RUNNER'S NICHE

JULY 2003

Vol. 8 No. 2

-NOTES FROM THE EDITOR-

This issue contains two articles about running, and yet both are about much more than just the sport we enjoy. One is a politically charged article, the other is charged by basic human emotion. I hope they are enjoyable to read; but I hope these articles stimulate some serious thought, as well.

Happy Running,

- WG

 

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2002 Reach the Beach Relay - Back to being a Bison

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By Tim Dolen

This story is about my experiences racing with my teammates on the Bucknell "Fossil" team at this years Reach the Beach Relay. Though I’m obviously proud of the running tradition at Bucknell and thoroughly enjoyed my racing at RTB, I’m saddened because now I feel helpless. A little girl is battling cancer and she’s hurting. This story is dedicated to Lauren Grady and her family.

It’s 2 am in the middle of a downpour somewhere in New Hampshire and we’re anxiously waiting for news from Bucknell "Fossil" Van 1. The downpour is courtesy of a direct hit from Hurricane Isadore and Van 1 is locked in a dual with the Bucknell FCP team during the 2002 Reach the Beach Relay. After our first twelve-man rotation through 65 miles, the FCP team had a 1-minute lead over the Fossils. It was beginning to look like our fiery leader, George Buckheit may have talked a little too much trash in the weeks leading up to the race, and we were thinking of how we wanted our crow cooked. The trash talking started a couple of weeks before the race from a seemingly innocent suggestion from a FCP teammate that the two teams ought to run the relay together during the night. I guess the suggestion that we would even be close after that point in the race sparked the old competitive fire leading the two alumni teams to an all out challenge for 200 miles.

I originally thought I might use my first 8.8-mile leg as a warm-up for harder racing in the last two legs. But Dave Hawes, our only experienced relay runner suggested that since my leg was rated extremely hard, I should only run it at "97 percent maximum effort," instead of all out. The Fossils were the over 40 team collected from the 1970’s and 80’s and FCP, short for "Fat Coach Pace" after our late coach Art Gulden had team mates from the late 80’s on up. After being spanked by Chris Kearney by 2-1/2 minutes over the hilly first leg, I realized these kids were neither fat, nor were they running fat coach pace. The FCP team was buoyed by a great 7th leg from Greg "Stiffy" Colburn who could have been running on our third alumni "Elite Team," on it’s way to breaking the RTB record. Stiffy brought back the FCP team back from a one-minute deficit against our strongest runner, Hawes, who ran just over 5:30 pace for 6.4 miles. I took the relay wristband on my first leg in a dead heat with FCP and struggled through the hilly 8.8 miles in rain, fog, and blackness. Our last three runners cut the deficit in half over the next three legs of the first rotation to put us back in contention. We had a very strong lead van with Bob "Doc" Murdock, George Buckheit, and Jamie "Turk" Kempton running sub-6 minute pace to give us the early lead, but those FCP’s kept chipping away. We hoped they again could make up the deficit on the second rotation and maybe give us some breathing room. Cell phone and radio coverage was sporadic in the hills of New Hampshire, but we had an exchange coming up after the 18th leg, when Van 1 transferred the reflective vests over to Van 2. They gave us a back a 2-1/2 minute lead on the second exchange as Hawesy took off for another battle with Stiffy. How we came upon this lead was legendary Buckheit. On his second leg, George put the hammer on Mark "Anti" Ledgerwood one of the two FCP sons of our oldest Fossil team mate Bill Ledgerwood. Anti was stooped over on hands and knees after finishing and George came over not to pat him on the back, but only to say "get up Ledgerwood, I’m not done with you yet!"

What makes three alumni teams show up for a 200-mile head to head battle over New Hampshire’s hilly back roads? How do you get one alumnus trying to hammer another into the ground less then a day after an amicable pre-race reunion dinner? How do you get two sons running against their father? The answer lies with the coach of a truly unique collegiate distance program, Art Gulden, and a worthwhile cause, a two-year old girl battling cancer. For 31 years, Coach Gulden took hard working guys and gals and molded them into some of the best runners in the east without athletic scholarships. Coach found a way to get the maximum performances out of these runners through dedication and instilled toughness. Our Fossil Van 2 leader, Dave Hawes went from running 9:56 in high school to 8:56 at Bucknell. The teams were always noted for their competitiveness and for running as a group supporting each other. Coach lost a long battle with cancer in the spring of 2001, leaving a legacy of dedicated runners that dominated the alumni scene in post collegiate competitions. The Bucknell elite teams competed in seven Hood to Coast Relays, finishing no lower than third and winning three times.

