Run for Power

Last week was Thanksgiving – and if you ask any runner what he or she is thankful for, the ability to run will be fairly high on the list. 

So how can a grateful runner pay that blessing forward?   There are several routes you can take.  You can volunteer at a race.  You can invite a friend to go running with you.  You can help a running partner train to set a personal record.

Or if you’re more globally minded, you can help to save the world.

At least, that’s the idea a Lebanese industrial designer named Nadim Inaty proposed this summer to a website called Yanko Design, an online magazine dedicated to introducing innovative concepts in all walks of life.  Inaty’s design was complete with specs and schematics, and the discussion that followed further clarified precisely how runners and cyclists can produce green energy and decrease our collective reliance on fossil fuels.

Yes, it’s ambitious, but the whole notion is actually quite plausible.  Here’s how the Yanko site describes it: “Green Wheel is an exercise machine that transforms kinetic energy produced by the human body into electricity. Multiple machines are connected to a central energy storage unit where electricity can then be supplemented to road lights and traffic lights.”  Essentially, the machine is a large (3 meter diameter) hamster wheel that is powered by humans; it’s not the most flattering exercise invention ever created, but then again, neither is spandex.

Inaty imagines that units could be placed in public spaces – his prototype features grassy rest areas surrounding the wheel - and that users could donate their jogging time in exchange for a place to run.  Have you ever run along the coastline and wished the view could last forever?  Well, if a Green Wheel was parked along the rec trail somewhere, you’d enjoy the same scenic vista throughout your entire run. 

At the very least, a unit would be a step up from the treadmill, which has been antagonizing runners ever since the days of George Jetson.  If your health club installed a few Green Wheels alongside the regular treadmills, wouldn’t you rather pick the one that had some external benefit?  Don’t worry, someone will figure out a way to show your favorite TV program inside the wheel by the time we get there.

Health clubs can make an even more tangible impact if similar technology is incorporated into exercise bikes.  Imagine a spin class full of energetic 30-somethings pumping their legs up and down like crazy, generating small increments of electricity with each pedal stroke.   If nothing else, the power they create will offset all the hot water they’ll use when showering afterwards.

For the concept to succeed, Green Wheels need to be used in large numbers, because the power output is somewhat low.  By Inaty’s calculations, a single unit used for 30 minutes will produce roughly 120 watts – which is enough to light a compact fluorescent bulb for five hours, or to charge 12 mobile phones.

Another necessary component is altruism, in that runners or cyclists will voluntarily contribute their efforts for the greater good – which is where the whole Thanksgiving thing comes back in.  If you’ve been blessed with the ability to run, wouldn’t you appreciate a creative way to leverage that gift for a greater good?  Or if you’re looking for a unique way to get in shape, would this kind of eco-friendly mission be enough to inspire you?

The Earth needs your help.  Get out there and run!

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Big Sur Half Marathon Drug Testing

The tenth presentation of the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay is this Sunday.  Last years race was tainted by the first and fifth place men’s finishers testing positive for banned performance enhancing drugs a few weeks after the race. Ezkyaz Sisay and Christian Hesch were asked to return their prize money but have not.

In order to insure that this doesn’t happen again, the BSIM organization, according to, is instituting drug testing of elite prize winners and masters prize winners to prevent paying any “cheaters”. If the elites ask for confirmation that there will be drug testing the organizers have assured us they will deny it.  We applaud the BSIM for these procedures.

It’s hard to find ways to improve the event, but there are a lot of new surprises for the “regular” runners as well this year. Michelob Ultra will be served again after the race, but the sponsors are also bringing some craft beers as well – Stella Artois and Shock Top. 

Nothing like a cold beer after a half marathon; that is, unless it’s chocolate milk!  Troia Dairy Distributing in Monterey is providing this tasty treat for all runners.  There has been a lot of research lately indicating that chocolate milk is the perfect recovery drink.  

More chocolate:  Ghirardelli has stepped up to be a sponsor of the race for the first time so all the runners should look forward to that as well.  The “VIP’s” and volunteers will be served Starbucks coffee, as they are on board as another new sponsor.

