All posts by Doug Murdoch

Backpack and luggage fanatic, obsessive runner, and world traveller. I take some photos now and then. In the afternoon I enjoy a double caffè macchiato with a small cookie.

Alec Isabeau—A Man Who Followed His Bliss, by Michael Weddington

(From the author Michael Weddington: The following are some of my reflections on the Alec ‘Doc’ Isabeau I knew. Although I hadn’t spent much time with Alec at all over the last 15 years as I’ve moved from Santa Rosa with my family to first Sacramento, then Maui, Boulder, and now Folsom, the memories I have are vivid.)

It was a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon track workout at SRJC, circa summer of 1992. As I recall, the temperature was about 95 degrees, and well over 100 on the simmering cinder surface. A group of us less-than-intelligent Thirsty Boys were slogging our way through an interminable series of life-sapping mile repeats. It was one of those forever-workouts where just getting to the next lap without keeling over in ignominy was the principal goal.

When our Sisyphean labors were finally completed, I think I collapsed onto the boiling track into a pile of quivering, melting goo, oblivious of passing runners. A moment later, I distinctly remember a voice piercing my state of delirium—against all reason—with the following, utterly irrational sentiment: “Ahhh, isn’t it GREAT to be alive?” It was Alec. Vintage Alec.

Alec ‘Doc’ Isabeau, Lou ‘Postman’ Garcia, John ‘Mojo’ Royston and I standing
proud and wobbly at the conclusion of a grueling trek in the High Sierra.

Like many Empire Runners, I first met ‘Doc’ as a patient. I had recently moved to Santa Rosa from Davis in the Spring of 1986, and I think by that Fall or the following Spring I was dealing with some nagging running injuries. I soon discovered that we shared some interesting similarities; we were nearly exactly the same age, and we both had been told earlier in our twenties by so-called sports doctors that we’d likely never run again. In his typical laugh-in-the-face of adversity manner, Alec used this nay-saying as motivation to first heal himself, then others. I was of a multitude who benefited greatly from his chiropractic expertise.

In his friendly, low-key and folksy manner, Alec tried to recruit me into the Empire Runners then, but I was pre-occupied at the time with earning a teaching credential at Sonoma State and preparing for a teaching stint overseas. However, when I returned to Santa Rosa in 1991, I eventually found myself showing up at a Tuesday Afternoon track workout (during more temperate conditions) to see what this Empire Runner thing was all about. I had a whale of a time. Alec was there, as well as Larry and my good friend Peter Kirk, who made his Empire debut the very same day. I recall a grinning, convivial Doc back-slapping me into the club, before proceeding to rudely grind me into the oval rubber during the workout. I was hooked.

The Empire Runner Thirsties Invade Davis
(Top row) Alec, Scottie Ames, Peter Kirk, unidentified, myself;
(Bottom) Terry McNeill, Bob Rogers, Mike Duggan, Jim Coughlan

During the following decade, I had the privilege and pleasure of serving as club biographer, newsletter editor, president, event director, and unofficial historian. I estimate during that period of meeting up with ‘Doc’ at perhaps 500 or so workouts, races, club events, backpacking excursions, and so forth. And I found that, curiously, the more time I spent with Alec, the more enigmatic he became.

Like any complex individual, Alec was a study in contrasts. He could horse-play with the best of them in relaxed social situations, and his proclivity for rapid-fire repartee was legendary. He loved to exchange quips at settings like the Spring Lake parking lot before the commencement of an hour of lactic acid overload. However—unlike some habitual needlers—he was humble and secure enough to regularly engage in self-deprecation and wasn’t above playing the fool with a goofy expression or outfit.

As much as he keenly enjoyed and occasionally reveled with near-abandon in the company of kindred souls, however, Alec was prone to slipping into silence and contemplation depending on the situation. To my eye, he best recharged his energies in the solitude of his beloved forests and mountains with often nary a word spoken. During our shared backpacking trips, Alec could go hours without commenting on more than the route at hand, his innermost thoughts a mystery.

Unlike many individuals (especially males) of exceptional and well-rounded intellect, Alec was disinclined to show others how smart he was. Even when discussing topics of which he was especially versed (such as conservative healthcare), Doc was generally informative without being argumentative. Even as I discovered after a time that he could actually harbor some strong opinions on various matters, I found he largely kept them to himself and consistently conducted himself—as far as I could see—with geniune respect for others.

Lest one get the idea from my developing portrait that Alec was some kind of gentle, secular saint, he I’m sure would be the first to ridicule the idea. As gentle and welcoming as Alec could be around his patients at the office or in greeting a new member to the club, in his heyday he was one exceedingly tough S.O.B. out on the trail, track or road. Through sheer force of his magnetic presence and strategic cajoling, he often bent Thursday group training runs to his will, choosing contrarian routes and a punishing pace that suited his personal desires. And with a sadistic flourish, he had a knack of ending a brief group bathroom break and rest just as laggards (such as occasionally Peter Kirk and I) finally caught up to him on the slopes of some steep Annadel trail or another, only to taste his clouding dust as he and his fitter cohorts that day mercilessly blasted off once more.

The Greatest Cross-Country Team in Sonoma County History?
Our Empire Runner 1994 Pacific Association squad that nearly
took down a professional Reebok Aggie team: Eric Walker,
Kenny Brown, Todd Trask, Mike Stone, Dan Aldridge, Scott Pierce,
Dave Rodriguez, Alec, Brian Purcell, Martin Jones, Bob Rogers, Eric Bohn

Other than during some of his hosted Monday Night runs on Yolo Court or a Club Jingle Bell Run he might have frequented with me, I rarely saw him run or hike without it seeming like there was no tomorrow. For someone with a French family name who liked to sport his euro cycling cap in his garage at home, he was as quintessentially American as they come in a kind of John Muir meets Gary Cooper way. With his rugged embrace of the outdoors, irreverent humor, a constant drive to test and improve upon his physical and mental limits, his desire to help others, and a cool mustache, one could easily envision ‘Doc’ Isabeau serving as a roving country doctor on the fringes of the 1870’s western frontier.

Away from competitive track and trail, Alec’s leadership style underwent a remarkable transformation. When encountering him at our monthly meetings, races, social gatherings, or other organized settings, I found Alec to be a true servant leader. Humble, a careful and active listener, a deliberative and inclusive decision-maker who strove to blend wide-ranging consensus with a thorough analysis of the situation before proposing, supporting and executing policy decisions. He tended to let others most of the talking before jumping in. He avoided making any particular issue or problem become personal. He led, most of all, through example.

To those who got to know him, Alec could display another aspect of his multi-faceted persona; he could be quite the outdoorsman geek in a boyish way. He loved his trucks (‘rigs’, he liked to call them) and outdoor gear, and would endlessly debate and strategize with Mojo the wisest use of winches and cables, belay and rappel devices, topo maps and ice axes. If around, I’d have to eventually tune out from techno overload. On the other hand, I can understand very well how Doc would fade out himself when, Peter, Larry, myself and other track, football, & baseball nerds might start tossing around mile PRs, state meet performances, passing percentages, batting averages, and playoff records. Organized sports trivia didn’t really light Alec’s fire.

