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Thoughts on Running

Thoughts on Running (17)

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While the GDP takes its annual dip on the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament as thousands of otherwise productive individuals are glued to the television in defense of their bracket picks, let’s take a moment to consider the ways in which this annual rite of passage can mirror our own distance running and racing endeavors.

 

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it

When a team cuts down the nets and “One Shining Moment” plays into our living rooms three Mondays from now, one team will be mixing tears of joy and wide grins as they savor a moment they will likely remember for the rest of their lives.  Why?

 

One reason is that the NCAA tournament is extremely difficult to win.  An individual player likely has played for 12-15 years before they have the chance and likely endured plenty of hours in an empty gym after everyone else had gone home. A team ascends to the top of the ladder placed under the rim only if they have matched the consistency of a strong regular season, the good fortune to maintain relative health amongst their ranks, and a six game hot streak just at the right time.

 

Athletes running marathons and half marathons must have the same discipline as the college athlete who still shoots 100 free throws after practice and takes 500 jumpers per day.  When everyone else wants to run five miles and call it a day, we must have fortitude to tuck three gels into our pockets and set out for that 18 miler.  Many marathoners are the first person in their families to even attempt such a feat, and are adults who have yet to experience the high of serious athletic accomplishment.  While distance racing is growing in numbers, those numbers are still a mole hill compared to the mountain of others who would not choose to train for a marathon for the life of them.  Take pride in confidently choosing and navigating the road less traveled.

 

Never underestimate the unexpectedly effective opponent

In the NCAA tournament, occasionally a top seed is eliminated early on by a team that would likely have no chance of winning if the same game were played another 20 times.  However, on that one day, an underdog can assert itself and wreak havoc over the expected order of things.  Similarly, we run the risk of getting ambushed by last minute issues if we have not prepared for the very real possibility that things may not always be perfect, or have not conscientiously thought through all the easily knowable pitfalls.

 

With marathon and half marathon training and racing, there is a very real possibility that an athlete may temporarily not feel very good at all in a way that should have no bearing on the final outcome.  Most of our runcoach athletes take their running preparation seriously, but we also encourage runners to do research on their race to understand race day procedures, travel plans, fuel availability on the course, weather conditions.  Missing some pre-race instructions can derail the best laid plans.    Even if something goes wrong, if we have a solidly built foundation of training and keep a calm attitude, that mishap need not carry the day.  Picture yourself as the top seed which doesn’t get flustered when the low seed plays tough defense and has a scoring spurt midway through the second half.  Rely on your training, think logically, be patient for the issue to resolve itself, and “survive and advance” to the next stage of the race.

 

It takes a village

On the basketball court, even the most illustrious of individual players is no match for a strong, cohesive team.  In running, an individual race is the final product, but likely many cooks were in the kitchen, helping to prepare the athlete to do battle from the start line.  Running can be a very singular pursuit, but goal racing almost invites the crucial contributions from others.  Every basketball team needs speedy little point guards, medium sized small forwards, and tall, lumbering centers.  Marathon training often requires time (found often by others temporarily shouldering additional responsibilities), medical practitioners who give massages, provide support, and prescribe the occasional diagnostic test. Encouragement on that raining Saturday morning, with the longest run of the training cycle on tap, can be a difference maker allowing you to get through and recover from the toughest assignments.  Even the person who prepared your dinner (if you did not do it yourself), plays a part in keeping you healthy and on track with your recovery schedule.

 

Next year offers fresh opportunity

The basketball tournament has made several incremental changes through the years, while keeping the core experience somewhat similar every March.  If things don’t work perfectly one year, a team can return and make amends the following spring.  Similarly, a marathon or other goal race which did not go according to plan may need not be the end of the road.  Almost all marathons and half marathons are annual affairs as well, and the turn of seasons offers another chance to succeed where success has previously been difficult to attain.  Good coaches are always learning (just as we are from you every time you enter your run in your log), but successful athletes are often also resilient enough to stick with what seems like an intractable problem and take a second try to attain the runners’ version of “One Shining Moment”  - the finish line.

 



Need a bit of motivation?  We all have our moments where the light at the end of the tunnel seems a bit dim.  Take heart, and be encouraged by the words and sentiment of a few top athletes and coaches throughout history.

 

He’s not a runner, but he is undeniably one of the greatest….

 

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can’t accept not trying.

Michael Jordan

He probably never ran a marathon, but he motivated many….

 

The only time success comes before failure is in the dictionary.

Vince Lombardi

Famous for his gutsiness….

 

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

Steve Prefontaine

Joy in the daily run, even when you are a two time Olympian….

 

That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success.  They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.

