All posts by bradz54

Over 60 year old runner. Enjoy all sports, music, art, reading, writing, travel. Married with 3 children, twin girls and a boy.

Brad’s Corner, by Brad Zanetti

“The Boys in the Boat”, by, Daniel James Brown, Penguin Books, New York, New York, 2013, pp 370.

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In the past I have reviewed mostly books about runners and running, for runners and running, written by a runner or had running in the title(how slick?!). So on a great recommendation from a friend(and the Sonoma Gals Book Club) I began reading a book about rowing, specifically the nine-man crew that went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics with a quest for the Gold Medal. Now I straight up don’t know a lot about rowing and although I watch it during the Olympics I don’t follow the sport regularly. Still, I felt this book was a great choice for two main reasons:  1) It’s an Olympic year and June is Olympic month and 2) I am fascinated with the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin and the politics of the era.

Upon starting the book I kind of read over the quote that begins each chapter. As it turns out each quote or thought is by a man named George Yeoman Pocock. In chapter three his character is formulated and it turns out that Mr. Pocock is a former rower from England who is a (the) master builder of the 8 man cedar shell (boat). In fact the Pocock shell is still considered the premiere shell. Well I went back and restarted reading the quotes prior to each paragraph and found that they added much to the storyline.

In lieu of giving a detailed telling of the story (’cause why would you read it then?) let me just say this is one of the finest sport stories I have ever read. Character development was excellent and complete. You really feel like you know what makes each character tick. Each chapter covers a number of storylines and character developments and repeats them in a way that makes you part of a story, part of the character’s life – a part of history.

The historical time frame covered extends from the late 1800’s through 1943 with excellent historical perspectives throughout the storieline. The epilogue chapter covers the lives of the characters through the 21st century. The reader will get an interesting feel for the times of the early 1900’s, the development of Seattle, the depression era, the politics surrounding the Olympics (and Avery Brundage) and the politics of Hitler, a rebuilding Germany post WWI and the way Hitler snuck up on the world prior to trying to rule it.

This will happen by following the life story of Joe Rantz, one of the nine rowers on the 1936 Olympic Rowing team from the University of Washington. You will learn about his rather sad early life and how it developed his resolve. You meet his teammates, how they relate to one another as the team is formed from over a hundred young men over four years under the watchful eye and tutelage of Coach Al Ulbrickson and Master shell builder George Y. (Yoda?) Pocock.

The Boys in the Boat is incredibly well written in all ways. I was especially impressed with the historical perspective and the development of an understanding of this new sport to me, Crew. The individual and team aspect of crew parallels in many ways running and cross-country although even more linked due to the synchronous nature of rowing. The story telling of the actual races was very good and I found myself immersed in the crew racing experience much as if I was in a race myself. I don’t often give an unequivocal thumbs up but with this book I am prepared to do so. If the story alone was not enough I was definitely enamored with the G. Y. Pocock quotes that begin each chapter.

Two examples of George Pocock’s insight circa the 1930’s are prescient of the type of things I shared with my high school runners and have shared with other Empire Runners:

“ Men as fit as you, when your everyday strength is gone, can draw on a mysterious reservoir of power far greater. Then it is that you can reach for the stars. That is the way champions are made.”

and

“Where is the spiritual value of rowing?…The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.”

And in an homage to the “Runner’s High”:

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes… that “swing” as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight;  it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

My recommendation is to read this book as soon as you can. It is a wonderful read full of depth and detail, characters and history, sport and its impact. Read it NOW, before it becomes a movie.

Rating:   Excellent                     5/5 *****

Who Was Peter Norman Part 2, by Brad Zanetti

March2015Zanetti06Peter Norman was born June 15, 1942 near Melbourne, Australia. He was raised in a strong Christian family by parents that were Salvation Army missionaries. His parents were poor and growing up there wasn’t enough money to afford the gear necessary to play his favorite sport, Australian Rules Football. As a teenager Peter’s father was able to find used track spikes. Peter was elated and began his track career.

Peter’s Christian upbringing was essential in the development of the man he became. A little background on the doctrine of the Salvation Army is essential. In 1865 William Booth took his version of Christianity to the streets, the poor, the destitute. By 1878 his East London Christian Mission was noted as a volunteer army. Not liking the sound of that he penned salvation in place of volunteer and the Salvation Army was borne. The mission statement of the Salvation Army is 3 fold:

1- message is the Bible

2- ministry is motivated by the love of God

3- mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs without discrimination.