Assessing Alec’s legacy—particularly in relation to the Empire Runners—is daunting task. For over thirty action-packed years, he dedicated a considerable portion of his mind, body, and spirit to creating community through outdoor activity. Like other long-time club stalwarts such as Tori and Larry Meredith, Bob Shor, Tanya Narath, Doug Courtemarche, Pam Horton, Lisa Isabeau, John Royston, Vall Sell, Dale Peterson, Shelly Lydon, Jerry Lyman, Dan Preston, Al Tagliaferri, Cathy Dubay, Mike McGuire, Dan Aldridge, and Peter Kirk (please forgive me for excluding here so many other worthies; my mind momentarily draws a blank), as well as more recent club movers and shakers that I unfortunately lack knowledge of, Alec was essentially responsible for making Sonoma County a healthier, more interesting, and more welcoming place with his unflagging efforts and salutory attitude.

Alec was a superb runner. He came to racing relatively late from competitive cycling, and did not really have the track background that many of his elite competition possessed. Where Alec particularly stood out was on the trail. His top times in our club’s Loop and Loop de Loop events, in addition to the Ilsanjo 10 mile and—most notably—the legendary Dipsea race in Marin County (where Alec earned at least three prized ‘Black Shirts’, I believe), compared favorably to many racers who otherwise boasted 10K track or road times 2 to 3 minutes faster than Alec’s. Doc was simply fearless on the trail, and the more arduous, the happier he was. At his best, he had both the springiness of a deer and the agility of a big cat over hills and dales. But most of all, he possessed a nearly unmatched ability to suffer on the trail in relentless pursuit of his goals. I remember the time when I think he was at his fittest. He was under Danny Aldridge’s tutelege in preparation for I think the 1994 or 95 edition of the Dipsea, and it was a Tuesday at the SRJC track. Danny was tapering Alec for the big day with a Mile-1320-880-440 interval set. I remember Alec being in the zone. His workout times as I recall were an amazing 4:48 – 3:30 – 2:16 – 59 with a short rest in between. Not bad for an avowed trail runner!

Alec was one of the most integrative people I have ever met, across many different walks of life. That is to say, his vocation, avocations, and character were remarkably in harmony with one another across the vicissitudes of time. I did not know him to be one to spend much time on idle amusements that did not directly feed one of his passions: Outdoor activity, spending quality time with Lisa and/or some of his other good friends in the club and beyond, contributing at a club event, or engaging in his professional practice. He practiced what he preached, stayed remarkably true to his passions and goals, and consistently treated others the way I believe he generally wished to be treated. In other words, as Larry and others have so astutely noted, Alec made the most of his time in this life. His lifespan as measured by earthly orbits around our sun may seem tragic in its brevity, and yet he packed the experiences and exuded the infectious joie de vivre of multiple normal lifetimes into his alloted moment.

The late mythologist Joseph Campbell opined (to paraphrase) that it isn’t really that people are searching and grasping for the meaning of life. Rather, it is the experience of being fully alive that we truly seek and crave. In this sense, I think Alec lived more truly than many of us. It seems to me that he continually pushed his mind, body and spirit to the limits not so much for worldly reasons, but rather to brush up to the very razor’s edge of transcendence itself. Although anything but a proponent of organized religion, it seemed to me from afar (Lisa and Mojo, among others, would be much better judges) that Alec shared a spiritual orientation towards the great outdoors embraced and espoused by many of the great American transcendentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Walt Whitman, John Muir, and Louisa May Alcott.

I read this quote by Muir, and I think of Alec:

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail (Our National Parks, 1901, Page 56).

In his ground-breaking studies of the archetypal hero across cultures and ages, Joseph Campbell often exemplified his insights with epic stories of legendary figures of days gone by. However, he also emphasized how every person—no matter how ‘ordinary’—has the potential to become an authentic hero in the mythological sense. The key was not only to courageously deal with the various challenges that arise within one’s evolving circumstances as a way to internally develop, but also to then bring one’s hard-earned insights to one’s home and community in order to serve others. And when one’s accomplishes this when also engaging in pursuits that nourish one’s deepest life passions, one is truly ‘following their bliss’, as Campbell said.

Alec Isabeau followed his bliss. And he will be sorely missed. I can only imagine what his beloved life partner Lisa Isabeau (nee Titus), surviving family members, and closest friends are experiencing in terms of loss. And what an enormous loss to our club and community it has been to also lose such long-time members as John ‘Mojo’ Royston, Bob Shor, Dan Preston, Ernst Bohn, George Urdzik, and now—as I literally just find out—Mike McGuire! as well as other Empire Runner’s Club luminaries who have passed on in recent months and years. As Larry Meredith so eloquently expressed in his recent memorium of Alec’s life, he (and Mojo) tragically left us far too soon, insofar as these things go. However, we can best serve their legacies—and of all those devoted club members who have come and gone before us—by giving back to our respective communities whenever we have the time and energy. Perhaps more than in living memory, our nation needs community-building of the kind that bridges difference and strengthens meaningful connections. Let us meet the challenge and continue this important task in our own, unique ways. R.I.P. Doc.



Mike McGuire, In Memoriam, Jan. 15, 1945 – June 26, 2018

(Written by Larry Meredith. Photos from previous Empire blog articles)

Sandi McGuire has announced that a memorial for her husband, Empire Runners Hall-of-Famer Mike McGuire, will take place at Daniel’s Chapel of the Roses, 1225 Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa on Sunday, August 5 at 1:00 p.m.  The services will be followed by a gathering at the Friedman Event Center, 4676 Mayette Avenue, Santa Rosa.

While much of Mike’s running history can be found on the Hall of Fame page of the Empire Runners website, a perusal through club history reveals a long timeline of his contributions to our running community.

Mike McGuire began teaching at Herbert Slater Middle School in Santa Rosa in the early 1970s and when the local junior highs added the sport of cross country Mike became the very first coach for the Spartans.   Mike was a very popular teacher at Slater for many years before taking over as Principal at Hidden Valley Elementary School where he finished his career.

Mike joined Empire Runners Club in the winter of 1979.  He was first mentioned in club results soon after for his performance in the Chico Half-Marathon.  “Mike McGuire was the first Empire Runner to finish; he was 78th of 581 finishers with a 1:24:10.”  His enthusiasm for racing showed up regularly in ER results later that year.  At the Labor Day Races held on the roads near Piner High School, Mike ran both the 2-mile (15th) and 10-mile (8th).  Two weeks later he doubled again at an event called Around The Mountain, placing 3rd in the 2.35-mile warm-up and then 12th in the 5.6-miler that circled Fitch Mountain out of Healdsburg.

Photo by Paul Berg

Apparently coaching and teaching left Mike with too much time on his hands because his involvement with the running club was about to snowball into some serious commitments. Within a year of joining, Mike became newsletter editor.  A few months later he had one of the best races of his life, a 1:16:17 half-marathon in Sacramento that placed him 21st among 1080 finishers.

On November 16, 1980 the Empire Runners Club held the first McGuire’s Breakfast Run and Mike reported on the event he both directed and competed in:

“A brisk run or two before breakfast is the idea behind this 8:30 a.m. event.  The weather was nice; the runners ready; and the neighbors quite surprised to see the street filled with 40 scantily-clad people.  The potluck was enjoyable and many stayed to enjoy the warm and sunny afternoon.”

Mike finished 2nd to Jeff Parr in the 1.9-mile race and then took on the 5.6-miler, finishing 4th, just one second behind then-Analy HS coach John Anderson.  Masters phenom Jim Bowers won the event by nearly a minute.  Two weeks later Mike doubled in the Petaluma Turkey Trot, taking 2nd in the 2-mile and 4th in the 10-mile.

