Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wannabe Wednesday: Someone Whose Genes I did NOT Inherit

This edition of Wannabe Wednesday is about someone whose humility never ceases to amaze me.  How someone could run a sub 3 hour marathon and still not consider himself a good runner is beyond me!  Below is a Q&A I'm honored to post - a Q&A with my Uncle John!  Without further on for aspiring runner heaven: insight and stories from a fabulously fast runner!

Can you share some PRs of yours for various race differences?
Marathon - 2:49:46
1/2 marathon 1:13:42 (93 degrees that day)

6 miles - 32:05 (2nd place road race)
5 miles - 26:12
4 miles - 20:30 (2nd place road race, the winner had just come back from the Olympic trials!)
3 miles - 14:45 (1st place road race!)
5K  - 15:21
3K - 9:06
1 mile (censored - I refuse to embarrass myself, I had no opportunity to run it in college because there were many team mates that were btter)  

Tell us about your best marathon ever - your finish time, which race it was, etc.
I never trained for a marathon.  However, I did enter about 10 of them as workouts, and completed four.  Only once did everything come together, when I was an 18 year old freshman in college in between indoor and outdoor track - March 3rd, 1975.  I hopped in the Philadelphia Road Runners Club marathon and ran great for 23 miles.  Then the last three miles consisted of a walk-jog.  I went from 3rd place to a 6th place finish in a time of 2:49:46.  Not that amazing considering there were only about 40 finishers.  Imagine being in a marathon where only about 50 people are on the starting line.  I would consider this the most surprising run of my life, being it was only my second finish in a marathon.  I later saw in Long Distance Log magazine it was the 11th fastest time run for age 19 and under in the US that year.  That was because no one was running marathons in those days. Today it wouldn't be close to that.  I never ran more than 15 miles in training before it (because I was not training for a marathon!) and really didn't have any idea what kind of time I could run for a whole marathon.  In the same race the year before as a high school senior I ran 3:34:09.  That was my first marathon when my brother picked my up after the race.  I did throw up, but he did not carry me back to his apartment like the legend goes.      

How did you first get into running?  My next door neighbors, the Fanellis, were a family of runners.  The older brother Gary was a star and I wanted to be able to run like him - never did, but training with him through the years helped me immensely! 

Were you a speed demon right off the bat, or did you start out like the rest of us mere mortals and then work your way up? I was dismally slow in sprints (the reason I knew I was never going to be great in my first love - baseball), but had a knack for endurance almost immediately.   

Can you describe your progression and what types of workouts or strategies you felt particularly began making the difference? When I started running there was a common belief that LSD (long slow distance for laymen) was the answer to being good at distance races.  So I did a lot of that.  Later when I got to college I found out there was no such thing as slow anything, including distance.  My first college workout in September 1974 consisted of a 12 mile sprint through North Philadelphia with a bunch of upper class-men stars that were just out for a jog.  We averaged just a little over 6 minute pace for those 12 miles in the heat, and I puked at the end of the run.  That night I went home and said I will never be able to run for a college team.  It was an up and down four years that had a mixture of good and bad times, but in the end I learned that if you want to run fast, you have to train fast.  LSD is not the way to become fast.    

Did you do much cross training or did you just run, run, run?  I normally just did fast distance, or track work.  I hated track work because I stunk at it, but it was very important, so I did it.

How did you learn to pace yourself throughout races and your workouts?  Much of my pacing was just how I felt or who I was with.  There were no running guides to teach you how to train.  

So many running articles recommend that you add sprints or tempo runs to your workout, but it can be very difficult to figure out how much is pushing yourself the right amount to (1) make it through the rest of the workout, (2) not be so sore that you can't workout in the coming days, (3) not get sick after, and (4) not get injured.  With so much to keep you guessing, what do you recommend for people trying to start incorporating more "efforts" into their "workouts"?  Wow what a question, but a good one.  I would say that pushing yourself is very important, unless you never want to improve.  But not getting injured is even more important or your career will end like mine did.  Get to know your body by going easy until you are a more experienced runner, then push yourself gradually until you have achieved new levels in  a realistic time-frame.  Don't let what works for other people be your guideline.  Be glad you have real running shoes to train in to help avoid the injuries.  Look up Nike Waffle Trainers (probably in the Smithsonian Museum by now!).  We thought they were great because Steve Prefontaine's coach invented them - but they were a disgrace and caused many of usirreparable damage.  

