Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lessons from the Cheetah

Photos I took in Kenya last summer.
The New York Times recently posted an article titled
What Runners Can Learn from Cheetahs by Gretchen Reynolds and author of the book The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer. In is she wants to explore the biomechanics of cheetahs running to help improve the humans mechanics of running. After all the cheetah has been clocked at 65 miles per hour and the fastest human, Usain Bolt, has only been clocked at 28 mph. 
Sorry Usain, you are not that fast after all!
She writes about some scientists in England who compared the running of the cheetah to a similarly speedy animal,  the greyhound whose body mass and running form are similar.
Both animals employ a running form known as the rotary gallop. Their legs churn in a circular motion, the animal’s back bowing and its hind legs reaching almost past its ears at full stride.
Up until about 40 mph, both animals are similar in stride, but then the cheetah finds another gear. They discovered that when finding this faster gear,
 ...their leg turnover rate spurted and their pace dramatically increased. They began bringing their legs around faster and faster, their strides lengthening, even as the frequency of their strides increased. The greyhounds, on the other hand, maintained a fairly even stride frequency throughout their entire run.
They also discovered that,
 The cheetahs also hit the force plates differently from the greyhounds, their paws remaining on the ground slightly longer — an action that presumably allows the legs to absorb more of the forces generated by the pounding stride.
This is all very interesting, but how do you draw lessons from this to teach human runners to run faster, after all we are not really built like greyhounds and cheetahs, and obviously we only use two legs to run. So they come up with this:
The lessons for human runners are somewhat abstract, since we have only two legs and, with rare exceptions, cannot curl them up past our ears, as cheetahs and greyhounds do. “The cheetah’s back functions as an extension of its hind legs,” Dr. Wilson points out, its spine coiling and extending with each stride, as ours cannot. But there are tips we can glean from the cheetah. The speed with which a creature brings its leg back around into position appears to be one of the main determinants of speed, Dr. Wilson says. The faster you reposition the leg, the faster you’ll move. But swift leg turnover requires power. “Compared to the greyhound, the cheetah has bulky upper legs,” Dr. Wilson says. Its powerful thigh muscles allow its legs to pump more rapidly than the spindly greyhound’s can. So strengthen your thighs. And perhaps invest in lightweight racing shoes. “Having less weight in the lower portion of the leg aids in swift repositioning” of the limb, Dr. Wilson says.

OK the article is entertaining and may contain an element of truth, but like most articles today, you can get more lessons from the comments that readers make and this is where the real fun of this article begins.
First off we learn about another high speed animal that wasn't mentioned in the article, the pronghorn antelope, one reader mentions:I think that the truly remarkable runner is the Pronghorn Antelope, which can run about 45mph for 15 minutes to one hour. Covering 10 miles in 15 minutes is a feat that no other animal can approach. Two difficult problems to solve for this type of high-speed distance running are 1) supplying enough oxygen, and 2) not overheating. Pronghorns have very large lungs and hearts for their size to supply oxygen. Cheetahs do overheat in their short sprints and can't eat what they've caught for up to 30 minutes until their body temperatures return to normal. I don't know why Pronghorns don't overheat.
Of course you have the wise guy commenting too, and these two left me chuckling,
At first I read this as, "what runners can learn from cheetohs" and I was so excited. 
 Wasn't the Segway supposed to make us all fast & nimble?
But the most insightful comments and lessons probably come from the fact that the scientists studied captive cheetahs who rarely felt compelled to run faster the 40 mph.
I think the huge speed differential between captive Cheetahs (40mph) and wild, hunter Cheetahs (65mph), can teach us a lot about our own obesity problems. Why do cultures who supply large amounts of calorie-dense food to people who don't work physically hard for it, inevitably become slower? And fatter?... Athletes begin to decline when they stop being "hungry," which is literally true as well as a metaphor for ambition. Luxury and comfort bring on lesser health and fitness, and in our country this trickles down even to those below the poverty line, who still have no trouble getting high-fat, processed-carbohydrate foods for little money.
In the end, I am not sure if studying the cheetah can really make us faster. We already know to strengthen our legs, wear lighter shoes, and move those legs quicker.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Julia Lucas has some courage!

Julia Lucas may be the heartbreak kid of these 2012 Olympic Track Trials with her 5000m race last night. She took off in the later stages of the race, upping the tempo and giving herself a good sized-lead by the final lap. Unfortunately, her legs starting giving out and she was passed by two runners, but it still looked like she had 3rd place locked up as she hit the final straightaway. Unfortunately with a step left to go the faltering Lucas was passed at the finish line and lost the Olympic position by .04 seconds. Due to the fact that Julia had increased the pace of the field in the final laps, Kim Conley was able to beat the Olympic A standard by .21 of a second. I am sure Julia will be kicking herself for years for how she ran the race. If she kept the pace down she would have earned the Olympic spot due to already having the A standard and if she had not forced the pace then maybe should could have finished more strongly. Even if she had faltered and slowed down sooner, the other two runners would not have sprinted to catch her and even if they passed her, they might not have earned the A standard and she would be gointg to London. As my friend Michael Wade said, "She ran like Pre on Pre's track and finished 4th - also like Pre. Nothing to be ashamed of there." Here are the highlights of that race. Sorry they can't be embedded.  Some people have said it was a stupid race on Julia'a part, but she seems to be a courageous runner to me and it turns out this was not her most courageous run. Check out this 2007 video describing how she ran into a burning building to save two children. Now that is a courageous run!


