Sunday, December 31, 2006

2005 Total USA Marathon Finishers

2005 saw a record number of marathon finishes in the USA, with a 5.9% growth in the number of marathon finishers from 2004 to 2005. More than 382,000 marathon finishing times were recorded in the USA in 2005 - an increase from more than 361,000 finishes in 2004. The number of male finishers increased by 5.1%, while the number of female finishers grew by 7.6%, narrowing the gender gap to 60% men and 40% women. In total, we know of 314 marathons that took place in the USA in 2005, up from an estimated 302 in 2004.

2005 Largest USA Marathons

Both New York and Chicago did not increase their registration limits in 2005 and so continued with their respective ranking as number one and two marathons in the USA. The LA Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon each added more than 2,500 finishers - and the Nike 26.2 (which can't quite decide if it's a women's race or not) nearly doubled in size. Shaking up the top 25 rankings was the New Las Vegas Marathon, which as an inaugural event, debuted at number 8 and just missed the record for an inaugural event which was set by the Rock N Roll Arizona Marathon in 2004. In total, the country's 25 largest marathons, accounted for more than 70% of total marathon finishes in the USA in 2005. Theses statistics come from

Friday, December 29, 2006

From the Plains of Greece We Come

by Bob Schwartz

Just say the word with me. "M-a-r-a-t-h-o-n." To each of us it carries with it a certain emotion. Perhaps euphoria (or is that delirium) of completion or admission that once was, quite frankly, more than enough. Or maybe the bliss of recognizing that your racing distance goes no further than a 10K and the only time you want to hit the wall is when you accidentally exit from the wrong side of the bed.

But no one can deny that the surge in popularity of the marathon race has dramatically impacted upon the number of times the most inane question is asked by the non-runner. You know the one you've patiently responded to countless times with the answer that "It'll be 26.2 miles - - the same distance as the last one I ran" as your unathletic inquisitor responds, "Well what are the odds that would happen! Exact same length huh? Go figure!"

Though many of us know what it's like to run a marathon, not all of us know the history behind it. Perhaps you know that it has something to with a Greek battle but maybe you don't have more knowledge than it might have been Phi Kappa Delta versus Sigma Nu. Well I'm here to change all that. I'm the history professor in the microfleece tights and the reflective pullover. Let's begin today's lesson:

Legend has it that the first famous long distance runner (well before endorsement deals with shoe companies and guaranteed race appearance fees) emerged from the plains of Marathon, Greece in 490 BC.

After the Athenians had defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon (which has a better ring than, say, the Battle of Dhidhimotikhonopolis. You'd be hard pressed to get that on a race T-shirt) the Greek warrior Pheidippides was chosen to bring the news of the great victory to the citizens of Athens. Problem was the city was many, many miles off in the distance and the invention of the automobile or any form of mass transit was still a few years away.

So, young Pheidippides began running the approximately 26 miles from Marathon to Athens without the advantage of a big carbo-loading pasta dinner the night before. He also ran without the benefit of aid stations, course volunteers, energy bars, bands playing music or cheering spectators yelling, "You're looking great!" He also did not have advantage of air-cushioned shoes, polyester shorts or race directors at the finish line saying, "Here comes Mr. Pheidippides from Athens. Occupation is courier. Lets give him a nice round of applause!"

Pheidippides also fell victim to a common training blunder of modern runners. Apparently he'd recently completed, in two days, a little jaunt of 150 miles to Sparta from Marathon in the effort to obtain some military assistance. Clearly, he'd failed to read the overtraining section from Herodotus' Book on Running or he was simply trying to set a PR for a weekly mileage total.
Fact is, because of his recent ultra-event and his ongoing day job of warrior, he didn't allow himself sufficient rest prior to having to embark on his own marathon. (Of course he had the better excuse of not actually knowing someone had pre-registered him for the race.) He hit the proverbial wall around the large sign that read, "Six miles to Athens," and, tragically, he succumbed to exhaustion on the outskirts of the city.

But all was not entirely lost as, in his last gasping and panting breath, he heroically uttered those final words of, "Rejoice, we conquer! Got any sports drink?"

Tragically, it was then that the rigors of the marathon conquered him. For his tremendous effort he would become famous throughout the land. (Truth be known, Greek rumor has it that Pheidippides ran much farther than was necessary. Seems he got turned around slightly and despite not having the benefit of an AAA TripTik, he chose to be the initiator of that time honored male tradition - - refusing to ask for directions. Then again, what challenge would a marathon be if Athens were really only 7 ½ miles away.)

His legacy spawned the inclusion of the marathon race when the Olympics were inaugurated in Greece in 1896. Unfortunately, none of the 25 entrants seemed to have gained any lesson from the calamitous outcome of Pheidippides. The runners had pretty much no idea of what they were about to experience. A first time marathoner encumbered with a healthy dose of naivete is often not an attractive site.