Empire Runners President Tom Crawford reported the minutes of the November 21, 1980 club meeting:

“The club held a general membership meeting at the Straw Hat Pizza Parlor on Farmers Lane.  The meeting environment was very conducive to carrying out very important business.  Between pizza orders being called out over a P.A. system, children playing the pinball machines, etc., etc. the following high level decisions were made:

  • MIKE MCGUIRE was elected Club President for a two-year term.
  • The club voted to allow merchant advertisement in the newsletter.
  • The club voted to buy 4 pitchers of beer and 1 pitcher of Coke to enhance the meeting.”

Mike had gone from new member to the club’s highest position in less than 2 years. It is interesting to read Tom’s final message to club members:  “As Mike and Sandi take office they will need your help and consideration to meet an even more demanding, growing and changing membership.”  A subtle reminder that spouses and significant others often serve by default and that Sandi and Mike were a team.  That remained obvious throughout their lives together.

Mike continued to fill up his club resume when on January 10 of 1981 he hosted an Empire Runners Marathon Clinic to prepare for Chico’s Bidwell Classic Marathon.  Mike listed the participation fee as “$31,874 with Mercedes; $2.00 without.”

Mike became involved in many races over the ensuing decades and, in recent years, took over the vital yet often thankless role of securing permits and insurance for our many club events.  He performed this as he did all of his commitments: with dedication and precision.

Outside of teaching and running, Mike was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, was known to have enjoyed many a variety of beer, had a keen photographic eye and was an avid cyclist. He served as a board member for the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and, while in his 60s, Mike completed the famed Paris-Brest-Paris bike ride, a 1200-kilometer (746 miles) endurathon that must be completed in less than 90 hours.

When speaking with Mike he gave you his complete attention and would offer high praise for the smallest of achievements and offer sincere gratitude for anything you may have done to help him, the running club or the community.  Mike made you feel important and worthy and that is certainly why so many of his past students and fellow club members have weighed in on social media with such emotion, admiration and, of course, heavy sadness at his passing.

On the first newsletter masthead that lists Mike as president his home address is on Aaron Drive in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. The very same neighborhood that last October was incinerated in the early hours of the horrific firestorm.  Less than two months after the fires, for the 38th Annual McGuire’s Breakfast Run, Mike had us gather again at Hidden Valley Elementary School, spared from the flames by just a block or two, and we somberly toured the wasteland of ash and still-standing chimneys that he once called home.

Speaking to him about the tragic event one would never suspect that he had suffered any misfortune.  Mike was as upbeat as ever, claiming that life was taking him on a new adventure and that he could finally stop fretting over all the junk stored in his house that he just refused to part ways with.  Obviously he and Sandi lost much, much more but Mike was determined not to lose any sleep over things that were out of his control.

Just a few months before the fires Mike had been diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his neck.  His energy and enthusiasm for life never seemed to skip a beat as he described his condition and expressed only optimism about his future.  We all wanted to believe that he would get through this.  That Mike and Sandi would rebuild their house and their lives and the sparkle in his eyes would captivate us for years to come.  By the spring of this year cancer was taking Mike apart, piece-by-piece, but as fellow Empire Runner Tori Meredith reported just days before he passed, the sparkle was still there.  It will long be remembered.

Larry Meredith

The 2018 Phaby-Gray Resolution Run – Race Director’s Report

The 2018 Phaby-Gray Resolution Run – Race Director’s Report,        By Race Director Brad Zanetti  / Photos by Dave DeSelle 

Jan. 1, 2018 unlike last year when we were engulfed in ‘pea soup’ –like fog until race time, this morning started clear and sharply cool (high 30s). Sunrise shone warm yellow cirrocumulus cloud formations. In short order the early morning sun rose brightly and warm; yet the air temperature remained cool. In short, “perfect racing weather!” Just before 8am the Empire Runner setup/timing crew descended on Place to Play Park to prepare the course and get ready for this years Resolution Phaby-Gray Run.

By 10am, 241 runners toed the line and summoned by the blast of a marine horn were off. By the end of the first loop of the soccer fields UC Santa Cruz’ Dante Capone (Analy HS) had taken control of the race with 18yo Patrick Lynch following closely and Vojta Ripa further back in 3rd place. On the women’s side Petaluma’s Sarah Hallas led the women running in 8th Place overall and had a large lead over #2 Lisa Renteria who, in turn, had a large gap over 13 year old Sarah Skandera. The racers continued out and around the collecting pond, out the West gate on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail heading east past Malibu Circle to the turn around (~2.4 miles). Around 14:30 on the clock the slight figure of Dante Capone appeared alone on the trail behind the baseball field. With a strong finish, Dante was easily first and broke the course record in 15:23(4:57 pace). A devastating kick by Vojta Ripa found him passing Patrick Lynch in the closing 150 meters, finishing 2nd in 16:25 with Patrick holding 3rd in 16:29.

It did not take long for the sighting of the first woman, Sarah Hallas finishing in a fine 17:42, 8th place overall. The gap between Sarah and 2nd place finisher Lisa Renteria was almost exactly the same as the mens race as Lisa finished in 18:46. Sarah Skandera rounded out the top 3 in 19:52. For another 36 minutes, runners and walkers circumvented the course finishing in differing levels of exhaustion but all seemed happy to have done so.

It was a beautiful morning and a great way to start the New Year. An award ceremony and raffle followed with a bevy of items provided by the 3 local running stores: Heart and Sole, Fleet Feet and HRC; and a large number of items from Lagunitas Brewing. All children 12 and under received a rainbow finishers ribbon.   There were many smiles as the crowd left with their booty in hand.

The atmosphere was fantastic and the race ran well and on time (Bob Shor would have been proud). We will miss his smile and booming voice but his presence will always be felt. It takes a lot of volunteers and diligence to make the event run smoothly and I would like to thank them specifically. I apologize for those I miss.

First I would like to thank Jerry Lyman and his timing crew (Mike McGuire, Jacqueline Gardina). Jerry doesn’t just time the event. He has a hand in most of the aspects of each of our events and every race coordinator is deeply indebted to him (and this from a guy I remember telling all of us about 3-4 years ago at our monthly meeting that he was ‘retiring’ from these duties.) Thank you Jerry for ‘retiring’.

This particular race is heavily dependent on the huge effort by Luis and Melanie Rosales and the Piner Cross Country team. Short of the timing tent, the Piner group has their hands in almost every other aspect of race day duties and without them I would be there at 7am and wouldn’t leave until after 1pm and the job done would be substandard.

Thirdly we need to thank our 3 local running stores; Heart and Sole, Fleet Feet and Healdsburg Running Company (HRC) who not only provide a presence at our events, many items for the raffle and the cool Top 3 shirts (Heart and Sole) but so positively impact our running community. These are not just running shoe stores, though their value for just proper shoe sizing and selection is a given. It is all of the other stuff they provide: clothing, nutrition items, books, auxiliary running gear, and most importantly in my mind, their sense of community with weekly runs, pub runs, in store parties and raffles, xc/track spike nights, speakers and post Tubbs Fire shoe and clothing drives. They have so positively impacted our running community I can’t picture local running without them. They have partnered with Empire Runners to make Sonoma County a running mecca and I can’t thank them enough.

