Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is Bill Rodgers Running Boston?!?

thank you Universal Sports!

Weather to dictate Rodgers' Boston return
Fri Apr 10, 2009 By Dave Ungrady / Universal Sports

Watch Boston Marathon LIVE on Universal Sports

Bill Rodgers did not compete in the 2008 Boston Marathon, but he did attend a press conference during race week, shown above.
A suggestion for those who hope to see running legend Bill Rodgers take part in the Boston Marathon on April 20 for the first time in 10 years: pray for cool weather. Rodgers said this week that he will run the 113th running of the race if temperatures stay around under 70 degrees. If not, he’ll likely be an impassioned spectator. “My plan now is to run it,” Rodgers said by phone from Boston, where he still operates his running store. “The last I heard we’re expecting some cool weather. But if it’s hot, I might have to wait until next year. After all, it’s been around for 113 years. I think it will be around next year.”
Runner often don't know how they're body will react to conquering Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon course at about mile 20. Due to the course's proximity to the waters of the eastern Massachusetts coast, weather on Boston Marathon day can be as strong a variant. Races have been run in chilly, rainy conditions as well as in sun drenched heat as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunny skies and temperatures that rose to the high 60s greeted runners at the 2008 race.
Rodgers has completed 15 Boston Marathons, winning four times from 1975 to 1980. He last ran the race in 1999 but did not finish. At age 48, Rodgers last completed the Boston Marathon at its 100th anniversary in 1996 in 2:53. He had planned to run the race in 2008 but recovery from prostate cancer surgery in January 2008 forced him to drop out. The cancer is still a concern for Rodgers, 61, who may face radiation treatment in May. Still, he’s been able to train well for this year’s Boston race, running as much as 70 miles per week. He’s also logged runs of 16, 20, 21 and 23 miles, the latter on the Boston marathon course. “It beat the living daylights out of me,” he says. “I haven’t done such a long run in 10 years. I didn’t drink enough. But training’s going okay.”Rodgers completed the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C. last weekend, running a 7:10 per mile pace to finish in 1:12.02, 9th in his age group and in 798th place overall.Rodgers has not completed three Boston Marathons three times, a fate he hopes to avoid this year. In addition to the 1999 race, he did not reach the 26.2 mile mark in his Boston Marathon debut in 1973, dropping out at mile 21. He was a victim of a too-fast start on the slight decline in the first few miles and a general naivetĂ© about running marathons on such a demanding course. Oppressive heat stifled Rodgers in the 1977 race, forcing him to drop out a couple of miles from the finish. Rodgers chose to seek cool refuge nearby in the renowned Eliot Lounge, a pub frequented by runners in Boston that closed in 1996. He said with a laugh Thursday that since he will not be near the lead runners he might have to seek out a television in a pub during the race this year to find out who’s winning what will likely be an intriguing race with top U.S. marathoners Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher expected to content for victories. The only time Rodgers remembers walking in a marathon occurred at the Vietnam International Marathon in 1992. He led up to about mile 23 but walked some from there to the finish due to the heat and ended up 19th. Rodgers welcomes walking part of the Boston race on April 20 if required and hopes to break four hours. “I’m not racing on the course,” he says. “I’m retired as a competitive marathoner. I’ve got too many miles in my body. After cancer, it means a lot more to me. If I finish it will feel like a victory. When I ran the 100th Boston, I didn’t race that one. It was pure celebration. That’s what I want this to be.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The 2004 Changling

By 2004, I needed to get healthy. Never mind that 287 pounds on my 6'3" frame was not helping my re-entry into running with any grace of movement. 287 pounds just wasn't healthy at all. It wasn't muscle: it was 32 percent body fat. Double shifts and last call, with 3 hours of sleep before repeating the process -- yeah, I reaped what I sowed.

John Belushi: "I logged a lot of miles training for that day. And I downed a lot of doughnuts. Little Chocolate Donuts. They taste good, and they've got the sugar I need to get me going in the morning. That's why Little Chocolate Donuts have been on my training table since I was a kid."

