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Archive for October, 2008

Who won the Nike Women’s Marathon?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The Nike Women’s Marathon has been on my race wishlist for a while, but after hearing about how Nike treated the fastest runner of this year’s race I’m not as excited about my entry fees going to Nike.  FitSugar writes about this Cinderella Story of the winner of the race.  The fastest runner, Arien O’Connell, a fifth grade teacher from NYC blew away the competition and didn’t even know it.  She completed the hilly San Francisco marathon in 2:55:11, beating her previous PR time by a whopping 12 minutes.

Unfortunately, O’Connell was not registered as an “elite” runner and did not compete in the elite’s race so originally could not be considered the winner of the race even though she had the fastest time by an 11 minute margin.  O’connell surprised herself at the time she was able to run and never considered herself an elite runner, but shame on Nike for not recognizing this amazing feat because of a technicality in the rules.

Just yesterday Nike issued a press release recognizing their mistake and declaring O’Connell a winner of the Nike Women’s Marathon:

Nike is announcing today that it recognizes Arien O’Connell as a winner in last weekend’s Nike Women’s Marathon completing the full race in 2:55:11. She shattered her previous time and achieved an amazing accomplishment.

Arien will receive the same recognition and prize, including a Tiffany & Co. trophy, the full marathon elite group winner received. Arien was unfortunately not immediately recognized as a race winner because she did not start the race with the elite running group, which is required by USATF standards. Because of their earlier start time, the runners in the elite group had no knowledge of the outstanding race Arien was running and could not adjust their strategies accordingly.

Learning from the unique experience in this year’s race, Nike has decided today to eliminate the elite running group from future Nike Women’s Marathons. Next year, all runners will run in the same group and all will be eligible to win.

Nike has a proven track record of supporting athletes and we’re proud to be able to honor Arien and other athletes who surpass their goals and achieve great accomplishments.

Elite or not, O’Connell and all the other women participants did a great job finishing the women’s marathon.  The finisher’s necklace by Tiffany, massages, and post-race celebration were certainly well deserved.  Keep running ladies, you’re all winners in my book!

Hashing: Not so serious running

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Another option for finding new places to run is to join a hash run.  Hashing is hardly serious running, it’s more of a social event for runners.  A hash run can take place nearly anywhere; the trail is determined by the lead runner, called the “hare”.  The hare gets a head start from the rest of the runners, or “hounds”, and uses flour to mark the trail that the hounds have to follow.

on-on footThe hare can leaves various marks showing the path of the hare, a trail split, dead ends, and short cuts.  The front runners usually yell out “On-On” for the rest of the hounds when they see a hash mark indicating they’re on the right trail.  A trail split, or “check”, really makes the run interesting, as there may be two or three different directions the trail may go and part of the fun is finding the hare’s correct path. The mischievous hare can make an adventurous run by leading you through urban or wooded areas, muddy trails, stream and log crossings, endless parking lots, and hydration stations serving water or more importantly, beer.

Beer is an integral part of the hash run.  After three to five miles of hashing, the run usually ends at a bar or restaurant to eat, drink more beer, sing drinking songs, and tell tales of the run.  After a couple of hash runs, you may even find yourself with a new hash name, perhaps forever identifying you with some embarrassing moment you had on the run.  During my first hash run with the Atlanta Hash House Harriers, I complained of my wet, squishy socks resulting from the multiple stream crossings and my hash name “Squishy” was born.

Backward running benefits?

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Has anyone ever tried running backward for an extended distance? I’ve only done it for short stretches on casual jogs and clearly it’s completely unnatural. Knees are meant to bend in one direction and without eyes in the back of our heads it’s uncomfortable watching where we’re running. Yet some claim there are benefits to running backward:

Some believe that running backwards helps balance out the strain brought on by normal running. Reversing the direction works the friction of tissues oppositely. Running flat or uphill, the heel is used to push off rather than the ball of the foot as normally occurs with forward running, working the tibialis anterior muscle (pushes the heel down, raises front of foot) more as a prime mover than a shock absorber. (Wikipedia)

Understandably running backward can work different muscles than running forward so perhaps there are some cross training benefits to the practice. But can it really balance the strain of running forward? I imagine running backward to undo strain is kinda like trying to drive a car in reverse to remove mileage from the odometer: Instead of undoing stress to the car caused by high mileage you’re actually introducing new stress by overusing your reverse gear. The unofficial record for running a mile backward is just over 5:45 – pretty impressive even for a forward mile!

Running backward can be a fun way to spice up your runs but use caution and build up to it gradually – it’s definitely not for everyone!

Safety tips for running with your dog

Friday, October 17th, 2008


Our dog Jackson LOVES to run!

