Archive for February, 2011

Sensory Overload

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

The new era of globalization has significantly impacted my life.  I concluded my day with a conference call with an entirely new sales force that I recruited to sell our military program.  Of all the people on the call I had only met one of them.  I literally communicated with them via various forms of technology.  It’s odd to feel connected to someone without actually having met them.

At the conclusion of the call I mentioned to Lori how intense my day was and soon realized it was a fairly typical day.  I woke up and immediately checked the messages on my Blackberry.  I’m always surprised by how late others stay up working.  I then sign onto my computer and check my personal e-mail messages.  Next up is my daily post on my running blog.  This takes at least an hour since I don’t have an archive of thoughts and ideas, I want my posts to be relevant to each stage of training.  I then work out and I’m typically listening to my iPod.   I also try to catch the latest headlines on CNN, Sports Center and the Golf Channel before leaving for work and listening to NPR on XM Radio for an hour each morning and night.

Once I arrive at work it’s a barrage of meetings, conference calls and interruptions throughout the day.  Maintaining a Facebook and Twitter account also is easily an additional hour throughout the day.  I enjoy Twitter because it allows me to have instant access to the people and topics I’m most interested in (i.e., running, triathlons, nutrition, music, photography, motorcycles, golf, cycling,etc.).  I am not so convinced that Facebook has any inherent value in my life…that’s another topic altogether and I certainly don’t want to address it here.

Having instantaneous access to information has detracted from far more important things.  I’ve made a concerted effort to spend more time reconnecting with friends I’ve not corresponded with in years, writing letters to people that least expect them and sharing my thoughts and feelings more with the people I love and care about.  This reallocation of time provides far more meaningful benefits than knowing what is currently happening in Egypt.  While that’s important, it’s simply not nearly as important as my family and friends knowing how I feel about them.  There’s a finite amount of time in a day, I want to be sure that I’m spending it wisely.  I’m tryinging to adopt a more minimalist approach to my consumption of information, just as I’ve done with my running.  Efficiency of movement resonates with me.

Just as I am aware of not wasting energy at the start of a marathon because I know I’m going to need it in the closing miles, I’m equally aware that I cannot waste time consumed by technology at the expense of far more important things.

So leave your music and GPS at home during one of your next runs.  Just run how you feel, smile and wave to everyone you pass and enjoy nature and all that it offers.  Be thankful that you have the ability to run and don’t be distracted or consumed by your average pace, heart rate or the distance you’ve run. 

I am confident that you will feel more spiritually and emotionally fulfilled than if you were focused on running a certain pace or distance!

Time To Express Your Gratitude

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now is the perfect time to assess how you are doing with your fundraising.  Running can be so consuming that you risk losing focus on ‘why’ you are running the Boston Marathon.  Reviewing the mission statement of the charity you are representing and integrating that message into your fundraising efforts will remind potential donors of the importance of contributing to you.

There are amazing success stories on many of the charities websites that comprise The Marathon Coalition TEAM.  You can  integrate these into your letters and e-mails.  Sending one group message via Facebook and e-mail, while extremely convenient, is not nearly as effective as sending individual solicitations.  Just yesterday I received over 10 ‘general’ solicitations from runners that I coached previously.  I can appreciate that the effort required to send individual messages seems monumental but it is undoubtedly far more effective.

You may also ask if the person you’re requesting support from would like you to run Boston in honor or in memory of someone in their life.  Promise them that you will carry that person’s name with you from Hopkinton to Boston.  It will make their contribution so much more meaningful to both of you and will likely strengthen your connection to them.  A few years ago a dear friend of ours passed unexpectedly.  John was an extremely accomplished runner and had completed Boston many times.  I contacted his wife and requested to run the 2009 Boston Marathon in his memory.  It was such a special moment when I met her and their two young sons in Wellesley.  I had a picture of John on the back of my singlet…that moment sustained me for the next 11 miles.

You should also consider sending hand-written thank you notes to everyone that has contributed to your fundraising.  When was the last time you receive a hand-written note?  I love to write but I feel it’s becoming a lost skill because of e-mail and texting.  Lori and I are determined that Macie and Rider will continue our tradition of ‘writing’ notes, letters and thank-you cards. 

Finally, I would save all the cards and e-mail messages that you receive from donors.  In the final days before the marathon, when you’re a bundle of nerves and know you should be resting rather than running, you can read these messages and be reminded of ‘why’ you’re running the Boston Marathon.  This will also provide a degree of motivation that will undoubtedly sustain you in the closing miles of the marathon! 