So, on Friday, the 13th of February, I resolved to get back into shape once and for all. Or, at least for now. I was living with my girlfriend, and I knew that marriage and family were on our horizon. (It was, thankfully, and we have a three year old son now!) The way I looked at it, if I didn't give myself this year to turn my physique around, it was only going to get more challenging in subsequent years when I was would happily choose to place myself away from the center of my own world. 'If I couldn't balance my fitness into my life now, I might not ever get it right', I feared.

Indeed, I committed to this year as a last chance.

Barbara, who became my wife, saw from my early attempts at running through this New England winter out of shape, and frustrated with the impossible task of trying to run alongside my ghost of fitness past, that I needed a seismic shift to my training's focus.

"You can't run until you lose some weight (she is a nurse practitioner). You're going to get hurt again unless you cross train."

"But ... I'm a runner and"

"You're overweight. C'mon, join the gym with me?"

So, realizing the validity of her suggestion sometime after the initially succumbing to the thriving treatise of whatever she wants, we joined our local gym. As a result of being just smart enough to listen to her further, I also saw a nutritionist, who got me to restrict my calorie intake to 1800 calories for the day initially, and got me to rediscover the joys of grapefruit, oatmeal, and really, that whole fruit and vegetable category at large. I began eating six times a day, but I ate smaller, more balanced meals, and I found my body adjusting to this culinary revolution quite nicely. Just as I began to get a bit hungry -- it was time to eat again: cool!

... and did I mention the "cheat days"? Once every month, it was a wonderful, one day digression back into all things involving a greasy Italian pizza! The trouble was, once I started gaining fitness, I didn't want to break my momentum, so even the cheat days became more moderated ... y'know, with veggies on the pizza! (insert wink here)

What I began to discover for myself was what I came to refer to as my triangle of fitness: running, weight training, and responsible eating . I won't call it dieting, because that term infers a short term regimen. We're talking lifestyle changes in how we choose food, here!

My laymen motivation for weight training stands as follows: for every year we age over the age of 30, we humans lose approximately one pound to one percent of our body's muscle mass each year, which is oftentimes replaced by fat on our frames. (see Sherri MacMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training in Portland, Oregon, and author of Fit Over Forty: The Winning Way To Lifetime Fitness.) At age 38 in 2004, I deduced that maintaining some regimen of weight training was the closest thing I was going to find to my personal Fountain of Youth. If I could gain a bit of lean muscle back onto my frame, I hoped that I would have more muscle available to burn fat from my midsection and beyond.

I had seen a certain 'fit but fat' phenomenon in myself over the years, and among many other runners I saw through the Bill Rodgers Running Center and at local road races. Aging runners who could put up some impressive performances on the roads, who physically looked strong in the legs, but a bit rotund around the middle. These runners, some of whom are friends of mine, (that's Henry Rono, former world record holder in the steeplechase, 3k, 5k, and 10k ... all done over 80 days in 1978) could still run well on the roads, but it seemed that they were, nonetheless, slowly losing the lean tone that defined their physiques just a few years before. These are often gloriously trained runners, running year after year without major injury, so it seemed increasingly peculiar to me that these same athletes of such merit could, after all of those miles, still be getting somewhat thicker through the middle, while simultaneously losing their former muscle definition throughout their bodies. Sometimes, I saw an increase in bad knees and sore Achilles tendons in formerly Teflon-like trainers. Other times, I'd see a former speed demon not gain fat around the middle, but lose so much lean muscle tone that they became brittle with age, even suffering from osteoporosis.

Consequently, I felt that if I could get lean and stronger, that I could then maximize my running towards a place I hadn't seen in years. I didn't have a racing goal in mind at this point. I didn't even know if I could race anymore. I just wanted to feel like I was flying on the roads again. I wanted to float through some miles with a sensation involving not always involving maximal effort, but absolutely involving that quiet harmony of fluid movement and ease of pace that felt just occasionally like ... flying, where one feels totally in control of an act that, by virtue of its pace, was essentially out of control.

That's fun! I wanted that feeling again.

It came slowly, but I began to see some small changes, changes which motivated me to stay consistent through the inevitable challenges of time management. After two months of my triangle training program, I had lost thirty pounds and had simultaneously felt systemically changed. I became a vigorous human, and it was a welcome return.

