Saturday, March 30, 2013

Growing up with The Falmouth Road Race

Meeting with Amby Burfoot in 2000.
I grew up in the small Cape Cod town of Falmouth. Falmouth is a town whose population more than triples in size during the summer season due to its lovely beaches and seaside lifestyle. Falmouth is also know for its annual road race and it was in Falmouth that I first loved running and racing as I literally  grew up running right along with the Falmouth Road Race. This post is a sort of part 2 to my previous post on Cameron Stracher's new book: Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar made Running go Boom. His book traces the history of running during the running boom years of 1972-1982 and highlights the Falmouth Road. Having started running a month after the first Falmouth Road Race in 1973 and being one of the 800 runners that ran the 1975 race with Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers, I consider myself fortunate to be an ordinary runner during those extraordinary days and to witness and partake in the running boom years. These are just some personal reflections of growing up during those times as well as added reflections on the decline of running post 1982.

As a kid, I was not fast, as I don't think I was granted many fast-twitch muscle fibers. I was born with a lot of endurance, however, and I was told I would be a good distance runner some day when I didn't really know what that meant. I had some books on running and famous Olympic runners when I was in elementary school and decided that I wanted to run the Boston Marathon when I was in third grade. No one would take me to the race, so Amby Burfoot won instead! I guess I was a bit ahead of the curve, as I acknowledged the Boston Marathon, even as a kid. Running in the 1960s was not on many people's radar or even lists of things to do (unless you were a kid).

I recall being in 7th or 8th grade and the gym teacher had all the boys run a mile at Gov. Fuller Field. I was in the lead until about 3/4 of the way when stomach cramps hit me, but I was still the third runner to finish and I felt some accomplishment in beating all the guys in my grade who were considered the athletes at the time. Around the same time, I realized that one of my female classmates was very special, Johanna Foreman made the Faces in Crowd section of Sports Illustrated for her running prowess and the entire school had an assembly in her honor. At a time when girls where starting to pursue equality in sports, John Carroll began coaching girls alongside the boys and the girls were gaining National prominence for the Falmouth Track Club. Without knowing it, Falmouth was becoming known for its runners. Johanna went on to be a top American middle distance runner when she was in high school along with two other girls mentioned in Stracher's book: Tammy Hennemuth and Nancy Robinson (and there were plenty of other fast female runners). While I liked the idea of running and had even cut a few articles I had found of people who had actually run across the United States as some sort of inspiration for a later date, I was just a normal kid having fun doing all the sports of the neighborhood: street hockey and street football games, pickup baseball games at Worcester Court or at the ball field in Falmouth Heights right across from the beach, or just riding our bikes all over town.

Then I met my first runner. Well, I knew who he was already, but my family would marvel as we watched a high school friend and runner constantly running by our house and all over town through the summer seasons. Tommy Johnston lived a couple miles away and we kept seeing him zipping around and I think I recall that he was usually doing 8 mile runs. All that I can say is that I was very impressed and wanted to do likewise some day! In those days it was extremely rare to see anyone running on the roads at all!

Tommy Johnson running in the 1976 Falmouth Road Race.
I remember that during the summer of 1973, I kept hearing of a "marathon" that was going to be held in Falmouth. I had watched the great runners for years in track meets that were televised so readily in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember watching Jim Ryun at the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico City and had watched everything that I could of the 1972 Munich Olympics including Frank Shorter's victory in the the marathon. Now a year later, a road race of 7 miles was going to be held from Woods Hole to that Falmouth Heights ball field just a short distance from my house. I recall thinking that it would be fun to run the race and that I might be good at it, but didn't really know what to do about it so nothing happened. I was happy that I didn't run when I saw how wet and rainy the race was in the newspaper articles afterwards. Tommy Johnston finished 9th in that inaugural Falmouth Road Race less than a month before he headed off to Wheaton College, where he continued to run cross-country.

A few weeks after that first Falmouth Road Race, I was a 9th grader at at the brand new Falmouth High School. I had intended to go out for the soccer team, but had been on vacation with my family during the preseason camp and sign up. A few weeks into the school year, Tommy's brother Stewart and I decided to join the cross-country team. It was an early release day, so there was plenty of time for running that day. I think the date was September 19, 1973 and if so, that is the date I became a runner. We ran the entire 2.9 mile cross-country course as a preview plus warmups and strides around the track as it was also a race day, we ran down the road to cheer on the varsity runners before our race. Stu and I ran together near the back of the pack when our race went off and about a mile into the woods, we went left where we should have gone right. We got lost and two girls from the opposing team followed right along. There was a lot of walking and a lot of time before we made it out of the woods and onto Gifford Street far past Brick Kiln Road where we were supposed to be . By the time we made it back to the school an hour or so later, everyone was worried about the two missing girls. No one even cared that Stu and I had been lost! I didn't run again until the next Monday (another race). All that I remember was that I could barely walk for days, let alone think about running. My legs were impossibly sore (at the time I think we calculated that we had done 8 miles of running and walking that afternoon).

Stu and I did not distinguish ourselves as runners and we usually finished last on our team of some very good runners. The only highlight would be the end of season team race which was a handicap race on our home course. I improved my best time on the course by 37 seconds and was the first to finish in an unremarkable time of 19:53 but I ended up "winning" the race: well, at least being the first finisher as I had improved the most and the starting times were based on your best time. I may not have been good, but I was hooked on running.