March2015Zanetti05Peter had developed into a fine runner, the finest in Australia prior to the 1968 Olympics. He was the top 100/200 runner in Australia but felt his best event was the 200m with a time of 20.6 at the Australian Olympic trials. However, he was not well known on the world stage and not even in the discussion for a medal. But when he arrived in Mexico City at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario, Peter ran consistently good times through to the finals. He exploded in the first heat winning with a 20.17(setting a national and short lived Olympic record). He won his quarterfinal heat in 20.44 and was second to John Carlos in the semis in 20.22. In typical Norman fashion he yelled across to Carlos, “You can have that one!” Carlos just waved him off indignantly. The final was a phenomenal race with a late surge by Peter, squeaking by Carlos at the tape in 20.06 for the Silver medal(and a national record that still stands today). Tommie Smith ‘jetted’ down the backstretch to the Gold in a new Olympic, National and World record in 19.86. John Carlos content with what he thought was a Silver shut it down a hair early and accepted the Bronze.

Prior to the Olympics there was much rhetoric and public fighting over a possible boycott of the Olympics by the black athletes. A combination of the deaths of Rev Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and a lack of solidarity of all of the Black athletes led to them not boycotting the Olympics. This allowed each athlete to express themselves individually. The significance of Carlos and Smith display goes as follows: the gloves were for Power(Black) and Unity. The shoeless entry(stocking feet) was for poverty. The beads they wore represented lynchings(‘Strange Fruit’). Carlos entered with an unzipped jacket(against Olympic protocol) as a tribute to blue collar workers.

March2015Zanetti02Just prior to the walk up to the Olympic podium, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made Peter Norman aware of their plan. They asked him if he believed in human rights. Peter answered that he did and that he believed strongly in God. Peter said, “I will stand with you, how can I participate?” They asked him to wear the Olympic Project for Human Rights(OPHR) badge. Remembers Carlos, “ I expected to see fear in Peter’s eyes, but instead we saw love.” Norman reached for Carlos’ badge but he said, “this is mine but we will get you one.” Paul Hoffman a Harvard and Olympic crew team member offered his to Norman. Just prior to the walk in to the dais, Carlos realized he had forgotten his gloves. It was Peter who suggested that Tommie and Carlos each wear one, which they both agreed. The three men, united, walked to the dais…and history was soon to be made.

“I couldn’t see what was happening, Norman said, but I knew they had gone through with the plan when a voice sang the American anthem but then faded to nothing. The stadium went quiet; what followed was a shower of boos”. As the threesome walked off the crescendo of boos turned to vicious racial slurs; their lives forever changed and forever linked.

As you are probably aware Tommie Smith and John Carlos were stripped of their medals, kicked off of the team and sent back to the US. Their lives were ruined as they were not allowed to race again, received numerous death threats, fired from their jobs and found it difficult to get substantial jobs for decades. What you may not know is that after the Olympic medal ceremony, when asked about the Americans demonstration by reporters, Peter Norman responds, “I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way.” He was then reprimanded by the Australian Olympic committee, banned from racing for 2 years and finally not sent to the 1972 Olympics in Munich even though he was the 5th rated sprinter in the world in the 200m and qualified in the 100 and 200m. He was torn to shreds by the Australian press and returned to apartheid Australia not a star or hero but rather a pariah. He, too, faced a daily challenge of acceptance and any opportunity at all. Even after Australia renounced their apartheid philosophy and long after Carlos and Smith had been forgiven in the U.S. Peter Norman was still persona non grata at home and was not invited in any capacity to be part of the 2000 Olympics in Sidney. At that late date they still wanted Peter to renounce his part in the 1968 demonstration. He of course would not. In fact, Peter was invited to be part of the US Olympic group reuniting with Smith and Carlos, whereupon Michael Johnson introduced himself to Peter and said, “Peter you are my hero”. Peter said, “I didn’t know you even knew who I was. Michael responded, “Of course I know who you are”.

Over time the disruption of the status quo by the 1968 Olympic demonstration has been seen in a different light(change is slow). Nearly 4 decades later in 2005 a heroic 23’ tall sculpture of the medalist podium moment was erected at San Jose St University. Curiously, Peter Norman’s place is vacant so that visitors can stand in accord with Smith and Carlos. It was Norman’s choice to leave his spot vacant since the sculpture is in America, on the duo’s college campus. Per Peter, “ It wasn’t about me. All I did was wear a button of support. That platform is for anybody across this world to stand up for justice and equality.”