At about this time, I ran in a 5 mile road race that I ran in every year, regardless of fitness, because it was a charitable run that drew many entrants from my workplace along for the run and subsequent post race festivities. I ran 41:10 that day, and it was a hard effort. However, it was fun, too, in that a scant 8 weeks earlier, I could barely cover 5 miles without stopping for a portion of humility. It was a pace that would become a bookend for me in this year ....

I trained very consistently, with some small amounts of variety to my workouts, but more consistency than works of whim. The following was a sample week from May 10 -16th:

M: 5 miles easy, plus 2x circuit training routine (total body weight training)

T: 6 miles easy over hills.

W: same as Monday.

Th: 7 miles on the Charles River (from work) out to River St. Bridge tempo (8:19 pace for 3.4 miles in 28:19)

F: same as Monday.

S: 3 miles (bonked out after work from a longer run -- nothing in the tank!)

S: 7.5 miles over hills.

Tot: 37.5 miles.

That was pretty typical for that period, though during most weeks I had a day off in there from running. I do clearly remember having a handful of bonked runs during that period, though. They were much more rare in my 20's! A concession to age and recovery.

By mid June I had lost over 60 pounds, down to 224, on a morning I was off from work. On a cable TV program called "Cold Pizza", I perked my ears when I heard the tease for an interview with American distance running legend Bob Kennedy. I was in the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta in 1996 when Kennedy made a bold move with several laps to go in the 5000 meters, gallantly finishing in sixth less than 5 seconds behind VĂ©nuste Niyongabo of Burundi. I admired Kennedy so much for his bold efforts that warm and muggy evening, even if a medal was not in the offing for his decisive run. He made that race exciting. Now he was on TV, announcing his intent at running that fall's ING New York City Marathon, his first marathon. I think everyone likes to root for the home team, and Kennedy is an American running a race more recently dominated by foreign champions. As a fan of professional racing, I was excited at Kennedy's prospects. However, I became intrigued when the talking head opposite Kennedy mentioned something about the lottery still being open online for random entry into this race!

I felt more energized than I had in years, and my legs were responding well to the increased training. A marathon, though? That represented a leap into the blind. I had not run a marathon in 21 years, and though that one yielded a 2:46, my current condition had nothing to do with that runner! I couldn't run five miles in early February!

I received an email from the New York Road Runners Club a few weeks later.

I was accepted. I was in. Running the same race as Bob Kennedy. The same race my some time employer, Bill Rodgers, won four times. The same race my former boss in my time in New York City working at Super Runners Shop, Gary Muhrcke, won in its inaugural year of 1970.

I would be running the New York City Marathon.

Now what do I do?!

NEXT TIME: Running towards New York

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get Your Wings (again)

There's a state of denial to the long, insidious process of thoroughly getting out of shape. In terms of our own running, it doesn't come to us with any sense of jolting percussion, even when the performance stuns us with underwhelming mediocrity. One of the triumphal appeals of running is the sheer honesty of it. One generally gets out of the sport exactly what one invests in it. Consequently, how can it be that we can run in a local five mile road race every year, clearly see our finishing times corrode from their former, loftier summits of achievement, and yet somehow or other, we are able to personally rationalize how we are not in as rapid a decline as we actually are?

Do we confuse our hard efforts with personal performance? 'Well, I certainly hurt as much in that race today as I ever have! That was pretty good!' Are we made to be vacuously content with our distending finishing times by a consciousness of colorlessness? Where did the passion go to our training that our racing has become so vapid?

I used to run like Lennon and McCartney wrote albums ... nobody told me I was running with the rapture of Britney Spears! (I know Britney has had her problems -- but I assure you, I am giving you the milquetoast Britney at her peak as an example, okay?!?)

Some excuses are immanently more excusable than others. Our lives are not as single minded as they might had been at another time of our lives. Family, careers, and changing priorities rightly take their needed positions in our evolving lives.

'Running isn't everything!'

... but it is something!