Unfortunately, with a new school came some really weird scheduling ideas and and an "out-there" school philosophy. Of course, this was the year when streaking became a fad and so there was a lot of overall weirdness going on. Classes were often only 20 minutes long (called mods) and there was tons of free time to study or seek out help from teachers. Right! Basically, I would spend hours in the gym each day playing basketball or would just hang out in the library with a large group of friends. By Spring, I would ride my bike to school, so I could leave school early and ride to a friend's house. We would stop along the way, if it was warm, and swim in the pond at Goodwill Park and then take his two person kayak out from Salt Pond, go under Surf Drive through the metal "tubes" underneath the road, and swim and play along the ocean off Surf Drive (around mile 4 of the Falmouth Road Race). I got a lot of biking and swimming in those days, which would serve me well in a few years.

With the school system in disarray, I along with 3 other Falmouth boys headed off to the Stony Brook School on Long Island. I knew the 2nd edition of the Falmouth Road Race was going to be happening that August and even though I was now a runner, I did not train or enter the race that year with all the planning I needed to move away from home.

I did go out for the cross-country team at Stony Brook where I found a great running coach in Marvin W. Goldberg and where I also found a running program steeped in tradition and success. Of course, I still was not fast, but I continued to love to train and to race. I also had a coach that would send me postcards in the summer months and mention that road race in my hometown and even the exploits about Johanna Foreman. The summer of 1975 was the first year I ran the Falmouth Road Race and it was my first ever road race. I was also incredulous at the thought that the two biggest names in the running world: Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers were going to dual it out on the streets of my hometown. What a sport! I could run a race alongside the current Olympic marathon champion and the current Boston Marathon champion (and American record holder). By golly, I wasn't going to miss that race. Mr. Goldberg eventually made it out to Falmouth to watch the road race a few times as well and also to convince Bill Rodgers to be a speaker my school and at the New York State Cross-Country meet in 1977 (the year after I graduated).

After finishing the 1975 Falmouth Road Race.
I don't remember too much of the actual race. I recall heading down the wooden bridge to the Woods Hole shoreline in the first mile and running on the grass on the left side of the road when I could. I recall people shouting out and then seeing a guy in a wheelchair, Bobby Hall, go speeding by. I remember finishing and how very tired I was at the end and for the rest of the day, but I was hooked on the Falmouth Road Race and the running boom, now in its infancy was about to experience explosive growth, according to Cameron Stracher in his new book Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar made Running Go Boom. Many key components that fashioned the emerging growth of running as a sport happened at the Falmouth Road Race between the years of 1972 and 1982 with that 1975 race being a pivotal race. Road running was entering its heyday and Falmouth was the spot where the best runners in the country came to race and party. Every year each new edition of the race was like Christmas to this runner. All of the champions and up and comers that I had been reading about in running magazines would show up in my seaside community and duke it out on the roads I knew so well. Not only that, but I could join them, further back in the pack, and prove myself through my own running exploits. I was becoming known as a "runner" and even though my family never once saw me race a cross-country or track race, I would get their attention each year at Falmouth.

Classic Runner's World cover
of the 1978 Falmouth Road Race.
For 40 years, my dad was the pastor of the Falmouth Baptist Church on Central Park Avenue right down the road from the finish line at Heights Field. The runners would run by the back side of the church on Falmouth Heights Road right between services each race. I would always have a large cheering section there before hitting the 6 mile mark of the race and my parents would always be there cheering and snapping a few photos of the top runners from the cheap cameras I had at the time. Still to this day as I run Falmouth, I always look around hoping to see a few friends from long ago in the crowd at that point in the race and stop at the church to meet the few people I still know there as I walk back from the finishing line

After graduating from the Stony Brook School, I enrolled at Wheaton College in Illinois and ran cross-country there too! Yes, that is the same school that Tommy Johnston ran at and I chased his best times until the final cross-country race of my senior year where I finally beat his college best time. Even though Tommy was the first real runner I knew, I don't ever recall running one step with him despite both of us running for Falmouth High School and Wheaton College.

Heading for the finish in 1980.
In college, I still wasn't fast enough and with a teammate who could probably be rated the greatest division 3 distance runner of all time on my team. I knew that I would never approach being fast enough, because I truly saw what fast really looked like. I had the marathon bug. I had really wanted to run the first 5 borough New York City Marathon in 1976 when in my last year of high school. I could have just hopped on train the from Stony Brook to get to New York City, but wonder of all wonders, I was finally good enough to be on the varsity cross-country squad.I still regret  not running that race. However, after my first college cross-country season, I went down to Dallas to run in the 1977 Dallas White Rock Marathon. I was a full and willing participant in the running boom and completed 8 marathons while in college.

Eventual winner Alberto Salazar with Mike McLeod at the
1981 Falmouth Road Race.
The Falmouth Road Race continued to be a highlight of every year. I couldn't wait to see Bill Rodgers finally defeat Frank Shorter and then new champions emerge like Craig Virgin, foreigners like Rod Dixon, and finally a young upstart named Alberto Salazar. I loved the race so much, I even cut short a summer traveling around Europe with some friends so that I could be home in time to run in the 1979 version of the race.

