How to Run the Boston Marathon 2012: Part III

Posted by on Friday, April 6, 2012 @ 10:46 am | Leave a reply


Mark Cucuzzella MD, Professor West Virginia University School of Medicine, LtCol US Air Force
2006 and 2011 Air Force Marathon Champion and Air Force Marathon Team Member since 1988

So how do you know you are running in your best hybrid mode? 

This is difficult because the sense at this level (Aerobic Threshold) is not as profound as Lactate Threshold (or Anaerobic Threshhold).  A slight increase from your optimal pace will switch you from hybrid to all gas without you realizing it, and the effects are felt miles later. Charging up hills early will tap your gas quickly.  If you want to speed up early….DON’T. Relax and maintain effort, not speed.  You should feel easy in the early stages, it is a marathon.

You must rehearse a bit in training.  I focus on relaxation and breathing.  If I’m breathing one cycle to 5 steps, then I’m hybrid.  If I’m breathing faster I’m using mostly glucose as fuel.  Belly breathe- allow lower belly to blow up like a beach ball on inhalation and pull your belly button back to your spine on exhalation.  Then you will fill the lower lung areas where oxygen exchange occurs. Notice the breathing efforts of those around you and many are rapid breathing- they tend to suffer somewhere past half way.  Rehearse complete relaxation from the top down- eyes, jaw, shoulders, allow your legs to relax and extend behind you, relax and soften your knees and ankles.  Find you own cue for this.  If you use the Heart Rate Monitor in training strongly consider one during the event.

In a marathon, the last 3-4 miles you will be mostly gas to maintain the same speed as fatigue sets in and heart rate rises.  The breathing is usually on a 3 to 4 steps per breath cycle- that is OK.  Still stay relaxed and use the cues that you have rehearsed to keep your form. Speed up only when you can “smell the barn”, this occurs when you see the Citgo sign (Mile 23).

Land softly, especially on the early downhills.  I run with a forefoot/midfoot landing harnessing elastic recoil. Focus on posture and hip extension. Use a slight forward lean from the ankles (think “face forward” and look ahead).  I’m never sore after marathons now and feel I can keep doing them until I enter the retirement home. I won the Air Force Marathon in 2:38 four weeks ago and feel fine now for another effort.  With good form it is “No pain…thank you”.

Your shoes matter too.  Make strong consideration to not running in minimalist racers unless you have trained substantially in them and adapted your structure to a natural barefoot style gait. I advocate gradually adapting all of your training into more minimal and level shoes.   If you relax your lower legs and load the springy tendons in your feet and Achilles, these shoes with no heel elevation put you in perfect position to allow natural elastic recoil of plantar fascia, Achilles, calf muscles, and hip flexors.  New research and runner’s experience is now making the case for running with a more efficient stride and questions modern running footwear. The evolving world of modern sports medicine is going back to the future too and rediscovering what evolution has taught us.  My shoe for the last 3 years at this race has been the Newton Distance.  A fast and efficient shoe for those who have worked on form.  For a library of information of footwear, running form, and biomechanics visit our website at The Natural Running Center( You can view lots of minimalist shoe information on

Tomorrow: Now a few extra ways to get from start to finish quicker on the same gallon.  

(Click here to read part 1)

(Click here to read part 2)


How to Run the Boston Marathon 2012: Part II

Posted by on Thursday, April 5, 2012 @ 11:42 am | Leave a reply


Mark Cucuzzella MD, Professor West Virginia University School of Medicine, LtCol US Air Force
2006 and 2011 Air Force Marathon Champion and Air Force Marathon Team Member since 1988

So how does this apply to you in your Boston Marathon, whether you are going to run 2:20 or 4 hours plus?

As you enter the weeks prior to the race here are a few strategies to help you set your plan.  Running your best marathon is part art, science, guts, faith in what you can do, and a little luck.  Running your best 10k is mostly about fitness. The best analogy I can think of is this: if you have trained your body properly with the right mix of aerobic level training and some up tempo stuff in recent weeks, you have built your efficient hybrid engine ready to race the marathon.  Many of you have driven in a Prius and watched the subtle shifts between gas and electric on the screen.  You do not perceive these shifts. Your engine(muscles) runs on a mixture of gas and electric, and how much of each depends on the effort.  This is why slow aerobic training is critical for marathon success, you build a massive electric engine.