Next I would like to thank Lagunitas Brewery for their continued support and donating many items and beer for all of our age group winners (21 and older) and the raffle. And speaking of raffle I would like to highlight my daughter Michelle, my son-in-law Zach and Val Sell for improving the raffle experience. We will continue to try to make this positive for everyone. I apologize if you didn’t get something (although there were a lot of coasters and magnets left J). There were many others who helped with setup and breakdown and I thank you.

I would like to thank the City of Santa Rosa for allowing us to use Place to Play Park. Its open parking, easy entrance/exit and flat and fast course make it a great place to put on the race.

Finally, I would to thank the Empire Runners for their continued support of Sonoma County running. We are a growing group, from around 200 several years ago to now over 800. For one fee you get to be part of a great group with FREE races, FREE track meets and the chance to volunteer (also FREE!) and shape how we impact the community. Our one fund raiser, Kenwood Footrace, provides us with ability to positively impact the community in many ways, including: Free events, Scholarship Program, Trail Management (Annadel) which we support with money and manpower, Children programs (Girls on the Run, ID26.2, etc), Local High School Cross Country events/sponsorship, SouthEast Greenway Project to name but a few. We support many of the other races on our local running calendar as well. In short we are a very active group and continue to need a new infusion of energy and ideas. Please consider coming to our monthly meetings and see where you can be involved or just come out to an event and ask where you can help.

One last thank you to all of the runners who came out yesterday and who make this race the way they want to start the New Year annually. Looking forward to seeing you all again next year.

Age Group Results:

Male                                             Female

12 and under

  1. Numa Crist(12)     19:59           1. Ruth Skandera(8) 22:44
  2. Triston Liggett(12) 22:42        2. Rebekah Skandera(12) 22:50
  3. Paul Skandera(7) 23:32           3. Aurora Nicolas(10) 23:27


  1. Patrick Lynch(18) 16:29           1. Sarah Skandera(13) 19:52
  2. Luca Mazzanti(19)17:10           2. Molly Koslowski(18) 21:15
  3. Job Skandera(16) 17:16           3. Samantha Moberly(16)27:07


  1. Dante Capone(21) 15:23(CR)   1. Gretchen Forrey(29) 22:24
  2. Vojta Ripa(28)       16:25                2. Amanda Cream(29) 27:24
  3. Brian Goodwin(25) 16:54           3. Emillie Feenan(25) 29:19


  1. Jesus Frutos(36) 18:00             1. Sarah Hallas(38) 17:42
  2. Daniel Karbousky(33)19:26       2. Lisa Renteria(39)18:46
  3. Bruce Tuohy(31) 21:07               3. Renee Chaffin(31)24:08


  1. Kenny Brown(48) 17:48             1. Karen F Teuscher(41) 20:56
  2. Vince Viloria(40) 20:17               2. Kerry Hanlon(45) 21:15
  3. Michael Moberly 21:59               3. Kerry Gesell(44) 23:25



1.Guy Shott(54) 18:02                     1. Valerie Sell(53) 21:38

2. Anderson Howard(56) 19:31       2. Nuvit Salz(57) 22:37

3.Phillipe Thibault(52) 20:13           3. Chris Martindill 25:07


  1. Frank Cuneo(62)21:17                1. Ann Thrupp(60) 22:19
  2. Don Lindsay(64) 21:30                 2. Karen Kissick(60)23:57
  3. Lon Wiley(69)     21:43                 3. Dara Hill(65) 26:22


  1. Bob Holland (73) 25:36               1. Abbie Stewart(74) 32:18
  2. “Hutch”(74)        25:46               2. Sherri Guinn(71) 37:51
  3. Don Sampson(70)32:49               3. Kathleen Macpherson(77)

80 and over

  1. Dan Touhy(82)   36:09
  2. Darryl Beardall(81) 44:47


Michael McGuire: Santa Rosa Strong

Editor’s Note: Empire Runner’s member Michael McGuire’s positive attitude about life “after the fire” has become an inspiration to others. 

Quite early one morning . . . A rap on our door began an adventure that will play out over the next couple of years. A neighbor, living a half mile from our house, banged on our door about 2:00 A.M. to say a serious fire was moving toward our homes. Quickly picking up the dog and very few items we drove both cars to Safeway on Mendocino Avenue. There were several people milling around in the lot and the market had brought out a pallet of water for free distribution. Sandi and I determined we had time to return home. So taking one car and the dog we drove back to Aaron Drive in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. We probably stayed 15 minutes and made a couple of quick trips to the car – Sandi with her sewing machine and some clothing; me with my camera, hard drives, Mac Mini, some cables and two arm loads of clothes. We probably had more time, but never being in this situation before, we left sooner than necessary. Looking for important items under the glow of cell phone flashlights likely caused us to miss important belongings – Sandi’s many beautiful quilts, family treasures and most jewelry. I was sure, though, we would return to a house and neighborhood unscathed. Anything else was too improbable.

Our son and his family live in the Burbank Gardens Historical District and we let ourselves into his house about 3:00 A.M. He was quite surprised to see us. We shared what little information we had and I set out across town to see what I could learn. I walked and hitch hiked to the foot of Aaron Drive. Within a hundred yards of the street, there looked to be no fire destruction, although there was smoke (therefore fire?). I witnessed the full involvement by fire of houses at the bottom of the street and knew our home was also gone. After taking a couple of photos, a neighbor and I were able to hitch another ride to our respective safe zones. We got to ride in the back of a pickup truck with no fear of anyone stopping us. At this point it was about 7:30. I have no recollection of the rest of the day for us, but our daughter and her family were evacuated from their home near Fulton Road. Cell phones proved to be indispensable in the first two weeks of the fire.

As the weeks went on I tried to keep a diary of events. That proved very difficult for me. So many things were happening and so many conversations occurred that days became fractured. By the end of any day I was exhausted and could barely recall what had transpired. There were too many rumors and too few facts. Fortunately, our son secured housing for us the next day and we moved into a furnished cottage on the edge of downtown. Despite the problems and challenges of the fire loss, living downtown is proving to be terrific – three breweries, two bookstores, uncountable restaurants, a movie theater, library, police and fire department and wonderful shops within three blocks! And the new town square.

Photo by Paul Berg

Despite the confusion and magnitude of the fires what happened next was impossible to foretell – the constant out-flowing of kindness, generosity, skilled helpfulness, professional competence and charity. The banners around town, the stories in the newspapers and on the radio, the witnessing and receipt of ‘good deeds’ being done will forever mark this community as one that willingly and seemingly easily demonstrates a strength of character rare in the world today.

Daily routines are still difficult to maintain. Too many small tasks that interrupt the need for more concentrated thinking and doing. There is still a bubble of curiosity and needing to share adventures and misadventures. Stories are becoming more compact with their repeated telling, but appointments must still be met, deadlines are still in force and the day still has a finite number of hours and minutes.

By the end of the days, weeks, months and years to come, I am confident we will be made whole with the benefit of new and strengthened friendships. SANTA ROSA STRONG and similar mottos are true in ways we never imagined.

Resolutions 2018 –

Interesting question. I am dogged by what I think is a slow recovery to my cancer operation in August and radiation treatment in September and October. Add to that recovery from the fire and planning for a new home in a bit of an uncertain future adds to an ‘iffy’ resolution: to get back to a state of health and confidence that allows me to see my life as still expanding. A better resolution is to continue to see the positive side of events over which we have little opportunity to control. We are dealt a hand and should learn to play it in a way that benefits and inspires others.

