#tbt – Running With The Monster

February 26, 2015

Just in time for spring training, a little baseball to go with the weekly dose of running history…

dick_radatz_autograph50 years ago, Red Sox relief pitcher Dick Radatz (aka “The Monster”) was coming off his second Fireman of the Year award in his three seasons in the majors. In 1964 he led the league with 29 saves and his 16 wins (as a reliever!) led the team. His intimidating fastball helped him set a record for relievers that still stands by striking out 181 batters in 157 innings.

In the off-season, Radatz added running to his training regimen:


Unfortunately, 1964 was Radatz’ last great year. In spring training before the 1965 season, Ted Williams convinced Radatz to add a sinker to that fearsome fastball. Radatz thought the changes he made to his pitching mechanics caused his fastball to lose the power and accuracy that had made him a star. Perhaps, but pitching over 400 innings of high-intensity relief in his first three years probably didn’t help any either.

Radatz’ career wound down from that point, ending in 1969 with the expansion Montreal Expos.


#tbt – Dusting Off the Runner’s Bookshelf

February 5, 2015

When I started running, back in the days before the Internet, most of what I learned about running that didn’t come from sweat came from books.

Three of the books I read early on have remained on my bookshelf ever since. These books taught me the essentials of what I needed to know about running, training, and racing, and they helped me understand some of the reasons why I run.

gallowayJeff Galloway’s Book on Running is still the book I recommend to anyone who wants to start running. The book is based on the training principles of Arthur Lydiard, which have held up remarkably well while other fads come and go. Galloway presents them in a friendly manner that anyone, no matter how fast or slow, can use. His book helped me set up a training routine that still forms the basis for what I do today. The most important thing I took from Galloway was the focus on the long run, in particular the longer-than-race-distance long run, even (especially) during marathon training, and the use of walking breaks as a useful tool to help those of us who are less gifted survive those extra-long runs (and eventually, ultramarathons).

sheehanGeorge Sheehan is the original philosopher-king of running. Running and Being was the first book of his I read, and it’s still my favorite. It contains what is probably Sheehan’s most famous quote, “Each of us is an experiment of one.” His books were the first to focus on the spiritual side of running, but in a completely grounded and practical way. Sheehan is an inclusive elitist. All he demands is that you do what everyone can – strive to do your best, because that’s how you, “discover the wholeness, the unity that everyone seeks.”

noakesTim Noakes’ massive tome Lore of Running attempts, in more than 800 pages (the edition I have – the current one weighs in at over 900), to cover every last detail that you might ever need to know about the science behind how your body reacts to running and training. It’s long and often dry, but there are liberal doses of history and commentary to help pass the time and make the book enjoyable. Anyone who’s obsessive about the details of their running (for example, someone who ended up writing a book called Overthinking the Marathon) will find a kindred spirit in Noakes, and his book to be a worthy read.

Each one of these books is authoritative in its own way, but still encourages the essential process of taking that information out on the road, trying different things, and figuring out what works for you, even when that sometimes means failing. Their age shows up in some of the details, but even the outdated brand-specific info is good as a history lesson, or at least a quick laugh.

Most books from pre-Amazon days of the first running boom (including the one mass-market success, Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running), went out of print in a relatively short time, but these three are still available today, a testament to their lasting value.

The Runner (with apologies to E. A. Poe)

February 2, 2015

The Runner

(with apologies to E. A. Poe)

aid8Once upon a hillside dreary, a man pondered, weak and weary

Fifty miles had left him teary, pain that he could not ignore

As the sweat dripped, nearly blinding, and the blisters kept on grinding

He made a choice that was binding, finding that he’d run no more.

“This’s the last one,” said the runner, grateful that he’d run no more

“Damn, my knees are really sore.”


After running fifty miles, even death would give him smiles

If it meant that running’s trials – pain and boredom – were done for

Over the thunderous beating of his heart he stood, repeating

“I no longer am competing. It stops here,” he truly swore

“I am really done competing,” once again he truly swore

“Running stops forever more.”


For all his life he kept that oath, to run one more step he was loath

His stomach showed a rapid growth, a tighter belt that he deplored

On the couch he faced each morrow, in larger clothes he had to borrow

Hiding in the fear of sorrow—sorrow from pain he abhored

When asked if he would run again, mindful of what he abhored

Quoth the runner; “Nevermore.”


Don’t worry – no one’s quitting. ;-) Ruth and I are just going through an annoying patch of injuries, which will pass, sooner or later.

This piece was originally intended to go with the photoshopped finish line picture I recently published at Queen Mobs Place. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

“Death at the Finish Line” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse

January 30, 2015

Queen Mob’s Teahouse has published a finish-line photo of me and a frequent running partner.


#tbt – the First Woman To Run a Marathon (wasn’t Kathrine Switzer)

January 29, 2015

As we all know, the first woman to gain official entry into a marathon (albeit unbeknownst to race organizers) was Kathrine Switzer at Boston in 1967. But she certainly wasn’t the first woman to run 26.2 miles – Roberta Gibb had covered the same course unofficially just the year before. So who was the first woman to run a marathon?

51 years ago, in December, 1963, Merry Lepper became the first US woman to finish a 26.2 mile marathon. Merry, a 20-year-old community college student, entered the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, Nevada along with her friend, Lyn Carmen. Lyn dropped out, but Merry completed the race in 3:37:07, an unofficial world record.

Merry’s run was the cover story in the Feb. 1964 Long Distance Log:

(click on images to enlarge them)

At that time, women weren’t allowed as official entrants in sanctioned marathons, so Merry’s time was not included in the official results sent in by race organizers:

However, they did mention the efforts of “Mary” and “Lynn” in a sidebar:

Arlene Pieper, on Pikes Peak before the race

A few years earlier, in 1959, Arlene Pieper had entered and finished the Pikes Peak Marathon. However, that course was almost 2 miles short of the standard 26.2 mile distance. Personally, I think racing up Pikes Peak makes up for that. For that matter, some reports say that the 1963 Culver City course may have been a bit short.

Merry Lepper’s time beat the unofficial women’s marathon record of 3:40:22 set by Violet Piercy of Great Britain on October 3, 1926 on the Polytechnic Marathon course (though Piercy did not run on the same day as the race).

Stamatis Rovithi may have been first woman to run a marathon when she ran the Marathon-to-Athens course a month before the 1896 Olympics. There are reports that say a woman named Melpomene tried to enter the actual Olympic Marathon that year, and when organizers did not let her in, she jumped in at the start anyhow and made it to the finish in about 4:30, an hour and a half after the winner. However, other reports credit that run to Rovithi (sometimes on the day following the Olympic race).

Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if a woman had run 26 miles or more sometime before then. If Ada Anderson could walk 2,700 quarter miles in 2,700 quarter hours in 1879, 24 miles a day for over 28 days, it’s not unlikely that some woman somewhere ran 26.

Anyhow, through the efforts of these women, along with Grace Butcher, Katherine Heard, and many others, marathons finally began accepting women as official entrants in the early 1970’s. Today, about 43% of the people who run marathons in the US are women, and if recent trends continue, by 2020 there may be just as many women running marathons as men.

#tbt – Imagine How They’d Feel About Spandex

January 22, 2015

This interview with Bill Bowerman, published in 1964, predates the running boom, modern high-tech synthetic fabrics,  and the boom in dedicated (and revealing) running gear that followed.


Bowerman, of course, was the long-time Oregon (thus the green dye) and US track coach known for his innovative ideas. He might be most famous today for co-founding NIKE and using his wife’s waffle iron to develop prototype outsoles for the company’s shoes.

Age-Grouper Motivational Poster

January 20, 2015


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