Archive for December, 2010


Posted: December 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

“New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no person has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.”  ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

So many people concern themselves with what they eat between Christmas and New Years and this is the breeding ground for New Year’s resolutions.  I would argue that we would be far better served if we focused more on what we eat between New Year’s and Christmas!

January must be the most promising and productive month of the year.  We’ve heard more about sustainability in the past few years than at any other time in our lives.  It applies to business, the environment, the economy and just about every other significant facet of our society.  But  I would like to focus on sustainability with health, wellness and fitness.

I recently posted on the benefits of running being a lifestyle rather than an item to be checked off one’s bucket list.  Sustaining an active and healthy lifestyle is extremely challenging.  The obesity rate in our country is growing faster than any other time in history.  And for the first time  the life expectancy rate is declining.  That is a frightening prospect that has ramifications for all of us.  Our country tends to wait until a problem becomes an epidemic and then attempts to resolve it by throwing needless money at it.

Active people tend to be immune to many of the problems faced by mainstream society.  But let there be no doubt we have more than our share of challenges.  We have been asked to do more with less for quite some time.  This reality places a lot of stress on our work, family and social time.   Being dedicated to your health, wellness and fitness requires a herculean effort.   While the travails of our economy are omnipresent in every medium of communication, many people have benefited from being forced to make changes.

I wasn’t at all surprised when the entries closed in less than 9 hours for the 2011 Boston Marathon.  It took nearly 66 days for this to occur last year and even longer in previous years.  People have focused more on the simpler things in life since the economy turned south.  There’s been an obvious return to staying closer to home, spending more time with family and friends as well as enjoying the things we have and not being consumed by the things we don’t.  People are learning their health, wellness and fitness cannot be purchased….they are priceless!  Being physically fit and mentally strong allows one to deal with the challenges of the past several years in a positive way rather than the more destructive options many people choose.  The effort to return to the basics and simpler things in life has fueled the running boom.  Many people are taking much better care of themselves.  Unfortunately, too many people are not and now there’s a seismic divide between the healthy and unhealthy in our country.

So as the dawn of the New Year approaches, I also take time to reflect on the past year and consider what changes that I would like to make.  When I think of each one they seem easily manageable but when I add them together I realize I need to prioritize and accept that I may fall short with some of them.  At the top of my list is trying, once again, to live a simplier life with less clutter (material and otherwise) and to spend more time with my wonderful family.  I assume that Rider and Macie Jo will be with us forever but they seem to change from the time I leave home in the morning and when I return at night.  I also want to consider the impact that I’m having on the environment, the world, and those around me.  Having seen so many young and promising lives ended prematurely, I want to live in the moment more and try to have the most significant impact I can.

I also want to enjoy and cherish the abundance that I have in my life.  When I was young and contemplated my future I never could have dreamed I would be where I am today.  Getting bogged down in the quagmire of the daily challenges is so easy and can overshadow the ability to enjoy all the smaller things in life.  I would like to be healthier by eating more whole foods, fruits and vegetables.  I’ve never tried alcohol or coffee but I know that I have a gaping hole to fill by consistently eating healthier each day.  I also want to be more patient and take a greater interest in how others live.  I’ve become so interested in what motivates and inspires others; it’s fascinating!

I also want to be the best possible running coach.  I consider it an absolute privilege to be able to coach runners for the Boston Marathon.   I never take lightly the responsibility or the opportunity to have such a significant impact on just one person…to say nothing of nearly 120.  I have put more effort into my coaching the past year and the dividends are many.  I also want to get in the best physical shape that I can.  I love racing and testing myself.  Nothing gives me more enlightenment or satisfaction than managing the pain during a race and achieving my goals.  I also want to be the best role model for my runners.  One of my greatest moments is being with my runners in Hopkinton on Marathon Day and feeling the pride they have for me.

So that is how I have my year mapped out!  I look forward to putting my best effort into accomplishing these things.  And I hope that you have the same enthusiasm for the things you hope to achieve and that 2011 exceeds your every expectation!

Happy New Year

The Running Puzzle

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Most runners focus almost exclusively on the act of running rather than all the other facets of running.  It’s the difference between running being a lifestyle versus having the marathon as just an item on someone’s bucket list.  I have never been one to simply check an experience off a long list of things I want to experience during my lifetime.

