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Friday, April 22, 2011

Red Bandana: Get Trained by an Olympian

Read this week's Red Bandana: A Runner Dies, A Runner Wins, A Runner Runs (to End Homelessness)

Across the western suburbs, you will find many kinds of running clubs: from hardcore marathoners to "run my first 5K" clubs to pure track clubs. One club, however, is especially unique.
What would it be like to train with an Olympian? Every Thursday evening at the Wheaton College track, you will find Jim Spivey coaching adult runners looking to improve their speed. The Jim Spivey Running Club has been the home of many age group champions since 1990 and has just started the 2011 season.

This is not a marathon training club. Though many of the runners do run marathons, and a few race Iron Man triathlons and even ultramarathons (50 kilometers to 100 miles), most are looking to run quicker 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles) races. High school age to runners in their 60s stand toe-to-toe at the line to become better runners.

What does a workout look like?

Thursdays, 5:30 pm, Wheaton College Track

First, there is the warm-up. Runners meet in the Billy Graham Center parking lot on the Wheaton College campus. Find everyone at 5:30 pm on the west side of Chase where the tracks cross. Everyone runs east on the Illinois Prairie Path around a mile, turns around and heads back.

Back at the parking lot, you can grab a drink of water (it is BYOW – bring your own water), and maybe change shoes from trail-friendly to something better suited for the track. Or not. When I have run there, I wear the same ones to train on all surfaces, as well as race. Presently, I am wearing ASICS 2150 shoes.

Next, it is off the to the track. Runners congregate at the starting line, found at the northwest side of the track. Coach Spivey arrives and briefly makes an announcement or two, and explains the workout.

An April workout, a favorite of mine, might look like this:

2 miles warmup
6×100 striders
3 sets of 3×400 (a 200 meter jog between each within a set, and a 400 meter jog between each set]
600 meters warmdown

Each 400 meter interval will have a specific, yet relative pace, based on your ability and goals. Try running 400 meter intervals alone, then trying running them with others. Simply put, it is easier to push through the last 100 meters when you have someone next to you.

Coach Spivey's club slogan is "Stay healthy, have fun, run PRs." In another words, although the workouts are challenging, he keeps an eye on weather conditions, a runner's fitness level and their race goals. The fun part comes from the joy of working out side-by-side with serious runners, enjoying great camaraderie and respect for a good effort. "The social factor is a big reason people join a running club," he said, noting that most clubs get together off track as well.

After the warmdown, everyone heads out somewhere for a bite to eat or something cold to drink to celebrate friendship and a job well done.

Who Is Jim Spivey?
Coach Spivey ran the 1500 meters in 1984 and 1992 Olympics, and the 5000 meters in 1996's Olympics. While a student at Fenton High School, he was the top 880 yards runner nationally, and had the second best mile in the country when he was a senior. He has faced the toughest runners ever to lace up a pair of shoes, including legends Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram, Steve Ovett and Steve Scott.

In 1984, he won the Olympic Trials for the 1500 meters, and placed fifth in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. His time of 3:36.06 is still the fastest run by an American in the Olympic final. His best mile is a 3:49.80, and he owns the American record in the 2000 meters with a 4:52.44 run in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1987.

He went on to coach at Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago, as well as has privately trained some of the top high school athletes in the country.

Whew! Tired yet? He brings all of this experience to the track, benefiting runners of all levels. Check out his running club next week.

For more information, see

Are you running with a club I should know about? Drop me a line.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
"Bargain" by The Who
Coach Spivey is a big fan of The Who, so this week it is the hard charging love song from their classic 1971 album "Who's Next." Real love involves getting out of ourselves, and thinking more about the other person. The Who gets this point across loudly, worthy of any running playlist.
"I sit looking 'round
I look at my face in the mirror
I know I'm worth nothing without you
In life one and one don't make two
One and one make one
And I'm looking for that free ride to me
I'm looking for you

I'd gladly lose me to find you
I'd gladly give up all I got
To catch you I'm gonna run and never stop"

Writer Anthony Trendl downloaded "The Who: The Ultimate Collection" as his first online music purchase, and thinks classic rock makes the best running playlist fodder. Contact me to send your favorite tips, songs, recipes, or to promote a road race. See

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good-bye Grete Waitz RIP

Today, cancer took one of the best marathoners in history, Norwegian runner Grete Waitz. She died today. Waitz was only 57.

