Vol. 1 No. 5 August, 1996
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR
Yes, this issue is a bit late coming out. I wanted to wait
until the Olympics were over before letting this issue loose.
I hope to have Oly results e-mailed out in the next couple of
There are many things we will likely carry with us from these
games. There are several positives I hope we can all
remember. (Despite the whining American press and electronic
I hope the world remembers a very talented, brave young
American sprinter by the name of Tim Harden. He was the
rookie on the 4 x 100 US mens relay team who was suddenly put
on the spot. When attempts were made to put Carl Lewis on the
relay team to give him a shot at his tenth gold medal, Tim
could have been the odd man out. Harden ran, and ran well,
despite what had to be enormous pressure.
I'm hoping Erv Hunt will be remembered as the coach who stuck
with his principles, and refused to put someone on the relay
team who had not earned the right.
Maybe Americans can remember this as the Olympics when a new,
strong batch of Canadian sprinters took the spotlight by
winning the 400 meter relay. Perhaps Donovan Bailey can
receive the respect he deserves after winning the gold and
setting the world record in the 100 meters.
I'd love to see more attention given to the strong US
distance efforts. Sure, we all recognize that work needs to
be done to improve development of US distance running talent,
but let's help to do that by holding up examples of our
strong US talent. Look at Bob Kennedy, who nearly pulled of a
medal in the 5000 and who was courageous enough to take the
lead with two laps to go in the race. How about veteran Mark
Croghan in the steeplechase. He ran a great tactical race and
finished a strong fifth. Then there was the gutsy performance
of Anne Marie Lauck, who literally collapsed at the finish
line after giving it all she had in the marathon. By
promoting these individuals, maybe it would be possible to
stir up more interest in the sport.
Similarly, I hope everyone remembers how well American Lance
Deal did in the hammer throw, taking the silver. Let's forget
grumbling about how American John Godina "only" got a silver
in the shot, and failed to make it to the finals of the
discus. He's only 22 years old and the man already owns a
Then there is the the courage of injured athletes like Jackie
Joyner-Kersee, Mike Powell and Chris Huffins who put it on
the line despite great pain. One got a medal and two did not,
yet they all left the field knowing they gave everything they
Most importantly, when the history books are written, I hope
the courage, determination and strength of the people of
Atlanta and the Olympic movement are noted. A cowardly,
moronic, evil, sub-human little puke who planted a pipe bomb
in Centennial Park thought he could bring the games to a
stop. The games did stop, there was a moment of silence at
each venue to remember those who had died and those who were
injured. Then the games proceeded full steam ahead.
- Woody Green
OLYMPIC ODDS AND ENDS
- Michael Johnson: "I never dreamed I would run a 19.32."
- Johnson's coach, Clyde Hart: "Personally, I would have
thought that if he had run 19.32, his heart would have
- Michael Johnson: "The 19.32 wasn't a perfect race, I
stumbled out of the blocks. I think 19.2 is possible."
- More on Johnson: There was a lot of talk by sports
journalists that if you divide Johnson's 19.32 in two, you
would get 9.68 for each 100 meters - faster than Donovan
Bailey's new 100 meter record of 9.84. Thus, they reasoned,
Johnson must be the "real" fastest man in history. This logic
fails to recognize that Johnson's second 100 meters was run
with the aid of a full running start. In reality, Johnson was
timed in 10.12 for the first 100 meters of his historic race.
From there, he closed with 9.2 for the last 100 meters, which
, of course, was with a running start.
- Getting to the start: Boulder resident Rich Castro,
personal coach of Ecuador's Martha Tenorio, said the bus
driver who took them from the Olympic village to the start of
the marathon didn't really know where to go. First he took
athletes to the practice track instead of the stadium. Once
he got redirected to the main stadium, he went through the
wrong security line, taking much longer than need be. Finally
he got them to the stadium, but insisted they get off at the
entrance for athletes not competing. Marathoners then had to
walk to the other side of the stadium to get to the competing
- Accommodations: Castro also reported that while larger
countries were housed in huge dormitories, smaller countries
were given a sorority or fraternity building. The
Ecuadorians, staying in a frat house, must have learned of
the reputation for wild parties in American frats. They
partied wildly and late into the night after Jefferson Perez
won the 20 K racewalk for Ecuador.