The rallying cause was a fundraiser for Lauren Grady, the two year old daughter of alumnus Dave "Rosie" and Hope Grady. Lauren was in the middle of chemotherapy treatments in a life-threatening battle against cancer. I can’t imagine the heartbreak and frustration of her parents as they watch their daughter suffer. Rosie’s former roommate Brian Harshman provided an inspirational plea for our three teams to think about Lauren before we embarked on the trek from the White Mountains to the Atlantic coast. All six vans for the three teams were plastered with posters of Lauren and Coach. I thought of Lauren during my first leg through the woods and it seemed like whenever I did, I would spot the blinking light of Kearney in the distance. If I could keep the light in sight, I couldn’t be getting buried that bad?

Living our west in Boulder, I’ve missed the many reunions the team has assembled since I graduated. But, I’ve kept in touch and followed the team’s progress over the years. There always seems to be an outstanding athlete at the front of the team, kind of cocky, but always backing up their bravado with outstanding performances. Here in New Hampshire the team assembled many of those leaders in a competition against each other, no holding back. Coach never would have approved of it. If there wasn’t enough inspiration, we also had some choice quotes from Coach on the posters. My favorite was "get your head out of your ass!" Coach was never one to hide his true feelings! This was my first time competing for Bucknell since I graduated in 1978. The other 162 teams were mostly an afterthought. We knew who we had to beat – FCP!

The rain began to taper off as I warmed up for my second leg. Hurricane Isadore really asserted herself while Van 1 was finishing their second rotation in the dead of night. We were refreshed after a mid-race hotel layover. Time to get a warm shower and dry out. I brought three complete sets of racing gear "just in case" of in-climate weather. But, I never thought a hurricane could make it from the Gulf Shore to central New England in two days. I was not happy with my first leg. I had expected a colder rain and overdressed and dehydrated during the run. Yes, that’s right, dehydrated during a hurricane! I had only experienced rain once a month due to the drought out west. In six hours, Isadore dropped more rain than our last six months. On my second leg, I had a short uphill, followed by a long downhill. Half way down the hill, the moon broke out for the first time. Good riddance to Isadore. I ran as hard as I could, with Lauren as my inspiration and Kearney’s long legs somewhere behind trying to track me down. This time I got on a roll and completed my 4.5-mile leg in just over 28 minutes. That effort was as hard as I could possibly run and I was relieved to find out Chris only picked up 15 seconds on me. Again, the Fossil-FCP lead seesawed through the remainder of the second rotation. But, this time we had the lead over FCP after the 24th leg. Could age and experience make up for youth and enthusiasm? Hawes kept on our case trying to get us to re-hydrate and keep eating even if we didn’t feel like it after a hard run. His choice was Pop Tarts and bananas. The elite team passed us during the second rotation, so all of the vans were present to cheer on whoever happened to running at the time. We also heard rumors about a hotshot masters team from the Central Park Track Club chasing us down.

By sunrise we were starting to catch teams that started hours before us. Some teams lost runners and were forced to rely on their teammates who had already "completed" their third rotation. That must be very discouraging to think you were done and then have to go it again. Our lead over FCP grew to five minutes, then ten minutes. The sun was out and I was just able to keep my stride for the last 4.1 mile leg; finishing was a wonderful feeling. The Fossil team never faltered down the stretch, finishing in 21 hours and 27 minutes, a 6:25 pace for 200 miles. Despite lingering effects in his throat from something like an "ulcer," Hawes led us with 5:52 pace for 20.7 miles and the trio of Murdock, Buckheit, and Kempton ran 55 miles at just over 6 minute pace. Our eldest runner, dad Bill Ledgerwood ran his fastest leg in the third rotation. He had a lot of trouble during the rainstorm with his glasses fogging up in the pitch black. Apparently, he was so upset he let loose with a few choice invectives about Isadore, unaware of the presence of a troop of Brownie volunteers!

