Vol. 1 No. 6 September, 1996
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR
The smell of fallen leaves and the feel of chilly air provokes
memories of Halloween, football games and raking leaves to many.
Fall always makes me think of cross country. For many years I either
ran cross country or coached it. Cross country provided me with
some of the most wonderful running memories I have experienced.
While not as intense as track and field in some ways, cross country
competitions are certainly fierce. Runners give everything they have
for their team. They run over terrain that can be grassy, rocky,
muddy or quite hilly. Each course is different, and runners often see
a great variety of weather conditions in the fall. Sunny and warm to
snowy and freezing, hard packed, even dirt to goopy, clinging mud.
Many road runners and track aficionados have missed the
opportunity to run cross country. That's too bad, because cross
country may be running in its most pure and natural form. Runners
glide through grassy fields, jump over hay bales, charge steep hills,
slop through mud and learn a lot about how hard they can push
Do yourself a favor. Find out when your local high school or college is
hosting a cross country meet. It probably won't cost you a dime to
watch, and these runners could use your support. I think you'll enjoy
the show. Then, if you have been training, check around for an open
meet so you can join in. It will make you a stronger runner and it
might just bring you a good deal of enjoyment!
- Woody Green
This month we welcome two new writers to the NICHE: Mike Sanders
and John Berneike. We are always looking for new articles, so don't
be shy about submitting something you have written!
WHAT IS THIS EPO STUFF, ANYWAY?
By John Berneike - Medical Editor
Quoting an excerpt from an article in last month's RUNNER'S NICHE:
"...Another medical attempt to increase the oxygen capacity of the
blood is a drug called EPO which ... increases the blood "thickness." ...
this method is both illegal and dangerous...."
Actually, EPO, in its natural form, is not a drug, but a naturally
occurring hormone produced by the kidney in response to the kidney
sensing too low of an oxygen supply (too low of a hematocrit). EPO
stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
The danger of injecting EPO to improve sports performance (and
blood doping too), is not in the act itself, but in the risk of being used
to excess, and producing blood that is too "thick", or too viscous,
which can lead to "clogging" in the blood vessels.
BLAST FROM THE PAST:
HISTORIC 1979 NCAA DOUBLE
Champaign, Illinois was the site of one of the finest NCAA track and
Field Championships in history when it hosted the meet in 1979. The
meet was still a men's only affair, but there was a great depth in
Foreign stars certainly made their presence known, with Suleiman
Nyambui of Tanzania (and UTEP) winning the 10,000 meters in
28:01, Sydney Maree of South Africa (and Villanova) taking the
5,000 meters in 13:20.7 and Keyan Henry Rono (competing for
Washington State) coming in first in the steeplechase with a time of
There were many other top names, both foreign and American, you
might remember. Michael Musyoki took 2nd in 10,000 for UTEP,
with Alberto Salazar 3rd as an Oregon Duck. Both later made big
names for themselves on the road race circuit. Maryland's Renaldo
Nehemiah ran what was then the fastest time ever in the 110 meter
hurdles with a wind aided 12.91. You might remember him as the
world champion and world record holder who later played football
for the San Fransisco 49ers. Greg Foster, another world class hurdler
to be, crashed and burned in the finals of the 110 hurdles here, but
did win the 200 for UCLA with a 20.22.
There were many Olympic and World Championship medals to be
won by these individuals in the future. Some would make a good
deal of money on the road race circuit, as well. With all of this world
class talent, you would think there would be little room left on the
headlines for the winners of other events.
The individual who took the headlines, however, did not have the
most spectacular winning time, nor the most sparkling credentials.
Instead, he impressed the track would with a terrifically difficult
double. Don Paige of Villanova won both the 1500 and the 800. His
times were 3:39.2 and 1:46.2. Good times, to be sure, but perhaps not
on par with some of the other fantastic marks in this meet. Not on
par until you discover that the 800 meter final was only 35 minutes
after the final of the 1500! Add to that the difficulty of running the
preliminary heats of both events, all in a three day period of time,
and you can begin to appreciate the difficulty in even attempting
such a double.
Paige was coached by the legendary Villanova mentor Jumbo Elliot.
His athletes did not refer to him as "Coach" or "Jumbo", but rather as
"Mr. Elliot." He elicited that kind of respect, and it was respect for
Elliot's belief that Paige could turn the double that convinced Paige to
try. Elliot took the pressure off of Paige by explaining that if he did
well, all the congratulations would go to Paige. If he could not pull off
the double, everyone would blame Elliot for asking his athlete to try
something so silly.
