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

32 Years

This morning I went for an early 10-mile run along the Burlington Waterfront, ending up at the finish of the Vermont City Marathon.  With Covid-19, the event has been postponed (hopefully not cancelled!) until October and it was very quiet on the bikepath.  This is the way it was in Burlington on Memorial Day weekend before 1989.   On May 27, 1989, I recall driving into Burlington at 5 a.m. from Shelburne where I lived.  The sun was rising and anticipation in the air.  We had been planning the event for 18 months and it was here!  There were now several hundred volunteers setting up the course, filling up cups at the aid stations, donning traffic vests to supplement the police, setting up the start and finish areas and running around taking care of various tasks.  From the air, it might have resembled a sweater being knit.  The pieces were coming together!   As the 1,025 runners congregated at South Winooski and College for the 8:05 start (an agreement with the churches to minimize conflicts with their 8:00 a.m. services), the P.A. system embedded in the local radio station’s van quit, so Governor Kunin used a bullhorn to greet the … Continue reading

It’s a Panacea

We’ve all heard the word panacea thousands of times  — “that’s a panacea for this or that,” meaning all-healing, the total solution.  Perhaps an ointment, treatment, or even a good thought.  Often used in the negative, something may be said to not be a panacea.  And we’ve been told to keep good hygiene to stay healthy (and presentable!).  But where do these words come from?  The Greeks! I was looking for background on a research project I’m working on relating to gait and pulled ACSM’s Advanced Exercise Physiology off the shelf at the Dana Medical Library at UVM.  The first chapter was entitled Historical Perspective: Origin to Recognition.  As interesting as any novel I’ve recently read, this chapter presents where concepts and words we use freely today come from, especially as it pertains to health and science. Over time, what constitutes health, how it is maintained and reasons for illness and poor health, has been posited in different contexts.  Healers in ancient India and China promoted exercise and health to prevent sickness, not to improve performance, though warriors were provided with good nutrition, quarters, and encouraged to get adequate sleep. However, what we consider modern medicine and exercise science has … Continue reading

Running and Juggling

I just returned from the Circus Smirkus adult camp in Greensboro, Vermont, where I focused on juggling with balls, clubs, and rings. I’ve been picking away at it for several years, but had developed little consistency and had no confidence to perform in public. I figured a weekend intensive would do the trick! It didn’t quite work out that way, though progress was clearly made. Juggling skills, like running, are built on incremental gains. You may ask why write about this for a running blog? Sure, my interest is to take on something inherently challenging and rise to that. As is running and racing. And granted, there’s an element of wanting to twirl implements to impress others, and myself! But at root, it’s an attempt to stimulate and build neural plasticity, even at an advancing age. Any complex movement involves near-simultaneous processing of stimuli by our neurons with subsequent routing, in nanoseconds, to our muscles. It’s a fascinating and esoteric process too involved to go into depth here. But rest assured there’s a LOT going on when we write, run, or juggle! However, let’s look at proprioceptors, which are highly specialized receptor organs in our muscles and joints that affect … Continue reading

Preparing to Run!

Last June, I posted a piece entitled Why We Run!  I rewrote it for the purpose of posting on the Run Vermont website, but it was deemed too much like the original post.  But I prefer the rewrite though it includes some of the same thoughts and basic organization. So here’s the rewrite, which I’ve entitled Preparing to Run. Preparing to run a marathon is a BIG commitment. If we do it right, it takes time, focus, energy, and understanding from those around us. However, training for a marathon, or any race really, might give us pause to consider why we run, period. Over the years, various reasons have regularly surfaced for me. You may have encountered these too: We Choose to Participate We Challenge Ourselves We Make Friends Good Health Reasons Beyond Ourselves  PARTICIPATION Running is a choice we make. But we’re not alone! Running USA’s 2015 survey indicated there were 17 million road race finishers (not unique racers – one can count multiple times) up from just 4.7 million in 1990 – nearly a four-fold increase! Interestingly, 57% were women, up from 25% in 1990. Why this overall increase? Four key reasons are technologies that allow for net … Continue reading

