Tag: Running USA

RELEASING THE ATHLETE WITHIN

     Trends come and go, but despite a balky economy running events throughout the country have continued to experience a wave of women participants as the overall numbers in the sport show steady improvement year to year. According to Running USA, women filled 53% of event fields in 2010, men only 47%, a sea-change from the statistics found in the early years of the first running boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

     Notwithstanding this participation boom, and despite the fact that the world’s best runners have continued to produce faster and faster times at the tip of the running spear, there has been no echo boom in terms of competitive improvement in the everyday runner.  Participation alone has become the mantra of the masses.  

But as I found out when my wife Toya began coaching local runners in San Diego this year after receiving her ACE-certification in personal training and exercise science certification from UCSD, there are still runners who have an old-school desire to seek out their limits and discover what literary critic Harold Bloom calls “the difficult pleasure”.

     A mid-30’s marathoner with a demanding full-time job, Jesu Claridad was in many statistical ways today’s typical female runner.  She had run seven marathons with a PR of 4:50. Then she met Toya. (more…)

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BILL RODGERS – ROUND JAMAICA POND

Winter at Jamaico Pond
Winter at Jamaica Pond

Our breath emerged in lung-heated plumes, our footfalls as soft crunches muted by freshly fallen snow.  January 6, 1982, out on a 10 mile run with Bill Rodgers, long-time king of the American roads.

From his eponymous store in Boston’s  Cleveland Circle to Jamaica Pond, around and back was perhaps the training loop Bill had run more often than any other in his career.  I’m sure he could well have run it blind-folded, such was the comfort and familiarity of those now-wintered miles.

Pleased to be back into routine following the holidays, Bill admitted to getting in four solid 120 — 140 mile weeks of training through December, including a couple sharpening track workouts as he prepped for the following weekend’s Orange Bowl 10K in Florida.  As it turned out Bill would run his road PR of 28:15 in Miami behind Alberto Salazar (28:03) and Greg Meyer (28:09).

While lapping the 1.5 miles of Jamaica Pond three times, Bill and I fell into our traditional roles, me peppering him with questions, and he as the modest responder.  As always, I carried a cassette recorder to tape our conversation for a later broadcast on my Runner’s Digest radio show. With the crunch of our footfalls as a backdrop, I asked what had he learned in 1981, given that it was the first year in seven years that he hadn’t won either the Boston or New York City Marathons.

“Even though I didn’t win Boston and didn’t even run New York City, I was pleased overall with my year,” Bill said amidst the easy pace.  “I got third at Boston in 2:10, but I began my season a lot earlier than in the past.  I ran Houston in January and Tokyo after that. So by the time I reached the end of the year, I learned that I can’t run 35 races a year anymore.”

Third at Boston Marathon 1981 (Matthew Muise Photograhy)
Third at Boston Marathon 1981
(Matthew Muise Photograhy)

Imagine one of today’s top marathoners running 35 road races in a calendar year? Times were different, and runners like Bill were still in the blossoming stages of the money era in running, anxious to take full advantage of even modest opportunities.

I bring up my old run with Bill because these past two days I’ve been in Chicago attending a Running USA Board of Directors meeting, and I wanted to know from someone who had to fend totally for himself as a runner what an organization like RUSA might be able to do for today’s athletes?  (more…)

LET’S MOVE NOT MOVING ENOUGH?

    

      According to the blog Health Affairs, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move anti-obesity campaign has become increasingly imbalanced since its launch in February 2010, with exercise losing its standing when compared to dietary considerations – Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ Is Losing Its Footing. 

     The key finding, as pointed out by Running USA’s Ryan Lamppa, is that “as the program evolved, the focus turned to caloric intake and not expenditure.”  In studying the coverage of the Let’s Move program, Health Affairs was “unable to find much evidence about implementing the exercise parts of the Let’s Move initiative. This is particularly relevant because of the scaling back and cancellation of physical education classes due to budget cuts.”

     Health Affairs points out that in 2006, only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools, and 2.1 percent of high schools provided the minimum level of weekly physical activity as recommended by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (150 minutes per week for elementary-school-aged children and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students). (more…)

AYSO SHOWS RUNNING THE ROAD AHEAD

     American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) registration signs have sprouted up all over San Diego County roads like summer mums.  So, as Running USA, Road Runners Club of America, and USATF continue to discuss, develop, and implement kid’s initiatives to draw more children into the running fold, AYSO offers a proven map of success from which to construct the road ahead. (more…)

A RUNNING USA RACING INITIATIVE?

     A year and a half after conducting a Town Hall meeting at their 2010 industry conference focused on the obesity epidemic, Running USA has yet to put in place a children’s initiative that would either compliment or coordinate with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move, NFL’s Play 60, or NBA’s Get Fit initiatives.  Though a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been floated to create a joint RUSA, USATF Foundation, RRCA initiative, to date, no consensus has been reached on implementing that, or any other such program. 

     It is classic running world paralysis, underscoring the deep divisions inherent in this most individual and turf-oriented of sports.  As RUSA President Virginia Brophy Achman of Minnesota has said, “While it is great that we all have thoughts and opinions, and I do embrace diverse perspectives, at some point we have to build consensus and move forward. “

     She is absolutely right.  Yet the passions in the sport run strong. And while that is a good thing, the existential division between road running and its default national governing body, USATF – which, given the state of that organization, shows no signs of changing – has led to a deeply rooted local event orientation, which in turn has made cross-event promotion and consensus an elusive target.

     This coming Tuesday another teleconference among RUSA board members will again broach the subject in an attempt to kick start a process which is quickly moving away from a sport whose mission and structure, at least on the surface, is perhaps best suited to address the growing national problem.  (more…)