In reviewing race results from the 70's and comparing them to race results today, I have to conclude that the average racer was much faster back then. I'm sure everyone will their version of possible explanations about this discrepancy. Mine is very simple: we generally ran harder and longer back then.
Like many of my contemporaries, when I started out as a runner about 50 years ago, I enjoyed the exhilaration of competition and was captivated by the quest for faster times. There was a huge running boom in the 70's and everyone trained hard and was focused on improving.
I think the average runner today has a healthier attitude towards running. I suspect that back in the 70's we had a greater influx of good athletes taking up running, training hard to compete against each other. Today the average runner doesn't possess such athletic prowess and isn't as concerned about winning. Runners today seems to enjoy the personal challenge that running brings and remain focused on its health benefits.
I have to confess that I too was sucked into the competitive zeal in the 70's and 80's. I guess age and the benefit of reading inspiring authors like George Sheehan, Amby Burfoot and Jeff Galloway has mellowed me somewhat, and for some time now my goal is to just keep running for as many years as possible.
I still race frequently but racing is a bonus, which makes my running more fun and puts me in contact with great people. And Age Group Competitions still help to give master runners a chance to stir up competitive juices without going too crazy. We are all inspired by the accomplishments of Ed Whitlock at 76 and Earl Fee at 78. They showed us that we are capable of amazing things if we work at it.
BREAKING THROUGH THE SHACKLES
I am equally amazed at the incredible feats of endurance and perseverance realized everyday by individuals who have broken through the shackles of bad habits and overcome the inertia of inactivity. For these individuals, going out for a run is totally foreign to their system and isn't easy at first. Picture having to run after you have had a heavy meal, while wearing oversized heavy army boots, and carrying a 30lb backpack. Endorphins don't kick in early for these folks. But luckily many persist and overcome that inertia and experience the exhilaration that the rest of us keep coming back for.
Every time you're out on the roads, whether you are a penguin or a gazelle, you are not only doing yourself a big favour, you are also an inspiration and a role model to many others.
THE RUNNING BOOM IS NOT OVER
A few years ago there were articles starting to appear questioning whether or not the running boom was over. To answer that question, just look out your window and check out the number of new faces out there running. Check out the fixture lists for the many upcoming races and try to register for some of the more popular marathons and you will quickly realize that the running boom is strong and growing.
Stores like Running Room are also to be commended for setting up running programs and running groups to help runners get started and stay focused. So don't worry if you are not the fastest kid on the block... Stay focused, be patient and follow some of these simple rules so that you can keep running for life.
- Set simple realistic goals;
- Start your program conservatively – walk initially if you have to;
- Increase your distance and speed gradually;
- Take rest days;
- Learn to stretch and strengthen your body to avoid injuries;
- Don't panic if you experience a few aches and pains, just cut back a bit
or seek professional help;
- Vary your workouts;
- Do some cross-training – It can be an effective way to strengthen your body
without stressing it too much;
- Don't compare yourself with faster runners – instead think of what you are
now able to accomplish compared to when you were a couch potato;
- Don't let anyone tell you that you are too old to run or that it's not good for you;
- Enter a few fun events;
- Run with a friend or join a club;
- If you're unsure of what to do, enroll in one of the beginner's courses at Running Free or Running Room; and,
- Keep it fun, keep it simple and keep yourself moving forward. •
Dr. John DeFinney is a bilingual chiropractor with a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education and a Specialty in Sports Chiropractic. He graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in 1976. He is also one of the founding members of the College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences and one of its first three Fellows.
Dr. DeFinney is currently involved in a variety of recreational sports and has won national titles as an age class runner setting a new Canadian record during the 2006 US Indoor Championships in Boston. He has lectured at the undergraduate and post graduate level in sports injuries and published articles on the topic of running. 'The Running Chiropractor has joined the Trigenics Institute, serving as its research consultant with specific interests in running, sport injuries, and rehabilitation.
Dr. John DeFinney
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