Saturday, December 25, 2010, Season!

"Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present".

To all my fellow runners and readers of RWA I pass this greeting along to you. Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/ secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. From deep within ME, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

I hope you all show up tomorrow morning with your new fancy gear, gizmos and gadgets. We'll carry these gifts for 13 miles (full marathoners) or 9 miles (Half Marathoners). Be sure to dress warm. Don't think we'll have rain or snow, but if the roads are icy, roll over and say Coach Al said don't be an idiot. Otherwise, put on your long johns and I'll see you all on the roads - AL

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amazing Feets

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have" - Scott Jurek, ultrarunner

You know, if you want to look thin, then you hang out with plump people. If you want to look tall, hang out with smaller folks. If you want to look like a fast runner, then you run with slower runners. If you already think you're a hot-shot endurance runner, read no further!

Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia holds the world record for the marathon with an astonishing 2:03:59 time. Broken down, that is a 4 minute, 44 second per mile pace for 26.2 straight miles! OK, it's 105 consecutive laps around a track at 71 seconds per lap. If Haile ran 104 laps and I raced him on his last lap, he'd still beat me by almost a minute!

Yeah, but that's just a normal, ol' marathon. How 'bout Xu Zhenjun of China who not only ran an entire marathon in 3:43, but he ran it backwards! One of my giant pet peeves are people who (in my mind) make fun of the marathon with costumes, juggling, or, yes, running backwards. I don't know how old this cat is, but if he qualified for Boston running backwards, then I'm really going to be hacked.

Speaking of qualifying for Boston, I hear there is a now a small super sub-set of runners who try to qualify for Boston. No big deal you say, but how about trying to get your BQ in the marathon of an Ironman Triathlon after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles. I've qualified before, feeling like I'm at the end of an Ironman, but that's pretty impressive.

But, that's just one marathon...why not try the Quadzilla is Seattle. Four different marathons on four consecutive days in four different Seattle suburbs. That one has some appeal. Wait a, it doesn't.

That's all in one city in one state. Many runners (usually members of the Marathon Maniacs) want to run a marathon in every state. That takes a lot of planning, good vacation benefits from work, and mucho disposable income. A fellow named Larry Macon has done all fifty states...get this...each year for SIX straight years.

Ol' Larry doesn't stop there. He also holds the record for most certified marathons in ONE YEAR. Ready? 105!! The women's record is held by a woman named Yolanda Holder at 101. Holy Crow you say? Well, hold onto your Holy Crows for a minute. Here we go - Larry and Yolanda are going to BOTH run a marathon in Ocala, Florida this December 31st and by then, for both of them, it will be their 106th. THIS YEAR!! Now, all together, HOLY CROW!!

For the ultrarunners among us, one of the Feats of Glory has been a yearly event called the Grand Slam. It consists of four of the toughest 100 mile trail runs (Western States, Leadville, Wasatch, and Vermont) all done within about 8 weeks. Fourteen ultrarunners completed the GS this year, so not sooooo super-duper. Therefore, we handoff to Monica Scholz, who, this year, completed 25 races of 100 miles. I repeat...THIS YEAR! And on top of that, she usually will finish in the top three females. Now, we're getting into crazy super-duper.

Now, we get into the realm of the Twilight Zone of running. The longest certified road race in the world is the 3,100 mile Self-Transcendence Race in New York. The whole philosophy of self-transcendence is the idea that we are capable of more than we might believe. A couple of times, I ran 3000 miles in a year! Incredibly, these competitors run 5,649 laps of a half-mile course with a (I can't write this with a straight face) CUTOFF of 51 days. The course record is 42 days. That’s an average of 75 miles a day for six weeks! And Dean Karnazes made a big deal of 50 marathons in 50 days. How 'bout some self-transcendence Dean?

Continuing in the "I-can't-get-my-head-around-this" events, consider 4000 miles in 111 days - Running through 100 degree heat, intense wind and injuries. Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin took on the challenge of running through the Sahara Desert. They ran through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt along the way, and say that their journey was a life changing experience. Are you kidding me? You have to actually say it was a life changing experience? Now, that I can believe. A crew filmed the entire experience and released a documentary called Running The Sahara in 2007.

