Let the Games Begin!

There is a swirl of controversy surrounding holding the Olympics in Japan this year.  The track and field events start July 29th with the men’s and women’s marathon on August 6 & 7 (EST).  Should they be held?  The arguments against it include (1) adverse public opinion in Japan; (2) the games becoming a Covid super-spreader; (3) severe restrictions on spectating — suggesting these games are for TV only.  I’d like to probe each of these arguments. For the first, I lived in Colorado in 1972 when there was a vote against hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics in Denver (and the surrounds) after they had been awarded.  Although outspent 5:1 by pro-event advocates, 60% of Coloradans voted no, resulting in the games being held in Innsbruck, Austria. It was a hot topic, fueled by an anti-growth sentiment.  Also, were concerns that much of cost of staging the Olympics was covered by taxpayers.  Forward to 1984, when L.A. said it would not foot the bill, which led to newfound reliance on sponsorship that has continued unabated.  There are also equity issues.  In both Atlanta (1996) and Rio (2000) many lower income people were displaced to make way for Olympic facilities.  I … Continue reading

The Anthology of Adidas

I have started what may be an impossible task: writing a book about my development as a distance runner in the context of how the sport has evolved over the past 60+ years. The impossible part may be writing it so it interests others.  Several friends are reading early drafts of the first chapters and providing great feedback. Time will tell if/how this project proceeds. However, I do think many will find interesting the story behind the founding and growth of the first running shoe companies, which parallels the expansion of recreational running.  It could be argued more available shoes spurred expansion of the sport.  Alternatively, that new shoes met the exploding demand.  Probably neither argument stands on its own: runners needed shoes and shoes needed runners, though a subset promoting barefoot running argues shoes are an anathema and should be avoided.     Currently, there are 12 or so well-known brands of running shoes.  But 50 years ago, Adidas, Puma, Tiger (now ACSICS), and Nike ruled the roost.  Adidas has been my go-to for racing flats and lightweight trainers for the past 15 years so I took particular interest in that company’s development and highlight it here.  Adidas is a … Continue reading

Stress and Stressors

We all know stress!  Life without stress is not a vibrant life.  While there is a great deal of attention on reducing stress, the real need is to manage and channel it in productive ways. Stress can be either a noun or verb.  As a noun, it describes something.  For example, the pressure placed on our joints or muscles from physical activity is stress.  Emotionally, something that bothers us causes stress, with research showing this impacts us mentally and physically in various ways.  In physiologic terms, stress is defined as the damage caused by “adverse” circumstances.  Of course, that is an important element of training: breaking down and then building back stronger.  As a verb, stress describes an action or effect: e.g., an exercise that stresses our quads (presumably with the aim of strengthening it.)  For sure, we have all experienced the feeling of being “stressed out”. Hans Selye, an endocrinologist who lived from 1907-1982, is known as the founder of stress theory, described by the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).  Selye suggested the initial response to stress is alarm, followed by resistance, and if continued exhaustion.  In running, the alarm phase alerts the body to fatigue, soreness, stiffness, and a … Continue reading

The Precious Moment

Last week I saw an email from Ralph, a long-time running friend, briefly describing a bike accident.  He was on a less traveled road approaching the Charlotte Town Beach.  The scenery approaching Lake Champlain on this downhill stretch is beautiful.  In its infinite wisdom, the Town of Charlotte decided this was a good place for a pronounced speed bump, just on the downhill side, with the aim of slowing traffic approaching the beach parking lot.  Good idea?  Maybe.  But for Ralph it proved otherwise. Ralph’s front tire hit the bump at a slight angle, twisting the tire and sending him flying over the handlebars.  He spread eagled on the pavement, landing hard on his arm and side.  As he slid along, gathering road rash, he had a rush of thoughts and questions, foremost being “what just happened.”  In any event, the result was a fractured pelvic bone, determined later at the ER, and an arm that looked like Popeye’s.  Fortunately, four people on a bike tour happened to be there (in fact it was noticing the parked bikes as well as the vista that distracted his attention from the road) and came to the rescue.  The tour leader bandaged his … Continue reading

Slingshot Form

This week I finished my graduate program in clinical and translational science at UVM and last week presented at the department’s weekly seminar, summarizing my research interests in runner biomechanics, which I explored during my program.  Suffice it to say, at this point I thought I’d have a clear idea of next steps.  Not so!  However, in preparing for the presentation, I leafed through three running books in my library: Running Anatomy by Joe Puleo and Patrick Milroy, Running Form by Owen Anderson, and Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry.  They deliver the same message in different ways: to run fast and avoid injury, you need a strong chassis and you’ve got to be efficient in how you use your energy.  I looked through my blog posts and saw one from June 25th, 2019 drawing from Dicharry’s book that I entitled Gait Keeping.  I’m going to expand on this here, but recommend looking at that prior post too.   Dicharry suggests thinking about a slingshot, as we probably played with as kids.  You pull it back and there’s tension.  Depending on the thickness of the band and how far you pull it back, the projectile shoots out.  To maximize distance, … Continue reading

