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Big Marathons are Big Business

This past weekend, Chicago was host to 36,000 runners for the annual Chicago marathon. 36,000 at $90 each is a lot of money. Big marathons are big business these days.

A good article from the Associated Press asks whether these big marathons are losing their charm and are just becoming money making machines. The numbers of people entering the races is growing at a nice steady rate and with the growth comes more cash and credit cards out of hiding.

Sure the money raised by the entrance fee goes towards the race cost and associated charity groups, but think about all the money that the race entrants and families bring with them for outside of the run.

The article discusses how more than half of the runners are from outside of town and as such, tourism takes a huge upswing during the race. From hotels to breakfast buffets, the city is packed like a pickle jar.

The article points out that beyond the money injected into the local economy, “marathoners also tend to have more spending power than average, and so are ideal targets for many companies’ goods and services, hawked at the fitness expos held near the marathon date.” Lots of money exchanges hands and no doubt organizers are looking for additional ways to exploit this for larger revenues.

It’s an interesting article and worth a read, especially as we get on our way into marathon and race season.

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The CIBC Run for the Cure

CIBC Run for the Cure - Crossing the Finish Line
 This morning, I woke up nice and early and headed downtown Guelph for the CIBC Run for the Cure 5k. Apparently about 1500 people showed up for the event. This is nearly the same number of runners that took part in the Guelph race in 2006.

Overall, the run was well organized. A super quick registration and lots of food on hand. Frank D’Angelo provided the music with his Steelback Music band.

My goal was to break the 25 minute mark for 5km and I’m pleased to report that my goal was not only successfully completed, I broke 25 minutes by nearly 1:30. It must have been the new shoes :)

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Jamie's Got a New Pair of Shoes

New Balance Shoes - M767

Got back from Greece to find out that the next day I was flying down to Sunnyvale California for work.  Nothing like some last minute notice and an extra 3 hours added to the already brutalizing jet lag.  But I’m now finally home for the foreseeable future and can get back into routine.

Tomorrow is the CIBC Run for the Cure.  I’m participating in the 5k run.  As I posted in the past, my shoes are completely worn out.  I figured that I should invest in a new pair before the run.  So I hit up a local shoe shop, Running Works.  The two guys there helped me a great deal.  They analyzed my walk and gave me a good variety of shoes to try on.  After walking and running around the store for awhile, I finally settled on a pair of New Balance 767′s.

I wore them to the gym today to try them out.  Although I didn’t actually do any running as I’m saving my legs for tomorrow’s race, I’m fairly confident that I’ll enjoy these bad boys significantly – especially since lately I’ve been running in what would be equivalent to a piece of rubber with laces.

Hopefully tomorrow’s race will be good.  Wish me luck – I’m hoping to finish in less that 25 minutes and break the 5 minute km mark.

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Men's Health Urbanathalon and Festival

Men’s Health UrbanathalonMen’s Health is hosting their second annual Urbanathalon this month on Sept 29 in NYC and on October 20 in Chicago.

The Urbanathalon is a grueling run through the city, encountering obstacles along the way including a 52 stair climb, marine hurdles, barricade jumping, wall climbing, taxi hurdling and others. It’s a truly urban race.

The event was held in 2006 in New York City. Nearly 1000 participants from all over the World took part in the race.

Following the race, Men’s Health will host a free festival where the public can enjoy music, food and events throughout the day.

It all sounds like a good time. Check out some of the photos and videos from the 2006 race at the Men’s Health Urbanathalon website, here.

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Trans 333 – the 333km Run

I’ve been running 5km twice a week. I haven’t done a race in 2 years, but plan on attending the Run for the Cure on September 30th in Guelph and possibly another race in October. On a good day, 5km will take me just over 21 minutes to complete. Certainly not an olympic time, but for me it gets my heart rate up significantly enough that I wouldn’t even be able to fathom a 333km run across the desert!

That’s right, the Trans 333 is a grueling 333km “run”. It is the longest non-stop desert footrace in the World. Although it is usually held in different locations every year, in November, 2007, the race is scheduled to take place in the white Sahara desert of Egypt for the second time.

