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How to Run the Boston Marathon 2012: Part III

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

BY:

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( http://naturalrunningcenter.com). You can view lots of minimalist shoe information on http://www.tworiverstreads.com

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)

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How to Run the Boston Marathon 2012: Part II

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

BY:

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)

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How to Run the Boston Marathon 2012: Part I

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

BY:

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?

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Semper Fly: How to Go Fast in the Marine Corps Marathon 2011

Posted by on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 @ 9:28 am | 1 Reply

by Natural Running Guru, Mark Cucuzzella MD FAAFP, lovingly reposted from The Natural Running Center

As a Lt Col in the U.S. Air Force, I have been an Air Force Marathon Team Member since 1988. This will be my 20th Marine Corps Marathon with two Masters wins and two top-five overall finishes. This Sunday, I will be competing again in the Marine Corps 26.2-mile race which is held in D.C.

While I will be speaking on Barefoot Running Style at the AMAA Sports Medicine Symposium the day before,  please allow me to share some of my own training and racing experience, and perhaps you too can follow some of these recommendation as you prepare for your own race. wherever or whenever that happens to be.

As you enter the week prior to the race here are a few visualizations to help you set your plan.  Running your bestmarathon 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 watch the subtle shifts between gas and electric on the screen.  You do not perceive these shifts. Your engine runs on gas, electric, or a mix- depending on the effort.

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 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 is the gas. This is your stored glycogen and blood glucose (pasta meal and breakfast) – easy to access for ready energy.  The fat utilizing pathway is the electric.  In marathons you must be in hybrid until the last few miles.  Hybrid is where your energy  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 an energy bar.

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

This is difficult because the sense is not as profound as aerobic/anaerobic.  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 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 all gas to maintain the same speed as fatigue sets in.  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. Your heart rate is higher now.  Speed up only when you can “smell the barn”, maybe after 20 miles.

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.  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.  I will be running in the zero-drop Newton MV2, which I wore with comfort and success at the Air force Marathon. Not that you are going to change your shoes in the next day based on my advice, but make strong consideration to not running in minimalist racing flats, unless you have trained substantially in them and adapted to a natural barefoot style gait. I advocate gradually adapting all of your training in the more minimal and level shoes.   If you relax your lower legs and load the springy tendons in your feet and Achilles, then 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.

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

  • If you can add a little gas along the way then you can go more into gas mode.  This works a little at best.  If running too fast you shunt all blood to working muscles and nothing digests.  If you are in hybrid the early going you can continually add fuel- the key is not only the correct fuel, but the right pace.  An energy gel  every 25 minutes is easy to digest and tops off the tank.  Carry them with you at the start.  The weight is nothing compared to the benefit you will get.  If you do the gels then you can drink water instead of the energy drinks which are often less predictable on the run. Marine Corps has a gel station at Mile 9, 13, and 23.  Carry 2 gels at the start (one every 3-4 miles or so) and top-off  along the way.
  • Maintain effort on uphill.  Your pace will slow. You can easily use all your gas here if your effort increases.  Shorten your stride, relax, and use your arms.  Then allow gravity to take you down. The first hills in Arlington and Georgetown can feel “easy” but if run too hard can drain your gas quickly; so go easy up them.
  • If it is windy get behind a group.  This can save lots of physical and mental energy.
  • If you are having a “bad patch” – try to refocus on relaxing, fuel a bit (sometimes a blood glucose drop triggers the sense of doom), and have faith in your training and race plan.  Another nice trick is when you hit mile 21 it is not 5 miles to go, it is 4 and change. Mile 22 is 3 and change to go.  Just run to the next mile marker and count them down one by one. Smile and enjoy the party in Crystal City. This gives you some mental refreshment after crossing the lonely bridge from 20-22 miles.
  • Do not over drink water. This can lead to a dangerous condition called hypontremia and severe electrolyte imbalance.

