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RUNNER'S NICHE

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Vol. 2 No. 9 September, 1997

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JOHNNY HALBERSTADT INTERVIEW

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Interview by Woody Green

Johnny Halberstadt was one of South Africa's top runners in the 70's and 80's. Unable to take part in the Olympics and most other international competition because of the apartheid policy ban on South African athletes at that time, Johnny none the less made a name for himself in running. He attended Oklahoma State University in the early 1970's, winning eight Big 8 conference championships in cross country and track and the 1972 NCAA track championship for 10,000 meters. Johnny placed third in the Boston Marathon in 1971, and took third in the Chicago Marathon in 1982 with a PR 2:11:46. Showing great range in abilities, he also ran under four minutes for the mile. Against very tough competition, he took South African championships for the marathon, the half marathon and cross country at different times in his career.

Among other business interests, Johnny now owns and operates a running store in Boulder, Colorado with 1993 World Marathon Champion Mark Plaatjes (also from South Africa but now an American citizen), and mountain runner Jay Johnson.

Runner's Niche: How is running approached differently in the United States and Africa?

Johnny Halberstadt: It's hard to generalize, but the US approach tends to be more mechanical and scientific, while the African approach is artistic and intuitive. Africans tend to run on how they feel, it's an artistic effort, like they are conducting their body parts.

RN: What makes African runners in general so strong?

JH: The confidence of the African runner. After a bad run, they don't care, they just learn from it and do better next time. There is no fear of racing, and they know themselves well. They take responsibility for themselves and their own training.

RN: What about their training? Is that different, too?

JH: Most Africans train by perceived effort. If they are having a bad day, they ease off. They try things in training -- testing, surging, outrageous things. Training is also geared to simulate the actual event. I'd say the farther you go away from exactly what you have to do in a race in your training, there is probably less return from your effort.

RN: What do you think about the idea that many African runners have short careers because they race too often and wind up injured?

JH: I don't think it's the racing. I think this is where the African runners could use more science. They need help with things like biomechanics, footwear and injury treatment. But they aren' t racing too often. You can't be good at racing if you don't go out and do it.

RN: Do you think there is some good running talent in the United States?

If anyone says the US doesn't have running talent, that's ridiculous! The US has some incredible talent that is just starting to develop. I see an increase in confidence and a change in perspective.

RWD: How do you like Boulder?

JH: It's exciting being around Boulder. There are elite runners from all over the world training here. The Americans training with them, like Shawn Found for instance, are beginning to see that they can handle training with them, so why not racing?

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NOTE: This interview first appeared in the Runner's World Daily News web site and is used here by permission from Runner's World. Check the Runner's World web pages for news, interviews and tons of great running information.

<http://www.runnersworld.com>

 

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TRAIN HARD, WIN EASY

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Book Review By Woody Green

Those of us living in North America often consider Kenyan runners as mysterious, phantom runners who appear at the start of major races, dominate the final standings, and disappear richer but still unknown personalities. Sure, we have come to know a few Keyans well. Kip Keyno, Henry Rono, Tegla Loroupe and Paul Tergat are names that come to mind.

Still, there are literally hundreds of top Kenyans we know very little about. Frequently the media's pre-race favorite at large road races is "one of the Kenyans," without a name being attached. There almost seems to be a conception that all Kenyans are running machines, seemingly interchangeable and without individual identity.

Additionally, there is only a smattering of information available about Kenyan training plans. We often wonder about their diet, is there something magical about the Kenyan maize used in many of their meals? What about the effects of living and training at high alitude as almost all of the top Kenyans do? Is it true that all Kenyans run to and from school every day and this sets the ground work for their competative success? The little bits of information we have gotten develop into a sort of modern folklore which classifies the Kenyan runners as untouchable super humans.

In his new book TRAIN HARD, WIN EASY (Track and Field News Press) Toby Tanser, a top English road runner, answers many of the common questions about the dominant Kenyan running corp.

Toby lived and trained in Kenya for five months. He recorded his observations and talked with many of the top runners and coaches, yet he did not originally plan on writing a book. After being "inundated with so many questions" from those anxious to know more, he wound up putting the book together.

This book is broken into two sections. The first describes running in Kenya, with an emphasis on typical training methods, the normal Kenyan diet, and some theories on what's behind their success.

The second section profiles many of top runners and coaches past and present. It is in this section that the mystery desolves and we discover the individuality of each runner. Personalities, training regimines and backgrounds differ greatly from one runner to the next. We discover the human side of the running legonds that the western press has spent so little time investigating.

While reading this book I found myself fanticising about living in the Kenyan highlands and training two or three times a day on the characteristic red dirt roads and trails. (Truely a fantasy for a runner like me!) The descriptions of Kenyan training camps, where dozens of runners do nothing but eat, sleep and train together, give some insight into the single-minded fanaticism that builds so many champions. It also becomes clear that the real reason the Kenyans compete so well is plain old hard work. They believe they will win races because they know they work harder in training than their competition. They have to just to compete with other runners in their homeland.