Kara Goucher

Believe in your dreams….

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.

Doug Larson

Have patience….

Good things come slow... especially in distance running.

Bill Dellinger

Mental toughness requires practice, even for a 3-time world Cross Country Champion…

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.

Lynn Jennings

How the first sub 4:00 miler felt about running…

We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves.

Sir Roger Bannister

And finally….

If it was easy, I’d do it!

Seen on a marathon spectator sign

 

 



images-1Watching the Olympics can be a humbling experience, seeing athletes fling themselves fearlessly up into the air or hurtle down a mountain at 80 miles an hour with their chins just an inch or two off the ice.  Unlike the summer games, where many more of the sports have recreational or youth access points which familiarize them to the average viewer, the winter games can seem a bit more exotic if not from an alpine region.   Even so, the first week and a half of the Sochi Games has featured a lot of narrative, which can teach each of us a bit about our own athletic pursuits.

 


US Speed Skating Uniform Drama Lesson I - Avoid Letting the Distraction Become the Focus

The US long track speed skating team is used to a regular quadrennial dose of medals, and with returning top athletes like Shani Davis in the fold, much was expected of the team this time out.  While Under Armour had spent millions of dollars supporting the team and developing what was seen to be the fastest skin suit ever, the initial sub-optimal performances teased out vocalized doubts about whether or not the suits were actually slowing the athletes down with the new technology, as they had not been used before the actual Olympic Games.  Media chatter has become louder, the team switched back to the old suits, and yet, the athletes still had a tough time.

 

As recreational runners, we can obsess about our outfits and our gear, but once the gun goes off and the competition is still ongoing, it is important to focus on the task at hand. If possible, avoid evaluating your performance and the causes of its perceived success or failure until it is actually over.  Doubt and questioning of the course of action and plan you have chosen may be merited, but it won’t do much besides distract you from committing the energy needed for the task at hand in the meantime.

 

US speed skating uniform drama Lesson II - Avoid Trying Something for the First Time on Your Goal Race Day.

Likewise, the speed skating federation wanted an extra advantage by bringing out the new suits just for the Olympics with no prior competition trials.  Similar to trying a brand new pair of shoes or a new pair of shorts on marathon race day without knowing if those shoes will give you blisters or those shorts will chafe is not the ideal course to take.  Race day is a time to eliminate question marks.  Try out everything you can beforehand so you have more knowns than unknowns while racing.  Thankfully for many of us, we don’t have other national federations trying to gain a split second advantage over us as we try to set our own personal best amongst tens of thousands of other runners, so no harm done in breaking out those new socks in your tune-up half or on a long run.  Plan ahead and stick to the plan!

 

Trackster to Bobsledder – Switch things up and extend your running “career”

Although not the first to make the transition, Lauryn Williams and LoLo Jones made headlines this winter as former summer Olympians whose explosiveness as track and field was also a valuable commodity in the bobsled event.  While Lolo Jones hasn’t retired from hurdling, a fall and a failure to medal in the last two Olympics likely had her seeking a way to direct her energy away from the frustrating missteps.  Lauryn Williams has announced her retirement from track following the 2013 season, but after being introduced to the idea by Jones, has ended up winning the silver medal as the pushing athlete for the top American bobsled driver.

 

Although we don’t run for a living, it is often an important part of our daily life.  We rely on it for stress relief, time with fellow runners, goal setting, and many other roles.  When injury or a descent from previous PRs comes upon us, it can be tempting to just give up and walk away.  Many runners find new pastures in trail races when road races become overly demanding on joints and muscles.  Team relays can allow athletes to participate in events without requiring the extent of some of the more demanding training that better days might have featured.  Incorporating regular cross training can help athletes extend their running careers with more recovery, and find success in duathlons or triathlons.  Helping others through mentoring youth, taking leadership roles in charity running organizations or other opportunities can also extend the running life with additional texture even as PRs no longer are quite the focus. Today, we are fortunate to have so many interesting and diverse running events available on a given weekend – consider challenging yourself with a new discipline and / or distance, and hopefully you can prolong the enjoyment running gives that much longer.

 

Figure Skating’s New Scoring System -  Add up the good things instead of deducting for mistakes

Back in the cold war-era days when skating was judged by how close one came to a perfect 6.0, every imperfection meant sure deductions from the elusive 6.  Now, skaters have a chance to earn points for their technical and artistic components on a level system that rewards for excellence rather than deducts for mistakes.  A small difference, for sure, but a huge one that also relates to how we might view our own running.  A perfect day is very rarely had.  More likely, we can have what we would describe as a “successful” day in a variety of situations which leave us feeling positive about the workout, run, or race as we finish.  Every so often, things come together brilliantly and we experience the once in a lifetime zone. But, if we focus on the many small things that are adding up to a successful day than the one or two things that might differentiate this day from an almost hypothetical perfect one, we will have many more positive memories to help us continue scaling the next mountain.