In 2006, the race was held in Niger, Africa. An interesting first hand account of the race can be found here, from one of the runners, Mark Cockbain. From what he says, simply getting to the start of the race, “The Tree of Tenere”, was a hardship. Mark then tells about his 81 and a half hour extreme run, how he trudged through the sand and rocks, with blisters and swollen feet, to cross the finish line in second place with an Austrian he was running with. His tale is definitely worth a read.

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It seems that there is no end to the benefits of exercising. A recent study conducted at the University of Alberta shows some benefits of resistance training for early-stage breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The study, authored by Kerry Courneya, showed that resistance and aerobic training helped improve the self-esteem, muscular strength and lean body mass of individuals dealing with the “unfavorable changes” as a result of chemotherapy. Chemotherpy has a multitude of side effects that are generally related to these physical and mental areas. The study also found that resistance training improved the chemotherapy completion rate versus the sampled patients who were not doing any exercise.

Among women worldwide, breast cancer is the most common cancer and most common cause of cancer death. In 2007 it is expected to cause almost 50,000 deaths in the U.S. For us Canuks, we can help contribute to the possibility of a future without breast cancer by taking part in the CIBC Run for the Cure on September 30. The event will take place in 53 communities across Canada, and together we will be raising millions of dollars to help fund breast cancer research and awareness programs.

I’ll personally be running the 5k. However, 1km runs are also available in some communities for beginner runners and individuals who would be walking or are otherwise unable to complete a full run. For people who will be unable to attend a run, donations can be made at the CIBC Run for the Cure website.

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Shin Splints

Lately when I’ve been running, I’ve been getting shin splints. Shin splints are pains in the shins, caused by running, jumping or possibly even biking. For me, the pain might take a day or two to get better.

But why is it suddenly happening to me? According to wikipedia, shin splints can be attributed to landing on the heel for each stride. However, I tend to run from the balls of my feet so I can rule this out as the reason. What I believe to actually be the cause is improper foot pronation.

If foot pronation is not proper when landing, it can cause shin pain. Ideal pronation when running is to strike the ground on the outside of the shoe and roll inwards slightly. This is something that I concentrate on during the run in an attempt to correct, but the shin splints don’t go away.

I think the solution to these shin splints will be a new pair of shoes that have good arch support and a form meant for overpronaters. This may help keep my foot strikes properly aligned. Another method of shin splint prevention is to adequately warm up and stretch the shin before running – something that I rarely do.

I’d like to resolve the issue before the end of the month, when I’m scheduled to run in the CIBC Run for the Cure.

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What to Look for in New Running Shoes

So I’m putting on my shoes for my Tuesday night run and I think to myself, “wow, I’ve had these for a long time.” Unfortunately it’s true, I’ve had my pair of running shoes for years. Well over the suggested mileage. In fact, it’s been so long since I last purchased a pair of actual running shoes, I’d actually be at a bit of a loss as to what to look for in a new pair. Fortunately we live in an age of infinite wisdom thanks to the Internet.

My wife was a member of the Running Room for one of their intro to running programs last year. She really enjoyed it and from what she’s told me, the programs are very informative and their staff are quite knowledgeable. Their website has some good tips on what to look for when purchasing running shoes.

First off, there are three shapes for running shoes – straight, curved and semi-curved. The shapes are called “lasts”, named after the wood composite form used to make the shoe. The multiple shoe shape options are available to help match various feet. Wearing the wrong shaped shoe will cause rolling off one side of the shoe when running or walking.

When running, your feet will naturally pronate or roll off various parts of the shoe. Depending on how you run, the various shoe shapes will make a difference and could save yourself from unnecessary pain or injury.

  • Overpronation is when your feet roll excessively inwards. The Running Room suggest straight or semi-curved shaped shoes.
  • For normal pronation, a semi-curved shoe is best.
  • Supination is when the feet roll outwards. If you’re a supinator, they suggest getting a curved shoe.

