Archive for January, 2014



The extensive and elegant offices (our spare bedroom) and archives (our condo storage unit) of Running in the Zone have been undergoing some cleaning and organizing of late. This has brought to light a whole range of items that I just think need some air. Some are historical in the true sense and some in a personal sense. Either way, I was struck by some of these as being pretty relevant today.

Ellen Lloyd

Ellen Lloyd

In Memoriam. I am going to get the sad one out of the way first and out of respect. BC sport lost a true champion in the last few days in the person of Ellen Lloyd. She was active in so many areas including swimming and life-saving, but I knew her through running and the organization of running. The big (collective) item for us was something called the Okanagan Express Relay. Way back in the 1980’s I lived and ran in the Okanagan. That was where I met Ellen and RITZ co-editor, Steve King as well as a good many others. We ran together including in the first Okanagan Express Relay. What, you say, is the Okanagan Express Relay?

It was an Expo ’86 idea. The very first running of the relay was in early June 1986. Fifteen teams of 26 runners, started just outside the Expo ’86 East Gate and ran to a downtown park in Summerland, in the heart of the Okanagan. No big deal. Only about 450km. Many people were involved, but Ellen was the heart and sole of it. It was all reviewed after the first running, which was won, as I recall, by a team from Lions Gate Roadrunners, notwithstanding that the LA Police Department sent a crack team along to bring home the inaugural hardware. As fun as it was, there were issues. Long race. Too many runners needed to make a team. Even with so many runners, very long legs.

Hood to Coast 1987

Hood to Coast 1987

The next year a bunch of us made up a team and headed for Oregon and the Hood to Coast Relay, to see how they did it, and to promote the Okanagan Express. Again, Ellen was a driving force for this team and she brought in another Summerlander, Bob Brown, who just happened to own a car dealership in Penticton and who strongly supported running activity in the area, including sponsoring our team, “Bob’s Border Busters”. We had a ball and learned a lot. The photo here is actually Bob, handing off to Ellen at the third leg exchange for each of them. I am sorry to say that Bob passed away a few years back, so we have lost him too. But, this tribute is meant to be positive and to celebrate these lives and their contributions. And, a funny little story that happened just moments after this picture was taken was that Bob, who ran some but never raced, had a burning question for the rest of the team (well, except Ellen who was busy running). Seems that even though it was his third of three legs, only on this leg and only just before the photo was taken, he had passed someone. He was very excited about that but was also quite concerned about whether he had exhibited proper running etiquette. His question was essentially, “What do you say to someone when you pass them? Do you say sorry?” What?” We assured him didn’t have to say anything and that he had broken no rules and had exhibited no bad runner manners.

We brought back what we had learned and realized we could make it much easier by reducing members on a team and running multiple legs, actually having each member run a longer distance, but not all at once. We also changed the route, making the run a bit simpler and maybe safer. Rivalry among those participating was fabulous and fun was had by all. Sadly, it seemed that although the initial relay had almost twice as many teams (15) as the first Hood to Coast (8), it never grew. The 1987 Hood to Coast Relay was only the fifth running and they already had 500 teams. Reluctantly, it was concluded that the Okanagan Express would not continue. I am thrilled to say that I was able to participate in all three runnings and to be a part of the planning and organizing  group.

Vic Emery (Olympic Gold 1964 - Four-Man Bobsled)

Vic Emery (Olympic Gold 1964 – Four-Man Bobsled)

RITZ Gets Around. While on the subject of the Okanagan, I was thrilled to get an e-mail from Steve King with a photo attached of a Canadian sport hero, Vic Emery (Canadian 4-Man Bobsled Olympic Champion from 1964). There he is reading his copy of Running in the Zone and we hope, being inspired to continue with his competitive cross-country skiing, the reason he was in the Okanagan and visiting with Steve. Vic is now 80 years of age and still enjoying an active life as evidenced by his ski racing.

First Half Anniversary. In just a few days, it will be the 25th running of the First Half Half Marathon. As many know, I was privileged to be a race director for this event and one of ‘my’ races was the 20th First Half. We put out a race booklet with all kinds of interesting photographs and memories from the past.  One of the big items in terms of sponsorship, or partnering, is that from the very beginning Forerunners has supported this event. Most people do not really recall the first First Half in 1989, but Peter Butler does. He won it. Actually, he won it in an amazing time – too amazing. Somehow, that first course turned out to be about 800m short of  a half marathon. Oops. Well, he still won it, but the time will have to have an asterisk beside it, forever.