Now is the perfect time to give thanks to those that have stepped up on your behalf!

Recommended Reading

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

It was wonderful to have my entire family at training this past Saturday.  After my comments to the TEAM prior to the run, 4-year-old Macie said to me…”Dad, I know what I want to be when I grow up….a runner!  You have to love that!  It was nice to see Lori and Rider running together the last few miles on Beacon Street.  Rider has been so influenced by charity runners throughout his life.  Being surrounded by motivated and charitable people is one of the greatest gifts you can receive.  My view of the world as well as my view of myself continues to be influenced by the runners I coach.

We spent yesterday morning enjoying The Harvard Museum of Natural History (  I highly recommend it if you’ve never been…it was fascinating.

The post-run questions from the runners are starting to get far more specific.  They range from injury-prevention, cross-training, nutrition, shoes, and how to manage the Boston Marathon course.  I absolutely love reading and always have numerous books that I’m reading and referencing in an effort to expand my knowledge of various aspects of running and coaching.  Following are the books I’m currently reading:

  • Run: The Mind=Body Method  Of RUNNING BY FEEL by Matt Fitzgerald
  • Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald
  • Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life  by Brendan Brazier (Professional Ironman Triathlete and Formulator of Vega)
  • Thrive Fitness: The Vegan Based Training Program for Maximum Strength, Health, and Fitness by Brendan Brazier
  • The Athlete’s Guide To Yoga: An Integrated Approach To Strength, Felixibility & Focus by Sage Rountree
  • Journey Into Power: How To Sculpt Your Ideal Body, Free Your True Self, and Transform Your Life With Yoga by Baron Baptiste
  • Going Long: Legends, Oddballs, Comebacks & Adventures (The Best Stories from Runner’s World) Edited by David Willey

One of the reasons I continue to be excited by and engaged in my running is because there is always something to improve upon.  As I’ve aged I’ve searched for every possible advantage to extend my longevity in running.  I try to share this insight and knowledge with the runners I coach so they can develop good habits that have taken me years to develop.

I hope the books that I’ve recommend will be new additions to your running library!

Paying It Forward

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

“It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle.” –Richard M. Devos

One of my favorite t-shirts during my 12 year tenure as coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America’s Team In Training program was…”You Think Running A Marathon Is Difficult…Try Chemotherapy!”  That certainly provided a unique perspective on the marathon adventure.  I was inspired by the spirit of several cancer survivors that completed marathons.  I have discovered similar inspiration from Nora Johnsmeyer.  Nora is running for Bottom Line and has perfect attendance since we began training in early December and has the most amazing attitude!

In June of 2009, when I was 23, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Almost overnight, a swelling had developed just under my collarbone; firm, painless, and about the size of a golf ball. I saw a doctor at the MGH walk-in clinic, who sent me for a battery of blood tests, biopsies, and X-rays which showed cancer that had spread throughout my chest and neck. By the end of the day, the doctors could say with confidence that I’d need to start chemo within a week.

My world was turned upside down for a while, and my entire focus became withstanding the physical assault of aggressive chemotherapy. Every other Thursday, I’d check into the hospital for treatments. I lost my hair, a lot of my strength, and my appetite, but the chemo was so effective that all the symptoms of my cancer dissipated, and soon my scans were cancer-free! The day before Thanksgiving, I went in for my final chemo treatment – my finish line.

This past Christmas, I celebrated one year in remission, and set a goal to run the Boston Marathon for charity. When I was down, my friends, family, and doctors lifted me up, and as I regained strength I wanted to turn the tables and pay it forward. I’ve always loved running, but it’s taken on a new significance for me. Each time I think I can’t possibly make it another mile, I remember the days when it was a struggle just to hold my head up. Supporting the great work Bottom Line does for Boston students makes every trip up Heartbreak Hill worthwhile. I love having a goal in sight and being able to measure my progress towards it, and think about this new finish line always gives me chills. 

To learn more about my fundraising or to support my efforts, please visit my website:

That was then…


This is now…


Never without a smile!