The fun of the marathon is that we are always learning and enjoying the adventure of it.  I’ve done over 70 marathons now with a couple under 2:25 in my younger years.  (i just turned 45.) I’ve had the pleasure of running this race 20 times representing the US Air Force.  My only misses were for military duties and a foot surgery many years ago.  We learn from experience, taking chances, and occasional failures. My first marathon was the 1988 Marine Corps was 2:34, when I could run about 30 minutes for 10 kilometers. Twenty-three years later I hope to get near this time again and my current 10k is about 35 minutes.   In the last 23 years I’ve run a marathon under 2:40 every year except for my year of medical internship when there was no time to find a race. Twenty-one of those years were under 2:35.  I’ve learned a few things in 20 plus years on how to train and race efficiently and economically, but still there are uncertainties every time you line up.  So relax, taper up, and seize the day.

I’d like to especially thank all the Armed Forces Members around the world who sacrifice daily in the service of their country and for all the volunteers who make the Marine Corps Marathon an incredible event.  Thank the Marines you see around the course and that in itself will give you added spirit.

 

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Winning the Air Force Marathon: Natural Running Center’s Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, 44, Placed First in 2:38

Posted by on Monday, September 19, 2011 @ 10:54 am | Leave a reply

Reposted with permission from the Natural Running Center

When I got the email late Saturday morning from Mark with just two words in the subject line, “I won!”, my digital jaw dropped in astonishment.  Just a few weeks shy of his 45th birthday, Mark topped a field of 2,500 runners at the 2011 Air Force Marathon, which  started and finished at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio on September 17.  In addition to being fleet of foot, Mark is a Professor of Family Medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine as well as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves. Wanting to know more about his amazing victory — he won by five minutes in a time of 2:38– I fired off several questions to Mark and he  quickly responded.  So without further delay, here’s our exchange. But first, all of us who are involved with the Natural Running Center, are extremely proud of the NRC’s co-founder and executive director who showed that age should be no barrier or hindrance to performance. — Bill Katovsky

You last won this race in 2006.  What were the differences between now and then in terms of your training?

I last won this race in 2006 just shy of my fortieth birthday.  In 2006 life was a lot less busy.  I had time then to focus more on my running and do some of the harder sessions necessary to run fast.  Currently running fits 100 percent  in the relaxation part of my day; if it did not the running and life in general would not be sustainable.  In 2006 I would do marathon pace 2 hour runs in the 6 weeks leading into a marathon.  Now my long runs are all relaxed and low heart rate, and no more than 2 hours.  I did no traditional interval sessions then and I do not do these now either.  I do really short neuromuscular work several times a week with 4 short 50 meter strides and light skipping drills to wake up the recoil and springiness in my stride. In 2006 I started to run in level shoes, now I run barefoot or minimalist in training. So that’s another progression.

How many times have you done this race?

Looking back this was my eighth race and sixth in a row.  I was second in the inaugural race losing to a college rival runner Andy Herr out of NC State.  He beat me in college XC and translated that to the marathon.

Here are the years, times, and place

1995                  2:32                  2nd

1996                  2:34                  3rd

2006                 2:31                  1st

2007                 2:34                  5th

2008                 2:39                  6th

2009                 2:44                  4th

2010                 2:42                  5th

2011                  2:38                  1st

 

One other note. Out of close to 80 marathons that I have raced, only have 2 have been over 2:45 and 24 of last 25 years with a marathon under 2:40, 22 of the years under 2:35.

Mark was flying in his new 5-ounce, zero-drop Newton MV-2's.

What shoes did you wear in 2006? And in Saturday’s race?

In 2006 I was wearing a Brooks Burn. I was sponsored by them at the time.In 2011 I wore the new Newton MV2.  This is a 5-ounce zero-drop shoe which is firm and responsive.

Given that a majority of your training is barefoot, what are the differences in racing shod?

I want something with a close to barefoot feel; that is a firm shoe with no heel elevation.  Also need a nice toe-box so I can use my “Correct Toes”. These keep my big toe in the right position for stability and spring.  You can run faster on this course in shoes than barefoot.  There are lots of rough stretches of pavement which would be tough at 6 minute pace in bare feet.  To race a marathon you need to be in total relaxation mode and let it go.  Barefoot on unfamiliar textured terrain is a challenge in itself.  You can go more reckless in shoes too as you can get away with flying down the hills, and which is a good thing in a race.  The Newtons are different as they are not traditional soft foam, but rather a firm TPU membrane with recoil properties.  To me this enhances efficiency, and does not sap it away like traditional EVA.