What makes this type of competition different? When we competed for Bucknell, a cross-country race was less than _ hour. The team competition was intense, but it was over relatively quickly. The closest you can compare this type of competition individually is a marathon. But, you don’t often race head to head against other competitors from start to finish. Championships lasted two days in track and field, but the effort was spread around a large group. The long distance relays are unique because you’re all packed together in a van waiting your three turns and cheering your teammates on. The competitive spirit between the alumni teams stretched on for 21 hours. These friends and competitors contested every mile from Mt. Washington to the Atlantic.

One big plus for the three teams was the organization put together by alums Ray Sullivan and Bob Murdock. They drove the entire course and had each leg mapped out for all 36 legs. The Hood to Coast teams ran 1400 miles without a missed exchange and this race was no different. Our support crews maintained constant communications and we knew our starting times within two minutes for the entire race. They never lost track of the runners, race course, or transition areas in spite of the poor visibility during the hurricane; quite an accomplishment in their sleep-deprived state.

The finish at Portsmouth Beach was just fabulous, with the entire team waiting for our final runner Karnik Seferian to complete his last leg. Bucknell Alumni teams took first, fourth, and fifth overall with the elite team breaking the course record in 18 hours: 43 minutes. The mystery masters team from Central Park did in fact track us down to finish second overall. That didn’t matter for the Fossils as long as we were on top of the FCPs. That just leaves us with a challenge for next year.

Yes, I can’t wait till next year. The FCP team knows what to expect this time and they have youth on their side. While we take three months to get back into shape, they can do it in three weeks. We will have a couple of new Fossil graduates though and will surely be looking out for Central Park. We had a terrific "reunion farewell" with all three teams at the Portsmouth Brewery complete with an awards ceremony. The Grady family sent us boxes of chocolate as a thank you for the fundraiser. To date, we’ve raised over $26,000 for Lauren. I was presented with an "old school" Bucknell singled, my first ever. Now, I can run for Bucknell wherever I race.

Though the names change from year to year, the Bucknell distance tradition is a constant. This is a tribute not only to the coach, but also to teammates that truly care for each other. The Bucknell Track & Field and Cross Country alumni tradition is a unique experience. I know of no other program like it in the United States. Hundreds of alumni stay in touch with each other and travel to cheer on the present team at competitions. It wasn’t hard to fit in even though I had not met most of the "kids" from recent teams. We all had a common bond, competing under the watchful eye of Art Gulden for four years. The overriding comment I remember is how he managed to get us to give absolutely 100 percent efforts for the team when it counted most. Thinking about 2-year-old girl fighting for her life in the middle of the night, I was inspired with the go for broke competitive feeling I learned at Bucknell. This race showed the work ethic of the program still lives on. Not only did three teams show up for the RTB Relay, they competed over every single mile of the racecourse. And if it would help two-year old Lauren Grady, they would turn around and do it again the next day.

Postscript:

Lauren Grady lost her battle with cancer just before Thanksgiving with her family at her bedside. Her family is obviously devastated by the loss. They had to fit in a lifetime of love for their child in only a short few months. Though they were successful, I’m sure it matters little to them now in their time of grieving. To make matters worse for our small group – Dave Hawes, the top runner for the BU Fossil team was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus shortly after Lauren’s passing and successfully underwent surgery after Christmas. Ironically, this rare form of cancer is normally associated with elderly cigarette smokers, not long distance runners in the prime of their life. His prognosis is good and we all say our prayers for Dave and his wife and young child.

Cancer became personal for me these past two years. It can happen to anyone at any time of their lifetime. Please do what you can to help the cancer charity of your choice...

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OOOOOOOO

RED STAR

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By T.R. Healy

Lenin, after listening to Beethoven's Appassionata, remarked to the writer Maxim Gorki that he could not often listen to music because "it affects my nerves, makes me want to say kind stupidities and pat the heads of people who ... can create such music." He, more than anyone among the Bolsheviks, believed that for the revolution to succeed in Russia "one must not pat anyone's little head---they would bite off your hand, and one has to beat their little heads, beat mercilessly, although ideally we're against any sort of force against people." The political system he created was not only found through brutality but sustained by it. Always at the heart of the Soviet regime was the threat of repression if one did not abide by its demands.