You are starting the race with one gallon in the tank- assuming you have eaten a nice meal the night before with a breakfast top off.

  • If you are in all gas mode, your engine will run about 1.5 hours at a strong pace….then you are out of gas.
  • If you are mostly electric you can run all day, but maybe not so quickly.
  • If you are using the proper mix you will go quick and efficient for duration of your event, and you can even do some topping off along the way.

The glucose utilizing pathway (glycolysis for the science folks) is the gas. This is your stored liver/muscle glycogen and blood glucose (pasta meal and breakfast) – easy to access for ready energy.  The fat utilizing pathway (gluconeogenesis for the science folks)  is the electric.  In marathons you must be in hybrid the entire race.  Hybrid is where your energy (ATP) is coming from both sources.

Many runners are in great “10k shape” (an all gas event), then run their marathon in the gas mode- and usually crash.  Glycogen sparing strategy need not apply in races of less than an hour as long as you had a good pre-event meal to fill the tank. In marathons and ultras- top end fitness matters little and can only be applied very near the finish. Glucose gives 36 ATP per molecule, fat 460 ATP per molecule.  You must tap into the fat burning tank. Now you know how a bird can migrate 7000 miles without a Powerbar.

Tomorrow:  So how do you know you are running in your best hybrid mode

(Click here to read part 1)


How to Run the Boston Marathon 2012: Part I

Posted by on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 @ 12:06 pm | Leave a reply


Mark Cucuzzella MD, Professor West Virginia University School of Medicine, LtCol US Air Force
2006 and 2011 Air Force Marathon Champion and Air Force Marathon Team Member since 1988

I’ve had the pleasure of running the Boston Marathon 18 times with a string now of 10 consecutive.  My only misses were for military and work duties and a foot surgery.  In all these efforts had 5 under 2:30, 6 between 2:30 and 2:35; 3 between 2:35 and 2:40; 3 between 2:40-2:44; and one DNF (my first one in 1989 with all the rookie mistakes J ). My best learning experiences were when the men and women started together and I had the privilege of running alongside and witnessing the patient approach and incredibly efficient running  of the top ladies.

In the 1998  Fatuma Roba, the Marathon Gold Medalist in Atlanta and 3 time Boston winner, scooted over the ground with an incredibly efficient motion.  She hydroplaned along the ground, hips extending, arms relaxed, and face always relaxed.  She stayed out of trouble by tucking behind the lead pack of more aggressive ladies.  I followed behind the train and we hit half way in about 1:13.  Fatuma then opened her stride up in the second half moving away from all of us to run a 2:23.  An amazing second half effort.  I was pleased with a 2:27 that day and credit Fatuma as any thoughts to go faster sooner were mitigated by her patience.

A few years later in 2001 I witnessed multiple world champion and Boston winner Catherine “the Great” Ndereba employ the same strategy.  Her light springy stride and complete relaxation of effort were a contrast to other ladies in the pack who’s body language and breathing displayed they were putting out more energy than Katherine.  As a group we hit the half in 1:14.  Katherine kept relaxed down the last set of downhill during mile 17 then tightened the screws with a huge acceleration over the Newton hills, running a 50 minute last 10 miles for a 2:24.  Katherine helped my day.  By cueing off her pacing and relaxation I ran an  even race and finished in 2:29.

The other runner who taught me to have fun out there was the legendary 3 time Boston winner Uta Pippig of Germany.  In 1997 I ran with her until she dropped me at Cleveland Circle mile 22.  The crowds loved Uta and the noise escalated as she approached.  She smiled the whole way.  Maybe this was her cue to relax, feed off the crowd’s energy, and have fun in the moment. In marathoning you must be present in the moment; not thinking about how far you have to go,  what you may feel like later, wondering if you are going to slow down, fearing  the wall is coming.  Uta ran a strong fourth place that day in 2:28 and I finished a few strides back in 2:29. She is an example of how our brains govern our effort….when we are positive it flows.