Runners can benefit from a new series of race clinics that are given Saturday at the health and fitness expo at the Monterey Convention Center. Special topics are proper running form, Clif Bar pacing team presentations, an ultra distance running panel, tips for busy runners, and a panel of local experts providing advice on running the Big Sur Half Marathon course.

We are honored to be on a few of the panels. Mike is providing advice on running the course at 11:45 on Saturday and Donald is on the Ultra Running panel at 2:30. Our book, The Running Life, is also for sale at the Big Sur merchandise area for a special expo price of 20% off.  If you buy one and find us we’ll be happy to sign it for you.

All half marathon runners receive a special commemorative 10th year anniversary poster. Certainly this will become a collector’s item.

Technology advances have made possible a new mobile app with maps, directions, places of interest, and a premium package allows runner tracking and live updates for a small fee. You can search iTunes or the Play Store for Big Sur Marathon or Big Sur Events.  The new timing company, South Valley Endurance, will provide live web results and a finish line video.

To accommodate a record of more than 9,000 half marathon runners, besides the Custom House garages (be there before 5:30AM), and Monterey Peninsula College parking lots for shuttles, a new parking location at Del Monte Center (more shuttles), has been added. Shuttles run until 6:30 AM. We recommend these rather than the runner drop off zone on Pacific Street near Monterey City Hall.

We applaud the marathon staff of Chris Balog, Sally Smith, Julie Armstrong, and Susan Love for continually providing the best racing experience for all runners.

Enjoy your taper and we’ll see you on Saturday and Sunday.

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Bring Back the Mile

Look at any list of the top sporting accomplishments of all time, and Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile will be near the very top.  It was the culmination of a quest that captivated the world, and an iconic moment that ultimately transcended sports.  On a blustery spring day at Oxford University’s Iffley Road track, Bannister accomplished a feat that many observers considered physically impossible.
On the 440-yard tracks of the day, the one-mile race and Bannister’s accomplishment had an especially elegant symmetry to it: four laps, one minute per lap.  Races were timed by sweep-arm stopwatches, and a runner on four-minute pace would circle the track in perfect synchronicity with the second hand of the watch.  
The one-mile race lends itself to dramatic execution, much like a four-act play, or a symphony in four movements.  A successful race requires a strong opening, a solid, thoughtful effort through the second lap, and perseverance and determination through the third. The final lap then builds upon these with a final crescendo toward the suspenseful – sometimes tragic, sometimes inspirational - conclusion.
Sadly, despite its elegance and noble history, the mile has never been contested at the Olympics or World Championships.  Instead, we have the 1500 meters.  It’s a strange race where runners start on the far side of the grandstands, and spectators have no sense of the runner’s pace throughout the event.  John Landy, one of the most famous milers in history, has said, “It’s a shame we’re stuck with the 1500m.  There’s nothing graceful about it.  It’s ugly.  It has no elegance. The mile is a vastly better race.”
Through the 1970s, United States high school and college runners raced the mile on 440-yard tracks, but with the advent of 400-meter ovals, most of them now race the 1600m.  (Only one state, Massachusetts, has never officially converted to metric races.) This distance is roughly 99.4% of a mile, falling short by only 7 yards – but it’s also something of an odd distance, lacking the symmetry or cultural resonance of the classic one-mile race.
It may not be coincidence that interest in track has diminished since the mile was phased out over the past 30 years – but a runner named Ryan Lamppa has started a grassroots effort to “Bring Back the Mile”.  Ryan is a Harvard grad and a founding director of the Running USA organization, and his goal is to “return the mile to prominence on the American sports and cultural landscape.”  His goal is to create a national movement, and it’s one that is rapidly gaining momentum in the track community.
The list of supporters and organizations endorsing the campaign is a who’s who in the running and sports world; Sports Illustrated magazine, the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Running Times magazine, Road Runner’s Club of America,, as well as many of America’s best former distance runners including Jim Ryun, Don Bowden, and Marty Liquori. 
The website has mile news, state federation petitions, history, athlete snapshots, all time record lists, and the “I AM THE MILE” engagement page.  They’re also reaching out through social media to spread the enthusiasm for reviving this classic event.
Ryan is from California and is petitioning the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) to replace the 1600m with the mile in high school meets. We’re pulling for him to succeed, and we’d love to start watching one-mile races during the spring track season.  In the meantime, we’ll be wearing our “I AM THE MILE” shirts and doing as much as we can to support his efforts. 

