Saturday, May 29, 2010


"Sometimes I lie in bed at night and I ask "Where did I go wrong?". Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night." - Charlie Brown

Hi Guys - About 31 years ago, I got this bright idea to run a marathon. 26.2 miles? Piece of cake. I was working down in the UAB Medical Center at the time and picked the brain of Dr. Max Michael. After all, he had run TWO marathons, so how much more experience did I need to tap from? Now, this was back in 1979 and many of you reading this were not even born yet, never mind not running yet. So, after 128 marathons/ultras let's take a trip down Marathon Memory Lane and see how things have changed from then to now.

TRAINING - Basically, you had to put miles under your feet. At the time, we were awed by the reports that Bill Rogers was putting in 20 miles a day. There were no foreigners dominating the scene, just good ol' Americans that trained hard. For us midpackers, we pretty much subscribed to the theory that you had to average one-third of your race distance per day. Therefore, for a marathon, we had to average roughly 60 miles per week. That included your weekly long run, which for Bill Tucker and me meant 20 miles EVERY Sunday! We didn't do tempo, pace, or threshold runs - we just ran how we felt, doing a lot of what was called LSD (Long, Slow Distance). One week before the marathon, we ran a 20 miler and ate no (or little) carbohydrates for 3 days. Then we went into our carbo-loading phase till the race. The idea was that by denying our bodies the replenishing carbos for a few days (depletion), our bodies would then soak up the carbos much more then they would have without the depletion. Marathons were a big deal then and this was reflected by our usual Friday Pre-marathon lunch at Mr. Gatti's.

Clothes & Shoes - there were no "technical" fabrics then. Pretty much we wore cotton and used a lot of Vaseline. When polypropylene came out, it was like a miracle fabric. It was so cool to explain to a non-runner about how it "wicked" the sweat away from your skin. I remember running my 2nd marathon (Birmingham's Magic City Marathon, 1980) in a cotton shirt, covered by an Alabama football jersey (don't ask, I don't know!), and wearing a cotton toboggan hat. It was about 20 degrees, but at the end, I was soaked with sweat, freezing my fool butt off, and ice sickles clinging to my hair! Our shoes were not the marvels of engineering they are now. My first pair of shoes were given to me by Versal Spaulding, who owned Birmingham's only store that sold running shoes - RUNNING SOUTH in English Village. Actually, it was just a garage that had boxes of shoes stacked up along the walls and 2-3 folding chairs. Anyway, he gave me a pair of Nike Elite's. I couldn't believe they felt so good! They fit like a glove - unfortunately, they also gave about as much support as a glove and I soon had a rip-roaring case of plantar fasciitis. Another of Nike's journey down the wrong road was something called the "LDV-1000". They realized that pronation (inward rolling of the foot) was a bad thing, so their solution was to eliminate it TOTALLY! The sole under the foot was 4 inches wide!! Yeah, this prevented pronation, but your poor knee, hip, and back went along for a ride that kept doctors and physical therapists like me in business. Anyway, shoes gradually improved to assist your running instead of reinventing it.

Aid stations - OK, every FIVE miles you could get water. Frank Shorter was a big proponent of defizzed cola (usually late in the race), but it was pretty comical watching someone like me trying to shake the fizz out of a coke bottle during a race. It looked like poor imitation of the '69 Mets locker room after they won the World Series. Then a nectar from the Gods came along. Something called ERG was offered at some races. ERG stood for Electrolyte Replacement with Glucose. You felt if you drank this, you would never get tired, never slow down, and suddenly, you were physiological wonder. The power of the mind is wonderful. Eventually, we got Gatorade (which at the time tasted like the sweat it was replacing), and believe it or not, we didn't care what flavor it was. No GU, no Gummy Bears, no cookies.

RUNNING THE RACE - It was pretty much at a pace you felt you could do the whole race at. There was no walking (planned, anyway). This was a running race. Splits were given every 5 miles by someone holding a stopwatch, and the finishing clock was an analog clock that looked like it belonged in a 4th grade classroom. When the race started, they set the the hands of the clock to 12 noon, so when you came across the finish line in 3:45, the the clock read quarter to four! No chip, no chronograph. When I started running, I wore a regular analog watch, but then I bought a digital Casio watch. Man, was I cool or what? It had a silver metal band, was encased in a shiny silver casing, and I can still picture it during a marathon in Indiana literally shorting out right before my eyes from all the sweat. Now, if my watch doesn't give my automatic splits every mile and distance measured my GPS to hundredths of a mile, I feel cheated.

