Category Archives: OCTOBER 2015

All the posts created in OCTOBER 2015.

Do Not Waste Good Time – My Reflections on Sarah Sumpter, by Chris Puppione

I am not sure life was ever going to be long enough for Sarah Sumpter.


It is not so much that she died too young or that the cancer moved too quickly for her. Sarah’s life—regardless of time spent, friends made, miles run, or runners inspired—could never satisfy her. There was just so little time…

When I first met Sarah, it became immediately apparent that the road before her was always going to be too short. Every finish line would be far too near. However, she also believed that the thrill of the race was not in its completion, but in the struggle. If it was up to her, the run would never end. She loved the grind.

2007 FootLocker Finals Balboa Park, San Diego, Ca December 8, 2007 Photo: Victah Sailer@Photo Run 631-741-1865 www.photorun.NET
2007 FootLocker Finals
Balboa Park, San Diego, Ca December 8, 2007
Photo: Victah Sailer@Photo Run

I began recruiting Sarah to run at UC Davis back in 2007, and it was that fall in which she torched courses, shattered records, collected championships, and became a sensation. It was just months later in early 2008 when she publicly shared her struggle with disordered eating, and she had to begin all over again.

She would have several new beginnings over the remaining seven years of her life, and these victories and challenges have been documented ad nauseam, and by far better writers than me. Suffice to say, Sarah did as Rudyard Kipling challenged all of us—runners especially, I believe—she met with Triumph and Disaster in her life and treated those two impostors just the same. There was no vertical oscillation in her emotion regardless of occasion—simply forward motion—a tireless pursuit of something untouchable for most of us in this life. It is something beyond courage that outranks any nobility, and believe me, there is nothing valiant in the death of someone so beautiful. For lack of a better term, it was Grit, and she was its most precious vessel.

Sarah Sumpter did not beat her cancer back with fists balled in rage. Instead, she loved her place as its opponent and ran toward it—she ran through it—and she did this with a heart full of faith and spirit of indomitable passion for the community of people she held most dear—her fellow runners. She truly filled “the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.” She welcomed the struggles set before her and those that bombarded her body as simply the demands of the race in which she was entered. There was nothing else to do but to keep going.

2007 FootLocker West Regionals Walnut, Ca December 1, 2007 Photo: Victah Sailer@Photo Run 631-741-1865 www.photorun.NET
2007 FootLocker West Regionals
Walnut, Ca December 1, 2007
Photo: Victah Sailer@Photo Run

So when Sarah called me back in May and said we needed to talk, I could feel the intent in her voice. By this time, she was back home in Cloverdale and nursing herself through a nagging injury that kept her running restricted. We met the next day in Healdsburg.

“I need to do the marathon now, Pup.”

At the time, the doctors were pleased with where she was with her cancer, so this was not a notion prompted by any outward indications of what would come to pass in short time. However, they do say that the great ones have a nose for the finish line, and in Sarah’s case, it seemed that she could sense the line accelerating toward her even then.

“Will you coach me?”

It was in this moment that I became aware of a piece of coaching I had never considered before.

Through the years, I have always been concerned with getting the athletes in my charge to the finish line as quickly as possible. In its crudest light, the idea was to build them up, callous them, sharpen them and set them in motion. To the finish line or bust.

With Sarah, in this pastoral setting outside the coffee shop on the square in Healdsburg, I realized our goal was to just get her to the starting line. The running would be the easy part, I recall thinking. If we could just give her a chance to start the one thing she always wanted to finish…

That is when the words of the great Kenyan cross country champion, John Ngugi, pooled in my mind before they spilled from my tongue.

“Don’t waste good time,” I mumbled.

“Good or bad, I can’t waste any of it,” she said. “It’s time.”


We would adopt this as our training philosophy moving forward—before we knew about the offer from the New York City Marathon—before she won at Kenwood on July 4th despite a nasty fall—before we discovered why she fell in the first place and never ran again just three weeks later. We would remind each other over and again…if you feel good, go.

There were long runs, hill sessions, tempo runs, long intervals, blended sessions, special blocks, strides and recovery runs—all the usual menu items for your marathoner, and Sarah devoured them in her typical understated fashion. There was also the stifling sickness brought on by each round of new treatment—an overwhelming lethargy rooted in her disease—a battery of unpredictable days Sarah fended off with whatever she could muster for that day…even walking. If she could go, she would go, and go hard.

In mid-June, when she heard from the New York City Marathon, Sarah was offered two things—entry into the professional women’s field for the greatest American race and a promise that her acceptance of the offer would remain private until we could be certain she would make it to the start. She finally had her marathon and it was just four short months away.

The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th, 2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch
The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th, 2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch

The next day, her newest chemo drugs arrived. Two days later, her body was “a toxic waste dump,” she said. Two weeks later, she won the 10k at Kenwood in a new course PR. She would not run for another week, but when she did, she closed her run with miles so fast that we really began to see her goal of a 2:37 marathon as a real possibility. Three days later, the chemo took her away from training yet again for another 48 hours. By the 19th of July, she had lost feeling in her left foot, calf, and hand.

The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th, 2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch
The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th, 2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch

The very next day, on July 20th, despite the loss of feeling on her left side, Sarah said she decided to go the Ngugi route and ran 100 minutes “because I can,” she said. Despite closing the run with several successive miles just a shadow over six-minute pace, Sarah felt it was slow.

“I needed to do something, so I’ll take it.”

It would be the last run of her life.

