On a crisp, cool and somewhat windy Saturday 1978, Randy and I drove the hour to Virginia Beach and completed the Shamrock’s 26.2 miles. That fall we ran a second race, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., which boasted a field of more than 3,000 runners as the country enjoyed its first running boom. (excerpt from The Race Before Us)
Yesterday we introduced Coach Dan to The Race Before Us. Today we offer Dan’s first post. We look forward to many more as Dan offers tips and other observations about running as he tries to inspire many more to be part of the boom..
It was only a few decades ago that running became a sensation in the United States, booming in the 1970 and 1980, mostly credited to Frank Shorter’s victory in the men’s 1972 Olympic marathon. Frank was an unlikely gold medalist, he was a Yale-educated lawyer, well spoken, and not the type of person you would attribute to a top Olympian sport. He did inspire men to lace up their sneakers and hit the roads running, and I’m guessing many lawyers, bankers, stockbrokers and other business professionals were among those that did. Shorter and others Americans, like Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori, Bill Rodgers, and Steve Perfontaine inspired so many during the 1970s to engage in some aspect of road running or jogging for recreation and fitness purposes.
The momentum for the boom continued and other athletes and events contributed to the growth in popularity and recognition of the sport of running. Coaches like Bill Bowerman of Oregon (who became one of the founders of Nike), and others led the way that catapulted new footwear for the sport, promising even greater performance and pushing the limits of speed. Men continued to dominate the sport until female pioneers like Katherine Switzer, Jacqueline Hansen and Miki Gorman showed that women could be taken seriously in the races too. But what really impacted the sport for everyone was that doctors started taking notice of the health benefits of activities like running.
Soon Americans were donning headbands, wearing jogging suits, and hitting the roads looking to get in shape. Running even influenced many U.S. Presidents like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, all who ran on the streets in Washington during their Presidencies as a way to stay fit. Since this early boom, running events, shoe and apparel manufacturers have grown substantially to meet the economic demands of the boom. It was becoming chic to be seen in running attire.
Although the first running boom was competitive and introduced people to the sport, it was one-dimensional. People just ran and oftentimes did not do any other form of exercise to strengthen other parts of the body. We did not realize the benefits of weight or cross training for runners until the 1990s. Since then, we’ve added more techniques to help improve the sport of running, including core training and biomechanics of running. Most physical trainers now incorporate core training in every exercise activity they do and all athletes competing today routinely incorporate core training in their workouts. It is often times these workouts that most runners still neglect and we will cover more on that later through our blogs.
While the number of people running doubled and tripled (in many cases) through the late 1990 (a time many refer to as the second running “boom”), we continue to grow, even more today. More and more people are starting to run, even walk, longer distances than before. Races like the 5k, 8k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon events are growing at phenomenal paces across America, and the world. People are signing up for these events because they are compassionate about a particular cause like a charity, or they seek a social connections in the community, or simply because they want to improve their health.
The bombing at the Boston Marathon in April, 2013 brought additional attention to the sport. Many swore Boston Strong and started running again or took up running for the first time. The Boston tragedy brought us together and for some, it gave them a new passion and a reason to keep moving forward. We were not going to be stopped. We prayed and asked God to give us the strength to carry on. Whatever the reason that is sparking renewed interest in the sport of running, we are seeing a rise in runners and walkers hitting the roads as we continue in this second generation boom. I believe this boom will continue for years to come.
Runners today are talking their time because they are enjoying it more, mainly because of the solitude it offers from the rest of life’s demands, or because of the company you can find in other runners. Perhaps it is a combination of the two. Regardless of the reasons why you are running, I am glad you are. And if you have not started, well, I hope you do. It is the only sport I know where your biggest competitor is yourself. When you run or walk a race for the first time, you are setting a personal record (PR). That is your PR, not your friend or neighbors, yours.
Many sports psychologist say that one of the best ways to start a new activity and stay with it is to find others doing it too. I encourage you to seek out running groups in your area. There are plenty to be found. If you can find a training team to join, I would highly encourage it since the one thing it provides is accountability, not only to yourself, but to others as well. Running can actually be a very sociable sport and I have seen many friendships form over my years of coaching runners and walkers through various races. For me, it is a way of life and if you haven’t already, I hope you join the boom too.
See you on the roads soon.