All of these ladies made sure to get their fluid and nutrition at all stops. The few extra seconds used here paid dividends down the road.  They ran over the road not into the road, especially on the downhills…you could hardly hear them land as they did not employ hard heel striking technique.  Their posture was tall and their arms always relaxed.  But most vital was their efficient energy conservation and utilization strategy.

Tomorrow: So how does this apply to you in your Boston Marathon, whether you are going to run 2:20 or 4 hours plus?


Race Round Up: From Boston to Baghdad

Posted by on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 @ 1:59 pm | 2 Replies

Boston or Bust

Boston Marathon weekend a big one for the Newton tribe. Leading up to the big day, Newton shoes were flying off the shelves at the  pre-race expo.

On Boston Marathon Monday,  Newton was well represented among the 27,000 runners, including Newton athlete Bob Weiner, who ran 2:29:13 and placed second in the men 45-49 age group.

And at his 18th Boston Marathon, Dr. Mark Cucuzella, owner of Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running, ran his 18th Boston Marathon last weekend, finishing in a time of 2:37:00 (placing 164th overall and 15th in his age group).

We’d also love to give a HUGE congratulations to Customer Service queen Erin Gehlsen, who ran a 3:57:09!

Race Recap from MORF Racing

Vanessa Carmean of MORF Racing will kick off her 2011 racing season in a few weeks with the XTERRA Pacific Championships in Santa Cruz, CA, and in the meantime, wrote this recap of her stellar 2010 season.

“I’ve been running and racing in Newtons since 2007, but last year was my first season racing in the Distance Performance Racers,” says Vanessa. “I had some very fast runs (for me) and  was really pleased with the improvement in my run times at Boulder Stroke and Strides (one of several PR’s last summer) and the Colfax Half Marathon so I was really happy with the Distance shoes!”

Follow Vanessa and Team MORF on their blog at:

“We Love you Here in Iraq!”

A few weeks ago, CW2 Ronnie Hicks  took the overall win at the U.S. Army Reserve 10.3 km Birthday Run with a 37:53 in Baghdad, Iraq.

“My time was not blazing fast, but what do you expect after three weeks off for R&R (vacation)?” said Hicks. “I was 15 seconds-per-mile slower than usual! But the Terra Momentus were excellent choice for these conditions! Thanks for recommending them!Thanks for the support you guys provide and we love you here in Iraq!”


Two Rivers Treads Follows a Path Less Traveled

Posted by on Thursday, June 24, 2010 @ 3:13 pm | Leave a reply


Dr. Mark Cucuzzella (center) outside his storefront with business partners Tom Shantz and James Munnis

Loyal readers of this blog recognize the name Dr. Mark Cucuzzella. He’s a family physician who has completed over 60 marathons and ultras, and continues to compete as a National level Masters runner. His marathon best is 2:24 and he has run under 2:35 for a marathon 22 of the last 24 years including a 2:34 in the 2010 Boston Marathon at age 43. He’s also an expert on running biomechanics and a big fan of Newton (but not on our payroll). We’re excited to share the news that Dr. Mark’s new store, Two Rivers Treads in Shepherdstown, WV is having its grand opening event this Saturday, June 26. If you live in the area you should definitely check it out.

Two Rivers Treads should be of interest even to those of you who live far away because of its unique approach to the business of selling shoes. Dr. Mark and his team have carefully selected only shoes that work with the foot. Instead of carrying the entire product range of popular brands, they’ve choosen individual models that facilitate natural running and walking styles. If you visit the website, you’ll see that they provide detailed information on each shoe, including the heel height and toe height in millimeters so that you can determine each shoe’s ramp angle.

Two Rivers Treads is the first shop of its kind – a shoe store that promotes spending as much time barefoot as possible and provides products and education that help people realize an efficient and injury-free style of running. It’s an exciting experiment in the otherwise stale world of running retail and we’re proud to be a part of it.. The store is also the headquarters for Freedom’s Run, an event that Dr. Mark started in 2009 that winds through four separate national parks, and serves as a center of confluence for the outdoors, arts, and healthy-living local communities.

In addition to the grand opening event this Saturday, Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot will be speaking Tuesday evening (June 29). The talk is titled “100,000 Miles and Going Strong: How to Run Smart and Healthy for Life.” Check it out!


