Saturday, December 28, 2019

Origins, Pt.1--Walk the Talk of What You Believe

 In 1988 a friend (Greg Walters) gave me a sheet he had with a picture Of Cerutty and a brief outline of his teachings. I was instantly drawn to what it said and I began buying all the Cerutty's books I could.
I formed a running group called The Stotans and began running the trails in our area near Buffalo, N.Y.
We trained and raced on the Finger Lakes Trail system around the Ithaca, Virgil, Dryden area of N.Y.
 I then started The Stotan News, a Cerutty based newsletter.
 I eventually moved to the Atlantic coast of North Carolina to fully live the Stotan life.
Sound extreme? You mean packing up everything and just leaving with very  little  money? Yeah--it was extreme.
To me--Cerutty was more than just a coach, he was a teacher and a philosopher who knew what was truly important in life--- a healthy, vibrant, body and mind.
 PMA Books has recently published 3 of Percy's classic books--Middle Distance Running, Be Fit! Or Be Damned!, Athletics: How To Become A Champion) and they are available online at their site or on Amazon. It is so great that they have done this.
If anyone is interested, I have a Cerutty Facebook page called Stotans United, check it out.
My blog here, livingthestotanlife.com, is all Cerutty and Cerutty based content--it is unlike any running/fitness site  you will see.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Dinner at Grandma's in 2019

In this now 21st Century, healthy eating has morphed into food fanaticism and/or food snobbery.
This has become a popular post which I will continue to put up each year at this time.
Has anyone experienced something like the following at a family event? I have. Too often.
Nothing is more obnoxious than having your guests calling ahead to give you their food peculiarities and needs


Written by Grandma's daughter Daphne--
Christmas at Grandma's--2019
It has been a hard 5 years for Grandma since her husband of 55 years died. Before Grandpa passed on, it was a family tradition for everyone to get together for Christmas dinner at their home. It was a joyous time, kids opening presents, the wonderful smells of foods cooking and baking, a chance to get together with family and relatives we only saw but once a year.
So you can imagine the happiness I felt when Grandma announced that after 5 long years she wanted to resume the tradition of having Christmas dinner at her house.
My joy was short lived when my dear Grandma called with a somewhat panicked tone in her voice. She said that in the 2 weeks before Christmas she had received several calls, mostly from Grandsons and Grandaughters with special requests as to what they could eat. Grandma was confused, what did this all mean? So she wrote it down in the hope I could explain it to her.What follows is my Grandma's list--
Grandaughter Mary eats nothing that is white.
Grandson Ted, his wife and children are vegetarians.

Jenny and Lisa say they are raw fooders.
Granddaughters Jill, Edith, Marcy, Molly, Lucretia and Daisy are vegans.
Grandaughter Joan and her Mom and Dad are Gluten Free.
Grandson John and his Mom will eat only organic foods.
Granddaughter Hayley and her boyfriend say they are Lacto/Ovo vegetarians who will eat dairy and fish but absolutely no meat or poultry!
Grandson Phillip is a Lacto/Ovo vegetarian who will eat NO fish!
Grandson's Paul and "Junior" can not eat dairy because they are lactose intolerant.
And finally, there is Grandma's favorite Grandson, 'Little Brucie', well, 'Brucie' is all grown up now, all 6'2'' and 135 lbs of him, he told Grandma that he didn't eat anything "that casts a shadow".
After reading the list Grandma paused and asked---"What in the world can I cook?"

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

An Often Forgotten Aspect of Strength Training

There are many very basic differences in the training philosophies of Arthur Lydiard and Percy Cerutty.
One area in which they differ is in regards to weight training. Lydiard did not believe it was necessary,Cerutty thought weight,and more specifically, what he referred to as strength training, were essential if an athlete wished to reach his full potential.Strength training to Cerutty was more than lifting weights,it also included cross-country, mountain walking and running,swimming,as well as using a gym rope and horizontal bar.
I believe that strength training is a needed component to a runner's workout routine,especially if they are seeking competitive success. Percy wrote this in Athletics:How To Become a Champion: "The athlete who confines all his training to running around a track with occasional outings over the country must be limited in experience, variation,enjoyment and the development of strength(power) in comparison with the athlete who bases his training on regular visits to the weight-training venue,the gym,the coastal regions and hilly places,the sand hills,beaches,deserts and the high mountains. This all adds up to power--the mental and physical power that is behind fast running as we practice it.Power(strength) has always been behind fast running,although weak people prefer to dissect technique as if technique alone is all that is required to enable a weak man to run a mile in four minutes. Technique is an important factor but technique today is useless against the athlete who is supported by technique plus power(strength)."
Herb Elliott once said: "My golden rule was to train for mental toughness."
Something that is overlooked in strength training is the mental strength and confidence that comes from such training. Sure, you will become stronger and less likely to succumb to injury because of strength training,but, we must not ignore the important mental benefits that will be gained. There is something to be said about the way you feel when you are able to pick it up in the last part of a race knowing that no one else has done the kind of strength work you have done.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Cerutty On the Benefits of Hill Training