1979 Falmouth winner Ellison Goodall
I was also watching the women's side of running as a sport make an emergence. That 1968 Boston Marathon that I wanted to run as a kid, was a year after Jock Semple had tried to pull the bib number off of runner #261 K. (Katherine) Switzer. The Falmouth Road Race also welcomed the world's best women runners and I got to see Greta, Joan, Gayle Barron, Kim Merritt and other top female athletes of the time. Sometimes, I even got to run with them. I remember running down Nobska Hill with Joan Benoit in the race one year and staying with her until we went under the bridge and she took off. One year, I finished alongside women's running pioneer Nina Kuscick. It may have been 1977. I am missing from the results, but I see her listed in different places as finishing in 9th place in 43:05 or 43:45 and that sounds about right where I would have been.

Cameron Strachers's book Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom covers the glory years of American distance running during the running boom and the Falmouth Road Race plays an important part in the story. He says that the running boom ended with the 1982 version of the Falmouth Road Race. Not only did Alberto Salazar start to struggle being on top of the world after that race, but the dominance of American men in the running scene started to decline as well. In fact, since 1982 only one American male runner has won the Falmouth Road Race. It is erroneously reported in the book that Bruce Bickford won in Falmouth in 1985, but the only American male champion since Salazar was Mark Curp in 1988 (Bickford was ranked number one in the world for 10,000 meters in 1985). The 1983 race was won by a Kenyan, Joseph Nzau.

There are a few reasons for the decline of American male distance running after 1982 and Stracher covers those reasons in his book. I would also like to add one more reason to his list and it also has its Falmouth ties.

In February 1982, at a little known event held in Hawaii that catered to a small group of fitness fanatics, a young lady crawled to the finish line. Sports Illustrated had done an article on the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon a few years earlier and ABC had televised the race for a few years. I remember watching it in college and not having an understanding of the biking and swimming legs at all, but being enthralled with what type of athlete would prove most dominant. Julie Moss was less than one mile from winning the female race when her body gave out and television cameras caught the gut wrenching display of Julie making it to the finish line any way she could and ultimately being passed by Kathleen McCarthy for the win just before stretching her hand across the finish line. When the race was televised on Wide World of Sports  thousands of people watched and decided that they just had to do that race (including me). The television broadcast was such a hit and created such a stir that it was shown again the next week.

I think that event had as much of an impact on the way American's viewed endurance sports as Frank Shorter's triumph in the Olympic marathon. People took notice!  Just as I was on the running boom  and marathon bandwagon, I was soon to be on the triathlon bandwagon. The next year at the 1983 Boston Marathon, it was announced that Dave McGillivray was going to put on an Ironman distance race on Cape Cod that September. Dave was a big running figure already in New England as he had run across the country for the Jimmy Fund in 1978 and received a lot of publicity for his efforts. He had also participated in the Hawaii Ironman. As soon as I heard about the race, I was in, despite not having any swimming or biking background. I went out and bought a $300 bike and started training. I had no coaching and did not know any person who had even completed a triathlon, let alone any swimmers or cylcists. I swam that summer off (appropriately) Racing Beach in Falmouth trying to learn how to do the freestyle stroke and keep my head in the water. I biked out to the Cape Cod Canal and back and I ran. One note: Dave McGillivray became the race director of the Falmouth Road Race in 2012.

The Falmouth Track Club had been putting on a members only triathlon for a couple of years and that summer in 1983 that race became my first triathlon. I finished fourth overall, but the newspaper reports had the organizers already complaining about the size of the event and the non track club members in the race. Then, big time triathloning hit Falmouth. The nationwide Bud Light Triathlon Series showed up in Falmouth and about 900 triathletes came to race at Old Silver Beach. It was credited with being the largest open water swim on the east coast at the time and the race organizers were also credited with creating hills on the swim. It was stormy and the storm and angry waters were not just in the salt water. Falmouth officials did not want the swim to go off on time and instead wanted the organizers to wait for the waves to die down. The race organizers did not listen and the race started on time, but they were not invited back to Falmouth again. I got the feeling that the town was not really appreciating the attention the race got when they already had a road race that needed attention. Triathlons did not happen for many years after that in Falmouth.

One other side note about the USTS race. The day before the race at the prerace show, the featured guest was a young lady whose finish had brought the nationwide spotlight onto triathlons. Julie Moss was in town to be the master of ceremonies at this Falmouth event. While triathlons being hosted in Falmouth were stalled after that race, the attention given to triathlons and multi-sport races was on the upswing. And yes, that September I did complete my third triathlon at the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon (a full distance Ironman event). The race passed through many Cape Cod towns, from Sandwich to Provincetown, but the one town it did not get near to was Falmouth.

Scott Tinley (here in 1985) and Scott Molina would both later win
the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon.
I think Julie Moss, Ironman races, and triathlons in general heralded a shift from running to an interest in other endurance sports. It was the new kid in town and those athletes who were getting tired of running, found some new ways to test out their bodies. I also think that triathlons started a shift in thinking away from an admiration of whippet thin runners to more muscular or well rounded athletic bodies. If Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar were going to be replaced as icons of endurance sports, then Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Tinley, and Scott Molina were more than happy to take up the mantle. People also started getting curious about this new idea called cross-training and soon Greg LeMond and his Tour de France victories started getting people interested in cycling. Fitness takes on many forms and activities these days. I am glad to see American distance running making a comeback on the international scene, however the average runner these days does not have the drive and enthusiasm for all out training and racing like what was going on during the running boom years. It is amazing to think that those early years of the Falmouth Road Race are now part of the running past and showcase the history of your sport. I am thrilled that it happened in my own back yard and that I got to be a participant an observer of those wonderful days.