 



Pro's Perspective - Jake Schmitt

Written by Dena Evans February 14, 2014



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This week on the blog, we are bringing back one of our ongoing series through the years, the Pro’s Perspective.  In this installment, we check in with Jake Schmitt, 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier, and marketing manager with salesforce.com.

A 2005 Redwood High School grad, Schmitt initially stayed local to his Marin County, California roots by matriculating to UC Berkeley after a national level prep career.  A subsequent transfer to University of Washington yielded many outstanding results for Schmitt, where he finished as one of the conference, region, and nation’s top distance runners with collegiate bests of 13:59 over 5000 meters and 28:53 over 10,000 meters.

After joining the Bay Area Track Club and running full time upon graduation, Schmitt has made a successful transition to a full time job.  He has since finished in 7th place at the 2013 USATF Marathon Championships last October with a sizzling  2:15.  In addition to his traditional work day responsibilities and his training, Schmitt coaches Redwood High School athletes alongside his mom, who continues to coach him as she did during his prep years.

 

How does Jake keep up the dual pursuits of successful cloud marketing as well as fast times and world-class performances?  Runcoach caught up with him briefly this week to ask…

 

rc: What is your daily schedule?  How do you manage to balance work and high level running on a day in, day out basis?

JS: My goal is to get up and run every morning (laughs).  I usually do about 45 minutes, probably actually 2-3 times a week.  However, I like to do the bulk of my running in the evening.  I live in the [San Francisco neighborhood] Marina and it is lit and flat, so I am ok with that.  Every Tuesday, I go to Kezar [stadium in Golden Gate Park] for a track workout in the evening, usually 6-8 miles of tempo work.  I save my fast, quality work for Saturdays, and go long on Sunday.  Last week on Tuesday, I did some 800 and 400s at 3K pace as I get ready for a 3000m indoor this weekend.  My goal this spring is to qualify for the USA’s [Outdoor Track and Field Championships] in the 10k, and get my 5k and 10k prs on the track. I try to keep a relaxed approach, so that my day off moves around as needed each week, between Monday to Friday, and I just know that my weekends are going to be big.  I try to run 75-80 miles a week.

 

rc: We might assume that this would be tough with a full work day, but what are the plusses you have found in keeping this type of schedule?

JS: The most exciting part of running as a professional athlete vs. working full time is the idea of running as play.  When I leave work, it is a total delight to run.  The biggest thing for me is that running immediately became my “outlet” vs. my “struggle.” I’m with brilliant people every day that I respect a lot at work, but one of the great things about coaching high schoolers is that I remember that so many things can go off plan and you can still have success.  Somewhere along the line, you forget about that.  You just control the control-ables and just get on the line and race.

 

rc:  That sounds very encouraging, but there must be tougher aspects to keeping up two professions at once.  What are some of the difficult parts of your schedule?

JS: What I find is hard is trying to make what I am doing “normal” to other people.  Explaining people why I get up and run in the morning and then again in the evening, or why I eat what I eat.  I don’t want to be up on a “hilltop” by myself, I just want what I do to be normal, and in our culture, running this much or running twice a day is not very common.

 

rc:  For all the beginners out there just trying to make a fitness goal or complete their first 5K, what encouragement do you have?

JS:  A tactical piece of advice for beginners would be just slow down and make it easy so that you can finish and still go out again tomorrow.  Make it enjoyable!  My motivational advice is the same thing I tell myself.  I’ve been running since I was 6 years old, and it is still hard to get up in the morning and go for a run.  But, every time I do, I feel amazing.  I feel accomplished, relaxed, and I feel great the rest of the day.  If you can just feel that once, it feels so good! It will definitely encourage you to keep going again.



Bust these 5 Running Myths Today!

Written by Dena Evans February 06, 2014

TF_croppedDon’t let your running and training be hampered by arbitrary tales that may lead you off track.  If you find yourself caught in the trap laid by one of these myths, it is time to set yourself free!

Myth #1:  If you don’t have time for the entire prescribed workout, you should just skip the whole thing.

