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IN THE RUNNING NEWS

Born To Run?...Told Ya So!...NYC Marathon Lessons Learned


Were We (Humans) Born To Run?  Recent empirical research, mounting anecdotal evidence and popular opinion appear to suggest as much. If you missed this New York Times article from a couple weeks ago, please check it out--it’s a great read!  Click here

And speaking of great reads…the new running book by the same name (Born To Run), by Christopher McDougall, is by all accounts I’ve heard/seen, a GREAT read (though I’m sheepish to admit that I HAVEN’T yet read it!).  Make sure it's on your holiday gift wish list.


You Heard it Here First – long time Marathon Dynamics runners (and/or dogged readers of our annual or semi-annual newsletter opuses) may well remember an article I penned two years ago, where I somewhat brashly predicted that in the next couple of years, North American runners (principally U.S) would rise to a such degree of world prominence in the distance running world, that they might even—gasp—challenge the overwhelmingly dominant Africans for supremacy.  Click here for my original article.

Well, with the passing of this year’s NYC Marathon, my controversial prediction seems to have indeed come to pass.  For the first time in 28 years, an American won the NYC Marathon, and 6 of the top 10 (men) finishers were American.  But it doesn’t stop there, on both the men’s and women’s sides, over the past 2 years, at distances from 800m (on the track) up to half marathons and marathons on the road, US distance runners are very much in the mix up front for victories, podium finishes, and top 10 placings.  Rather than roll out a pedantic list of all that American runners have accomplished of late, for those that are interested, I’ll refer you to a recent USA Today article to highlight a few of the more impressive highlights (click here).


In late 2007, when we saw this trend emerging, we cited “good old-fashioned teamwork” as the driving force behind this resurgence, and over the past 2 years, that trend has nothing if not intensified among the ranks of US distance running elites.  Everyone great is running with others who are great, and the support infrastructure that these “super teams” are built on has deepened and broadened considerably in the last 3-4 years.  The benefit of “living the running lifestyle” and the shared sense of purpose, community and motivation, are what drive these young (and some “not so young”) runners to new heights.

The other major trend that has developed over this period is the “rise of the coach” (which of course I’m very happy to see transpire, given that it’s what I’ve chosen to do for a living…lol!).  Never before in distance running history (with the possible exceptions of Arthur Lydiard, and Bill Bowerman) have coaches been elevated to such dizzying heights of celebrity status.  A select few (i.e. Alberto Salazar, Terrence Mahon, Brad Hudson, Dr. Gabriele Rosa) are borderline rock stars at major races these days!  It appears that “coaching matters”…something we’ve always felt very strongly about, but it’s still nice to see the rest of the running world getting so excited about it!


New York Marathon “Ones To Grow On”: For those of us that derive unabashed bliss from watching runners run for 2½hrs straight online, the 2009 New York City Marathon was an eagerly anticipated spectacle.   Though in some ways both the men’s and women’s races did not live up to all the pre-race hype, both were still powerfully riveting dramas to watch unfold, with ultimately unexpected and refreshingly triumphant endings.  Furthermore, despite not setting record times, both races provided lessons for the rest of us who run further back in the pack.

1) “The Old Lion Is Not Dead Yet!” I still love that quote, by one of the most talented, decorated and colourful characters the sport of distance running has ever known—the irrepressible Moroccan middle distance ace Said Aouita (who set multiple world records from 1500m to 5000m in his heyday of the late 80s/early 90s).  He issued that playful decree following a very impressive return to action race very late in his career, after he had been deemed well past his prime, and many distance running pundits and fans had written him off.
Meb WinsWell, in similar fashion, almost NONE of the popular running media, race day commentators, or even “insider elite runner types” who frequent the running discussion groups online,” gave Meb Keflezighi much of a chance at pulling off his stunning victory in NYC.  Though not a spring chicken in the sport, at 34 years old, he’s far from “over the hill” in marathoning terms, but he had endured almost 2 years of very injury-riddled existence.  Just over a year ago he was in such bad shape that he couldn’t get out of bed without help.  He soldiered on, and endured many sub-par performances through 2008 (for a runner who had garnered the marathon silver medal back Athens in 2004), and though he’d been quietly putting together a terrific comeback season (winning the US road running championships at a number of sub marathon distances already in 2009), he was somehow under the radar at the star-studded, heavy-hitter assemblage of talent that graced New York this year.
So his moving triumph, not only over the incredible field of elite marathoners he vanquished, but over the struggle and strife of long term injury and disappointment and doubt that he must have experienced over the past 2 years as he rededicated himself to becoming the best in one of the toughest sports in the world, is all the more amazing.  Furthermore, it’s even more meaningful and inspiring to distance runners like myself who are continually plagued with injury.   His example offers the rest of us hope that even when things look dark, dreary and dire, we may be only a few months away from running success that we barely dreamed possible!

2) “Attack of the Mummies…’er Mommies!”  At one point midway through the women’s race, after the lead back had been whittled down just five runners, with no one else in sight, an astute observation was made by an NBC commentor—that all 5 of the leaders were mothers with at least one child—including eventual race winner, 37 years young Ethiopian Derartu Tulu. (incidentally, the runner in 6th place, Magdalena Levy-Boulet? Also a mom.)
Tulu WinsAs it turns out, MOST of the world’s top ranked women marathoners are mothers…surprised?  Don’t be. Now, we’re not suggesting that any woman who wants to be a great distance runner should rush off and get pregnant. There’d better be a LONG list of other reasons and circumstances ahead of running to help make that decision, of course! (We jest, but it’s actually been widely speculated that a number of eastern bloc European sports federations may have experimented with impregnating their women athletes, based on the above presumption, if you can believe that!)
It’s beyond our scope, scale and intent here to delve into WHY mothers appear to make such disproportionately great marathoners (the age old joke is “after you’ve been through childbirth honey, a marathon is a piece of cake!”…and I’m not entirely convinced there isn’t a lot of truth to that…lol!).  We are merely pointing it out because there are women out there, even active, serious runners, who mistakenly assume that once they become mothers their best running days—at least from a competitive perspective--are behind them.  Which is clearly, emphatically clearly, NOT the case!  Attention all “Mom Runners”…you thought your “fast times” were behind you, didn’t you? No way…not by a long shot!


Speaking of women's running (we seem to be doing that a lot this issue!) Marathon Dynamics coach Bennett Cohen, a.k.a. "The Savvy Runner", is pleased to announce the launch of "Women’s Running Update" -  a FREE weekly online newsletter for smart women runners who want to maximize the benefits they derive from running.  Sign up by contacting Bennett at bennett@womensrunningupdate.com and you’ll receive insider secrets, articles and practical tips that YOU can easily apply to help YOU achieve your objectives for running, fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

 


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