Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Stotan Training Exercise Inspired By Cerutty

The following is something we used to do out on the hilly roads that surrounded Chesnut Ridge Park near Buffalo. It was a fun but surprisingly effective training exercise.
Here's how it went, during an aerobic run over a course that has hills,when you approach a hill that is ideally 150 yards or longer,run up to the half-way point of the hill, at that time slow to where you are basically jogging in place and do so for about 5 seconds, then, resume running up the hill at your normal pace, do this exercise throughout the run.
Why? The action of interrupting your rhythm and utilizing a certain amount of strength to resume running is unsettling. I have found that when racing, particularly on trail courses, there is a great deal of starting and slowing and "changing gears" as you make your way over the varying terrain.This can be potentially draining physically and mentally.This exercise will prepare you for this as well as make you stronger.
I recall running up a few hills near the Orchard Park area where the inclines went on for close to a mile, we would do this exercise several times as we made our way up because the hill was so long.
If you haven't incorporated hilly courses into your aerobic runs you are missing out on a great way to naturally build strength.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

One More Comeback

Anyone out there ever feel like this?

"All I want is just one more comeback.

Not to win races or set new p.r.'s, Nor is it from a desire to impress others. more comeback means returning to the days when running was smooth and easy,

Feeling as if I could go on forever."

The sometimes forgotten and taken for granted aspect of  running is being able to run effortlessly.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Introducing Angry Al---You May Be a Trendy 21th Century Kind of Runner If

Years ago some friends and I used to do our Sunday long runs at Chesnut Ridge Park outside of Buffalo,N.Y. In this group of five or six runners was Al, a 2:50 marathoner who during the course of our runs used to entertain us with his views on running,politics and life.
Inevitably,the further we got into these runs the more critical and cynical he became, hence,the nickname angry Al.
After an article I wrote years ago for my other Blog (Live For the Run) Al sent me his version of what I wrote entitled: "You May Be a Trendie 21th Century Kind of Runner If"
True to form, Al demonstrates why he earned the surname "Angry".
Although I don't necessarily agree with all that he writes I find much of it humorous.
Here goes:
You May be a Trendie 21th Century Kind of Runner If:
1.You change training systems at least once every year.
2.Bemoan the fact that you can't find the fluorescent tights in the colors you like anymore.
3.Are certain running sleeves and knee high running socks are essential running gear.
4.Actually believe a certain exercise physiologist is the "World's Best Coach."
5.You eagerly await each issue of Runner's World and Men's Health(for the ladies, RW and Shape magazine).
6. Honestly believe that running a marathon is THE ultimate running accomplishment.
7. Believe a cool down is having a cold drink after your run.
8.You've been pricing bikes for months due to the fact you're now seriously considering a triathlon because running is getting to be "kind of boring."
9. You have no clue who Arthur Lydiard is but can tell me who formulated the V-dot system. 10.Believe "six-pack" abs are really a sign of being healthy and are something a runner should try to have.
11.You believe doing a trail race is "living on the edge."
My favorite is #11. Years ago when certain runners found out I raced on the trails they acted like I was doing something that was kind of dangerous.
The reality is,is that every person who races should try a trail race,it will forever change the way they look at running and racing.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Athletics: A Frivolous Activity?

It's interesting how people who don't run often have certain opinions of those who have a long and deep commitment to it. It's not unusual to hear some folks say that our love for athletics is excessive and misguided.
 In the following quote Percy Cerutty writes about this and offers his opinion:
"Athletics is still looked upon as possessing a freakish and juvenile quality only to be valued every four years---at Olympic Games time---is put a bad last in the national scheme and evaluation of things. Success in business--even if the successful one dies before fifty! Success in politics,success in almost anything is valued before success in the real business of living, living healthily, actively, artistically."
What makes the above even more insightful is that it was written in 1959,a time when the "world" was less materialistic than it is today.
 Unfortunately, career and how much one has, tends to determine whether or not one is viewed as being successful in the eyes of others. For committed athletes success is a subjective term, not determined by having this or being that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Highly Recommended Reading For Runners

I referenced John L Parker yesterday and later asked myself if readers knew who John was.
John is known best for his novel Once a Runner which is considered a classic within the running world. What many may not know is that over the decades he has written for a variety of magazines. I recall buying one called Ultrasport just because John was a regular contributor to it.
He also headed Cedarwinds publishing that offered excellent books and videos on running. The highlight of the catalogue he sent out periodically was the article he wrote commenting on some aspect of the running scene.
John is insightful, blunt and sometimes sarcastic. He raced at an elite level and knows running like few others do. The title of his book that I highly recommend is: "Runners and Other Dreamers: True Stories About Long-distance Races and Those Who Run Them."
One of the many great things about the U.S. distance running scene was that up until around 1985, it was loaded with American runners who competed and did well against anyone else in the world. These runners were, for the most part, engaging and charismatic, coming from a variety of different backgrounds. Sadly, this is no longer the case in this 21th century, at least in comparison to the amount of U.S. runners that were around back then.
His book takes you back to those days and offers a veritable who's who list of great racers. It gets you into the heads and hearts of these athletes which is always insightful and inspiring. The book is also loaded with memorable quotes,a few that come to mind: "to judge a coach's ability I need only look to the performance of his or her athletes, period." On achieving running success: "You must be true to yourself and not create myths and excuses."
One article entitled, "Smoke and Mirrors," offered his thoughts on Jim Fixx and his untimely death. In case you don't know, Fixx's book, The Complete Book of Running (1977) was a huge best seller and led to him being viewed by many as a kind of "guru" on all things distance running.
Regarding Parker and his views on Fixx, it would not be a stretch to say that few writers would have had the courage and honesty to write the things he did about Jim.
His comments caused an outrage in many parts of the running community.
I recommend this book to everyone but especially to runners 40 years of age and under. I say this because they will get an idea of what elite distance running once was in this country.
It is my hope that those days will someday return.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Marathon is Not For Everyone