Do all of us recognize the many ways in which hill running can make us better runners? It is my belief that for the average runner,if they did nothing but running up hills that varied in length and steepness,as well as aerobic work, they would become fitter than if they just did track and aerobic training.
Cerutty mentions the sometimes forgotten benefit of running hills on a regular basis in the following excerpt.
Percy writes: "Flat-out hill running,on roads or grass, help more than any other type of training,as they teach the 'habit' part of our mentality to deliver full effort irrespective of pain and fatigue. The more it hurts,the harder we try to run. In time,one of two things will happen to us. We will have developed a 'retreat complex', which means we will avoid very painful efforts,irrespective of our will,or we will become one of the few who can do the super-normal on occasion, which means we have learnt to run through the pain barrier, that barrier that stops so many. We all know that little voice that says, 'postpone your effort to the next lap or mile...He will come back...It is not my day...next Saturday I'll do it.... Is it so important after all...? and many other equally disconcerting whisperings. We all know them. Only a few ever learn to dominate them. The sandhill and hill running are the answer if we are ever to learn."
The above brings a few things to mind.
First,that "little voice" that Percy mentions,who hasn't heard it and succumbed to it at one time or another? Remember how crappy and angry we felt after we did?
Also, what he says regarding hills goes nicely with what Elliott said about the spirit.
Something else, Cerutty used to teach that we should "thrust against pain" and that "pain is the purifier." There is no question that pain can be a purifier if you enter into the workout with that thought in mind and allow it to do so.
In closing, if you have been neglectful of hill work for whatever reason,now is the time to make it an integral part of your training.
For those whose fitness may not be where it should be,try incorporating an easy aerobic run over a hilly course for starters.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Some Words of Encouragement and Advice

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

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Contemplate This!

Perhaps some of you may recall a book published many years ago entitled,The Quotable Runner. What follows is a take-off  on that format called,The Quotable Stotan, which is geared towards those who live for the run. An effort was made to print quotes that were not familiar to most.
Here goes:
Marty Liquori from Real Running by Marty Liquori and John L. Parker Jr., "There are no secrets to running success,anyone who says there are is probably trying to sell you something."
How true! If more runners realized this then most of the running books and seminars published and held during the last 20 years would have made very little money.
Percy Cerutty from his book Middle Distance Running, "Suffering and dedication is the only way to understanding,compassion and courage."
Very profound. What the man says is true,but, only if the athlete is a thinker and open to the idea that what you gain from a workout is more than something purely physical.
Herb Elliott from,The Golden Mile, "The purifying quality of pain that has to be suffered is like that in confession. You walk away with a clear conscience."
In the same vein as what his coach said above,once again,the athlete must be.......
Yiannis Kouros from an interview by Trishul Cherns, "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 the means--inconceivable at first, and make you discover hidden unexpected powers. Later, an unhoped for tranquility and sobriety should follow so that you may pursue your goals with precision."
Yiannis is a living example of the truth of those words.The key here is not to drive from your mind the details of disappointing performances once they're over. They can be stepping stones towards future success.
Ted Williams from,My Turn at Bat:The Story of My Life by Ted Williams, "Nobody in the history of the game hit more balls in practice,pleasure or dead earnest than I did."
Some may think it odd that I placed a quote from one of the greatest hitters ever in baseball, but, to attain success in any sport you must do more than most who say they desire success are willing to do.However, as you will read next,it is not all work and drudgery.
Ron Clarke from The Unforgiving Minute, "The number of miles I have run since I was a toddler would have taken me around the world several times and still I cannot define precisely my joy in running. There is no sacrifice in it."
As Cerutty once wrote, there are no sacrifices in the quest for success (refer to my prior post featuring Percy's essay--On Sacrifice.
Percy Cerutty from the essay, What It Takes to Be a Champion, "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."
There it is in a nutshell,the formula for achieving success.I find the key in this quote to be,"you must believe in the worth-whileness of your goals." Those who do believe will not give up easily.
Arthur Newton,ultra great wrote: "Many of the ordinary pleasures of life have to be banished for a long time while you are preparing for a peak achievement."
If you really desire success in sport, then you cannot always live like those who don't. This is an often ignored aspect.
Percy Cerutty, "Running as I teach it is not a sport or a physical activity so much as a complete expression of ourselves,physical,mental and spiritual."
In closing,something by Sri Chinmoy,something that we should never forget, "You can do infinitely more than you have already done."
Consider and contemplate the above--the wisdom comes from those who have achieved success, and you can to......IF--- you really want it!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Cerutty Stories