Other Falmouth Road Race Posts

And here is the coolest part of Cameron Stracher's book. It is nice to see my past blog posts played a part in his research for the book.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Kings of the Road" by Cameron Stracher

If I were a writer, Kings of the Road would be the book I would have loved to have written. I am not a writer however, and I am so glad that Cameron Stracher did the heavy lifting and put into book form so much of what I love about the history of running. This is a wide-ranging, but smartly cohesive book that should be on the must read list of every person who calls themselves a marathoner, a road racer, a jogger, or a runner. The complete and marathon-length title of the book is Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom (official release date is April 9). This is a book about how running invaded the consciousness of everyday people all across America in the years between 1972 and 1982: a time we now call the "The Running Boom." There were many catalysts of change that came together to create such a wonderful moment that reshaped the thinking and athleticism of people across the country. The running boom led to mass participation running events as well as to the world leading status of American distance runners. This book explores those roots and moments and how they all came together.

The Start of the 1978 Falmouth Road Race.
There were many catalysts which helped spur the running boom and Cameron Stracher covers them all. He adroitly captures the zeitgeist of the era through the music, movies, and politics of the time as he intertwines the significant people and events that shaped the running boom. He chose to identify the Falmouth Road Race as the unifying element upon which the running movement was shaped and polished. It was there that the three main running characters raced as the torch was passed from Shorter to Rodgers and then on to Salazar as the main players on the world and American running stage. The book is not just about Falmouth and these three runners, nor is it a biography of these champions. Stracher picks out the races and moments where the enigmatic and cerebral Frank Shorter, the friendly and somewhat loopy Bill Rodgers, and the aloof and focused Alberto Salazar strove for and achieved greatness. We learn their background, like we do the history of Falmouth, but we also learn of the multiple other characters, races, and events that merged together to help create the running boom.

Frank Shorter winning the 1975 Falmouth Road Race.
Stracher carefully and intelligently picked the details and moments that galvanized and transformed the running movement and which pushed running into the collective consciousness of thousands and millions across the country who decided that they too could become their own running heroes. No longer would a runner be laughed at for running through the streets in his "underwear" but rather the champion runners were widely known, even outside the running community due to mainstream newspaper, magazine, and television coverage, and thus wearing
red and white striped Dolfin shorts while running through town no longer brought catcalls or unpleasant comments (well, that may not be entirely true!). Runners were skinny, but tough and even admired. Besides framing and retelling the stories of Shorter, Rodgers, and Salazar and their impact on the world stage, this book delves into many of the influences and history of athletes and events from ancient times up to those preceding and coinciding with the running boom. Without being wordy, the details are enough and quite interesting for a reader already familiar with this history of running as well as for a novice without a knowledge of these facts. Many runners will already be familiar with the three chosen runners, but this is not their biographies. Their achievements are noted, but framed within the greater context of moving onto the story of how running became the popular sport of the masses at this time in history and how the careers of these three athletes intertwined over this short period of time.

Bill Rodgers leading the 1978 Falmouth Road Race
at about the 6 mile mark.
I love this story, because it is also my story. It is familiar to me because I was there, pulled along in the excitement of watching a world class event develop in my Cape Cod hometown of Falmouth. I became a runner just weeks after the first Falmouth Road Race was held in 1973 and the great champions who came to run and party just down the road from my house excited me to no end as a teenager. As I was watching it all develop, it certainly molded me into the runner and fan of the sport that I am today. I still love the sport, the competition, and of course the Falmouth Road Race as well as all the events that were spawned from the boom in the 1970s and onward  It is a story I know well (and have tried to chronicle in this blog) , but I was entertained by all the new details that Cameron Stracher was able to piece together and highlight in this book. The story is book-ended between two races in which Alberto Salazar twice almost ran himself to death and I was also a participant in both of those events: the 1978 Falmouth Road Race, where Alberto was read his last rights as he lay in a ice filled pool with temperature of 108 degrees, and the 1982 Boston Marathon "Duel in the Sun" between Salazar and Dick Beardsley. In between these retellings lie a history worth knowing.

This is the book that should resonate with the beginning joggers trying to go from Couch to 5K, to the charity or bucket list marathoners who fill the roads in the big city marathons, all the way up to the highly competitive racers who compete throughout the country in scholastic races or in road races measured in distances from the 5k on up to the marathon. Those who have run the Falmouth Road Race know its winding roadways and this book likewise twists and turns as the story of running unfolds. You will enjoy how Stracher combines the personalities and events that somehow can be traced back in some way to a seashore race run along Vineyard Sound.

The roads are crowded these days with runners, but I am not sure the younger post-running boom crowd really knows or appreciates the vibrant history of the sport that is so readily available to them each weekend with choices of multiple races from which to choose from in order to compete. It is time to remember.