 Here is Julia, after the race, describing what it felt like to be "running underwater" the last 100 yards.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Purple Runner by Paul Christman

There is a very short list of classic running stories. Once a Runner a novel by John Parker has held the esteemed number one position for years, but there was always the mention of another book The Purple Runner first published in 1983 and written by Paul Christman. I have read and enjoyed Once a Runner and even sold a copy for $250 before it had been reprinted, but I have never had a chance to read The Purple Runnerdue to it long ago being out of print (I will sell a book for a lot, but do not want to spend a lot for an out of print book). The good news is that The Purple Runner is back in print and you are in for a treat if you enjoy reading stories with interesting characters who are involved with the sport of running.

The Purple Runner has always seemed sort of mysterious to me. I had seen ads for it in the back of running magazines in the 1980s, but never had a chance to even remotely find out what the story was about. Well, the story is sort of mysterious too, or at least one character is, that being the title character. The purple runner is a world class running talent who strives to remain anonymous as he speedily trains through the Hampstead Heath in England. Due to his disfigured face, he remains reclusive, but throughout the story my imagination was piqued as to which former American distance runner who died in an automobile accident in the Pacific Northwest could this mysterious runner actually be possibly modeled after. 

Imaginations are free to run wild with this story. Could the reclusive runner venture forth and enter the London Marathon? Could he finish the race in under 2 hours. Remember this story took place in the 1980s when the world record had not seen the recent assault by the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners of the present age. What was once so preposterous is now something that could actually happen. The story leaves you wondering what the purple runner might do as well as who he might be.

Another main character in the story is a Kiwi (New Zealand) female runner. Will she learn the dedication that is required to become a champion runner after a move to England. There is a wily old hard-core 50+ year old runner who trains to break 2:30 in the marathon and a couple of other American runners who also end up running on the Hampstead Heath and who intertwine their lives with the other main characters. 

The book was written by an author well versed in the running sub-culture. The workout times and distances, the races, and the numerous mentions of the the great runners of the 1970s and 1980s add an element of authenticity and delight to the story. I do not want to give away the mysteries of the book. At times, the book sounds like it could have been written recently and at other times you know you are reading a somewhat dated story. None of this detracts from the intricacies of the plot and by the end of the story, all elements start blending together towards the dramatic conclusion making the book extremely difficult to put down until its conclusion. 

Without giving away something that happens in the London Marathon at the end of the story, I am extremely curious if that one bit of action was added to the story during a revision based on an actual event that happened at a later Olympic marathon. All in all it is a satisfying read. One, because I know now what The Purple Runner is about and two, it was an entertaining read right to the dramatic end.

The S.E.R.F. Strap by DonJoy to correct internal hip rotation

I guess I used to sit a lot like this when
I was a kid. It is not a good way to sit!

I am started to try something new with my running, that someone who has a similar biomechanical stride may want to try. I realized post labral tear surgery that my body is still not symmetrical. No matter what the PT shows me to do, I still maintain my same running movement patterns I had prior to surgery. My problem is two-fold according to many doctors: tibial torsion on my left side that has my foot pointed to the side as well as femoral anteversion on the same side that has my femur and knee pointing in to a knock-kneed position. I am told I was probably born this way and you can't change it. I have a hard time believing I had two problems both on only one side. I have noticed that the PT does not help me with the internal rotation of my hip. I started wondering is this a problem I was born with or a compensation for my everted foot because when I point my foot straight, my knee knocks in? I am primarily concerned because the internal rotation of the hip seems to give me a pinching problem where the adductors join the hip, plus the glute medius problems I keep getting when running and I am tired of these problems and just want to run. I am willing to try anything at this point.

I found a strap last week called the DonJoy SERF Strap that is supposed to limit the internal rotation of the hip as you move. I have often wondered if someone could make a product to do that and lo and behold they have.
Developed in conjunction with Dr. Christopher Powers at the University of Southern California, the S.E.R.F. Strap™ is the FIRST patellofemoral brace designed to treat patellofemoral pain stemming from abnormal hip motion(s). The S.E.R.F. Strap™ utilizes a unique 3-point hip-leg anchor to treat patellofemoral pain caused by excessive hip internal rotation, adduction, and/or knee valgus. Made of thin Breathe-O-Prene®, the S.E.R.F. Strap™ is lightweight, breathable, and designed to be worn underneath clothing. The S.E.R.F. Strap™ can be used to control abnormal hip motion during leisure/sport activities and as a training tool in the clinic.

