Vol. 6 No.5 August/September 2001
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR
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.
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MARATHON & BEYOND MAGAZINE - Marathon & Beyond, the only magazine
that focuses on the specific needs of marathoners and
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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RUNNER'S NICHE / MARATHON & BEYOND TRIVIA CONTEST
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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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TO THE EDGE CONTEST
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
THIS AND THAT
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.
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
WEB SITES OF INTEREST
*World Championships Results
Last month's results from the IAAF World Championships in
Edmondton, Canada, can be found at:
*Lake Tahoe Marathon
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
LETTERS FROM OUR READERS
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.
Ed: Thanks, Jessica! Readers can always find back issues of
Runner's Niche at the Niche web page:
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