Paige ran the 1500 tactically, hoping to save a little for the 800. He
let the field lead, staying in 8th place with lap splits of 59.7 and
2:00.3. He moved forward a bit, but was still 6th at three laps with a
2:59.6. He avoided the pushing and shoving in the pack, and moved
forward on the outside. Finally with 60 meters to go and in fourth
place he sprang past the 3 ahead of him to capture the race.
Knowledgable onlookers knew that he had managed to leave a little
in the gas tank.
Still, there were only 35 minutes to rest for what many feel is the
most torturous event in track, the 800. This was a tougher field of
runners, as well. Paige was sore and stiff, and he said it was very
hard to sprint off the starting line. He stayed near the back of the
pack again, going through one lap in 54.3. Jamaican Owen Hamilton
began to really push the pace at the front of the pack, and with 200
to go, Paige was 1.1 seconds back of the leader. The pack was still
tight as they turned on the home stretch, and Paige moved out to
lane 3. His arms pumped furiously and he managed to sprint to the
lead for good with 50 meters left. The crowd fully appreciated his
effort, screaming loudly for the Villanova athlete as he mastered the
Paige went on to be the number one ranked 800 meter runner in the
world in 1980. This despite the fact that he could not run in the
Moscow Olympics due to the American boycott. He did this by
beating Olympic champion Seb Coe in a race after the Olympics, and
by running the fastest 800 time of the year. None the less, many
would argue that the real highlight of Paige's career was his
astounding NCAA double.
BOSTON MARATHON 100 A CENTURY OF RUNNING
by: Mike Sanders
When I was 16 years old, I dreamed of running the Boston Marathon.
Three years ago, I ran my dream come true and I then vowed to
never run Boston again. I broke that vow on April 15, 1996. How
could I turn down running the Race of the Century --the 100th
Running of the Boston Marathon.
There is a reason I never wanted to run Boston again. It's brutal and
again I verified how brutal it really is.
It all started at the Hopkinton (city in which marathon starts) Post
Office. The race began at noon and I arrived at 8:45 am. The crowd
was already growing. The expected count was to exceed 38,000.
That's not even counting the bandits (unofficial runners). I met my
Florida running buddies at the post office and we sat around,
nervously getting ready. We were doing the last minute carbo and
fluid loading by knocking down water, Powerade, Gatorade, bananas,
and Powerbars. Fortunately, there was a toilet nearby, because the
nerves were kicking in.
Around 10:30 am, we start to lube up (that means we start putting
petroleum jelly on ourselves so we won t blister or bleed from the
friction). We checked our computer chips (a device to record our
actual start to finish times) laced to our shoes. After we were done,
we went over to the baggage check-in. We checked in our clothes
and things that we wanted at the finish line. Now to the start line. I
found my corral--I was seeded 4874 of the more than 38,000 official
runners. As I was sitting in my buddy's lounge
chair and just waiting to get started, a news reporter from Channel 4
WBTZ Boston came over to me. "How about an interview," she said.
"Pleased to," I replied. I told her that we were just ready to get
going and I gave her the spill on why everyone was putting on
At 11:45 am the wheelchair division started. The corrals moved
forward. The start was near. It was time to shed the last minute
clothing. I was now down to my singlet and shorts. I left my gloves
on as it was still in the 40 s, but clear blue skies. A big change from
the last few days when there was 10 inches of snow on the ground.
A bigger change than what I was used to in Florida.
Noon. We started. The cheers were thunderous and the cameras
were everywhere. The legendary event was off and we were
expressing our thanks. I looked over to my buddy, Steve Koski, and
said we have to keep it easy for the first six miles or we will pay the
price on this course. As we passed the first mile in 8:32, the crowd
was still thick. I thought for a moment and realized that I had
started faster than my 1993 Boston adventure.I still needed to make
some ground up to get on pace. Steve and I started running behind
each other trading places so we could weed through the crowd. We
passed five miles in 34:02. Almost on pace as we were trying to
average 6 minutes and 30 seconds per mile.
We ve gone through Ashland and we were coming up on
Framingham--the famed 6-mile point. We were going downhill for
these six miles. The secret here is that you have either planned to
run fast at this point or you have gone out too fast. I wasn't sure,
but I felt I had done the latter.
I was still behind pace at this point. I had this notion in my head
that I might be able to finish in 2 hours and 50 minutes. I decided to
push the pace a little. As I looked around, I noticed my partner,
Steve, has elected to back off the pace. I should've done the same,
but I kept pushing.