A photo I took of the awards ceremony after the
 1976 Falmouth Road Race.
Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Randy Thomas, George Reed,
Alberto Salazar, Amby Burfoot, Bob Hodge, and Mike Buckley.
If Born to Run can ignite a multitude of people to contemplate ultramarathons and barefooted running, then a more sensible book about the historic roots of road running and mass participation events should appeal to both the casual and competitive runner. A few years ago I was running with a very fast local runner in my running club and in conversation I realized that he had never heard of Steve Prefontaine. I can just as readily assume that many, if not most runners under a certain age might not have any clue who Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar are or how they impacted the sport. Here, you can learn their stories, achievements, motivations, as well as learn their influence on the growing sport. You will also read about lesser known characters and contributors to the sport who also deserve credit for their part played in the history of running.The book is also about how the big city marathons got started as races went from dozens of participants or hundreds in the case of the Boston Marathon, to thousands of racers, and then to the point where races had to limit the number of participants.

Finish line at Falmouth 1980.
Nowadays, a race can sometimes have thousands of runners in just its first year. Hundreds of runners sign up for low key local races. My first road race (not including high school cross-country and track races) was the third Falmouth Road Race held in 1975. This was a most pivotal race in the running boom as it was the first time the 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion, Frank Shorter, and the 1975 Boston Marathon Champion Bill Rodgers competed against each other in a road race. A crowd of about 800 runners participated in the race that year and that was considered a huge field at the time. The running world and the national press took notice. Nowadays, Falmouth limits the field to about 10,000 runners. Of course, this 1975 race plays an important role in the Kings of the Road story and I was happy to be there.

Here is a photo I took after the 1980 Falmouth Road Race
 of Bill Rodgers and Fred Lebow of the New York City Marathon
 having an intense conversation.
You can read about Bill and Fred and their disagreements
 over money and competition
throughout "King of the Road." Little did I know that
I was probably interrupting a serious disagreement here.
The book is an enjoyable and fast-paced read. The details and background information is abundant, but not excessive so that a reader is not bogged down in wordiness. The thrill and unique excitement of those early days are readily apparent and definitely true to my recollections. Just like "Born to Run" Kings of the Road twists history, science, and culture together with a cast of compelling characters, a noteworthy setting, and some rather dramatic races. I have heard that certain parts of "Born to Run" were more storytelling than accurate reporting. The events and happenings retold in Kings of the Road are told with a reporters accuracy to the facts (I did notice a couple of minor mistakes). It all rings true to what I saw and experienced! I wanted to rip through the book to find its secrets, however I also wanted to slow down my reading and savor the retelling of events, because they brought back so many pleasant memories. Each chapter starts with a historic photo (nice to see), a running quote, and an intriguing title. As I was reading, I was constantly brought back to many a hot humid Sunday afternoon in August starting in the small village of Woods Hole and ending up 7 miles later on a ballfield in Falmouth Heights. The ocean along Vineyard Sound, the salty air, Nobska Lighthouse  the winding roads, crowds of spectators, bursting lungs and weary muscles, a downhill sprint finish, and a party with thousands of other runners where you could mingle with the running superstars of the day. This is the annual Falmouth Road Race and a great event to evoke the times when running became King and the Kings of the Road became superstars.

Salazar at 6 miles, 1977 Falmouth.
Please do yourself a favor and read this book and become enthralled with the athletes and a time when a sport was born. Learn the history of our sport and enjoy the many stories and characters. Just like any time you lace up your running shoes and hit the roads, I can guarantee that you will have a good time!

This is already a wordy post, but I have more to say. Look for additional posts centered more on my recollections and connections to the Falmouth Road Race with a local flair as well as an additional reason, with ties to Falmouth, for the demise of the popularity of competitive running and the nationwide disintegration of interest in the sport of running.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Runner without a country: Guar Marial

Here is a kickstarter for a documentary film about Guar Marial, the Sudanese Lost Boy, who ran in the 2012 Olympic Marathon under the flag of the Olympics, rather than under the Sudanese flag. He hopes to be the first athlete to represent South Sudan at the 2016 Olympics. The lives, stories, and successes of the Lost Boys of Sudan always interest me and Guar's successes as a high school runner in New Hampshire and again at Iowa State led to an Olympic marathon qualifying debut. Guar will be running this year's Boston Marathon and hopes that the political climate changes quickly enough so that he can run in the World Championships in Moscow this August.

Here is a video of Guar returning to New Hampshire recounting his life and marathon journeys with New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Here are previous posts I have made about Sudanese Lost Boy and now American 5000 meter Indoor recorder holder Lopez Lomong .

"Running for my Life" by Lopez Lomong

Lopez Lomong: Everything is Possible

Recovering Children in Africa: Great Stories of Survival and Giving Back

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Making fun of marathoners

Here is Cousin Sal from Jimmy Kimmel Live at Sunday's Los Angeles Marathon having fun with the thirsty and hungry hoards midpack.