Newton Staff Spotlight: Erin Gehlsen

Posted by on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 @ 3:16 pm | 3 Replies

IMG_1273If you’ve ever called Newton Running’s customer service, there’s a good chance that you’ve talked to Erin Gehlsen. The next time you speak to her, offer your congratulations—at last weekend’s Colorado Marathon, running in the pink Universal Performance Racer, Erin posted a 3:39.27 marathon, a PR by over 45 minutes. This finish earned her a spot in the 2011 Boston Marathon (wearing the 2009 Motion All Weather)

Erin started running in high school, thanks in large part to her father Jeff. One day during a period that she calls her “out of shape” stage, her dad dragged her off the couch to go for a run. Though she felt winded and tired, the experience gave her the running bug. Her first marathon was three years ago in Chicago, where she ran with a group of friends to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Iowa.

In 2009 Erin joined Newton Running as an intern right after graduating from Iowa University. She quickly earned herself a full time job with her perennially upbeat nature, drive, and hard work. Today Erin manages the Newton Running wear test program and is a key member of the customer service and expo staff.

When asked to talk about what it is like to work for Newton, she flashes her signature smile. “It’s an amazing place and it’s like a family. Everyone works really hard, but everyone is so supportive.” She enjoys the fact that she is able to spend a lot of time with customers on an individual and personal level. “So often I’ll speak to people who call to tell me they just had a PR in the shoes or got rid of an injury. One of the best experiences is when I’m at an expo and someone I’ve helped on the phone introduces themselves and gives me a big hug!”

Outside of work, Erin likes to hike and snowboard, and she is an active member of the youth group at her church. So what’s next for Erin? Running the Chicago Marathon with her sister and father, and she will of course run Boston next spring. And then? “I don’t know…maybe a 50K?”


Congrats to Dr. Mark (and all the Boston finishers!)

Posted by on Monday, April 19, 2010 @ 2:15 pm | 2 Replies

This weekend Dr. Mark Cucuzzella (1110) led a panel on running form in front of a packed house at the Boston Marathon Expo. This morning Mark ran a 2:34:21 at the Marathon placing him among the top Masters finishers, and making it the fourth decade in which he has run a sub-2:35 race. That’s what I call walking (running) the talk.

Congrats to all the Boston finishers! It was a great race with a new record time for the men and a thrilling finish for the women!

Boston 001


A Boston Story: Dave Graves to Tackle the Race with Parkinsons

Posted by on Friday, April 16, 2010 @ 11:02 am | 3 Replies

This story was written by Patty Swedberg, owner of Raise the Bar, a Seattle area running club. The Newton team is proud to be part of Dave’s recent success, and wishes him the best of luck this weekend. Dave, we’ll be cheering you on!


Forty-five year old Dave Graves has Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and is headed out of town to run the Boston Marathon on April 19th.  Dave’s Parkinson’s manifests itself with conditions like constant pain, fatigue, muscle spasms, numbness and some loss of muscle control, more so on his left side than his right.  His speech is slower and quieter these days too, but if you didn’t know Dave before his diagnosis in August of 2008, you wouldn’t necessarily notice any of these conditions or guess that he’s ill. Dave would probably even hate the very reference that he’s ill.  Dave is squeezing every healthy moment and activity he can out of his busy life these days – and he’s making an impact along the way.

Thanks to Dr. Monique Giroux at Evergreen Hospital’s Parkinson’s Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, Dave’s diagnosis was made in an atypically short period of time—only one month.  An actively-competing distance runner and marathoner, he focuses his treatment around staying active and running. He began a drug regimen that relieved some of the symptoms, but the disease continued to progress making running nearly impossible.  Further consultation with Dr. Giroux led Dave to choose a more aggressive drug regimen with potentially more serious side effects.  The result has Dave running longer and more comfortably and is giving him the ability to run in Boston next weekend.

Unable to meet the qualifying time for standard entry in the race, Dave petitioned the Boston Athletic Association to allow him to compete as a “Mobility-Impaired” athlete.  In October of 2009, his wife Wendy (an Ironman and Boston qualifying marathon runner) received word from the Director that he was in.