I need to thoroughly research anything I’m interested in so that I understand it completely.  It’s important that it becomes an integral part of my life for a sustained period.  Motorcycles were one of my earliest interests and continue to be today.  This past June I departed home on a Friday morning and rode 5,000 miles in 10 days through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.   I only carried a bike messenger bag, no GPS, no rain gear.  I experienced rain every day!  But when I completed the Natchez Trace and Blue Ridge Parkways and all the other motorcyclists sought shelter, I felt an extreme sense of accomplishment when I rode out of the mountains at the end of each day.  This was a defining experience in my life.  Next September I will ride through Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

I became interested in running when I was a senior in high school and preparing for boot camp.  I grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia and vividly remember running on the railroad tracks in leather Puma basketball shoes each day after school.  I discovered that I could run long distances and not experience fatigue.  I had a Marine drill sergeant that put pressure on me at every opportunity, running was no different, so he actually fostered a determination in me that exists today.   I excelled while running in the heat of Texas in June, July and August.  I remember placing bets with my friends in basic training that I could run unfathomable distances to them on days where the heat was so intense exercise was practically forbidden.  It was also a great way to supplement my military salary.  When we finally earned weekend liberty they immediately went into town to enjoy things they had been deprived of for several months…I headed to the track to explore my physical and mental limits.

That passion has remained with me today.  At 52 I’m still interested in exploring what I’m capable of accomplishing in my running.  There’s no doubt that it’s far more challenging for me to run under 3:15 in the marathon today than when I ran 2:33 many years ago…it’s all relative.  While the times have changed, the one constant is my love of running and my desire to extend myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Running has to be a lifestyle for someone to thoroughly experience all that running offers.  I remember one of my favorite runners, Toshihilo Seko from Japan, was once asked if he had a girlfriend, to which he replied, “The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.”  Now that personifies a running lifestyle.  He represented Japan in two Olympic Games and won Boston in 1981 (2:09:26) and 1987 (2:11:50).

Are you giving your running everything you have?  Now, you don’t have to adopt Seko’s extreme philosophy but I know there are things that you can do to make running a more integral part of your lifestyle.  For instance,  are you preparing for your workouts days before with respect to your nutrition, hydration, rest, cross training and managing your schedule?  I find that many runners work their running around all the circumstances in their lives with negative results.  Training for the Boston Marathon, which is less than 16 weeks away, doesn’t allow one to waste a lot of time.  That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have setbacks, but you need to strike a balance in your life in an effort to gain more control over your running.   If the scale is imbalanced during your marathon training it should be in favor of your running. 

Runners that have the Boston Marathon as an item on their bucket list focus too much on checking off the requisite mileage on the training schedule and deprive themselves of the abundance that running can provide.  I simply cannot comprehend adopting that philosophy.  I want to plan everything so the return on my investment is considerable.  Running has never been just a physical act to me.  It’s also been emotional and spiritual.  There’s been a definite correlation between the time and effort I’ve put into my running and the benefits I’ve received.  The physical benefits speak for themselves but I am undoubtedly a much better person because of running.  Running has helped me to deal with failure, loss and disappointment and it’s shown me what I’m truly capable of achieving.  It’s allowed me to look at the world differently and, more importantly, to look at myself differently.

I have benefited so much from running because it’s been an integral part of my life, an entire lifestyle, and I’ve managed to piece the puzzle of running together so well.  The pieces consist of goals, a strategic training plan, proper clothing and the best shoes for my biomechanical needs, staying well hydrated, eating well, receiving sufficient rest, minimizing stress and having fun.  Running is MY time to enjoy the elements, the company of friends, to sort through my thoughts and focus on the things requiring the most attention in my life.

I hope that you receive a fraction of the benefits and enjoyment that I have from running.  Just piece your running puzzle together and enjoy the sense of accomplishment!

Sources Of Motivation

Posted: December 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

One of my former TNT runners, John O’Brien, recently asked the following question:

“Rick, you’re an inspiration to so many runners…that said…how do you get so many people so motivated? How do you get them engaged and keep them interested?”

Without giving it a great deal of thought I responded:

Hello John,

Thank you for your kind comments and your interesting questions! There are several things that allow me to motivate runners and to sustain it over the course of our training.

My running history and experience provide a credible platform for everything that I do. My runners see that I am willing to do everything that I’m asking them to,  I’m not driving around drinking coffee telling them their form looks great; I cover the same distance, often more, during training each week.