I ordered the DonJoy SERF Strap and tried it out as soon as I got it. I wrapped it around my knee and pulled it tight and wrapped it around my waist. It is a lot of strap, but it wasn't uncomfortable. I ended up doing my longest run since February at 45 minutes. The next day I did 42 minutes. I took a day off and went 49 minutes on a real running route (not just laps around the neighborhood) and then yesterday I jumped into the Mine Falls 5K Trail race just to see what would happen if I ran at a slightly faster pace. First off, I don't get the pinching feeling in my adductors and hip joint after my runs. I think the strap rotates my leg to straighten it out a bit and also pulls my femur out to the side a little also so that it doesn't pinch. It seems like me foot no longer tries to point straight, but goes out to the side, but I think this is good if the knee is tracking straight with the hip because that is the way my body is built. There is a lot of adjusting that my body and muscles have to do. I note that after runs, the muscles around the outside of my hip (or the greater trochanter) are sore and tired, but it is muscles that are sore and not my hip joint for a change. So far the strap is doing something.
Patella Femoral Syndrome can be caused by many thing in the body including muscle weakness, tightness, and/or biomechanics. Depening on the cause of your injury the S.E.R.F strap could help. It basically acts as a cue for you gluteal and hip muscles to fire when they are supposed to. It will not weaken the muscles you are trying to strengthen and can be a good tool to help with proper mechanic at your hip and knee while running and doing your strengthening exercises. (from SERF strap website)
Whether it leads to another injury, I don't know. It doesn't seem to be a permanent thing, but more like a tool to retrain your muscles and stride. I don't even know if I am putting it on correctly or at the correct tension, but it is an interesting experiment. Yes, I notice it as I run, but more-so because it alters my leg movement patterns. It is not really distracting otherwise, more interesting, I would say.

 At the last moment, I decided to run the 5k race just to get moving with the running crowd again. I have done very limited running over the past few months, so I was just hoping to jog through the thing and I figured I would do it between 25-30 minutes. I ended up running my second slowest 5k in 38 years (last Thanksgiving I ran a few seconds slower in a post-surgery turkey trot). I ran to the level of discomfort and kept the same pace throughout the race and finished in 24:25. It actually felt pretty good, despite running about 5 minutes slower than I was doing just 2 years ago with the bad hip. It is a good beginning point to start a slow year long build up to the place where I can run quickly again.

I wished I had this strap before my surgery as I saw one review where someone mentioned it helped with their pain.
I really really really really really liked this! you can wear it underneath clothes and it really truly works! I used mine because I had a labral tear in my hip and I guess the doctor said it would strengthen a muscle that would make my pain go down. It definitely did! (from SERF strap website)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Meet Your Body by Noah Karrasch

After getting some Rolfing done two weeks ago, I noticed some improvements in my posture. The most important thing I wanted from the session was to loosen up my left hip (post surgery) and to work my foot to get my big toe on the ground. Most of the work was on my right side (which was tight and I just didn't know it). The good news was my toe joint and toe were now touching the ground the way they were supposed to or is it my second  toe joint that is no longer pushed down. Anyhow, my foot is in much better alignment and so far is staying that way. After the Rolfing session, I checked online to see if there are any new books written in the past few years related to Rolfing. I discovered a book titled Meet Your Body: CORE Bodywork and Rolfing Tools to Release Bodymindcore by Noah Karrasch. I read some reviews on the book and two things struck me. One the book looks at the body as a set of 21 important hinges and he starts out exercises for the big toe hinge and those were the exercises that got a lot of positive reviews. I thought the book sounded interesting and I wanted to see just what he had for the big toe.

The book is an easy read and it is easy to find what you want if you just want to skim through, which I have done. It is very interesting in how he sees the engineering of the body and how to improve the movement of these hinges. I have only concentrated on the big toe so far and I have done the exercises and together with the Rolfing I feel more powerful and aware of what my big toe is doing. The first MTP joint used to just collapse on me and now I am pushing off it. I am very convinced that the big toe joint plays an important part in the health of your body and running stride and that it is directly related to imbalances in the hip. I find these exercises to be helpful and look forward to moving up the chain. One caveat, the author does tie in emotional experiences into the ill health of bodies. This could be interesting or off-putting to some.

This is the first of three posts of new things I am trying. The next two posts deal with first a convict and then a strap! The good news is I am getting somewhere. Despite 90 degree heat, my last three runs have been for 38, 45, and 42 minutes. It is not much, but it is the longest I have run since February.

Noah Karrasch on the importance of good foot awareness

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wiring up the Kenyans

It seems like Lolo Jones is not the only world class runner being wired up in some fantastical way to help improve performance and avoid injury. If you read Toni Reavis's blog you would note that he is spending time in Kenya these days and hanging around with some of the fastest runners to have ever graced this planet. On the Road to Kenya: The Cattle Dip Loop Toni meets up with the Kenyan marathon team in Iten and explains the technology being tested out on these runners.
Today’s run would also serve as a field test for a new wireless sensor technology developed at the UCLA Wireless Health Institute that holds the promise of re-ordering the level of sophistication that athletes and coaches can bring to their training.  Small accelerometers worn on the laces of each shoe would monitor, record and transmit the stride characteristics of Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang throughout their run.  With this information in hand they and their coaches will be better able to analyze the small asymmetries in ground contact time, back-kick dynamic, pronation and supination during the varied runs in their training regimen. As Pegasus Sports Performance CEO Bill Shea, an interventional radiologist by training, outfitted Wilson and Abel with the sensors and the small cell phone which they will wear to transmit the signal to the internet and onto our computers ...
 Then he gets to witness a short "easy" workout by these Kenyan greats. In Toni's second installment Into Thin Air: Kamarini Stadium Toni visits the track in Iten where the "also rans" are dreaming big. An "also ran" in Kenya may mean you are a world class well-known runner or just a young kid dreaming of becoming a champion. The third installment Poor Weather Forecast for Kenyan Olympic Trials has Toni talking about racing for fast times vs. racing the competition. He also talks about marathon pacers and the saturation of Kenyans in the market.