Emil Shieh: Reflections on 2017

Editor’s Note: Empire Runner’s Club member Emil Shieh reflects on the Santa Rosa Firestorm of 2017 and how it effected his family.  His  posts on Facebook made us cry and laugh at the same time, and reminded us of the importance of a positive attitude and humor during times of crisis. 

Cover Photo courtesy of Emil Shieh. Caption: “I posed like this before when our house was not transparent.”

With the fires, we suffered the loss of our home and belongings, but gained appreciation for the generosity of the community, in coming together to get us back on our feet. We were fortunate to have the police knocking door-to-door to warn us that the fire was coming and that we had to immediately evacuate. Little did we know that it was the last time we would see our house again. We left with ourselves and our pets and not much else. We stayed at a motel on Cleveland Ave, from which we could see the red glow of the fire and hear explosions in the distance, and the next day, even though the area was still blocked off, I headed up to our street in Fountain Grove with my friend who was a fire fighter to check on our homes. He had earlier been up to check his house and found nothing left standing but his concrete steps, and myself, what little hope I had that our house had survived was crushed when I got to our street and saw house after house completely flattened by the flames. There were still small smouldering flames and plenty of smoke around. Everything was flattened, and eerily I could see the back yard from the front yard. Nothing in the rubble looked salvageable except for nails and random bits of pottery. The backyard furniture was still intact, but was the only thing left standing.

After a short trip to target to get some toothbrushes and clothing essentials the next few days were a blur, meeting up with many friends and neighbors who were in the same boat as us. We learned our daughters school, Cardinal Newman HS, had also burned, but had only a few buildings standing. After days of living out of our car, couch surfing, and dealing with FEMA and insurance, the air started clearing out and we were trying to get some normalcy back in our lives. Off for 2 weeks, my daughter started up with a makeshift school at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Windsor. I found a rental house in Healdsburg and got it furnished thanks to our insurance.

Once the air cleared enough, my headache from breathing all the smoke also resolved, and I began itching to exercise from having all the time off, and as a way to de-stress. However even running requires some basic equipment. I had only my clothes I went to sleep in, a few things I had picked up, and fortunately, some workout clothing that I kept in my car. My wife always told me my car sometimes smelled like a locker, because I used it like a locker. Underneath the dog food, and other things I found a shirt, shorts, and the cap I kept in the car. But I had only Crocs, which I wore for several days. I went to Fleet feet and was surprised to see what was there. There were piles of shoes and clothes that had been donated by people, both new and used. I was able to find a pair to fit myself and my daughter. Thanks Rhonda, and also to New Balance and Hoka for the generous donations. I was nearly in tears to find such help. Even socks were much appreciated. But mostly it was great to find people willing to help us out, and to commiserate with, as many other people had found basics donated by so many people. Probably the last thing you want to do after such a disaster was to go shopping but it was a necessity. I found similar generosity at Healdsburg Running Company with donations as well. Thanks Skip! And at Bike Monkey and Echelon, I found some old cycling clothing and clip less pedals, though I did not have a bike yet.

My daughter, Natalie, eventually also began running again and her cross country schedule returned to semi-normalcy. Spring lake and the parts of Annadel still intact were again the sites of her practice. For her meets, the cross country team had seven varsity girls, 3 of whom lost their homes. Those girls had to wear older uniforms that were a different color but at least they were running again. The football team was unable to use the field and had to hold all practices and games away.

I replaced my bike, thanks to Kevin at Echelon, who also gave me some donated shoes. Every thing feels like another step towards normalcy. We have a long way to go, and have still not decided what to do yet. There are new running and biking trails to explore. Our family is still intact, and our home is where we are, not the house we live in. We are so thankful for all our friends and family, and the community, which has been so supportive of all the fire victims. We are grateful to live in a place that has such amazing people and spirit.

Emil (far left) at the 2 Tread Brewing/ Fleet Feet Run in Santa Rosa, Nov 30th, 2017. 


DuBay, Zanetti, Berg: Reflections and Resolutions, 2018

Editor’s Note: Three long time Empire members express their thoughts and feelings about the new year. 

Cover photo courtesy of Jeremy Olsan, Nov 23, 2017. Caption:  We are family. — with Ann DuBayDebbie GayaldoDustin EngelAndrew EngelJeannette EngelMark MathewsonCarol DuBay and Catherine DuBay.

Catherine DuBay: 

Long before the fires I came up with a crazy moonshot to try to break 40:00 in a 10k one last time. I am 53 years old and since my 10k PR of 35:49 in 1999, my times have gradually slowed and hover around 42:00 these days.

Photo of Catherine DuBay by Paul Berg. 

A sub 40:00 was going to take every little bit of everything I had so 2017 became a year of disciplined eating, hard training and lots of racing to keep me honest.

So, on October 8 as I toed the line at the San Jose Rock n Roll for my big attempt at sub 40:00, I had no idea what the next 24 hours would be like.

I managed a 39:30 10k good for 2nd overall and 1st Master and a few minutes of fame on the big stage.

As we drove home later that day we remarked on the incredible winds. A few hours later I would be packing valuable as we were forced to evacuate our home. My sister who had been evacuated hours before us and had lost her home was now at our house. I asked her what she had packed. She said her running shoes and little else. I grabbed my running shoes, looked at the trophy I’d won just 12 hours prior. It suddenly seemed so trivial and it was left behind as we left.

Truly a bittersweet day.


Brad Zanetti: 

What a year! 2017 began with the return of a more normal much needed rainfall and a list of resolutions, none of which made much sense as 2017 closed. Who would have thought Donald Trump would become president. Well unfortunately that situation hasn’t gotten any better over the year. Initially the year was dominated by daily horrific ‘tweets’ and a myriad of ridiculous and antagonistic speeches. These were followed by complaints, excuses and firings of our government officials. The almost daily nature of these misgivings have numbed me beyond belief. Just hoping to live to a ripe old age has been my new goal and make it to 2018.

The second dominating feature of 2017 was the large number of friends and family that died this year. The year started with my Uncle’s passing and Bob Shor’s surgery. At this point there was much optimism but by April Bob wasn’t getting better. In the meanwhile ER pal, John ‘Mojo’ Royston was diagnosed with cancer as well. A number of house visits at Bobs and ‘Hamburger Wednesdays” with the ER group were both fun and comforting. But by the midyear it wasn’t going well for either of them; First Bob leaving us in July, then Mojo in August. Without much warning my Mother died in September followed by 2 former coworker/friends in October and November. So the Fall has been dominated with funerals, memorials and celebrations of life. The funerals have sucked but the memorials and life celebrations have been painful yet restorative. Then my son, Mike, moved permanently to South Carolina. Finally, the holidays arrived which I have tried to appreciate more than ever.

Resolutions 2018:  Making it through the Holidays unscathed and hopefully re-energized is the first order of business. That being said, with the year I have experienced my resolutions will be few and simple:

1- Say ‘I love you’ as often as possible

2- Live more in the moment

3- Retire(sooner than later)

Left to right, Dale Peterson, Paul Berg, Brad Zanetti, and  Val Sell . Photo courtesy of Paul Berg. 