Looking through the booklet, I saw a photo of Forerunners clinic coach Carey Nelson (a much younger fella then), as he won the 1996 event with a time of 1:05:12. To put that in context, it is not the record time, but it is less than a minute slower than the existing record, currently held by Dylan Wykes, Canada’s second fastest marathoner behind Jerome Drayton, an honour Peter Butler held since 1986 until only recently. With the expected field this year, there is a very real chance that the First Half record is going to drop again, but as always that kind of thing depends on the day and the contestants and whether it is an all-out speed fest or a strategic race. More on that at a later time. The record was held for years (from 1992) by Bruce Deacon, but starting with Ryan Hayden (2007) and then twice by Dylan Wykes (2011, 2012) the time has been pushed down to its current 1:04:21.

Personal Past Glory. Naturally, a lot of the historical material I unearthed is pretty personal. I came across a few publications that had features on Running in the Zone (the book) contributors, including Maurice Tarrant, Lynn Kanuka and Steve King. I even found a Penticton Pounders Newsletter (Jan 1990) with a profile on ME! It was one of these who are you, what do you do, and how well do you do it. One question was: What are your long-term goals? My answer was: Continue to run for fun and health for at least the next 20 years. Here it is January 2014. Guess I can tick that one off the old ‘to do’ list! But, that doesn’t mean I’m quitting. Maybe I should just declare my intentions of carrying on for another 20. Maybe. Hey, if I start from 2010, I’ve already got four years done.

Something else I noted with interest was that although I didn’t know it at the time I had run all my PB’s for all the common distances from 5K to Marathon. While not spectacular, they weren’t bad: 3:24 for marathon, 42:43 for 10K, 19:25 for 5K, but in one of my narrative responses, I referred to myself as a ‘back of the packer’. In truth, I may have been exaggerating just a wee bit, but surely was not more than a slower mid-pack runner in the Okanagan running community of the day. I celebrate the participation aspect of running today, but did find it interesting to compare then and now.

Whole Lotta Hardware

Whole Lotta Hardware

A Box Full of Medals. In respect to both past and continuing glory, I finally rescued my race medals from a shoe box where they have lived for many years, or at least as long as I have had them. I’ve been looking for a display rack, but having failed to find what I wanted, decided I could make one myself. In the end I made two and unfortunately, or fortunately some might say, there are still quite a few medals still in the box. Putting all my marathon, and one 50K ultra, medals up was a no-brainer. I have run 22 actual marathons and one ultra. Unfortunately, the PB mentioned above was run in 1988 and nobody was giving out finisher medals. That is the only one for which there is no medal and the one I would really LIKE to have. Oh well, I know it is there even if nobody else can see it.

These medals (marathon) remind me of a question I have been asked fairly often in recent times, especially by new or aspiring marathoners. What is your favorite marathon?  Truth is, I haven’t run that many different marathons, tending to return to the scene of the crime. The left-most set of medals represent my four Vancouver Marathons and the next set my five Victoria Marathons. When I look carefully and count up unique events, I have run eleven. So, I am hardly a world authority. As any marathoner knows, each event is special in its own way. Nobody would deny that the New York City Marathon is something special. Beyond that I guess you’d have to say the matter is very personal. I suppose by shear medal count, I have voted five times for Victoria and it was the scene of me proving (to myself, as much as anything) after 12 years and a bout of back surgery, that I could still do a marathon. No denying it is a great event. My medal collection represents quite a range of events from New York with about 40,000 to a couple like Winthrop where the number of finishers hit only around 100. I find it surprisingly hard to give a straight answer to my eager questioners. These events are all special in their own way. I guess the best advice is pick one you really want to do and do it. They are all 42.2km.

After the marathons, the next obvious set is for races where I had a podium place and for which medals were given (left side lower rack). Actually, the plaque hanging under the medals is a podium finish – Third Place M65-69, Eugene Marathon 2010. I’m pretty proud of that one because there were 16 competitors in that age grouping. Then, my 8 Hood to Coast medals had to have a place to hang, dating from 1987 through 2013. The rest of the hooks available are occupied by medals of which I am fond for one reason or another, including the three medals given to participants when I was Race Director of the First Half, my Reggae Marathon medals (still missing the actual marathon one, though) and finally a whole batch of races that are special for their own reasons in my personal history. The best of these is probably the one from the Willis Greenaway Half Marathon (Willis being the person who inspired me to keep running as long as I have), followed by my Boston 5K medal from 2009. That was the inaugural year of this event and the year I accompanied our daughter Janna while she ran the Big Race.