Toni's latest installment Meet at the Corner Shop: Fartlek into Masai Land has Toni traveling to Ngong a town near Nairobi where world marathon record holder Patrick  Makau trains and gets back to the technology being used with the Kenyans:
Throughout today’s run Makau will be wearing a pair of Pegasus Sports Performance sensors on his shoe laces, and an android cell phone tucked in a belt pouch strapped to the small of his back. With this equipment, we will record and transmit data monitoring Patrick’s cadence, rear kick dynamic, ground contact time, and pronation during the course of his 1:30 workout, which will include the warm up and cool down phases.
We also learn that Makau comes from a different tribe than the majority of top Kenyan runners and has a different build.

But what was also apparent was that Makau’s Kamba tribe body is much different than that of his Kalenjin tribe rivals like Wilson Kipsang, the 2012 London Marathon champion.  Of the 42 tribes in Kenya, perhaps five represent the running talent of the nation. And of those five  the Kalenjin have long been considered the cream of the crop with their longer, thinner legs, and narrower hips making for a more aerodynamic cleaving of the air. 
Makau’s Kamba-built gait rides atop a sturdier base as he is broader across the shoulders and hips, almost resembling a 400-meter power runner rather than the long, lean marathoner we associate with Kenyan athletes.

I am fascinated with Kenya and with the technology that is being tried out on the runners there, so I had a question yesterday for Toni which I left on his blog.
I am enjoying your series on Kenya. What a fascinating place. I was there last summer-although it was not running related. Are they using the data to tweak the strides of these athletes or just testing out the technology. Will the tweaks be workout related (form breaks due to fatigue) or actually trying to alter their form (might not turn out too well)?
Toni was gracious enough to answer and provide more information:

Jim,Initially this is a beta test of the equipment in the harshest of road conditions with the very best athletes. But the runners and their coaches will receive all the data that is collected, and be able to identify and understand where the imbalances may be in their stride mechanics.This data will inform their decisions on drills, workouts, and therapies which might address those imbalances, so that their fitness is better utilized to generate speed without crossing the line into over-use injury. 
For athletes of this caliber, small things can have big consequences. Realize that just a 1% difference over the course of a marathon equates to 2:00. So it is critical that these athletes be as precise as possible as they strive for success. 
One half of the equation is to get as fit as possible, Avoiding injuries is a big part of that quest. The second half of the equation is to transfer that fitness into forward motion as efficiently as possible. The Pegasus sensor technology can be an invaluable tool to achieve both halves of their goals, while making their structure a better implement of their fitness.Make sense?
Well it sounds like an interesting concept: helping the best runners find the nuances in their biomechanics that need adjusting so as to become even better runners. I remember the days before timers were on your watch and you timed your workout by where the big hand and the little hands were on the watch face. Can you imagine the day when instead of runners placing on sports watches and  heart-rate monitors, runners will be wearing devices like these being tested to get the data they need to become better runners and stay injury free. Well, as long as they know what to do with the data! I would have loved something like this to figure out what my wonky stride has been doing all these years and then to see what I could have done to improve my running form rather than running myself into the ground.

Stay tuned to Toni's blog and see how many more installments he writes and then continue reading what he has to say about running. Toni is the voice of running in the U.S. He can be heard commentating on races all the time and has done so for many years. He knows the athletes and the movers and shakers of the sport and he has opinions on many running related topics that are well worth listening to.

Here is an earlier post Toni had made on Pegasus Sports Performance. Here is the website for Pegasus Sports Performance.

As I mentioned, Toni has been reporting on running for a very long time. Here is a picture I snapped of him at the 1976 Falmouth Road Race as he was interviewing Bill Rodgers. I can't tell, but that might that be Bob Hodge behind Toni's massive FlipCam?

Here is a newly published book: Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lolo Jones and her toes!

You hear a lot about Lolo Jones these days and not even coming from her track and field fans. She is one of the true celebrities of the sport. Who can forget her crash in the 2008 Olympic Olympic finals?

Sport Illustrated has a new article called "Wired for Speed" (similar but not the same as this article) in their current issue on Lolo Jones and the technology that she is using to help her get to the London Olympics. I found this passage interesting:
Jones doesn't particularly enjoy reliving the 2008 Olympic final. But she has seen replays of the race, watched her lead foot clip the ninth hurdle and jolt her back from first to seventh place. She cannot be sure what went wrong; it could have been any number of things. But her doctor's theory is that it was an early manifestation of tethered spinal cord syndrome, a congenital neurological disorder that limits the movement of the spinal cord. After Beijing, Jones was hitting hurdles in races more often and experiencing debilitating back pain, which led her to see Dr. Robert Bray, a neurological spine surgeon based in Los Angeles. Bray recognized a telling symptom of the disorder: the loss of position sense in her feet. Essentially, Jones was running without knowing exactly where her toes were. An MRI revealed the condition, and last August, Bray operated on her back.
Good luck to Lolo. I have never heard of tethered spinal cord syndrome, but despite the disorder, it shows the importance of knowing where your feet are on the ground and the importance of your toes while running (and hurdling). Lolo is another Recover Your Stride hero!

