Olympics 2021

The Olympics are over.  Eliud Kipchoge ran a masterful marathon and put away the competition in hot and humid conditions, throwing in a 14:28 5K (that’s a 4:40 pace!) at 30K.  Kipchoge now joins two others as the only runners to repeat in the Olympic marathon.  He looked good; Kipchoge always looks good and probably will if he’s still running at 70! Reflecting on my last post about whether to hold the Olympics in light of Covid, I admit my fingers were crossed that outbreaks would be avoided among the 11,000 athletes and the games would be viewed as a success.  I believe that is now a given (sigh of relief!)  Certainly, the heat and humidity (which translates into the Wet Globe Index) were major factors in the races 1,500 meters and above.  Under those conditions, athletes respond differently.  In a way, it opened the door for non-favorites to medal.  Not having crowds didn’t seem to materially affect the performances.  In fact, athletes probably were able to focus better without loud crowds. There were some truly outstanding and memorable performances.  Granted, my focus was on the distance running events.  In that vein, four things stand out. Kipchoge’s marathon.  He showed … Continue reading

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

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

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

Extended Gratitude

I was listening to a TED Radio Hour podcast earlier this week where one of the segments featured A.J. Jacobs talking about his experience of thanking everyone who made it possible to buy a morning brew at the local coffee shop.   He started a list – it grew to over 100 people!  When you consider the entire supply chain for coffee, it’s long.  He made this a project – even traveled to Columbia to thank the growers in person.  He found some people suspicious — like “what’s up with this guy.”  But he said most got into the spirit, even giving him ideas of others to thank.  All this led to giving a TED talk. It got me thinking about who is responsible (i.e., who might we thank) for a pair of running shoes we buy.  I started my list going backwards roughly from the point of sale.  He’s what I’ve come with so far: The salesperson at the running store who brought out multiple pairs of shoes to try on The person who trained the salesperson so they knew which shoes to bring out The employees who stocked the shoes so the salesperson could go fetch them The driver … Continue reading

Running in the Moment

We all try to find silver linings in COVID constraints.  And it’s good to keep looking! As I was running recently along the Burlington bikepath which borders Lake Champlain, I found myself 100% in the present moment, taking in the views of the lake and the Adirondacks, the colors of the changing leaves, and the calm air.  It was close to a perfect day to run.  My trusty Garmin indicated a solid pace.  I felt smooth with a good rhythm.  Afterwards, I reflected upon how often I miss the opportunity to be “all there” during my runs, taking in the elements and fully enjoying the present moment.  As may be the case with others, I often find myself thinking about any number of things including how I should be able to run faster or contemplating the next race.  Of course with COVID, race opportunities are now limited. All this led to some existential thoughts.  First, the present moment is really all we have.  Everything in the past was built on prior present moments and the future will be the sum of those down the road.  So, our lives are really the totality of present moments and that’s a pretty awesome … Continue reading

Runners, On Your Mark!

The races are beginning to happen!  For five months most everything has been virtual, but intrepid clubs and race directors are taking the plunge.  The reason this can happen is enough is known about how Covid-19 spreads and what can be done to avoid that while holding a race.  The list of precautions and requirements is long and things previously taken for granted, such as water stops, post-race food and awards ceremonies are off the table.  Start times are staggered and a limited number of runners allowed in a wave.  Not perfect for sure, but progress, nonetheless. One novel approach is a marathon I am helping with on a rail trail in Northern Vermont this Sunday.  It was organized by 62-year old Jim Miller, who has run a sub 3:00 marathon in each of the past five decades, starting in the late 1970s when ran his first sub-3:00 as an 18 year-old.  He’s shooting for six decades, which would put him in select company: only three others in the U.S. have accomplished this.  To be clear, over the years Jim’s bar has been much faster than three hours.  He has run sub-2:20 marathons, participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials and … Continue reading