Vol. 1 No. 4 July, 1996
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR
I just got back from the Olympic track and Field Trials in Atlanta. My
wife and I went and watched the final three days, and the
competition was fantastic. More on that later.
Unfortunately, there were some big problems in Atlanta. The
organizers did very little to make track and field fans feel at home at
their national meet. Ushers were forced to be villains by the
organizers. To go to the bathroom and return to my seat I had to
show my ticket stub three or four times. If I dared enter the stadium
by the "wrong" gate, I was often told to turn back and walk around
to the next entrance. No food was permitted in the stadium, not even
a banana or box of raisins. We were searched and food items were
taken from us at the main gate so that we would be forced to buy $4
hot dogs, $3.25 Cokes, $4.25 cans of beer or a frozen lemonade for
$3.25. One small package of M and M's was $2.25!
The media was not impressed, either. They were asked to jump
through all kinds of hoops, such as going down a huge flight of stairs,
then back up a huge flight of stairs to the same level just to get to
the interview area. A local columnist noted that he got to within 20
yards of a press entrance and was told to turn around and walk part
way around the stadium to enter. When he asked why, the guard
said, "because I said so, that's why."
The athletes had some gripes, too. The practice track, where athletes
warm-up, is a few blocks from the stadium, and some athletes got
lost going to and from. There was a shuttle bus provided, but it was
often air conditioned so cool that it made the athletes uncomfortable.
Why no practice track right by the stadium? Because a baseball
stadium has no use for a practice track!
That's right. The stadium will be the new home of the Atlanta Braves
baseball club when the Games are over. The Atlanta stadium is a
very poorly disguised baseball stadium. The seats are Braves blue,
the press boxes are all in the corner of the stadium where home
plate will be, and there are even temporary bathrooms in trailers on
the side of the stadium that will be torn down to reconfigure for
The stadium is certainly no architectural beauty, either. It pales in
comparison to the wonderful Munich Olympic stadium or colorful LA
The torch, which is a very ugly little three color blob, sits perched on
top of a structure that can only be described as scaffolding. It hardly
looks like the majestic symbol of the Games that it should be. Rather,
it looks like Ted Turner and the Braves don't want too substantial a
fixture in their way when they set this stadium up for baseball later.
The city does not look a lot like an Olympic city. While there are tons
of Olympic souvenirs to be purchased, there are few colorful flags or
decorations. There are no signs on the highways and streets leading
to the Olympic venues. It appears that the organizers have no pride
swelling inside them about hosting the 100th. Olympic Games. I saw
no evidence of effort to make Atlanta into a truly special Olympic
A friend of mine who was at the trials had an interesting insight. He
said that to him, it looked like the Atlanta organizing committee was
having the games as an excuse to spend a lot of money on road
improvements and to get the Braves a new stadium. It doesn't seem
the interest is in hosting the best athletes in the world. It's more like
a nice way to bring in a lot of tourists to help the economy. It doesn't
appear that the organizers care that they are having the world come
to their city for the most important athletic event ever contested.
One event, which occurred at the end of the meet, sums up the
frustration of the whole experience of the trials for me. We had just
seen Michael Johnson set the world record in the 200, the final event
of the trials. Seeing a world record is sort of like a religious
experience to someone who is and track and field zealot. There were
some 30,000 souls in the stadium that day, and a good half were like
me, total track and field junkies. I was sitting in my seat, near the
track, watching the athletes leave after the awards ceremony. I was
savoring what had occurred, and many track devotees were talking
excitedly about the event.
My wife had gone over one section to talk to a friend, and suddenly I
heard her yelling to me. The usher would not let her back into our
section. She had her ticket stub, we had paid good money for these
seats, but she could not come back in. I gathered our stuff and went
up to stand with her in the aisle.
There was a great video on the scoreboard showing clips from the
meet, Olympic music was playing and a scrolling list of our new
Olympians was being displayed. We were just standing there soaking
it up, and the usher told us we had to leave. The meet was over and
the stadium was closing. No lingering, no reveling in this great track
meet, the organizers wanted all the pesky track fans to go home now.
Don't take this to be a put down of the people of Atlanta. They are
good people, and thousands of them are volunteering endless hours
of their lives to make these Games go. There IS great pride inside the
people of Atlanta. It is too bad that the Atlanta organizing committee
and USA Track and Field seem to be letting them down.