Update: Actually I have heard of tethered cord syndrome. I should know better, but I forgot the name. My teen-aged daughter had spinal surgery 2 years ago to remove a cyst in her lower back and is now receiving PT for, "tethered cord syndrome". She is hoping to play field hockey this fall in college. The PT was amazed that she was able to play in high school. She is doing lots of core work now to rewake some of the nerve pathways. I guess that means my daughter is a Recover Your Stride hero too.

Here is a video and article on the movement analysis technology that Lola is using.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guide to the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials

Tomorrow starts the U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. I will do the best I to watch as many of the events as possible. The closest I have been to the trials besides watching on the internet and television is back in 1976 when my high school coach ventured out to the same venue to watch the trials or at the last trials in 2008. I was Omaha, Nebraska at the time watching the U.S. Olympic swimming trials with my daughter and then watching the track trials at night on the hotel television.It looks like television again which is better than the post cards and magazine articles back in the 1970s.

Here is the television schedule for this year's trials. More details of which events are being contested during each broadcast are located here.

Date Time Network
Friday, June 22nd               9-11 p.m. ET                 NBCSN           
Saturday, June 23rd 8-9 p.m. ET/PT NBC
Sunday, June 24th 7-8 p.m. ET/PT NBC
Monday, June 25th 9-11 p.m. ET/PT NBCSN
Thursday, June 28th 9-11 p.m. ET/PT NBCSN
Friday, June 29th 6-8 p.m. ET NBCSN
Saturday, June 30th 9-10 p.m. ET/PT NBC
Sunday, July 1st 7-8 p.m. ET/PT NBC

You can find the schedule of events here. Note these times are Pacific times.

Here are some good articles to get you ready for the trials.

Washington Post article on Alan Webb. The big question is, :"Will Alan be granted a petition to run the 5000 meters in the trials?"

Boston Globe article on Andrew Wheating.

1972 Trials in black and white from The New York Times.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Resetting a tight hip joint

After my final PT session, my left hip tightened up on me again and I was limping around for a couple of days. Then I found this reset for a tight or impinging hip from The Manual Therapist and it seems to work like a charm. It gives a gentle stretch for the muscles around the hip joint, but I think abducting the leg a few times realigns my femur in the hip socket and loosens up my hip capsule. I have the video fixed to start on the hip reset.


There are other "resets" that you can do yourself here. They are basically repeated end-range motions that you don't normally go to. They are also usually opposite motions than what you would normally stretch. He starts with resets for the ankle and goes right up to the neck: ankle, knee, hip, lumbar spine, shoulder, and neck. These should reduce pain and increase movement and you can do them often until they take. Dr. Erson Religioso in the video compares them to The Mulligan Technique mobilizations in that they if they don't work after a few times, then move on to something else. I got this book Self Treatments for Back, Neck and Limbs: A New Approach on Mulligan Mobilizations a couple of years ago, but I can't say that I tried anything in the book that worked like this quick hip one.

Here is the full video starting at the beginning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Graduation Time

It it that time of year. I am graduating. I finished another two months of physical therapy this week, so I am now on my own. When I started PT I was told to stop running. I did and after a lengthy layoff, I started up slowly. First I did 5 minutes runs and then I slowly started adding time. I now know what it feels like to be a Couch to 5K beginning runner. Saturday I ran for 27 minutes and on Sunday I pushed the time envelope a bit more and made it to over 30 minutes. I am starting to be a runner again. However, I am graduating from being a CT5K runner to having another strange ambition. I am going to become a humble Gallowalker! Despite all the PT, my hip muscles are still very tight and undergoing adjusting. Running can still leave my glutes and adductors tight and constricted despite all the strengthening work I have done. As I head out for longer running excursions, I intend to take walking breaks to see if that calms things down and lets me get further away from my house.

Jeff Galloway, Steve Prefontaine, and Jack Bachelor
Jeff Galloway was a Florida Track Club teammate of Frank Shorter and Jack Bachelor who all made the 1972 Olympic 10000m team. Frank would also run run and win the Marathon Gold medal in those same Olympic Games. Jeff then turned from being an Olympian to becoming a successful writer and running coach who advocates taking walking breaks "Gallowalking" during training and races, something that serious marathon racers often scoff at. See the bottom of this page for an interesting recap of the 1972USA Olympic Trials 10000 race and Marathon.

Unfortunately, I have adjusted my expectations for a full recovery and pushed the time back to when I hope to be running strong. I had hoped to be racing this summer, but I see nothing but the Mine Falls Trail series as a goal for some simple faster tempo running this summer. I need to keep healing and getting everything right. I believe it will happen, but I have a lot of muscle tissue that need to work properly and with a body in alignment. Next summer, it will be! I do miss track workouts, but I am no way ready for faster paced running and if I were, I wouldn't be running with the proper form that I am working on.