As with most publications produced by Track and Field News, there is a good deal of individual and national statistical information presented. Some readers may see this as so much statistical trivia. Others will find it a treasure trove of information.

The real substance in this book is the colorful description of the runners, coaches and countryside. This will provide great entertainment and keep the reader entranced. It may force some to take a closer look at the way they approach running, and it might give others notions of boarding an airplane to visit the legondary Rift Valley.

Toby Tanser may not have envisioned writing this book when he made his trek to Kenya, but he certainly has writen a winner. This book is a must read!

 

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SOLO

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By Chuck Kraft

 

So my friend said to me upon returning from a business trip to Charlotte, "Boy Chuck, you would have been in heaven. I have never seen so many joggers in my life. They were everywhere."

For some reason, although I knew that he meant no harm, his reference to "they" as joggers annoyed me. I wanted to explain to him that "they" probably for the most part considered themselves runners, not joggers. Further I would have tried to get him to understand the notion that jogging is a phase. Running is the sport. Obviously because his statement was innocuous, I didn't say a thing and listened as he told me how much he enjoyed his trip. But the misnomer still left me feeling a bit flustered for the rest of the day.

My home is in a small Ohio city, sandwiched between two larger metro areas. I know something about other parts of the country having lived many places and traveled to quite a few more. My passion is running, and in that endeavor, I pretty much pursue it alone simply because of the place I choose to call home. My part of the world is not San Diego, or Phoenix, or Boston or Charlotte for that matter. Here, sometimes the conception of a no smoking section in a restaurant is the table without an ashtray. Bicycle lanes many times are barely the width of a bike tire and poorly maintained. When it comes to the fitness boom, it seems that my home town has been spared the brunt of the explosion. But that really doesn't bother me much, because I know that the experience of the run is not just about being fit and able to go until no end. Many times the rewards are better gained in solitude and in out of the way places.

I contend that aside from actually making the conscious decision to begin the life of a runner, one of the biggest events in the maturing process is the period when the athlete emerges and gains the confidence to tell their world that they possess a new and important interest. Letting others know that along with being known as a parent; a coworker ; a good person; they also want to be viewed as an athlete which runs. Once this word is out, many boundaries within the runner fall, regardless of the distance the word travels.

Much of what is assumed by others about the running lifestyle is built upon misinformed judgments. Humans by nature are judgmental. Runners are judged. Some see the runner as an example. Some inquire about the sport. Many feel compelled to explain why they do not run, or walk, or go to the gym or do anything. Few will ask the runner the real reasons for the run. What motivates some to pursue the sport with what seems to outsiders an almost religious zeal?

I do not possess a broad range of words. It is beyond my expression to describe to others that the beauty in the act of running is not solely related to health. Beyond that, way beyond that, the real dignity lies in the simple purity of thought and naturalness of movement which the running motion provides. The Zen lies in the subtle complexities and self discovery in which anyone can indulge simply by setting the time aside to pursue the life of a runner.

Like comparing love and lust, lust fades quickly. Love lasts, with much work. The love for the run lasts. . . with similar work.

 

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INJURED RUNNER'S TAKE HEART

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What follows is an excerpt from a letter from one of our readers. Perhaps it will provide some hope for those who are recovering from a serious injury:

...I just recently was able to increase my daily run to that distance, thanks, unexpectedly, to a broken leg I suffered this last April 1. After I broke my fibula playing rollerblade hockey in Lansing, Michigan, I was in various cumbersome casts until the end of May. In the meantime, my husband and I moved to Washington and I began taking slow walks to strengthen my shrivelled, unsightly leg. It felt so GOOD to be moving again! I have always considered myself a runner, but had never really advanced past the three-mile mark. As my leg strengthened, I began to run more and harder and to feel better and better. I think I was able to do so much because I could so obviously feel my "bad" leg getting stronger and stronger. One morning, I broke my record and ran five miles. I was elated that it felt like I was no longer fighting to finish. I had hit and smashed a wall. I ran through the pain and ran WITH my body, instead of running to my finish line. I have kept this up now for about a month... every day... and both of my legs, my lungs, my arms, feel stronger than they ever have. I feel more alive than ever and more confident/strong/powerful/balanced. Running is the only thing for me that calms my nerves and centers me. Now that I have crossed what I think is an important barrier, that is even more true.

- Kristy Gledhill

 

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WEB SITES OF INTEREST

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*Cincinnati Running*

 

The Cincinnati Running Spot is dedicated to running and racing in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. The page includes an extensive running calendar, race results, training tips, and some pretty nifty running calculators.

<http://members.aol.com/runspot1>

 

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ODDS AND ENDS

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*Eugene Gossip*

Sylvia Mosqueda is back in town and training with guidance from Kathy Bellamy. Kathy trains a swarm of recreational racers and was a pretty great runner in her prime. Another new addition to Eugene is Lynn Nelson. She just bought a house near the Amazon trail. Lynn is training with coach Mike Manley.

 

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RUNNER'S NICHE IS ON THE WEB!

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Pass the address on to your friends!

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