The following is an account of an incident that occurred while Percy Cerutty and Herb Elliott were touring California sometime before the 1960 Olympics. I am uncertain of the source of this excerpt but it possibly is from the first bio on Percy called Mr.Controversial written by Graem Kelly.
Cerutty was often blunt and tactless but he always told it like he perceived it.
This is a great story.
"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,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."
If only we had some more coaches like Cerutty around today,how interesting it would be.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Some thoughts on the "Bad" Perc Cerutty

A few rambling thoughts on the Man, Percy Wells Cerutty. Some may have wondered if I had left out a y after reading the above title.I understand that Cerutty was often called Perc by those who knew him.
Another thing,for many years I pronounced Cerutty as Cerooty. He once wrote that his last name was actually pronounced Cerity, as in the last part of the word sincerity.
On a related note,Cerutty was called many other names throughout his life,a fair amount of them could be described as derogatory in nature.I am often asked by people about the numerous reports of inappropriate,rude,vindictive and downright nasty behaviour and speech exhibited by him during his life.It would be easy to chalk this all up to his being arrogant or that he was just another old crank but there was a reason for the way he sometimes was,just as there is one for all of us.
You get a good look into why he was the way he was in the excellent biography by Graem Sims.What you learn is that Cerutty experienced a great deal of physical deprivation when he was growing up. I'm talking about not enough food and adequate shelter here. Add to this poor health and an enviroment that wasn't always conducive to emotional stability and you understand why he  seemed to be periodically wracked with feelings of insecurity and paranoia.
Cerutty often had this me versus them mentality.I would venture to say that this was also a result of the situation and conditions he was raised in. It's remarkable that he became as successful as he did. Many people having a similar type of upbringing have gone the other way,leading a life of self-destruction by drinking and/or drugging themselves in order to deal with the pain.
 Percy wrote this in regards to difficulties and failures: "It then becomes a case of faith,the going on in faith in oneself, a faith that can eventually break through,achieve in some way,at some time."
Yes, determination, stick-to-it-tiveness and faith in yourself,is, and always will be,the key to success.
Awhile back, someone wrote and said they were doing an article on Cerutty and asked for my thoughts on him.The writer was clearly looking towards the Percy who trained runners,not the philosopher.I have seen this slant on him before.Every now and then you'll read a story,usually about a high school cross-country coach, who has come across some info on Percy or Stotanism and has his kids busting their butts on the trails.While this may be good,the athletes are being shortchanged in the Stotan/Cerutty department.
Cerutty's greatest contribution came in the philosophy he taught,not the training regimen.His views on athleticism, naturalism, materialism,achieving success,nutrition and rugged individualism,as well as his belief in the necessity of developing the complete athlete(physically,mentally), were and are, his greatest contribution. There are very few coaches,if any in modern times,who have articulated so well insights into such a wide range of subjects.There was a time not too long ago that an athlete would be told that all he had to do was train hard and listen to his coach.Cerutty accurately wrote of the shortsightedness of such a mindset. I always think back to this quote by him directed to those athletes who desired success: "success is the result of deep thought."
Amen to that Perc!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Derek Clayton on Prioritzing,Discipline and Dedication