Not all of life’s miles are completed on the road or trail, and while Sarah Sumpter logged thousands of miles under the power of her own two feet, the distance covered by her story has not been measured because it has not yet reached its conclusion.

Sarah’s nickname, “Stump,” came to her initially by folly—a misspelling in a list of meet entries. In time, however, this name became a fortuitous moniker—a testimony to her ability to not be uprooted.


I never called her Stump because I used to think it meant “cut down,” and that was not how I knew her. To me, she was too big, too much–a giant wrapped in a feisty pixie shell. Now, however, in the wake of her passing, I find myself examining the nature of this nickname.

Stubborn. Tough. Unwavering. Of course, she was all of these things. However, she was not just these things.

A Stump marks the passing of time with an open face and honest rings. A Stump shows its scars because those scars are what created it in the first place. A Stump stands as a monument to the great heights of the past. Most importantly, a Stump is the source of new life. Its deep roots provide the means for new sprouts to grow into new trees.

What Sarah has done is leave us the gift of herself. Her death is not an ending because I don’t believe she ever finished. She is leaving us not to finish the race, but to begin anew. And each time we lace up our shoes and put foot to pavement or tread to trail, we celebrate Sarah Sumpter. We are the keepers of her legacy.

The run continues. We champion the grind. I promise you, Sarah, we will not waste good time.


(Editor’s note:  Chris Puppione, the former head cross country coach at UC Davis (2004-2008), is the head cross country coach at Cardinal Newman High School. He continues to coach professional athletes and develop corporate fitness programs for local Sonoma County businesses.) 

(Lead photo courtesy of Sarah Sumpter-formerly of Healdsburg HS and pictured above and UC Davis coach, Drew Wartenburg and his twitter account: )

Sacramento del Corredor (Sacrament of the Runner), By Sarah “Stump” Sumpter, 2014

Sacramento del Corredor (Sacrament of the Runner)                                            By Sarah “Stump” Sumpter, 2014 

The road is a cruel mistress, but she rewards earnestly those of earnest and diligent heart.

Be warned, for her demands are steep, and her sacrifices are best received in blood and sweat and the weariness of limbs. What she gives, however, is the sweetest of ecstasies. What you pay in blood she returns thrice-fold – strength of mind, strength of spirit, strength of flesh and bone and breath. Make yourself naked to her, and she will bare before you the faces  of death, the marrows of courage, the dark crevices from which hope is born.

She is fickle with man, but bears for him a certain affection, for it was man who made Her, and pays homage to Her daily.

She requires no chapel and no prayer save the open air and the cadence of flurried feet. A desperate breath is as pure as any verse or hymn. The world is her altar and Her laws are made known not by stoop-backed scholars/scribes/wise-men but by address to her alone. There are no mediums, no prophets or seers or psychopomps. You must ride the Mount yourself, and venture all the layers of heaven and hell without compass.

Pay no mind to what others see or do not see, for she always sees, and you may share the thrill of the hunt and of victory with Her even when the mob has turned its back. She will teach you who and what you are, and no one can deprive you of that lesson/knowledge.

Do not think to rule Her. No crown or title makes you any less vulnerable to her might. There is no royalty, no classism on the road as there sits in the human thought-bubble. You must put yourself above the rest, you must prove it in the moment. There is no throne set aside just for you. If you must rule, you must prove yourself fit to conquer, and to hold that reign, if only for the day.

(Editor’s note: thanks to Sarah’s mother, Shawn Sumpter, for allowing us to publish this.)

Heart (and Soul) of a Champion, by Mike Fanelli

Oct15Fanelli02While not exactly the Precambrian era, in 1972 most television sets were still black and white and virtually every single American running track was still covered in cinder. That summer, in a Sonoma County town better known for wrist wrestling than track & field, an aspiring half miler was glued to the broadcast of the Munich Olympic Games. All eyes were on Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter and some guy from Finland who was reputed to drink nothing but reindeer milk. Oh, and there was that 800 meter race where a hat-wearing guy from Ohio went from dead last after one lap to a miraculous and entirely unanticipated gold medal victory. That Petaluma lad went out almost immediately thereafter and got himself a golf cap, causing his high school teammates to forever nickname him Wottle-ridge…Danny Wottle-ridge.


Fast forward to just less than three years later when the telephone rings in the Aldridge family abode. “Hello, my name is Dave Wottle and I am trying to reach Dan Aldridge.” Pause. “”Um, this is Danny Aldridge.” … “Well great…thanks for taking my call. I wanted to talk to you about the reasons why Bowling Green is the perfect place for you to come to school next year.”

Within the week several other such calls arrived from men like Jim Ryun regarding the University of Kansas and why his alma was the one that ‘matered’.

In 1956 the two time Olympian-to-be, Jerry Siebert, (Willits HS) set the county two lap mark. One he would hold for nineteen long years. Danny massacred that standard with his still standing half mile mark of 1:49.7… an Empire benchmark that remains unsurpassed four entire decades later, hence the nature of the Wottle and Ryun sort of telephone calls. Schooling at USC, Santa Rosa JC and then Cal Poly San Luis Obispo would follow. As a CPSLO Mustang, Danny would win the NCAA Dll 1500 meter title twice and his 3:40.67 set eons ago in 1978 remains that institution’s school record 37 years thereafter.