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JUST RUN for Your Children

The University of Michigan Hospital’s recently published results from the annual National Poll on Children’s Health indicates that for the first time ever adults view “not enough exercise” as the biggest health concern for children in their communities.
Number two on the list is the related category “Childhood Obesity”. Numbers three through 10 on the list are: smoking and tobacco use, drug abuse, bullying, stress, alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, internet safety, and child abuse and neglect.
Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the poll says, “exercise offers many more benefits other than weight loss or preventing obesity, such as better attention and learning in school and improved sense of well being.”  We’ll go one step further and say that children’s exercising on a regular basis improves self esteem, body awareness, appreciation for their own health and contributes to lowering the possibility of a child getting involved in ALL of the items in the health concern list.
Most experts agree that it is the joint responsibility of the parents and the schools to promote an active lifestyle among children. How do you effectively teach your children the value of regular physical activity?
Most schools, unfortunately, have budget shortfalls, no Physical Education teachers, and lack of resources to meet their state mandated guidelines of 200 minutes of P.E. time every two weeks for each student. There are competing priorities for school and teacher time and some school administrators feel that inside time is more valuable than outside time.
The Big Sur International Marathon’s JUST RUN program is a FREE program available to all schools in Monterey County.  The program has won so many local and national accolades and educational awards that it is being used by schools in 14 states and 2 foreign countries that have found the program on the internet ( and registered. The program can be implemented by any teacher or any parent in any school; they do not have to be a P.E. specialist.  It can be implemented during, before, or after school.
Research studies on JUST RUN schools in Monterey County indicate that the percentage of students passing the aerobic capacity California Fitnessgram test increase from 56% to 81% when schools implement JUST RUN.  As well, there are associated increases in the other five Fitnessgram measured areas. Even more significant, academic testing scores have increased 2% to 11% in schools adapting the JUST RUN program.
Assessment of children in the program and parents indicate participants are not only getting fitter, but are enjoying the program; 98% of the kids want to do it again the following school year.  JUST RUN also has an associtated nutritional component aptly called JUST TASTE and a good citizenship program called JUST DEEDS.
Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, has been an avid and constant supporter of JUST RUN and has briefed all of the County’s School Superintendents on the program. Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, attended some JUST RUN events in April and his reaction was “Fabulous, fantastic, awesome, magnificant! This program is a program we want all schools in California to embrace because it works. We’re trying to have California kids be healthier because they’ll learn better.”
Forty six of Monterey County’s approximately 110 schools are doing the JUST RUN program. If you are a parent of a child in one of the 64 that are not, you can call the Principal and help get one started.
Contact JUST RUN program administrator Susan Love at 831-625-6226 or for more information.

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Choose Your Heroes Carefully

Unfortunately most of us don’t get surprised when our heroes show character flaws. We no longer express shock or dismay when our heroes fall from grace.   Endurance sports are supposed to be character building, but we certainly have our share of downers lately. 

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced several weeks back that it was banning cyclist Lance Armstrong for life and taking away his record seven Tour de France titles. In a news release, USADA said Armstrong’s decision not to take the charges against him to arbitration triggers a lifetime ban from his sport as well as forfeiture of his Tour victories from 1999 to 2005.

The Chicago Marathon used this indictment to ban Armstrong from running this year’s marathon (October 7th), even though he wasn’t even entered. It was rumored he would run alongside several participants running to raise money for his Livestrong Foundation charity. 

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan got himself in trouble by commenting in a radio interview that when he was younger he had run a "2 hour and 50-something" marathon.

Runners World magazine researched and found that Ryan had finished one marathon, 22 years earlier, in 4 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds. During a follow-up interview he said he had forgotten his actual time and made one up he thought was reasonable.