Will you ever run a full marathon barefoot?

Sure, I need to find a nice scenic course with a good smooth road.  I would not “race” this either and rather focus on smooth technique and enjoying the day.  I ran Big Sur several years ago.  This would be a nice barefoot run, or Napa Valley and finish with a nice glass of red.

How many miles do you train per week? And do you do any other sports or physical activities?

I probably log 50-60 miles with a long run of 1:45-2 hours.  I play in the backyard often with my dog and kids.

With your incredibly busy schedule of being a family physician, owner of Two Rivers Treads, and frequent travel to speak at sports medicine conferences and clinics, how do you even find time to run?

I run when there is opportunity, often very early in the morning and sometimes at lunch.  The beauty of running is that you can run anywhere and anytime.  I have a headlamp for running in the dark

Does everyday stress ever affect your training?

I use my running (and deliberately shun the word “training”) as the daily reset button.  The harder and busier the day is the more I need to do an easy run.  This relaxation counters the sometimes toxic levels of stress that comes with being overextended.  If running were another stress it would not be sustainable, therefore all of my running is relaxed. Often people read schedules developed by elite athletes and they have weekly strenuous sessions. Now if you are an elite athlete and the rest of your day is the relaxing part then you can add frequent stressful workouts.  For 99.9 percent of all runners this is not the case.  We all have busy and stressful lives and the running must fit into the “yin” of the “yin and yang” circle.

How did you celebrate after the win? Were your legs sore?

I have a trace of soreness now 24 hours after the race.  At the post-race tent I celebrated with teammates with a few beers, a pizza, and later  2 glasses of wine (good mixed fat, protein, and carb recovery).  When I got home that night my family had a nice Boston Crème pie waiting.  This was the real celebration.  To my two kids, it was if I had won the Olympics.  I brought home a really big trophy and they loved it. They made me congratulation cards with crayon drawings of Daddy leading the pack. On Sunday morning I ran 40 minutes barefoot and felt really good considering the hard 26 yesterday.  I even mowed the grass too for an hour with a push mower.

What was it like to be out in front the entire race? Were you in a state of suspended disbelief, thinking “where is everyone?”

When you run a marathon you just focus on your own pace and feeling.  I had plenty of company with a police lead car and 4 Military Police on bikes next to me.  So at least I felt safe and did not need to think about turn. I just looked ahead at the car.  There were tons of spectators out in the towns, at the aid stations, and on base. So it was never lonely.  At least 20 bands too and since I was the first runner they really cranked it up.  Heard some AC/DC, Zeppelin, Elvis, and lots of other spirited tunes to give me a little boost.

How many other runners in their 40s in the U.S. can go sub 2:40?

There are quite a few 40 year old runners who can run this time; at 45 years, not too many

How was this race different than Boston 2011 when you ran 2:37?

I consider the solo 2:38 yesterday a better performance.  In Boston we had a nice tailwind, there are no turns, and there is always either a group to break the wind or another runner you are chasing.  To solo run a 2:38 on a course with several hills takes more effort.

Some of the runners in the Air Force marathon were half your age!  Yet, you were able to flick on your afterburners for  26.2 miles and they weren’t.  Why is this so?  How does one build up endurance and speed?

Running is all about efficiency and economy, a term Dr. Phil Maffetone calls “aerobic speed”.  This is the speed you can achieve while still in your true aerobic zone (where a good portion of fuel is fat).  Go a little faster than this and you are burning all glucose/glycogen.  We only have an hour and a half of glucose/glycogen in the tank so this strategy does not work for a marathon.

I do almost all my running is very relaxed at a  heart rate  of about 145 or lower and do supplemental short 50 meter sprints and light plyometrics to keep the range of motion and “quickness”.  You want to be able to run “fast” without running “hard.” That is the secret.