Allow me if you will to zoom ahead even further into the  future to 1981 when, just shy of nine years after donning his Wottlesque cap, Danny now representing the famed Sub 4 Track Club, finds himself lining up alongside the Kenyan great, Henry Rono, best known for setting 4 world records in just 81 days. The event was the one mile run at the Bruce Jenner Invitational Track Meet held annually at San Jose City College. Aldridge’s best ever mark at that time was a 4:04. At the halfway point, Danny, Rono, and another Kenyan, Kip Cheruiyot were inseparable as they split 880 yards in 2:01. Then the real racing began as Rono surged into the lead with the Petaluma kid right on his tail when the timer called out “3:01” at the three quarter mark. It was a ‘now or never’ moment going into the fourth lap when Aldridge aggressively grabbed the reins. By the time they hit the final turn, all that was going through the mind of the 24 year old Aldridge was concentration on technique…”quick feet, drive arms, relaxed shoulders.” Danny maintained his form all the way up the homestretch, elated to have beaten the mighty African. Only some twenty minutes after the fact, when the announcer confirmed his winning time of 3:59.9, did he know for sure that a 1975 vow he had made to his high school coach, Doug Johnson, had become a reality. Dan Aldridge was now a bona fide sub four minute miler. It remains the only sub-4 mile by a Sonoma County athlete to this very day.


Mr. Aldridge’s running career continued to blossom as a Eugene, Oregon based Nike sponsored member of the famed Athletics West squad. He’d break four minutes on two more occasions and also record 3:38.70 for the 1500 meters…a time that translates to precisely 3:56.19 for the one mile distance. At the Crystal Palace in London, Danny would rabbit Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe at faster than 1500 meter world record pace. At the other end of the spectrum he’d win the NapaValley Marathon twice. In between he’d step off personal bests of 13:30.95 for the 5,000 meters and 28:28.84 for twice the distance. That’s an awful lot of athletic success across a wide array of distances and over a very long time. When asked the single best advice he had ever received, Danny replied “Don’t chase times, chase competition. The times will come if you just get out there and race.” Insightful words of wisdom that he offers up to the athletes that he coaches here in the Redwood Empire.

Although he very much shies away from the spotlight, when Dan Aldridge speaks, people listen.


As a coach of aspiring middle and long distance runners for more than twenty five years, Dan has mentored some of the county’s very best. While at Sonoma State University he fostered the talent of Mike Stone, a 13:53 5,000 meters Olympic Trials qualifier. He trained Santa Rosa High School superstar, Julia Stamps, to glory and is currently the guiding light for phenom Rylee Bowen and her Sonoma Academy teammates. Although entirely reticent to accept any credit whatsoever for having done so, his role as athlete and coach has inspired countless Sonoma County runners to be their very best. But wait, there’s more. Pop into the aptly named Heart and Sole running store on Brookwood in Santa Rosa and you are in for a treat. Dan’s shop teems with history and knowledge. It’s a veritable running museum with Dan as its living treasure. When you go in, Danny makes you feel immediately comfortable as if you just slipped on your favorite old sweater. Ask him about the mementos that line the walls. Ask about improving your half marathon time. Ask about the weather, the news, the game, but whatever you do, don’t ask him whom he beat, when and by how much. That line of questioning is just not part of his heart, nor his soul.




Today I sat down with Maria Carrillo ’07 grad at one of her favorite Boulder coffee shops, OZO Coffee. Despite not starting her competitive running career until well into HS, Gray has worked her way up to the top of all-time Empire lists. She’s currently the Empire Record-Holder in the marathon, thanks to a 2:39:43 at NYCM, where she was 16th overall and 5th American. Other PR’s include 15:35.86 for 5,000m, 32:57.85 for 10,000m, and 1:13:34 for the half marathon, and she has placed in the top-10 at USATF National Championships for Cross Country, the Half Marathon, and 10,000m.

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule Alia! While you’re one of the top women in Empire history, many reading this may not know about you as you weren’t a prep super-star. Can you tell us a bit about that HS career of yours?

I ran cross country my junior and senior year, and only ran track my senior year. I got a stress fracture in what would have been my junior year. I think I got a stress fracture because I got really excited about the sport, but I had next to no lifetime miles on me.

Maria Carrillo High School team photo.

 Before I started running, I was a soccer player. I had a couple knee surgeries, and I started running because my friend Michaela Baer, encouraged me to come to some runs. I just loved the people and wanted to be around the people. I joke around that I joined the team because I wanted to go to the team pasta feeds. It’s partially true and food is a big part of my life! But I liked the people and as many runners know the running community can be such a positive place in spite of being so directly competitive that as a highschooler it’s partially a social decision.

 While it may have started as a social event, you did become a very successful, competitive runner. How’d that change come about?

I think I got really lucky having people like [coaches] Danny [Aldridge] and Greg [Fogg] and Richard Flores around early in my running career. I didn’t realize at the time how knowledgeable they were. They were all so encouraging, but they weren’t pushy, which is a big thing with young athletes. They know that the athlete has to love it first. They were there to give me the work when I wanted to do it.

2014 Houston Marathon Weekend Chevron Houston Marathon Aramco Half Marathon Aramco USA Half Marthon Championship ABB 5000 Houston, TX January 19, 2014 Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2014 Houston Marathon Weekend
Chevron Houston Marathon
Aramco Half Marathon
Aramco USA Half Marthon Championship
ABB 5000
Houston, TX January 19, 2014
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

I remember Danny a couple times telling me I could be good. I got into it because of the people, but I ended up loving it and wanted to be really good at it. I remember Danny telling me after one race I was in a lot of pain and on the verge of tears and he’s just laughing and he’s just like “oh my god you don’t know how good you can be”. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back you realize how valuable it is having people who can see things you couldn’t yet see for yourself.