Trio Of Inspiration

Posted: February 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
One of the greatest benefits of coaching marathoners is witnessing their commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.  One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Here is a small group (trio) of teachers that personify that commitment!
Inspiration.  As high school math teachers, we try everyday to inspire our students to value education and maybe even to enjoy math.  We are up every morning at 5am, at school before 7; we plan lessons, grade papers, help students, teach classes and when the dismissal bell rings we spend extra hours planning for the next day while also trying to fit in a trip to the gym or a run before we go home to grade more papers and prepare to do it all over again the next day.  
This year, we accepted the challenge of the Boston Marathon.  We try everyday to inspire our students, and we felt this was a unique opportunity to do something extraordinary- one of the marathon charities is the Boston Debate League, which runs an after-school program that many of our students participate in.  Raising money for this charity and running 26.2 miles allows us to inspire our students by example: we have committed ourselves to run the miles and raise almost $10,000 that will directly impact the lives of our students.   And they inspire us in return, to make that afternoon workout or to wake up early again on Saturday to brave the elements for our long runs. 
As teachers with students in the Debate program, we see the benefits of the League everyday in our classrooms.  The BDL does not just take the top 10% of students and teach them how to debate, but rather encourages all students to debate and encourages all types of learners.  BDL has kept many of our students in school; students who might have dropped out of high school have found a new source of inspiration and now excel in school.   Providing students with the right recipe of inspiration and hard work can be challenging, but once it is achieved there is nothing better than to watch a student take flight and soar.
Between the three of us, we teach over 260 students, in grades 9 through 12, in courses such as Algebra I, Advanced Algebra, Geometry, and AP Calculus.  We serve students with special needs and students who are English Language Learners.  We work at a Boston Public School that has a dedicated staff and some fabulous students, but never enough resources to help all of our students reach their potential.  We hope that running the marathon this April will help us inspire our students and provide much-needed funding to continue an important after-school program for our students.  If you’d like to find out more about the Boston Debate League and its impressive statistics for student support and retention, please see our website at this address:    Thanks for any support you can give! 
 -Robin, Chloe, Sarah

Left to Right-Sarah, Robin and Chloe

Minimizing The Risk Of Injury

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

Runners tend to focus their cross training on strengthening  the muscles they use the most while running (i.e., hamstrings, calves and quads).  Running does a sufficient job of strengthening and developing these important muscle groups.  Cross training should be focused on strengthening other important muscles that aren’t as engaged during running.

Strengthening your glutes and core will provided a perfect balance to your fitness.  This area of your body provides a solid foundation for your running.  If you have a weak core or glutes you’re vulnerable to a host of injuries.  Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) and shin spints are two of the more common injuries resulting from instability in this area. 

I prefer to use a stability ball and yoga blocks to perform exercises that engage these muscles.  Here’s an example:



Experimenting with a stability ball and attempting to engage muscles that running doesn’t is as important to your running as a great workout.  On days when you simply feel like you need a rest from running you should spend 30-45 minutes performing activities that promote a strong core.  You will have much better posture and your running form will dramatically improve.  Here is an example of an exercise utilizing a yoga block:


You can bring the yoga block straight over your head and back up to your knees and also off to the side of your knees to work your lower abdominals and obliques.  Visualize what your form will be like after running the first 16 miles of the Boston Marathon.  You’ll be entering the more difficult section of the course as your drop down into Newton Lower Falls and begin the trek to the hills of Newton.  The section has earned his name as Hell’s Alley because you’ll encounter your first significant hill of the day.  Crossing over 128 is wide open and can be extremely windy and there tends to be fewer supporters on this portion of the course.  It’s critical to arrive here in great physical and mental shape.

Spending time each week utilizing a stability ball to strengthen you core and glutes will provide a greater degree of confidence on Marathon Day, particularly on this section of the course, when runners typically begin losing their form due to fatigue.  Once you begin to lose your form it’s virtually impossible to regain it.

Focusing on achieving balance in your entire body will improve how you look and feel.  It will also improve your performance throughout training and particularly during the marathon!

