Vol. 6 No.5 August/September 2001




Which is more important in a race, place or time? It is true

that to many people in a large road race, time is the measuring

stick they use to gauge how well they ran. Only a few people

have the chance to place amongst the leaders, so the main goal

of a large number of runners is to try to hit a target time. Few

among us, though, would care what our time was if we were able

to run fast enough to win a race, or at least place in the top

three in our age group. Most of us know other runners that are

near our ability level who we like to compete against.

Regardless of what our watch says at the end of a race, if we

are able to place in front of someone who usually beats us, we

are happy with the result. Courses vary in difficulty and

weather has a big affect on our times, but the one constant is

head to head competition. The runner that sees someone in front

of them in a race and doesn't have the desire to catch and pass

them is a rare runner, indeed.

Nowhere does place mater more than time than in a cross country

race. Team competition in college and high school races is

dependent on the place of each of the top 5 team members.

(Smaller high school competitions may score the top 3 or 4

runners instead, but the idea is the same.) Thus, a first place

finish scores one point, second place two and so on. The places

are added up and team finish is based on the lowest total

scores. This means each athlete will fight to place ahead of as

many runners as possible, particularly members of other teams

who might be close in the team competition. It may seem at first

that only the top five runners on a squad would make a

difference in the team score, but sixth and seventh runners can

also affect team scores by placing ahead of scoring runners from

other teams, thus adding points to their total. This makes sense

in a team competition; each and every member of the team can

have an important affect on the outcome of the competition.

The one exception that I know of to this point scoring system is

USATF masters cross country competitions. The rules of USATF

masters athletics call for team placement to be determined by

adding the times of the top runners for each team. At first

glance, this may not seem to make much difference, and it may

seem that the best team would likely come out on top with this

system. After all, isn't time a fair measure of competitive

effort? In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

A recent cross country meet that my wife, a friend and I

attended serves to provide some great examples of how the place

point system is far superior to adding up total times. After

running in the open division of the Colorado State University

Invitational cross country race in Fort Collins, we stuck around

to watch the college races. Team pride runs deep in college

cross country, and the battle between Western State and CSU

promised to be a fight to the death. CSU wanted to win in front

of their friends and family at their home invitational, while

Western State wanted nothing more than to upset the larger

school at their own meet and gain more respect for their solid


The women's race was first, and as runners approached the finish

line it was clear that this was going to be a close one. Seven

of the top eight runners were from either CSU or Western State,

and each lady was going all out to the finish. Western State

looked solid, but then a group of CSU women, all working hard

together, came in and their sixth runner was able to edge out

Western State's fifth runner. The ability of those runners to

work together to finish in front of their opponent's fifth

runner made the difference, and CSU won by 2 points. Add up the

times of each team's top five runners and Western State was

ahead by 15 seconds, but team effort, especially by that sixth

runner for CSU, won out. Nobody watching this race could have

argued that the outcome should have been different, especially

as we watched one runner after another collapse at the finish

line after giving every ounce of energy in their body to place

as high as they could for their team.

Perhaps the best example of the importance of place over time

came in the men's race. This was another close one, and while

Western State won out in the team battle, it was not due to any

lack of effort by the CSU squad. We watched as two runners

fought for ninth place. Side by side a Western State athlete

sprinted against a CSU athlete. They both knew how important

their place could be to the final team standings, and how

important this competition was to their teammates. Neither

athlete was about to give in to the other. As they approached

the finish, arms and legs flying around in desperate, lactic

acid saturated effort, there was not a millimeter separating

these two. The CSU runner dove in one last all out effort and

managed to beat the leaning Western State athlete by an inch.

His dive left him sliding on the wet grass in front of the other

runner, who had to jump to avoid landing on him. His spiked shoe

missed the CSU athlete's face by about six inches. Both runners

wound up face down on the grass, their chests heaving and body's

crying for oxygen. When they mangaed to get to their feet, they

gave each other a hug, showing the mutual respect each had for

the other's effort.

If team scores were based on total time, the difference between

these two athletes would have been no more than one one-

hundredth of a second. There would have been very little drama

and concern over which runner inched ahead of the other. They

would have effectively canceled each other out. But because we

were watching a battle for points, a battle contested on the

premise that the only thing that matters is which runner

finished ahead of the other, two runners truly pushed themselves

to their absolute limit and gave everything they had for their

team. It may sound corny, but I find this kind of competition

glorious and noble. I find adding up times to be boring and


Since the ancient Olympic Games, far before the invention of

stop watches or electronic timing, foot races have been about

one thing: who can make it to the finish line first. Children

racing each other on the playground understand this basic rule

of competition. It is the reason we contest races.