I am thrilled to see that last week Tyson Gay made his return to sprinting after having the same labral tear surgery that I had. He ran a 10.0 100m race and looked real strong while doing so. The announcers mentioned that he had two hip surgeries. The first was last July weeks before mine, and I heard he had a second one in March, probably for some cleanup work. Here he is in full stride.

Here is part of an exchange that took place on Facebook just today concerning the 1972 Olympic Trials and this picture of the 10000m race:

left to right: Jon Anderson, Jack Bachelor, Charlie Maguire, Greg Fredricks,
Tom Laris, Gerry Lindren, and Frank Shorter
Pete Stein 
This was in Eugene, Oregon ... Tom Laris, who made the team in 1964, was training in Palo Alto, CA and was one of the favorites to make the team ... Frank Shorter and Tom Laris broke away from the pack and it was the two of them and the rest of the others for most of the race ... It was a hot day ... And Tom, who later told me that he had trouble running in the heat, began to fade ... He was eventually overtaken by Jack Bachelor and Jon Anderson ... Jon, whose father was the mayor of Eugene, was a conscienous objector ... He was doing hospital work in Burlingame, California ... He kind of came out of no where to make the team ... I met him while he doing some running on the Hillsborough Golf and Country Club golf course ... He is a good guy

Jon Anderson Must have been in the first few laps... it was about 95. Shorter, Lindgren, Laris, Fredericks, C McGuire, Bachelor, me! I lived a dream that day you guys ... damned lucky!

Jack Fultz-1976 Boston Marathon Champion wrote:  
Belated reply here - this race was only part of the amazing story of the '72 trials. Jeff Galloway gradually moved through the field and got close to his Florida Track Club teammates, Shorter and Bachelor and the three looked to be the team. Jon, being a local favorite to make the team and buoyed by the relentless cheering was closing each lap of the final mile on Bachelor as he was fading in the heat - Galloway having had to leave him behind. Jon caught Bachelor on the final straight away, the crowd going crazy, and tried to pass on the clear inside lane with 50 meters to go. Jack, in a moment of ultimate desperation, threw an elbow (likely unconsciously) and knocked Jon off the track, and edged him out to the finish line. Jack was summarily DQed and Jon was on the Olympic Team

Chapter Two of the story: Bachelor hadn't qualified for the marathon - held on the final day of the Trials back then - but he petitioned for entry into the marathon - with Shorter's, et. al. support and rightly was granted entry. Shorter, Bachelor, Kenny Moore and Galloway brilliantly "conspired" to get Bachelor onto the team by controlling the race throughout. Shorter and Moore burned everyone off who dared run with them and Galloway paced Bachelor through an evenly paced race - they came onto the track for the final 400 meters together and Galloway slowed near the very spot Bachelor had DQed himself in the 10K, allowing Jack to finish 3rd and make the team - so all three Florida Track Club guys made the originally planned.

Footnote: Shorter had already won the 10K, burning off Greg Fredericks devastating kick (which he used to beat Shorter a few weeks earlier in the national championships and break the American Record) by surging relentlessly through the hot race. Brilliant tactic - and too bad for Fredericks....who likely could have kicked with Viren, et. al. and possibly won a medal in Munich. Shorter still finished 5th in Munich - then took that confidence of speed into the marathon on the final day at Munich.

One of the many great "untold" stories of that era. I saw it all.....the 10K from the stands and the marathon finish from the infield (only my second year of marathoning and sick as a dog the week before the race so I dropped out at 24 to get back for the 5K final between Pre and George Young - another fantastic race...and that's another story:)

  • Jon Anderson 1973 Boston Marathon champion Someone wrote a long account of this race that is wrong regarding how I finished and how things developed with Jack B. I was third ... prior to
    the DQ. There was a disqualification of Jack due to the arm he threw
    across me, but prior to the DQ I was third and Jack was 4th, plain and
    simple. I had a clear path on the inside because 1) Jack ran in the
    middle of the lane all the time as a habit, and 2) he was dying in the
    heat and was almost on the white line between lanes 1 and 2.

    3 hours ago ·  · 1

  • Jack Fultz 
    T'was me Jon who posted it - I indicated that you had clear passage in lane 1 (because Jack was in lane 2 or 3, nearly zig-zagging due to fatigue). After knocking you off the track to the inside, I though you jumped back on but ran out of race and finished right behind him - but obviously only because he fouled you (I suspect out of desperation as that's not in his character). Those of us watching knew Jack would be DQed immediately - and they made the announcement I believe within 5 minutes of the finish.