The trio have remained close throughout the years. In fact, Peter was at the unveiling of the statue and presented and introduced John Carlos. Tragically, Peter had a variety of medical and chemical issues and died of a heart attack on Oct 3, 2006. Both John and Tommie were pallbearers at his funeral and eulogized him and consider Peter’s mother their “Australian mom”. They often tell Peter’s story, their story at their speaking engagements. Peter remains a friend, a brother, a hero to them and to all who know his story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu5K2cOeD4M(John Carlos about Peter Norman)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dc5MiEs8aY(Statue unveiling with Peter Norman introduction)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4LvwXYmt3Q(who was pete norman by the young turks-TYT)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–lzACn0aZ8(200m final race)

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Movie Review: “RACE,” Brad’s Corner

April16BradsCorner02MOVIE REVIEW:   “RACE” (2015) 134minutes.  ‘A biopic of Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics’

By Brad Zanetti

Where to start. Would I recommend this movie? And would I want to see it again? By the nature of its one word ‘double edged’ title the movie promises both a sport story about a specific race(s) and a more important story about worldwide race relations in the 1930’s. Does the movie deliver on both accounts?

The basic storyline is a couple of years in Jesse Owens career based around 2 specific events:

1- The Big Ten Meet in May 1935 where won 4 events with 4 world records(100y, 220y, 220y hurdles, Long Jump) over a 45 minute period(considered the greatest day in the history of track)

2- The1936 Berlin Olympics in August, where he got 4 gold medals(100m, 200m, LJ and 4 x100 relay) and singlehandedly refuted Hitler’s Aryan concept. There is an oblivious timeline and a number of side stories that either confuse or confound the known storyline.

During the 2 plus hour film the pace and rhythm waxed and waned. At times it moved very slowly and left one wondering where the story was going. Since the movie covered a very short specific time in Owens life I expected some great track scenes and the impact of race issues in is life. Some of the side stories were of questionable authenticity and perhaps not necessary. A fair amount of time was spent on a short term love interest of Jesse and the impact on his relationship with his future wife of 45 years. This added nothing to the story as the remainder of the movie even his relationship with his wife wasn’t very well developed. Speaking of the track scenes, I thought there were well done (thankfully no slow motion) and the athletes did look like athletes. As a runner that was appreciated. There were many scenes demonstrating racism in America from fellow student/athletes, other coaches, Avery Brundage and the Olympic coaches. These scenes were strong and impactful. I think the story of his post Olympic struggle would have made this movie more complete. A terse scene with Jesse and his wife having to use the waiter entrance to a party in his honor seemed a weak portrayal.

The section about Owen’s experiences in Berlin was pretty well done but there were still some inconsistencies. The high point was the representation of Jesse’s relationship with the German long jumper, Carl ‘Luc’ Long, which began as an athletic relationship but developed into a strong friendship. There was some questionable poetic license taken with the Leni Riefenstahl character that I find bothersome and inauthentic (hence unnecessary). And her relationship with Goebbels was questionable. Finally I think the time spent on the background of Avery Brundage and Goebbels relationship might have been better spent on Owen’s post Olympic life.

I think editing some of these mentioned problem areas could have improved the pace of the movie and by utilizing that time to clarify his post Olympic tribulations would have strengthened the racial impact of the movie. To answer my original questions; would I recommend seeing this movie. I can unequivocably say, probably. I think the running scenes are good enough to interest the hardcore runners as is the basic storyline. I would recommend this movie to the running fanatics in the group most definitely and to the rest of the readers with the caveat that some of the storyline and characters may not be accurate. That being said, after watching the movie and enjoying much of it I didn’t feel like I gained any new insight into the life of Jesse Owens so to answer the second question; would I watch it a second time? I would have to answer probably not.

Rating:       3.75 out of 5

Who Was Peter Norman? By Brad Zanetti

March2015Zanetti021968 was a very special year—an Olympic Year. By the time the Olympic Games started, I was 14 years old and ready to begin high school. Steve Prefontaine was entering the University of Oregon, although the nation’s #1-ranked high school runner had yet to captivate the attention of the running world. Pre’s coach, Bill Bowerman, had a nickname for him—“the Rube.” In many ways that was me. I did not have a world-wide view or much real life experience. I was raised by first generation Italian-American immigrants who had fully immersed themselves in American culture. My naiveté was further enhanced by the fact that I lived in the lily-white town of San Carlos, midway between San Francisco and San Jose.

To this 14-year-old boy, the Olympics epitomized the purity of sport. I knew nothing of how politics could enter the world of athletics. Certainly I was aware of the free speech movement across the Bay in Berkeley, the atrocities of the war in Vietnam, Communism and the Cold War, apartheid in South Africa, and the Watts riots, but there was no connection between politics and the Olympics, or so I thought. Maybe I just wanted life to remain simple. The Fundamental Principles of Olympism themselves state that “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility, and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

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(http://www.olympic.org/Documents/olympic_charter_en.pdf)

And Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” You could understand my confusion. The Olympic ideal didn’t match reality. In 1968 my simplified world view had been rocked; but it wouldn’t be until 1972, my first month of college, that I finally started to piece together the politics of our nation and our place in the world.