Scaling Performance When You Can’t Win. Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about age grading as a means of comparing personal performance over the years. I do believe in, but don’t much advocate for, comparison with absolute performances by younger runners in any given race. Among the materials I came across was a piece entitled “The Big Leagues” from Runners World (February, 1990). It was all about heavy or “Huba Buba” runners, and by heavy I just mean people who are big, not overweight. It is a serious yet somewhat light-hearted look at running in weight rather than age divisions and has a table showing that someone weighing more than the feather-weight elite runners, is really disadvantaged by, even if they come by that weight just by being tall. In another article I once read that if you are a man and weigh more than 155 lb you need not apply to win anything, for the most part not even an age division in a competitive race.

The reason I found this interesting is that just recently I was alerted to a grading system from the University of Dayton that employs weight AND age to ‘adjust’ performance to some sort of common standard. The outcomes are interesting from my own perspective and study of the models. Using both the WMA age grading calculator of Howard Grubb and this new ‘double whammy’ system, I can say that age tends to create a bigger impact. Looking at both, results are pretty heartening for a guy like me. Even when I ran my PB’s, I was 43 or 44 and age had kicked in as a factor. Most of the time I have run, been healthy and well trained, my weight has been  185-186 lb or just under 85 kg. I’m not going to go into how wonderful all this seems to make me, but it sure provides an ego boost.  My main point is that some 25 years ago, people were very clear on the impact of weight and age on performance. Most of us run for the fun of it. We do what we do and that is just fine.

Well, I think that is it for today. You never can tell. Some of these things (well, the First Half, for sure) may become blog posts in their own right.


Running in the Zone: A Handbook For Seasoned Athletes is now available in e-book format from Trafford Publishing (see link).

A Late-Life Comeback to Racing


He’s Back – on the Blog and at the races! Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes contributor, Roger Robinson has given us permission to re-produce his recent piece on a personal journey and personal miracle of mind over matter. This article is reproduced here with gratitude to Roger, a) for writing it, and b) Running Times where it was originally published.

Roger is a great supporter of Running in the Zone and frequently offers his writings for use on the blog.

This article should inspire and encourage every Seasoned Athlete, and I would hope, quite a few that haven’t reached that lofty perch just yet.

Thanks Roger!


A Late-Life Comeback to Racing

Some ideas for older post-injury runners


January 23, 2014 (Running Times)

Roger Robinson's last run in 2006Sunday was my knee’s third birthday. Not my birthday, just my right knee’s. Three years ago, on January 19, 2011, I went under the knife for a partial knee replacement. (Or under the saw, more accurately. I was a little perturbed when the surgeon told me his father had been a carpenter.) It was surgery that I thought at the time had ended my running for ever. I was wrong. Three months after the surgery, I tried shuffling a few tentative steps. By the first anniversary, I had progressed – slowly, cautiously, stubbornly, to running for one exact hour. I happily celebrated that milestone in this column. (Small Steps, Big Strides, Roger on Running, January 2012).

[For five years, this 2006 newspaper photo (above, right) was captioned ‘my last run’  – inaccurately, as things worked out.]

“You inspired me get back into running after my first baby,” commented one kind reader. “I loved your account of how deeply you missed being able to run. Most people don’t understand that sense of lack,” said another. “However injured and old you are, there’s always hope” – that was probably the one I related to best.

So, in mid-January again, another two years on, I thought I should provide an update.

After that first year of careful jogging, I consciously began to introduce more variety. I ran hills, working harder on the ups and barely jogging the downs. I added minutes progressively to the occasional longer runs, edging up to 90 minutes. Those long runs seem to get good results, but I don’t risk them often. I even began to run repeats. I’ve always done those by time, not measured distance, and always on changing terrain, never around a track, so it was easy to find a pleasant place, often an uphill slope where the impact is reduced, to run (say) 6 x 2 minutes, more or less equivalent to a session of 400s. Later I tried sessions like 3 x 4 minutes, or a mix of 2min/3min/5min, or other variations.

Who would have thought I’d ever runs 400s again? Even more amazing, who would have thought I’d ever race again? But I do. At first, it was all PW’s (personal worsts) and finishing dead last (see Summer Running, Roger on Running, July 20, 2011). Slowly it got a little better. I worked my 5km time from 10min miles down into the 8’s, enjoying some friendly mid-Hudson area races for oldies (over-50 or over-60), with slightly off-putting names like “Mommas and Poppas” or “Wheezers and Geezers.” It wasn’t the names that bothered me so much as the fact  that one course passed a retirement village at halfway and finished between two funeral homes.