I’m a pronator. My feet roll inwards quite alot. I can remember my grandmother telling me that I’ll “trip over my own feet” if I don’t work on correcting the pronation. I have no idea what kind of shoes I wear, but there’s no doubt that they’re beat up and I need a new pair and I’m going to try and get the right shoes for my feet.

My Poor Running Shoes
The Running Room suggests that I take in my shoes to one of their stores for them to examine and help me pick out the best shoe possible. I think it’s a good idea. A good pair of running shoes will last quite a while and if used on a regular basis, make a fantastic, relatively inexpensive fitness investment.

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The Runner’s Nod

The run. Making the commitment to get outside and go for another 5km personal best. Once the shoes go on, there’s no turning back. I turn to my wife as I step outside and let her know that she should see me in half an hour and if not, to come looking.

Focused, starting to breathe deeply without having yet even taken my first stride, I do the final checks. Shoes – yes. Matching shorts and t-shirt – check. Ipod on and volume is reasonable – yep. I take a glance at my reflection in the window. Hair seems to be in place – good stuff. Then I’m off.

At first it feels great. I’ve got a bounce that makes me feel like I’m barely touching the ground. Practically running on my toes, I fly down my street, feeling the neighbors’ stares of what I suspect is admiration of my effortless gliding. I’ll impress them even more – I’ll push harder until I’m out of site.

Around the first corner – the first bead of sweat begins forming on my forehead. The setting sun beats down and I notice the shadows of passing cars and assume that the drivers are also watching me as I blaze down the hill at top speed and they must also want to join me because I make it look so easy.

I’ve been running 15 minutes now. Starting to really feel it in my shins and ankles. Man… I shouldn’t have been bouncing and running on my toes so much at first. Should have kept it a little slower – paced myself a bit.

The sweat’s really dripping now. Have to wipe my brow with my t-shirt. I’m slowing down and the only thing left ahead of me is to go all the way back and all the way up the hill from where I came.

20 minutes pass. Really feeling it. Everything in my perifery is blurred. At this point, I’m strictly focusing on getting to the next point in front of me – that next tree, that next stop sign, that next intersection.

In the distance, I see what looks to be someone coming my way – coming towards me – looks like they’re also running. Yes, yes… they are running. As he approaches, I realize that he’s quite a bit older than me. Man he’s sweaty. I wonder if he’s just started or he’s nearing the end of his route like me. Regardless, we get closer.

We can see each other’s faces clearly. I look into his eyes. He looks into mine. We know what each other is going through right now. We know that our pain and our goals are both the same. We both pull our chests up a bit as we each edge to the side of the sidewalk to let the other easily get by. As we pass, we take that last stare and then almost as if an instinctive right of passage, we do the nod.

In a swift motion – two synchronous head bobs to acknowledge the other’s willingness to put them through the same torture. We nod as a salute – knowing that each of us is putting up the good fight and will be victorious in due time. Yes, we perform the runner’s nod. And we pass and keep running.

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The Benefits of Interval Training

Going for a 5 or 10 km run is a fantastic aerobic exercise that will burn lots of calories. However, the normal run is generally a moderate intensity exercise.

Long bouts of moderate intensity exercise may actually preferentially burn more muscle tissue than one would like [1]. The goal, after all, is usually to burn calories from carbohydrate storage and maintain muscle.

Some studies have found that brief intervals of high intensity training are more effective at maintaining muscle and building their capacity for lactic acid oxidation [2].

Lactic acid builds up as muscles undergo intense strain. You may recognize this as the burning sensation you might sometimes feel as you’re trying to lift that last rep or trying to sprint the last 100m of a good jog. During the recovery from bout of the high intensity, lactic acid is broken down. This process uses energy from carbohydrate storage or fat [3]. Translation – interval training may be better than a moderate intensity run for losing fat and getting lean.

So next time you’re heading out for your weekly (or monthly or whenever you can get yourself off the couch) run, perhaps head down to the track instead and run 5 or 6 400m sprints, each followed by 2 minutes of rest. It may take less time than a 10k jog, but it may be just as effective.

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