Paul Berg: 

Looking forward and back on 2017

Not even considering the national political landscape, 2017 was a rough year for the Empire Runners family. We lost two beloved long-time members, Bob Shor and Mojo, then the October fires displaced so many while reminding us how lucky we are to have great places to run. The outpouring of community support was truly inspiring, plus club members turned in many standout running performances in cross country and throughout the year.

On the personal side, after running the Dipsea in June I needed to have hernia surgery which set me back a few months. Combined with several road trips in our truck camper, my training was haphazard at best, though I did get to see and photograph a lot of natural beauty in the western US.

Christmas brought me a gift of a fancy new Garmin watch courtesy of my thoughtful daughter, which I plan to use to more effectively track my training. At this bewildering age bracket, I realize that core strength is more important than ever, so I’m hoping to do TRX twice a week this year. I’m definitely enjoying the trails more than roads these days, so a longer trail adventure might be in the cards. New Years is a great time to reflect, reset and remember what I’m most thankful for; it’s a long list, including Empire Runners.




Mudroom Backpacks, by Doug Murdoch

IFThe perennial problem for runners and athletes is simply the question, “What do I do with my shoes?”

You know the problem…you tie them together and sling them on your backpack and they are dangling around, or they are dirty so you don’t want to put them inside of anything…let’s face it, shoes are a pain in the ass to travel with sometimes.

Local Sonoma County entrepreneur and designer David Deioma has recognized this significant problem and created a new company called Mudroom. The backpack I tested is called the Small Quartible 18L.


Overall, this is an excellent travel backpack that provides a much needed solution for carrying your shoes. The 6” depth makes it easy to put under the seat of an airplane, or even in the small overhead of commuter jets, like CRJ’s. If I ever fly to a race, this would be the bag I take on the plane with all my critical stuff. The reason is that I want to have everything with me for my race, so even if my checked luggage is lost, I still have just what I need to get by. And it would easily hold your toiletries and other essential items.

Running Shoes


Each side of the backpack has zippers that open to hold running shoes, up to size 18 I am told. They fit in easily, and there is a stretch pocket on the inside that I was able to put two pair of socks or a pair of running shorts. And the top of the pocket is ventilated with mesh.

As a runner, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this feature. Being able to separate and carry my shoes with my other stuff is really awesome. And actually you can access the shoe pockets from the inside as well.

Laptop and ipad


I’ve never seen a backpack designed before that can hold running shoes, a full size laptop, and an ipad. David did a great job organizing this backpack and making it work.

The laptop can be put into the slot from the inside, but a really fantastic feature is the side zippered access to the laptop. The reason is that there are times when you need to cram your backpack full of stuff, and if you try to get it out from the inside, it’s difficult. With the side access, you can immediately get to it.

There is also an ipad pocket but this can also be used for other items like notebooks, books, etc.

Inside the Backpack


I was able to fully load this backpack on the inside with:

  • Running shirt
  • Running glasses and case
  • Jacket
  • Bottle of Whiskey
  • Mt. Tam map
  • Sonoma Coast map
  • Notebook
  • San Francisco map
  • Book: How Bad Do You Want It?  By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Bose ear buds
  • ipad
  • 13″ Mac Book Pro

Honestly I could have put a lot my stuff in the backpack but I thought that was a reasonable amount. I don’t normally drink whiskey, but for this product review, I thought I’d get a little wild. The wide front zippered opening makes it easy to access and organize your stuff.

Front Organizer Pocket


I appreciated how deep and side this pocket is, because I easily put my large cell phone in the front, passport, pens, as well as a USB, and phone cable.

Lower Front Zippered Pocket


This pocket was big enough for my keys, my running watch, and the charger. Since my watch is so important to me, I always like putting it in a separate pocket.



On the back of the backpack is a hole underneath the label that goes to the inside, where you can hang your hydration bladder. You have to make a choice – use a hydration bladder, or carry your laptop. It’s nice to have this feature in case you want to go hiking or biking and you can leave your laptop back at your place.

Side Pockets

The side pockets work for water bottles, energy bars, etc.

Other features include daisy chains on the front to connect carabineers or other stuff, reflective tape, an adjustable chest strap, and padded shoulder straps.

Kudos to David Deioma for recognizing the problem that runners and athletes have and coming up with a great backpack solution.

You can go see the backpacks in person at Fleet Feet Sports in Santa Rosa.

You can read about David’s company here:


Hello Vietnam, by Doug Murdoch

Vietnam is going through a running revolution…based on the number of running clubs popping up and races being offered, thousands of Vietnamese are running recreationally, for their health and for fun.

I had the pleasure of running with the Sunday Running Club for the first time a few weeks ago, and everyone was quite enthusiastic about running, despite the fact it was evening and still in the nineties.  But I survived and we all hung out afterwards and had some coconut juice.

In the last five years multiple running clubs have sprung up across Vietnam, and numerous races as well. Races span everything from 5K’s to hard-core trail runs, like the Vietnam Victory Challenge 50K in DaLat, and the Mountain Marathon in Sapa.

Here is a full list of races.

When I first started running in the city of Ho Chi Minh in 2011, I was unable to find any running clubs, or any runners at all. And there were no regular races that I could find. And when I checked the Internet, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to run in Vietnam, and specifically Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon.

I decided to create this running map of Ho Chi Minh in 2011 to help visiting runners. Ho Chi Minh can be a bit shocking for first time visitors, especially for runners, given the motorbikes, traffic, and questionable sidewalks. I’m proud to say that the map now has over 5000 views!


Doug’s running map.

Now I am the first to admit that running in Vietnam is like “urban cross country.”

You constantly have to be on the lookout for variations in the sidewalk, motorbikes, and other obstacles. You have to pay attention. You can’t just zone out because there are too many people and things that you might run into. As a runner, no one will stop for you or give you the right of way – this includes motorbikes, cars, and even other pedestrians.

But actually I think what foreigners experience is a variation of “culture shock.”

If you have never been to Asia before, just the sight of so many people, motorbikes, and cars can be overwhelming, which can lead you to believe that running is impossible.

But just like anything else, you can adapt as a runner. If you go out every day, as usual, you will soon find that the things you thought were significant before no longer bother you and you can easily run.

And of course it helps to run with a group.

In Ho Chi Minh: Sunday Running Club, Viet Runners, and Run Club.

In Hanoi: Chay 365

In DaNang: DaNang Runners

I have found that the Vietnamese running clubs are very friendly…just check their Facebook pages and show up for a scheduled run! Don’t worry about the fact you don’t speak Vietnamese…normally there is always someone who speaks some English.

If you do come to Ho Chi Minh and want to run, you can also always contact me at I commute back and forth between Vietnam and Santa Rosa for work.


Advice from Empire Runners: Staying Motivated Through Injuries

Empire Members answer the question, “How do you stay motivated during times of injury, and how do you motivate yourself to start up regular training again?”

March2016Advice001Catherine DuBay:  How to stay motivated during an injury is a good question and can only be answered by asking yourself, “How do I stay motivated when I’m NOT injured?” Motivation is a very interesting concept and every runner or wannabe runner needs to recognize what motivates them. Is it to lose weight? Look good for my class reunion? Make my ex jealous? Beat my training partner at Kenwood? PR? Etc.