Her legacy is not in how many Olympics she won, as her best was a silver medal in Los Angeles. Her legacy, instead, is what she accomplished on the world stage of road racing, like the NYC and London Marathon. She ran hard, she ran well and she did it often.

Below are her PRs and bio from Wikipedia.

Personal bests
1500 metres - 4:00.55 - Prague - 03/09/1978
One mile - 4:26.90 - Gateshead - 09/07/1978
3000 metres - 8:31.75 - Oslo (Bislett) - 17/07/1979
15 kilometres - 47:52 - Tampa, FL - 11/02/1984
Marathon - 2:24:54 - London - 20/04/1986

In her teen years, Waitz won national junior titles in Norway in the 400 and 800 meters. At age 17 she set the European junior record for 1,500 meters with a time of 4:17, winning a bronze medal at the European Championships in this event in 1974. In 1975 Waitz broke the 3000 metres world record, running 8:46.6 in Oslo. In Oslo a year later she lowered this record with an 8:45.4 effort, then in 1977 she won a gold medal at this distance at the inaugural IAAF World Cup in Athletics meet in Düsseldorf with a personal best time of 8:31.75. Her 4:00.55 career best in the 1500m, set in Prague on 1978, still stands as the Norwegian national record. Her final track race was a victory at 5,000 meters in Oslo in June 1982 where her 15:08.80 was the 2nd best in history, falling only half a second short of the women's world record set three weeks earlier by Mary Slaney.

It was in 1978 that her association with the New York City Marathon began; she was invited to run there by race co-founder and director Fred Lebow and in her first marathon effort not only won but took a full two minutes off of the women's world record. She went on to win the race nine times and broke the world record three years in a row. In all, she lowered the women's world record by an astonishing nine minutes, taking the standard from Christa Vahlensieck's 2:34:47 down to 2:32:30 (1978), 2:27:33 (1979), 2:25:41 (1980), and finally to the 2:25:29 that Waitz ran at London in 1983. Besides her marathon victories in New York and the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, Waitz also won the London Marathon in 1983 and 1986 (the latter in a personal best of 2:24:54), as well as the Stockholm Marathon in 1988 with a 2:28:24 (which as of 2011 is still the Stockholm course record for women).

Waitz enjoyed much success on the road at non-marathon distances as well, including a win at the Falmouth Road Race in 1980, four victories at the prestigious 10K Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, five wins at the L'eggs Mini-Marathon in New York, and world road records at 8K (25:03), twice in the 10K (31:16 in 1979, then later to 30:59), 15K (48:01) and 10 mile distances. Waitz further demonstrated her versatility by successfully competing in cross country, earning two bronze medals (1982, 1984) at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and winning the gold medal five times, (1978-1981 and 1983), tying her with Doris Brown Heritage for most wins in the history of women's International/World Cross Country Championships.

The only significant award she did not win in her storied career was an Olympic victory. As an up and coming 19 year old in Munich and then a 23 year old running the 1,500 meters in Montreal (the longest event allowed for women in the Olympics up until 1984) she competed but did not medal in an event that was far short of her specialty. In 1980, Norway was one of the countries that decided to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. At the 1984 Summer Olympics she was beaten by Joan Benoit and placed second to win the silver medal in the marathon. In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, a bad knee forced her to drop out of the women's marathon just after passing the 18 mile mark. She did win a gold medal and attained the title of world champion, however, when she won the marathon at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki.