Although I’m no animal expert, I thought I’d share my experiences of running with my dog Jackson for the benefit of those who are considering taking their dog jogging. Running with a dog can be very rewarding for both you and your dog but it’s important to keep the following in mind:

1. Run with a leash. I know, I know, some dog owners are certain that their dog prefer to be off leash and I’m sure your dog is well behaved but this is all about safety. Of course you want to protect your dog from running out into traffic but also consider that you may encounter other dogs or animals that aren’t friendly toward your well-meaning pet. A leash gives you control over your dog and assures him or her that you are the running leader. If your dog doesn’t do well on the leash he or she may not be ready for running yet.

2. Know your dog’s limits. In many ways dogs are just like humans (you already knew that) and just like people they need to begin an exercise regimine gradually. Start off running 2-3 miles to see how your dog does. If your dog does well consider upping the distance through regular runs. As you get in shape your dog will too and you’ll be able to take him or her on longer and longer runs.

3. Consider the temperature. Our rule for running with Jackson is that for most runs the outside temperature needs to be in the 70s or below. Dogs have hot fur coats and their mechanism for internal cooling isn’t as well suited to long distance running as yours might be. If you need to run in a tank top (or no top) and short shorts it’s probably too hot for your dog.

4. Map out doggie water sources. In our old neighborhood we had a longer run we’d take Jackson on every now and then that had a stream crossing about halfway through the run. Because there was water for him to drink on the course we felt more comfortable taking him a little farther than usual and it seemed to work well. On particularly warm days he’d take a minute or two to lay down in the shallow stream for a quick mid-run cool down – aren’t dogs smart?

5. Slow it down if your dog is short (or old). Consider your pacing and how it impacts your dog on a run. Smaller dogs have shorter legs and therefore need to work harder than large German Shepherds like Jackson. These days Jackson is getting older and now we usually take him out just on our leisurely jogs rather than intense training sessions. If your dog is struggling at the end of the leash behind you you’re running too fast.

So there you have it,  5 tips for running with your dog safely. We’ll follow this up later with a post about the benefits to running with your dog – stay tuned!

Finding new places to run

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

new-places-to-run.jpgIf you’re like me you get tired of running the same route day after day. Heck, running interesting routes is the reason I skip the track and the treadmill whenever I can but sometimes it can be difficult to find new places to run. This is especially true if you generally start and end your runs in the same place most days (like your home or office). Here are some ideas for spicing up your home-base running routes:

1. Go for an out and back. If your daily run is 4-miles each day you’re really only running a 2-mile radius around your home-base. Try to come up with creative solutions for doing an out and back which can effectively double your radius (and quadruple your running area!). For me this means using public transportation to get back home or coordinating with friends or family to meet me for brunch at the end of my run. Shuttling cars is also an option, though this take a little more effort.

2. Use a map. Sometimes I like to bring up a Google Map of my neighborhood to look for streets I’ve yet to explore on my daily runs. You can even use a tool like MapMyRun to estimate the distance of a new route so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into. Just don’t forget to make yourself a cue sheet – it’s easy to loose track of where you are on unfamiliar streets!

3. Drive somewhere. I usually save this option for special occasions (like long, leisurely runs) but it’s great to get away from the neighborhood and run somewhere new. Consider finding a state park, a scenic neighborhood, or even an urban environment every once in a while for a nice change of pace. You can also search our Places to Run database to find a trail run in your area.

4. Run a race. Many times race courses utilize city streets that are too busy for regular runs but when blocked to traffic make for unique running routes. Road races are great too because you won’t need to stop at intersections any more – just run without thinking! You can also use to find local races of various lengths.

5. Run at an unusual time of day. If you normally run in the morning before the sun comes up you’ll be amazed at how different your route will look during the day. A late night run will reveal all sorts of activities (perhaps not all good) that you don’t normally observe during your daily run. Be safe but also take the chance to see your route in a different light.

Running should never feel like a chore and finding new places and times to run can keep runners from getting bored. No one wants to feel like a hamster on a wheel – go out and explore!

Best running movies of all time

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

running-movie.jpgOk, so I’m no film buff but I am a runner so I think that qualifies me to rank the best running movies that I’ve seen. So here they are, the best running movies, in order of my favorites:

1. Prefontaine: There were a couple movies about Steve Prefontaine in the late 1990s but for my money it doesn’t get any better than Jared Leto’s performance in 1997′s Prefontaine. The story of this incredible runner is nothing short of inspirational even for non-runners and the faux-documentary style gives the film a flavor of authenticity that few films can match without being cheesy. Watch this one before a big race or a long training run and you’ll be jogging on air.