    No question that you were fairly passing him when he hit you. Must be a great memory - that whole race.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The John Akii-Bua Story - An African Tragedy

Here is a feature length video on 1972 Olympic 400m champion John Akii Bua.
At the Munich Olympics of 1972, John Akii Bua, from the impoverished African country of Uganda, powered round the inside lane in the 400m hurdles, past the English favourite, and reigning Olympic Champion David Hemery, to win the gold medal, 10m clear of the field. John Akii Bua had become the first African to win gold in an event under 800 metres. He was also the first man to break the 48 seconds barrier in the 400 metre hurdles, an event so gruelling its nickname is 'The Mankiller'. This is the story about that amazing triumph - and what happened next. David Hemery retired to respectable fame and fortune, later becoming president of the UK's athletics federation. John Akii Bua returned to a Uganda carving the name of its military "President", Idi Amin, into genocidal notoriety. This is a film about the pinnacle of athletic achievement - and the search to discover what followed. 'The John Akii Bua story: An African Tragedy' is the story of one man, and of Africa itself; its glory, potential - and tragedy.

If you ever get a hold of this classic running book Best Efforts: World Class Runners and Races by Kenny Moore, there is a chapter on John Akii Bua as well as other great runners. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

America's First Female Marathon Runner

Merry Lepper: does that name sound familiar? Most likely it does not, but it should. In my lifetime, I have watched the progress of women in sports and in running. I recall as a kid seeing the Kathrine Switzer-Jock Semple newspaper photographs from the 1967 Boston Marathon. I finished one of my first road races stride for stride with Nina Kuskic. I ran a few minutes of the Falmouth Road Race alongside Joan Benoit Samuelson before she was even a Boston Marathon or Olympic Marathon champion. I have watched the women's marathon drop down to Paula Radcliffe's current time of 2:14:25 while briefly meeting many of the champion women who held the World Record along the way: Joanie, Grete, Ingrid, Tegla, and Catherine. These are women who are recognized by others runners on a first name basis, but who in the world is Merry Lepper?

A small cheap 99 cent ebook Marathon Crasher: The Life and Times of Merry Lepper, the First American Woman to Run a Marathon recently written by David Davis hopes to bring her name back to life. The book is a quick read, more like a lengthy magazine article, but it gives a concise factual account of the history of women in sports and the men who kept them down, particularly paying attention to the Olympics, track events, and the marathon. We are also briefly introduced to the small running crowd in Southern California and a female running friend who encouraged Mary to run. These were times when women got up early in the morning so as not to be seen by neighbors doing something so ridiculous. They both planned to run the 1963 Culver City Marathon and they started just like Roberta Gibb would do later at the Boston Marathon by hiding behind bushes before the start to avoid being seen by race officials.  Once racing, they claimed the use of public roads to avoid being kicked off the course. Her friend, Lyn, dropped out, but Mary finished in a respectable time of 3:37:07.

Mary never finished another marathon. She did start one years later, but did not finish. Eight years later, the Culver City Marathon officially welcomed women and Cheryl Bridges set a World Record of 2:49:40. Cheryl  is the mother of current American superstar Shalane Flanagan. Shalane already has an Olympic 10000 meter bronze medal and is heading to the London Olympics in the Marathon as the US Olympic Marathon Trials Champion.

Author David Davis also wrote the soon to be released Showdown at Shepherd's Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Craze. Here is a recent post that I made on the 1908 Olympic Marathon: Great Article: Dorando Pietri and the Olympic Marathon of 1908.

LA Observed article on Mary Lepper

Amby Burfoot's Runner's World Footloose article on Mary Lepper

Meet another unknown female running pioneer: Exactly 40 years ago Jacqueline Dixon won the first ever all women only road race at the 1972 Crazylegs Mini-marathon in New York City.

Marie-Louise Ledru was a French athlete who has been credited as the first woman to race the now-defined marathon distance of 42.195 km. On September 29, 1918, Ledru reportedly completed the Tour de Paris Marathon in a time of 5 hours and 40 minutes and finished in 38th place.

Violet Piercy was an English long-distance runner who is recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations as having set the first women's world best in the marathon on October 3, 1926 with a time of 3:40:22, Piercy was reported to have run unofficially and her mark was set on the Polytechnic Marathon course between Windsor and London. According to the IAAF, Piercy's mark stood 37 years until Merry Lepper's 3:37:07 performance at the Western Hemisphere Marathon on December 16, 1963.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rolfing and Running: Part 2