And you certainly got good at Chico while under the tutelage of Gary Towne. How did you end up a Wildcat, and how did that influence your trajectory as a runner?

I knew I wanted to keep running and that I had a lot of development to do, but I was hesitant to go D1 because it could chew me up and spit me out. Greg [Fogg] brought up Chico, and mentioned something about me to Gary. What stuck out to me about Gary was that we talked for over an hour in our first conversation. The time that he took with me was just so valuable, especially knowing I wasn’t a big deal. That gave me a lot of faith that he had built something that was a good place to grow.

With coach Gary Towne after her last collegiate Outdoor Track Championships in Pueblo, CO.

Gary knows how to develop runners, and his ability to give so many kids individual attention, I have no idea how he does it. Each of us would sit down at the beginning of the season to lay out mileage, races, etc, and then do a meeting at the end of the season too. I was always looking forward to those; that was the equivalent of going to a teachers office hours. Getting that one on one time with the coach was really valuable and having someone in your life who could foresee things that you’d want to see but don’t have the courage to see quite yet.

I remember him telling me “I think you can run sub 17 in the 5k” and at that time in my head that was like a huge, huge deal, and now I look back and like, of course I could! Goodness!

2014 Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon Philadelphia, Pa September 21, 2014 Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2014 Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Philadelphia, Pa September 21, 2014
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

Even from a young age, before I was ready for the marathon distance, he said I think you can be a really good marathoner. He was great at developing athletes throughout the collegiate career but he obviously loves running and that naturally becomes instilled in a lot of his athletes. He has you thinking about running not just as a college athlete but as a person as your lifelong love.

And a lifelong love it’s become. After bouncing around a bit, you’ve now found yourself in Boulder running for Brooks, coached by the legendary Joe Vigil. How’s that new relationship been working out?

The first couple weeks I had to get over being a bit star-struck to be honest. He notoriously prescribes really difficult work, and I’m notoriously my harshest critic. What’s been really great working with him is that he’s the first one to lift me up after a hard session. But, he’s not one to hold your hand; he’s not going to give you work to make you feel good about yourself. But he’s very uplifting and he loves his runners and he knows that them being excited is a big part of the work.

He constantly reminds me that I’m still a work in progress. He tells me “you’re just a puppy,” at 26 years old! He reminds me that this is something that I’ll be doing my whole life.

2015 US Outdoor 10K Championships.

 Great though Vigil may be, he doesn’t live in Boulder, so you’re being coached day-to-day by someone else. While many may know Richey Hansen as a great chiropractor, you not only know him as a coach but also as your boyfriend. How’s that whole combo-relationship working out?

He deals with wearing many hats really well. He’s been able to be that in-person coaching influence as well as the emotional support. Not easy to balance! Lots of coaches may be happier if it was just black and white and numbers and that was that, but Richey manages me on the emotional side of running, which can be one of the more frustrating and challenging things in the world of running. He’s kinda there to tell me when something should be better when I don’t want to hear it and I’m hurting and ¾ into a workout and I’m slipping and need someone to get me back on it. Not an easy position for someone with that sort of emotional tie to do. He’s also the first one to build me up when I do something really worthwhile and the first to build my confidence. It’s just been an incredibly positive experience. It’s amazing, I used to say I’d never date a runner, that I wanted those lives totally separate, but I’m surprised the impact of someone so close to you and someone so incredibly supportive can have. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the way that we work together.

Well I’m excited to see where that partnership continues to take you! So tell us, what’s on tap for the rest of 2015 into 2016?

2014 USA XC Championships Boulder, CO Febuary 15, 2014 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2014 USA XC Championships
Boulder, CO Febuary 15, 2014
Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun

It’s gonna be so busy. I’m really excited but I’m at a point where I took some time off after USA’s [Alia finished 10th in the 10,000m and 12th in the 5,000m), starting back at Minneapolis for the USA 10mi Champs, and there’s gonna be a fall racing campaign. The Olympic Trials are in February in LA; that’s the big one. It’ll be my first time at the Olympic Trials, which is really exciting. And then I’ll turn my attention to track and try to knock out some qualifiers for the track Trials, and hopefully compete in some track Olympic Trials at the end of July. It’ll be a fast moving next 9 months. But it won’t lack excitement!

 And if all that excitement isn’t enough, you work quite a bit outside your running. Why not just stick with training?

Everyone finds a different way to piece together life and running. I’m really proud that I still work and that I’m pursuing a freelance career. In some way pursuing a freelance career is like trying to start a small business, which has its ups and downs, absolutely. I’m proud of the hard work I do running, but I’m also proud of my steps forward as a professional while pursuing running too.

I think my dream situation is to have a sponsorship to do with running that would allow me to only pick up work that I really want to do. I do enjoy having work and that does help keep me a little more sane.

So with this well-balanced life you’ve found yourself in, what should we expect from Alia Gray the runner in the future?

The NYC Marathon!

As cliché as it sounds, I just want to be the best that I can be. I think I’ve kinda been surprised by how much I loved running. The last time I was home my mom kinda jokingly looked at me and said “will you just admit you’re a runner already?! I feel that you spend so much time pretending that you’re something else.” It’s fun to embrace it a bit more. I don’t have an end goal in sight, and my goals keep changing and growing bigger as I get more mature in the sport. I don’t know what my cap is, but I know when I’m working hard and when I’m doing all that I can with my capabilities to be the best runner I can be.