I also try to get to know each of my runners as much as they allow. I am then able to identify what’s important to them. Connecting them to a purpose like finishing the Boston Marathon is a great place to start but taking it to another level (e.g., raising money to make a significant difference in the lives of others) is the capstone to a perfect motivation model.

I always try to be a great resource and provide advice that’s relevant to each stage of their training. I also always speak from my heart and have fun each week at training. The one significant variable that I feel separates me from a lot of coaches is passion…I love being a coach and inspiring others to do far more than they ever imagined!

That’s 90% of my keys to successfully motivating others…the other 10% I have to keep to myself !

Before long I realized I completely overlooked the obvious… runners are so easy to motivate!  My gestures to motivate them are analagous to ‘preaching to the choir.’  I have never known a more motivated group.  So my commitment now is to use my blog to share some of the most inspirational stories.  For instance, one of my runners smoked for 27 years and decided to quit and embark on an exercise program….imagine that!  Then he went on to miss qualifying for the Boston marathon by only 18 seconds.

Here is a recent article about Fran Curtis:

I have no doubt that Fran is going to qualify for Boston in April.  While I’m sure he would have preferred to qualify in New Hampshire, it will be particularly gratifying and special if he qualifies for Boston while running Boston.  I doubt that has happened very often.  I ran with Fran at training recently and admired how efficient and strong he was and I absolutely look forward to training and preparing him for Boston during the next four months.

Many of us are inspired by parents, teachers, coaches and leaders within our community.  However I have realized that we often just need to pay closer attention to the people right next to us for all the motivation we could ever need!


Winter Challenges

Posted: December 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

It’s a constant challenge to maintain your training confidence through the seemingly endless winter months. You wake up to a morning filled with cold, darkness, and ice and struggle to dress appropriately and gather the determination to exit your house!

Many runners rely heavily on the treadmill to supplement their training. I actually think the treadmill is one of the best alternatives to running in the winter. However I don’t recommend that you rely on it exclusively. Your running muscles will soon lose the memory of running outdoors and that will present a major challenge once you abandon the treadmill. You will also run the risk of muscle soreness and even injury if you don’t run outdoors at least twice a week.

Treadmills can be dreadful at times so one of the major benefits is that, if you can stay consistent on a treadmill, it improves your ability to dedicate yourself to something you absolutely despise. Treadmills can also provide a false sense of accomplishment in that the belt is helping you through your gait cycle and you’re not battling hills or wind. You should place the platform on at least a 2 degree incline to compensate for this.

Another great option for winter training is snowshoe running. I have always enjoyed snowshoe running, particularly after a freshly fallen snow, where I can explore new trails and have snow flying 10 feet behind me in the air. The first time I tried running with snowshoes I felt like I was running at altitude because of the effort required. However, the fitness return on investment of effort is incredibly significant. It is also much lower impact than running on the roads.

Lori, Rider, and I all run in Tubbs snowshoes but MSR and Atlas also make running snowshoes. I’ve read numerous positive reviews of the Atlas Run snowshoes. REI also has a rental program whereby you can try them before purchasing them.

Winter certainly places a greater degree of challenge on being consistent with your training. But with the right attitude and equipment, you can soon begin to look forward to and enjoy your training. So try to strike a balance between treadmill running, snowshoe running, and other forms of cross training in an effort to remain consistent and engaged in your training through the challenging winter months!

Running State Of Mind

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

I just filled the pellet stove to the brim and now I’m preparing to tackle clearing our driveway. Rider, Lori, and I plan to run on our Tubbs snowshoes today. I ran a challenging 16 miles in hilly Grafton yesterday and really pushed the pace the last 6 miles. It’s important to train your body to sustain your pace in the closing miles of a run or race when you are the most tired.

Focusing on your form and having a positive mental attitude when you are hurting is the key to success in marathon preparation. Preparing your mind and body for this effort begins with every run. Accept the reality that your first mile is going to be uncomfortable and, if you manage your thoughts, you’ve set the stage for a positive run. Slow your pace and take shorter strides to allow your body to fully acclimate to the effort of running. It takes time for your heart to pump large volumes of blood to your major muscle groups to fully oxygenate them.

During this process I focus on my mental state by establishing what my goals are for each run. For instance, if I had a difficult run the previous day or if I woke with an elevated heart rate, today’s run is a recovery run and I need to convince myself not to push too hard. Training with a heart rate monitor and closely monitoring my effort will ensure I accomplish this. I also focus on my breathing and my running form so that I establish a good running rhythm right from the outset.