I work on kinetic chain strength and stability also by spending a lot of time standing on one leg.  I do not have a chair at my desk and do most of my working at a stand up desk.

The day before the race you were on your feet the entire day giving talks on footwear education and running. What were some of the topics you covered? And, weren’t you tired by the end of the day? So much for taking it easy the day before the race.

Yes it was a busy couple of days giving talks at the expo and speaking with fellow soldiers about their running.  I covered the basics of a program we are about to launch called “Efficient Running”. We are tasked to build self instruction modules for soldiers on aerobic development, core strength for running, and running mechanics.  The talks brought much interest and curiosity.  Runners cornered me for an hour after each of these talks to get advice on their injuries.

What did you eat the morning of the race? Did you eat or drink anything during the race?

My usual breakfast is several cups of good coffee (this is normal for me), a couple bagels with peanut butter, and a banana.  I eat about 2 hours before the start and then have a Power Gel at the start.  I use a Power Gel every 30 minutes during the race and take only water.  I do not drink beyond what my body senses. So maybe 20 ounces along the way yesterday.  It was cool.

Dr. George Sheehan, the late philosopher king of running, dealt with his declining marathon times by cutting back on the frequency of runs per week. Instead of going five miles a day, six times a week, he reduced that amount to running three times a week while boosting his mileage to ten miles per run. He was still running thirty miles per week, but it was offset by additional rest days. He stuck to this training regimen for three years, and at the age of sixty-two, Sheehan set a personal best in the marathon by going 3:01. Can you see yourself going even faster in the marathon in years to come?

I think I could run faster if I chose a goal race and life calmed down enough to do some of the necessary harder sessions to really get into “race” shape.  Currently, there’s not enough time to sleep and recover so the running can only be easy.  With the right prep and the right race I think I can go under 2:30 again.  I’ve run under 2:25 a couple times in my 20’s, but doubt I’ll get there again.  But really the times don’t matter.  I’m happy to be able to wake up and run pain free even if I never raced again.  In some ways though I feel obligated to jump into the races since a big mission of the Natural Running Center, Two Rivers Treads, and the United States Air Force Efficient Running is sustainable running. If I were just another “former runner” trying to tell folks what to do it would have no credibility or relevance.  I’m learning and experimenting everyday too.

 

What’s up next on Dr. Mark’s race calendar?

The biggest running challenge is a race where I’m not running but directing.  On October 1, we’re hosting nearly 3000 runners in Shepherdstown with Freedom’s Run (www.freedomsrun.org).  I direct the race and believe me that when I say running a marathon is easy; you just show up. Finally, come see our new Two Rivers Treads blog calledRun Shepherd. We just posted a short video of one returning Freedom’ s Run competitor, Don Taylor, who is 80 years old!

I have Marine Corps Marathon late October. I will be part of Air Force team.  This will be my nineteenth Marine Corps. This was my first marathon in 1988 and I ran a 2:34. It would be fun to achieve that time again. I will run the JFK 50 mile in November to finish the fall running season.

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Shepherdstown West Virginia: a Newtonian Community

Posted by on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 @ 1:04 pm | 2 Replies

In less than a year, Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking has sold over  1000 pair of Newton Running shoes. Newton Runner Dr. Mark Cucuzzella (pictured left) opened the concept store in June  2010.

Dr. Mark, one of the earliest adapters of Natural Running, began researching and learning about better running form after several foot operations in 2000. He discovered the effects of footwear affects as a runner for Brooks Sports and working on minimalist shoe projects. “By cutting the heels off shoes I understood the feel of zero-drop,” says Cucuzzella. “I didn’t need any more data to realize that elastic recoil and natural motion were enhanced with my foot in its anatomic position.”

When these projects were shelved, Dr. Mark contacted Newton Running‘s Danny Abshire, of who was building a shoe designed to facilitate proper running form. Dr. Mark and Newton Running continue to learn and evolve with  a common goal of having runners embrace the notion of “No Pain…Thank you”, not “No Pain…No Gain”.