Ten miles has passed, reached in 65:40. I was only 40 seconds off
the pace. I kept pushing, knowing that I should ve backed off at this
point. The crowd had sucked me up into their cheering frenzy. The
ups and downs (hills) of the course were starting to take their toll.
Wellesley was just ahead. I knew this because I could hear the
deafening roar of the Wellesley women. This is a traditional Boston
Marathon point, as Wellesley College is an all women's college and
these women have been supporting the marathon from its first days
in the early 1900 s. The women were out in full force this day, as so
was their cheering. The support from spectators had been this way
through almost the whole course. I passed the
half-marathon point in 1:25:40 (20 minutes for the last 5K). I later
found out that my unofficial computer chip time was 1:24:35. I
realized that I had gone too fast in making up the difference. It was
only a matter of time before it happened.
Finally, Newton arrived. The crowds were tremendous. Almost 10
rows deep in some sections. I passed 15 miles and discovered that I
was starting to slow down. Then, all of sudden, it happened. I
passed 16 miles and my legs felt like rocks. I had crashed, but not
yet burned. I still had 10 miles to go and I kept pushing.
I turned right at the Fire Station and in front of me were the Newton
hills. My heels were completely blistered at this point, as a result of
my racing flats (shoes). I knew I still had to keep going. Eighteen
miles--the first of the big hills. I slowed down to almost a crawl. Up
I went, then a little down and back up again. I finally crest a little
past 20 miles--the top of the famed Heartbreak Hill. My buddy,
Steve, pulled alongside me. I told him I was done. He said, Come on,
we can still break three hours! I told him to go on. He looked so
smooth as he pulled away.
I started the decent and it took everything I could do not to cry. The
pain was tremendous. My quads were ripping apart and my calves
were like balloons filled with cement. I passed 21 miles at Boston
College. The Florida Track Club singlet I have worn has attracted a
lot of attention. All over the course people were yelling, GO
FLORIDA! and KEEP IT UP FLORIDA! My appreciation to those who
yelled. It kept me alive.
I passed 22 miles and arrived in Brookline. The crowds had
thickened on the side lines. I had never seen so many people (1.5
million were the estimates) cheering for a footrace. This was Boston
s 100th and the heritage ran deep that day.
Twenty-three miles. The 3-hour barrier was gone. I still had a
chance at breaking 3 hours and 5 minutes. I tried to push a little
harder but to no avail. As I grabbed some water, I saw the CITGO
sign in the distance. It's the famed 1 MILE TO GO spot.
Twenty-four passed slowly. An Irishman passed me carrying his
country's flag. I grabbed some Gatorade and made another push.
My legs were shot. The wind had picked up and the temperature had
dropped. It was getting cold for this Florida boy.
Finally, 25 miles. I crest over a bridge. Such a bad spot for another
hill. I passed the CITGO sign in 2:57:34. I am still coherent and
calculate that I must run under eight minutes for the last mile. I
didn t think it was possible, but I pushed with all I had left. My legs
were screaming to stop. The blisters were raw on my heels and
every step sent a shock through my legs. My war scars were placed
as my knee was damaged.
The crowd was overwhelming. I made the final right turn and then
the final left turn onto Bolyston Street. The spectators stretched
forever it seemed. Flags of all nations were lined along the course.
The finish line came into sight and I charged down the straight-away
and raised my arms in victory. Finished, literally--3 hours, 4
minutes and 21 seconds officially
(computer chip time--3:03:15).
I stopped to look around. As I tried to walk, every step became
agonizingly harder and harder. I looked over to an official and asked
"where am I," meaning how far did I have to go to get to the family
meeting area. I guess I couldn't get the words out the way I wanted
them to come out, as I was shivering vigorously. The officials slipped
me into a wheelchair and took me to the medical tent. I had a slight
case of hypothermia. Six cups of chicken broth and I was up and
walking again. My leg muscles cramped and
were now stiff. It was very cold now as the Northeastern breeze had
dropped the temperature. I got to the busses and retrieved my bag
of clothes. It had been almost two hours since I had finished. I
traded my computer chip for my medal--one to be cherished forever.