In 2005, I was frustrated with my imbalanced running and sore hip and back, so I decided to try what I thought would be "one last resort" to get my body working right. I had first heard about Rolfing in a "scary" 1970s Runner's World article, but after reading more about the process, I decided that it would be the "final" thing I try to get my body in balance and to recover my stride. I realized it would be an expensive experiment, but it sounded very sensible and just what I needed. I went through 11 Rolfing sessions that summer and it was an interesting experience and it all made sense to my body. I felt incredible after each session, but would soon "fall apart" again. I ran well after all that work, but it didn't "take" with my body. I realize now that I had a faulty hip and possibly a labral tear at that time and no therapy short of surgery would have fixed that, so my body went into protective mode and kept up its compensations. I was not blogging at the time, but I did leave some comments on message boards about my Rolfing experience and wrote about it 3 years later in this post: Rolfing Can It Help Your Running? This is how I described Rolfing in that post:
Rolfing sometimes called Structural Integration, is system of soft-tissue manipulation that claims to realign the body. Each body part is aligned on top of the next to improve posture based on the bodies relationship to gravity. It works on the fascia, or connective tissue, to open up space inside the body that has become restricted at different depths. A person goes through 10 one hour of so sessions to work on all levels and areas of the body, head to foot. 
While it may look like a massage, it is not a massage. A Rolfer does not work on the muscles like a massage therapist, or bones like a chiropractor, but rather with the fascia and connecting tissues that surround the muscles and organs like a web-like shrink wrap. Here is an excellent article that describes the fascia and its importance to body health: The Web of Life.
Just beneath your skin lies a complex network of connective tissue called fascia. It helps you move well, stand straight and play hard. Keeping it healthy might be one of the fastest – and most overlooked – ways to improve your health and fitness.
 While my hip has been feeling better post-surgery, things are not just right with my body. I do my PT. I do some Somatics. I took a lot of time off from running and started up slowly again so as not to overdue anything, but I "know" things don't feel right still. My body feels old and sluggish and it feels like something (fascia?) is pulling at many different places. I don't feel like I am moving as I should and I have all sorts of tight spots on my body, plus things aren't lined up correctly. I decided that I needed to kick-start things and wondered whether I should get a deep-tissue massage or try Rolfing again? Frustrated by my PT experience and the lack of the PT looking at the "whole body," I realized I would be doing PT forever and not getting my stride back. 
I shared this video from Jonathan FitzGordon in my last post as Jonathan explained that one of the things that helped his rotated foot (similar to mine) was Rolfing. 
I read more from Jonathon at his Core Walking website and FitzGordon Method blog. I bought two of his books that I am in the process of reading The Exercises of the FitzGordon Method: The Core Collection and Psoas Release Party!: Release Your Body From Chronic Pain and Discomfort and I read some of his more interesting posts. One post that caught my eye was on the one called The Inner Foot and the Inner Thigh (and the Psoas Major) that addressed two of the things I wrote about in my last post: a big toe joint that doesn't touch the ground and tight adductor muscles on that same side. Jonathan wrote back to a question I had about this and said that the position of the pelvis needs to be corrected to get the foot to fall correctly.

As I thought more and more, I decided to pursue this idea of Rolfing further despite the expense. When I had my Rolfing done before I went to Beth at  Piscataqua River Rolfing in Goffstown, NH. I had a good experience there and I know another Gate City Strider, who followed my there that summer and I asked him a few years ago if he felt it was worth it and he was very enthusiastic. I know that once he turned 50, his hard work and dedication and Rolfed body helped him become an Ironman with a fantastic time of around 10:30. I did find a closer Rolfer and decided to get a different set of eyes to view how my body works, so I set up an appointment with Gregg at Bedford Bodyworks

I was very pleased with my Rolfing session. I don't expect miracles at this point, but I got exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to find and get rid of all those tight spots and get my toes back on the ground. I wanted to get the eyes of a Rolfer to find the ways to line up my body again. Gregg was great and a good listener and I enjoyed exchanging ideas and getting his insights. In a complete reversal from my PT, he listened, explained, and did not pretend to be a "know it all" discouraging any other ideas but his own. Within minutes of looking at my posture, he noticed things that he wanted to help change about the way I stood and my posture. What was cool was that he noticed things that I felt, but have not expressed because I don't want to seem like I am always complaining about things and these did not seem that important. He saw that my right hip and waist was very tight and overworked and that that hip (not the one operated on) was tight or locked a bit. He went about lengthening that side.

Rolfing reminds me of working your tissues as if they were like putty and I could feel things releasing and lengthening. He worked on my hips and shoulders and feet and wouldn't you know that when I was done, I was standing better and just the way I wanted. My toes were connected to the ground. My left leg felt strong and positioned better and my right side felt more open. I am still getting used to the feeling, but I hope this gets me back on the way to an improved posture and eventually an improved running stride. I also had work done on my very tight glutes on the left side. Trigger point injections didn't help this and all sorts of PT glute exercises haven't got rid of the tightness that I get. Maybe a better position of my pelvis and leg will get rid of this tight area soon.

Meanwhile today I ran for a little over 20 minutes. I am sticking with my plan of a long buildup with my running. I started with 5 minutes of running for about 5 days, then 10 minutes of running, and then some 15 minute runs. Today I added another 5 minutes. Eventually, it will feel like I am getting a workout in.  I am hoping that this helps retrain my body without over-stressing it. I will have to find a way to pull together some money and go in for another Rolfing session or two to just finalize and get these changes to stick.

Gregg said that Somatics would be a great compliment to the Rolfing and that the PT exercises would work real well together with the changes. He recommended a great side-lying stretch for my right side and advised me to do an Egoscue stretch called the Supine Groin Stretch. I have had experience with Egoscue and while the system seems to work, I did not appreciate the instructor I had years ago. Strangely enough, this post I made called The Egoscue Method: The Good and The Bad seems to be the most viewed post that I have ever made on this blog. The system is good and I will do this stretch to get the release that I need (it is easy enough to do while watching television or reading), but it is a time-consuming method in general. Martha Peterson has a better descriptiion concerning the differenes between Egoscue and Somatics on her Essential Somatics blog. You have to look through the comments to get to her reasoning. It is well worth it.

You can view a  video of testimonials for Bedford Bodyworks here. Gate City Striders will recognize Kerry Litka giving a testimonial to Rolfing.