Wick Sloane Profile

Posted: February 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

A new direction for this blog will be to profile some of the amazing runners I am currently coaching and the incredible organizations that currently comprise The Marathon Coalition (Access, Boston Debate League, Bottom Line, Jumpstart, Mass Mentoring Partnership, Museum of Science and Summer Search).  In this flagship profile, I wanted to profile Wick Sloane.   He sent me an article last week that I find so interesting and I’m sure you will, too.  It’s below Wick’s comments so I hope you take the time to read it.   I mentioned to Wick that he should dedicate his Boston Marathon effort to his fallen student…it’s all the inspiration he will need to get across the finish line.   Wick Sloane…

I teach expository writing and do odd jobs at Bunker Hill Community College.  I write a column, The Devil’s Workshop, for InsideHigherEd.  I’m trying to bring to the attention of the world the talent we, the people, are suffocating at places like BHCC.  I’m a fan of Access because their model is to teach students to take charge of their own education.  In this case, Access helps students find scholarships and fill out the impossible financial aid forms and college applications.  We have a long way to go as a nation as far as making great educations available to all.  Access is great because they recognized that too many students didn’t know how to apply for the financial aid that is out there.  
Last spring, I went to watch a friend my age finish the Boston Marathon.  I noticed that all the people finishing at that time were about my age.  I have noticed that most of the people my age who are still fit are runners.  I’m so sick of gyms.  I decided that day that I would run the Boston Marathon.  I had never run much before in my life, never mind recently.  I started running — 1.9 miles on the Eliot Street Bridge/Eliot Street Bridge loop did me in.  My Boston Marathon friend is a New Yorker.  We signed up for the Staten Island Half Marathon last October.  I finished 4,623rd.  I had no idea how I would find a Boston Marathon bib.  One day, the folks at Access sent out an e-mail blast, saying they still had a few bibs.  I said I’d take one.  
My students have jobs, families, long commutes.  Some work 40 hours a week and take four courses.  I’ve adjusted my teaching this semester, thanks to Rick coaching us for a marathon.  I realized that what I face for April has similarities to what my students face.  How am I ever going to find the time to do the work to reach a goal that seems impossible in the first place?  I admit, to my shame, that I used to be quite tough at the start, and tell them how hard it would be.  I foolishly thought honesty was the best policy.  I’ve learned from Rick that marathon runners/community college students already know of the difficulty.  Are they going to make it?  This semester, I have started out much more encouraging, as Rick does, and I have reminded the students, as Rick does, that I’ve done this before and that my students have a good success rate.  Just do today’s assignment, and then do the next assignment.  Thank you, Rick.  
Oh, I’m asking 100 people for $50 each for Access.  Be one by clicking here.  Thanks. 

Evidence and Arguments

January 4, 2011 By Wick SloaneTrauma was my professional development this semester in my work as an adjunct professor at Bunker Hill Community College. Well, secondary trauma. That’s a term I didn’t know when the semester began. That’s what happens to people who work with the people experiencing the trauma. Among this semester’s traumas for my students: abrupt homelessness, arrests of family members. A student who dropped my course did his best not to give up. Three different times he e-mailed to explain that he hadn’t done his homework and had been up all night mediating a domestic violence situation, dealing with the police. Veterans – with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)? No time to count. One made a short film showing what it’s like to have PTSD. I couldn’t watch even five minutes. (We are helping that veteran. I will watch the whole film, and “Restrepo.” Those could be my students.)

“Drink lots of water this afternoon. Part of dealing with trauma is being hydrated,” was the advice I got in November from the victim/witness advocate at the Suffolk County Court. I had just finished testifying in the third trial for the murder in 2007 of Cedirick Steele, one of my students. Before I could get on the elevator, the victim/witness advocate gave me a fact sheet, “Common Reactions to Community Violence,” on secondary trauma, made me promise that I would call the Homicide Bereavement Program at Cambridge Hospital, and swear that I would check the website and read the book Trauma Stewardship. Back at work, I bought three bottles of water in the snack bar. I drank all three.

The Trauma Stewardship authors knew me. “Minimizing.” For three years, I’ve been saying to myself, “Well, the worst day of my life is better than any day my students can imagine.” That one’s on the list of how not to cope. Secondary trauma and community college teaching — add another obstacle to that nationwide issue of helping more students complete college.

In my office after my 7 a.m. College Writing I class at Bunker Hill Community College a few weeks ago, the red voicemail light was on. In these e-mail days, the phone doesn’t ring often, especially early in the morning. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. The message just asked me to call back. I did. In a web search, a district attorney staffer preparing for the trial had found a column I wrote here for Inside Higher Ed after the murder. “We need someone to speak about Cedirick,” the county’s victim-witness advocate explained.