From the outset one of the primary objectives of the communist government was the creation on the "new Soviet man" whose behavior would always be guided by a strict collective social consciousness. He was someone who would personify the positive qualities of the new government, a heroic figure who would always do what was in the best interests of the country. Unlike the western democracies, which cherish individuality and are reluctant to compel people to drastically modify their behavior, the Soviet Union believed it was obligated to strip a person of his individuality so that he could be integrated into the community. What he wanted was unimportant, even menacing if it conflicted with the interests of the state. Profound changes were required of people in order for the revolution to flourish. Accordingly, Soviet leaders strenuously promoted the notion of proletarian class consciousness, convinced that in time all class distinctions would disappear and be replaced by a society that would demonstrate the proper communist ethics and beliefs.

Two methods were employed, in the words of Nikita Khrushchev, to "bring up the man of the future today." One was a socialist discipline. The primary purpose of the Soviet educational system was blatantly political: to mold young people into dedicated and responsible communists. Specifically, accord to Khrushchev, students were to be trained "in collectivism and love of work, in Socialist internationalism and patriotism, in the lofty and ethical principles of the new society, in Marxism-Leninism." When the persuasive powers of the classroom proved inadequate, the state would resort to more severe methods of discipline to inculcate the appropriate viewpoint in its citizens. "Everything that is done in the proletarian cause is honest," Lenin insisted, thereby justifying the harsh measures he and his supporters employed to squash recalcitrant people into line.

Socialist competition was the other method devised to promote the principles of the new Soviet man. Starting with Stalin, workers were encouraged to compete against one another as a further way of advancing collectivist principles. This emphasis on competition was not restricted to factories and plants but stretched across all sectors of society. One in which it was particularly encouraged was athletics, especially international contests, because they were seen as a splendid opportunity for the Soviet people to demonstrate the superiority of their system of government. And of all the international events none was more prestigious than the Olympic Games. The Soviet Union did not sponsor a team until the Helsinki Games in 1952 where its athletes failed to win a single track gold medal. Determined to improve their performances in the 1956 Games at Melbourne, the authorities modified their training programs and considered new strategies and, as always, appealed to their athletes to succeed for the sake of the revolution. Indeed, throughout the early years of the Cold War, banners proclaiming that "All World Records Must Be Taken By Soviet Athletes" were posted in athletic facilities across the country.

The first great Soviet runner was Vladimir Kuts who, in 1954, set his first world record in the 5,000 meters while defeating the legendary Czech Olympic champion Emil Zatopek. A Russian peasant serving in the Navy, Kuts did not set foot on a track until he was twenty-three. Until then, the sport he participated in was boxing, and he well might have remained in the ring if his unit had not been transferred to Lenin-

grad. There he met the track coack Grigorii Nikiforov who recruited him as a distance runner. Lean and slightly stooped, Kuts was not an impressive-looking figure on the track, but he possessed enormous dedication and strength. Every bit as aggressive as he was as a pugilist, he usually started out quickly in races, hoping to capture the lead right away and hold onto it until he crossed the finish line.

Kuts' early success as a runner was based on the German interval training program which alternated effort with recovery. Under this system a person runs a hard interval, follows it with an easy one, then repeats the hard interval. This system not only improves speed but also endurance. Enthusiastically his coach initiated Kuts into interval training, encouraging him to run intervals far longer than anyone else had attempted at that time. Convinced his world 5,000-meters record was proof of the merits of interval training, Kuts pushed himself even harder until he was running over twenty miles a day. Despite all his work, he subsequently lost two critical races to English runners, both of whom stayed back then outkicked him at the finish. Those defeats deeply troubled his coach who decided the fast, consistent pace that enabled Kuts to set the world record would not be successful enough in Melbourne.

Four months before the Games were to begin, Nikiforov devised a new training program for his star runner which was the so-called "variational" system. The proponents of the interval system beldieve that the more distance one covers during a workout the greater the chances are of doing well in a race. Nikiforov, however, realized one who wants to run fast much practice running fast. So, while Kuts continued to accrue the same prodigious distances each day in practice, now they were run over shorter and more varied segments. Sometimes he even ran in com-

bat boots with a sandbag slung over his shoulders. The influence of his coach was not confined to the track. Nikiforov believed that an athlete could be capable of enduring the most rigorous demands if his whole environment is scrupulously and scientifically controlled. He told him what to read, how long to sleep, what to eat. He was particularly fastidious about Kuts' diet, going so far as to strain impurities from every grain in the bowl of oatmeal he prepared for him every morning.