Sports have always been my way of separating myself from the realities of life. It was sports and the excitement of the Olympics that I hoped would give me a respite in 1968. All that was going on that year—student protests in Europe and Mexico, USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia, war in Vietnam, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King—left me needing an escape. I dreamed about how the US team would perform. I was confident in their talent—especially in the sprints, jumps, and middle distances. Many of our best came from San Jose State University (“Speed City”) just down Highway 101 from my home. I was fortunate to have seen these runners during the indoor season. By the early summer, the outdoor season was in full swing and excitement was building thanks to some excellent early season times. In June 1968, the US Olympic Committee staged a pre-Olympic Trial meet in Los Angeles, the results of which confused athletes and fans alike. They served not to give the winners a spot on the Olympic team, but rather to exclude certain runners. After this meet, the possibility of a boycott by black athletes was becoming more likely, most notably by sprinter John Carlos, who was not allowed to run the 100 m by the Olympic Committee.

The real Olympic Trials were run in September on a specially built track up on Echo Summit off Highway 50, above South Lake Tahoe. The track was built at altitude to mimic the conditions found in Mexico City (sans the poor air quality). The track was literally cut into the forest and was the Disneyesque backdrop to one of the greatest meets attended by arguably the best Track & Field team of all time. This Olympic training camp galvanized the team amid the swirling tensions of political unrest. The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), led by Dr. Harry Edwards, was formed in order to protest the reinstatement of South Africa to the Olympics by IOC president Avery Brundage (the man who also delivered the 1936 Olympics to Hitler’s Germany in Berlin) as well as the conditions in the United States for black Americans. Despite all of this, the results of the Trials were unprecedented, with four pending world records produced. Unfortunately, they were not all ratified due to some question about the spikes being worn (specifically Puma’s “brush spike” technology). Even as a 14-year old, I began to smell a rat—how could shoes alone make you so fast? Still, I couldn’t wait for the Olympics to finally begin to see how well we would run.

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Meanwhile, over in Australia, another young man was preparing for the Olympics. By his own account, Peter Norman came to track quite by accident, but then continued to improve through juniors and then up to the national level. By the time of the 1968 Australian Games (their Olympic Trials), Norman was his country’s top 100 m – 200 m runner. In the 200 m especially, Peter had improved to near-world-class status with a time of 20.6 seconds, and was known for a very strong finish. World- wide, though, he remained a virtual unknown and wasn’t on anyone’s list as a possible winner.

At the 1968 Olympics, the sprinters and jumpers were benefitting from Mexico City’s relatively thin air (witness Bob Beamon, long jump) and Norman was ripping through the preliminary heats, winning the first heat in 20.16, a new Olympic record (though short-lived). He won his quarterfinal and scorched out a 20.06 to place second to American John Carlos. (He yelled across to Carlos, “You can have this one,” whereupon John waved him off. “The gall of this guy…” per JC). This was the fastest time he would ever run—a new Australian national record and one that still stands today.

Coming into the finals on October 16th, just four days into the Games, the US was building up their medal count and Peter Norman recalls that he was already tired of hearing our National Anthem. He was driven to try and change that. Prior to the start of the 200 m race, he had tried to get into the heads of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, but at the gun, it was Norman who got out slowly. Tommie Smith had been nursing a sore groin and also (by his own admission) got out poorly. It was John Carlos who answered the gun, blazing out of the blocks and around the corner to the lead for the stretch drive. At this point, Smith extended down the backstretch, catching and passing Carlos about halfway down the stretch and finishing in 19.83—a gold medal, a new National, Olympic, and a World Record. Carlos, looking to his left as Smith flew by, eased up in the final 40 meters. Suddenly, out of the bottom of the TV screen, came Norman. He flew past Carlos, who was unable to respond after shutting it down. Final result: Peter Norman, the silver medal in 20.06; John Carlos, the bronze medal in 20.10. I remember being totally upset at Carlos for letting that Australian guy get the silver. I was like a starving lion in front of a 10-lb T-bone for medals. I wanted total dominance and “we” gave one away only four days into it. I couldn’t possibly know what was to come.