On March 14, 2007, waiting outside his uncle’s store in Roxbury, Cedirick was shot. At the time, we thought six 9mm bullets. The autopsy showed eight. March 14 was Wednesday of spring break. That Friday morning, Jasen Beverly, another student in the class, e-mailed me with a newspaper article about the shooting. “How many Cedirick Steeles could there be?” he asked. On my desk at home, I had two of Cedirick’s papers to correct during the break and give back to him. (Bedford/St. Martins published an essay of Jasen’s in a textbook, Real Writing with Readings, by Susan Anker, and yet I can’t find Jasen to get him back to school.)

The first trial had ended with a hung jury. At the second, a key witness took back her testimony. According to a police tape of a prison telephone call, one of the defendants, the witness’s boyfriend, had issued an order for her murder if she agreed to testify. That’s all I knew when I agreed to meet with the DA’s office. The reception area at the DA’s office could have been for a doctor’s office. Old magazines. People. The usual. But the receptionist was behind bullet-proof glass, and the room smelled of disinfectant.

A woman whose title was “executive assistant” took me to the meeting room. She has a criminal justice degree and impressive knowledge of the case. She and the paralegal, waiting in a conference room with the assistant district attorney trying the case, explained that they wanted to give the judge and jurors at the trial a picture of Cedirick as a student, a person. I wouldn’t be able to say much because I was not a witness to the shooting. I agreed to testify. “I just want you to know that of the 29 or 30 witnesses we want to call for this trial, you are the only one who has come in voluntarily,” the assistant district attorney said. The three each had a copy of my column in front of them. They’d found the column in web searches for the third trial. (I’d rather have Cedirick alive. But if my column helped keep the case alive, I guess that’s why we write.)

At the time of that meeting in the DA’s office, my College Writing I students were working with the librarian on research and how to find credible facts to use as evidence. My side of the equation was how to use that evidence to create persuasive arguments. All of a sudden, I was evidence.

Witnesses cannot attend the trial prior to their testimony. In the waiting area for witnesses a few weeks later, the victim-witness advocate asked how I was doing. “You want me to tell you? Really?” I asked. “I do,” she replied. “I’ve felt like I’m going to cry every day since you called. Am I crazy to feel like crying?”

“That’s totally normal for trauma victims,” she said. (From the fact sheet, I discovered later: “Sudden, temporary upsurges of grief: Suddenly you are overwhelmed by intense sorrow and anguish, even months or years after your loss, when there are triggers such as….”) On the stand, she said, I should remember to breathe. Take my time talking. Drink water. Afterwards, she would give me information on dealing with trauma. Trauma? I was the English professor. Isn’t my job teaching the power of the simple, declarative sentence?

Court officers, in dark pants and white shirts with brass badges, led me into the courtroom and left me just a few feet in front of the table where the two defendants were sitting. They were two young men, who could have been sitting in one of my classes. I raised my right hand and swore to tell the truth, and walked to the witness stand. The assistant DA went first. I knew the questions. Did I remember Cedirick? What were his grades? As and Bs. What courses was he taking? Psychology. College Writing I. Did I remember what newspaper Cedirick read? the assistant DA asked. That was a detail from my IHE column.

Objection from the defense. No bearing on the case. Sustained by the judge. The answer, though, was The New York Times. I urge students to read The New York Times every day, to see the world beyond and to read examples of excellent expository writing. Cedirick read the paper online and brought in articles to share with the class. The point was to show that Cedirick was committed to education, his own and his classmates’.

The defense attorney in front of a huge calendar, cross-examining me, tried to prove that I couldn’t possibly have known Cedirick. Barely six weeks of classes before Cedirick was murdered on March 14. The class just met twice a week, for 75 minutes each time. Two men at the table might go to prison.

“When was the last time you saw Cedirick Steele?” the defense asked. “Probably the Wednesday before spring break,” I said. He rebuked me and asked the judge to remind me not to speculate. He was right. I wouldn’t have accepted that reply from my students, either. “How many students have you had since then? Thousands?” he barked at me. I’m an adjunct, and I don’t teach a full courseload, I explained. Maybe one hundred, I said.

Somewhere, according to the Boston Herald, I managed to say, “Cedirick Steele was an unforgettable person.” The defense pressed on. What Cedirick was wearing the last time I’d seen him. “You just established, sir, that I don’t remember the exact date of the last time I saw him,” I said. Point scored for me, but this isn’t guy vs. guy. The two defendants, presumed innocent, were sitting right there.

Did I know where Cedirick lived? Yes. The street name? I don’t remember the street. The defense was right in front of the jury now, shouting, “Did anyone tell you he had six bags of marijuana in his car?”