As with most inspirational journeys, many people, circumstances, and factors that have contributed to Dave’s Boston experience.  One factor takes the form of a running shoe—Newton Shoes.  There’s something in the toe box and design of the Newton shoes that has eliminated a cramping left foot that was keeping Dave from running longer distances.  Whether or not the good folks at Newton knew they were helping a neurologically-impaired marathoner is uncertain, but Dave is grateful.  He’s also grateful to have met and networked with numerous other Parkinson’s patients like former professional cyclist, Davis Phinney.  They share the experience that hard exercise seems to slow the progression of the disease, and Dave will embrace that experience long into the future.

There will be no time goal for Dave at Boston. He’s choosing to enjoy the experience and wait to see how the day unfolds. Too many variables make Dave’s performance impossible to predict.  But rest assured Dave’s wife, nephew, friends, doctor, running team, and fellow Parkinson’s patients will all be enthusiastically cheering him on.  GO DAVE!

You can follow Dave Graves’ progress at the Boston Marathon through the athlete tracking system on His race number is 22163. Follow Wendy too!  Her number: 19139


Running Boston? Read This How-To Guide

Posted by on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 @ 8:45 am | 1 Reply

boston-marathon-logoFirst of all, for those of you running in the 114th Boston Marathon next Monday, congratulations on qualifying! There are enough pre-race guides and preparation materials out there that I get butterflies in my stomach just skimming them, but we’ve got one more terrific resource you should really check out before Monday. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard us talk about Dr. Mark Cucuzzella before. He’s an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at West Virginia University and an expert in exercise physiology and running biomechanics (to be clear, he is not on the Newton Running payroll). He has run over 50 marathons and competed at Boston 16 times, finishing 5 times under 2:30.

AF Marathon09The good doctor just sent us a detailed and thoughtful document entitled “How to Run the Boston Marathon.” Whether you’re running Boston on Monday, a marathon later this year, or even just a local 5K sometime soon, Dr. Mark’s guide is a very insightful tool you shouldn’t miss. Click the following link to download the pdf guide and by all means, pass this along to anyone you know racing on Monday: How to Run the Boston Marathon.

The team from Newton is on it’s way to Boston right now. If you’re in the area, please come by and say hello at the race expo. It’s free and open to the public. Also, don’t miss Dr. Mark, Dr. Dan Lieberman, Warren Green and Amby Burfoot from Runner’s World leading a seminar called “Shoes, Barefoot, Pose, Chi: How Should You Run?” on Saturday at 3pm presented by Runner’s World. Details here.

Otherwise, good luck to everyone at Boston. We’ll be cheering you on!


Three-Day Race Hangover (thanks to Boston)

Posted by on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 @ 3:30 pm | 3 Replies

At Newton HQ, the crew is recovering from an awesome week spent in Boston at the marathon. We met lots of terrific folks and had a blast at the Newton booth hanging out with Lorraine Moller and Josh Cox.

A big congrats goes to Newton’s new president, Stephen Gartside, who impressively finished his first Boston Marathon in 2:57! Danny Abshire, one of Newton’s co-founders, also raced and finished the marathon. Nice work gentlemen!

Around the globe, Newton’s pro team also had a great weekend.

First up was the Duathlon Elite National Championships in Birmingham, AL on Saturday, April 18th. On the women’s side, Jessica Jacobs led the women through the first run and never looked back. Her wire to wire win, earned her the title of Elite National Duathlon Champion. On the men’s side, in his first elite duathlon race, Guy Petruzzelli placed a respectable 6th place despite having some nutritional difficulties throughout the race. Congrats to both of these athletes on their great performances.

On the other side of the globe – the Ironman China event was being contested in Hainan China on April 19th. This event turned out to be one of the hottest Ironman events on record – with the mercury hitting levels above 110 degrees F. Despite having to ride a brand new bike out of the box due to his bike being lost in transit, Ironman Arizona Champion Jozsef Major endured the heat and took the final men’s podium slot in 3rd place. On the women’s side, Yvette Grice also gutted it out in the extreme conditions and placed a respectable 7th place in the women’s event.