Indeed, by 2004 I had come to the realization that the elixir of passion that drove me to excellence, not only in terms of personal records on the road but also in terms of achievement in the classroom and in my relationships as a living entity, was running. It was my moxie, my vehicle of vitality ... it was the fire in my belly that defined me, as a runner, as a neighbor, and as a person with a passion for living.

Awoken at last by a cathartic run in a February snow storm that ended so miserably premature, with legs reduced to formless flesh and lungs seared with the shame of a runner lost to years of languid noncommitment, I impossibly remembered a simple solace:

I liked to run.

I liked to run fast.

So, flabby, wet, and exhausted, it was at that defining moment that I found my wings.

(Some of my best running has been run to the internal soundtrack of one of my favorite bands, who perpetually play within the ipod in my mind's eye, so was it any coincidence that as my running improved in 2004, that Aerosmith released their most blusey rip roarin' rock record in years with Honkin' on Bobo? Just a thought.)

Okay, it's early, but not that early, and I have to go to work! Later this week, I will post some of the things I did to get back in shape!

I will leave you with this; it took more than just running!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


We are going to have some difficult decisions to make soon. Everyone who has sent in an entry to be part of this year's TEAM POINT TWO experience has been terrific! The problem we have had, so far, is that some of the best entries we have had have come from entrants who have had one terminal flaw:

They've already ran at least two marathons.

I have discussed this dilemma with the selection committee of Toni Harvey and Steve Runner. We examined what priorities were important to us in assembling what we feel is going to be a very exciting team of varied runners going into the autumn marathoning season. While we acknowledged that the concept of continuity between a group of otherwise differing personalities was essential to the success of this project, we agreed that we could achieve this continuity without necessarily adhering to an artificial barrier of having only run one marathon to one's credit prior to joining TEAM POINT TWO.

Consequently, on behalf of the selection committee, I hearby announce that entry into the six roster positions for TEAM POINT TWO will be chosen with the following amendment immediately enforced: to be considered for TEAM POINT TWO, one must have run at least one previous marathon, but may have run more than one marathon prior to the autumn of 2009.

... How's that for legalese?!?

So that's it -- if you haven't entered yet due to the previous restriction, drop me a 50-100 word email telling us why you would help to make TEAM POINT TWO a most dynamic assembly of marathoners. My email addy is .

No need to be fast. One just needs to want to be faster, and should want to share that experience with us along the way generously, through new media channels of blogs and podcasting.We'll gather all of the entries and announce the members of the team before the end of next week.


P.S.: I need a volunteer artist! TEAM POINT TWO needs a better logo than this increasingly annoying red font! Can you help? (thanks!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Casting Call: join TEAM POINT TWO!

We're impressed with anyone who completes a marathon, and I always love to hear from runners as to how they achieved the results that they earned. However, I am increasingly saddened to see a number of runners set a goal to run a marathon, achieve that goal, and then suddenly disappear from the sport.

Why leave the floor when the dance is just getting started??

So, with that in mind, Toni Harvey from the , Steve Runner from the great podcast Phedippidations and yours truly have come up with an idea: we want to promote running as a lifestyle, not just as a temporal challenge.

If you heard us during today's episode #19 of the Runner's Roundtable , then you heard us introduce a concept that we think will make for a lot of fun this summer into the fall. It's the creation of TEAM POINT TWO, and you could be part of it!

Here's the deal: if you're planning on running a second marathon this autumn, then you may qualify. We are going to put together a team of 6 runners, all of whom are training to run their second marathon this autumn. We'll ask that you contribute to up to 7 episodes of the Runners' Roundtable, and we may have you post your training updates to a blog we may form as well. Age, sex, or ability do not matter, but what does matter is a willingness to train to better your marathon time from your first effort over 26.2 miles. If your thinking of that second marathon this fall and you want to share your road with us via the new media of blogs and podcasting, then let me know ASAP!

Just send me an email of between 50 and 100 words or so explaining why you would make a dynamic and fun team member, and if Drusy, Steve, and I pick you, then you will get unlimited running advice from me, John Ellis, and you'll have a real opportunity to help other runners from around the world learn from your collective experiences. TEAM POINT TWO is based on the notion that 26 - point-two miles is a very special experience, especially when it's the 2nd time at the marathon. The race is no longer an unknown adventure -- NOW let's see how much better you can be!