Watch the highlights of the race here, including the guy in blue who sprints at the start to take the lead of the race. For some reason, this is funny every time I see it happen at a major race.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spontaneous Hip Labrum Regrowth after Surgery

Here is an interesting new study that for those who have undergone arthroscopic surgery for a torn hip labrum. It seems after studying 24 patients who have undergone labrum debridement (trimming) that after two years most patients had some degree of regrowth, most to the size of their original labrums. Increasing age of the patients led to a poorer quality of reconstituted labrum. Maybe that is why my hip is feeling better all the time starting at about 1 1/2 years post surgery! It is also interesting because I often hear that there is such a limited blood supply to the labrum that it cannot repair itself on its own prior to surgery, but it seems that it can post surgery .Of course, the simple answer to that is that if there is a bony impingement that needs to be shaved down, the labrum will be constantly irritated, but what if there is no impingement? Might it heal on its own then. I have seen some runners on message boards who have learned to adjust to a torn labrum and still be able to run due to limiting some of their mileage or due to strengthening exercises. I have seen no doctor say that torn labrums can heal on their own without surgery, but maybe there is more to be learned. The study is called Spontaneous Hip Labrum Regrowth After Initial Surgical D├ębridement and was conducted at Stanford University by Geoffrey D. Abrams, Marc R. Safran MD, and Hassan Sadri MD.

Here are some cool and colorful photos of my labrum during arthroscopic hip surgery.
The red in the top left photo shows the tear.
The yellow yolky looking stuff is junk that was cleaned out.

This new book from the author of The Entrepreneurial Patient blog is a must read book for anyone with hip problems and is thinking about about arthroscopic hip surgery or has had arthroscopic hip surgery for a labral tear or FAI.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Roadrunner: Massachusetts State Song?

Across the border in Massachesetts, there is an underswell of support to make Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lover's song "Roadrunner" the official state song. They have some heavy opposition with another 1972 classic by Aerosmith in "Dream on". One reason why "Roadrunner" would make a great song for Massachusetts would be its heritage as the place for road racing in America. What? Well there is the Boston Marathon, America's greatest marathon and  the Falmouth Road Race, America's greatest road race. Also, think about Billy Rodgers and Johnny Kelley and a host of other great marathoners, track stars, and distance runners who got there start running on the roads of Massachusetts. I saw this video version of "Roadrunner" a couple of years ago which uses some classic video of some of the great road races from the early 1980s in Boston. I think these are from the 1980/1981 Freedom Trail race, the Boston Milk Run, and the `981 Bonne Bell 10K National Championships for women. I don't see video of the Falmouth Road Race even though it is mentioned on the video upload.

You can see a great dual between Alison Roe and eventual winner Jan Merrill at the Bonne Bell race, Rod Dixon beating Bruce Bickford and Greg Meyer at the 1981 Freedom Trail and George Malley winning the 1982 event. You can also catch glimpses of Bill Rodgers, Patti Catalano, Randy Thomas, Larry Olson, and even a bearded Tom Derderian among all the road racing fanatics of the early 1980s. I don't recall who the blonde headed Athletics Attic guy is who is winning one race. Does anyone know? John Flora, maybe?

This is quite a motivational video and while watching all the clips from these races, you can certainly say that every runner in these races was truly motoring!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tim Danielson: After the Mile

Tim Danielson did something that only five American high school runners have ever done and then Tim Danielson did something that no one should ever do. Tim was the second high school runner to ever break 4 minutes in the mile run after the great Jim Ryun became the first.  Later came Marty Liquori, Alan Webb, and most recently Lukas Verzbicus. Tim ran his sub 4 mile on June 11, 1966. He is the least well-known of the five high school prodigies. Just days after Verzbicus broke the 4 minute barrier in 2011, 45 years to the day after Danielson's run, Tim Danielson was arrested for allegedly shooting his ex-wife who still lived in his house. It was a tragic story about the lost glory of youth that culminated with the murder of Ming Qi.

The New York Time just published a lengthy article exploring the life of the relatively unknown and reclusive Tim Danielson called After the Mile. We learn that Tim had recently returned to his alcoholic ways prior to the murder, but also that he began taking an anti-smoking drug called Chantrix which has been linked to causing behaviors that might have resulted in the the murder and his own suicide attempt.  Whatever the cause, Tim is in prison and Ming is dead.

Jim Ryan (3:55) Tim Danielson (3:59) Marty Liquori (3:59) Alan Webb (3:53.5) at the Footlocker Cross Country Championship Race 12/13/03.
One person quoted often in the story is Ralph Serna, another great high school runner from California in the 1970s. Many years ago, I was selling old running magazines on eBay and Ralph made a few purchases. I knew who he was and we had a few email exchanges. His wife was a Hollywood set designer of some type and she sometimes used the old magazines in some television or movie scenes.

Here is a video of Tim Danielson running a high school mile in 4:07 for a then Californian prep record. I don't intend to highlight the achievements of Tim's career over his obvious failure to control his rage and murder another person, but do I wonder as I look at an old video of this former running star, how he could allow his life to spiral out of control to the point of shooting another human being. This article attempts to explain part of this mystery.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Granite State Snowshoe Championships

Photo courtesy of Bear Brook State Park
Sunday I participated in The Granite State Snowshoe Championships held at Bear Brook State Park in Allenston, New Hampshire. I have only been on my snowshoes 3 times this year: one workout, the Beaver Brook Snowshoe race in January, and then this 10K race. I was excited and nervous to participate. I was excited because I wanted to see if I had made any progress with the large jump in mileage over the past month, plus I love racing on snowshoes. I was nervous because this race was a 10K and I have never raced this far on snowshoes and I know it is a much more intensive sport than just running, in fact I have not raced at any event over 5k since my hip surgery  1 1/2 years ago.