“Objection. Request a sidebar, your honor,” said the assistant DA. The lawyers gathered on the other side of the judge’s bench from the witness box to speak with the judge. “No further questions, your honor,” the defense said when they finished a few moments later. No further questions from the assistant DA. “You may step down,” the judge told me. I walked past the defendants, out into the hall.

I was waiting for the elevator when I saw Cedirick’s mother by the door to the courtroom. I walked over to her. “I have Cedirick’s memorial button on my bulletin board at work. We all remember him every day,” I told her. She began to sob. I gave her a hug. According, again, to the Boston Herald, his mother “wailed.”

Back to expository writing, evidence and arguments. During the lunch break the day I was waiting to testify, I asked the assistant district attorney what brought him to this work. “Public service. I’m just trying to give these victims and their families some self-respect in their lives,” he said.

“You know, that’s why I teach basic, expository writing,” I said. “I figure a five-paragraph college essay making an argument is the same as a job letter. I want them to know their voice can count. I want them to have a skill that might help them have some control over their own lives.”

“Oh, yeah. I understood exactly what you were talking about when we first met,” the assistant district attorney said. An urban community college writing teacher and an assistant district attorney today are doing the same job? One of the others, I don’t remember now who, said to me, “Both of us, all of us, are just trying to keep young black men alive.”

I went back for the closing arguments on Monday after Thanksgiving. The victim-witness advocate sat me with Cedirick’s family in the front row. The defendants’ families and friends were in the row behind. “How was your holiday?” Cedirick’s mother asked me. She’s a kind woman. My holiday?

The defense went first. Their focus was the afternoon of the shooting. The electronic ankle bracelet of one, on parole, showed he was home at 2:15 p.m. the afternoon of the shooting. How could he have shot Cedirick Steele? The key witness, the girlfriend, was a perjurer. Convict on the word of a perjurer? With the argument and evidence the two defense attorneys offered, I couldn’t imagine a conviction.

The assistant district attorney started the story weeks before the murder and described a perceived affront by someone from the gang in Cedirick’s neighborhood to a member of the Mass Ave Hornets, the defendants’ gang. The assistant DA built the case for a motive — revenge. The ankle bracelet? The data the defense had also showed that the defendant had both entered and left his home at 2:15 p.m. the afternoon of the shooting. The witness and the perjury? The ADA reminded the jury of all the other witnesses and their testimony. Cedrick was not in any gang. That’s why, at last, witnesses had come forward. A choice of all the same evidence available to the defense but for each a different argument with a perspective and time frame. I’d often explained to students that in the end they choose the argument and the evidence. Two people going to prison is beyond what I’ve considered in arguments for College Writing I.

On Wednesday afternoon the victim-witness advocate telephoned. I picked up. The jury had convicted both defendants of first-degree murder. Evidence and arguments. I drank water.

The Benefits of Walking

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of the most difficult challenges runners face is walking.  During the initial running boom of the 1970’s anyone seen walking, either on a training run or during a race, must have been in a world of hurt; it was literally viewed as a forbidden act.  I wish I would have known then what I know now; I suspect I could have broken the elusive 2 hour and 30 minute barrier.  Rather, I will have to live with running 2 hours and 33 minutes on three separate occasions.  Not a terrible problem to have but time is relative and you always wonder what you might have accomplished with more discipline and smarter training.

Jeff Galloway, who is a 1972 Olympian and coach of over 200,000 runners and walkers, pioneered the concept of incorporating the run-walk method into running and racing.  I have to admit that I was initially a skeptic and worried that another runner would see me walking.  However, it didn’t take long to experience the benefits of taking regular walk breaks during my runs.  I realized that I was able to sustain my efficiency throughout my runs and complete them with less effort.

I also began improving my times on courses that I recorded time, pace, distance, maximum and average heart rate.  I also noticed that my average heart rate declined.  It’s a perfect combination when you achieve faster times with less effort and improved efficiency.  When I encourage runners to incorporate the run-walk method into their training, the general reaction is that it seems like such a counter-intuitive methodology.

As I have heard Jeff describe the rationale of run-walk, “This is a form of interval training and is directly tied to the conservation of resources: muscles, feet, joints, energy, fluids, etc.  The continuous use of running muscles will produce fatigue much more quickly.  Incorporating walk breaks early and often can erase most of the fatigue with each walk break.  The muscle and energy resources you conserve early will allow you to feel strong at the end of a run and speed up the recovery.”