Running in the moment rather than focusing on how many miles you have remaining will serve you well. Constantly monitoring how your feet are striking the road, how you’re rolling through your gait cycle, keeping your hands and shoulders relaxed, and breathing in a relaxed rhythm are all important to maximizing your effort.

Getting physically fit is only half the equation to marathon success. The other equally important half is sustaining a positive running state of mind!

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted: December 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

Now is the time many runners consider what they would like to accomplish in their training during the New Year. Anyone training for Boston is certainly focused on following the prescribed training program but there likely is plenty of room for improvement.

We tend to think the solution to most of our challenges is to run more; if we simply add a few more miles than it will make up for not stretching and not eating well. The reality is that what we do away from running has as much impact on our training as our actual running.

One of the most critical and often neglected areas is the first 30-60 minutes of completing a run. Most of us are so thankful that the run is over that we surrender to exhaustion and become completely sedentary. Walking at the end of a run to allow your heart rate to gradually return to a normal range is beneficial. Changing into warm and comfortable clothes and completing a stretching program focused on your major running muscles (e.g. glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, thighs, etc.) should be your next priority. Eating as soon as possible will begin the recovery process from your run and begin to prepare you for your next run. Chocolate milk is one of my favorite post-run drinks. I prefer to eat a banana and peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread afterwards.

Another area to focus on is listening closely to your body and adjusting your training accordingly. I emphasized the importance of monitoring your resting heart rate each morning in the ABC’s Of Successful Marathon Training that each Marathon Coalition runner received. The goal should be to not push too hard when you have an elevated heart rate but to reduce the mileage and intensity of your run, cross train or take a complete rest day. Provided your eat well, stay hydrated and get sufficient rest, your heart rate should return to a normal range the following day. Most runners allow their training to be dictated by their work and life schedule. It’s more beneficial to base your training on how your are feeling and erring on the side of caution and missing runs if you’re not well rested.

Two other areas to consider as you’re planning your New Year are cross-training and nutrition. Runners naturally find comfort and gain confidence from running more than anything. However, cross training can be a nice complement to running if your body needs rest or you have a muscle imbalance that’s the root cause of an injury. I have relied on cycling and spinning as my main source of cross training. But water running, the elliptical trainer and yoga are also great alternatives. Many runners are also guilty of not emphasizing nutrition enough. What we eat has as much impact on our training as our actual running. No amount of running is ever going to compensate for a poor or inadequate nutritional plan.

Take the time to map out a plan that will build upon your current training program. Divide it into the things that you feel you’re doing well and the areas requiring improvement. Getting comfortable embracing your weaknesses is not always easy but the areas requiring the most attention represent the best opportunity for improvement and transformation.

Merry Christmas

Posted: December 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

This morning was magical as Macie Jo and Rider tried to contain their excitement. My favorite moment was when they read their letter from Santa….he has such a great sense of humor! A close second is watching Rider teach Macie Jo how to use her new digital camera.

I love the weather station I received so that I can better prepare for my runs, the yoga products, and the two books that I requested (The Eight: A Season In The Tradition of Harvard Crew and Run: The Mind-Body Method Of Running By Feel).

I hope that you have a wonderful day with family and friends!

Sources of Inspiration

Posted: December 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

I have discovered that my sources of inspiration have changed through the years. When I was younger it may have been a simple song like Sweet Home Alabama or simply chasing the elusive PR (personal record). But now they are so much more meaningful and powerful.

If you pay close attention there is an abundance of simple acts of kindness and generosity that can make the next challenging run seem so much easier. I was at a holiday gathering recently when I was introduced to one of the founders of the Massachusetts’ School of Professional Psychology. I was immediately taken by the contrast in her body needing a walker and the youthfulness in her eyes and her smile. I was reminded that, if I’m fortunate enough to live to be her age, I may face a similar plight of having my body fail me. I am also painfully aware that it doesn’t require living long to have something like that occur.

I left that gathering feeling so appreciative of my health and wellness. When Macie Jo was 14 months old she was at Children’s Hospital and I’ll never forget seeing her standing in her crib, still in a diaper, with numerous tubes hanging from her body. That contrast also provided a perspective that has inspired me to be more empathetic and appreciative. I have seen children that didn’t live long enough to take their first step. I have also seen the other end of the spectrum where someone has lived to nearly 100 and seemingly wasted his entire life because he were consumed by selfishness and mediocrity.