OK, one more. Running seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents is something I've often thought about doing...Yeah, right! Sir Randolph Fiennes and Dr. Michael Stroud managed the feat, traveling from Chile to the Falkland Islands, Sydney, Singapore, London, Cairo and New York City on their journey. Now, that's the travel agent I want...and their frequent flyer miles.

Well, for those of you in freezing, sleety, Birmingham, tomorrow we're back to training for our Amazing Race - The Mercedes Marathon. Only 8 weeks to go. In the morning, the full marathoners will do 17 miles and the halfers will do 9. So, apparently, there are many divergent paths we can take to satisfy our running fix, but whatever you choose, I'll see you on the roads - AL

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Yearn to understand first and to be understood second.
Beca Lewis

First of all, I'd like to thank Valerie for opening up Boutwell Auditorium for our Sunday training run last week. We had a warm place to gather before and after our run on a cold morning, PLUS Val provided us Starbuck's coffee after the run!! Now, I can get used to that. Thanks Val. Tomorrow, we're back at Brownell for 15 miles for the full marathoners and 9 for the halfers.

Recently, I heard an interview with Arnold Palmer (the golfer). The interviewer wanted to know why, with all of Palmer's fame and fortune, he was still golfing semi-competitively at age 81. Palmer answered by saying "If you have to ask that question son, you don't understand sport". I wondered how many folks fully understood that answer, but I certainly did, and I loved it. Yeah, I guess it's something like an addiction, but it more defines the person you are. It's deep in your gut.

I'm often asked why I run, and I have yet to give an answer that satisfies me, never mind my inquisitor, and I don't expect to give one here. I've been running for more than three straight decades and have gone through many different phases. I've come a long way since lacing up my shoes in High School and racing around the oval track TWICE and thinking that was a long way. And once HS was finished, I pretty much gave up on running. It wasn't part of me, and the only time I wanted to be part of it was if I was playing some team sport that required me to get from here to there in the quickest way possible. As I got a little older, wider, and less athletic, running sneaked in the back door of my life and took a hold of me and hasn't let go yet.

We all run for some reason, though we may not know exactly what it is. If it's for some extrinsic reward as it's motivation, your running days are probably limited. Trophies, awards, pats on the back, and awed non-running neighbors reach their saturation point and just doesn't provide the kick-in-the-pants it once did. But, if you take the journey along the twists and turns that happen as you pursue the elusive answer, you realize the motivation to get out there when there is no pat-on-the-back is purely intrinsic. You do have it deep in your gut.

When I head out for a run by myself, I'm in charge of pace. I'm in charge of route. I'm in charge of distance. I can, or should I say "used to", run a hard training session so my lungs feel like they want to pop, or I can take a run that doesn't resemble much more than a mosey. I can run for just a little here-to-there, or I can decide that today is a good day for a 20 mile run. Sometimes that good day doesn't turn out to be a good day at all and I struggle home. And mistakes are tough, but because it's deep in my gut, I know how to fail forward. Baring catastrophe there will be many more runs. Many more successes. But each time I stumble there are only endless reinforcements in my mind of how that has never stopped me. Oh yeah, I'm a ton slower, and a mildly technical single track trail may as well be a Black Diamond ski run, but I'm in charge. Running has been a constant for half of my life. I've gone from being fairly competitive at long distances to a point where my racing pace is no different from my just-got-out-of-bed morning run pace. I forget recent events, but my memories of the good old days are etched forever in stone. Etched in my mind and deep in my gut. There are 500 reasons TO run - friends, eating, health, attempts to confuse the Reaper - but these are not reasons WHY I run.

So, when somebody asks me why I run, I guess I can just tell them because running in the rain is one of the most relaxing things I can do...because taking a header on a muddy trail somehow makes me feel good...because getting up at some ungodly hour on a holiday for a run before sunrise feels like the right thing...because running with the temperature well below the freezing point of my spit is completely contradictory to how much I hate cold, yet I'm bundled up and enjoying being out there...but, I think I'll just say I run because it's deep in my gut. I don't understand it completely myself, but as long as I can remember how to lace up my shoes, I'll see you on the roads - AL

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010


"It's not the beginning or the end of a race that counts, It's what
happens in between." - Unknown