All this having been said, the track and field competition itself was
truly wonderful. There were many sources of magic. It came from
the childlike glee of Joan Nesbit after she qualified in the 10,000
meters. There was the of drama of Marieke Veltman taking third and
making the Olympic team in the long jump on her final jump. There
was Bob Kennedy who seemed able to crush the rest of the field in
the 5,000 at will. We had the unexpected pleasure of seeing
perennial favorite Mary Slaney complete her comeback and make
the team in the 5,000 meters, while another veteran, Carl Lewis
qualified in the Long Jump.
There were sources of pain, as well. Gwyn Coogan had to drop out of
the 10,000 meters around four miles. She just sat down on the
straightaway and took off her shoes while medical personnel put a
cold towel on her. Later, Gwyn passed out while walking back to the
starting line area. (The heat and humidity claimed many victims.)
Favorites Ruth Wysocki and Steve Holman, for reasons unknown to
the universe, both fell apart in the finals of the 1500. Jack Pierce
looked so good in the semi-finals of the 110 hurdles that many
thought he would be ready to break the world record in finals. Out of
the blocks fast in the finals, he hit the first hurdle and fell to the
track. And, even with all the support of her hometown crowd, star
sprinter Gwen Torrence couldn't manage to place in the top three in
Even Gwen had a smile on her face later that day, however, when MJ
did his thing. Michael Johnson truly has superhuman ability. He not
only broke the world record in the 200, but buried what was
possibly the best field ever assembled for the event. The crowd went
completely mad, and later MJ said the crowd contributed greatly to
his motivation. Nothing can take the thrilling memory of witnessing
that event away from me, not even the usher who kicked my butt
out the door when it was over.
- Woody Green
BLAST FROM THE PAST:
Chicago, October 20, 1985.
The Chicago and New York Marathon were going head to head in the
mid 80's to try to become the predominant Marathon in the United
States, if not the world. The battle between Chicago race director Bob
Bright and New York's Fred Lebow for athletes, press and TV
attention were at a height at this time. The 1985 Chicago Marathon,
held one week before New York, was truly one of the great
marathons of all time!
Chicago laid out a lot of money to get a terrific field of runners. On
the men's side there was legendary Australian Rob deCastella, Simion
Kigen (a Kenyan who lived and trained in the USA at the time), then
world half marathon record holder Mark Curp of the USA, Djibouti's
Djama Robleh, and Welshman Steve Jones.
The womens field was even hotter, with three of the top four
marathoners in the world at that time toeing the line. Ingrid
Kristiansen, the world record holder from Norway, was facing top
American Joan Benoit (now Samuelson), who had won the Los
Angeles Olympic marathon the year before. Rosa Mota, who had won
Chicago and earned a bronze in the Olympics in '84, was back. Grete
Waitz, who would run New York a week later, was the only one of
the top four missing.
The year before, Jones had won the mens race and set a world
record, with an outstanding time of 2:08:04. (Carlos Lopes, the
Olympic gold medalist, lowered the record in the Rotterdam
Marathon to 2:07:12 in April of '85.) He was made a fairly rich man
after that race, and he was ready for more. None of the top men
seemed able to do much to hold him back, as he was by himself after
7 miles or so. He set an astonishing pace and hit the half way point in
Jones slowed over the last half, and said later that it was extremely
hard mentally after the 20 mile mark, where he finally hit his first
mile at slower than 5:00 mile pace. When he arrived at the last
straightaway, he saw his time on the digital clock and drove hard for
the finish line. Lopes world record was in danger. Alas, one extra tick
of the clock elapsed before Jones crossed the line. His time of 2:07:13
was still the fastest ever on a loop course, and Jones did not have the
pace setting rabbits that Lopes had on the Rotterdam course when he
set the WR.
deCastella and Robleh were left to duke it out for second after Kigen
and Curp dropped out. The African won out, hitting the finish in
2:08:08. deCastella managed 2:08:48.
Benoit, like Jones, went out hard from the gun. The difference was
that she did not pull away from everyone early on. In fact, world
record holder Ingrid Kristiansen was side by side with Joanie. They
went through the half way point together in 1:09:33.