We all know the nagging pain of a day where the alarm didn’t go off, your toddler is sick, work is a fire drill, or the weather is garbage. The scheduled workout is Just. Not. Going. To. Happen.  In frustration, it can be tempting to bag everything and sulk.  Don’t.  Your schedule is the best-case scenario, and every single runner has had to punt and pivot now and again.  If the track workout isn’t an option, an aerobic run can still help clear your head, and keep you on track for either an adjusted workout day later in the week or next week’s tasks.  If the schedule calls for 45 minutes and you only have 25 minutes, your body will get a significant benefit from doing even half the work.  If you are taking an unplanned “zero” in the log, focus your mental energy on the positives – more freshness for the next session, accomplishment of the tasks and issues that have stolen your run time, and the confidence that a day or few off does not have to have a significant impact on your fitness level.

Myth #2:  Days off are for wimps.

Training hard is important to get toward your goal, but without recovery, your muscles don’t have the ability to adapt and recoup after the stress you have placed on them already.  Recuperation time allows your body to return to preparedness for the stimulus ahead and in doing so, get the most out of the upcoming challenge.  Running hard every day drives your body into a deeper and deeper hole from which it eventually becomes impossible to escape.   Build your schedule with some planned and regular rest, and the chances of you making it to the start line of your goal race will increase immensely.

Myth #3:  You will set a personal best every single race or you are not trying hard enough.

There are many, many factors that contribute to a personal best day.  An accurately (or inaccurately) measured course.  A tail or head wind.  Hills.  A bad meal the night before.  How well recovered you are.  Your bout of flu last week.  Neglecting to hydrate along the route or beforehand.  The list goes on and on.   These are not excuses, but factors which can both enhance or diminish the yield from your training up to that point.  Your actual fitness plays the largest role, but smart training includes a slight cyclical effect where recovery periods are interspersed with hard training and tapering for goal events.  100% effort each time can be a good way to practice the significant demand your body will require when it is primed for a signature day, but even top level effort each time may not always result in a new level of achievement, particularly for experienced runners who have been through the train and taper cycle in the past.  Concentrate on the quality of your preparation, the execution of your plan, and when your body is ready, you’ll have good racing habits and attitude down pat.

Myth #4a:  The more cushioning in your shoes, the better chance you have of avoiding injury.

Most athletes do not need to purchase the shoes with the maximum potential padding, structure, or stability in order to stay injury free, and in fact these shoes can sometimes impede your stride from operating at its greatest efficiency.  Each foot and every person is different.  Consider getting a gait analysis from an experienced staff member at a reputable running specialty store in your neck of the woods, and adding that info to your reasoning as you choose your next pair of shoes.  Well-cushioned shoes have indeed helped many non-runners become runners through the years, but for many athletes, other choices may serve the body better.

Myth #4b:  The less cushioning in your shoes, the better chance you have of avoiding injury.

In recent years, thousands of runners have become enamored with the “minimalist” segment of the running shoe market.  These are typically footwear with much or all of the heel lift eliminated, or shoes meant to simulate running barefoot with various ways of wrapping around the foot or articulating the sole.  While incorporating barefoot running or minimalist footwear into a larger program to strengthen the foot and lower leg can be very beneficial, these decisions must be made in context.  Injury history, the restraint to gradually incorporate this type of running, and the availability of suitable and safe terrain must all be considered.  Again, minimalist footwear have been invaluable tools for many runners, but just because you want to be one of those runners, doesn’t mean you are.  Get some input from your experienced local running specialty retailer or a podiatrist, and don’t do anything all at once.

Myth #5:  Training for a marathon is a great crash diet.

Physical fitness is a great by-product of decision to train for a half or full marathon.  Weight loss may result, but the “goal beyond the goal” should always be sustainable, healthy habits.  Athleticism, strength, endurance are all aspects of your best self that need to come to the fore in order for you to reach your race finish line.  Explicit, short term dieting and caloric reduction while maintaining a schedule of challenging running tasks can be detrimental to your training and health at best, and dangerous at worst.  We want running to be a life-long, rewarding pursuit, but we also know it fits into a larger context of healthy diet, sleep, lifestyle, and fitness choices.  Incremental changes you can live with, while adjusting to training, can help ensure that this goal won’t be the end of your training, but just the start.



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26.2 miles or 42 kilometers may seem like a completely arbitrary distance, considering how the marathon has captured the imagination of the running public over the past several decades.  In reality, the marathon has its roots in a few twists and turns of history, some of which are factual, some of which are in dispute or considered to be not necessarily history in the hard and fast sense.  How did we get to the universal understanding of the 26.2 mile distance as an object of fascination and motivation for hundreds of thousands of runners each year?

 

The conventional wisdom about the genesis of the marathon consists of the brief story of a professional courier named Pheidippides, who lived around 500BC.  Running approximately 25 miles to bring news of victory by the Greeks over the Persians at Marathon, Greece, he collapsed upon arrival and announcement of his news.

