races.
It's my hope that what follows may be a help to you or simply a reminder of some things you may have forgotten. Ideally,it can be something the younger runners can use. So many enter races overly anxious and things too often do not go as well as they could because of that anxiousness.
Here it is:
The Races:
First of all,everyone,I mean everyone,the fastest and the slowest are nervous before a race. The key is to control your nervousness and adrenalin so that you can run YOUR race, not a race that is determined by fear and anxiety.A runner that runs smart can beat a better runner that runs stupid.
The majority of runners(over 50% H.S.) run stupid, they go out too fast and either die or struggle to hang on to the finish. You guys won't be running dumb. The emphasis is on running the second half of your race faster than the first! Except for possibly(?) three runners in our league, everyone fades to some degree in the last part of their race. How do I know?I know from watching years of competition at every level of high school racing. It's as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
As your race starts competitors go out fast for a good place in the pack,don't run on the outside,run on the inside.Settle into a pace that is comfortable for you,if you get the feeling you can't keep it up then you are running too fast. Throughout the race you should be making observations about your competitors, but most importantly,you are telling yourself to stay relaxed. That means breathing comfortably and deeply,not taking short,choppy breaths. You are also telling yourself to relax your shoulders and arms, stay loose.
Yes, you can allow your competitors to get or gain yards during the early stages of your race,what is 15 to 30 yards  in a race that may be 2.5 or 3.1 miles long? As you will see,more often than not,these runners will come back to you in the latter stages of a race.
Pass your opponents with authority!Surge by them,when people are fading this is even more discouraging(mentally).When you turn a corner, or go into an area where those runners behind you can't see you for a few moments,throw in a surge so when these runners see you again they will recognize that they have lost further ground on you. In the latter part of a race this tactic is especially effective.
At the end of a race, 95% of the runners are just looking to hang on or maintain, they are ready to be passed.
Assess your condition, know the right time to make your final stretch drive. Notice I don't say kick,anyone who runs like a sprinter in the last 50 yards could have started his final surge much sooner. Remember,it is essential to think relaxed,no tension in your shoulders,think about using your arms more and lifting your knees slightly.
Finally,nobody has been offered the quality of training you guys have.Remember this, as the season progresses you are going to get stronger and faster. You have trained in hard conditions and surfaces while others either took days off or trained inside. Patience and persistence are the keys,don't get discouraged,let downs are only temporary if and when they do occur.
Every run and race is a learning experience.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

You Can Leave Your Watch Off

Awhile back I was getting ready to do an easy 7 mile run. As I went out the door I realized I had spent almost 10 minutes looking for my watch. While running I wondered, what was the urgency for having a watch on this run? It was over a familiar area,it wasn't a tempo run or time trial,so why the need for a watch?
I started thinking how wearing a watch less for runs would be a good idea.
Consider this--ever go out for what you believe is going to be an easy run over a route you've run many times and found yourself checking your time at certain points along the way? Have you looked at your watch and thought, "I'm a minute and half off where I usually am at this point," then picked up the pace either consciously or subconsciously? What was originally intended to be an easy recovery run then became something else.
How many of you have done tempo runs,intervals,or time trials and found yourself obsessively checking your watch as you go? I certainly did it at one time and have seen countless other runners over the years doing it.
I think it would be wise if many of us rethought our use of watches in training and used effort as the gauge instead of timepieces. Cerutty once said: "Elliot may run faster than me but never harder." It is the effort put out that determines the time,so why the preoccupation with timing and the reliance on it has a determinent as to whether or not you had a "good" workout?
Of course the watch can be an aid to training but it is often the disruptor,inhibitor and discourager to training(forgive the grammar).
Who knows why we sometimes run fast and smooth one day,and not so fast and smooth another.In some ways I think that it's just part of the way it goes in training.We shouldn't allow ourselves to be discouraged by these ebbs and flows,it's all part of the process.
Free up your training,try leaving your watch at home.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Best Morning

An Early Friday Morning Run

Dawn breaks over the trees in Chesnut Ridge Park,
it's quarter to six on a Friday morn.
Alone as I lace up my shoes,
it's perfectly still except for the birds greeting a new day.
The air is crisp and pure,
neither warm nor cool.
I am alone yet totally at peace,
running down a pristine trail banked by trees and ferns.
I realize what is truly important,
I understand why I am here.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Nine Necessary Qualities Needed to Achieve Athletic Success

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. Are there any areas you need to work on? 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 tradenark 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.
So what areas do you need to work on?