Then you have to decide what type of running you like to do so you can give yourself a fighting chance to be successful. If you like nature, then try trails. If you like to run with others, then join a club or running group. If competition or traveling is your thing, then sign up for a race near or far. The key is to set yourself up for success by finding something that makes running tolerable, because, let’s face it—it is not easy day after day after day.

Once these two questions are answered (why you want to run and what type of running gets you excited), then you can apply these motivators to anything you do. Even for injured runners. What is your motivator for exercising while injured? What kind of exercise (besides running) can I tolerate? Indoor cycling classes are the best for injured competitive runners. Indoor cycling produces the closest thing I have found to that post-run feeling.

March2016Advice002Bill Cusworth: This will probably come as a surprise, but I’ve never suffered an injury that required an extended layoff from running. I’ve had injuries, of course, but none that lasted more than 3-5 days or so, and the short break from running was welcome and likely beneficial. I’ve also had nagging issues such as bruised feet that lasted for a month or more, but I was always able to run through them. My longest periods of not running have been due to sickness or weather. When I start back up, I do low mileage and build back up to where I was. If you try to get back to previous mileage levels too soon, soreness may result, which negatively impacts motivation. If I ever did have an extended layoff, I would try to concentrate on upper body and core exercises as I generally don’t do enough of them and I would try to use the opportunity to develop new good habits.

March2016Advice003Sarah Hallas: During my 2+ decades of experience with countless injuries, I think the biggest motivator carrying me through my time-off stints has been just looking forward to my next event. I try to find a race that is far enough out that I don’t start stressing over not being able to run. I also try to remember that being injured is usually the body’s way of telling us to TONE IT DOWN, which is hard for most runners since we are mostly wired the same. Usually during this time, I swim lots of laps, do lots of core, get lots of massage/rehab work done, and enjoy the mornings of sleeping in.

March2016Advice004Michael Wortman:  When confronted with an injury, the best advice for staying motivated that I can give is to find what motivated you to begin with. If there was a race that you were training for, a goal you were trying to achieve, figure out what it was that was driving you in the first place. Even if you’re injured, the endgame is still there—you just need to find a new route to get there. This means if you can’t run, find some form of comparable cross training to fill the training session. Using your original motivation can help you through drudging pool workouts or extended bike sessions. If done right, cross training can keep you fit and get you healthy quicker, so when you return to running, you haven’t lost much training in effect.

March2016Advice005Tori Meredith: I totally agree with Mike Wortman. I have had my share of injuries in the last couple of years. My motivation is to be able to feel good about myself, sleep well and be alert.  I find that when I don’t exercise I am very sluggish and I don’t accomplish anything. Since I don’t drink coffee my get-up and go has always been to exercise. Depending upon my injury,  if I could not run then I  would do more swimming, run in the pool or ride my bike but I find that nothing takes the place of running.  Running keeps my weight in check, my system working,  and I feel energized.

March2016Advice006Alex Wolf-Root:


Now hear me out. There are more rational reasons to keep at the cross-training (it’ll be easier to transition back to running, you’ll rehab faster, you’ll be mentally more sane, etc.), but we all know that. So if you need motivational advice beyond that advice, what should you do? Say “#@##, injury!”

Look, you’re pissed that you’re hurt, and rightfully so (even if it was your own stubbornness that got you hurt…). So use that anger. Channel that passion into cross-training. That cross-training is how you get back at the injury, how you get back at the shitty hand that life dealt you. In spite of whatever happens, you’re going to come out stronger and better than ever.

Spite is not a way to live your life generally, but if things are in a dark place, and rational reasons to work hard are failing, channel that anger, say “#@##” to your injury, and go get in the darn pool!

March2016Advice007Mike Fanelli:

Now in my 47th consecutive year of training and racing, I look back on said time spent in sport as a series of careers between injuries. Thankfully, some of those careers lasted longer than others. It is an inevitable part of red line running “on the edge” that, in order to achieve one’s maximum potential, there shall be periods of “brokenness.” How long these periods last is a function of how quickly one is willing to accept the bitter pill of down time, and how aggressively one pursues healing solutions. One thing is for sure—the body is an amazingly adaptive machine. Our recuperative powers are nothing short of astounding.

What to do when injured is a competitive runner’s ongoing dilemma. My counsel to athletes that I have coached over the years (including myself) is to absolutely bombard the area with care. In addition to all the normal modalities, extra sleep, hyper-hydration, anti-inflammatory resources, nutritional supplementation, and a wide array of ancillary bodywork protocols can help expedite recovery.

If possible, non-weight-bearing activities like pool running, Elliptigo, and workouts on stationery gym equipment can assist in maintenance. Push-ups (oft referred to as the most perfect form of calisthenics) and an ongoing focus on core work are a must. Using the fallow period to pinpoint weaknesses not normally addressed while fit, and then improving upon them, can produce a long term benefit when once again healthy.

Rather than removing oneself from the sport, staying engaged by volunteering and spectating at races in which you’d normally compete lends both perspective and appreciation. Gratitude has remarkable healing powers.

I also recommend deep reading and learning. There are so many great written works that inspire and foster the “dare to dream” instinct. The list is endless.

Whatever you do, keep a detailed daily log, chart progress with appropriate metrics, and most importantly, embrace the notion that said shut-down is merely temporary.

Here’s to your health.

March2016Advice008Lori Barekman:  As a physical therapist, I have frequent reminders of how lucky we are to enjoy running when things are going smoothly. Running is freeing; it takes us to places where we can be awestruck by the things we encounter. And we can learn so many things about the people around us as we share some time together on our run. However, running can be demanding on our bodies, and it takes work to make sure that our bodies are ready for these demands. We are in a high-risk sport if you look at the statistics for injuries.

What keeps me moving when I am recovering from some type of injury is the opportunity to work on other aspects of fitness. I enjoy having my daughter direct our morning workout of jumping jacks, planks, and pushups, and it sets a good tone for the day. Having time to walk my non-running dog (she refuses to do more than trot) with other family members gives us the chance to talk about what’s going on in our lives. I also like going to meet a non-running friend at the gym for the same reason. At other times, going to a yoga class “alone” is just the ticket for some relatively quiet time. Since rest is also an important aspect of any training routine, I like having down time to relax or get chores accomplished. My New Year’s resolution every year is “lower your standards,” which sounds silly, but honestly sometimes I have to remind myself to just do what I can and let the rest go. I have learned that I will never be in the perfect shape for the events that seem to attract me…but “good enough” allows me to stay motivated and keeps me from driving myself (and those around me) crazy when I wish I could do more to get in ideal condition. We have to listen to our bodies, and pushing through an injury is not the answer for the best long-term health. I am in this literally and figuratively for the long run.

Steve Agar:  I usually just rely on cigars and whiskey to get me through.


Brad Zanetti: In dealing with an injury that stops one from training and racing it is imperative that recovery is undertaken with the same passion that one has for training and racing.  In fact, it could be more appropriate to bring more passion, education, and new understanding to recovery. Then with this renewed passion and new found stregnth inject yourself back into the sport and lifestyle you love.


Val Sell: We can all relate. Haha…


Tell it to me straight, Doc. Can I still run this weekend?

Got Blisters? An interview with Rebecca Rushton, by Doug Murdoch

Feb16Murdoch03(This is an interview with podiatrist Rebecca Rushton, author of  The Blister Prone Athlete’s Guide To Preventing Foot Blisters. You can also visit her website,


Hi Rebecca! I must admit that being a blister sufferer, I had scoured the internet looking for information to no avail. When I came upon your book and website, I said to myself FINALLY!! Why do you think it has taken so long for something so important to be written about in a comprehensive way?