Did you typically create your own training schedules for races (and if so - what were some of your staples that you would always like to include, or could you provide a sample idea of what one might look like, etc.) or did you usually follow a published one/hire a coach/etc (and if so which one did you use)?  I did not have any training schedules that went out more than a few days.  It was mostly just how I felt, or what the coach made me do.  It was a different time.  My college coach had a favorite workout - 20 quarters (400 meters these days!!) in 70 seconds each with a quarter jog in-between.  Believe me, you were spent at the end of that one, and I was normally doing the last few in over 75 seconds.  He also had a killer of four 1/2 milers in 2:10 with a quarter jog in-between.  I can still feel the pain from that one!  There were very few big races to look forward to and train for months a head of time.  I wish I could be 30 years younger and be involved with running today, I would have enjoyed tocamaraderie and access advice from those that were better than me.    

What's your favorite type of training run? I always remember in the winter months I would run my 17 mile course with a friend where we ran the first 12 miles at a sensible pace, then always tried to do the last 5 at less than 6 minute pace. For several winters in the late 1970's we were doing this in intense cold and ice covered roads. 

What's your favorite distance to race? 5 miles was the most common road race distance in those days, but I did better in distances between 5 and a half marathon.  I never won a five mile road race, but finished 2nd several times.  I also always wanted to get down to 25 minutes for it, but never even broke 26.  That was a disappointment because it was the distance I would have liked to be the best at.  

Most embarrassing moment that ever happened to you on a runDropping out of the Caeser Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington (I think it was 1975) and my sister and her husband had come out out watch me finish.  I had a spell in 1975 after the surprising marathon time I ran where I was dropping out of races because of mental problems and ended up quitting running for about 9 months before I realized I needed to get back into it.  I'm glad I did.  Unfortunatley I lost my entire sophomore year and led to a less than impressive junior year with my college team.  Luckily by senior year I had made a great comeback.
Are there any conventional "rules of running" that you threw out the window and in retrospect wish you'd obeyed?  I can't think of any, because like I said, running was unpopular.  There were no conventional "rule of running" I knew of, and without the Internet, it's hard to find anything out!  Believe it or not, I was never on the Internet until I was 40!  Imagine life without it now.  I wish I could have a chance to be young and be a runner again in this much more enlightened age of the Internet. 

Can you guys believe he NEVER TRAINED FOR A MARATHON and posted a sub 3:00:00???  So impressive!!!!! Now if only those family genes had been passed down to me....

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fan Fare Friday: Blank Park Zoo's Tortoise Trot

How could my blog be named the Trotting Tortoise and me not give a plug to the upcoming Des Moines, IA Tortoise Trot race?

The 5k will be held June 16th, 2012.  If I weren't traveling so much for work right now I might actually consider registering and flying out there.

Good luck to anyone running it who might happen across my humble little blog!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy National Running Day!

There are a lot of "National [fill in the blank] day" days that you probably didn't know about, like National Pancake Day, National Peanut Butter Lovers Day, National Arbor Day and then some.  But today is National Running Day, and I hope you got a chance to "celebrate" it.

In New York, the New York Road Runners hosted events that included running with coaches and pro athletes.  I hope some of you were able to enjoy similarly special events.  Here at my hotel in Philadelphia I celebrated by heading out for a run along part of Rocky Balboa's famous training route - steps and all - but you'll have to wait for more on that post tomorrow because I forgot to pack my ipod cord, which would allow me to share images with you.  Perhaps tomorrow.

So for now, I'll leave you with a coupon for up to $20 off the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series races.  Click here to register / get the coupon, but do it today because it's only for National Running Day!

[Special shout out / thanks to Jen for passing along - Thanks Jen, you ROCK!!]

Happy National Running Day Everyone :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's Hammer Time!

I recently got a question from a friend and TT reader about help finding the correct running shoes to help with her Hammertoes-ies.  Frankly, I probably have a bit of that MC Hammer action going on myself.  Well, my friend, we're in good company.  Check out the likes of Cameron, Jennifer and Kate to see that you're not alone!  It turns out that many fashionable ladies shoes are not so wonderful for your feet, but I guess most of you could have figured that out after less than a night out on the town in them.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Race recap: American Heart Association Wall Street Run

Last night I ran the American Heart Association's Wall Street 3 mile run, which was yet another step in the right direction to getting me re-energized about running, and for no reason other than it was fun.