It promises to be very rewarding experience in a variety of ways, from your soles to your soul, so come along by emailling me now! My addy is

Be a part of TEAM POINT TWO!

NEXT TIME: I will do "Get Your Wings" very soon!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Phoenix Rising, Part One

These sort of things seldom happen overnight. In retrospect, I suppose there just came a time in my life where other interests claimed my passions. Not all of my passions in the Nineties were necessarily productive, either. While I did focus a fair amount of energy working overtime at my law enforcement assignments, and an increasing amount of energy in the latter half of the decade working at a variety of radio stations, I must confess to you that I also exchanged an enormous amount of time contrasting the 'last call' routines of many a barroom in Greater Boston and beyond. I still ran some during these days, but for the time being I was finished with training. No track workouts. No hill workouts. Very few long runs, and very few races for me in the nineties. No PR's.

It was a revelation, therefore, when I discovered the cathartic teachings of Larry "Bud" Melman.
His soul purification ... err ... oh .. no! Ah, we miss you, Larry, but ... no.

No saga, either. I scarcely drank enough to embarrass myself (okay, there was that one night in Waltham, but I never touched Jack Daniels again!) Looking back, I think I drank just enough to stay out late just enough to get functional, just enough, three hours later to work just hard enough to get to the end of the day. No running that day. A few years later, I drank much less, but slept even less than that, moonlighting between jobs to the extent that I spent a lot of downtime on the weekends catching what few hours sleep I got in my Chevy before sometimes driving upwards of 90 miles to the next gig. No run that day, either.

The months turned into years and the lost miles on the road inversely remodeled their way onto my waistline, to the point where, by the end of 2003, I knew that if I did not make some wholesale changes to my daily routine, that I would soon reach an apex remanding me to a 'fat and 40' point of no return. A foundational influence upon me at this juncture was the woman who would become my wife, the ever bewitching Barbara, whose poise and guidance underlined her Thoreau-ian pleas for me to "simplify, simplify!"

So, I did. By the start of 2004, I had shifted my work hours to a more orderly daytime schedule, and we both joined a local gym. I invested considerable time with a nutritionist, and after the superficial pretense of New Years' resolutions had passed, on February 13th, 2004, I finally stopped dismissing my divine spark, and sought to reclaim my own initiative through the most direct means I knew towards rekindling my own honor. I ran. I ran, not only because running taught me to excel on the roads and in the classroom before ... not only because the primal act of moving quickly unlocked the doors to many of my most treasured friendships ... not only because running fast proved to me that heights were within reach with drive over drama ... but I ran, because I liked how I felt in flight, and running could be so much fun!

Not so much fun on that first run, however. Mind you, I had been going to my gym for a few weeks by then, and I had gone for some runs over the previous year - I even remained on staff every few weeks or so at the Bill Rodgers Running Center - so the mere act of running was not entirely foreign to me. However, this run was different, because it was not just a jog around a few blocks. It was the first day of training: for what I did not know, but I was back in training. I knew I wanted to race.

I didn't make the 5 miles. I was a bloated 287 pounds on my 6'3" frame, and 'flight' had nothing to do with this run. It wasn't even running, at least by my former standards. I walked across a bridge over the Mass. Pike about a half mile from home and, cold from the falling wet snow and swirling wind, I ran the final minutes of this run as fast as I humanly could. It hurt. A LOT. I didn't care, though. Dismayed but not frustrated, I promised myself, even bent at the waist while involuntarily clearing the weeze from my head, that I would STAY CONSISTENT.

I will never forget that moment - it was my personal epiphany. I was dedicating 2004 to the changeling, and I knew it would take time to lose weight, gain strength, and get to the point where I could even consider running quickly again. Through every temptation to concede to age, I kept my mantra born on that run: STAY CONSISTENT.