In 2009 Shepherdstown started hosting running events that soon become the largest in the state.  There is now an entire Freedom’s Run Series of Events (www.freedomsrun.org) with partnerships with the National Parks.  The all-volunteer group builds trails and gardens for schools and has established the Historic Region as a National Heritage Area.

The events have grown such that a race headquarters was needed. Freedom’s Run race committee members Tom Shantz and James Munnis, stepped up to the challenge of creating a shoe store specializing in flat and minimalist shoes.

“The Sir Isaac Guidance Trainer has been an excellent and safe transitioning shoe for many new and experienced runners,” says Shantz. “It is durable and allows the feel and protection of a shoe as runners start to learn and understand better form at their own pace”

“We are big supporters of barefoot running as a supplement to land better and improve posture,” he adds. “Most who have not achieved proper strength, mobility and efficiency would trash a pure minimalist shoe and their bodies in two to three weeks. The resiliency and firmness of Newton Running’s midsole and its sustainable properties make it unique in the shoe market. We also teach the components of healthy movement in weekly clinics and at each customer interaction.”

The Distance Light Weight Trainer is the shoe of choice for State Champion Jefferson High School Cougars. Whereas most coach recommend cushioned trainers to their athletes, Jefferson Coach Scott Biola understands it is critical not to let his runners transition to a dysfunctional heel-to toe-pattern.  One Newton runner who has achieved great success is multiple state champion and 4:15-miler Brandon Doughty.  Brandon has but over 1200 miles in his Newton Running Gravity Neutral Performance Trainers and has avoided injury.  He will run for Oklahoma next year.  Five of Biola’s runners broke 10 minutes over 2 miles this year, when five years ago he would have had trouble finding five runners to break 5 minutes in a mile.

“Chi Running principles have helped me overcome my own injuries,” says Biola. “Getting away from heel striking is an essential aspects to teaching proper mechanics to high school athletes. I prefer to see them land on either the forefoot and rearfoot touching simultaneously or the ball of the foot (forefoot) touching first.”

“It seems that the older the athlete, the harder it is to transition away from the heel strike,” he adds. “Time spent in traditional training shoes definitely has a lot of us accustomed to heel striking. I’ve found that the Newton shoes and other lightweight minimalist models help reinforce proper mechanics. In addition to getting people away from heel striking, these shoes are also light in weight which is essential to having a rapid cadence. That quick turnover not only makes for faster running, it seems to help reduce injuries.”

Dr. Mark has these thoughts about the future: “We are seeing many runners now graduating into less shoe in a healthy and progressive way.  We look forward to the launch of the MV2 in the fall.  It will be a fresh option for those who have learned and evolved. The Isaac , Gravity, and Distance will continue to be our focus for the new and transitioning runners.  With over 1000 pair of these out now I have yet to hear of a customer or their doctor come back to us blaming the shoe. I give credit to my staff who teach patience and progression.”

After the lead of Two Rivers Treads, several stores are now opening with a similar model of selling only flat and minimalist shoes. They are aligning in a partnership and all are Newton Running retailers:

  • Born To Run; Bellevue, WA
  • Natural  Running Center; Dallas, TX
  • Good for the Soles; MA
  • Revolution Running; WI
  • The Runners Sole; Chambersburg PA
  • Hunter Gait; Newcastle, Australia

The store started in a 500-square-foot second-story space and just last week moved to a beautiful  new street level space with triple the space and a new visibility.  The future looks bright for both Newton and Two Rivers Treads.  Two Rivers Treads wishes to thank the support of Newton for a successful first  year. Newton has also been instrumental in the success of Freedom’s Run as a major sponsor (www.freedomsrun.org)  and the US Air Force Running Team, of which I have been a part of for almost 20 years.

Meet Dr. Mark and learn about Newton Natural Running at this weekend’s Running Injury Prevention Conference in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Click here for more details and registration.

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Running Injury Prevention Conference and Coaching Certification June 23-26

Posted by on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 @ 2:06 pm | Leave a reply

The highly successful “New Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries” is returning to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and this time, is paired with a Newton Natural Running™ Coaching Certification Program.