 

There are several variations of this story, both in prose and poetry in the centuries since, some of which include the aspect that Pheidippides initially ran from Athens to Sparta to ask for their help, covering about 240 km in two days. The account of Herodotus, writing about half a century after the events, is often considered to be an important source, but really doesn’t describe the events as we have come to accept them, instead mentioning the efforts of Pheidippides, (as he called him, Philippides) to get to Sparta and back, and indicating that Athenian fighters won the battle and marched back to Athens the same day.

 

Either way, there is a route from Marathon to Athens that spans about 25 miles.  This route travels to the south, around Mount Penteli, which stands between the two cities.  There is also a steeper route to the north which would require a more technical trip, but only spans 35 kilometers.  In the late 1800s, the founders of the modern Olympic movement became inspired by the 1879 poem of Robert Browning, Pheidippides and decided to include a marathon in the 1896 Olympic Games.  At the time, the southern route was a well established road and became the setting for the first organized attempts at the distance:  the Greek qualifier for the Olympic marathon, and the 1896 Olympic marathon, won by Spyridon Louis of Greece in a come-from-behind 2:58.

 

Inspired by the 1896 Athens Olympic Marathon, US team manager John Graham returned to New England and helped establish the Boston Athletic Association-hosted marathon of 24.5 miles on April 17, 1897, now well into its second century of annual running.  The winner, John McDermott, had already won the first ever marathon on US soil (approximately 25 miles) from Connecticut to the Bronx on September 19, 1896.

 

The 1900 Olympic race in Paris featured 13 competitors, seven finishers, and Michel Théato of France as the winner in 2:59, while 1904’s effort in St. Louis was a bit of a disaster. Trimming 32 starters to 14 finishers, many received aid such as physical assistance, injection of stimulants on the road to keep them going, and more.  One competitor was found prone along the road, suffering from dust inhalation from the lead vehicles, while a competitor who had earlier dropped out, was initially and mistakenly considered the winner while crossing the finish line after being dropped off by his ride a few miles short of the finish line.  After everything, Thomas Hicks of the US was declared the winner in 3:28.  The Paris distance was about 25 miles, and the St. Louis distance was planned to be 24.85 or 40K.

 

In 1908, while the distance was anticipated to be between 25-26 miles, long planned efforts to incorporate a protected start from the crowds within the grounds of Windsor Castle as well as to provide a more spectator friendly finish on the track at White City Stadium in Shepherd’s Bush resulted in what became officially “about 26 miles plus 385 yards on the track” when then best start was finally decided upon.  Often reported as a special royal request, this starting spot appears more likely to be a pragmatic consideration.   Although later measured to be actually a bit shorter than this listed distance, the 26 miles and 385 yards number has stood the test of time as the accepted distance of the marathon ever since.

 

For additional information on the historical establishment of the marathon distance, check out these sources:

 

Longman, Jeré The Marathon’s Random Route to Its Length. ” New York Times April 20, 2012.  Web.  Accessed January 8, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/sports/the-marathons-accidental-route-to-26-miles-385-yards.html

 

Marathon History.”  Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. Accessed January 8, 2014. http://www.aimsworldrunning.org/marathon_history.htm

 

The History of the Marathon.” Marathon Guide. Accessed January 8, 2014.  http://www.marathonguide.com/history/

 



UntitledRunning as a recreationally competitive sport has grown leaps and bounds over the past several years.  According to Running USA, the year 1990 featured just about 1.2 million women and 3.5 million male running event finishers in the United States.  At the conclusion of 2012, they estimate that women’s participation has grown to 8.7 million, with men’s numbers jumping to 6.8 million.  Perhaps you are one of those who has jumped on the running bandwagon relatively recently.

 

Those numbers indicate that more of your friends and neighbors have laced up their running shoes and gotten out there on the sidewalk or trail, but they also indicate some interesting smaller trends within the overall growth.

 

Did you realize…. that in 2012, 60% of half marathon finishers were female, with 40% male, while for the full marathon, 42% were female and 58% male, almost a mirrored result.

 

Did you realize…the median times for a half marathon and marathon were 2:01/4:17 and 2:19/ 4:42 for men and women respectively?

 

Did you realize…the largest road race in America is the Peachtree Road Race 10K in Atlanta, GA, beating out the Lilac Bloomsday 12K 58,043 to 48, 229 (the ING New York City Marathon likely would have finished at least within striking distance of these if it were not canceled due to Hurricane Sandy).

 

Did you realize,,, the average age of a road race finisher in the US is 35.8 years old.

 

Did you realize…the 5K is the most popular race distance, capturing 40% of the race finishers in 2012.  The half marathon is the second most popular distance at 12%.