THIS MONTH'S LIST
10 Top Reasons to Stop Running:
1. Makes nice looking shoes get dirty.
2. Takes time away from badminton practice.
3. It can make you look skinny.
4. Some mean people laugh at runners.
5. Sometimes it can make your legs sore.
6. Makes me wonder what I'm running from.
7. Can't run well after a few beers.
8. Big dogs chase runners.
9. Want to spend more time with my cat.
10. Afraid of blowing chunks on TV like Bob Kempainen.
IT'S A RUNNING THING...
By Woody Green
It's Swedish for speed play. It's a training method popularized by
Swedish runner Gosta Holmer in the 1930's, but practiced by many
runners years before. It is a term that, when used around non-
runners, raises eyebrows, causes chuckles, and even offends. What is
this mysterious training technique ? Fartlek!
A friend of mine went so far as to have t-shirts printed up that say
"Fartlek" on the front, and "It's a running thing, you wouldn't
understand" on the back. Indeed, it is a running thing, and many
people don't understand. But fartlek is nothing perverted, gross, or
silly, it is simply a very good training method.
As stated before, fartlek literally means "speed play" in Swedish.
Speed play is not a bad definition, either. Traditionally, fartlek
training has been described as an unstructured blend of running
speeds from a slow jog to a hard sprint and every pace in between.
In its purest form, fartlek is an almost randomly paced run, with the
runner changing pace as their spirit leads them. The best place to do
this kind of training is often a remote trail with varying terrain, but
it can be carried out on the roads, too.
Some runners structure their fartlek runs by timing their hard
efforts and rest. This might mean a 2 minute surge followed by a 90
second rest jog, for instance. Others use landmarks as their signals to
pick up the pace or ease off. Telephone poles are often used for this
Strictly speaking, this is not true fartlek training. Instead, it is more
of an adaptation of track training used on the roads and trails.
"Real" fartlek is much more random in nature. Surges may be short
or long, hard or easy. A runner might go to a wooded trail, and after
warming up, go hard to the top of the hill, then jog around the turn,
followed by a moderate pace downhill and a switch to a short hard
sprint in the meadow, with a very slow jog to the pond, etc. The
runner will decide as they go, letting inspiration and terrain make
their pace decisions.
What could the advantage be in this sort of random training? It may
not sound very scientific, but proponents of this training method feel
that true fartlek has many advantages.
Fartlek teaches a runner to go at a varied tempo instead of locking
into one pace. This will make a runner stronger over a course with
varying terrain, and can help a runner learn to stay with their
competitors when they throw a surge in the middle of a race.
Physiologically, fartlek is similar to interval training. Runners can
work on their speed, and increase their oxygen uptake.
Since a dirt road or nice trail can be used, the runner can escape the
jarring of pavement or the constant left turns of the track. Also, with
a less structured format, runners can ease off on days they feel bad
without a stopwatch telling them how slow they are going.
Conversely, some runners find they can do a longer, harder workout
when they don't have the pressure of a prescribed number of reps
on a track.
Many runners use fartlek runs as a break from their routine. It can
be refreshing to go out and just play around on a nice trail. This
might provide just the mental break you need in the middle of
weeks of hard training. Go ahead and give yourself permission to
have a little fun!
Fartlek. Now you understand, it's a running thing!
Just got a copy of the Niche from a friend. Great info you are putting
out. I found the altitude training article extremely good. I lived in
Colorado for 2 years and yes, I did notice a difference. I couldn't run
a mile under 5 minutes (5:04, to be exact) and barely broke 18:00 for
The first day down from altitude, I ran a 4:59.26 mile and one week
later ran 17:16 for 5K. So, as you can tell, I believe in altitude
training. Maybe it is a mind set, but if it works, why mess with it?
- MICHAEL SANDERS
ODDS AND ENDS
- Shortly after winning the Olympic gold medal in the Javelin, Jan
Zelezny of the Czech Republic got a try out as a pitcher with the
Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, Jan's elbow then got very swollen and
sore. He missed several Grand Prix track meets as a result.
- The newly set world record for 10,000 meters by Salah Hissou from
Morocco of 26:38 is equal to 4:17 per mile. That means 25
consecutive laps of the track under 64 seconds!
- The conversion of Americans from English to Metric measure is a
slow one to be sure. Even where the conversion is being made in high
school track and field, it is being made in an Americanized way. Most
high school tracks are now 400 meters as opposed to the 440 yards
that used to be standard. This makes high school tracks the same size
as tracks around the world. In most states, however, the standard
distance runs for high schoolers are 1600 and 3200 meters. Nowhere
else in the world are these distances contested, as the standard
distances are 1500 and 3000 meters worldwide.
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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