I was happy to have finished the Gate City Strider's Freeze Your Buns fifth and final race last week. I was able to finally break 22 minutes and it was the most comfortable I felt racing in the five race series. I just don't have any speed yet in my running, but the endurance part is coming along. I also won my age group for the series. The two guys ahead of me in points did not show up at the previous race in the cold, snowy, and blustery conditions so I was able to surpass them in points even though I never beat them in any race.

Acidotic team before the snowshoe race
photographs courtesy of Gianina Lindsey
With the sudden increase in mileage and feeling that my body is started to heal from the surgery I have begun thinking about doing some trail running and racing and maybe even doing a trail marathon this year (maybe right at this very park!). I also should do more training on my bikes with a possible return to some type of bike racing this summer. Chris Dunn of the Acidotic Racing Team  welcomed me onto that Acidotic team and so I raced for Acidotic at the Snowshoe Championship race. I am thrilled to be part of a team that participates in and organized multi-sports events and appreciate the motto, "Dare Mighty Things." I am looking for new challenges to keep out of getting into a rut and for some team comradery and friendships with the more hard-core athletes on the Acidotic team.

Racers all lined up in a  paceline.
Friday was a snow day in southern New Hampshire, but not as much snow had fallen an hour north of Nashua where the race was to be held. Saturday was a warm sunshiny day, but there was plenty of snow at Bear Brook State Park. I met many new teammates as well as old friends from the past who now race for Acidotic before the race. Nearly 100 snowshoers were lined up for the 10 am start.

The starting line was very cramped as it was not wide at all and I placed myself in the back half of the pack as I knew the race would get to single track pretty soon. After a frantic start where athletes were trying to get positioning, we very quickly hit the single track. Lines of snowshoe racers started spreading out in front and behind me. I wanted to be sure I was positioned correctly. It is hard to pass other races on single track sections so you could lose a lot of ground quickly if you are behind slower racers and if you start out too aggressively and can't hold on to the racer's pacing ahead of you, you can hold a lot of other racers back as they try to get ahead of you. I was more concerned that my conditioning and lack of speed would have me struggling to keep up. I was wrong and I had positioned myself perfectly.

As the pace lines meandered through the woods with its ups and downs and corners, I felt very comfortable with the group I was with. After a mile, I wanted to start passing some racers and every once in a while I would make a break around a slowing racer to gain another position. I remembered how exhausted and winded I was at the Beaver Brook race, but the many miles I had put in since then seemed to be paying off as I did not go into oxygen debt. After a couple of miles of single track, I had worked my way nearer to the front of the group and started thinking of pulling ahead to see where the next pack ahead ahead could be. We hit a section of more open area (maybe a field or pasture) and I was moving ahead of my pack when all of a sudden I realized my left foot felt funny and I looked down to see my snowshoe had fallen off. I was using a pair of Hoka One Ones (which have a substantial foot plant) so I had gone about 20 feet before I realized that foot was lighter. I had to run back and put on my left-behind showshoe. This also happened to me two times in the Beaver Brook Race. It took a little over a minute to get the snowshoe back on and the whole pack that I had been near the lead of had passed me completely. I counted 10 people who went by me. I quickly got back to running, but I certainly lost a lot of momentum and started worrying that the snowshoe might pull off my shoe again.
Leaving the single track and about to hit the pasture area
where I was to lose a snowshoe. I had got right up to
Mariano and Richie Blake at the front of our group. 

It was single track running quickly again before I caught up with the back of the pack so I had to slowly catch up to one person at a time and run behind them for awhile before finding an opportunity to sprint ahead over the deeper ungroomed snow on either side of the trail. Some  racers did move out of the way to let me pass, but it was fun slowly catching one racer at a time.

At about 4 miles we hit more open snowmobile trails, but the going was harder as the snow was soft from the sun. I was able to catch about 5 more racers before we hit the single track again. I kept waiting to feel fatigued, but I actually felt great and enjoyed racing up and down and around all the trails through the woods. It was a beautiful course and it was like running over a snowy roller coastery path. I found that I was better on the uphills and flats and was more conservative with my hip on the downhills (I still don't trust that hip completely). There were two female racers that would start nipping at my heels on the downhills, but I would gap them on the ups. I eventually got behind Mariano Santengelo with about a mile and 1/2 to go and was comfortable following his pacing to the finish. Of course, I had no idea where the finish was. I started seeing the photographers on the course and figured we were getting near, and then I soon heard cheering. We raced through a downhill section and then into an opening where people were cheering and then the finish banner was about 50 yards ahead. It was a great race and I don't think I have had more fun racing on a snowshoe course of the many races I have raced. This is the also first time I did not fall down during a race, so my hip must be getting stronger, although I had a hard time keeping everything lined up throughout the race.

You can view many outstanding photographs of the race by Scott Mason and Joe Viger. I saw Scott twice during the race and he was moving into a new position both times and didn't get a photo. Both of there albums are filled with great action shots of the snowshoe race and you can see how much fun you are missing if you haven't tried snowshoe racing. The race winners were Jim Johnson and Kristina Folcik. Snowshoe racing is still an emerging sport and not enough runners and other athletes have caught on, but the fun we have at races reminds me of road racing in the 1970s and triathlons in the 1980s.

