The Gift of Injury

Going through some papers, I came across this piece I wrote 21 years ago, about midway through my running career. I am not sure what I did with this and if anyone else ever read it, but it reminded me how critical a juncture this was. The injury was patellar tendinitis, reportedly the 5th most common running injury. I did not run for over three months. But upon returning, I did so progressively with a commitment to avoid this going forward. Thus began my consistent use and tracking of running equivalents, mostly water running and Stairmaster and by incorporating REQs an adherence to daily workouts. It also marked the start of taping my knees with Leukotape right below the kneecap to take pressure off the patella tendon. The physical therapist used this during rehab and I just kept doing it. I buy Leukotape in bulk and don’t leave home without it. I tried the Cho-Pat, but find tape works much better. Also at this time, I began a regimen of weight exercises for my legs and knees four to five times a week. Specifically for the knees I use the quad machine, but rather than isotonic (up and down) reps … Continue reading

The Inside Game

Tom Derderian, coach of the Greater Boston Track Club and fellow 60+ runner with a 2:19 marathon PR, summed it up pretty well when he said after a USATF-New England Grand Prix race last year, “I know what to do, I just can’t do it” Granted, Tom’s standards are high. However reconciling memories of past times with current reality proves a challenge as we age. When Father (or Mother) Time starts visiting varies significantly among runners. Debilitating injuries interfere with our mechanics. Maladies such as knee arthritis or worn cartilage make sustained training problematic. And the longer we have run, the more likely overall wear and tear. There are as many training plans and life circumstances as there are runners. But the questions remain: Why do we slow down? And what can we do to delay the onset? To answer the first question, it’s critical to probe what is really going on in our bodies as we age. First, muscle strength is critical to performance. And assuming no change in training regimen other than aging, a study of active men aged 15 to 83 by Taylor Lexell showed both a change from Type II (fast twitch) to Type I muscle … Continue reading

How Many Pairs?

When I worked at Marathon Sports, I was surprised how many customers came in to replace their one pair of shoes. Often the old ones were way beyond worn. Maybe I’m spoiled, a collector, or both, but I feel my closet is empty without a choice of running shoes. At the store, I didn’t want to come across as hard sell – out to boost sales. But my motivation was sincere. So I tried various ways to broach the topic. Sometimes successfully, more often not. So, how many pairs is enough? As with most things, it depends. Do you just run on roads, just trails, or both? How many days a week do you run? How far? Do you race a lot and/or do regular speed workouts? Are you a bigger or smaller person? Is your gait light to the ground or do you tend to strike hard? You want an answer, not more questions. OK! Simplistically, for most runners I suggest three pairs. Your main pair is your regular trainer. Something with a basic amount of cushion, such as a Brooks Ghost or Adidas Energy Boost for neutral runners or an Asics 2000 or Saucony Guide for those needing … 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

Finding Balance

It’s hard to describe, but you know when you have it and feel it. Your day moves along well. You think clearly. Say the right things. There’s spring in your step and you look forward to whatever happens. You see the lighter side and don’t take things personally. In short, you are balanced! I retired in October 2014. After working in finance, accounting, and nonprofit management for 38 years I just didn’t have the same energy to pour into work. Not getting any younger, there were other things to do. I spent the next year becoming a certified trainer and USATF run coach, focused on my own training, and worked part-time at a local running store. All this was fun, new, invigorating, educational, and a challenge. But it turned out to be a sabbatical, as a year later I returned to my job, for good reasons – the people, role, and mission. I was sure in the interim I had learned something about balance and would do a better job of pacing myself. And for certain stay very engaged in running-related things. Good intentions! However, upon returning I quickly inherited a backlog of projects as well as new things coming … Continue reading

Eccentric Heel Dips – The Magic Elixir!