Any last thoughts or advice for the next generation of runners reading this today?

I would just tell them that if they love it, there’s always a way. Not to be super cliché and cheesy, but that’s gotta be at the heart of it. You really have to love it and different challenges come up in the pursuit of that; in college it’s classes, and maybe social life sometimes. For me running is what I always came back to. If I was stressed out running is what made me feel better. A lot of the most positive, influential people have been those that have supported me throughout running.

To follow Alia on her journey, check out her blog at, and follow her on twitter @aliatgray

Running’s my Time Machine: Thankful at 50, by Doug Murdoch

When I was a kid I loved movies that showed time machines like Time Bandits and Back to The Future, because I wanted to travel in time. And yes, I also loved the first Hot Tub Time Machine movie, because it took me back to when I was a young adult in the 80’s.

I never imagined that running would end up being my time machine. It’s taken me to a place where I’ve been able to run with teenagers and college students, and not get last place. One of my most memorable races this year was at the Empire Summer Series Track Meet #1, running the mile, with the youngsters. Even though most of them were running the race as a workout, it didn’t matter. I was running free and keeping up with high school students and some college students, feeling light on my feet and crossing the finish line with them.  For a few minutes I was able to glide and float on the track and not feel the aches and pains and chronic Achilles tendon soreness that I normally feel. I was young.

Empire Runners Club 2015 Summer Track Series Meet #1, Mile Run results for males (partial list).

Of course, the important variable here is that I turned 50 last February.

Turning 50 has been challenging. At first, it was about body perception and aging issues for me.

At the beginning of the year, I grew a full beard, not only because I hate to shave, but because it had become acceptable in popular culture and I figured this was my chance. My nineteen-year-old son Dylan had some of his friends over to the house, and I asked them if I looked like a Hipster. They paused for a moment and then told me seriously that I just looked old. I looked in the mirror and saw a skinny white guy with a mangy salt and pepper beard on my face. I shaved it off after the Valley Ford Relays, no longer wanting to look and feel like a man lost at sea.

I also had friends and business associates commenting on how skinny I was.

I tried to explain to them that I was running sixty miles a week, including intervals, but it didn’t seem to register with them what happens to someone’s body when you attempt to run at a high level. I went from ”skinny” to “very skinny.” Many of these people knew me as “Fat Doug,” my nickname for myself when I was hovering at two hundred pounds. At that time, the only people that commented about my weight were my father and my wife. But when I got skinny, I received a comment about every two weeks – people wondering if I was healthy or not, or making comments like I should put some “meat on my bones.” One person even asked me if I had cancer. This bothered me. When I was “fat,” no one made comments because I suppose it’s not politically correct, but since I’ve been skinny people make comments all the time. Even though I weigh the same as when I was running in college, at times it has made me question if something is really wrong with me.

The Half Century Ass Kickers relay team at the Valley Ford Relays, left to right: Suzanna Bon, Guy Schott, Cathy DuBay, and Doug Murdoch. We broke the mixed 50 and over record by six minutes, which also put us at #6 on the all time mixed list.

Turning 50 has also been about witnessing the changes in my eighty-year-old parents, and realizing that I will be there soon.

I’ve lived long enough now that I feel like I know what it’s like to live a decade and can multiply that in my mind two or three times, and be where my parents are now. When I turned 40, I wasn’t able to project forward decades into the future and imagine being there, and I didn’t have the empathy for what happens to all of us when we get older. I have watched my parents suffer and optimistically endure through stomach cancer, diabetes, macular degeneration, arthritis, cataract surgery – the list is endless. And to their credit or dismay, they don’t tell my sister or I about their problems until after they get out of the hospital – because they don’t want us to worry.

So I am thoughtfully thankful to be running so well and in shape at fifty years old, and I don’t take that for granted.

1500M prelims heat #2 men’s 50-54, world masters track championships, Lyon, France, 2015. Doug was first in 4:26.35.

Some of my high school friends are having a tough time as well.

My high school and college track and cross country friend, Kevin, is dealing with the fact that his father, Elmer, is suffering from a number of issues – hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain), blood clots in the brain, has suffered a couple of strokes, and has had trouble talking. Kevin doesn’t know if he will live through the end of the year. As my friends start to deal with dying parents, I start to suffer as well, knowing that in short time I will be experiencing something similar with my parents.

Another high school friend of mine, Eric, who ran some excellent 10K times while at Sonoma State, broke his back in three places, and combined with knee injuries, can no longer run. We were talking this summer and he told me that I was running “for the rest of us” (who can’t run anymore). That struck a chord.

And the week before I left for France this year for the world masters track championships, I received a group email from one of my high school friends that had been on the track team with me, informing us he had Multiple System Atrophy, and that most likely he would die in the next few years. When I read his email I was stunned – he is 50 as well. And so I ask myself, why am I running so well and yet my high school track compatriot is suffering in a wheelchair?

The obvious answer is a combination of genetics, determination, and luck. But I’m more interested in the abstract questions that lie beyond a purely rational explanation. Why do some people suffer more than others? How do we find meaning in the midst of the inevitability of physical and mental suffering?

Men’s age 50-54 1500M finals at the world masters track championships, Lyon, France, 2015. Doug is fourth from the right.