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I don’t think I need to go into great detail about the award ceremony. The picture of Tommie Smith, Peter Norman, and John Carlos on the podium—Smith and Carlos shoeless, with their black-gloved fists raised in a black power salute—remains perhaps the most celebrated photo in Olympic history. It came at a time when a gesture for Human Rights in front of the world was necessary. I was stunned and didn’t understand it. I was swayed by the commentators’ explanation. But most importantly, what would the officials do to them?

Unbeknownst to me and most of the world, Peter Norman was part of the demonstration. He was wearing the OPHR patch on his chest in solidarity with Smith and Carlos. (He remained in solidarity with them until his death in 2006.) The Australian Olympic Committee and IOC asked—no demanded—that he rescind his solidarity, but he would not. The three athletes’ lives were forever entwined. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked off the team, removed from the Olympic Village, and barely survived death threats as they were flown back to the US. Once home, their lives were not much better. Neither man could find gainful employment at a time when a gold medal was the only realistic way to get a windfall during the “amateur” days of track and field. (See Wheaties Box). Money and glory were not theirs, nor was the adulation of the sporting community for simply being the best in the world. They traded this reward for a more important message.

For my part, I was mad that they were not available for any relay duties. It didn’t matter; the US got gold in both relays. It was at this point I was beginning to understand that there might be something bigger than the Olympics as I struggled with THEIR explanation of the shoeless entry, the black gloves, and raised fists.

There will be a Part II to this article, but until April, here is a list of videos/articles of interest:

YouTube

Peter Norman 1968 Olympics

search:

  • Peter Norman Australian for Human Rights
  • The story behind the white guy in this historic photo

SportsonEarth.com

search:

  • The forgotten story of Australian Olympian Peter Norman

Salute

The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World by John Carlos and Dave Zirin (book)

 

Brad’s Corner – QUICK STRENGTH FOR RUNNERS

Feb16Zanetti

“QUICK STRENGTH FOR RUNNERS, 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body”, by Jeff Horowitz, Velopress, Boulder, Colorado, 2013. Pp 198

Speaking from a pure runner’s perspective, I ask you, would you rather go on a nice run in Annadel or spend 45-60 minutes in a (smelly) gym pounding the weights, running on a treadmill or busting the exercycle? I don’t know about you but I would pick the run seven days out of seven, no question. The problem with doing so much running and so  very little pre and post-run training is that it often will result in injuries (especially as we increase mileage, intensity and as we just age).  And usually the injuries are not quickly healed. So for those of you (us) that think you don’t have time or don’t want to make time for pre and post run training think about how many injuries you have had over the last couple of years. Now think about how much time you were unable to run due to those injuries. If you are like me and have had multiple injuries and been off running for up to 2-3 months at a time (sometimes even longer) an extra 60 minutes a week In the gym might be time well spent. As well, I feel a regular strength training program will not only minimize your injuries but will also improve your training and racing times/consistency.

198 pages may seem like a lot of reading for a training guide.  It could just as easily have been in formatted simply a guide and would still have been very good. The first 45 pages are background and simple running physiology. If you have a background in physiology or have read any of the previously reviewed running physiology books you could easily bypass the first 45 pages or read it later (in lieu of watching the final season of ‘American Idol).

The next 85 pages are a well written explanation of 40 exercises and the minimal amount of equipment needed to perform them. Each exercise is also differentiated into easy and advanced styles. There is also a TIP which will clarify proper technique and a COACHES NOTE which explains the why and/or an ‘attaboy’(‘-girl’).

The next 50 pages are dedicated to the training sessions delineated by the week (weeks 1 through 8). Depending on your physical strength you can choose easy or advanced but the guide is setup to start easy on week 1 and get progressively more advanced and more intense with each week. If that seems like just too much there is no reason not to go at a slower, less advanced rate and with 40 exercises to choose from you could develop your own ever changing program.

The training is 2-3 20 min sessions per week so everyone should be able to make that time available to improve overall fitness and your running with a minimum of equipment (dumbbell, balance ball, medicine ball and a balance/bosu board) as your strength improves and you want to try the advanced exercises. The book finishes with a small chapter on continuing the program while travelling.

This is a great book and guide that if followed 2-3 times per week will definitely improve your strength, running and overall health.

Rating:   4.8/5             Usefullness:   5/5

A NOVEL WISH (BOOK) LIST for Christmas, by Brad Zanetti

It is that time of year when you may be having a hard time deciding on a Christmas gift for your runner friends or family members. Hey this year a fruitcake, gift card or those gift baskets from Costco may not say how much you really care. You may be looking for something special, something that says, “I understand your lifestyle and love of literature” . This might be the year a great running book is just the ticket.