From the archives. The following is an excerpt from Runners' Books and Smart Ware which was the title of a catalogue put out by John L.Parker's Cedarwinds Publishing Co. The date for this catalogue was Winter 1997-98.
To provide a little background on the excerpt you are about to read, he relates his impressions on aspiring marathoners after reading John Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air, which gives an account of some ill-equipped novices who attempted to scale Mt.Everest and ending up dying in the process. I should also add that Parker is not a fan of the trend that was quite popular at the time,and may still be, of taking a person who runs very little and having them do a marathon within a year or less.
Those who promoted this like Jeff Galloway and others, encouraged people to try it with the inference being that in doing so it would be a kind of transcending,be all, end all experience.
John writes: "Absent from some pre-existing medical condition, very few people will die attempting to run a marathon,but for many their effort will be every bit the fool's errand of those Everest climbers. They will buy the books,hire the coaches,join the groups,learn the latest techniques for carbo-loading or pre-race hydration. They will consider the "walking break" approach. They will follow the Galloway Method or the Henderson Method. They will do all of this with one goal in mind: surviving a marathon.Many of them will hardly consider or cede much importance to events of lesser distance. There is,apparently,no spiritual transcendence to be had overcoming obstacles not sufficiently imposing to the man on the street. Hardly anyone brags at a cocktail party about "finishing a 10k" anymore than a novice would set out to climb K2,the second highest peak in the world; no cachet,you see,no dining out for the rest of your days on such a non-brand name achievement(when compared to Everest). I would be the first to cheer would-be marathoners if their first event was a stepping stone to a well-rounded life of health consciousness,continuing fitness or regular participation in athletics. But so many of these efforts follow a well-worn pattern: months of intense effort,family disruption,happily lost weight,unhappily acquired injuries and fatigue,followed by the final,cathartic Event. Then after that,nothing. Once the merit badge is metaphorically sewn into place and the conquest rendered into a picture on the mantle,the great quest no longer resonates. Finishing a marathon now represents another ticket punched in a long life of restless accomplishment. Surely,you know them. Those energetic friends,relatives perhaps. Hell, Oprah's done it. And that all strikes me as a pretty fair prescription for becoming what might be called a spiritual dilettante(or amateur). Aspiring to be one in the marathon,while certainly not the unworthiest activity I can think of, is also surely not a direct path to enlightenment or even a more robust life."
John really nails it in this article. It is so unfortunate that the majority of people described above give up on running after it is all over.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Dr. Sheehan On The Pain In Racing

The wonderful thing about Dr George Sheehan was that he was not only a medical doctor, he was also a competitive runner.He experienced everything we competitive runners experience.He possessed remarkable insights into this great sport.Consider his thoughts in regards to pain.
"Pain is a private affair.My pain cannot be felt by another.When I am in a race I know the others around me are also in pain.But each of us is in a separate cell.I can never know quite what the runner next to me is going through.
There is but one answer to pain:go out to meet it,plunge into it,grasp it as you would the nettle.If your instinct is to withdraw,you are done.There is always the chance you will push through it into an area as calm as the eye of a hurricane.
The runner is not a masochist.He does not enjoy pain.But between the runner and a personal best lies pain in quantity.He does not seek sufferance but once it has been experienced he somehow feels better for it."
I would add to the last sentence that the runner also gets a sense of satisfaction after the race knowing that he resisted the little voice in his head that was telling him to ease up when things started getting painful.
A good point Sheehan makes is that every runner in a race is suffering as much as we are. We need to remember that fact because more runners than you think do back down or let up some once the going gets tough.This is especially true of the runners who come in after the first one third of the finishers at a road race.Frankly, from what I've seen these days, the figure may be closer to three quarters but that is a topic for another post.
As Cerutty,Lydiard and others have taught,acclimate yourself to dealing with the pain you'll experience during the closing moments of a race,practice finishing strong so it almost becomes a reflex action when the real thing comes,remind yourself to remain smooth and relaxed,maintaining form; tell yourself that everyone is hurting but you have prepared yourself better than anyone else in the race.
Successful racing is all about meticulous mental and physical preparation.