Alarmingly, two weeks before the start of the Olympics, Kuts began to display some disturbing physiological symptoms that his coach attributed to anxiety and overtraining. The pulse rate of the average per-

son is 70 to 80 beats per minute, but long distance runners often have a much slower rate. Generally, Kuts' pulse was measured at 45 beats at rest and 120 racing. Just prior to the Games, however, his resting pulse had accelerated to 120 beats. His blood pressure also had risen signif-

icantly, and heart murmurs were discovered. Kuts was not a large man, at five feet seven inches, 159 pounds, but his heart was huge. The volume of the heart in the average person is 750 to 780 cubic centimeters. Kuts' was 1.026, and by the time of the Olympics, it had grown another 45 cubic centimeters.

Kuts left for the Games aboard an ocean liner that took sixteen days to reach Melbourne. Receiving a needed respite from all his training, he not only enjoyed rich foods during the long passage but also some cognac, so that by the time he arrived his health seemed restored. With vigor he resumed his training and satisfied the scrutiny of his physicians, who declared his heart normal except for its size and pronounced him fit to compete in the Olympic Games. Kuts was relieved and excited, determined more than even to show that he was the finest distance runner in the world.

His first race was the 10,000 meters in which he was one of the favorites. As usual, he burst into the lead, but instead of maintaining an even pace as he had done in the past, he employed the cat-and-mouse tactics he had practiced diligently in training. Just as his coach had planned, he ran in spurts, slowing down for several meters then charging ahead again, which rattled the nerves of his main rival, Gordon Pirie, one of only two runners to defeat Kuts in competition. Periodically, during the long race, he urged Pirie to pass him but the Englishman always declined until the twentieth lap when Kuts came to a complete stop and forced Pirie to take the lead, which he let him have for 100 meters then rushed past him for good and set a new Olympic record and became the first Russian to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field. Five days later, against even stronger competition in the 5,000 meters, he won his second gold medal and set another Olympic record. This time he did not run in spurts but set a withering pace that overwhelmed his opponents. "If Kuts has to kill himself in order to kill off his competition," an observer of the race remarked afterward, "he has enough suicidal dedication to run himself to death."

Shortly after receiving his second gold medal, Kuts was given a medical examination, which he passed without any public expression of concern. In fact, as he admitted years later, the Soviet physician who conducted the check-up was shocked by the condition of the new Olympic distance champion. His lips were blue, his face ashen, and he had the rapid pulse of someone still running. Consequently, he was advised to rest and take some time off and did, but when he resumed training after a couple of months, he bore no resemblance to the double gold medal winner. All of his teammates routinely beat him in practice, whatever the distance, and they were absolutely dumbfounded---as were Kuts and his coach. He recovered enough to run one more great 5,000 meters race in Rome, setting a record that would last for eight years, but after the race he was carried off the track on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. And at the age of twenty-nine he was told he could never run again.

Retired, he moved in and out of hospitals, constantly in need of treatment for his ailing heart. No longer able to run, he gained a considerable amount of weight, swelling to 230 pounds. Occasionally he would attend an important track meet in the country, but if other spectators recognized him he would turn and walk away, sweating profusely, as if too embarrassed by his appearance. The authorites were embarrassed as well and prohibited Soviet photographers from publishing pictures of the once indomitable runner. To the shock of the nation, if not its leaders, he died in his sleep from his fourth heart attack at the age of forty-eight.

If the intensified training program that his coach devised for him did not kill Kuts, it certainly contributed to his general decline. Already quite large, his heart grew even larger during his running career, and after his retirement, it continued to pump large amounts of blood into his now idle arms and legs, which created further physiological problems. The sole purpose of ;the disastrous training program imposed on Kuts was to make him good enough to bring home some medals from Melbourne. Indeed, just as workers in the Soviet Union routinely signed "socialist pledges" to produce more steel or coal or cement, Kuts and his coach pledged to win medals for the nation at the Melbourne Games. Anything, in fact, was deemed acceptable so long as it accomplished this objective, even if it led to the early decline and death of a gifted young athlete. "Nikiforov seemed like an executioner," Kuts acknowledged later, "determined to break me down, body and soul ... to make a warrior of me, capable of enduring any stresses of sports combat..." The Soviet Union was a land of executioners, dutifully carrying out the demands of its creator. The brutal creed of Lenin permeated every aspect of the country: one has to beat heads he maintained, beat them mercilessly, for the new Soviet man to survive and prosper.

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