Good advice… and why you should ignore it

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“Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.” – Shakespeare, King Lear

On the final Sunday of March, three weeks and one day until the 122nd Boston Marathon, Commonwealth Ave. in Newton is teeming with runners logging what is probably their final really long effort before the big day. At this time of year I can’t help having mixed feelings: on the one hand, relief that I’m not out there terrified about what running 26.2 miles will do to my body; on the other hand, envy for the collective spirit of purpose shared by all these folks. Continue reading

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More Fun Facts

Double Bend track           seattle-pacific-university-track-7

I’ve been posting regularly to for four years, now, and to my great surprise, the most popular post I’ve ever written, by far, has been the one about track dimensions. I guess a lot of people really want to find out more about the geometry and dimensions of running tracks, and for some reason, when someone searches for “Track Dimensions,” my post is on the first page of Google results.

I’ve felt guilty about that, because I wrote that post (back in 2014!) in a hurry, and it was glib and superficial and didn’t offer a whole lot of information. For years I’ve been meaning to go back and rewrite the damn thing.

Well, I’ve finally done it. The updated post is about three times as long, goes into much greater detail, and touches on math, culture, history, and many other things. Plus, it has more pictures. I don’t know if budding track fans will like it any better, but — as one of the few people who worry about wasting other people’s time on the Internet — at least now my conscience is clear.

In lieu of a new post this week, I invite you to read the new, improved, expanded version of “Know Your Oval: Fun Facts About Tracks.”

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Early March on the Rail Trail


Saturday, March 3 — the Nor’easter that hammered much of the East Coast with wind, rain, and snow on Friday is mostly over now. At least, the rain has gone, but there’s still a pretty strong wind blowing; I can see the thick, bare branches of trees shuddering and swaying as I look out the kitchen window of my childhood home in Amherst. It’s a little intimidating, but there’s a hint of sun struggling to penetrate the clouds. It looks like a perfectly good day to run.

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Roger Bannister’s Century


“Records are the bare bones of athletics, like numbers to a mathematician. Unless given a human touch they have no life, no appeal. Statisticians may juggle with them, some perhaps finding in their concentration on record figures a vicarious fulfillment of their own ambition. Like odds quoted on horses, times may tell you something of a man’s chance of winning, but they can tell you nothing of his style or his length of stride, nor can a javelin thrower’s distances tell you of his grace of throw. They can give you no conception of a champion athlete’s supreme integration of movement, his genius at harnessing efficiently power that is partly inborn and partly ingrained by years of training. It is this human touch which makes the difference between the lasting excitement of men running and the temporary thrill of speedway or motor racing.” – Roger Bannister, The Four-Minute Mile Continue reading

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Crazy Stupid Fast

BU Fast

As far as I know, the Boston University Track and Tennis Center on Ashford Street in Boston doesn’t yet have a nickname worthy of its stature in the Track world. Athletes, coaches, and spectators simply refer to it as “BU,” as in the sentence, “Reggie Lewis and Harvard are OK tracks, but if you really want to run fast, go to BU.” Well, I think it’s high time to address this deficiency, and I am prepared to start referring to the TTC as “The BU Autobahn,” because that’s where everyone goes when they want to go really fast. Continue reading

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Wait…was that a normal week?


Sometimes, the absence of surprises can be the most surprising thing of all.

When I returned from Africa two weeks ago I had no running routine, no strength routine, no base, and a strangely persistent case of jet lag that kept waking me up at 3 a.m. every morning, but made me lethargic and sleepy for hours in the middle of every day. Although generally hopeful about getting back into something like regular training, my efforts to re-establish a running routine were frustrated by a calf injury that threatened to flare up every time I extended a run beyond twenty minutes, or pushed the pace beyond “really slow.” As in sickness it’s hard to imagine health, in my injured and relatively slothful state, it was difficult to imagine fitness. Continue reading

Posted in Injuries & Health, Training, Weather and Seasons | Tagged | 1 Comment

Cabin Fever and the Value of Exercise on Long-Haul Flights

cabin fever - 777 200lr outside

I didn’t experience my first really long plane flight until I was in my 50s. Until then, my longest trips had involved flying across the United States from coast to coast, or flying from the East Coast of the U.S. to Western Europe. Those are long flights, to be sure, but the planes were in the air for only 5-7 hours, which seems tame compared to my more recent journeys to and from Africa and Asia.

Returning from Zambia a week ago, I endured my longest flight yet: 17-hours on a Boeing 777-200LR that departed from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and arrived the next day in Washington D.C. The trip was broken into two 8-hour legs, separated by a one-hour re-fueling stop in Dublin, Ireland, during which passengers were confined to the plane. Prior to the flight, I feared for both my mental and physical health. If I managed to distract myself enough not to go insane, I might still be at risk for deep vein thrombosis from sitting for so long. Fearing the worst but determined to avoid psychosis and blood clots, I vowed to figure out how to exercise on the plane, even if it involved overcoming my natural self-consciousness and fear of public embarrassment. Continue reading

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