We’re skeptical of Ryan’s disclaimer, and would like to ask our readers who have run marathons how many remember their first marathon time? It’s not something one easily forgets.

One of our friends commented, “well, the 2 hours and 50-something really meant 2 hours and 121 minutes. It was just a bit of an exaggeration.”

Last month, New Yorker magazine had a detailed article on a 48 year old Michigan Dentist named Kim Litton, who was caught cheating in several marathons.  His usual method is to run over the starting mat that records his chip time electronically, then get a ride close to the finish and run through the finish mat with a smile on his face and whatever time he chooses to run that day.

What makes Dr. Litton special is that he has taken marathon cheating to a whole new level. He even had a website created for a non-existent marathon, made up all the competitor’s names, ages, and times for the entire field, and listed himself, of course, as the winner.  Truly incredible chutzpah for this guy! The article didn’t say if he awarded himself a valuable winner’s prize and trophy.

Using performance enhancing drugs, lying about times, outright cheating, are certainly not character traits of heroes. What motivates people to be “winners” in their own minds at any cost?  We won’t give an opinion on why Ryan would embellish his marathon time or Litton needed to cheat to win age group awards.

Armstrong achieved enormous fame and money, and to his benefit, used that notiriety for public good with his Livestrong foundation. Does this allow him to keep the “hero” title?  Does it absolve him from being a bad character? Does the fact everyone else competing against him was using drugs and he was the best of the drug cheats make him a “winner” because he and his doctors were smarter cheaters?

The running life has taught us to choose our friends and heroes carefully.  Be careful of adding people to your hero and friends list who exaggerate their accomplishments or don’t do it fairly.     

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Every Body Welcome

A frequently-played VISA spot during this year’s Olympic Games features world-class pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva; it describes how she “grew up dreaming of hearing the roar of the crowd as a gymnast … but she grew too tall.”
Apparently once Isinbayeva crested 5 feet, her chances of becoming an Olympic gymnast became rather slim.  Indeed, female all-around champion Gabby Douglas stands a mere 4’11” – and she’s actually tall in comparison to the 4’9” average height of the Chinese women’s team.
Other sports are exclusive on the opposite extreme.  Imagine being a swimmer trying to reach the wall ahead of 6’1” Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps’s 6’7” wingspan.  Basketball players, volleyball players, rowers, and countless other sports filter out hopeful participants through prohibitive size and strength requirements.
And then there’s distance running, which is pretty much open to anyone who wants to try it.
This may sound odd at first, as conventional wisdom usually holds that runners should be small and skinny, but a closer look at world class athletes tells a different story.  Just like recreational plodders, elite runners come in a wide variety of heights, and it’s unlikely that someone’s stature should ever disqualify him or her from competing.
Consider female marathoners.  In the 2000’s the sport was dominated by Kenyan Tegla Loroupe, who stands barely five feet tall and might weigh 90 pounds dripping wet.  However, Loroupe isn’t the world record holder; that honor goes to 5’8” Paula Radcliffe, an indomitable force who represented Great Britain at four Olympic Games.
The men’s marathon record is held by 5’5” Patrick Makau, but for many years it was the property of 6’ Paul Tergat.  The record books of most major marathons will show an even wider range: the shortest champion in the 116-year history of the Boston Marathon is 5’1” Yun Bok Soh of South Korea, who is more than a full foot shorter than the tallest winner, 6’3” Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot, who won the race four times in the last decade.
Last weekend’s men’s 10K gold and silver medals weren’t won by tiny African runners, but by 5’9” Mo Farah of England and 5’11” American Galen Rupp.  The US record holder prior to Rupp was 6’1” Chris Solinsky, whose best 5K time is slower than 6’3” Craig “Buster” Mottram of Australia.  And if Buster ever lined up against America’s best 1500m runners, he’d be two inches shorter than 6’5” Andrew Wheating.  Incidentally, one of Wheating’s 1500m teammates in London is 5’5” Leo Manzano.  Do you still think height makes a difference for speed?
Even over extreme distances, smaller isn’t necessarily better.  One of the brightest talents in ultrarunning is 5’7” Kilian Jornet, but his accomplishments pale in comparison to 6’3” Scott Jurek, who won the brutal Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run a record seven times.
Granted, many world-class distance runners are remarkably skinny: Buster Mottram carries only 160 pounds on his 6’3” frame, and Cheruiyot is even more slender at 150lbs.  Galen Rupp looks like he might snap in half if you hug him forcefully.  However, this is one of those chicken-and-egg scenarios that’s difficult to quantify.  Are they elite runners because they are naturally skinny, or are they skinny because of all the miles they’ve logged to become elite runners?
The answer isn’t that important; what’s more critical to realize is that there’s virtually no body type that’s unsuitable for running.  In other words, don’t worry about what you look like – just get out there and do it!