Citing more than a thousand scientific articles and systematic reviews, this edition of New Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries questions many current practices in the treatment of both runners and non-runners alike. With high quality audio-visual material, this course will integrate the theory and practice of a number of advanced concepts on running.

Topics include:

  • Injury etiology and theory
  • Diagnosis and treatment of injury
  • Planning of training sessions
  • Evidence based stretching and strength training
  • Biomechanical gait analyses taught by the world’s expert Jay Dicharry
  • Analysis of the running shoe
  • Teaching barefoot running style with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella recently presented at 2011 Boston Marathon See video
  • Optional group runs with experts in the field

The three-day course will enable you to efficiently treat your patients whether they are runners or active in other sports. You will leave with clinical tools such as a DVD (running mechanics, demo exercises, warm-up sequence, etc.), a CD with a PDF document (evaluation sheets, exercise programs, tips, running programs) and portfolio that includes all the academic content of the course.

The course is instructed by three internationally known teachers and leaders in running medicine:

  • Blaise Dubois is a physiotherapist who teaches at the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University. Blaise has developed the Running Clinic Canada and has taught over 50 conferences around the world. His involvement with the Canadian athletics team has led him to travel around the world enriching his knowledge and adapting his clinical approach.
  • Jay Dicharry is a physiotherapist at the University of Virginia and director of the SPEED Clinic. Jay is the world’s leader in gait analysis and running injury evaluation and treatment.  Runners of all abilities travel from around the world to visit his treatment center.  He has published dozens of studies and reviews and teaches around the country.
  • Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, the conference host, is one of the world’s leaders on teaching gait mechanics and injury prevention.  He is an authority on footwear and in the small town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia he opened Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking- the first store focusing exclusively on flat and minimal shoes. In his spare time he directs the Freedom’s Run Series of Events and continues to run at an elite level as a Masters runner.
  • Dr. Robert Wilder is Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Virginia and Director of the Runners Clinic.  He has published several texts and articles on running injury, prevention, and treatment.

Gifts, snacks, networking, and free monthly updated literature are some of the many extras you will receive by attending the 24-hour training course. Register now….course limited to 30 participants.  24 hours of CME approved for physicians and physical therapists.

Date: June 23 – 25, followed by the optional Newton Natural Running Coaching Certification Program on June 26. (see below for details).
Program  8:00 a.m.to 5:00 p.m.

Special rate $545 (usually $650 USD in Europe and Canada)

Military rate $495

Location: Bavarian Inn
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
304-876-2551
www.bavarianinnwv.com special rate $119/night

Register here at The Running Clinic.

Newton Running Natural Running Coaching Certification Program

Following the three-day course, participants may also take place in a one-day intensive Newton Natural Running™ Coaching Certification Program at Two Rivers Treads in Sheperdstown, West Virginia on June 26. This is normally a three-day program.

The registration free of $250 includes a pair of Newton Running shoes, Natural Running book by Danny Abshire and running apparel. (Exception: Newton Running retailers are free). **You must attend the New Trends in Running Conference to register for this coaching certification program**

Newton Natural Running™ form coaching certification provides coaches with knowledge designed to assist clients with efficient running form, injury prevention and training goals.

Newton Natural Running™ Form Coaching Certification requires participants to:

  • Practice a Newton Natural Running™ form
  • Attend a three day coaching certification clinic
  • Pass written, oral and/or practical examination

Certified Newton Natural Running™ Form Coaches can:

  • Teach and analyze Newton Natural Running™ form
  • Present Newton Natural Running™ talks and clinics
  • Use Newton Natural Running™ certified logos and marks
  • Obtain a free listing on newtonrunning.com
  • Get discounts on Newton Running products
  • Become a Newton Running Affiliate

Cost: $250 (free for Newton Running retailers)
Location: Two Rivers Treads, 113 W. German Street, Sheperdstown, WV
Time: 8:00 am to 3:00 p.m.
To register, contact Dr. Mark Cucuzella at mark [at] freedomsrun.org
For more information, visit: http://www.newtonrunning.com/community/running-coach-certification

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Natural Running Program Reduces Injury Among Air Force Personnel

Posted by on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 @ 10:35 am | 3 Replies

 

Capt. Levi Severson (in white hat) is a Newton athlete and certified Natural Running coach.