The History of Exercise Physiology

I recently purchased Exercise Physiology by William McArdle. It is the text used for University of Vermont’s course on that topic. I opened the book expecting to jump right into nutrition, muscular movement, injury rehab, and cardiovascular and neural function. But it started with a 55-page history of the science of exercise physiology. It was fascinating! We may take for granted fundamental principles of training, such things as VO2 Max, hard-easy loading, nutritional balance, and benefits of strength work. And it seems like new developments in the field, or at least novel approaches, come along every couple years. Anything we have a question about has boundless info on the Web. We of course know it wasn’t always like that.   And I raptly read through this historical account. “Exercise” was first defined by Galen, who lived from 130 to 210 AD and treated both Roman gladiators and their rulers. Roman athletes who threw the javelin, discus, and ran fast were revered. He espoused the “laws of health” including fresh air, proper diet and drink, good hygiene, exercise, sleep, and emotional control. He considered exercise “vigorous movement” and was well aware of what we today call the “overload principle.”   There were numerous … Continue reading

Ed Whitlock – Last Lap

Ed Whitlock died on March 12 at the age of 86.   In running circles Ed Whitlock was an icon, an enigma, and someone who defied the aging process. He set world records at various distances after turning 70. Five months before his death he ran a 3:56 marathon in Toronto. Physiological tests indicated the highest VO2 Max of anyone measured at his age and his muscle retention astounding. He was a rail at 110 pounds, carrying no extra baggage. I had dinner with Ed and Bill Dixon a few years back at the Stockadeathon. Ed was a pretty understated and unassuming guy. Had a twinkle in his eye and clearly enjoyed being around the races. He didn’t like to train and was known for his endless laps around a local cemetery. He didn’t listen to music – just ground it out. Maybe he experienced a runners high in the races – he certainly did not in training. Ed did nothing but run – no weights, stretching, or cross-training. Ed died from prostate cancer that had apparently spread to his bones. He didn’t say anything publically about it, which is why it caught most everyone by surprise. Surely Ed knew something was … Continue reading

Running Times – Gone!

Running Times started in 1977, the year I took up distance running. There really weren’t good running books back then so the magazine became my go-to source. I devoured every issue, usually reading it cover to cover the day received. Without fail, there was something, usually many somethings that could be incorporated immediately into one’s training and racing. I kept piles of RT around, only discarding them when making long distance moves. There were regular features. I loved the Shoe Guy, J.D. Denton, who owed a Fleet Feet store in Davis CA. His offbeat articles on life in a running store were funny, refreshing, and educational. The Owner’s Manual, written by various authors but often Pete Pfitzinger and Owen Anderson, provided a plethora of training advice. I lost count the number of times I had developed an injury or training impasse that the current issue addressed, as if the writers had been talking to my training partners! Nutrition, coaching, shoe reviews, performance tips, race results, and the latest discoveries in sports medicine and psychology were regular topics. Generally an accomplished masters runner was profiled along with their training regimen, providing many good ideas to try. Every year they ranked the … Continue reading

Pre Lives On!

Forty years ago, on May 30, 1975, Steve Prefontaine died when his car flipped over on a winding road in Eugene, Oregon. Who was Steve Prefontaine, called Pre in running circles, and why do we still celebrate his life? Pre was America’s premier track runner in the early 70’s. A brash kid from Coos Bay, Oregon, he set an American high school record in the 2 mile and then attended University of Oregon under coach Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike. It was less about what Pre did than how he did it. A notorious front-runner, Pre invariably pushed the pace. This was counter to the strategy followed by most top runners who would strategically let others lead and then pour it on toward the end. Pre thought that was cheating, that one should run the whole race. By running this way, Steve helped others run their best times. And made racing fun to watch! Pre brought intensity to everything he did. You might say Pre was poured, not born. Even as a youngster, he was hyperactive. He channeled this energy into running during his sophomore year in high school, showing an unusual amount of focus and commitment under the … Continue reading