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Showdown at Shepherd's Bush

It’s not a stretch to say that the marathon is the most historic footrace in the world … and much of that history is almost too strange to be believed.  At this summer’s London Olympics, the marathon returns to the scene of one of the most bizarre stories in the history of the race.
Most folks know the ancient Greek origins of the marathon; very few, however, recognize how pivotal the 1908 London Olympic Games were in cementing the marathon as one of the preeminent athletic pinnacles and cultural touchstones of the 20th Century.  The story is brilliantly told in Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush, a newly released book by David Davis which chronicles three remarkable runners whose paths converged on a fateful day in London.  With another London Olympic marathon just around the corner, the timing of the book is just about perfect. 
Dorando Pietri was a determined and hard-nosed Italian who almost literally ran himself to death right in front of the Queen and 80,000 spectators. Johnny Hayes was a working-class Irish-American who rose from meager beginnings to achieve athletic immortality.  Tom Longboat was an Onondaga Indian from Canada whose sheer athletic talent was rivaled only by the severity of the persecution that followed him to every corner of the globe.
The book also delves into the history of distance running and the modern day marathon.  Some facts will be familiar; it was at the London Games that the event distance was officially determined to be 26.2 miles.  Others will be bizarre; before key events, competitors often had breakfasts of milk and beer, and during long footraces, a runner “in extremis” was often instructed to down a shot of whiskey.   Perhaps it’s not surprising that of the 55 athletes who entered the 1908 race, less than 30 finished.
One of the dropouts was Longboat, the world record holder considered one of the best athletes in the world, who collapsed in the middle of the race.  The first runner to enter White City Stadium in Shepherd’s Bush was Pietri, who proceeded to run in the wrong direction and collapse several times while attempting to make his way around the track.  Race officials assisted him to his feet and finally directed him toward the finish line.
Pietri was initially declared the winner, but it was the American Hayes who history records as the 1908 Olympic marathon champion.  Pietri was disqualified for receiving assistance, but his determination personified the spirit of the Games, and he became an international celebrity.  Queen Alexandra awarded him a gold cup in recognition of his effort, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle solicited the London Daily Mail to start a fundraising drive for Pietri to open a bakery in his home town of Carpi.  All three runners went on to enjoy continued success in the sport, and are credited with triggering the first marathon boom among recreational athletes.
Marathon runners aren’t international celebrities anymore, but our hope is that the 2012 Olympic marathons capture the world’s attention in the way the race did more than a century ago – hopefully not for any particular calamity, but as a celebration of the magnificent athletes who compete in one of the world’s most difficult events.
Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush is available from as well as other retailers.  The 2012 women’s Olympic marathon takes place on August 5th, and the men’s race concludes the Games on August 12. 