2. Run Fat Boy, Run: This is a new film and I honestly just saw it for the first time this weekend. While it’s a fictional story and a romantic comedy to boot, it’s actually a pretty good running movie. Chock full of lessons about never giving up, trying new things (i.e. running), and the health and psychological benefits of an active lifestyle, this movie does the running community proud. Er, except for that Whit character, he’s a bit of a jerk. ;)

3. Chariots of Fire: I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t list this as one of the top running movies of all time, though I’ve never been a big fan of the film myself. The film did introduce us to the theme song of running montages for years to come and today the Chariots of Fire ringtone is all the rage with runners young and old alike. Seriously though, the movie is a bit slow but it’s centered around two British runners competing in the 1924 Olympics and offers up plenty of drama points. If you’re looking for a movie to pump you up, this probably isn’t the one (unless you put the soundtrack on repeat on your iPod).

Other running movies on my to-view list: Four Minutes (about the quest to break the 4-minute mile barrier) and of course Spirit of the Marathon (in my Netflix queue as we speak). Anyone have any other suggestions?

Garmin Forerunner 205 Review

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Ok, so I have a confession to make: I own way too many GPS devices. I’ve owned at least 8 different models over the past few years and believe it or not, not one of them was meant for the car. It might surprise you to learn that people are using GPS devices for all types of outdoor fitness activities and running is no exception. Right now I’m using the Garmin Forerunner 205 (available from for around $140) to track my daily runs and I have to say it’s a huge improvement over the Forerunner 201 (which I reviewed back in 2005).


First, the basics: The Garmin Forerunner 205 tracks distance, pace (both current and average), time, and current elevation all in a smallish wrist-mounted package. The Forerunner 205 can also plot your running route on a map and can serve as a virtual training partner telling you when you need to speed up or when you’re ahead of the pack. Believe it or not these features are sorta old news for wrist-mounted GPS devices so we’ll move on to the interesting stuff.

The Garmin Forerunner 205 uses a built-in rechargeable battery to power the device and it lasts surprisingly long on a single charge (though I doubt it could make it through an entire ultramarathon). I’ve had my unit for more than 2 years now and it still holds a charge well, so much so that I only charge it once for about every 5-6 runs. The included Garmin Training Center software is decent at keeping your run history and offers more detailed maps and elevation plots than those available on the device itself.

Because the Garmin Forerunner 205 is a GPS device it needs a clear view of the sky to get a satellite signal. Some people report frustrating satellite load times upon turning the unit on but I’ve found if I turn it on and put it outside the door about 5 minutes before I run it is usually ready to go. The satellite reception issues have been greatly improved since the introduction of the Forerunner 201 so I won’t complain too loudly ;)

Despite the improvements Garmin has made to the Forerunner line over the past few years there are still some things about the 205 that bug me. The “watch” form factor is definitely bulky and has an awkward fit on most wrists. The dock that is used to connect the watch to your computer and charger is even bulkier (plus it’s a pain to keep track of) and I wonder why Garmin couldn’t just put a mini-USB plug onto the watch itself. Perhaps it has something to do with making the unit water and sweat resistant but we’re still left with ominous-looking metal probes on the bottom of the watch in constant contact with our wrists. Freaky.

The button configuration on the Forerunner 205 GPS is pretty simple with just 7 buttons but I think Garmin could have gotten away with one or two less. In particular the ‘Lap’ button seems like a poor choice. I could understand using the lap button if I were running on a track or similarly marked course but why would I need to wear a GPS on the track? Last I checked tracks are either a quarter mile or 400 meters around meaning it’s pretty easy to calculate how far and fast I’ve run on my own. I don’t know about you but I use my Forerunner exclusively for runs involving unfamiliar courses and runs of unknown length.

Which brings me to my next point: don’t count on using the Garmin Forerunner 205 for navigation. There are no built in street maps or any way to load maps anyway so you’re out of luck if you need to find a shortcut home. Sure the Forerunner has some navigation features like saved routes and a return to start function but these are very basic. The Forerunner 205 also lacks an elevation plot screen on the device itself so you’ll have to wait until you get home to check out how steep those hills really were (the Forerunner 305 does include this feature).

Finally, the Forerunner 205 does not allow you to link any other devices such as heart rate monitors or foot pods to your GPS unlike the more expensive Forerunner 305 device. I’m not a big heart rate junkie myself but if you want this capability you’ll need to upgrade to the 305.

The Garmin Forerunner 205 is a solid, dependable running companion that anyone – from recreational to serious runners – will find useful. Once you get your Forerunner jog on back to where you can use our free running data manager to map and track your runs!