It is important to note that I'm not saying the only thing that

matters is winning. After a race, the thing that stays with us,

regardless of the actual place or time we get in a race, is the

achievement we feel after giving an all out effort. Our

competitors are, in fact, our partners. Without them, we could

never achieve our best.


- WG

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MARATHON & BEYOND MAGAZINE - Marathon & Beyond, the only magazine

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ultrarunners. M&B offers in-depth articles on training, race

strategies, injuries, nutrition, race profiles, running history,

and more. Visit their web site at:


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Dan M. Kahan of New Haven, Connecticut was our winner last month.

He will get a free issue of Marathon & Beyond and fame! Trivia

contest entrants are limited to one prize per calendar year.

When answering, email your answers with the subject "trivia

contest" and answer the questions in the order they appear below.

Mail to: woodyg3@netone.com. The FIRST person to answer all of

the questions correctly wins. If nobody answers each question

correctly, we will award the prize to the person who answers the

most questions accurately. Good Luck!

This month's questions:

Match the track athlete, past or present, with their national


1. Seb Coe

2. Pascal Dobert

3. Joyce Smith

4. Lidia Simon

5. Gabriela Szabo

6. Jill Gaitenby

7. Svetlana Zakharova

8. Jose Rios

9. Charles Kamathi

10. Billy Mills



Last Month's Answers (US Athlete Biographical Info theme):

1. What college did marathon runner Rod DeHaven attend? - South

Dakota State.

2. What national title did Jason Pyrah win in 2000? - Indoor 1


3. Which American woman placed 10th in the 1996 Olympic marathon?

- Anne Marie Lauck

4. What current, male US distance ace won the NCAA cross country

title as a freshman in 1988? - Bob Kennedy

5. Which US woman won both the world cross country title and a

bronze medal in the Olympic 10,000 in 1992? - Lynn Jennings

6. Which American distance star attended American College High

School in Cairo, Egypt? - Libbie Hickman

7. Arkansas grad Deena Drossin placed 12th in the World Cross

Country Championships in 2000 despite what misfortune during the

race? - Swallowing a bee at the start, then nearly passing out

and falling later in the race.

8. A member of the 2001 World Championships team at 10,000

meters, this athlete became an American citizen on January 28,

2000. Who is he? - Abdi Abdirahman

9. Who won the TAC womens outdoor 1500 title in 1988? - Vicki


10. Who won the same title in 1989? - Regina Jacobs

11. Who won the mens outdoor USATF title for 10,000 meters in

1998? - Dan Browne

12. National titles in the mens steeple chase from 1981 to 1987

all went to the same man, who was he? - Henry Marsh




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In the last issue of Runner's Niche we announced a contest to

predict the winner of the Womens World Championships Marathon.

Several entries were received, but nobody correctly identified

the winner, Lidia Simon of Romania. The tie-breaker in this

instance was who could come closest to predicting the winning

time, and Larry Semark or Albuquerque, New Mexico, won out. He

predicted a winning time of 2:25:00, only 1:01 away from Simon's

winning time of 2:26:01 in Edmonton. Larry was sent a free copy

of the new book "On the Edge" by Kirk Johnson. This interesting

examination of the Badwater Ultra race across Death Valley was

also sent to three other randomly picked contest entrants. The

lucky winners were Andy Edmondson of Boulder, Colorado; Kelly

Dever of Albany, Oregon; and Karen Shepherd of Los Angeles,

California. Congratulations to our winners!

This book is certainly worth the read. To learn more about it,

point your web browser to:





By Woody Green

Like so many things involving the jargon of a sport, the term

"tempo run" may mean different things to different people. When

I was in college, one of our coaches used the term to define

repeat runs of about 600 meters which we did at a modertae

effort, concentrating on running with an even, smooth rhythm and

working on relaxed running form. Most distance runners, though,

have a different definition of the word.

Most people referring to a tempo run are speaking of a workout

meant to help a runner more efficiently produce energy

aerobically. This will help you to run at a faster pace without

accumulating lactic acid and the associated "oxygen debt." The

effect is especially important to marathon runners, but will aid

runners of any distance event.

Tempo runs should typically be done at a pace that is close to

your current ten mile or half marathon race pace. The effort

should be hard, but somewhat comfortable. The duration of a

tempo run will vary according to fitness level and ability, but

a general rule might be 20 to 30 minutes.

These workouts will cause chemical changes in you body including

an increase in myoglobin, which carries oxygen in your muscles.

It will also increase the size and number of the muscles'

"energy centers" called mitochondria.

It has been my experience that many runners go a little too hard

on their tempo runs, making the workout more of a race effort

than a workout. Watch out not to get carried away if you choose

to use tempo runs as a part workout scheme. Remember, also, to

get the most of these runs, do them on a day when you are

rested. Remember, also, to let your body recover for a day or

two after this type of hard workout.