The participants all struggled to get to the finish line, and only nine actually completed the race. Due to their fatigue at the end, only four were even able to remember their names, and three of them were delirious enough to jump into the Olympic pool thinking their next event was Synchronized Swimming. The good news was, in their derangement, they picked up a bronze medal for their impromptu pool performance.

As for the gold medallist in the inaugural Olympic Marathon, the story is that a local Greek peasant named Spiridon Louis entered the Olympic Stadium first and slowly ran toward the finish line that was in front of the King's throne. (However, until I see actual photographs of the finish I still believe that it was a Kenyan that won.) Allegedly he was covered with dust and running in tattered bedraggled worn sandals (state of the art though). He would cross the finish line (in 2 hours 55 minutes 10 seconds for 40km) and his dazed smile was for realizing he'd now qualified for the Boston Marathon.

His life would change forever. Everlasting glory was bestowed upon him (once he passed the rigorous drug-screening laboratory) as the host country went ecstatic. He was given 25,000 francs (perhaps thereby becoming the first athlete to lose his amateur status) and was finally given permission by his future father-in-law to marry his longtime sweetheart (purportedly a bronze medalist in the badminton competition). Ah, the romance of running.

At the 1908 Olympics in London, the marathon distance was changed from 24.85 to 26 miles to cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium. You may then wonder where did that lovely 385 yards get tacked on. It was added so the race could finish in front of King Edward's VII's royal box. Thus, the present 26.2-mile distance. And many a present day marathoner wishes Windsor Castle were just a tad bit nearer to the King's box when they find themselves doing the merciless march over the last mile of a marathon.

With its rising popularity, marathoners all have their unique stories about their races. I've been know to tell the one where I had a severe calf cramp from two miles on; encountered gale force winds of sixty miles per hour in whichever direction the run was heading; struggled through hail, snow, thunderstorms and locusts at various times during the race; had a body temperature of 103 degrees and had just gotten over walking pneumonia; my feet were bleeding from blisters halfway through the race; there were no aid stations as the volunteers didn't show; I couldn't see my split times because my contacts popped out at mile three; I had Montezuma's Revenge requiring twenty two bathroom breaks and the run was dramatically uphill at all times. Yet, despite all these obstacles, I persevered in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity and set my PR by 6 minutes. It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

If any other runner tells you a similar seemingly implausible story - - well, you just nod your head approvingly because you weren't there. For no matter what level of adversity a marathoner encountered, they did indeed achieve something that will change them forever.
Of course not in the manner of Pheidippides and how his marathon tragically altered things. Imagine if only he'd said, "Hey you Deiopholese, I've got a bunion. How's about you running back to Athens to tell them the good news of our victory!"

But he didn't and, as they say, the rest is history.

This story and more in Bob Schwartz's New book: I Run, Therefore I Am - NUTS!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Running with a cold

Many people continue their training if they catch a cold or ‘flu. The danger is weakening your body further when it is already stressed by fighting the infection. I definitely advise you not to try and do your long run if you have a bad cold or ‘flu.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Remember This...

Don't let people who look like serious runners intimidate you. Many people look like they are about to race for a gold medal at the Olympics. But don't get caught in that place of thinking that everyone looks so strong and fit. Looks mean nothing. Only your own inner determination to do your best gets you to the finish line. This is your race.

Run from your heart! Do not get so caught up in trying to beat a certain time that you lose out on the truly amazing experience of running a marathon. It is a gift to run a marathon so drink it in and enjoy every minute of it. Also, consider running for your favorite charity! It will make you stronger. No matter what your time, this will surely be one of the best days of your life. Have an amazing run! Jonathan Roche

Friday, December 15, 2006


Use the holiday season to set goals.

Use the holiday season to set goals in different areas of your training: focus on strength and flexibility or other forms cross-training.

Don't be afraid to take a break from running every once in a while.

Don't be afraid to take a break from running every once in a while. As long as you maintain fitness and the right mindset, you'll come back an even stronger runner!

Running enhances mood and productivity.

Running enhances mood and productivity, so morning runs can help you to function better throughout the day.

Combine cross-training with running to maximize running fitness.

Combine cross-training with running to maximize running fitness with lower actual mileage. You can substitute 25 to 30 percent of your weekly "mileage" with cross-training.

Hit the beach for a workout that will strength your legs and incinerate

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Where To Run

By Josh Clark

Much of the beauty and appeal of running lie with the simple fact that you can do it anywhere and anytime. No matter whether you're a city dweller or a veritable hermit hundreds of miles from civilization, your exercise space is only as far away as the nearest doorway.

Particularly as a beginner, though, you should seek out a place where you can relax and be at ease, where the scenery will hold your attention and take your mind away from what your body is up to. When it is convenient, go for pastoral; the calmer the better. Even the busiest cities have parks and waterways that make for carefree running.

Do your best to stay off the pavement, or you may find your legs punishing you with shin splints If there's no way around it, at least stick with asphalt instead of concrete; it's softer and more forgiving. Trouble is, this may often mean running along the shoulder of a road. If that's the case, be very careful and run defensively.