Over the last 2 years I have reviewed 20-30 books, many of which I really enjoyed as literature, biographies or investigative journalism. I was hoping this could develop into a shared library of running books, a veritable running book of the month club. Although this idea is still in development I have received some positive feedback about the reviews as well as some sharing from others regarding a few of the choices included here.

So if literature is the gift of choice this season I have compiled a list of the Top 10 books; in no particular order. These are not only good reads but also look good on the coffee table or the bookshelf:

1A.  ONCE A RUNNER, John L Parker

1B. AGAIN TO CARTHAGE , John L Parker (there is a third sequel book, “RACING THE RAIN” which I haven’t read yet)

2. BORN TO RUN Christopher McDougall(I know; Who doesn’t have this book?)

3. MY LOSING SEASON, Pat Conroy

4. RUNNING WITH THE BUFFALOES, Chris Lear

5. PRE, Steve Prefontaine, Tom Jordan

6A. OUT OF NOWHERE, How Nike Marketed the Culture of Running, Geoff Hollister

6B. SWOOSH, The Unauthorized Story of Nike, J.B. Strasser and Laurie Becklund.

6C. BOWERMAN AND THE MEN OF OREGON, Kenny Moore.

7. DUEL IN THE SUN, John Brant

8. RUNNING WITH THE LEGENDS, Michael Sandrock

9. THE SILENCE OF GREAT DISTANCE, Women Running Long, Frank Murphy

  1. HUNT FOR WOLF-EYES, Ty Strange

I know, I said 10 books, but a few books are direct sequels although each stands on its own, a few are directly related, again standing on their own. And although #10 is not exactly a running story, it is written by our very own local Empire Runner, Ty Strange and the Redwood empire plays a role in the story. Looking forward to a running story from him soon.

Hope this helps making Christmas shopping easier.   Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

 

Brad’s Corner: “100 MILES to DESTINY”

“100 MILES to DESTINY”, Willis B McCarthy, Hignell Book Printing, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 2007, pp. 285

This is a total work of fiction but based in the running world realm. The author, Will McCarthy, is a long-distance runner with an impressive log of 100 mile ultras including, the Western States 100, Leadville and others. When I met him he was the coach at Serra High School in San Mateo (my alma mater) and selling this book literally out of his car (at his Crystal Springs Invite). It was interesting to talk to the author about his thought process and premise.

The premise came about after his experience at the 1984 Western States. It is the fictional story of an Olympic event, a 100 miler, on the Western States course. It is a story of running, ultrarunning, nationalistic pride and maybe a bit stereotypical. I think the premise of an Olympic 100 miler is novel and the fact that it follows the Western States map and the author’s experience really makes you feel like you are watching the event unfold in a very realistic way.  However, not having run an ultra myself, this is pure speculation.

The writing, in itself, is not spectacular but the storyline was intriguing and the pace was very good. I think it will be an interesting read because of the author’s running experience. Overall it is an easy read and the story kept me captivated from beginning to end. The protaganists are mostly from Europe, Mexico, Russia, Japan and the U.S. The lack of African participants is due in part to the fact that it is set in 1984 and from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s, European, American, Japanese and Russian runners were dominant in the distance events. This was also the period that preceded the end of the Cold War and that plays an obvious part of the storyline.

I think all runners will enjoy this book in the continuing quest for good realistic fiction about running and a running book written by a runner. (still looking forward to the next novel by Empire Runner Ty Strange). 100 MILES to DESTINY is a worthwhile and entertaining read although not on the level of the John L Parker series(“ONCE A RUNNER”, etc).

Not sure how one can get a copy although I think I saw it advertised in Running Times and/or Trail Runner mags. I, of course, have a copy which I am willing to loan out but would like back.

Rating:   Story :   4.5/5     Writing: 3/5

The Destination Race Soliloquy, by Brad Zanetti

When was the last time you had a destination race experience? Has it been awhile or are you wondering what is he talking about? Well for those new to racing or those just happy to get it over with and on with your life already, the destination race includes some travel and some pre and/or post race timeframe hopefully with some other like minded runners. Living in Sonoma County we are so lucky as Empire Runners with 12 FREE races a year and another race available weekly within a 25 mile radius. Add in the PA racing schedule for XC and Road racing and there are more races to run in close proximity than any sane man or woman should consider running.

The beauty of the destination run is there isn’t such a hurry to get there, race and go home. The beauty is you can take your time getting to the destination, make the race your priority then take your time heading home maybe visiting other points of interest on the way. In essence the race though important is secondary to the experience of the destination and/or the group whom you share the experience.

In past blogs and issues there have been many stories of destination races some lasting a week or more, most a weekend or long weekend. Some of them have been to exotic locals like Boston(marathon), Carlsbad (5000), Ashland and Vietnam (half marathon) others more local like Auburn (Blood, Sweat and Beers), Dipsea and Lake Tahoe (Decelle Memorial).