When I was young attending Cal State University Northridge, I naively thought that if I went to the Oviatt Library enough then I would find the answers somewhere deep within the rows and shelves of books. Towards the end of college I realized that I was not going to find the answers there, and believed that my life experiences might behold some truths. But now at fifty, with five decades of experience, the answers have not revealed themselves. I know that I’m responsible for applying my own meaning, but I keep procrastinating.

From a training point of view, there are a couple of key points. I’ve been able to manage my injuries and get them treated so that I can continuously keep running month after month. Prior to this year I’ve had to take days, weeks, and sometimes months off due to injuries. The second factor has been allowing my body to fully recover after a hard workout or a race by doing easy runs until I felt ready for another hard workout, which for me has been three to five full days. Although this has put me on an irregular 8–10 day workout schedule, it has worked for me. I can come up with a full list, like how I increased my mileage to sixty miles per week, the type of intervals I did, etc., but for me it is still not a satisfactory answer as to why I’m running so well as compared to others. Is it because I took 27 years off of running before I started again? My friend John has a theory that masters’ runners that did not run for years and years do better when they’re older because they have not stressed their tendons, ligaments, and muscles for so many years.

One lap to go, men’s age 50-54 1500M finals at the world masters track championships, Lyon, France, 2015. Doug was 13th in 4:24.72. His PR for the year was 4:23.12 at the USATF National Masters Championships, getting 2nd place.

So at 50 the reality of aging and suffering has been an emotional blender of self-reflection. My bachelor’s degree in philosophy does not seem to be helping.

But running has allowed me to forget about those things if only for a few minutes at a time. Running a track race is so intense for me that my mind is purged of extraneous thoughts and all I can do is focus on the race itself. Maybe that’s why I love track – the adrenaline rush before the race, the dread of having to push my body to the limits, the single mindedness of the event, and being completely submerged for a few minutes in time. In those moments I feel completely alive and in motion. Once I cross the finish line, reality swiftly returns. I often think as humans we’re simply keeping busy all the time to keep our minds off of our own mortality and the painful things that are right in front of us. Running keeps me busy.

Ultimately I am so thankful simply to be fully healthy and running so well at fifty years old. When I started running five years ago I never imagined that I would run this fast. I’m so thankful at 50, for everything.

And running a master’s personal record means so much more, because you realize that it may be the apex of your career as an older runner. As hard as I may try the following year, I may not run as fast. I may enter the phase of declining times for the rest of my life.

As for running as a time machine, I’m hoping that it will still work for the years to come, because feeling young again is incredible. No matter what my times are, if running can make me feel significantly younger, than I plan to keep running indefinitely, on the longest of runs.

Clo-Cow Lovers run the Half Marathon

The 5th annual Clo-Cow Half Marathon & 5K took place on September 13 in Petaluma.  Winning the challenging half marathon was Empire Runner Vojta Ripa, along with Sarah Hallas – who both won the inaugural race in 2011.  Tyler Harwood (also an ERC member) won the 5K, along with Petaluma’s Shannan Salvisberg. (results here)

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

In this exclusive interview, we chat with Clo the Cow to get the scoop!

Q: What is your secret for getting in shape for a half marathon?
A: Staying mootivated is the key!  I have found that moo-ving about the pasture and climbing hills can be udderly exhilarating.

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: Top three reasons to run the Clo-Cow Half Marathon?
A: 1.) Cowbell medals! 2.) Run alongside moo cows 3.) Finisher photos with yours truly

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: What is your favorite post-race recovery drink?

A: Clover chocolate milk, of course!  Did you know that more than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout?  Find out more by going to

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: Do you prefer to run alone or with a group?
A: I love to run with a herd of friends; it makes me want to be a clover-achiever and work out those calves.

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: Has running affected your work in any unexpected ways?
A: Being Sonoma County’s best-known spokescow can be demanding work, so running is a great way to reduce stress and keep feeling young.


Q: How was it hugging all of those sweaty runners?
A: It was definitely a Clo’s encounter! But seeing those smiling faces made it all worth it!

Q: Any other races you recommend?
A: You can’t go wrong with the Urban Cow Half Marathon and Davis Moonlight Races.



Question: You’ve been a trainer for a long time. People get motivated and work out, but then they may lose interest and quit. In your experience and observation, what is it that keeps people exercising on a regular basis, indefinitely? What is the root motivation?


Answer: In one word, Community! It has been my experience that when you build a network or community of like minded people they form a bond. Those people keep each other motivated and enthusiastic about showing up for their workouts together. I am a Personal Trainer which, in most cases, personal trainers provide one on one training but, because of what I have learned over the years, the great majority of my trainings are group oriented. We work very hard but we also have fun doing it because everyone is in it together. These clients are not only accountable to me but to their peers. I provide workouts that are challenging but every level of fitness can still participate. We can make modifications for every exercise when needed. We work on stability, mobility, strength, endurance, speed, agility, flexibility, and balance. Every day the workouts are different so boredom and plateaus do not set in. We get results…another big reason that they stay motivated!

Since you’re human as well (we assume), you must also have training highs and lows. When you hit a low, what motivates you personally to keep going, to work harder, to get back to the place you were before?


My biggest motivation is to set the best example as a coach. I work hard to make sure all of my clients, as well as my family and friends, know that I am in this process of healthy living right along with them. I expect the same and more from myself as I do from them. I acknowledge the days, that we all have, that may be more difficult than others to keep on moving, to keep making good choices with what goes in our mouths. Personally, I always try to have some kind of carrot dangling out in front of me to go after…a running race, a mud adventure, a big hike. This way I don’t have an excuse to put off my training.