Waitz completed her final marathon on 1 November 1992 with her good friend Fred Lebow. In celebration of Lebow's 60th birthday, after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 1990, they both completed the New York City Marathon with a time of 5:32:35.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011 Chicago Shamrock Shuffle Race Results

2011 Chicago Shamrock Shuffle Race Results

2011 Top 5
1. Simon Bairu, Portland, OR, 23:38
2. Lukas Verzbicas, Orland Hills, IL, 23:55
3. Kyle Brady, Naperville, IL, 24:07
4. Andrew Baker, Indianapolis, IN, 24:10
5. Tyler Sigl, Green Bay, WI, 24:14

1. Amy Yoder Begley, Beaverton, OR, 26:50
2. Jean Marinangeli, Schaumburg, IL, 28:11
3. Erin Moeller, Mt Vernon, IA, 28:23
4. Jessica Monson, Powers Lake, WI, 28:25
5. Katie Fenstermaker, South Bend, IN, 28:38

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Red Bandana: A Runner's Dilemma

read the latest: Red Bandana: Get Trained by an Olympian

I have been asked, per the title of my running blog, what is "The Runner's Dilemma"? I have on the right side of each page:

"A runner's dilemma? He must run, no matter what shape or situation he is in. The dilemma is finding a resolution despite being older, fatter, slower than when running was graceful."

I am 44. I am no longer fast. I can longer run a far way without having to plan for the consequences. I can no longer expect to be near the front in a local 5K.

There were those great days. Running was graceful. Now, it is not. Then, I ran because of sheer joy. Endorphins flooded my system like a welcome drug amidst my teenage angst-filled years. Ten miles? 15 miles? All felt peaceful.

There is that impulse to run. The sun is rising here in Chicagoland, the birds are making their first chirps, and the paperboy hasn't yet arrived. I want to run. I want to run now, but today, I have a head cold.

When I run, part of me is alive that is dormant the rest of the day. Although mostly silent, except for the grunts delivered to passing runners, I am inside myself shouting. Every step is glorious, a return to the childhood games of my youth — as if I am again six years-old, running, laughing with Brian and Duane in my backyard on Meade Avenue — when running was graceful, and bliss was made manifest.

Endorphins are still around, but I miss those longer of the long runs. There is something that happens with the longer runs that no endorphin can mimic. It is a serenity, found at any pace, having strode long enough to purge whatever ailed me emotionally before the run.

I sang when I ran. My voice was strong, bold. It was not held back by breathlessness. What beauty its sound lacks I made up for with vigor. Hymns. Old rock tunes. Silly songs from childhood. If I couldn't remember the line, I made it up.

Now, I remember fewer lines and grasp for air like a drowning man. Instead, words whisper out of me during a run that would make an emphysema patient smile smugly.

My feet clenched the rolling hills of the Palos Forest Preserves like a mountain goat. Zinging from foothold to foothold, setting only long enough to ricochet to the next bounding point. There, I could see poplars in a hidden grove, willows by a pond only frogs and ducks could approach, and birch known only to deer.

Today, my ankles worry about turns on the flattest track, my back suggests rest is a better posture, and my knees wince with the slightest provocation.

The dilemma, now, remains. I'm thinning and faster, and every so often, discover midstride a sense of rhythm and grace. It has yet to all come together. There has been no perfect run – I have on my memory dozens from 20 years ago, but none this year.

Perfection: when bliss and stride, speed and float, form and rhythm, distance and breath all join to enter me, surround me, push me and lead me.

Will all things converge? This is not something I can control. All I can do is set in place the possibility. Run hard, run long, run often. Then, maybe. Without the run, it will not, cannot happen.

But first, getting over a head cold.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
La Bamba – Richie Valens
Los Lobos covered this in 1987, renewing it as a complete classic. Even for those of us who do not speak Spanish, it is a sure sing-along while running. It has a kind of summer, sunny energy that will put more bounce in your stride.

"Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba se necesita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia para mí para tí y arriba y arriba
Y arriba y arriba por tí seré, por tí seré, por tí seré"

Writer Anthony Trendl loves Monet, impressionism and guitar-driven rock. Contact me to send your favorite tips, songs, recipes, or to promote a road race. See

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