Setting the Bar

There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the notion we do best when we have a goal. This seems to hold for all elements of human endeavor in such varying activities as sports – achieving a time or score, or in the arts – completing a written or visual piece of work every two weeks, month, or what may be appropriate.  Whatever, the key is focusing on the end result, not the process.  If the end is clearly in mind, the steps to get there become apparent. A key question, then, is where to set the bar.  Research suggests that if it is set too high or too low one defeats the purpose of setting the goal: to maximize output or potential.  Running is a perfect example for exploring this phenomenon.  Let’s look at two common scenarios:  (1) setting annual race time targets; (2) returning from injury. Many runners sit down at the start of the year and map out a tentative race schedule.  This may be driven by a club or series schedule, races in a particular location or time of year, or ones that have been enjoyable in the past.  For recreational runners, this mapping typically includes … Continue reading

What Keeps Us Running?

Each year, we notice some friends and fellow runners stop competing.  They may run on occasion but the fire that burned to train and submit themselves to the rigors of racing has faded.  In younger years, most said that would not happen to us.  We surely expected to slow down but to drop out, never!  Yet, the numbers don’t lie.  Less than 6% of race fields are 60 or over, in spite of this age grouping comprising about 17% of the U.S. population.  Even the 50-59 age group, also representing 17% of the population – it’s a big group!, comprises about 13% of race fields.*  So it appears the downward trend starts in the 50s.   Race participation is a reasonable proxy for vigorous training.  I don’t know one person who trains with intensity but doesn’t race.  Racing is the payoff for doing the hard work!  There are numerous reasons why people stop training and racing.  It can be distressing and depressing to belabor them.  So I decided to focus this post on what does keep runners running and racing.  I came up with six relevant to me and perhaps others will relate to them too: Enjoyment Satisfaction Camaraderie Challenge … Continue reading

Back on Track!

I’ve always enjoyed and valued the UVM indoor track.  It’s a tenth of a mile with a very slight bank, enough to allow for efficient cornering without causing excessive torque.  If I pick unbusy times, I alternate direction.  Some don’t like the distance – they want the standard 200 meters.  But I prefer the more frequent feedback loops.  However, due to COVID-19 the UVM indoor was track shut down on November 24th, the day students went home to finish the term remote.  I did my last track workout that day.  The athletic facilities were then closed until February 4th.  Thus, what had been weekly ventures to maintain some fast twitch fiber function went on pause.  So, heading up today for my track reservation, it was with some trepidation and uncertainty about what to expect.  Could I still muster anything resembling speed after nearly 12 weeks?  After two miles of warmup, I hit the marker, pushed the start button on my old-school Timex (Garmin GPS isn’t accurate indoors) and took off on the first 800.  The first lap felt pretty good!  Then the second, then the third.  Finishing the fifth lap, I was somewhat surprised the pace was similar to the … Continue reading

Reflections on Grete Waitz

I happened to take World Class off my shelf this morning and started reading and looking at the pictures.  This is the life story of Grete Waitz through 1986, as well as a training guide.  Waitz trained at a serious level through 1990 when she won her last NYC Marathon, a race she won an amazing nine times!  Her last marathon was in 1992 when she ran NYC with Fred Lebow after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Waitz’s story is compelling.  She had running talent early on, focusing on 800M to 3,000M distances.  She had to overcome parental and societal resistance to girls and women running competitively but persevered and in 1975-6 held the world record in the 3,000.  Then in 1978 her husband Jack talked her into running the NYC Marathon on a long run of 12 miles!  Grete was skeptical but the Marathon paid airfare and hotel for Jack and Grete to come over.  She has often recounted that foray into marathon running: the first 18 miles seeming like a jog followed by eight miles of pain and torture.  She yelled with anger at Jack at the finish line saying she would never do this again!  Of … Continue reading

A New Year!

Most people I know are glad 2020 is over!  As discussed in my previous blog: “2021: Here It Comes!,” there is reason to hope for an end to the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions during 2021, as we move towards some kind of normalcy.  While we each have a role in containing the virus, certainly much about COVID is beyond our control.  Nevertheless, the new year provides an opportunity to take stock of what happened with our running in 2020 and plan out 2021, as best we can. Most runners I know, of all ages, regressed some during 2020.  Part of this is due to a lack of “real” races to target and train for.  For the younger set, maybe that’s not bad, giving the body some needed rest. For those of us 50, 60, or beyond, it’s likely another year beyond our PRs and a time when our capacities are progressively aging.  Regardless, for us seniors (50 YO+) it is probably best not to dive into 2021 with unbridled enthusiasm, pretending to some degree 2020 didn’t happen and we’re ready to rock n’ roll.  It would be a shame to push it early and bring on an injury that persists … Continue reading