Three of the most difficult running events in the United States

Monday, October 13th, 2008

What is the toughest organized running event in the United States? We found three events that are among the toughest in the US (and perhaps the world) for your consideration:


Somewhere on the way to the summit of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs, CO

1. The Pikes Peak Marathon: Sure the Pikes Peak Marathon is only 26.2 miles like any other marathon but the elevation change is the real killer on this course. Starting at just over 6,000 feet above sea level in Manitou Springs, CO the course follows the Barr Trail to the top of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet. At the top runners get to turn around and run the course back down – but contrary to popular belief this can be the hardest part of the race. Tired muscles and worn knees can have disastrous consequences on steep descents as many Pikes Peak Marathon finishers can attest. Watch for late afternoon thunderstorms as well! The race is generally run in mid-August.

2.  Hardrock Hundred Endurance Event: The name pretty much says it all – hundred and endurance (oh yeah, and also hard). The Hardrock is another Colorado race and this one starts and ends in Silverton, CO toward the southwest corner of the state. Once again mileage plus elevation combines to produce a killer running event that takes place at an average elevation of more than 11,000 feet above sea level where most normal folks start to breathe hard after simply standing up from a sitting position. All told racers will climb more than 33,000 feet over the course and most runners will need almost 2 days (44 hours) to complete the race. The record for the Hardrock Hundred stands at just under 27 hours and the race is generally run in mid-July each year.

3.  Badwater Ultramarathon: The Badwater Ultramarathon boasts a respectable 13,000 feet of climbing over the course of the race but two other factors really make this race stand out: length and temperature. See, the Badwater Ultramarathon traverses Death Valley, CA – one of the hottest and driest places on the planet and stretches 135 miles from start to finish. The start of the race takes place at the lowest point in the western hemisphere (280 feet BELOW sea level) and finishes halfway up Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. This year Jorge Pacheco finished the race in 23 hours, 20 minutes and some change; the next finisher came in nearly 30 minutes later. The next finisher was more than 3 hours behind these two – sick. You would think this race would be held in the winter months to minimize the heat but nope: the race is generally held in mid-July!

There you go – 3 extreme running events to aspire to in 2009. How far will you go?

Ready for the Chicago Marathon

Friday, October 10th, 2008

The Chicago marathon will be held this Sunday, October 12, 2008.  Anxiety and inspiration is in the air. This year extra safety measures will be taken to prevent a repeat of last year’s events.  In 2007 the 90-degree heat and water shortages forced race cancellation; many people suffered from heat illness and one runner with a heart condition died.

waterOn Sunday Chicago temperatures are expected to be in the mid to upper 70s.  There will be 20 total aid stations plus a new Event Alert System intended to warn people of course conditions.  The color-coded communication system displays green (good conditions), yellow (moderate), red (potentially dangerous), or black (extremely dangerous).  Because of the warm temperatures forecasted, currently a yellow/moderate status is in effect indicating less than ideal running conditions.  The Chicago marathon website offers plenty of tips for running in these conditions.

Chicago has always been known to be a fast marathon course, with four world records being set there since the start of the race in 1977.  In 1999, the men’s marathon world record time of 2:05:42 was set by Khalid Khannouchi of Morrocco and in 2002, UK’s Paula Radcliffe set a women’s record time of 2:17:18.  In the wake of Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie new world record marathon time of 2:03:59 set only two weeks ago in Berlin, marathoners are sure to be inspired this weekend in Chicago.

Good luck to all the Chicago marathoners this weekend.  Have a safe run and come back to tell us about it!

Finding the right running shoe

Thursday, October 9th, 2008


This summer two (!) running stores opened in our little town just outside Atlanta and it’s really amazing what these stores offer. Aside from the free showers, group runs, and accessible water for runners at Big Peach Running Co. they also offer a free running shoe fit evaluation that’s really incredibly high tech.

The first step to a running shoe fitting is understanding the shape of your foot and Big Peach uses a pressure sensing device that shows where your weight rests on the bottoms of your feet. This tells you whether you have high arches or no arches and whether you tend to favor the ball or heel of your foot when standing comfortably.

The second part of the fit involves running (or walking) on a treadmill while a video camera records your foot strike. After about a minute of running the video is played back in slow motion to understand your natural pronation. Most running shoe professionals will tell you pronation is perhaps the most important factor in choosing a running shoe. As such your foot strike pattern (over pronation, under pronation, or neutral) will dictate the right shoe for you.

Finding the right running shoe is about so much more than style – it’s all about comfort and performance. Even if you’ve been running for years it’s a good idea to head down to your local running store for a professional fit – you never know what you’ll find out about yourself!