 

Did you realize…that Thanksgiving is the most popular day to enter a running event, featuring 858,000 runners in 2012 and expected to reach 1,000,000 or close to it when 2013 numbers are tallied.

 

Did you realize…that there were nearly 500 Turkey Trots to choose from?

 

Did you realize…that after Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July had 248, 000 finishers in 2011, with New Year’s Day taking third at 81,000 finishers.  Will you be one of them in 2014?

 

The holidays and the New Year are a perfect time to make resolutions for the 365 days to come.  In recent years, it appears many thousands of people are not only making resolutions, but getting to the start and finish lines of goal races.  If this is your first season of training, or if you have been training for years, take heart, many others have successfully taken on the challenge and succeeded.  You can, and you will too!

 

 



Names Every Runner Should Know

Written by Dena Evans December 12, 2013

imagesAre you a new runner and hope to join in the conversation with the more experienced athletes on the next group run?  Have you been running long enough to have heard these names, but are a bit too sheepish to ask who they are or what they have done? Wait no longer and raise your running knowledge quotient in a few quick minutes right now!

 

Mo Farah

Farah is a British athlete who has won both the 5000m and 10,000m gold medals at the most recent IAAF World Championships in 2013 as well as the 2012 London Olympics.  As you might imagine, this is extremely tough to do, and he is widely considered to currently be the best distance athlete on the planet.  Originally born in Somalia, Farah has a twin brother from whom he was separated when only part of his family was able to move to the UK in the early 90’s.  He is married with three daughters and trains with American coach Alberto Salazar in Portland, Oregon.

 

Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich

The current world record holder in the marathon, Kipsang is a Kenyan athlete, who covered 26.2 miles at the 2013 Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 23 seconds.  He has run faster than 2:05 four times, was the bronze medalist in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics, and is the reigning champion of the NYC Half Marathon.  2:23:23 equates to 4:42 per mile average, or 26.2 miles of 70 second quarter miles.  Continuously.

 

Paula Radcliffe

Although Radcliffe has competed sparsely over the past few years due to injury and maternity, she remains the women’s world record holder over the marathon distance.  Her mark of 2:15:25 at the London Marathon in 2003 stands nearly three minutes ahead of the next best performance, by Liliya Shobukhova at 2:18:20.  While famously unable to achieve the Olympic gold medal to match the magnitude of her performances outside of the Games, her long and storied international career and front running tactics have made her a household name and a women’s distance running standard bearer for the current generation.

 

Meb Keflezighi

Keflezighi, was the first American male to win a medal in the Olympic Marathon since the 1970’s when he took home silver in the 2004 Athens Games.  Following the disappointment of not qualifying for the US team in 2008, he returned to form from injury in 2009, winning the ING New York City Marathon, again the first American to do so in a generation.  Keflezighi finished 4th in the Olympic marathon at the 2012 Games at the age of 37.  His accessible nature and interest in the community have made him a fan favorite.  Keflezighi is a current member of the runcoach board of directors.

Tirunesh Dibaba

Nicknamed “The Baby-Faced Destroyer,” this twenty eight year-old Ethiopian athlete has won three Olympic Gold medals, five World Championships in track & field, and five more world championships in cross country.  She can close her 5000 and 10,000 events with 400m finishing sprints in faster than 60 seconds, sometimes battling compatriot, rival, and fellow world champion Meseret Defar.  Dibaba has two siblings who have also won medals at the world championship level, and her cousin Derartu Tulu, won gold at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics.

 

Legends (not nearly an exhaustive list, but just to get you started):

 

Steve Prefontaine

Former University of Oregon and US international athletes initially famous for outspoken criticism of restrictive amateurism rules and a brazen front running style, but remembered greatly due to a tragic passing in a car accident in May of 1975.  Eugene, Oregon plays host to an annual Diamond League event in his honor which is traditionally one of the highest quality international meets across the globe each year.

 

Roger Bannister

A well respected British neurologist, Bannister is just a teeny tiny bit more famous for being the first person to record a mile in less than four minutes.  He did so at Iffley Road Track at Oxford in May of 1954.  The time was 3:59.4, but the world record status only lasted for a little over a month and a half before the time was bettered again.

 

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Winner of the first Olympic marathon for women in 1984, this diminutive American athlete still blazes trails while racing regularly.  She nearly finished among the top 10 American women at the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.

 

Sebastian Coe

A former Member of Parliament and head of the organizing committee for the London Olympic Games, Coe earned gold in the 1500m at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and captivated the track and field world for the years surrounding these events with his rivalries with fellow countrymen Steve Ovett and Steve Cram.  Coe was world record holder in the 800 meters for 26 years, running 1:41.73 in 1981.