It's been a long and twisted road to where we are. I wonder what the next generation will see. Think I'll stick around and see. I'll see you on the roads - AL

Saturday, May 22, 2010


"Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don't quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don't quit until you reach it. Never quit." -- Bear Bryant

Hi guys - did you miss me last week? Hopefully, some of you might have noticed that I didn't write. I actually sat down at the computer and went into some kind of brain-funk-freeze and couldn't get my fingers to tap out anything. I thought "C'mom AL, just let it flow". Well, what flowed was a trip to the TV, and once the Yankees had finished clobbering the Red Sox (again), I was in a real big-time-why-is-the-world-rotating-backwards mood and RWA was doomed for the week. I've been sort of rattling around in my mind exactly hop I want to handle RWA now that I'm not specifically directing it towards the Leukemia TNT runners. Just a quick review for some of you that may not have heard...I'm taking at least one season off from coaching TNT after 15 years. Not necessarily my decision, but I understand their concern that my ankle health may not allow me to fulfill all my coaching duties. I really appreciate all the emails and thoughts sent my way expressing their concern about TNT deciding to go in this direction, but my passion is still there for TNT to succeed in garnering enough participants to raise some serious funds to give to scientists who know what they're doing and get rid of this awful disease. If you're interested in walking or running a half or full marathon or doing a triathlon (sprint, Olympic distance, or half Ironman), there's one more informational meeting (WITH FREE PIZZA!!!) at Dave's in Homewood this Tuesday at 6PM - no obligation, except to enjoy the pizza!
OK, so back to RWA - I've been writing this almost every week since 1999, originally as a means to tell my TNT group what we were doing (like I knew what we were doing) the following week in training. It gradually morphed into a pretty straight forward training/motivation/informational email that became somehow an important part of my coaching to mostly new runners, but hopefully also, once in while, to veterans of our running clan. I just asked new folks to sign up for the email, and either through continued interest, or more likely it was just easier to keep on the mailing list than go through the process of removing your name, there are now 384 RWA recipients each week! Now,to me, that's amazing. I love to run, I love to coach, and surprisingly to my High School English teachers I'm sure, I love to write. I've been trying to rattle my brain of what to do now. Do these folks really still want to get RWA? Do I really have anything to tell them? Sure, it's well worth the price of subscription (free), and you can't say it's not worth the paper it's written on because...well, that's pretty obvious. But, after doing well over 100 marathons and ultras for (oh dear) more than 30 years, I still feel I do have something to offer if somebody WANTS to listen. So, here's the plan. I'm going to continue to write RWA pretty much every week (though I may miss a couple with some more of those brain-funk-freezes), but I'm going to change it from an email format to a blog format. This will give everybody that wants to keep reading RWA a chance to do it, and those that want to move on without RWA can now be free and not have to just hit delete each week For the next couple of weeks, I'll continue to write this as an email and then "cut & paste" it into my blog which you can subscribe to at and then I'll phase it just to the blog. I'm trying to enter the 21st century, and you don't realize what a leap this is for me. I joined Facebook as an experiment, and it suddenly became like email on crack!!! I can't handle it when somebody I hardly know is telling me Aunt Tillie is going to Mississippi to gamble! Although I don't know Aunt Tillie, I wish her well, but I really don't care. So, the great Facebook experiment seems to be coming to a crashing halt. Please, let me know what you think about this idea. I intend for the blog to be pretty much training topics, but with my experiences of what worked and didn't seem to do too good over the past 3 decades.
I'm not an Alabama fan (I know I keep THAT secret well), but the above quote from The Bear seems to sum up what I'm doing. I don't want to stop connecting with you all. My goal is to help, share, coach, whatever you want to call it. So, from near-earth orbit, that's about it for this week, and as always, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"