That perfectly captures the essential benefits of incorporating the run-walk concept into your training and racing.  In the recent Rock n’ Roll marathon in Phoenix I walked a brief time during every water stop.  I benefitted from the brief 15 second break because I gave my muscles and mind a break and I didn’t spill anything on myself.  I noticed that I lost contact with many of the runners around me in the early stages.  But as the race progressed, particularly after 20 miles, I began to regain contact within a shorter distance and actually started to pass the same group of runners.

Many runners have mentioned they have a difficult time starting again, particularly in the later miles of a run, after their walk breaks.  The majority of them wait too long to incorporate the walk breaks.  Several have mentioned they don’t start their walk breaks until they begin to feel they need them…it’s too late to reap the benefits.  It’s similar to waiting until you’re thirsty to begin hydrating.  It’s also important to make a smooth and gradual transition back to running…nothing abrupt!

When I am training I walk one minute for every nine minutes of running.  I maximize my walk breaks by raising my arms above my head to expand my chest cavity and breathe deeply.  I then gradually transition back to running and assume my average pace.  Beginning runners should take their walk breaks much earlier but try to increase the running segment over time.

There have been countless runners that have completely converted to this approach during my 15 years of coaching.  The run-walk method clearly provides runners with more enjoyment, less injuries and faster times.  

I look forward to seeing you on your next run…ahem…walk!

Head Games…(Lori Muhr)

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

The marathon is very mental.  In fact, running in general employs great mental strength, especially in the later miles of a long run.  Your mental fortitude can make or break your marathon experience, and it can also improve your training experience.  What do you think about to get through the tough miles of a run?  The following is a list of ‘thoughts’ to help keep the mind occupied, and, most importantly, positive- after all, where the mind goes, the body will follow…

1. Smile– When you feel good you smile… so, when you smile, you’ll feel good.:-)
2. Sing– Think of favorite songs and sing the lyrics (in your head).  Make up new lyrics or a limerick.
3. Mantra– Repeat a positive sentence or phrase that is empowering (Hills make me stronger, Run smooth, Shorter quicker steps, I’m tough, Run in the moment, Keep it together, etc.)
4. Think Math– Compute the miles of different sections of your run. For example, I break up one of my runs into sections that include a 1.4 mile out and back, a .8 mile neighborhood loop (done 1-3 times depending on time and distance I need) and a 9.5 mile loop.  I often add and re-add these parts in different orders (and even get the same total!:-). 
                    -Calculate how many miles left, and how many miles done? 
                    -In the marathon, I try not to think about miles until I hit the 6.2 mile mark, then I tell myself I am just heading out for a 20 mile run (which I’ve done before and I know I can do it.).  Then when I hit various mile markers after that, I think similarly (at mile 10, I think of going out fresh for a 16.2 mile run, etc.
                    -Compute ages of people, or determine the year of their birth from their age. 
                    -Project your finish time based on your pace and figure what it would be at different paces. 
Math definitely occupies the mind!
5. Imagine running your courses–  When I have 5 miles left, I imagine running my usual 5 mile course at home.
6. Remember the reason–  You committed to running the marathon for a cause and you are making a difference. You WILL finish!
What do you think about during your runs?

Marathon Coalition Spirit

Posted: February 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

I thought the runners needed a reminder that there is actually light at the end of the training tunnel.  This is the stage of training where you can easily become complacent.  The middle segment of training can easily cause one to lose focus.

I brought one of my Boston Marathon finisher’s medals to pass around the room.  My goal was to remind the runners of the importance of maximizing their training effort and avoid running junk miles by concentrating too much on the quantitative aspect of training and not enough on the effort invested. 

I described several of my favorite aspects of the marathon.  I always get chills when I arrive at the Hynes Auditorium with my official postcard from the B.A.A. to pick up my number.  I also enjoy the Fitness Expo and seeing the latest running products.  Most importantly, I described what the experience of the finish line would be like.  It’s amazing to take the right onto Hereford Street and to see the final turn onto Boylston Street.  Once you turn onto Boylston Street…welcome to the party!  You could scream at the top of your lungs to the runner next to you and they wouldn’t hear you.  It may be the closest you ever get to being a Rock Star!

It’s so exciting to be coaching so many first-time marathoners.  I am incapable of adequately describing what they’re going to experience on April 18th.  My passion for coaching has been rejuvenated by the enthusiasm of the Marathon Coalition runners.