And so I rediscovered the eternal triple reward of competitive racing: 1. the long-term friends you make among those who have been your short-term rivals, 2. the challenge (which includes an element of fear) of testing yourself against competition and time, and 3. (if all goes well) the sense of progress. In September 2013 I won my grade in the Dutchess County Classic 5km, in 23:55. That’s 7 minutes 42 seconds per mile. I never thought I’d hear the call “seven…” again. I won’t exaggerate and say it felt like winning the Olympics, because I know perfectly well that I used to warm up for a marathon at a faster pace than that. I’m no fantasist. I simply go around claiming an Over-70-With-One-Artificial-Knee World Record.

One of those new friends surprised me by writing an engaging first-person narrative of a race we both ran. Since it gives an outside view that complements my own, I asked his permission to include it here.

Roger the Rabbit by Christopher Kennan, Millerton, NY

Every once in a while, running brings you something marvelous and unexpected. Today, that happened at a five mile trail race called Bridge-to-Bridge, a fund-raiser for the Mohonk Preserve, near New Paltz, NY, which I intended as a training-pace run.

The route is on lovely carriage trails among the trees, and the field of 170 meant it wasn’t crowded. Right after the start I found myself just behind a guy who looked to be in my 60-69 age group, moving on the gradual ascent at a decent pace, wearing a 100th Boston Marathon singlet.  Must be serious. I decided I would hang out behind him for a bit before moving on. Despite my pre-race plan, the competitive juices were flowing. And this fellow’s pace seemed quite spirited. I revised my strategy, figuring I would easily catch him on the downhill.

So along we went, passing others, me holding a steady 15-20 yards behind him. When we came to the short but sharp uphill just before halfway, lots of people were walking, but my “rabbit” kept running. Soon we headed sharply back downhill, where the total focus had to be on roots and rocks.

On a long gradual descent, I decided to make my move. To my frustration, after a glance behind, he did too.  The distance between us was actually increasing. Grip! I needed to spend time in that region of effort where running moves from pleasure to pain. So at about four miles, I threw in a surge. But the pace just got faster. Now we were running well under 8:00min miles. Damn! This plan wasn’t working. But in sight of the finish line, we went sharply downhill, and I saw he was pulling up a bit. I let it fly, and finished just in front of him.

I turned around to congratulate him, confessing I had been on his tail. Very graciously, he returned the congratulations, but later in the conversation mentioned that at 74 his artificial knee couldn’t handle the downhills.

That was not what I wanted to hear. A 74 year-old with a knee replacement? And I only just caught him? Time to quit?

Well, not so quick. From other friends, I found the guy is a legend of running, and not just a local one. Even now, he showed me a thing or two about maintaining a wicked pace, and about the pleasures of chatting after the race is over. As I run my next big marathon, Roger Robinson will be the guy I’m thinking of.

Thanks, Chris. I like being Roger the Rabbit. My only dissent from Chris’s observant report is that when I took that glance behind, I was actually looking fearfully for my old friend Norm Goluskin, a much superior 70+ runner to me, who was unwell and had a bad race. I couldn’t believe my luck. I did see Chris, but he looked much too youthful to be relevant to my age-group.

I don’t claim to be a role model, but for other runners who may be in similar situations of recovery from long-term interruption, or are simply coping with being older, here are some things that have helped me in my late-life revival. I’ve discussed these ideas with other older runners, including the late British legend Chris Chataway, whose notable return to racing in his seventies was described in his obituary a few days ago (See Chris Chataway, Key figure in 1st Sub-4 Mile, Dies, January 20, 2014)