NEXT TIME: the next part: Get Your Wings.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Bill Rodgers Running Center School of Running

In November of 1977, the Bill Rodgers Running Center, one of the first running specialty stores in the nation, opened its doors for business. Located on the Boston Marathon course in the 23rd mile at Cleveland Circle, its existence primarily became a means to keep Bill Rodgers from having to continue working as a full time special needs teacher. From now on, Bill could, in essence, become a full-time professional runner, with the 1980 Olympic Marathon in Moscow on the horizon.

The benefits of self employment for Bill became apparent the following April, when Bill won the Boston Marathon for the second time (pictured above) wearing the logo for his store across his chest.

As luck would have it, I played for the Giants of the Brighton East Little League. We were the best team in the league, and I was proud to make three all-star teams, at first base and at catcher. Most kids made only two teams if they were good, so I was proud of my consistent play on the diamond ... a diamond located directly across the street from the new store on the block, the Bill Rodgers Running Center.

As mentioned previously, I first ventured into the store to meet Bill in my Little League uniform, but as the months and years went by, I began to show up a lot more often, and the only athletic gear I ever brought again was to be my running shoes and clothing. In fact, I 'd save my money from the after-school dog-walking jobs I had (remember I was 12-14 years old!) to pay for my own running shoes from there. I paid $42.95 in 1980 for a pair of adidas Marathon Trainers that I know, from the log I kept, got me safely through over 1,100 miles of running! You do what you can with what you got, y'know?

I had become friendly with the store's co-owner and manager, Charlie Rodgers (Bill's brother) and most of the staff, including Jason Kehoe, Gene Caso, Dave Dial, and Jimmy "the hat" Henry, to the point where over the next few years, I was asked if I had wanted to come by the store for the Saturday night run after 5 O'clock.

This was tantamount to a call to battle. I knew the staff schedule by this time: everyone took a break for an hour or two in the middle of the day during the week, one person at a time, and that time was for training. On Saturdays, however, the store hours were 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the store was just too busy at week's end for anyone to take a long enough break to go running. It was the weekly retail long run, a mental challenge at times to remain friendly and informative amidst a populous that invariably included the impossibly neurotic. By the time the last customer departed and the door was locked, what was left was a room full of retail wearied runners who hadn't had a chance to do the one thing they did best, which was to run ... hard and fast!

Add a small number of friends, such as I came to be, who had not worked all day there (yet!) and all of the elements for combustion were set. It came to be known as the "Hate Run", a weekly 10 to 12 mile purge of accumulated aggression among the regular band of merry warriors, fighting to defeat the rage within each of them. Therefore, the run was not a test of the fastest over the ordained distance, rather, it was a test of the who could suffer most victoriously. Over any set route there were several places where it had been agreed that everyone would gather together, just to start together again. These were usually water fountains in a park or at a fire station along the way. Consequently, a 10 mile run was, in reality, 3x 3 miles with short rest interval breaks. It was a great run to get in shape, and a better way to release enough aggression to be made compatible with society again upon conclusion of the run, which is often just what happened over the Saturday night that followed.

By the spring of 1982, I suppose Charlie realized that as long as I was going to be around so much, then he might as well hire me, and so he did. Over the years, I have worked at the store full time, part-time, or just some of the time, but I have remained connected to the store since. Though the store has gone through some changes and some relocations, it remains a living museum of running history, expertise and knowledge, located at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston. If you're in the area, stop by -- you'll love it! You can also check out the store online at .

Through the Bill Rodgers Running Center, I have had a chance to run with and pick the brains of some incredible running minds, from the late, great Andy Palmer, to Boston Marathon legends Greg Meyer and Patti (Catalano) Dillon, to two time Olympian and exercise physiologist Pete Pfitzinger (he lived upstairs from the store once!)and, of course, Bill Rodgers himself. Furthermore, through the store I have become friendly with coaching legend Bill Squires, and I was lucky enough to have been coached for years by coach Fred Treseler, who is at least as good a person as he is a coach.

Cumulatively, I have been very fortunate to have lived in a place and at a time of such great American distance running, so much of it occurring from the hub that was the Bill Rodgers Running Center, a place almost literally in my backyard growing up. I learned by example, by oral tradition, and by the experiment of one that my own running became. I want you to know where I came from now, so as we venture forth together this year with my attempt to return to the marathon, you'll be familiar both with my theory, and with the spirits that I'll be running with.