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The Great Zatopek

In the 1948 London Olympics, Czech runner Emil Zatopek won a Gold Medal in the 10000 meters and  Bronze in the 5000.  Four years later in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Zatopek completed the most amazing long distance running accomplishment in Olympic history; winning the 5000 meters, 10000 meters, and marathon, all in Olympic record times.
Surprisingly, the 1952 Olympic Marathon was Zatopek’s first marathon and he decided to run just a few days before. His race strategy was classic Zatopek; at the starting line he went up to Jim Peters, the British champion and race favorite, and asked if Peters minded if he ran with him. Peters went out punishingly fast in the hope of tiring Zatopek.  At the 10 mile mark, Zatopek asked Peters if the pace was good for him. Peters, again trying to fool Zatopek, said, “it’s too slow”.  Zatopek sped up and went on to win the marathon while Peters dropped out. 
Besides his Olympic feats, Zatopek set 18 world records at multiple distances during the 1946 to 1956 time period.  His running form was less than ideal, more brute force than efficient, and earned him the nickname “the Czech Locomotive.”
In the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Austrailian Ron Clarke was heavily favored in the 10000 meters and it was a dissapointment to only earn a bronze medal. In 1965, Clarke was the best runner in the world, setting world records 12 times at various distances.  Clarke went to Czechoslavakia to run in a track meet in 1966 and met Zatopek, who was now retired from running and a high level official in the Communist Party.  When Clarke departed, Zatopek gave him a small box and told Clarke not to open it until he was on the plane.
Clarke, to his astonishment, found Zatopek’s 10000 meter Olympic gold medal from Helsinki, and a note saying, “Look after this, you deserve it.”
In the 1968 Olympic 10000 meter finals in Mexico City, Clarke collapsed and nearly died from altitude sickness and sustained permanent heart damage from his effort.  Clarke went into politics and just this year, at age 75, finished 8 years serving as Mayor of the Gold Coast region.  Life wasn’t so good for Zatopek however. After the 1968 “Praque Spring”, involving government reform and Russian invasion, Zatopek was stripped of his Communist party rank and forced to work in a series of hard labor jobs for almost 20 years.  
One of our great local runners, Hansi Rigney, of Carmel, is the daughter of Giulio DePetra, who made the Italian Olympic team in race walking in 1936.  DePetra was unable to compete in the 1936 games in Berlin because he was called up in the Army. He moved to Carmel Highlands in 1948.
Hansi doesn’t know how her father became a friend of Zatopek, but in 1991 when Zatopek was finally allowed to leave Czechoslavakia, he came to Carmel and stayed with her father for a few days.  DePetra invited a few local runners and race walkers, including Nellie Wright (who ran in the 1984 Olympic Marathon for Bolivia), and Kim Wilkinson.
 They were told there would be a special guest for dinner and when they met the Great Zatopek they were incredibly honored and surprised. Both commented with virtually the same words, “at almost age 70, he was friendly, energetic, and fiery…I got goosebumps.” 
Emil Zatopek said, “Great is the victory, but the friendship of all is greater.” He died in 2000.

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Looking For Adventure

“Lookin' for adventure  -
And whatever comes our way.”
-      Steppenwolf, “Born to be Wild”

Running is perhaps the oldest organized sport in the history of civilization … but sometimes tradition isn’t what runners are looking for.  In fact, there’s a rapidly increasing trend among recreational runners to leave traditional races behind in favor of exploring their wilder side.

Over the past few years, participation in so-called “adventure events” has exploded.  They attract runners who are tired of regular 5K and 10Ks, and those who are more interested in having fun than by displaying raw speed or winning age group awards.

Races like Big Sur’s annual Mud Run include obstacle courses where racers climb over walls, crawl through mud pits, or jump over various barriers.  The mud theme is a common one, as evidenced by national race series called Muddy Buddy and Tough Mudder, and another event called the Muddy Pig Run.  By all accounts, the dirtier you get, the better the experience.

Military elements are common as well, and Big Sur’s Mud Run includes drill sergeants who make competitors do activities like pushups and knee lifts.  There’s also a series of Army Boot Camp Experience races, and if you want to go old-school military, you can enter the nationwide Spartan Races where you’ll crawl under barbed wire and leap across obstacles of fire – you know, just like the Ancient Greeks did.

You can do “hero runs” put on by companies of firefighters that involve navigating smoke filled mazes, scaling roofs, dragging massive fire hoses, climbing ladders, and busting through windows.   If imaginary heroes are more your liking, there are a handful of races that encourage participation in super hero costumes or Disney princess outfits.

At the other end of the respectability spectrum is a series called Zombie Runs where you “Run for your life” by starting the obstacle course with a belt of green flags, and try to prevent the many on-course zombies from taking your flags. According to the race website, if you lose all your flags, you die and the zombies eat your brains.  We swear we’re not making this up.