  • Progress by small increments. I wrote two years ago that my mantra comes from Joseph Conrad’s character Nostromo: “I must get rich very slowly.”
  •  Measure your runs by time, not distance. It saves a lot of worry about having a bad day or getting slower, and is very convenient on hilly terrain.
  • Keep variety. Change the shoes you wear, the terrain you run on, the total time of each run, sometimes the pace.
  • Even include repeats. The old principle still holds, at whatever age: you can’t expect to race at a pace faster than you ever run in training. And once you have a base of miles, repeats (whatever your age) are the surest and quickest way to strengthen your cardio-respiratory system and get faster.
  • However, if you do include repeats, allow more recovery between. Decades ago, I used to make the recovery about half the effort (ie after a 5-minute effort, jog for 2 ½ minutes). Now I take double (ie after a 5-minute effort, jog 10 minutes). You can do a 25-year-old’s training, I believe, if you take a 70-year-old’s recovery.
  • Also – here I’m sternly lecturing myself – don’t make repeats too hard. Twice in the last year, I’ve given myself minor leg injuries by pushing them. Old habits die hard. The problem for experienced runners is that our joints and musculature age faster than our cardio-respiratory system, so it never feels fast in terms of breathing.
  • Take rest days. I kept expecting to be able to build up to running every day, with easy runs as recovery days, like in the old days, but it hasn’t happened. Each time I’ve tried to increase the training days up to even six in the week, something has gone wrong. Four or five days a week seems best.
  • Find good off-road surfaces. The rate of wear on the knee prosthetic (and everything else) has to be related to the impact of each stride. That’s why there are so many ex-runners now cycling. I mostly avoid road and hard-sealed trails. I also avoid, or take great care on, tricky uneven surfaces. I used to love them, but at this stage any fall can be serious.
  • Enjoy the privilege. The secret to enjoying a rich and positive life after 50 is to stay active, all the experts say, and that’s true; but I think I’ve by chance found something even more crucial – give yourself a sense of progress, of improvement. Running can always give that, even though over time you’re inevitably slowing. Use a new come-back (like mine), a new target race, even simply a new season, to run more, or faster, or more often, or more purposefully. Measure your progress against the beginning of this season, not your times of 40 years ago, or even last year. The runner’s mindset is that if we do the work, we’ll improve. There are age-graded tables to give that a kind of reality, and my personal method is to list the several world records I hold  – fastest time ever recorded on particular courses. I retain those records by the simple device of not telling anyone else (especially Norman) where the courses start and finish. If the time comes when I can’t break those records, I’ll switch to a new course. Whatever works.

The anniversary run itself on January 19 was a nice one, 70 minutes in the sunshine of New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, most of that time on a deserted long curving beach at low tide, the sand softly firm like the pads on a kitten’s paw. Perfect for old joints and phony knees. It was one of those runs, and there are many of them now, that seem like an unexpected and wonderful bonus. It’s not often in this world that we can enjoy dawn at twilight.



I stole the title. I cannot tell a lie.

I even stole the idea. The shame, oh the shame!

When it comes to running there are many reasons to run and some actually don’t need much of a real plan – just do it (Oops, I did it again). However, if you are going to race/compete, then a plan is kind of important and this would be about the time of year when a serious runner intent on competing should look ahead to the new year and first, determine goals; then set out a realistic plan to achieve those goals. (Maybe not quite like the one to the left.)

Most of us aren’t elite runners who MUST set out a schedule that recognizes the timing of key events and the training, tune-up racing and recovery periods needed for peak performance. That doesn’t mean we can’t all benefit from taking that look ahead to what is personally important to accomplish and determine the road by which the ‘destination’ can be reached. When I use the term ‘serious’ I do not necessarily mean what most would call ‘good’. No, a serious runner is simply one who cares about his or her goals and commits the effort and discipline to pursue and achieve them.

SETTING GOALS. The nature of the goals you may set for yourself can vary widely and just like the many ‘reasons to run’ that runners may have, goals will be rather unique to the individual as well. I do think that to be effective, the goal must have some specificity. If you don’t know where you are going, it is hard to get there. Of course, the good news is pretty much any road will take you there. Or so they say.

Being specific, to the point that you can see what is required is important. By specific, I do not necessarily mean minutes and seconds on the time for a particular race. That can work for top level athletes who really know their pace and performance such that they could set a goal like a 29:30 time for 10K. For most of us, a realistic goal might be ‘a new PB for 10K’. You already know what you can do/have done and your goal will be to do better. For a lot of the readers of a blog meant for ‘seasoned athletes’, true PB’s may be harder to achieve, and in pure form, NOT even realistic.

CREATING A PLAN. In my own case I generally do develop a plan for my running year, even if it may be to take it easy and simply enjoy the doing of it. Still, I usually have some idea of what I’d like to do by way of running and racing and an idea of what I want to achieve by way of performance. Sometimes my primary goal is simply participating in the event – such as doing the Hood to Coast Relay. Sometimes the goal is to achieve a particular time for a particular distance, and consequently what might be an age-graded PB, or recent PB. Personally, I am too old to actually nail a pure PB, all of mine coming more than 20, make that 25, years ago.

Once you know what you hope to achieve, it is very important to build the plan to get there.

One of my clear goals over the last years is to use the Percent Performance value that the WMA calculator provides as an indicator of continued performance. Times mean less and less for me, but I like to try to keep all my Annual PB % Performance values up to standard with earlier performances. In my case I do have to recognize that I really have two racing periods, one before back problems and the eventual surgery, the other after that. However, for some 15 years now, when running uninjured and properly trained, I am thrilled to have achieved that steady performance level and will continue to use it as the mark to be met or exceeded. It is an excellent way to plan and measure achievements, particularly when your primary competition is a younger you.