These mentioned destinations have had some great history amongst many of the Empire Runners. Ask around and you might be surprised how many people have gone to these and other destination races alone or with groups as many of these have been multiple destinations over many years. Ask yourself if  this is something that interests you or would be willing to try. If so, ask around (races), show up at the group runs or show up at the ER meetings (third Thursday each month). For more info you might ask the famous 2008 Boston Marathon group who spent a week near Boston in the ‘Mansion’, multiple groups who have attended a 4 day weekend in San Diego/Carlsbad in a boutique hotel (cookies and milk at bedtime) or many teams who have spent the long weekend in Lake Tahoe circumnavigating the great blue lake.

Some upcoming trips ALREADY in planning for 2016 include:

1- Carlsbad 5000, 4/1-4/4 – brew tours, Sea World, SD Zoo, Legoland and the fastest 5K in the world.

2- Dipsea Race- Mt Tam- June 2016 one of the classic courses in the U.S. (World?)

3- Olympic Trials – Eugene , OR, 6/30-7/11plus age group miles on the historic Hayward Field track or the Butte to Butte 10K.

Some ideas for future trips. Let me know what you think.

Lilac Bloomsday 12K Race, Spokane, May

Falmouth 7 mile Race, Falmouth, MA, Aug

5th Ave Mile, New York, NY, September

If this is all too much planning or just plain TOO MUCH then how about this. If the planets align like this year, how about the San Bruno Mtn 5K, followed by an afternoon of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. This could be stretched into 3 days of music festival with a beautiful 5K thrown in….It Boggles the Mind!

Brad’s Corner – “One Man’s Journey to the End of His Life”

Oct15Zanetti02This is really a two book review and in essence a full circle review of his life from his height of popularity to his final profound statement and ultimate demise to cancer. The first book, “Running & Being, The Total Experience” was written in 1978 at the age of 59. Dr. George Sheehan was coming off over a decade of masters running culminating in his 4:47 mile at the age of 50 (a national record) and becoming the ‘medical’ expert and the voice of the running boom of the 1970’s, imploring everyone to get off the couch and take to the streets (running/jogging that is). Although a national level runner thru his 50’s his message (and Bill Bowerman’s as well) was to get out and run no matter how fast. The goal was life-long fitness and because of that a better life. George was a fitness guru, medical consultant, psychologist and a bit of a fanatic. The hook in his message I feel is that this running thing has to be ‘PLAY”. It should be fun and there are many ways to make it so: from where you run (the beauty) to how you run(pace change/fartlek) to whom you run with(group runs/hash house runs/post run socializing). By making each day’s run your playtime it instills a fun element that draws you back the next day.

The second book I am reviewing and also his last, “Going the Distance” concerns the last years of his life and reviews his fight with cancer (while remaining a runner). The first book was written when running was his life (he had quit his medical practice) and although in his late 50’s was at the top of his game mentally and physically (at least his perception). Like many of us just over middle-agers, in our minds, we are very much younger, so too was Dr George. He proselytized that aging was just a mindset and (in his mind) he proved that by running a 3:01 marathon(his PR) at the age of 61 and ran over 60 marathons and 21 straight Boston marathons.

The first book has an overall feeling of extreme confidence, maybe even arrogance. It is written by a man at the height of his popularity, an expert voice. He is the face of a nation of newbie runners all thirsting for the answers of how and why to run. He was more than happy to be that voice, those answers.   His one word chapter names begin: Living, Discovering, Understanding, Becoming, Learning which give the feeling of a transactional analysis self help group(remember the 1970’s? Est?). These morph into: Running, Training, Healing, Racing, Winning, Losing, Suffering… are more of what you might think a running book would be about. The information in the book is a bit dated but much running data has not really changed dramatically (contrary to the shoe industry literature) so I found it interesting at the very least as a historical perspective. About his writing style especially in the first half of the book- I found it a bit painful as he quotes every philosopher known to mankind and kind of takes the ‘play’ out of the actual point he is trying to make. The second part, the running chapters I enjoyed more. Again I didn’t find this book a scintillating read but as a historical and insightful view of the Voice of the running boom (of the ‘70s) I think it is indeed worthy of the time spent reading it.