I've referenced Derek Clayton on this site previously.Those who love the sport of distance running must make a point of getting his book Running To the Top. There are certain books about running and runners that should be in every serious runner's library and Clayton's is one of them.
Wait one minute,are there some of you out there who don't know who Derek Clayton is? He is an Australian distance runner who first set the world marathon mark in December 1967 and then lowered it to 2:08:33 in 1969.His record stood for an incredible 12 years.
Derek was an outspoken,hard training runner who believed in doing mileage. I recall years ago there was a push.among some of the top U.S. distance runners to be financially subsidized in the hope that this would help them be competitive on the world scene again. American great Bill Rodgers was quoted as saying that no U.S. distance runner could hope to compete at an elite level if they held down a full time job.
Clayton was blunt as to his feelings on the subject,in a nutshell, and using himself as an example, he said there was no reason for runners not to work.
What follows are his views on fitting training in with working and having a family. I think we can all benefit from what he has to say. As a sidenote,if you've been around long enough,who hasn't had a former running buddy say,"I got a job and family now,I don't have the time to run anymore."
Derek has this to say to elite,as well as serious runners:
"I don't think that work should be an excuse for poor running habits any more than running should be the reason for sloppy work. The two can mesh successfully. The higher your goal,the more dedicated a runner you must become.This doesn't mean you have to quit your job,leave your family and devote your life to running.It's clearly not worth that but it is impossible to reach your potential in a casual fashion. I was never obsessed solely with running.Running was just the major part of my life around which everything else was built.It was never important enough to exclude my job and family.All people have tasks they have to fit into their lives.I think the important thing is to acknowledge these priorities,such as family and work,and not allow them to become so consuming that you can't reach your running goals.People are amazed to find that during the week I worked at least 40 hours as a civil engineer,did speaking engagements and 150 miles of running.But what is so amazing about doing something that is important to you? Some runners act as though a hard day at the office excuses them from training.Rather than make excuses and fight having to work forty hours a week,I learned to live with it.When I quit fighting the load, it became less of a burden.At that point it became a training tool that helped build my mental toughness.While people I ran with were complaining that work was ruining their running.I was using it to improve the quality of mine."
Two words come to mind after reading the above, one is attitude and the other is prioritizing.Clayton realized that complaining and having a "poor me" attitude would get him nowhere.As he said,he viewed his seemingly intense schedule as one that built mental, as well as physical toughness.Also, I doubt that there was any wasted time in his day.
I don't know about you but I see a fair amount wasted time in mine.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Ernst van Aaken on Health and Disease



Dr.Ernst van Aaken was a physician from West Germany who was often referred to as the "Running Doctor." He is remembered for his advocating long slow distance(LSD) and being an adviser to Harold Norpoth who won a silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the 1964 Olympics.
Van Aaken was also a zealous runner who influenced and encouraged countless others to recognize the health benefits of running.His book,Van Aaken Method, is a classic and whether you agree with everything he says about training,it contains alot of good and useable information,especially as it pertains to food,lasting health and disease.
The following quote should be of interest to runners.It's been my experience that too many athletes think that because they run it will negate a multitude of dietary "sins." This of course is foolishness with a little denial thrown.Van Aaken correctly taught that attaining and maintaining health involves so much more than just exercising.
He probably wrote the following sometime in the '60's: "Nowadays,we talk about "diseases of civilization" as something obvious and acceptable,and it's hard not to notice the undertone of rationalization for our own sins against healthy living.We've discovered a whipping boy to take the blame for damage caused by filthy air,water pollution,lack of sunlight,noise damage,the flood of sense stimulation,speed craze in traffic and in occupational life, movement laziness,cigarette addiction,dietary damage and greed,chronic over-fatigue,nervousness,alcoholism,dope addiction and today's most visible catastrophe,coronary problems and cancer."
He went on to write: "All the above-named damages can be boiled down to three basic causes:
1. Oxygen deficiency(from lack of exercise)
2. Overeating
3.Weakness of will"
For Van Aaken, it was all about personal accountability as it pertained to ones' health.There is no question as to the importance of us doing likewise.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Marathon: Serious Business and Not To Be Taken Lightly