NEXT TIME: Phoenix rising?
Also check out this story from my old friend, Dave "Elwood" Dial:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Racing blindly with Dow Jones

I have an odd theory regarding the success of distance running and of those most successful at it: your economy has an inverse relationship with your success at running long and fast. Think about it. If you're out of work, not only do you have more time to run, but you just might need more time on the roads to alleviate the anxiety associated with being unemployed.

Been there -- done that.

On a championship level, the last few years have seen some breakthrough performances by American runners ranging from Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, and Deena Kastor in the marathon, to Shalane Flanagan and Alan Webb in the middle distances. By all reasonable accounts, American distance running has been more competitive on the world's stage over the past few years than it has been since ... the last time the U.S. economy was in a recession! The economy is sliding downward as fast as many people's marathon PR's.

Such was also the case in the late 1970's, when OPEC held a stranglehold on the price of oil (sound familiar?) and President Carter tried to promote the use of alternative energy to the extent that he had solar panels installed on the White House roof (Reagan took them down). Jobs were scarce, inflation was raising, and the running boom, spurred by performances from Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Mary Decker, and Joan Benoit, was expanding fast and furiously.

Running, seemingly overnight, had gone mainstream. Road races were being broadcast on TV. Michael Douglas did a movie called Running that was unfortunately forgettable. Jim Fixx had the best selling book in the world with his Complete Book of Running, and I, aware of the price of gasoline approaching one-dollar-a-gallon but too young and relatively secure in my middle class family's home to worry about it, witnessed swelling numbers of people standing in the street at the start of a simultaneously growing number of road races throughout greater Boston and throughout the country.
College graduates were not automatically advancing to the Fortune 500 the next day in 1979, and so I noticed them taking to the road. I only had my paper route and my homework to worry about, and many of them were running to keep themselves occupied while waiting within the green rooms of their stalled careers, but we were all starting to run a lot of miles each week, and when Sunday came, and the starter's pistol rang, for a few minutes nothing else mattered except getting to the finish line fast. Preferably faster than you, but above all, faster than one ran the month before at the same 10K distance. It was the ecstasy of intensity. Available every week for a nominal, tax-deductable fee to the charitable cause of the day. Was it a mass act of 'self discovery'? My experiences suggest to me that it was a mass act of going-for-it! The first running boom was made fertile in a populus wound from capital retrograde, but not made personally sluggish by it. On the contrary, the boom trained many in conquering all kinds of life's hills.

Over the next ten years, from 1979 through the last in a series of stubborn hip injuries and stress fractures in 1989, I ran 40 to 60 miles most weeks, and occasionally ran over 100 miles-a-week. It's not my intention to bore anyone with my autobiography here, so I won't, but I am proud of the following PR's that I collected in that period. The immediate future of this blog will explain in more detail how I got myself to the PR's I achieved. I will also try to explain how my early inability to be more flexible in my training likely kept me from achieving much better times. Here are a few of them:

1 mile: 4:29.3

5K: 15:33

10K: 32:44

10 miles: 55:11

13.1 miles: 1:15:11

Marathon: 2:46:33

The 80's eventually became economically prosperous, if not culturally polarizing, and furthermore, Wall Street seemingly soared through the 90's. Is it a coincidence that U.S. distance running receded internationally during much of this same period? I dunno. I do know that as my own careers in radio and law enforcement took more of my time in this period, that ultimately my running took on a lesser degree of importance. It took a few more years for me to learn to balance my life more consistently. I will not try to capture that struggle in one line or posting, but I'm sure the topic will be the focus of upcoming blog entries. Like Einstein said, "life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." So I will try to keep moving more this year, literally and otherwise.
Next time: The Bill Rodgers Running Center School of Running

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who's this 'running advisor' guy?!?