- Security: To get into the athlete's village, athletes and
coaches had to go through three separate security gates.
- More security: No cars were permitted in any area of the
athlete's village. Buses were used to transport athletes
around the village at all times.
- Can you stomach this? One coach waiting in line at one of
the McDonalds in the Olympic village watched as the athlete
ahead of him in line, a Russian weightlifter, took all eight
double cheeseburgers off the serving table. The woman behind
the counter was undaunted, saying, "more double cheeseburgers
up in a moment." Apparently this was not the first Olympian
appetite she had seen!
- Medal detector needed: Carl Lewis temporarily lost his long
jump gold medal when the medal and Carl's pager wound up in
TV anchorman Tom Brocaw's car after an interview.
- Looking forward to 2000: Richard Palfreyman, an Olympic
official for the upcoming 2000 games in Sydney said: "I'm not
sure we can improve on the friendliness and energy of the
Atlanta people. But we certainly believe we can make our
Olympics special for everyone."
- Relay splits: Gail Devers defeated Gwen Torrence in the
Open 100 meter race. Gwen turned the tables a bit, at least
for trivia buffs, in the 4 x 100 relay. She had a slightly
faster relay leg, running 9.97 to 10.03 for Devers.
- More relay splits: The US womens 4 x 400 relay team ran
well enough to get the gold medal. The fastest individual
relay leg of all the athletes in the field, however, came
from Germany's anchor runner Grit Breuer, who clocked 48.63.
As fast as this was, Marie-Jose Perec's winning time in the
open 400 was faster - 48.25 out of the blocks.
- Drugs: Marina Trandenkova, 5th in the womens 100, tested
positive for bromanton, a stimulant and masking agent. The
Russian sprinter was not the only athlete to test positive
for this drug. Two Russian swimmers and one wrestler tested
positive for bromanton as well.
- How fast is fast? Decathlete Dan O'Brien ran 4:45.89 for
1500 meters, the final event of the decathlon. This might
have looked slow on TV, but that translates to 5:06.76 for a
mile. Not exactly pedestrian.
- How slow is slow? The final finisher in the mens marathon
was A Baser Wasiqi of Afghanistan with a time of 4:24:17.
This is a record for the slowest time ever recorded in the
- Slow but not that slow: The last finisher of the womens
marathon fared much better. Marie Benito of Guam ran
3:27:28, good for 65th.
- DNFs: While the weather was not super hot for either
marathon, it was still warm and very humid. That took its
toll as 20 out of 85 women who started failed to finish. The
men fared a bit better, with 13 out of 124 dropping out.
- The bright side: Americans may not have taken any medals in
the marathon, but all 5 who finished were in the top half of
- More on the bright side: Bob Kennedy, American record
holder in the 5,000 meters, ran a superb race and even took
the lead of the Olympic 5,000 with two laps to go. He
finished 6th with a time of 13:12. (The race was won by 1500
meter specialist Niyongabo of
Burundi in 13:07.96.) Watch out for Kennedy in the next few
years. He has no "Kenyaphobia" at all.
BLAST FROM THE PAST:
Mexico City: October 20, 1968
The Mexico City Olympics are now remembered primarily for the
world record blitz in the sprint and jump events. This was
the Olympics where Bob Beamon long jumped 29' 2 1/2", almost
2 feet longer than the world record at the time. Wynomia Tyus
ran 11.0, Jim Hines 9.9, Tommy Smith 19.8, Lee Evans 43.8.
All in all 15 World Track and Field Records were set. The
thin air of Mexico City contributed greatly to most of these
marks, since the thin air offers less resistance and allows
greater speed in sprints.
In 1968 the women had no race longer than 800 meters. The
Olympics were still under the charge of cavemen who felt
women were too delicate to run "longer" distances. The men
competed in all the traditional distance events,however, and
these were certainly NOT aided by the 7400 foot altitude. In
fact, there were numerous problems for athletes who did not
live and train at high altitude. In the end, 10 of the 15
distance event medals went to athletes who came from high
altitude. Most of these were Kenyans.
An excellent example of the altitude problem for sea level
trained athletes was legendary Australian distance ace Ron
Clarke, who was the favorite in the 10,000 meters. In the
thin air of Mexico City, however, he faded to 6th place and
collapsed at the finish. It took 10 minutes to revive him and
he was taken to the hospital immediately. Some feared he
would die. He recovered completely (and competed in the 5000
meters a few days later), but he was only one of several
athletes who were overcome by the effects of altitude.