Bear Brook State Park also took some photos of the race.

Here are my workouts for the past two weeks:

Monday 2/25 15 miles treadmill (longest treadmill run in over 15
years. I did a few 16 milers on a former treadmill)
Tuesday 2/26 5 miles treadmill
Wednesday 2/27 11 miles treadmill
Thursday 2/28 4 miles treadmill (hoped to do 10 to hit 200 miles for the month, but realized I was tired and starting to fight a cold so stopped)
Friday 3/1 0 miles
Saturday 3/2 0 miles
Sunday 3/3 3 miles Freeze Your Buns 5K 21:54 first time under 22 minutes since hip surgery
Total miles week 39 miles
Total miles 2013 295 miles
Total miles January 97 miles
Total miles February 194 miles (doubled January's total)

Monday 3/4 5 miles treadmill
Tuesday 3/5 8 miles roads
Wednesday 3/6 0 miles
Thursday 3/7 10 miles treadmill
Friday 3/8  0 Miles
Saturday 3/9 6 miles Granite State Snowshoe Championships 10K
Sunday 3/10 8 miles roads
total miles week 37 miles
total miles 2013 332 miles

Friday, March 8, 2013

Running to the Limits: Part 1

What happens when a overweight, unhealthy, and non-athletic person decides to test himself to see if he can become a top-notch national class marathoner.  A few years ago, I remember reading about Alex Vero and his quest to make the British Olympic team in the marathon and to go sub 2:20. It was a ridiculous notion, but he set off on his goal. He made a documentary and has just posted part one of the documentary online. He did go from fat to fit and to fast. It is interesting to see the transformation.

Part 2 of Running to the Limits will be placed online at the beginning of April.
The first episode of marathon running documentary Running to the Limits follows the first 18 months of filmmaker Alex Vero's attempt to become an elite marathon runner. The episode also features interviews from Bruce Tulloh, Bill Adcocks and Keith Anderson and lays out the question for the reasons behind the decline in British male marathon running.
I also see Boston Marathon winner interviewed Ron Hill in this first part.

Monday, March 4, 2013

16 year old Mary Cain wins the National Indoor Mile Championship

In another amazing race, 16 year old Mary Cain won the Women's Indoor Mile National Championship. This one was far from a speedy race and the only ones that can feel good about such a dawdling pace is the winner. Mary Cain showed tactical savvy, extreme patience, and a belief that she could out-kick all the other competitors in this National Championship race.
For videos of Mary Cain's more quicker races this year go here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

1986 and 1987 Green Mountain Steel-man Triathlon

The Green Mountain Steel-Man Triathlon was a tough half-Ironman event held in Vermont. I completed the race in 1986 and 1987. I even broke my 11 year consecutive Falmouth Road Race streak to compete because I was so heavily into triathlons. The swim was held near a dam. In 1987, if I remember correctly the water was low that as you swam you would touch some plants and mush on the bottom. The bike was as hilly as anything. In 1986 Kenny Souza showed up. Kenny could bike and run with the best triathletes in the world (he was a multiple champion at bike-run events) he just couldn't swim fast. He didn't pass me until a couple of miles into the bike (and I was not much of a swimmer myself) and then he went on to win the race. Before doing the 1986 race, I had seen a photo in a magazine of, I believe, Scott Molina riding his bike down the mountains near Nice, France. He had his belly on the handlebars and his nose just about on top of the front wheel with his butt in the air. I decided to try this position on the long downhills. Luckily the roads were nicely paved as I shot down the mountain. My legs were shaking, but the wind on either side of me kept me stable. I was "floating" past all the other cyclists. At the end of the race, the maximum speed on my bike computer was 62 mph. That was one of the most memorable racing moments I had in triathlon as well as one of the most unsafe!. The run was on dirt roads. I also remember lots of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Here are a few pictures from the 1986 version of the race. I remember thinking that this race was just as tough (in its own way) as the full Ironman distance Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon.

Must be near the start of the run as I am carrying my shirt.

Bike Course Map
Bike course profile

run course
1986 Men's results
1 Ken Souza 4:16:25
2 Paul Huddle 4:19:06
3 Steve Fitch 4:20:58
4 Ed Boggess 4:22:49
5 Mark MacGregor 4:23:07

1986 Women's results
1 Beth Nelson 4:44:57
2 Diane Israel 4:53:36
3 Peg Donovan 4:54:06
4 Margie Prevot 4:58:33
5 Wendy Hanisch 5:07:23

my time 4:55:42

Photo is from a NH triathlon

1987 Men's results
1 Kevin MacKinnon 4:21:33
2 Tom Gallager 4:26:43
3 John O'Connell 4:27:50
4 Lawrence Briggs 4:31:55
5 Frank Corsaro 4:35:51 

1987 Women's results (results are somewhat mixed up on printout)
1 Karen McKeachie 5:02:44
2 Margie Prevot 5:03:23
3 Bonnie Barton 5:09:09 
4 Anne McDonnell 5:11:08
5 Nancy Sirois 5:12:09