Dirt paths or grass, though, are ideal surfaces firm enough to give you sure footing but soft enough to offer some shock absorption. A special bonus is that dirt paths often come packaged with forests, countryside and other assorted natural scenery. The aesthetics, as well as the terrain, are in your favor.

Less aesthetically interesting is the track. Many new runners seem to think that that big oval behind the local high school is the defacto place to run. In fact, you really never have to go there at all -- at least not until you begin doing speedwork, and you don't have to worry about that for a while yet. It can be monotonous going in a single short loop over and over and over again. Find somewhere more interesting and more relaxing, and make it your own.

Running the roads and paths of your neighborhood can be a wonderful way to see your community from a new vantage point. Explore and enjoy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Walk Breaks?

Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don't slow down at the end of a long run. Thousands of time-goal-oriented veterans have improved by 10, 20, 30 minutes and more in marathons by taking walk breaks early and often in their goal races. You can easily spot these folks. They're the ones who are picking up speed during the last two to six miles when everyone else is slowing down.

The mental benefit: breaking 26 miles into segments, which you know you can do Even sub-three hour marathoners continue to take their walk breaks to the end. One of them explained it this way: "Instead of thinking at 20 miles I had six more gut-wretching miles to go, I was saying to myself one more mile until my break.' Even when it was tough, I always felt I could go one more mile.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Do you have the long run blues?

Everyone has a bad long run. These tough runs teach you how to deal with tough portions of the marathon itself. Try running in a group. It will help you get through tough times because others will be there to help motivate you. Also, by helping others through their tough times, you receive positive internal rewards. Keep up the good work, and as usual...let me know if you have any questions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The point is this: Your body won't get used to running long distances, unless it has run those distances on a regular basis. But, the body needs rest between those runs, which is why we suggest no more than two long runs per week and moderate distance on the other days. At the beginning of your training program, those long runs could be 6 miles each. Then, as the weeks go by, gradually increase them. Perhaps week two would see the long runs as 6 & 8 miles, week three 7 & 9, week four: 7 & 10, etc. Gradually increase these until your two runs are closer to 12 and 18 miles. At this point you have built an excellent base. from

Monday, December 04, 2006

Record Keeping

If you don't already do so, keep a training log. Use a notebook, calendar, running log, etc. to record at a minimum, the following information: miles run, total time run, and shoe model worn. Records can also be kept on resting heart-rate, weather conditions, running route, your perceived exertion level, and much more.

The central reasons for keeping a log are three-fold. First, the log provides a history of your running, crucial to finding the possible cause of a running injury. Second, reviewing a running log can help determine the training methods that have been the most effective in the past regarding your best race performances. Finally, keeping a log is highly motivating, as few runners like to leave too many black spaces! However, do not become compulsive about your running just to "fill in the blanks" or to reach a specific weekly mileage total. I recommend also keeping a shoe mileage chart. By keeping a cumulative mileage total for each pair of the shoes you own, it is easy to determine when it's time to purchase a new pair.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I know, I know.... It's been a long time. In my defence, the holidays have been crazy. I'm sure you can relate. Well, I will keep the articles coming, so keep checking in. Thanks, and keep on keepin' on with the marathon training.
Now that you’ve made the commitment to run this year’s race, it’s probably time to purchase a new pair of running shoes. “There’s plenty of tread remaining” you say while looking at the bottom of your current pair. But running shoes are different from tires! The part of the shoe you can’t see, the midsole, provides the cushioning and support and breaks down after about 350 miles and offers little protection after that. Many running injuries can be traced to using shoes that are either too old or those that don’t match your biomechanical needs. Here are some tips for purchasing and caring for running shoes.

Purchase shoes from a specialty running store as their staff have the expertise to outfit you with the correct brand/style based on your specific foot type, foot strike, and stride pattern.

Don’t wait until race weekend to make that purchase as shoes need a break-in period of at least 20 miles; otherwise you may find yourself in medical tent for the treatment of blisters or bruised feet.

Purchase shoes later in the day when your feet have swelled to their maximum size.

To insure an accurate and comfortable fit, bring the socks you use to the store when trying on running shoes. Synthetic blend socks (brands such as Coolmax, Nike’s Dry-FIT) rather than cotton are the best in keeping your feet dry and blister-free.

Be sure that there is about ½ inch of space (a thumb’s width) between your longest toe and the front of the shoe.

To avoid feet that feel numb or tingly, tie your shoes securely but not too tight.

To conserve their life, use running shoes only for running. After their retirement, their useful life can be extended for knocking around town, washing the car, gardening, etc.

Do not machine wash or dry your shoes. Rather handwash them with soap and water or commercial products.

When your shoes become wet, stuff bundled up newspaper inside to accelerate drying time. You may even want to consider purchasing a second pair to use while your other pair is drying.
By Art Liberman