Both women had to be thinking of becoming history's first sub 2:20
marathoner. And the two continued to battle each other. Benoit
surged several times between 18 and 21 miles, and Kristiansen came
back valiantly until it finally became too much for her. Benoit simply
was the stronger runner on that day.
The only consolation for Kristainsen was that she got to keep her
world record of 2:21:06. Benoit crossed the line in 2:21:21. That was
the fastest marathon ever on a loop course, however, and gave Benoit
a PR and new American record.
Rosa Mota, who hoped the two leaders would fade back to her, got a
PR 2:23:29, but couldn't catch the fading Kristiansen, who crossed the
finish line in 2:23:05.
Ultimately the Chicago Marathon was not able to keep pace as the top
marathon. New York won the battle as the top Fall marathon, and
Boston resurged in popularity to take a choke hold on the Spring
spot. Bob Bright left as race director of the Windy City race, and the
current Chicago Marathon is a completely different affair. There can
be no doubt, however, that the 1985 Chicago Marathon stole the
THE UNDERTRAINING TRAP
By Woody Green
A couple of months ago I wrote about the pitfalls of overtraining.
This is a common problem for runners, but so is undertraining. By
this I don't mean people who sit on the coach and eat chips instead of
going out and putting in the miles. Rather, many runners - even very
serious, competitive runners - neglect parts of their training.
To be prepared for running distance events, we all know we have to
put in the miles. The problem is, many runners stop right there. All
they do is run mile after mile. Some slower, some faster, but they
just run overdistance.
There are other facets to training that should not be neglected if one
is truly interested in racing their best, or even just to keep one's
body in balanced condition.
Here are some often neglected areas:
Often, I hear runners say how much they hate the track, and running
around in circles, and how much it hurts to do intervals.
The fact is, without doing some form of interval training at a pace as
fast or faster than race pace, you will never be able to run to your
potential. This is because you need to stress the body into adapting
to run at that pace. You need to train your body to run efficiently
both mechanically and physiologically.
Intervals don't have to be on the track, if you really can't stand that.
A grassy park or a nice trail can be used just as well. The advantage
to a track, though, is having a measured distance. By timing your
efforts, you know exactly where you are at pace wise.
If you can't face running on the track, find a way that you can do
some sort of interval work on trails or in the park. Don't neglect this
part of your training.
One note, if you have never done interval training, go into it slowly
at first. Start only after you have gained a good base by doing
several weeks of regular distance runs.
There are two ways to increase your strength for running. One is
doing hill repeats, which adds resistance to your running and thus
helps to strengthen your legs.
The other, currently popular method is weight training. Weight
training helps you not only to increase the strength of the muscles
you use in running, it can be used to to strengthen all your muscles
so as to avoid imbalances. By being a stronger runner, you tend to
avoid injuries better. Also, runners who lift weights may be more
biomechanically efficient, especially at the end of a race when one's
form begins to fall apart.
Abdominal work is important for everyone, not just runners. Your
abdominal muscles need to be strong in order to help your spine hold
itself in alignment. You might think of the abdominals as being the
foundation for your body. A weak stomach will contribute to injuries
caused by misalignment and compensation by other muscles. Also, a
weak stomach may prevent you from running with correct posture
A few abdominal crunches and / or other stomach exercises 3 or 4
times each week will go a long way to making you a better runner.
This is one area where a little work can really go a long ways!
Stretching makes you feel better, it helps prevent injuries, and it can
help you to run faster and longer. It's easy to forget about stretching
after you run. Get in the habit, though, and it is easier to follow
through. Save 15 minutes a day for this important activity.
Stretching is the easiest way to prevent injuries and improve your
By planning your training to include more than the basic
overdistance run, you will be able to maximize you efforts when
racing. Training variety is helpful to those who don't plan to race, too,
since it provides a more complete method of training the body for
overall fitness. Don't fall into the undertraining trap!
MICHIGAN RUNNERS WEB SITE
There is a nice web site available to those interested in the running
scene in Michigan. Try it out by visiting this address:
SUPER RUN FOR THE CURE
In an effort to raise money for leukemia research, Karl Gruber is
attempting to run 52 marathons in one year's time. His goal is one
million dollars in donations.