 

Frank Shorter

The Olympic Gold medalist in the marathon in 1972, his performances and influence are widely regarded as a crucial factor in the growth of recreational running during this time.

 

Grete Waitz

Norwegian athlete Grete Waitz won nine New York City Marathons in the 70s and 80s, more than any athlete in history.  She took silver to Benoit Samuelson in the 1984 Olympic marathon, but won gold at the 1983 Helsinki World Championships.  In all, Waitz lowered the women’s world record in the marathon nine minutes over several races, down to 2:25 in 1983.  She passed away due to complications from cancer in 2011 at age 57.

 

Kip Keino

One of the very first Kenyan athletes to take the world stage in distance running, Keino’s victory over Jim Ryun in the 1500m at the 1968 Olympics made a huge impact.  This was followed by future championships in the years to come, and further magnified by humanitarian efforts in his home country.

 

Jim Ryun

About that silver medalist….Jim Ryun was famously the first high school athlete to break four minutes for the mile, attended University of Kansas, competed in two Olympics for the United States, and set the world record in the mile (the last American to hold that distinction).  Ryun also served for many years in the United States House of Representatives.

 

Billy Mills

The last US male to earn gold in the 10,000 meters, this 1964 Olympian came out of nowhere to take the victory in what still stands as one of the biggest upsets of all time.  A well-traveled motivational speaker, Mills is a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe and was the second Native American athlete to ever win Olympic Gold.

 

Kathrine Switzer

Subject of a famous photo showing Boston Marathon race director Jock Semple trying to pull her off the course in 1967 while entered under her gender neutral initials, Switzer became the first official female winner of the Boston Marathon in 1972, running 3:07.

 

This list leaves out a great many giants of our sport – including many contemporary world-beaters. However, perhaps the list above can be a conversation starter for your next run, and hopefully an invitation to learn more about the heroes and heroines of our sport!

 



presentDon’t let the passing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday get you down – there is still plenty of time to make the runner in your life light up when opening your gift.  If you are stumped for ideas, here are a few safe paths to tread.  Likewise, runners, feel free to forward this on to non-running friends and family if they need a bit of prodding or direction!

 

Stocking stuffers

There are many small and low-key items which may seem trivial and perhaps even downright weird to anyone who doesn’t run on a regular basis.  These small tokens, however, may provide a path straight to your recipient’s heart.   An assortment of gel packets, chews, bars (GU, Power Gel, Clif Bar, etc) in a favorite flavor or range of flavors, breathable  or cushioned socks, Body Glide, gloves, warm headband, earphones, and hand warmer packets are examples of the type of item that doesn’t take up too much space, but are regularly used by many runners.  Bottle belts, handheld bottles, Camelback systems and other fluid delivery systems are often plentiful at your local running store.  Various balls or rolling devices can help your runner treat the odd ache and pain or avoid it altogether.  Sunscreen, deodorant, and other items may not scream “gift,” but with a cheeky delivery and some good humor, you can own your creativity as serving a utilitarian goal.  Several companies have seasonal flavors or special deals in December, making this time of year a perfect opportunity to increase the impact of your generosity on the same budget.

 

Reflective gear for nighttime running

A head lamp, Velcro reflectors, a sporty jacket with reflective piping or detailing, and other items can combine the desire to freshen up your favorite runner’s wardrobe with a gift that shows you care for their safety as well.  Particularly if your runner must run before work or after on a regular basis, winter is the time these are most needed, both potentially as an extra layer against the elements, and as help to remain visible in traffic.

 

Go Green! Make a gift toward their cause of choice.

If the runner in your life “has everything they need,” but has a goal race with a charitable drive planned for the spring, use the holiday season as a time to make a contribution toward their total.  They will appreciate your interest in what is likely a cause close to their heart, and your gift will be remembered months later as they achieve their goal with your encouragement.  Plus, most of these donations are tax deductible, which helps redefine the “going green” theme yet another way!

 

Fresh flowers?  How about a fresh pair of shoes?

Does your runner frequent a local specialty shoe store or buys the same shoe over and over?  Do a bit of research and/ or talk to the store to determine if you can purchase a pair of their favorite shoes in the correct size and have them waiting for a fresh start January 1.  Is this gift the most beautiful and poetic of presents?  No, but the one thing runners use the most is footwear.   If you are looking for a gift that will definitely be used, this one is it!

 

Want to give a game changer?  Here are some ideas….