Consequently, I try not to look too far down the road or into the future. This is where my own running has become a source of inspiration for me. I don’t look too far into my future and in my running I don’t look too far down the road. I try to live in the moment in both life and running. I don’t think too much about how many miles I have remaining in a marathon nearly as much as I focus on my breathing, my running efficiency and the next step.

I also never take my ability to run, particularly as well as I do, for granted. When I lost my mom to leukemia the day before she turned 58 in 1996, I relied heavily on my running to weather the storm of grief. And when I spoke with her the very last time and promised her I would do something significant with my life, it was my running that allowed me to fulfill that commitment to her. I will be forever grateful to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, their amazing staff, and all the TNT runners in particular for their countless efforts to make such an amazing difference in the world and for allowing me to be a small part of their inspirational journey.

I am confident that, by paying close attention every moment that you’re given, you will recognize that the possibility of being inspired is just a moment away. I feel blessed to have weathered many storms of disappointment and failure and to have become far more appreciative, humbled, enlightened and inspired!

If you are reading this you are also likely a source of inspiration for me. Charity runners continue to be an incredible source of motivation and inspiration to me.

My hope is that you are also on a similar journey of discovering new sources of inspiration!

Counterintuitive Running

Posted: December 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

It has been difficult to convince runners they can actually run faster marathon times by incorporating walking into their race strategy. Many of the more experienced runners that I coach feel that walking is a sign of weakness or failure. They have resisted adopting this running strategy but, because of my insistence, have given it a try.

Without exception, they have all become believers after realizing how wonderful and energized they can feel during and after their runs. I hope that you will also consider incorporating regular walk breaks into your training if you haven’t already. The primary objective of these walking breaks is to conserve energy and reduce the stress you place on your lower extremities and ultimately maintain efficient form throughout your runs. The primary benefits are the ability to maintain your efficient running form throughout your runs, significantly reduce the risk of injuries and more thoroughly enjoy your running.

I recommend that you take regular walk breaks from the outset and not wait until you begin to feel they are necessary. If you wait until you are feeling tired before walking the cumulative fatigue may never disappear. The benchmark that I follow is one minute of walking for every 9 minutes of running. I keep my stride short during my walk breaks to reduce the stress being placed on bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. I would describe my walking pace as moderate as my goal is to maximize the recovery and rest aspects of these breaks.

The water stops are the ideal place in a marathon to take a regular walk break. I stay to the middle of the road to avoid all the runners gathered at the first several tables all fighting for the same cup of replenishment. It is so much safer and the volunteers are far more appreciative at the last tables of every water stop. By waiting until the end of a water stop I am afforded the luxury of stepping to the side of the road in an area not littered with cups to enjoy a few gulps of replenishment before easing back into my running pace.

Now is the ideal time to incorporate walking into your training program. Runners that resist this methodology will pass you in the beginning of the marathon but become believers when you pass them completely energized as they are ‘forced’ to walk.

So walk early and walk often to more thoroughly enjoy every facet of your running!

Discipline Prevails

Posted: December 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

The holidays can be the most challenging part of your training. It is definitely difficult to find time for training when you’re visiting with family and friends that you haven’t seen in a while. It’s also extremely difficult to manage the temptation of the holiday cheers…in the form of food and drinks.

Although I have never tried alcohol I have certainly been tempted by Egg Nog. One could argue that is far more wicked! And who can resist the holiday treats; they are everywhere! Our neighbors brought over a container of fudge recently, which they do every year, and it has to be the best in the world. We have had it for 4 days and I haven’t had a piece yet so I’m winning the war so far. I could lose it very easily if I return from a run that I didn’t nutritionally prepare for and encounter low-blood sugar. My family could very easily be deprived of the remaining world’s best fudge!

You literally need the same discipline you have with your running in order to avoid over indulging. You simply have to be moderate in your holiday celebration. You can easily add several pounds to your running weight without being moderate and disciplined. The effects of your over indulgence may not be realized for several weeks.

So enjoy the holidays and all they provide…reconnecting with family and friends, incredible food and treats and take the time to reflect on how many blessings there are in your life.

But do it with moderation and the realization that we have a marathon to run in less than 4 months!

Happy Holidays