I’m at a loss to explain it, Doug. I’m as surprised as you. Especially considering blisters are such a common injury in sport and everyday life. But it’s been a pleasure to plug that gap. Thank you for your kind words – it’s very rewarding to make a difference in such a specific way.

You know sometimes you think about particular types of doctors    (I won’t mention them here) and you wonder how in the world they became experts in a particular area? So…..blisters……..what is it intrinsically about blisters that caught your interest enough to become an expert on them?

Well, as a podiatrist, if I was going to be an expert on anything, it was always going to be something about feet. The reason that thing is blisters is because I happen to be blister prone. I get foot blisters very easily – when I go for a walk, run, play hockey, new shoes. It’s so annoying. But I’ll tell you what hurt most was the moment I realised I couldn’t fix my own foot problem when it was my job to fix foot problems. That was the impetus for delving deeper into this injury.

It seems to me that many runners and athletes think that certain types of blisters are no big deal, so they really don’t take the time to treat them correctly or prevent them. In your experience what are the most common blisters, and if runners put some effort into it, are they preventable?

Blisters anywhere on the feet are absolutely preventable. The reason people don’t put much effort into blister prevention is that too many of the things they’ve been told to do, don’t work. And so blisters are deemed to be inevitable. Have you noticed that athletes tend to glorify blisters like they’re a sign of how far they’ve run or how hard they’ve worked? It’s a sorry state of affairs, but they don’t see any way around it. So it’s very satisfying to help turn that reality around. I want for athletes to be able to understand blisters and their options a bit better so they can troubleshoot issues themselves. That’s why I’ve spent such a long time researching the literature to help explain what’s going on, in a way that’s easy to understand.

It seems so obvious after I read it in your book, but it never occurred to me that the foot bones move around under the skin which can cause stretching under the skin – you call it shear. It’s probably just something people don’t normally think about. Does the amount of movement differential between the skin and bones vary significantly among individuals?

It does Doug. That means we can have an impact towards blister prevention with certain biomechanical interventions that reduce bone movement – things like orthotics, stretches and changes in running technique. Another variation we see between individuals is that of the skin’s resilience to that movement differential between skin and bone (shear). Even with the same running speed, distance travelled, terrain, shoes, biomechanics, training regime and everything else being equal, some athletes are going to blister sooner than others, just because of the intrinsic shear strength of their skin.


Friction seems to be a very important concept to understand – can you briefly telling about this in relation to blisters?

Friction has a double meaning. One is rubbing, the other is resisting rubbing. This one factor alone has led to a confused mainstream blister prevention paradigm. Everyone’s out there trying to stop the rubbing on their skin, but this shouldn’t be our aim. Our aim should be to lower the resistance to rubbing. This is what reducing friction means.

Put simply, friction is the level of grip between the surfaces of the shoe, sock and skin. High friction levels cause them to grip together, and this makes that movement differential between skin and bone to be bigger, leading to more blisters, bigger blisters and blisters sooner. Our aim should be to reduce the grip – make it slippery. If you can have an impact on friction levels, you will go a long way to stopping blisters.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that different types of running can cause different types of blisters. For example if I’m running significantly faster or sprinting, I know that my foot strike and body mechanics are different. Or if I run trails I may get certain blisters I don’t get otherwise. I suppose it’s less important but I didn’t see anything in your book at particular types of running causing blisters.

You’re right Doug. When you run in a straight line, your foot plants and your foot bones continue to skid forward until they come to a stop. That’s the movement differential we call shear. And the opposite happens in the propulsive phase. So the shear happens in a forwards/backwards direction. Compare that to trail running. The more challenging the trail becomes, the more your bones slide from side to side. And the more you might load other areas of your foot in different ways. So you’re quite right – different terrains, different blisters.

Your book covers the treatment of heel blisters, arch, under the ball of your foot, and all types of toe blisters. Which blisters are the most problematic? Can blisters actually be chronic?

Feb16Murdoch02Toe blisters seem to be the most common. I took a poll on my website and 36% of 1,136 respondents had toe blisters. The next most common was blisters under the ball of the foot (28%) and I think these are the most problematic for runners. The main reason is runners don’t want to take time off running to let blisters heal. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s very hard to run when you’re trying to keep the weight off your forefoot.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how long is my blister going to last”. The fact is, your blister won’t resolve in a hurry if you haven’t reduced the shear load on that part of your foot. To get your blisters to heal as quickly as possible, you have to reduce friction levels (I’m not talking about rubbing, I’m talking about how your shoe, sock and skin all grip together – you have to make it slippery at one of these interfaces). That’s the best way to reduce shear. Plus I’d try to reduce pressure if it was possible. There are lots of ways to achieve these things, but it depends on where on your foot the blister is. Different blister locations require different strategies for best results. That’s why I focus on the ten most common blisters by their anatomical blister locations in my book, and describe the most useful prevention strategies for each.

It seems to me that most peoples understanding of blisters is pretty pathetic……whenever the subject comes up, the standard response is “are you using Moleskin?” which really irritates me since I know it does not really work well, at least for me. That’s why I found your discussion of taping, felt donut pads, and ENGO patches quite informative. Tell us about the ENGO patches since I don’t believe many people have heard of them.

I agree Doug. I feel the same way about taping. I can tape my heels til the cows come home but I’ll still blister under the tape. But you can’t deny the fact that less blister prone runners only need a little bit of something to keep them blister-free. I used to wish I was one of those people. But thankfully I’m not, because it has made me delve deeper and find real solutions for even the most blister prone athletes. ENGO Patches are the things that keep me blister-free. I actually found these patches and fixed my blister issues before I started looking into the science of blisters. When I found they worked so well, I had to figure out why, because they didn’t fit into the paradigm as I understood it at the time. That’s how I figured out that paradigm (ie: stop the rubbing) was flawed.

ENGO Patches are made by Tamarack, Minnesota, USA. They’re self-adhesive, low friction patches you apply to your shoe, insole or orthotic, rather than your skin, so they’re quite different to other strategies. They last month on month for around 300 miles and they’re very thin. They reduce friction in a targeted way, which is the best way to manage friction. I highly recommend them for anyone blister prone and any athlete bothered with blisters because of their sport.


Tell us about your website, and is it possible for runners that have serious problems to contact you for treatment via email, skype, or ?

My website is and it’s a treasure-trove of practical advice on specific blister prevention strategies, on the different blisters based on their anatomical location, on sport-specific blister issues and on blister treatment principles. I have a slant towards runners, particularly multiday ultramarathon runners, and blister prone people – so I focus on the advanced techniques needed to make a real difference. If your readers are having trouble, I urge them to have a good look at the topics covered – I’m sure they’ll find something new they can try. Unfortunately, I’m quite busy with my own podiatry practice that I don’t have a lot of time to speak to people one-on-one. But I do have an online consultation service if anyone wants me to take a look at their blisters and walk them through their best options. Other than that, I go to one 6-day ultramarathon a year to provide foot care, which I really enjoy doing. This year I’ll be at the Big Red Run, Australia’s annual 6-day ultramarathon in the Simpson Desert. It’s going to be fun.

Where can runners buy your books?
My book is available from Amazon at on Kindle and as a paperback.