Is the concept of a “Boot Camp” to in some respects shock someone out of their normal thinking and habits and to realize there is an alternative way of living?

 Many people are intimidated by the words “Boot Camp”. This way of exercise is so much more than just what these words tend to mean. In the fitness industry we use it to let people know it is going to be a hard workout. It is hard but it is done in a kind, safe, fun way. I make sure anyone can participate and get something great out of it. All in all it is a circuit training workout using weights, body weight, fitness toys, etc with various timing methods to produce that “out of your comfort zone” feeling and get results!

Message board created by Lawrence Phillips
Message board created by Lawrence Phillips

In your experience, which goals that people set for themselves work the best in the long term?

This is the golden question because healthy living is as much about psychology as it is about the physical activity and eating. First of all, the goal has to motivate you and be important to you. You have to be doing it for yourself and you have to be committed. I always ask my clients to set themselves up for success as best they can. They have to take on the “I must do this, I can do this” attitude. They must have accountability and engage others in their goal so they are more apt to stick with it because others are now counting on them too. Of course, as a trainer, we learn the SMART goal setting…Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound. I follow this practice with my clients and I also ask them to keep a journal, at least in the beginning until things become a habit.

What advice do you give people when they want to give up?


One of my favorite quotes is from Tom Hanks…It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” and from Winston Churchhill…Never, never, never give up.”   I have clients that need that extra push and I even need this sometimes so I have them choose a weekly mantra and post it everywhere that their day takes them…car, bathroom mirror, desk, refrigerator, etc etc. It really does help.

What are the most common false beliefs that people have that prevent them from exercising?


 I could spend the whole interview on this question! The biggest and the worst…I DON’T HAVE TIME!Everyone has time. Most of us are awake for 16 hours a day. Even 20-30 min of exercise a day is great for most and that is less than 3% of the day! It has to be an appointment to yourself at least 5-6 days a week. There are so many resources available to suit any interest level and skill level to make this happen. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live and you only get one!” Another one I get often is, “I need to get in shape before I can join a gym or do a class”. My response is if you come to class you WILL get in shape!!!

You’re TRX certified. Do you think this has a place in most runners’ weekly repertoire? I heard Paul Berg is doing this.


TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise and Yes, I believe that it can certainly enhance a runner’s performance. TRX training requires you to engage your core with every exercise so you get a total-body workout. It leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform so many great exercises. I incorporate it in to many of my weekly group and personal training sessions and Nan Hall owns a TRX studio on Mendocino Ave. That is where I sent Paul Berg and he has had fantastic results. I highly recommend it as well as many other great cross training activities to help runner’s improve their abilities.

Which running race stands out in your mind as being the most memorable and why?

I actually have two that are equal for different reasons. The Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco was a favorite because the course is awesome winding through the city and what girl doesn’t love a blue Tiffany Jewelry Box handed to her at the finish line by a handsome fireman in a tuxedo!!! Talk about motivated to finish.

Oct15ShelliMain03The 2008 Boston Marathon was also so memorable. About 23 Empire Runner’s did various marathons in hopes of qualifying for Boston that year. We all gathered together as a group and rented a big home and spent most of a week exploring Boston. The Marathon was the highlight and it was so awesome to share this and feel supported by our great group. I had one of my best times in a marathon that day and decided that is where I would retire from that distance…went out with a BANG!

I saw on your Facebook page you had some photos of a mud run you participated in – did you quite literally swallow some mud? Would you recommend these events for runners?

I LOVE to do Mud Runs!!! Mud runs are actually my favorite events to do these days. I have one coming up in Granite Bay on Nov 1st called the Merrell Down and Dirty 10k. I love them because it engages my skills as a pretty decent runner as well as all of my strength, speed, and agility in doing the various obstacles. I am also pretty fearless and that helps. I don’t mind being uncomfortable which is required in these fun and very muddy events.


Do I swallow mud…I try not too but it can happen. John Staroba gave me the best advice when I set out to do my very first event. He said “wear swim goggles around your neck and right before you get to each mud pit put them on”. “It will give you a huge advantage over the others that get mud in their eyes”. He was so right!!!    I was also a contestant, a few years ago, on the TV show called Wipeout. I made it to the second round of competition. And YES, I got WIPED out! We had a party at Legends Golf Course the night it aired and many Empire Runner friends came to watch. Doc (Alec Isabeau) was in attendance so he could see why he had to put Humpty Dumpty (ME) back together again. His mouth was wide open in disbelief most of the evening. It wasn’t the smartest thing I have done in my life but I will never forget it.

Previously you were a volunteer coach and race director for Girls on the Run Sonoma County for four years. What insights did you gain during those four years?


Working with all these young girls was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. To know the impact you can have, early on in their lives, planting that seed of healthy living both mentally and physically with them is beyond fantastic! Teaching them so many wonderful, valuable lessons and opening up communication on subjects that aren’t normally touched on in a school setting or even sometimes in the family environment, such a wonderful thing to be part of. The bonus was being able to share my love and passion for running to these young girls. Several discovered that running was actually its own sport and they came to love it. They went on to run with Santa Rosa Express and now for their high schools. The ones who didn’t necessarily embrace the love of running still made so many friends that they might not otherwise have hung out with at school, they learned the discipline of working toward a goal, in this case, a 5k and all the joy that comes when you work hard for something and achieve it. Girls on the Run is also fantastic because over and over I would see the whole family embrace the idea and many would run right along with their daughter.