If the holiday spirit has you ready to make a significant purchase for your favorite runner, there are many things runners often dream about, but may not feel are needed enough to invest the capital.  A GPS watch is a very popular item on many runners’ letters to Santa, and a treadmill can often be the difference maker for a busy runner as they try to fit everything in.  For those looking to cross train, items like an ElliptiGO or an indoor elliptical machine can also be well received.  That said, some of these purchases are highly individual in nature.  Be very confident in your plan’s positive reception and do your research if you go in this direction, particularly if the gift might be received as an admonition to “get in shape!”  Read the warranties, keep the receipts, and be prepared for some assembly in a few cases.

 

Read all about it!

There are a wide variety of autobiographies and biographies on famous runners, as well as advice books about how to train, and popular volumes like Born to Run and Unbroken.  Your bookstore or online resource could be the source for hours of enjoyment for your runner, and you could be the conduit for them learning more about their sport.  Read up!

 

Help them recover from the holidays, or just recover from the long run

A massage gift certificate, a pedicure for the toes ravaged by marathon training, a promise of dinner after the race, a yoga studio gift card, or a surprise spa treatment certificate at the hotel where they will stay following their next goal race could be ideas for a supportive family member or friend who wants to treat the runner in their life.

 

Give the gift that keeps on giving – runcoach!

If you know a beginner who could use some sound training guidance or have a runcoach customer in the family who you hope keeps up the good work, contact us to extend a subscription or provide a gift!  You’ll help them achieve their goals, and if you are already a runcoach user, perhaps you will find an ally as you hook another onto the joys of running.

 



runnerSQRunning is easy to take for granted, especially if the last few months or years have been relatively free from injury.  Even if that has not been the case, Thanksgiving is a great time to take stock of the ways in which running can make a significant difference in our lives.  Which of these makes you thankful for running this holiday?

 

Reason #1 to be thankful for running – health benefits

No exercise is perfect, but running has been found in studies to provide a tremendous number of health benefits, ranging from an efficient way to burn calories and lose weight, increased “healthy” cholesterol readings, decreased risk of breast cancer, improved protection from osteoporosis, help resisting heart disease and many other ailments.  For many runners, an occasional ache and pain will send them to the sports medicine doctor, but as a habit that positively differentiates your health from a sedentary person, running is pretty darn effective.

 

Reason #2 to be thankful for running – stress relief

This could also be captured under health benefits, but for many runners, the chance to “clear the head,” regroup from a stressful day behind or ahead, to do some background thinking about intractable problems or issues can be one of the chief reasons they get out of the house and go each day.  While many time providing an actual physical separation from the whirlwind of a busy and stressful life, running can be a crucial lifeline to quiet time for many and as such an irreplaceable part of the daily or weekly schedule.

 

Reason #3 to be thankful for running – new experiences

Whether on a lonely bike path or trail with only the company of a curious deer or exploring the busy streets of a new city just visited for the first time, running allows us to get out and experience the world around us in a way that is much different than the seat of a bus, car, or in front of the computer screen.  Even in the average and ordinary day, we can observe people and nature in new ways, informing the way we go forward afterward.  Traveling to races near and far also allows runners to explore interesting parts of their city, county, state, and even far away regions of the country and world on the ground level.  The entry fee might be pricey, but the experiences at these local races as well as those farther afield are often priceless.

 

Reason #4 to be thankful for running  - the people

Some runners do go it alone, but for many runners, the social aspect is an essential component of their running experience.  Whether a formal group, a bunch of friends, a particular running buddy with whom you always have great talks, having a running or training partner (even if only on an occasional basis), can provide a great basis for a friendship that often extends beyond the run after a while. Because running is a pursuit with particular challenges and joys, these running friends can often be among those who begin to know you best because of your shared goals and perspectives on health and healthy living.  In addition, many times running can bring together family members who are working toward a shared training goal for fitness, charity or both.  These experiences often provide memories for a lifetime.

 

Reason #5 to be thankful for running – the accessibility

Running has something for almost everyone.  Fast and competitive athletes have outlets to challenge themselves at the highest level, while beginners and recreational runners have countless (and growing ways) to participate in short and long events of every distance and for every interest area.  Put on a pair of shoes (or not), and put one foot in front of the other – that’s it.  As coaches, we are well versed in the nuances of running form, training plans, race strategies, and other minutia, but at the core, running is an activity able to be enjoyed by 1 year olds and 100 year olds alike.  It doesn’t have to look the same, go as fast (or slow), travel the same routes, or manage the same distance for any two individuals.  Your goals are yours alone, and your running, even amongst friends or teammates, is as unique as a snowflake.  At runcoach, our approach in providing individualized plans is an obvious expression of our understanding that each runner is distinctive, and this holiday season, we share our gratitude that running allows for all the distinct personalities we meet to enjoy running equally as much in their own way.

 

 



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