Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 19 Aug 1999 12:20:28 -0400

Running 101

(from RC 287)

My first career goal was to coach on the track and teach in the classroom. Life had other plans, detouring me into the family business of journalism. (Both parents worked in this field, as do two of my siblings and now a daughter of mine.)

I never directly coached one athlete, let alone a full team. Yet in a sense I've still met that goal by "coaching" indirectly since the 1960s through written advice in magazines and books, and in frequent speeches to groups of runners.

In my other life -- the one lived outside of the running writing -- I do meet the second part of that original goal. Occasionally I act as a writing coach while teaching journalism classes at the University of Oregon.

Formal teaching didn't start for more than 20 years after my college graduation. But I've always been something of a teacher at heart. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than passing along lessons to other runners.

I'm thrilled that the book publisher Human Kinetics has given me a new chance to teach the fundamentals of this sport. Running 101 is being written this summer and is due for publication in mid-2000.

It won't be my first book of this type. Jog Run Race came out 22 years ago, but is now almost impossible to find and badly outdated anyway.

Other current books of this type feature the word "dummies" or "idiots" in their title. Mine will give more credit than that to your intelligence, experience and seriousness of purpose. As the title implies, this is a college-level course in running.

Readers are the students, while I act as professor. But the roles are blurred. I'm still learning after more than 40 years of running, racing and writing. Many of the new lessons, or reminders of old ones, come from runners with less experience but clearer vision.

This will not be a book just for beginners. That term doesn't appear in the title (or the subtitle: Learning and Relearning the Sport's Most Valuable Lessons) because it would suggest that only new runners would want to read this material or could learn anything from it.

The basic lessons, rules and practices of our sport apply to all. Only the details of application vary according to the experience, ability and ambition of the runner.

Runners everywhere and all the time ask me the same questions. These boil down to the big three:

1. How can I run farther (for instance, graduate from 10-K's or half-marathons to marathons)?

2. How can I run faster (say, improve the 5-K time by a minute or more)?

3. How can I get over my problems (injuries, physical and emotional) from trying to run farther and faster?

This book won't stop at answering these three big questions but will try to solve dozens of puzzles. I'll address them as clearly and accurately as four decades of experience at learning and teaching allow.

Readers might be learning these lessons for the first time, or relearning them after their own running has gone off-course. Or they might use Running 101 as a textbook if someone asks that most flattering of questions: Will you teach me how to run better?

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