THE REALLY BIG PERSONAL GOAL. A popular goal is the mystical Boston Qualifier. The nice thing about the BQ is it moves with us. It is not a single time, but rather a series of times based on age and gender. That doesn’t make it easy, just theoretically achievable. Some people can just run that fast, some can do it if they really work at it and push themselves to a limit that really stretches them. Being realistic about it, I have actually separated the BQ into two goals for myself. With the new ‘fastest first’ registration I count myself among those who might achieve the technical qualifying time for my age group (Goal #1) yet not achieve Goal #2, actually running Boston. Let me be clear: if I should ever qualify, I will do my utmost to register and run the race. However, I recognize that while Goal #1 is within my control, Goal #2 is far less so. I will take great pride in qualifying should that ever happen.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING PRACTICAL. We must take care about making our goals realistic in relation to our physical capabilities, capacity to train toward them and ability to commit the time needed. I would love to run a marathon at or very near three hours, unfortunately I have never done that, even at my best. So, that is hardly a realistic goal. I have also never qualified for Boston. All the speculation above notwithstanding, it isn’t clear that I am physically able to do so. However and for the reasons noted, that current qualifying time (4:25) is far more realistic than my example of a totally unachievable three hour time.

It seems that if I really want to set a goal of a BQ it would, for me, be almost as big as an elite runner setting sights on a national or even world record. It would have to be my 100% total goal for the year, maybe a couple of years. Everything I did would need to be part of the build toward my goal race. Even picking the right race would be part of the plan. In general terms, a BQ is not an insurmountable standard or hardly anyone would be good enough to achieve it. For me and everything that is me in 2014, it is that hard. I would never try to claim that the only reason I’ve never qualified is because I haven’t dedicated myself sufficiently to the cause, but equally I will say it is a very real factor. There are too many other challenges that appeal to this old road warrior. It is too easy to let one or more of those break the training plan.

ALMOST EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM A PLAN. I guess I got onto this subject because my run clinic coach just sent out his weekly message in which he strongly suggested we set out goals for ourselves as a part of creating a workable plan to achieve them. As I said, I’ve always sort of done this sometime early in the year. I can’t say that on January 1st I always set out the entire year’s plan.

As an example only, in 2013, at this time, I really had just one goal – run the best marathon possible, with the Eugene Marathon (late April) as the target race.

I had run Eugene twice before, once in 2011 when I was injured and recorded my marathon Personal Worst time, and the other time in 2010 when I had myself a recent PB, which turned out to be my third best raw and second best age-graded time. I was pretty sure that if there was going to be a good marathon time for this guy, Eugene was the place to do it. I sort of forgot that three years had passed since I had run a marathon well trained and injury free, and at my current age it seems each year is more a ‘dog-year’ than human! I was a bit disappointed with the result until I started looking at circumstances and realized that it was my 7th best marathon (age graded) out of some 18 total at the time. And on the day, not everything worked totally to plan, so the result was actually very satisfactory. Oh, and by the way, based on my decades of experience, ‘on the day’ things seldom go 100% to plan.  Just sayin’.

FLEXIBILITY IS IMPORTANT. This brings in another factor in planning – the back-up. If your goal is to run a particular race as well as you can, then you are stuck with the weather, your knees, stomach, head etc on that day. But, if your goal is to run a particular distance (like a marathon) as well as you can, then it can be wise to have a secondary goal race, just in case it is deluging frogs on race day.

Back to my personal example of 2013: I had one primary idea – run Eugene well. My secondary plan was to register for Boston if that plan worked superbly, and boy do I mean ‘superbly’. Failing a superb run on my part, the plan was to be under a specific time and then to assess the next goal from there, possibly moving to a Plan B or Plan C, both of which I had already laid out. I was indeed, under my ‘minimum’ acceptable performance time but not by a lot, so I then went to “Plan B” which was so far from the BQ plan that it turned things totally around re my training plan approach.

Plan B was to live up to the fact that I had joined Marathon Maniacs in March 2013, having met the base requirement back in 2008. I knew that the key to a lot of marathons per the Maniac approach is pretty simple, slow down and keep running. That was what I did and without boring the reader with all the details, I set out a series of races that would take me toward Silver or Two Star Maniac status. That worked OK until summer started and any marathons I could find were looking pretty warm. Besides, 2013 was one of those Hood to Coast years. I did not want to let my team down by being super slow because of fatigue based on too many miles of running. I stopped marathoning in July and started trying to find some speed for the relatively short legs of Hood to Coast.