The mens 1500 meter event was to be a showdown between the
world record holder, Kansas college student Jim Ryun, and the
blazing fast Kenyan, Kip Keino. West German Bodo Tummler was
another force to be reckoned with, having run the fastest
mile and 1500 of the year leading up to Mexico City. His
times were 3:53.8 and 3:36.5. Keino had been red hot, too,
having run 3:55.5 in the mile in late August. Nineteen year-
old Marty Liquori, who had followed Ryun's footsteps as a
high school running phenomenon, was also in the finals.
Ryun had a problematic year leading up to the Olympics. He
had several injuries, and had to overcome Mononucleosis which
was diagnosed in May. This detracted greatly from his summer
training. In the Olympic trials, held in Lake Tahoe, he
failed to qualify in the 800 meters, but managed to win the
1500. Still, he did not feel good in the race, and was very
unsure of himself. He was certainly not the Jim Ryun of 1967,
when he had set the world record in both the mile and 1500
(3:51.1 and 3:33.1, respectively.)
Jim knew what he was up against with the high altitude
factor. He had trained with Jack Daniels in Alamosa, Colorado
during the Summer of '67. To support himself while he trained
in Colorado, he worked as a grocery sacker. There were no big
shoe company contracts to support track athletes in the back
Jack Daniels, a very well known and respected exercise
physiologist and coach, warned Ryun that at the altitude of
Mexico City, going out too hard at the start would certainly
spell disaster for sea level trained athletes. Ryun would
need to run a smart race since Keino would likely go out hard
to try to deplete the other athletes of oxygen.
In the finals, Keino did just that. He had some help, as Ben
Jipcho, a young, upcoming Kenyan, led the race out to aid his
countryman. Jipcho hit 400 in 56.0, with Keino at 56.6. Ryun
was at the back of the pack in 58.5, heeding Daniels advice
to be cautious.
Jipcho and Keino did not let off the accelerator on the
second lap, with Keino in the lead at 800 in 1:55.3. Bodo
Tummler was holding on for dear life, 4 meters back. Ryun was
a good 30 meters or more behind Keino at this point. Those
who did not understand the effects of altitude were not too
worried about Ryun being that far back. He had a fearsome
kick and had outsprinted the world's best from behind more
than once in his young career.
Keino's third circuit of the track was unrelenting, as he
passed 1200 in 2:53.4. Ryun, however, was making up ground
slowly, hitting 2:56. Tummler was still the closest pursuer
to Keino at this point, and Ryun was not yet in medal
Before the race, Ryun figured a 3:39 could win, and he had
planned his strategy accordingly. He was on pace to run under
3:39, but with 300 meters left Keino was well ahead and
looking strong. Tummler was fading, and Ryun passed him and
went into second place on the final curve. His last 400
meters would be 54, and he made up ground on the Kenyan, but
nobody had any real chance to beat Keino on this day.
Keino charged home to win by a large margin. Some people felt
Keino had an unfair advantage running at altitude since he
lived in the highlands of Kenya. This hardly seems credible
given his final time of 3:34.9. Not only did this net him the
gold medal, it was the fastest time of the year and an
Olympic record. Keino had come within 2 seconds of Ryun's
world record. This could only be described as remarkable for
a race held 7400 feet above sea level! On top of all this,
Keino ran the race with a painful kidney stone. His doctors
did not even want him to get out of bed, let alone run the
Ryun sprinted to the finish, looking over his shoulder three
times in the final 100 meters. He had to be content with the
silver. His time of 3:37.9 should fairly rank as one of the
best marks in Olympic history, but it is often overlooked as
a result of Keino's masterful win.
Tummler salvaged the bronze with a 3:39.0. The early
pacesetter, Jipcho, slid back to 10th in 3:51.2. His mission
was to help secure the gold medal for Kenya, not individual
glory. The young American, Liquori, hobbled by a bad arch,
was last in 4:18.2.
Ryun would never run as fast in the 1500 or mile as he had in
1967. Some would say that the 1968 Olympics broke him, others
say that his coach, Bob Timmons, simply worked him too hard
at too young an age. Regardless, he will be remembered as one
of the very best athletes to ever grace the track.
