Friday, February 11, 2011

How Runners Communicate (through the years)

When I started running in the 1970s everything I knew about running came from my coaches and teammates, books on running, televised track meets, and Runner's World magazine. I was fortunate to grow up in Falmouth on Cape Cod, the home of the Falmouth Road Race and I started running for the Falmouth High School Cross Country team just a couple of weeks after the first Falmouth Road Race. I also learned a lot about the athletes and the sport from participating in the Falmouth Road Race and seeing and reading about all the stars of the sport in the local papers. Being in close proximity to the best in the sport probably helped instill a passion in me for the sport of running.

 High School Communication:
Falmouth High School 1973-1974

 There was no internet. Runners did not even have timers on their watches to accurately record training times.  Results were either written down or mimeographed and distributed later. Results from my first year of running cross-country. I was no running star! The only race that is missing is the final race, a handicap race for the Falmouth XC team. I was one of the first starters, based on my slow best time, and held on for the win in 19:53.

I think this is the first time I was mentioned in the newspaper. It was just for being on the track  team. I was pretty slow.

The Stony Brook School 1974-977

Mimeographed sheets again. Communication with Coach Goldberg in the summer was by mail or phone. The only way I could get to the top of the list was if the top guys did not run, but it was fun to get there.

 Results always seemed to be in purple. These are from the New York State Suffolk County Cross-Country Championships in 1976. We had an outstanding team, and finished third in our NY State division race. I wonder how many race results are lost to history, except for those saved by racers stored  in boxes in garages and attics.


 Our outstanding coach, Marvin W. Goldberg, would post workouts everyday on a bulletin board in the gym and send postcards and notes throughout the summer. After a season, he would meet with his athletes individually and go over goals. I think I am the only high school runner, despite loads of effort, who could never break 5 minutes in the mile (all slow twitch fibers and a funky hip and stride).

Wheaton College 1977-1981

In college we had this postcard-newsletter system to keep up with our teammates throughout the summer. How else would you know that a teammate just won an NCAA title or that another teammate spent his summer elongating the necks of Coca-Cola bottles for carnivals (in another newsletter). There was a lot of ribbing and strange humor in these newsletters (maybe the Coke bottle puller was just someone pulling our legs-I still don't know). It was a fun way to keep in contact and stay motivated through a long summer.

Through college and after, if I wanted to stay in-touch with the running world, I had to read magazines and books, run and talk with running friends, go to races, and watch the occasional event of television. It  might take weeks or months to view the results in running magazines of races from around the world and in the US, unless they were printed in a newspaper like the Boston Globe. The computer changed all that.

In the 1990s the Gate City Striders had a computer bulletin board in addition to a mailed out newsletter. You would phone in using your modem (I think one person at a time could gain access) and you could read and send messages to teammates and read messages on a newsgroup called rec.running to hear what people around the world were writing about running. The message board was a lot of fun and a place of inspiration: just when you thought you were training well, you could read the messages of your teammates and find out that they were running farther and more often. It was motivating hearing about their training runs and races, as well as being able to plan workouts and long runs.

As the internet exploded and more people became computer savvy, the bulletin board was eventually laid to rest. The Gate City Striders, like other running clubs, migrated their presence to a web page. Runners could now communicate easier and messages and results flowed more freely and with greater speed. Running forums like Runners World and Letsrun allowed even greater communication and then results started showing up online with sites like Coolrunning. Now, you didn't have to copy results from a printout after a race to keep track of your times and placing, but you could go online and see what your friend's times were in races you didn't attend soon after they were completed. Now you can even see a record of your online results at Athlinks.

Technology soon expanded more, so that you could listen to races online. I recall getting up early one Sunday morning to hear the BBC broadcast of the 2002 London Marathon where Khalid Khannouchi defeated Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie in a world record time before getting in the car to go run the Fred's Marathon. Pretty soon races from around the world could be viewed online, many live. Sometimes you had to pay and sometime they are free for the watching. I have a few VHS tapes sitting around from before that time marathons like London and Chicago, where I had to buy a tape of the race on eBay to see the full action in a race.

Communication is pretty instant with runners and races nowadays. Runners on Letsrun often get a bit angry if results are not posted within minutes of a race's completion. Another type of communication also followed for some runners. I started this blog a few years ago to write about my experiences with running, racing, health, and injuries. I have made many friends in the running community from places all over the world through this blog or reading websites and blogs that other runners, coaches, and therapists provide. I have been able to read and talk with others about common injuries and share my own struggles in hopes that others can find some helpful nuggets of information or provide from their own experiences and knowledge to help me. I also like reading my teammates and friends blogs to be inspired by their races and workouts and encourage each other to become better runners.

Eventually I broke down and got a Facebook account (how else do you communicate with you kids when he is in college). This has provided a new set of friends in the running community. I have met some fellow runners in the oddest circumstances through Facebook. One runner found himself in the background of a photo of my  finish in the 1976 Falmouth Road Race. I have connected again with former teammates from high school and college (every result and article above has one or more of my Facebook refound friends listed) and I made new friends who share their love of running and racing (some are runners I knew about and others are runners I have still to meet). It is always fun to read other runner's  accounts of races and training (as well as the bragging and dissing that goes on). I think that if I was left alone in a bubble, I would probably just give up on the running thing, but I am always inspired by the success and wisdom of others as they relate their own experiences. Who would want to stop running? The running community is full of so many fun and positive people. Technology and computers has certainly changed the world of running and we are all better for it.If you are a runner and like to communicate on Facebook, you can find me here.

Another aspect for having this blog is to practice my writing skills due to the fact that I am a teacher. I try some of the things I have my students do with their writing. So that leaves me with a new avenue, I am tentatively going to try on "Recover Your Stride". I would like to write about other runners and discover their successes and secrets, as well as their history with running. I don't know how it will go, but I would hope to find some willing subjects that might be more interesting to write about them myself, as I am not really that interesting as a runner, I am just persistent runner who loves the sport, I already have my first subject, someone who loves running as much as I do, someone who loves the Falmouth Road Race as much as I do, and someone who has an incredible string of Falmouth runs- even more races than I have done. I have seen him and his brother at plenty of Falmouths in recent years, but have never really met him except online due to this blog, so it will be fun to find out his history and how he has stayed so successful.

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