1. Ever wonder why your name is misspelled or missing from race

results? You figure the race crew screwed up? Maybe, but usually

it's because you hurriedly wrote your name in an illegible scrawl

on the entry form and a busy race official had to make a wild

guess at what your name might be.

2. Why are race officials so doggoned insistent that you wear

your race number so that it is clearly visible on the front of

your body? At the finish line officials need to be able to see

that you are actually a registered entrant. Runners who cross the

finish line and are not actually entered in the race can make a

mess of race results. Additionally, one of the ways that results

and times are cross-checked is by recording competitor's numbers

as they finish. This data helps results crews to sort out any

discrepancies or missing times from final race results.

3. Why won't race officials let me stand right next to the finish

line to watch the runners come across the line? Timers need to

clearly see runners as they approach the finish line, especially

so that they can record bib numbers as was explained in mystery


4. Why do the people at the finish line become grumpy when I step

over the flagged line surrounding the finish crew area and ask if

they can tell me what my time and place was? Race crews are doing

a thousand things at once in order to produce the results runners

crave after the event. Things are hectic and take the complete

attention of those involved. All the results will be out much

quicker if everyone stays back and lets them do their job


5. What's wrong with taking an extra five or six water bottles

from the post-race refreshment area so that I can drink them

later? Think of your fellow runner! Take only what you will drink

or eat, and leave the rest for other runners. Remember those who

finish the race after you will want to rehydrate and have a bit

to eat, too.

6. Why didn't they print enough t-shirts for me to get one when I

signed up on race day? Any time you sign up the day of the race

you are taking a chance. Race organizers hesitate to print too

many extra t-shirts because of the cost involved. If you want to

guarantee yourself a shirt, sign up early.

7. How come some runners get mad when I line up right on the

starting line, then elbow me as they zoom past after the start?

It's important for your safety and that of all runners to line up

according to your ability at the starting line. Faster runners

should be up front, with other runners lining up amongst those

who will run at about the same pace. This is the best way for

everyone to start with the least inhibition to forward progress.

Moms and Dads, please advise your children of this so they don't

get stampeded at the starting line! Besides being a safety issue,

it is also a matter of courtesy.

8. Why aren't there more races offered in my hometown? Putting on

even a small road race is a huge undertaking. Logistics, working

with sponsors, designing and measuring a course, clearing

everything with local authorities, and printing those all-

important t-shirts takes a ton of time.





*2000 Olympian Deena Drossin set a new U.S. women-only record of

1:10:08 o in winning the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in

Virginia Beach, Virginia. The previous U.S. best of 1:11:34 was

set along a point-to-point course by Gordon Bloch at the 1992

IAAF World-Half Marathon Championships.


*American Rich Hanna stunned the ultrarunning world on August 6

by winning the silver medal at the 100 Kilometer World

Championships in Cleder, France.

Hanna ran the challenging course in 6 hours, 43 minutes, 9

seconds, finishing second behind Japan's Yasufumi Mikami, who

completed the circuit in 6:33:28.


*A new ARCO Olympic Training Center (OTC) and a new program

called Running USA will aid distance athletes in the United

States at making a run at respectability. The OTC rests on a 150-

acre complex in San Diego County where an estimated 4,000

athletes train each year. The center includes a dining hall that

serves up to 1,000 meals a day and the athletes stay in one of 34

two-bedroom suites equipped with balconies, telephones, and cable








*Cold Run

The first running race ever held on the North Pole will be held

on Saturday April24, 2002. More info: http://www.north-pole-

expeditions.com or Toll free phone: 1-800-770-5961.

*Harvest Run

The first annual Harvest Stompede 10K will be September 29 on the

Leelanau Peninsula (just north of Traverse City, Michigan). This

run will follow the wine trail through the vineyards of a

beautiful peninsula. Details: http://www.lpwines.com






*World Championships Results

Last month's results from the IAAF World Championships in

Edmondton, Canada, can be found at:


*Lake Tahoe Marathon

http:// www.laketahoemarathon.com

*Web Radio

Tune in today and every Thursday at 3:00 PM Pacific Time (23:00

to 00:00 UTC - Zulu time) for The Running Show.

To listen go to http://www.wsRadio.ws





Dear Runner's Niche,

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the past article

"Training More And Getting Away With It" by Woody Green (June

1996). It has some great advice or reminders for cross-country

runners. We often forget how important it is to stretch, and do

other things to help our bodies to recover.


Jessica Powers

Ed: Thanks, Jessica! Readers can always find back issues of

Runner's Niche at the Niche web page:



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