Once that was done, I had to get back to marathon condition by end of September, so I went back to what was a rather unconventional training plan for my next marathon, using some longer runs and a couple of races, including a half marathon, to bring myself back to marathon shape. Truth be told, the first marathon in the second half of my quest was run as a training run and became my brand new PW for marathon. The weather didn’t help any on that one! Don’t think I’ve ever been wetter at the end of a race (did I mention the deluging frogs thing?). Whatever, I was back to the essence of Plan B and ready to take myself on out through the remainder of the year. When all was said and done I had run six marathons, one 50K ultra (first ever and therefore a PB), two half marathons, two 10K’s and a 5K, not to mention three legs of Hood to Coast. With the adjustment from Plan A to Plan B, I can honestly say the year was based on a set of goals and a plan to achieve them, which I did, including becoming a Two Star Maniac. Was it pretty? No, not in the sense of any stellar times, but other than maybe that very first race in Eugene, that was not the primary objective.

A PLAN PAYS OFF. Frankly, had I not plotted all this out in general terms, including the training required, I might well not have survived! I won’t say that every training run and every race was precisely according to my clever and rigorous plan. It would be a lie if I did. However, it was a good year and I can honestly say that other than the BQ (which was more a dream than a goal) I pretty much accomplished everything I set out to do. That is the point. Without knowing where I wanted to go and having a general idea of how I was going to get there, it would not have happened. I should be clear that I did not expect a BQ from Eugene. My realistic goal of running well enough to indicate the BQ was possible, would have taken me to Plan C rather then Plan B.

Plan C would have been to train single mindedly toward a Fall marathon where I might just be able to achieve that illusive BQ time. Besides, and this is part of the planning process, my realistic hope for a BQ would mean qualifying in the M70-75 category, and that could only have happened in the Fall of 2013 in time for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

One trick about setting goals and plans is to remember that flexibility is important. Sometimes things do go just as you imagine, but there can be minor injuries (which need to get attention before they become major), life can get in the way with conflicting events and demands, races can get canceled or weather can blow your intentions right out of the water with respect to any given race. Flexibility should not be mistaken for ‘wimpy’, but equally, stupid rigidity should not be mistaken for courage and strength.

ALTERNATIVES TO PURE TIME BASED GOALS. I have gone on at length about my own ruminations and processes simply as an example that any number of things can impact what you do. Some goals may be secondary, knowing that they will impact the running goals/performance. For instance, if the years have packed on just a couple too many pounds, a worthy goal might be to lose “X” pounds or kilograms. If that is a reasonable and healthy goal, combined with a training plan, it is almost certain that running performance will improve. I mean, you will be carrying far less weight from Point A to Point B and that just has to be a good thing.

Another secondary goal/plan might be to add at least one cross-training workout to the mix, or strength training. While not directly run related, the strong evidence is that when combined with a good running training plan, these types of activities will enhance running performance.

In a lot of regions there are race series which require completion of so many events to score points as a series competitor. Some award prizing while others just offer a special recognition of achieving the particular outcome of doing all or some specified number of the events.

I feel it important to stress that as one really begins to age the pure ‘gun time’ result is slowly and eventually going to slip. If you have just begun to run, you will likely see a good 3-4 years of improvement regardless of current age. However, over time most people just cannot continue to achieve new PBs. If performance is important to a person, it is at this point when we must look at other relative measures of that performance.  If true PB’s were set a long time ago, you can look at a recent/shorter period of time like the last three to five years. You can do as I like doing and employ an age-grading calculator to compare yourself with the younger you. Some races do that for you by including an age-graded result and ranking. While I will admit I always look, I only use the age related times or performance indicators to look at my own relative performance in the privacy of my own spreadsheet.

I guess that if you are the highly competitive type you could set a goal to win a race, a particular race, your age group, or even to beat one or more specific rivals. You could. Most people really don’t need this kind of goal, but some do. Wanna see my podium place medals?  Do you? I long ago realized that if I just kept running, a time would come when I could claim some of those winner medals. Of course now that I’m here I am realizing that when you are First out of One, the more important achievement is that you ARE the ONE (who is still out there), not that you got the first place medal.

MY ULTIMATE PERSONAL GOAL AND PLAN. Just keep on keeping on for as long as you can and as long as it is FUN!




Me and my Mom!