Hi guys - Now we're getting into some serious high cotton with our training. Last week, our Sunday Mercedes Marathon group hit 17 miles for the first time. That's a huge accomplishment. You all are doing great and have to be thinking to yourselves "hey, I think I can do this". I know, it still seems like a long way and all I can tell you is that it always seems like a long way. I don't know if it makes you feel better or not, but I still get nervous when the training gets serious and I start asking the question "What the heck am I doing?".There has to be some fear built in to instill the desire to get out there day after day. I hate to hear some of you guys still saying "I'm not a real runner, but...". Then you go out and knock off two hours of running (speed has absolutely NOTHING to do with it!!). George Sheehan once said "The difference between a runner and a jogger is an entry blank". I'm not sure I agree with that, but I do agree when he said "We are all athletes. Some of us are in training and some are not". So, the point is when you absolutely, positively have made the commitment to run the race, then it's time to hunker down and train seriously. If you don't follow a schedule, or if you just don't have the spark to succeed, then the handwriting is on the road - the odds of achieving your goal are pretty slim, but if you're confident that you're putting in the effort, that your schedule is built to allow you to climb that mountain, and if you truly believe in yourself, well then, put it in drive and GO!

You know, Yogi Berra once said "Baseball is 50% physical and 90% mental". I think most goals are somewhere around that ratio. When I made the jump from marathons to ultramarathons, I was a nervous wreck, but I followed the training schedule religiously (praying a lot) and found the biggest hurdle to jump was realizing that I could do this. You change your focus. I think one of the truest aspects of endurance success or failure is the SELF-FULFILLED PROPHECY. There's a quote I like that says "Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can't, you are probably right". Most of the time the reason you run out of gas of a race at 6.2 miles or 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles, is because your mind knows THAT is the end. You're programmed to think that. Running a marathon, or 50 miles, or 100 miles is Yogi's "90%". When asked "How the heck do you run 50 miles?', I usually say "You know how you feel at 20 miles of a marathon? Well, that's how you feel at 35 miles of a 50 miler". The 26 mile point is no different from any other mile marker because the mind has set 50 miles as the finish. When that gun goes off, 99% of us are dueling against ourselves, not the other competitors. Running is not a team sport. You're out there on your own, so how do you sway the odds in your favor?

Well, mentally, you have to eliminate all negative thoughts and try not to be surrounded by folks that just complain all the time about how terrible their running is. Man, I wonder why some of these folks come out. Before they even begin, they've completely talked themselves out of any good effort. Your perception and thoughts lead to a change in feelings which then direct your actions. When your thoughts are negative, either before or during a run, you may become anxious or emotional and your performance starts a downward spiral that looks like one of those World War I bi-planes going down in one of those old war movies. In training, you need to work on your positive thoughts because it's less of a "pressure" situation - you're running with a group, the run is easy, and if your run goes down the toilet, there's always tomorrow. Talk to yourself in positive ways - in training, you can judge every situation that occurs, whether it be good or bad, in a conscious or subconscious way. I've told many of you that I believe your body learns something from EVERY run you do. Sometimes, it may learn NEVER to do a run like that again, but it learns something! So, if you go out too fast or eat a Big Mac before you run or try to do a 17 miler after being out all night, whatever - you take that situation and realize that it was a bad run because of something YOU had control over. Tell yourself "I'm trained to run a good run, I'm strong.". BECAUSE YOU ARE! Mentally, program yourself to believe you are ready to achieve your goal NOW. Think in the present, not in the future. You will improve physically every week, but you have to mentally believe that you are a trained long distance athlete. In the next couple of weeks, I'll talk about visualization and how the mind and body are so well connected that it sometimes can't distinguish what is real and what is imagined. If you keep saying "I CAN do this", and believing it, you've come a long way to shortening that distance to the finish line. Think like an athlete, act like an athlete, believe you are an athlete!!

OK, if you train on Sundays with us PAY ATTENTION - we will meet tomorrow downtown at Boutwell Auditorium (20th St & 8th Ave North). Valarie McLean is arranging to open the lobby so we'll have a warm start/finish. We are going to run one loop (13.1 miles) of the Mercedes course. Those of you training for the half will run to the 7 mile mark with us to Five Points and turn left on 20th street straight back to the start for 8.7 miles. You can view the map at

That's the show for this week guys. Hope all your training is going well, but remember, if it's not, send me an email and we'll figure it out (I'll read a book or something before answering). Meanwhile, I'll see you on the roads - AL

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