You may know me from my contributions to Phedippidations, The Extra Mile Podcast, and the Runners Roundtable, but if you have ever been inclined to heed my advice regarding periodization in training and running a little longer and slower to get faster (see Fdip #126), it seems only fitting at the onset of this blog that I fill you in a bit about who I am and how I collected what I know about this sport that has followed me for the majority of my life.

In 1977, I was the lead guitarist for the rock band, Aerosmith, when I came to the realization that .... um .... sorry. No. Not me. Only in my dreams. I was 11 at the time. Always wanted to do that, but I digress ....

I always remember my father running. He had joined the Boston Fire Department in 1970 following a career in electronics that had been doomed by President Nixon's initiative to build up California's silicon valley, taking jobs away from the greater Boston area. Consequently, my father, spurred by reading the book Aerobics by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, began running 1.5 mile laps around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir to keep fit for the rigors of firefighting.

By 1973, your six year old running advisor had successfully begged to join his father on the run, I think, as I recall, because I was quite enamoured with his all yellow adidas running shoes (some things never change!). I would struggle to finish one mile and a half loop with him, but I loved the camaraderie that I gained with my dad "'round the res", and I became amazed at flipping through my father's leather bound, self-styled running log, adding up the miles he had run over a month's time and beyond. Soon, I was presented with my own leather bound book of blank pages, and I commenced to filling the pages.

Winters of lessened activity led to springtimes focused on Little League baseball, but by 1978, the running bug had taken hold of my imagination. A series of seminal moments occurred to me in April of that year. On Monday, my family, as we did every Patriot's Day, had walked the three quarters of a mile from home to Commonwealth Ave. to cheer on the Boston Marathon. This year, a local man named Bill Rodgers held off a closing Jeff Wells to win this epic race for the second time. I remember watching him and the women's champion, Gayle Barron, being interviewed live on Good Morning America the next morning, and I was excited to see that they were being interviewed at the site of one of my dad's running loops that I joined him on, by the Brookline Reservoir.

Later that day (it was April school vacation week) I had Little League practice at the field at Cleveland Circle, complete with my wool "Giants" baseball uniform, my cleats, mitt, and bat in hand, when I decided to finally venture into the new store that had opened across the street from my baseball diamond. It was the Bill Rodgers Running Center, and sure enough, upon entry, amidst the slightly curious glares from the lean, athletic staff and comparably athletic band of customers assembled to buy new Nikes, Etonics, Tigers, and adidas shoes, was the champion himself - Bill Rodgers!

It must have taken me two long minutes to muster up the courage to approach this so recently wreathed king of the road, but I finally stepped towards him, awkwardly sputtering, "I saw you run yesterday -- good going!" he thanked me and, spotting my baseball gear that must had appeared to be a Halloween costume to those assembled there, replied, "how did your game go?" I shot back in nervous glee, "oh, um, we were just practicing today, but uh, I jog with my dad a lot and, um, can I have your autograph?"

He readily signed a brochure on hand in the store with his picture on it. I thanked him and departed immediately afterward. It was about a mile home from the store, and even in rubber cleated shoes, I ran the sidewalks all the way home. I don't think my feet spent much time on the ground for that run, and I'm sure my lungs tempered my joy with ample oxygen debt, but my new dream was, nonetheless, crystallized in that impromptu run down Chestnut Hill Avenue: I wanted to become a runner, and a fast one! I continued to play baseball that spring, making the All-Star Team at first base, but I also reopened my leather bound log, and this time, I had plenty to write inside of it. With my autographed brochure hanging in my bedroom as I dressed for each run, I lost 18 pounds over the summer school break, running nearly every day. By the autumn, my father suggested that we run a 7 mile road race together. The race would run over the legendary "Heartbreak Hill", and competing in the race would be non other than ... Bill Rodgers!

My organized baseball career was over.

NEXT TIME: Racing through the "Running Boom".

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's all about to begin again!

Introducing my new blog: The 22nd Miler!

Welcome! I promise to teach a bit, to share a bit more, and to walk the walk and run the run with you in 2009 and beyond! What would you like to see here?

Above all, I pledge to run with the purpose of experience, but tempered always with the passion of child's play ... running is recreation, the toy store of life!

So let's go play!

-- John E.