(This article originally appeared in L.A. Air Force Base Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Quarterly newsletter.)

Written by Captain Levi Severson, SBIRS CTF & Air Force Marathon Team Captain

Most individuals in the Air Force recognize the importance of fitness to our mission, especially given our deployment tempo. What you may not know is running has risen to the #2 cause of recreational injury in the USAF (2010).

In addition, the Fitness Assessment (FA) failure rate is above 10% on average, and as high as 28% at some bases. The overall cost of injury and FA failure is high when medical, physical therapy and administrative time, are factored in.

These problems led to creation of the USAF Efficient Running Working Group (ERWG) last year. Thanks to the initiative of several doctors and other running-industry leaders, the knowledge gleaned from the natural-running movement will hopefully make its way to Airmen everywhere via Health and Wellness Centers and make running more fun for all.

The ERWG has yet to be approved for implementation, but the intent is to provide education on form, online support, year-round training programs, teaching strategies, instruction on interpreting video gait analysis, certification of instructors, and education for medical staff. Due to my involvement with AF Sports and experience with teaching natural running form, I have recently been more involved with the ERWG and wanted to share some of the concepts with more Airmen.

The Relationship Between Form, Footwear and Injury

You can reduce your chance of injury by relearning the biomechanics you had as a child. I doubt the children in our lives put much thought into how they run since it is more natural to them. However, after years of running in shoes with an elevated heel and being coached to run with a heel strike, adults find it challenging to relean “natural” form.

Starting in the late 1970s, running shoes began featuring increasingly cushioned heels, which creates a six to 14% ramp angle. This angle tilts your posture forward and puts you off balance. This instability increases unnatural forces on the knees, hips and back.

What is Natural Running?

An AF Sports team member, Lt Col (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella, describes the fundamentals of natural running on www.freedomsrun.org under the “training” tab. His critical points are:

- Land with bent knees with feet landing softly under your center of mass. Resist landing on your heel or taking overly long strides, which causes a loss of momentum. Run over the ground, not into it by visualizing riding a skateboard or Razor scooter. Ideal ground contact is with your foot under your center of mass.

- Touch down quickly with your foot in such a way that generates a “tap, tap, tap” sound, rather than “thud, thud, thud.” Keep your knees low and pick up your heels. A high knee lift is only for sprinters.

- Short strides and a quick cadence results in less vertical bounce. Like throwing a ball between two points, the ball travels higher if the points are farther separated. The ideal cadence is about 90 steps a minute. Build up gradually to this.

- Focus on the core and prefect posture. If you can teach your core muscles to lift your legs as opposed to pushing off with the small muscles of the feet, you have discovered new power. Think “run tall” and straighten your spine. Connect the dots between your ear, shoulder, hip, and bony prominence of ankle.  Initiate a slight forward lean from the ankles (not the waist). This harnesses some of the power of gravity.

- Practice running down a very gentle hill. When you allow yourself to relax and lean gently while maintaining good posture, and let your feet land under you to avoid braking- you are harnessing the power of gravity. This can be applied on the flats as well.

- Bend your elbows bent 90 degrees and don’t cross your hands in front of your body. Arms drive back, not forward. Relax your breathing and movements. Respiration occurs in the lower lung fields so learn belly breathing.

In addition to Lt Col Cucuzzella’s highlights above, there are a variety of programs out there to help teach the movements and make it easier to visualize. These programs include Chi-Running, Cady Stride Mechanics, Evolution Running, Radiant Running, and Pose Tech Training that can all be found online.

The Transition Process

I had a lot of success after picking up the book Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and over a period of 4 months, gradually applying the book’s principles. Eventually I was able to throw away my orthotics after 14 years of use and began wearing flat shoes (Newtons). Again, the transition to Newton shoes was a slow process where I started out wearing them one short run per week and eventually was wearing them every day after two months.