Keino, interestingly, never surpassed his 1968 Olympic time
of 3:34.9 in the 1500 meters. To have a career best set at
the altitude of Mexico City is certainly unique, and it only
adds to the magnificence of his golden Olympic effort. While
Keino was not a terribly consistent runner, he continued to
be a strong force in track and field through the 1972 season.
THIS MONTH'S LIST
This month we introduce a new monthly feature. Each month we
will have a list, not unlike Letterman's top ten list, on a
running related issue. Thanks to Diana Shannon for this
TOP 5 REASONS THAT A MARATHON IS BETTER THAN A MAN
1. A marathon is an accomplishment you are proud to tell your
2. Marathons last longer.
3. Marathons don't get jealous if you run other marathons.
4. A marathon won't whine if you quit it.
5. A marathon won't dump you for some cute, young runner.
By Woody Green
There is a sort of mystique that surrounds sites like the
high plains of Kenya or the mountains of Colorado. These
locations, along with many others roughly a mile or more
above sea level, are thought to be very special places to
train. The very thin air that leaves runners gasping at
higher altitudes is thought to have magical qualities for the
runner wishing to get maximal gains from their training.
There are, however, plenty of people who feel there is no
real benefit in training at altitude, unless you are planning
on racing there. In fact, some feel that training at altitude
can actually slow a runner down.
So, who's right? All the studies on training at altitude
agree on one basic fact. When training at altitude, your
blood becomes "thicker." That is, you have a higher
concentration of red blood cells and hemoglobin. This seems
to be a way of adapting to the lower levels of oxygen
available to the lungs in the less dense air. Common belief
is that this could result in greater than "normal" endurance
when runners go to race at sea level.
This concept may sound familiar to people who have never
heard of the benefits of altitude training, but have heard of
the benefits of a friendly physician. The procedure known as
"blood doping" or "blood packing" is an attempt to accomplish
the same thing. In this procedure, an athlete will have a
unit of blood extracted and preserved. Later, when the
athlete's blood has naturally increased back to its normal
level, the old blood is reinjected into the athlete. This
provides extra red blood cells and hemoglobin for oxygen
transport. It should be noted that this method is illegal
according to the governing bodies of athletics. It should
also be pointed out that it is dangerous. Many athletes have
wound up ill as a result of this technique. Rumors are that
some have even died.
Another medical attempt to increase the oxygen capacity of
the blood is a drug called EPO which similarly increases the
blood "thickness." Again, this method is both illegal and
It is very well accepted in the arena of world class running
that "blood doping" and EPO work very well to increase an
athlete's endurance. Some Olympic medalists have been accused
of using this method to improve their performance.
If altitude training results in the same thing: "thicker"
blood, then shouldn't it increase performance, too? Many
runners and coaches believe it does. Certainly the
performances of athletes from areas such as Kenya, Ethiopia
and Mexico who live and train at altitude would lead many to
suspect that altitude training is a definite advantage. And,
it is not illegal, immoral or life threatening!
Common belief, though, has yet to be solidly backed by
scientific evidence. The scientific community has conducted a
good number of studies on training a high altitude.
Surprisingly, there are very few that support the notion that
altitude trained athletes will have an advantage when racing
at at sea level. Many studies have shown that athletes who
are taken to high altitude to train, then back to sea level
to race, show no improvement over their pre-altitude training
Additionally, there are problems associated with running at
altitude. Since it is impossible to run as fast at altitude
as a similar distance at sea level, some coaches fear that
altitude training will actually slow their athletes down.
Some feel that interval training may be negatively impacted
by altitude, as well, making anaerobic training less
When an athlete trains at altitude, then goes to sea level,
the body begins changing. The increased levels of hemoglobin
and red blood cell density return to "normal" after several
days. Thus, any benefits in blood composition are probably
Another problem is not so much the altitude itself, but the
climate that accompanies most high altitude locations. They
tend to be dry and relatively cool. This makes it hard for an
athlete to adapt to the heat and humidity more commonly found
when they race at sea level.
Still, advocates of altitude training provide arguments in
favor of running in "rare air."