Everybody has a birthday ever year, so I guess that having one doesn’t make me particularly special. However, a bunch of runners did just that on Saturday (made me feel special) and I wanted to say how touched I was by it. There isn’t even anything particularly major about this one – next year, oh yeah, the big 7-0. I mean I don’t even get a new age category this time. In fact, I will now be the old guy in both the M65-69 and even older in the M60-69 categories!  How can THAT be a good thing? Well, I suppose that if this blog is for ‘Seasoned’ athletes, nobody can deny that I am getting more and more seasoned.

Let’s finish this Birthday thing off and then get on to the “Other Amazing Stuff“.  The runners, who serenaded me were members of the Forerunners marathon clinic at which I am a pace group leader. Were it not for our coach, Carey Nelson, I suppose most of them wouldn’t have known that Monday was my B’Day. Still, once they did know, they sang with enthusiasm and sincerity and for that I am touched and pleased. Even better, one of my pace group (who did know) baked an amazing carrot cake for all of us to share (post run, naturally). And then, there were all those who so kindly assured me I didn’t look a day over 68!  Well, some did flatter me by suggesting an even younger age. I swear that as much as the exercise, it is hanging around the younger people that definitely keeps me feeling young. So, maybe if you feel young you look young. Whatever, I’m going with that!

Now for the other Amazing Stuff.

One amazing thing (at least I am amazed), is that it is 2014. That makes it Thirty (30) Years since I first tied on some running shoes and headed out on the road. As I recall, I was a bit younger although maybe NOT as fit. That, like so many others, was the reason to start. Then, somehow, 30 years just whizzed by.  Amazing!

Another amazing thing, or maybe more than amazing – pleasing, is that I still love running. Sometimes it is harder, but getting out there and just being part of it is fantastic. Being with other people like the ones I mentioned above, makes it really special. Some of my old running friends still run. A lot of them don’t. Some do, but have changed the how, where and why. Some (that would be you Steve King) have now been immortalized in the form of a bobble-head doll! And, if that isn’t amazing – I don’t know what is.

I also find it amazing how inclusive our road running sport is and that unlike most sports, involves a continuum from the fastest elites to the slowest ‘back of the packers’. I already talked about this a few posts back, but there are few other sports where we can all register for and run the same race. The best of the best will be at the front in New York, Berlin, Chicago, but effectively anyone who can manage the travel and the twists and turns of the registration process, can run those very same events.

I am no longer the RD for the First Half Half Marathon coming up in February, here in Vancouver, but have for a few years now MC’d the event. While the ‘First Half’ is considered amazing by many (sells out in hours), the Amazing Stuff it reminds me of is how the half marathon has become THE race to run for so many. It used to be the 10K that was the personal challenge event, but these days the half marathon is by far the fastest growing racing event. The other fast growing sector is women. Not long ago, men out-numbered women in virtually every race. Then, things started to change and now, at least in North America, the only regular road race distance where we boys still hold a numbers advantage is the full marathon. On average, every other distance up to and including the half marathon is now dominated by women competitors. Amazing!  (And – way to go, girls!)

When it comes to Amazing Stuff, I feel like 2014 has a really good chance to be the year that the ever so long-standing Canadian marathon record will fall. There are at least four and as many as six Canadian guys lurking just above the current 2:10:08 of Jerome Drayton. The most likely place for the record to fall is at the Soctiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, just like the women’s record did in 2013. Wait for us girls! I am not 100% sure it will happen, but all things going to plan, I intend to run that race just on the chance of being there when it happens. I will be Amazed – for sure!

I also expect to be amazed by just being in the neighbourhood when Ed Whitlock demonstrates again, just what an octogenarian can do.

Other than the fact that I am still running, I am not planning to be particularly amazed by my own performances in 2014, unless of course, I become so totally inspired by the runners at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon that I turn in some kind of age-graded PB or something. I WILL be amazed if I run as many marathons as in 2013, because I surely don’t intend to do so. That said, I really only have Toronto on any kind of a plan at this point. That was, until my old rival (he is MUCH older than me – 14 days), Ben Seghers, told me he had registered for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and was I going to do so too? What do you think? Does that sound like a challenge? Well, I AM running with the Forerunners clinic, which has the ultimate goal of preparing participants for the Vancouver half and full marathons AND because I am leading a pace group I WILL be trained for the marathon, and I’ve never run the ‘new’ (new to me, now in its third year) Vancouver route, maybe I will have to amaze myself and take up that challenge.

All of this said, and regardless of what does come along in 2014, the MOST Amazing thing every year and all the time, is the people I meet through running. I am 100% certain that is going to be part of my 2014 running year!  See you on the roads.


Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is available now in e-book format through Trafford Publishing.