I often get asked about running shoes and typically make recommendations based on my experience and knowledge of various products. When choosing footwear, consider your running surface (dirt, trail, grass, cement, pavement, etc).

Generally speaking, if you are running on more manmade surfaces, a more protective shoe is preferred. For more detail on this topic, another great book covering the connection between form, footwear and training is Natural Running by Danny Abshire.

After a year and a half of improving my running form and wearing flatter running shoes, I improved my marathon time significantly and experience fewer injuries. my goal is for participants in the ERWG to find more enjoyment in running, the FA easier to pass, and your improved health.

As more the ERWG progresses, I will pass along updates. Good luck and happy training!

Special thanks to AF doctors Lt Col Mark Cucuzzella, Lt Col Dan Kuland, and Lt Col Antonio Eppolito for allowing me to reference their research and publications for this article.

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Causes and Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis

Posted by on Monday, March 14, 2011 @ 8:40 am | 1 Reply

This post is by Dr. Mark Cucuzella, a Family Physician at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine and Associate Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The plantar fascia (PF) is a strong ligament that runs from the heel to the metatarsal heads in the front of your foot. This ligament helps absorb the shock that occurs when your foot contacts the ground. It has function in the windlass mechanism recreating the arch on takeoff.

Plantar fasciitis is the common term for what should be more accurately termed Plantar Fasciosis. itits is an acute inflammation caused by a trauma or infection. osis is chronic degenerative condition.

No evidence exists for an ideal treatment of this condition without identifying and treating the causes, which can be many. Since we have no literature to guide us, I offer this advice based on my experience treating hundreds of runners and guiding them in self corrections.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

The PF is designed to manage a relatively small amount of stress. The intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot are designed to receive signals from the fascia and in turn manage the majority of the load. When those muscles are dysfunctional, the load is transferred to the PF, which is unable to handle it, and results in tearing.

You can repair these tears by using palliative methods, but PF may return as soon as you resume running. The only way that you can actually fix plantar fasciitis is to address the root cause: weak foot muscles. (Thank you Lance from Barefoot Science for the insight).

Several structural causes can contribute to PF:

  • Weak intrinsic foot muscles
  • A misaligned and weak first toe
  • Tight, shortened calf muscles
  • Tight plantar fascia

Other important contributing factors:

  • Increased mechanical stress from running or other activity
  • Obesity
  • Suddenly switching from supportive footwear that inhibit intrinsic foot muscles to flat shoes (flip flops) or barefoot
  • Poor walking and running mechanics
  • Wearing overly supportive footwear weaken the foot and make it less stable.

How Do You Correct Plantar Fasciitis?
Continue reading

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Natural Running as Positive Deviance?

Posted by on Thursday, February 3, 2011 @ 11:28 am | 1 Reply

Over 150 people turned out (and another 50 or so were turned away due to lack of space) for last week’s speaker panel  discussion about natural running in Sheperdstown, West Virginia.

Event attendee and blogger Pete Larson (www.runblogger.com) was struck by the turnout in a small town in West Virginia, which has a reputation as one of America’s most obese states. “I couldn’t believe it!” Larson wrote on his blog. “Here we were in a state renowned for it’s inactivity, and I had to weave my way through a crowd of people who were squeezing into a room like sardines.”

Dr. Mark Cucuzella, organizer of the event, titled The Re-Evolution of Running: Discover Pain Free Movement for Life, attributes to tremendous response to a phenomenon called positive deviance. “That’s when large change happens as a result of observing and following what is happening in a small sector, and then applying it widely,” he says.

Cucuzella is also a family doctor and owner of Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking store in Sheperdstown, West Virginia.

Blogger Miss Zippy shares in this recent post what she learned from the panel of experts that included Danny Dreyer, founder of ChiRunning, Jerry Lee, CEO of Newton Running, Dr. Jay Dicharry, PT and Director of the SPEED Clinic at the University of Virginia, Dr. Peter Larson, Blaise Dubois, running injury authority, among others.

Natural running symposia are held across the country and overseas. For a complete listing of upcoming events, visit the Newton Running website at http://www.newtonrunning.com/community/natural-running-symposium-form-clinic.

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