When Girls on the Run decided to start hosting their own 5k events, I knew I was the person for the job. My love of running in races and all the details that go in to making a race a pleasant, fun experience along with my passion for the organization of Girls on the Run was a perfect fit. Many of our Empire Runners club members volunteered their time on many different levels as well as donated financially to the event. I couldn’t have done it without them!

Do fire fighters feel that their physical training is essential prior to a major fire like the Valley Fire?

I don’t work directly with firefighters but my father was 37 years Cal Fire, my brother is Santa Rosa City Fire and my son-in-law is Cal Fire. That is how my fitness business name… Fitness On Fire NorCal came to be and why red is, by far, my favorite color. Red is a power color and it all works together and I really resonate with it!


I do have several fire fighters as clients. Yes, they do take their training very serious. Their jobs require so much out of them, including disrupted sleep on a daily basis. I probably should keep my answers at that so I don’t step in to territory that isn’t my expertise. Both my brother and son-in-law, and one of my long term clients have worked very hard on all of the horrendous fires we have had this season. I am so grateful to them for all that they do.

What does your training and diet look like?

Last year I did an experiment with myself that really paid off…After talking to some of our professional triathlete friends, and picking their brains about nutrition, I decided to try a mostly plant based diet. I removed dairy and gluten all together to help with my stomach issues and inflammation issues. Val Sell was also a very big help with advice, recipes, etc The story is long but I will make it short in that I lost about 10 lbs, I felt fantastic, and I set big PR’s in all most every single event that I participated in.


On the physical side of things, I cut my running down to 2-3 days max a week. I kept my long run at a 10 mile base and the other days I did tempo, speed and or hills. My focus was more on building my strength with TRX, plyometrics, weight and body weight training, anaerobic training and agility. I took 1 full day off per week from exercise. I increased my sleep to 9 hours per night. I was injury free for over a year even though I pushed myself to new limits.

Unfortunately, I made one mistake this year and I wore the wrong shoes to a speed workout and it resulted in plantar fasciitis….but…I will be back with a vengeance!

Where can people contact you?

I have my own personal training business called Fitness On Fire NorCal. My website is   I am also a trainer at Team LP Fitness Playground on Farmer’s Lane. I LOVE what I do!!!

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.

Viking Opener Alumni Cross Country: DuBay Still “Schooling” the Youngsters, by Larry Meredith

Cathy DuBay signing up for the race in the morning.

At age 51 Cathy DuBay is over the hill.  And the next hill.  And the one after that.  Before anyone else. While it’s true that DuBay can’t zip around the Spring Lake 2-mile cross country course as fast as when she was 30 (11:32, 3rd-best all-time) or when she was 45 (12:34, 3rd-best master all-time), her 12:44 effort this year gave her a 45-second victory in the 29th Annual Viking Opener Alumni Cross Country 2-Miler on September 29.  And the Piner HS grad (class of ’82) also broke the women’s 50+ all-time mark, set by Ukiah’s Holly Enzler in 2013, by an amazing 58 seconds.

Larry Meredith getting everything organized the morning of…..
Eva Stuart, Santa Rosa ’09, was the runner up this year, leading her group of Panther alumni to a 2nd-place team finish.  One of her SRHS coaches, Carrie Joseph (Centerville ’88, Ohio) came through the finish next, winning the women’s 40-49 division just ahead of Lower 47 Mix teammate Karen Teuscher (Central Kitsap ’94, Washington) as that team claimed top honors.  Empire Runner Tori Meredith (Branham ’75, San Jose) took second among the 50-and-over set and ninth overall.  Nancy Clary (San Rafael ’81) finished 4thoverall and claimed a spot on the all-time masters list at 13th with her 13:59.  Leona Bratcher (Piner ’79) put her name on the all-time 50+ list in 17th with a 17:46.
Vojta Ripa finishing in first place.

Youth would be served in the men’s race as Healdsburg High’s Vojta Ripa (class of ’08) ran away to a 24-second margin of victory, finishing in 10:49.  The home team celebrated a second place individual finish and masters title for Jason Selby (Montgomery ’93), who is now 15th-best ever for that division with his 11:13.  Jaime Silva (Piner ’13) took 3rd place, outkicking Empire Runner Gerald McCormick (Sela ’01, Washington) by one second.  The next two finishers were from the team Marin County Mix, Matt DeShazo (San Marin ’01, Novato) and Brad O’Brien (Terra Linda ’80, San Rafael) setting the stage for the team title. O’Brien was the top 50-59 finisher, tying his all-time #2 mark in that division set two years ago at 11:31. 

Jason Selby finishing in second, first in the 40-49 division.
 Although brothers Jeff (’00) and Chris Gardina (’03) for Piner HS took 11th and 13th, respectively, senior runner Andy Howard (Novato ’79) came in 15th to knot up the team score a t 27 apiece for Marin County and Piner HS.  The tie-breaker went to Marin County when Travis Reder (Novato ’13) finished 19th, far ahead of Piner #4, Quy Tran.  Montgomery’s men took 3rd, just 3 points back.
Besides O’Brien’s repeat performance in his 50-59 division, the most impressive run of the day was by fellow senior runner Tim Wallen (Ukiah ’81) who finished just one second back in 7th place and earned the #3 all-time mark for men in that group.  Another who notched a spot on an all-time list was Brian McSweeny (Holy Trinity, New Jersey) who ran 14:38 and is now the 11-fastest 60+ runner in this event’s history.