Frank Shorter was once quoted as saying that one of the
benefits of altitude training was that it is simply not
possible to run as many miles as at sea level. This, he felt,
kept some runners from running too many miles and beating up
Many feel there is a sort of psychological advantage as well.
Training feels harder at altitude, which can lead to a sense
of confidence and mental toughness. Mental attitude is
extremely important in any athletic endeavor. Anything that
leads to increased confidence must certainly be considered a
Additionally, those who point only to scientific evidence
should be reminded that there were initially numerous
scientific studies which indicated that steroid use had no
effect on muscle strength or recovery from workouts. Studies
or not, unscrupulous athletes continued to use the drugs,
knowing full well that the benefits were very real. They did
not wait for science to prove what they already knew. Despite
scientific findings, perhaps the athletes training at
altitude know something the exercise physiologists have yet
to prove. And, there's nothing unscrupulous about training on
a beautiful mountain trail at 5000 feet!
WEB SITES OF INTEREST
There is a new DOS-based program called RunLog in a calendar
format. It keeps track of all your distances, times, paces,
totals, etc. and graphs them, too. There is a web page for
it with a demo at:
You PC users might want to check it out!
The North Carolina Roadrunners Club (about 700+ members) has
a web page with upcoming races and results for middle/eastern
NC. It is:
Take a visit to this nice site!
The Hood to Coast Relay has its own web site. Included are
race details, weather conditions, course changes, training
tips, maps and more. Sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, visit
this site at:
*Olympic Trials Editorial*
These readers share their feelings about last month's
editorial on the Olympic trials:
Dear RUNNER'S NICHE,
Glad you had such a wonderful time in our city at the trials-
-didn't realize you were such an expert in stadium design and
urban culture and decoration-Please cancel my subscription.
-No Name Given
Dear RUNNER'S NICHE,
Re: your Olympic Trials experience. I totally agree.
- Jim O'Brien
*Blast From the Past Correction*
Benji Durden writes to correct an error in the Blast from the
Past column last month that stated that Steve Jones' 2:07:13
was the fastest ever on a loop course:
Dear RUNNER'S NICHE,
The Rotterdam course is a loop course as well (where Carlos
Lopes set the WR at 2:07:12) so Jonesey's 2:07:13 was the 2nd
fastest for a loop, not the fastest. The start and finish
were just a few feet apart.
It is true that Lopes had some good rabbits though. I was one
through 10K (29:58 I think it was) and 2 guys actually hung
onto 3 min K's 'till around 25K before they crashed and Lopes
was on his own. He slowed to a K over 3 minutes finally
around 39-40K (after having steak for breakfast that
morning). I was stunned with how fast he ran.
Jonesy was stunning with how crazy he ran and survived.
- Benji Durden, Boulder
*EATING MORE AND ENJOYING IT LESS*
Dear RUNNER'S NICHE,
My name is Amanda Parish and I love to run. I've been running
for 3 months now and I run 3-4 miles every night (excluding
Sunday.) I've noticed that since I've been running my
appetite has increased. And, I can't seem to get enough to
eat. I was wondering if there was something I could do to get
my appetite to decrease? I would also love to join your E-
magazine. I downloaded a couple of your back issues, and they
Ed: A greater appetite is perfectly normal when you increase
your activity level. Not only does your body need more food
to provide energy, you require more vitamins, trace elements
Be happy that you can eat more and worry less about it . You
are burning 3-400 calories a day by running 3-4 miles a day.
Many runners say the only reason they run more is so they can
RUNNER'S NICHE needs more writers! If you would like to write
an article about any aspect of running, please submit it via
e-mail to us. Since this is a free publication, we don't pay
our writers. Still, your article will be read by a great
variety of folks, including subscribers in 5 different
continents. Besides, what can be more fun to write about than
the best sport of all: running?
NEXT MONTH IN RUNNER'S NICHE
- Blast From the Past looks at the 1979 NCAA Nationals
- Notes from our European editor on the problems with British
track and field.
- Fartlek training.
- Other fun stuff!
RUNNER'S NICHE IS ON THE WEB!
RUNNER'S NICHE has a web page! We have some cool links, and
past issues can be downloaded there. Also, we have a
Macintosh training log program for free download. Features
are continuously being added. If you'd like to visit, the URL
is: http://members.aol.com/woodyg3/web/runiche.html . Pass
the address on to your friends!
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