He is motivated by the loss of a friend to the disease, and if you'd
like to send a contribution, here's the address:
KARL GRUBER'S SUPER RUN FOR THE CURE
c/o THE LEUKEMIA SOCIETY
145 N. HIGH ST., SUITE 1200
COLUMBUS, OHIO 43215
Please make sure to note that it's for "Karl Gruber's Run for the
Cure!" and make checks payable to: THE LEUKEMIA SOCIETY OF
Karl is documenting his efforts on a web page. If you'd like to visit,
the address is: http://www.tripod.com./~MarathonMan/index.html.
Writing about training tips from last month's NICHE our reader says:
Excellent article on better recovery from workouts; especially
appreciated because us 40-year olds just don't recover like we used
to. On a personal note, I intend to enthusiastically point out your
points on cool water hydrotherapy - perhaps this will forestall the
installation of a hot tub in the backyard!
- D Shannon, Boulder
With regard to last month's article on the Womens Cross Country
Nationals, won by Mary Decker (now Slaney) in 1978, one reader
Dear RUNNER'S NICHE,
One might reflect on one of the best AIAW (NCAA) cross country
races ever - i.e. Mary (Decker) Slaney for Colorado in 1978. I believe
it was a classic "run away and hide" strategy by Shea and Mills.
Everyone was afraid of Decker's kick and tried to get as much
distance as possible as early as possible. It didn't work. I saw her
with 1 K to go with a smile on her face - and knew she had it made!
P.S. My podiatrist, Dr. Ed Raczka, performed a release surgery on her
compartment syndrome problems way back then. He still has an
autographed shoe from her at his office.....
T Dolen, Boulder
Ed: Mary must certainly have the world record for most surgeries in
a career, but she just made another Olympic team in the 5,000
I want to compliment you on "Runner's Niche". You have produced a
very readable and informative newsletter. As a relatively novice
runner (about 8 months) in my 40's I'm looking for any bit of
information I can get.
Now my question. I was recently reading about the use of creatine
and sodium phosphate as aids in increasing running performance.
Now I understand that nothing takes the place of training (long slow
distances, and intervals once or twice a week) but what do more
experienced runners really think of this stuff. If it works and it is
safe, is it worth trying?
Ed: Barry's question is a common one since there are many
nutritional products containing Creatine Phosphate (CP). CP is used
by the body for a very rapid energy source. Sprinters, weight lifters
etc. get their quick energy from CP. The amount of energy a body can
gain from CP is very small, so it is only available for short bursts.
There is no solid scientific evidence that nutritional supplementation
of CP will make a big difference in energy supply, but some athletes
feel it does help them.
Distance runners do not depend on CP for their energy supply, except
perhaps for that last 50 meter sprint at the end of a race. It would
seem unlikely that supplementation of CP would be of much benefit
to a distance runner in terms of energy production.
Other phosphates, however, are used in all energy reactions in the
body, and there are some sports nutritionists who feel
supplementation can assure that muscle cells will have a plentiful
supply of these products. This might aid endurance. Many weight
lifters feel phosphate supplements help them to build muscle mass,
and it may help runners to maintain muscle mass and strength.
Also, there is some evidence that phosphates may buffer the body
from extremes in acidity. It is thought that this might offset the
effects of lactic acid a bit in the muscles. This could also help
recovery after exercise. Again, there is not much scientific data
available on these theories.
As with most sports nutrition issues, there are experts on both sides
of the fence on this issue. A diet with a good amount of quality
protein already provides phosphates to the body. There is probably
no harm in trying supplementation, but keep the dosage reasonable.
Too much and your liver and kidney will be working overtime to get
rid of the excess.
NEXT MONTH IN RUNNER'S NICHE
- Olympic Games Info
- Altitude Training
- Blast from the Past: 1500 Meter Show Down at Mexico City
- News from Europe
- Odds and Ends in the Running World
RUNNER'S NICHE IS ON THE WEB!
RUNNER'S NICHE now 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. We will add features as
RUNNER'S NICHE continues to "grow up." If you'd like to visit, the URL
is: http://members.aol.com/woodyg3/web/runiche.html . Pass the
address on to your friends!
"Runner's Niche" is free, but it's contents are copyrighted. Nobody
may use the content without permission of the author and "Runner's
SUBSCRIPTION IS FREE. Just write via e-mail to: email@example.com.
Include your e-mail address. We'll send you an issue via e-mail
every month or so.
If you don't want to continue receiving "Runner's Niche", simply mail
with your e-mail address and ask that your subscription be stopped.