Archive for February, 2014

Mastering The Art of Running

Posted: February 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

Investing in mastering the art of running will provide major dividends. Improving your running efficiency will provide years of enjoyment and reduce the amount of stress on your body, thereby minimizing the possibility of an injury. Seeing someone run effortlessly is a thing of beauty-but it’s extremely rare. Runners tend to be inefficient and loud with their running and it’s always a constant struggle…physically and mentally.

It’s extremely gratifying to spend time with a runner interested in improving their running form. It’s an opportunity to teach and coach on an entirely new level. And nothing is better than witnessing a runner experience an epiphany that running can actually be easier and more enjoyable with less effort. The act of running is so simple and easy in theory…but ask any runner how many runs that truly feel effortless and the silence is deafening.

It surprises me how many runners assume that running is always going to be a struggle and not attempt to improve their form. Laura Gassner Otting is NOT one of them. She has been inquisitive from the moment I met her…always operating in the spirit of continuous improvement…the consummate student of running. Here is what she had to say about our time together:

“I ran my first mile ever less than three years ago. On April 21st, I will finish the Boston Marathon. And, when I do, my heartiest thanks will go to Rick Muhr, running coach extraordinaire.

It would be a fortunate thing if Rick was just an excellent diagnostician of form and master mechanic of technique. It would be amazing if he paired this talent with an unmatched knowledge of fuel, hydration, and gear. And it would be yet even more unbelievable if he combined the two with a can-do spirit and joy of the sport that is infectious beyond compare. And, how incredibly lucky for me that he has all of these in spades.

It’s simply impossible to be around Rick and not want to run better, faster, and farther than you’ve ever run before. And lucky for you, he’ll help you do this as he did for me, by teaching how to run more efficiently and effectively. It is no exaggeration to say that Rick has single-handedly changed what I am capable of doing come the marathon, and for that, I can’t thank him enough!” -Laura Gassner Otting- 2012 Boston Marathon

Thank you for allowing me to be your coach, Laura!

With just over two months before the Boston Marathon it’s time to assess what changes may be necessary to your training.

This is the phase in training where you can easily lose your mental focus.  Your mileage has been gradually increasing since December but it might feel like an arduous process. It’s similar to taking a long trip and feeling as though you’ll never arrive at your destination…suddenly it appears and new life is restored.  The Boston Marathon WILL be here soon so you need to capitalize on the remaining weeks of training.

Rather than focusing on just ‘getting through’ the next two months, I recommend you prepare for them like you would the actual marathon.  You need to go into the marathon with plenty of rest, properly fueled, well hydrated and with the proper mental preparation.  Begin each run moderately to establish a rhythm of perfect form and efficient breathing.

One of the greatest challenges is maintaining good and efficient running form after become tired.  Incorporating brief and regular walking breaks increases the likelihood this will occur.  When becoming tired,  you may tend to lean forward from the waist and tense up your upper body.  I recommend occasionally exhaling forcefully to rid your lungs of carbon dioxide, take a really deep inhale, drop your hands below your waist momentarily and then become mentally focused on sustaining this form until the next walk break.  Focusing less on technology during a run and more on maintaining perfect running form will yield greater results in the form of lower average heart rate, faster average pace, less chance of injury and a far more positive attitude about training.

Now is the time to share your fears and concerns with me so they can be addressed immediately.  Going into a state of denial won’t serve you well in the marathon.  We have plenty of time to adjust your training to provide the best possible situation on April 21, 2014!

Living The Dream!

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Uncategorized
Photo Credit: Tyler Trahan

Photo Credit: Tyler Trahan

This picture was taken moments before we departed for our 15 mile run on Saturday.  It was a challenging run that included sub-zero windchill, ice and snow-covered roads and plenty of congestion including traffic and hundreds of other runners preparing for Boston.  We covered the most challenging segment of the Boston Marathon course…twice.  Overcoming these challenges is perfect preparation for April 21, 2014.

I’m always  amazed and inspired when I see pictures of the Marathon Coalition TEAM.  This picture includes less than half of our entire TEAM.  It’s amazing to me because the Marathon Coalition started 5 years ago with just a handful of runners…several of whom are included in this picture.  This incredible growth is proof of what is possible when like-minded people have an opportunity to make a difference in the world.

Maragaret Mead once said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

When I consider my coaching career, I marvel at how quickly and unexpectedly one’s path in life can change.  I never imagined that losing my mom would lead to my journey as a marathon running coach.  Mom was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996 and I rushed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to be with her.  I didn’t think it would be the last time I would be with her.  During our last conversation I promised her I would do something significant with my life.

After giving the eulogy at her funeral I returned to New England and did the only thing I knew to begin the healing process…I ran the Ocean State Marathon in her memory.   Serendipitously, I noticed Leukemia and Lymphoma Society signs the entire distance and knew the  journey of fulfilling my commitment to mom had begun.