Do you like your adventure with a side order of exhibitionism?  How about running naked!  This has been a tradition at San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race for years, but now there are more than a dozen “clothing optional” runs nationwide.  Make sure to pack extra sunscreen.

If you want to put your intellectual skills to work, look for urban adventure runs.  These are elaborate scavenger hunts where participants run through big cities following directions and searching for clues at local landmarks.  Course rules often require bringing back specific items or taking cell phone pictures of your team at selected locations.

Nowadays, you don’t even have to wait until after the race to eat or drink the junk food you love.  At the Krispy Kreme Challenge, you run two miles, eat a dozen doughnuts, then race back while trying to keep the food on the inside.  Other 5Ks offer doughnuts at each mile marker, with time increments deducted for each one eaten; the lowest combined time wins, regardless of who crosses the line first.  If your tastes are more grown-up, look for the multitude of beer or wine runs that require downing a bottle or glass at regular intervals before continuing on the course.  Who says running has to be healthy?

Nowadays there’s no reason to get bored by your race schedule; if you find yourself lacking motivation, go looking for adventure!

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Train Like a Champion

Champions are made when no one is watching."   - Author unknown.
When Adam Roach of Pacific Grove crossed the finish line first at this year's Big Sur Marathon, the entire community shared and celebrated his accomplishment.  What none of us saw, however, were the months of hard work he put in while no one was watching in order to make his triumphant day possible.
We spoke with Adam recently to ask about his training for this year's race.  His responses highlighted some lessons that anyone can benefit from - even those of us who finish many minutes (or hours) behind him. 
Adam is 28 and works full time, so he fits running around his work schedule and family time just like the rest of us. He usually runs after work each week day and on weekend mornings, averaging about 80 miles per week in the springtime - a volume that is far lower than the 100-120 miles that many professional runners log.  
A typical week includes a Sunday 20-miler in the Fort Ord/Toro Park area with Daniel Tapia (2010 Big Sur Marathon winner) at about 6:00 per mile pace. Mondays are 10 miles at a "comfortably fast" pace of 6:15-7:00/mile.  Tuesdays include 10 miles of trails in Garland Ranch or Del Monte Forest
On Wednesdays, Adam hits the Pacific Grove High School track to run intervals at race pace.  Sometimes the intervals are long, such as 4 x 2 miles at marathon pace, and other times they're short, such as his favorite workout of fifty 400-meter repeats at half marathon speed.  Thursday is another "comfortably fast" run, Friday is a 10-mile tempo (slightly slower than race pace) run, and Sunday has 12 more "comfortably fast" miles.
What did we learn from all this?  Here are some key themes:
Consistent long runs are critical:  Adam didn't have any runs over 20 miles, but he did a 20-miler nearly every week from February through April.  He calls these, "The bread and butter of my training ... and the long runs over hilly terrain gave me endurance to be able to run hard for a full 26 miles on race day."  These runs were bolstered by the long interval and tempo run workouts, which helped him to stay comfortable while running at race pace.
Discipline and toughness:  Did any of those track workouts sound difficult to anyone?  How about a weekly 20-miler?  Or running every day for a minimum of 10 miles? You can't do these things without enormous self-discipline - and each progressive session builds increased confidence, toughness, and mental strength that will be needed to race off the front of the pack on race day.
Focus on the goal: Adam's race schedule was minimal, and his entire training program was designed solely to prepare him for Big Sur.  He ran the Mission 10-Miler in San Juan Bautista in January and the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon in March, and otherwise stayed focused on his one major goal race.
Just run, baby: Adam does minimal cross training, weights, or stretching, because he'd rather spend his limited workout time exclusively running.  Once a week he'll do a short abs/core workout, "But nothing too crazy."  Specificity of training pays enormous benefits in learning to run more efficiently.
Obviously, successful training plans differ for everybody, but Adam has clearly found a system that works well for him.  If you take some cues from his training regimen, you still might not win the Big Sur Marathon, but you'll almost certainly become a better runner.

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