We runners have some predictable issues and injuries. Starting from the bottom the most prevalent are plantar fasciitis (PF), Achilles tendinitis, calf strains, sore knees, tight hamstrings, hip and groin strains, and lower back pain. If you’ve been running very long, you’ve probably had bouts with all of these. I certainly have! What to do? Could there be a one-size-fits-all solution to these multiple maladies up and down the kinetic chain? Well, no. But I have found one rather simple exercise that both directly and indirectly addresses these issues – eccentric heel dips. I think some of my clients consider me eccentric and obsessive when I impress upon them the importance of doing them – day in and day out. Perhaps they are right. Meanwhile I take my own medicine and perform them multiple times each day. Here’s the basic description: Stand on the edge of a stair or any kind of a riser that allows you to dip your heels to a comfortable stretch. Supported only by the front of your foot, allow your body weight to stretch the heel downward, allowing one foot to take the majority of the weight. When you hit bottom, and just after a … Continue reading

Finding My Stride

I recently spoke with the Concord Academy cross-country team at the invitation of their coach Jon Waldron, a fellow CSU member. Tyler Andrews, 25 years old and a 2:16 qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and world record holder in the half marathon on a treadmill (1:03 at the 2015 Boston Marathon expo) also spoke. Jon was looking to have us convey our respective experiences of how we developed as runners, both emerging from rather modest beginnings. He felt by having runners at the opposite ends of the age spectrum, his team might take away that competitive running continues well after high school. Also for them to keep the long view and not be discouraged if they aren’t setting records now. Tyler, a graduate of Concord Academy, emphasized the importance of process and focus on improvement. And that multiple layers of improvement will reveal one’s true potential. Tyler was fortunate to begin finding his stride as a senior in high school. Jon played and continues to play an important mentoring role but Tyler’s uncommon dedication and commitment following graduation has allowed him to rise to elite level in college and beyond. I spoke about the early days of running … Continue reading

Taking the Fall

I was out running this morning with my friend Jonathan. We were doing a relaxed pace on the Cambridge side of the Charles River. It was a nice morning – sunny and not too warm. Perfect for the end of August! Lot’s of people running as students arrived back in town.   We passed MIT and took a fork down to the river where the path narrows to single file. We were talking about Jonathan’s kids and what they were up to. I was thinking about that and just a couple steps behind him and did not see a root sticking up several inches. Down I went – hard! And with full force as I had lifted off the ground. Remarkably, I landed with my weight distributed pretty evenly between my knee, hip, shoulder, and arm – a good portion of the kinetic chain.  Fortunately it was on dirt. As I laid there for a minute or so, with the wind knocked out and pain in all parts hitting the ground, I reflected on a fall almost exactly a year before when I tried hurdling over a chain fence. That incident was on asphalt and led to a trip to an … Continue reading

It’s the Hips!

Last weekend I attended a training school put on by USA Track & Field. Officially it’s called Track & Field Coaching Essentials Level 1. It was 22 hours of lecture and demonstration of track and field events, A to Z, from a coaching perspective. Sixty-five people from around New England and upstate New York trekked to the Innovation Academy in Tynsborough for this crash course.   At least 55 raised their hands when asked if they were currently coaching high school or college. These were folks doing it! I met just two other people who like myself were coaching post-collegiate adults, though both had previously spent time coaching younger athletes. I was quite sure a good portion of the material wasn’t going to interest me. In high school I didn’t pay much attention to what those big guys were doing in the middle of the track during meets. And when I did, it was to make sure that there wasn’t a wayward implement coming my way! The first 8 hours or so was in the classroom covering general training theory and endurance events. Good stuff! Then we moved on to sprints and hurdles before going into the jumps (the long, triple, … Continue reading


I was talking with a customer at Marathon Sports the other day. He wanted to run faster and was looking for a pair of shoes to enable that. Not an unusual topic – who doesn’t want better race times! This conversation reminded me of three interrelated things that directly affect our speed: range of motion; turnover; and push-off. First, range of motion or ROM. Jack Daniels observed that 1984 Olympic women distance runners had a heel-to-heel stride length of 58” and men 74”. This is probably the top end for most of us – but for purposes here let’s assume an average stride length of 59 inches, or roughly 1.5 meters. For a 5K race, that is about 3,300 strides. If a runner’s full ROM is reduced by just 1”, in essence that means running an extra 90 yards. At a 7:00 minute pace this would add 22 seconds. So instead of 21:46 5K, it would take 22:08. For a 10K, double that difference to 44 seconds. And for a half marathon, 92 seconds or 1.5 minutes. Clearly, a price is paid for a constrained ROM. Second, turnover, or cadence as the cyclists call it, is another key part of … Continue reading