Perhaps one of the more unfortunate myths perpetuated by the mainstream running media is that the be all, end all of ones' running experience is to run a marathon. Although this may not always be said openly, it is certainly inferred in a variety of books and articles. There is a whole industry that has grown up around taking runners from basically a handful of miles a week to being able to run a marathon within a year or less. I've seen training "plans" that say you can get to the starting line in 6 months. Jeff Galloway has made a career out of preparing people for marathons,people who you would classify as "fun" runners. I'd like to quickly add here that I am not criticizing anyone for attempting to run a marathon. As you may have seen in a previous post or two my view of runners is that anyone who gets out there everyday is equal to anyone else, no matter how fast their per mile time is. Also,it appears that many of these 0 miles to your marathon in X amount of months organizations are linked to charities and that is commendable.
However, I have a problem with taking people with virtually no real running or mileage history into that twilight zone that can be what the marathon ends up being.Those of you who have run marathons know what I'm talking about. I have run several and not one of them have been easy,not one, and that goes from my slowest one to the fastest.The only marathon that didn't beat me up as much as the others was a trail race I did several years ago.
Most other runners I have spoken with over the years confirm what I've experienced.
So what am I getting at? It is my belief that no distance or quest for a certain time is worth it if it ends up causing you to give up running. I have spoken to countless runners of varying abilities that have quit running as a result of mental or physical burn-out that occurred after preparing for, and/or racing a distance they were ill-prepared to run or just weren't suited for.
I paraphrase nine time New York City marathon winner Grete Waitz, she said: "I see too many people running the marathon who would be better suited running a 10k or half-marathon."
Running should be a lifelong activity,despite the naysayers,running is a healthy endeavor when approached intelligently.That means you know and listen to your body. As Harry Callahan said: "A man's got to know his limitations." That goes for women too. I am also talking to runners who run and race well.
 I'm sure I am showing my age but there was a time when distance runners sort of "graduated" in their running to the point where they ran a marathon after having years of miles under their belt. I say allow the months and years of distance training to strengthen your legs as well as all the "systems" of your body. Google Carlos Lopes and you will read an excellent example of this.Unfortunately, this school of thought changed decades ago because of several reasons,not the least of which is the "glamourization" of the marathon by the media.
Can a young runner have success in a marathon? Of course he can. Is it wise? Often not.The training and racing involved in the marathon distance can take a toll on a runner's body and psyche. Here's the standard I use,unless you will be able to toe the line at the upcoming Olympic marathon trial, then potentially committing your running career to a distance prematurely can be foolish. Look at the alternatives,5k's, 10k's 20k's, half-marathons,30k's.Explore and reach your goals at these distances before moving on to the marathon. I should also mention trail races at varying distances are a great choice. Again, as I have written about many times, there's a big difference between racing on the trails and racing over pavement.
Ultimately, running should be something that brings about positive feelings such as joy,happiness,peace of mind, etc.
On a related note,if your running, training or racing is making you neurotic,discouraged or feeling mentally or physically fried, then you need to change something,the sooner the better.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Running Can......

During the heady running boom days of the early 70's, running was viewed by many as a panacea for a variety of ills,not the least of which was cancer. It was an exciting time, running was prominently featured in all the media outlets, it occupied a place in this country's consciousness that hasn't been seen since that decade.
However,as all things must eventually come to an end,the initial enthusiasm and faddish excitement of the 70's and early 80's faded, people found out that running couldn't cure cancer,in fact, you could actually injure yourself and become sick from this sport if you weren't careful.
The media began to sour on running and began to publish many cautionary tales on the "dangers" of running. The death of Jim Fixx in 1984 was a serious blow to the sport's image of being a healthy activity. Jim's excellent book,The Complete Book Of Running, published in 1977,was one of the two major reasons for the running boom,the other being Frank Shorter's gold medal in the marathon at the '72 Olympics.
In regards to Fixx's death, largely ignored by the media,at least early on, was the fact that Fixx had a family history of serious heart problems. Considering this and the fact that he abused his body for decades by being a heavy smoker, his premature death shouldn't have come as all that big of a surprise. However, the not so thinly veiled message that came from articles published after his death was that jogging had the potential to kill you.
This situation wasn't helped in later years when former running advocates such as Dr. Kenneth Cooper and Jeff Galloway produced books strongly cautioning people from running "too much"(Editor: this is discussed further in a prior blog entry,Betrayal From Within, The Trojan Horse Syndrome).
Although I will agree that running cannot cure cancer, it can change and mold you if you allow it to. Recently,during the course of a conversation with Harve Sipel, a friend and fellow running zealot, he said something that caused me to stop and think for awhile. He said that in all his years of running he'd  never met a dedicated runner who was overly preoccupied with having lots of money and living the lifestyle that came with it.The key word here is dedicated runner, a runner who as I like to say,"lives for the run." As I thought back to all the athletes I had known over the years I had to agree with what Harve had said. Some runners I'd known had forgone potentially lucrative career changes because it would have had a negative impact on their running.
I then started to think about the characteristics of a dedicated athlete in which you could see how running had helped shape and influence them.
What follows are some of the things I've noticed about(dedicated) runners over the years, the following is in no way intended to be a comprehensive listing.I'm sure there are other traits you could add.
To begin, would be the ability to discipline's oneself, as well as having a respect for your body and health.
Include an appreciation of nature, life and of your own well being.
A type of calmness appears to be a characteristic of the distance runner, some call it being "laid back".
Add to this a quiet self-assurance and confidence.
A desire for simplicity in life also comes to mind.
As I said, there are other characteristics you see in a dedicated runner and although running may not be a cure for major diseases, it will change you and your life in a very positive way if you allow it to.