I enjoyed a 12 year journey as head coach for the New England Chapter of LLS.  With the help of thousands of runners and their supporters, we raised tens of millions to fund research for blood related cancers.  I will be forever grateful for all the support I received during my time with LLS, it profoundly changed me and continues to inspire me to serve others.

Iris Gleason was the executive director of LLS during my entire tenure.  She was my mentor and helped to fill the gaping hole in my life from the loss of mom.  When she retired, I knew I should follow in her footsteps.  She had been an incredible source of support and now that was gone.

However, when the Fall training season approached, I knew my love of coaching was as strong as ever and I couldn’t walk away.  I identified several charities that received Boston Marathon numbers from the Boston Athletic Association and the next chapter of my coaching life had begun.  I met with Mike Wasserman from Bottom Line and he lit the spark that is now the blazing fire of the Marathon Coalition.

Nothing significant in life is ever accomplished alone.  That has certainly been true with the Marathon Coalition.  I am extremely thankful for all the runners who have been part of each TEAM the past 6 years.  The support provided by their friends and families has given hope and opportunity to people who have gone without both for far too long.

I am equally grateful to all the charities that have believed in me enough to entrust the training and care of their runners to me.  Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to continue to honor the memory of my mom…I am truly living the dream!

Marathon CoaltionIt didn’t take more than a moment to come up with a tag line for the Marathon Coalition 6 years ago. Empowering Others Through Running captured the essence of our mission.

Marathon Coalition runners have committed themselves to providing opportunities and inspiration to others. I am so inspired by the example of giving that I witness each week. Every week, one of the 15 Marathon Coalition charities shares their mission before our run and provides volunteers for our water stops.  Our runners will raise more than $1 million for New England based charities.

Marathon Coalition runners are committed to serving others and providing hope to people who are so deserving and appreciative. Any life worth living has to include serving others. The True North for a charity runner is the desire and commitment to helping others realize they are capable of achieving far more than they ever imagined.

True greatness is not what we accomplish ourselves, but what greatness we inspire in others!

Technology has become an integral part of running and is both a blessing and a curse.  Runners, by nature, tend to be very quantitative and need instant feedback on their training.  It’s wonderful to monitor such important data as average pace, average heart rate, maximum heart rate, calories burned, total running time and distance, vertical oscillation and average stride length. Today’s  GPS technology is a marked improvement over the Timex watch with only a stopwatch feature I relied on for so many years.

But there is a significant downside to this modern technology.  I have witnessed runners become obsessed with all the data that’s at their fingertips.  Runners circle the parking lot at training to make sure they get to the next full mile or a designated distance.   I have witnessed runners  visibly upset because the scheduled run was slightly shorter or longer than the designated distance.  These same runners cannot reconcile their GPS not reflecting precisely 26.2 miles when they cross the marathon finish line.

The biggest downside to modern technology occurs during races.  Runners tend to micro-manage their race strategy.  They monitor their average pace so closely they overlook far more important aspects to achieving the goal marathon pace.  Marathon courses, particularly in Boston, aren’t conducive to running a consistent pace because of  their topography.  Consequently, it’s likely that a runner’s average or goal marathon pace will be slower or faster; causing a runner to panic or become erratic with their pacing.  This burns fuel unnecessarily and wreaks havoc on them mentally.

The reality is that a runner will not be capable or running any faster than they are physically and mentally prepared to run on a given day…regardless of the data on their GPS.  I have convinced many of my runners to not monitor their average pace during the marathon or, in a few rare cases,  to not wear a watch at all.  That’s almost like asking a runner to not where their running clothes during the marathon-they feel completely naked without their GPS.  But, without exception, 100% of these runners have enjoyed personal bests.

This occurs because runners tend to focus more on their form and breathing and actually enjoy all the marathon offers when they aren’t consumed and obsessed with technology.  It’s a far more enjoyable experience.

iPods also have provided a wonderful distraction from the difficulty of running by allowing runners to listen to their favorite music.  I’m always surprised when I observe runners wearing an iPod during a marathon because they miss all the encouragement and comments from the spectators.  Listening to their favorite music has a downside, too.  Certain music can also contribute to erratic pacing because some songs are more motivating than others.

Balance is the key to enjoying the benefits of running technology.  I recommend running entirely by feel at least twice a week.  It may ultimately require therapy, but you should leave your GPS and iPod at home.  You should focus on establishing a good rhythm and perfect form by practicing efficient running form.  Listen to how your feet are striking and how quietly you are breathing and suddenly you’ll feel more engaged with the one thing that will provide the result you desire…efficient running.

Running by feel…not by data from modern technology… will yield far greater results and return your running to a higher level of enjoyment!