The second book is an entirely different animal. A man, not entirely broken, but viewing the end of his life and still fighting yet not with the same fervor of his beginning fight with cancer. I think the book would have been entirely different if he had started it at the beginning of his fight. The overall tone is much softer, I think his goal is to leave something more to his children. His interaction with them(and in the book, “Chasing the Hawk” reviewed previously and written by his son, Andrew Sheehan) are now full of a man sharing his emotions and wanting his children to share time with him. As a younger man, as a father, he was aloof and solitary. In fact his running, writing and lecturing continued to separate them as a family. In this book, as well, he used quotes from many philosophers. Yet here I found the quotes helpful, instructive even enlightening as I felt they fit the story George was telling.   At the end of one’s life I would expect to be more philosophical and Dr Sheehan indeed is and is writing his goodbye and passion for his children. I enjoyed everything about this book. (Dr Sheehan wrote six other books which I have not read.  One might see a change in his style as a progression or perhaps it is just his emotion plainly written).

As an aside, I felt Dr Sheehan’s son’s book (Chasing the Hawk) was the best of the three but together they made an interesting trilogy of the story of the somewhat dysfunctional Sheehan family. I can recommend them individually and as a trilogy if you think you can take that much information about one family. If I was to do it again I would read Dr Sheehan’s first book ‘Running and Being’, then Andrew Sheehan’s book ‘Chasing the Hawk”, finishing with ‘Going the Distance’. I have these books available if someone wants to borrow them.

  1. “Running & Being, The Total Experience”, by Dr. George Sheehan, Rodale, Inc., New York, NY, pp. 255
  2. “Going the Distance”, by Dr. George Sheehan, Random House, Inc., New York, NY, pp. 185.

Brad’s Corner – Everything you wanted to know about Porta-Potties

EVERYTHHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PORTA-POTTIES BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK?!    By Brad Zanetti

Are you kidding me? You’re probably saying to yourself.  Has the Zeeman truly lost it? Is it old age? Have I run too many midday scorcher runs and self-induced some brain damage? Lord, I hope not. Usually you can expect a monthly running book or movie review in this blogspot but I had a recent 9 hour flight back from North Carolina via Houston and took that time to read a couple of running magazines, ‘Competitor’ and ‘Runners World’.

The ‘Competitor’ is a free magazine found in our local running shops. As a free magazine I didn’t have many expectations. I thought it would mostly have advertisements and maybe a couple of short articles and race ads. Seriously what caught my eye was the cover photo of Emma Coburn (top US Steepler) in full stride. On closer examination the cover notes: Get New Kicks (15 shoe reviews), Get Fit Get Faster, Elite Advice on Recovery,  and Beer and Running implored me give this rag a chance. And I was favorably impressed. I found ‘Competitor’ magazine to be a rather nice little magazine. Photos were of high quality, the writing was good and the articles were complete when necessary and brief when the subject matter was to the point. I thoroughly enjoyed the feature article on Emma Coburn. The shoe reviews have a fair amount of data though the are not critically reviewed. The Beer and Running article was particularly good and reminded me why I enjoy the Thursday night runs at Howarth Park.  The social run is the hallmark of a well rounded running program.

Not expecting much from a free magazine I was pleasantly surprised at the content of the ‘Competitor’ and will search it out in the coming months. If you are in need of some easy reading or you’re at one of our local running stores trying on shoes or clothes take a moment and grab yourself a free ride.

Knowing the nine hour trip would need something to fill the dead time I pursued the shops at the airport and only found Runners World in this genre. Normally, I don’t follow Runners World any longer as I don’t find it a good value ($4.99 each or $1 monthly with an annual subscription) or a great read. I am more of a ‘Running Times’ and ‘Trail Runner’ fan but being a shoe buyers guide sucker, and that being the cover headline,  I was all in for this choice.

A quick flip through the September issue displayed an article on adult XC (yeah), ice bath and other recovery treatments, power foods and recipes, strength training for runners and the aforementioned shoe buyers guide; certainly enough to keep me interested. After reading these interesting articles, some peanuts and a ginger ale, I awoke from a nap and thumbed through the Runners World again whereupon my eyes picked up the headline- Everything You Wanted to Know about Porta-potties… This is exactly why I don’t routinely read RW anymore ! Come on…porta-potties? Though I got quite a laugh as I reread the headline and did read the article anyway it stymied me that a major running magazine would stoop to this. I thought it would be funny and a joke, but no, a timetable of porta-pottie development (A Tinkle in Time!?) – COME ON!  Toilet paper information as well: quality, quantity, standards, amenities, the smell, Le ‘Bleu’ stuff, User to Potty ratios, ……. Unbelievable!. Yep Runners World  may have hit a new low. All anyone needs to know about porta potties when you get to the race is where they are, if there are any alternatives nearby,  and if possible get in there early and often. I think Runners World  may have left the proverbial toilet seat up on running articles.