Introducing Myself and My Goals for this Column - June 2003
It is a great honor to once again be writing about running. I've written some running articles in my past career as a sportswriter and columnist. Scott Horton asked me back in April if I would be interested in offering my "expert" advise on running. Despite having over 30 years of running experience, I'm hesitant in calling myself an expert because I'm learning something new about the sport every week. Since this is my first column, I think a little bit of an introduction is necessary. While Scott has my bio posted elsewhere on RunGeorgia.com, I want you to have an idea of my running influences.
I feel that it is important you know where I'm coming from as a running coach. Unlike many coaches, I do not have the traditional college background. I do not have an exercise science or kinesiology background nor did I rise up through the coaching ranks. I got a late start as a college coach. I base most of my coaching from my background as a competitive runner. I bring a "blue collar" approach to running -- that is work hard, no short cuts. I learned that running distance is important during the base training period and in order to get faster, you need to train with faster folks and compete against the "big boys." I also learned that you must train and race smart.
I first got involved with running in 1972 as the Munich Olympics were playing out. Frank Shorter, Dave Wottle, Lasse Viren, and Kip Keino starred in the distance events to influence the start of the "Running Boom" of the late 1970's and early 80's. Runners like Steve Prefontaine and Craig Virgin would also have an influence on me as I got more serious in the sport. Like Virgin, I grew up on a farm in the Midwest (Michigan), but unlike him I did not have a runner's work ethic to be a standout high school runner. I was fortunate to have a knowledgeable high school coach in Glen Brown and grew up in an area where cross country and track were seriously competitive. I was somewhat lazy those early years, getting by on the God-given talent I had. I worked hard during the season, but needed much prodding by my mother during the summer months to get me out the door for an occasional run.
It finally clicked for me during the summer of 1975, heading into my senior year, when I was invited to accompany a rival high school to a two-week running camp in Canada. We joined up with several high-level schools from the Detroit area and I learned first-hand the importance of off-season training. After a satisfying year in which I ran 15:43 for cross country (3 miles) and 4:24 for the mile in track, I went off to college to one of the local junior colleges in my area. But this junior college (Southwestern Michigan College) just happened to have the best JUCO cross country program in the U.S. Back in the late 70's, there was only one division of competition in the NJCAA, unlike the three levels today. We were appropriately named the "Roadrunners" and prior to my arrival in 1976 SMC had won the previous three national titles. Unfortunately, the two seasons I ran as a Roadrunner, the best we finished was second.
While at SMC, under the guidance of Ron Gunn, I learned more about running and improved my runner's work ethic. We usually had about 15-20 guys out for cross country and every practice was almost a race in itself. I was about a No. 12 guy on the cross country team my freshman year, but moved up to be the No. 7 guy (25:51 for 8K) my sophomore year. I attribute my improvement to hanging with the No. 1 guy on the team during the workouts for most of the two years I was at SMC.
After my two-year stint at SMC, I transferred to West Georgia College (now awkwardly known as State University of West Georgia) to experience a different part of the country and to hone my academic and athletic skills. I must admit I fared better on the athletic side than academic, but did manage to earn bachelor and master's degrees from WGC.
After my college days, I kept running a major part of my life while I began a career in journalism as a sportswriter. I spent more than 10 years covering high school and college sports, but was not satisfied with the profession since it cut into my ability to run races on the weekends. In the mid-80's I got a taste of working in public relations and by 1990 joined the staff at Clayton State (also awkwardly known as Clayton College & State University) as a public information assistant and sports information director. Then in 1995, I was presented the opportunity to start the men's and women's running programs here. And the rest, as they say, is history.
In coming up with ideas to present to you, the reader, I realize I want to provide advice without the gimmicks. I realize there are plenty of running experts out there these days who have plenty of advise and tips that runners can take to heart. I want to bring a unique spin on running that may be overlooked. I truly believe that in order to be a "blue chip" runner, you need to have a "blue collar" approach to your training and racing.
I welcome any suggestions or questions you may have regarding running for future columns. Meantime, next month I plan to cover some key training points to make you a stronger competitive runner.