Monthly Archives: April 2015

91. fun with [TOY] snakes

Running tip #91

Don’t forget to have a little fun.  Today is April 1st and I am remembering the time I went out early on the course my training group was planning to run to “plant” a rubber copperhead snake on the trail for an April Fool’s joke.


I am usually in front on these intervals, so on the first loop I casually jumped right over the snake, pretending not to see it … but, Oh!, you should have heard the screams behind me … “Copperhead!!”  “SNAKE!”  “eeeeeeeek!” etc.

Even after I fessed up that it was an April Fool snake (cracking myself up, mostly), on every successive loop thereafter, the rubber snake didn’t fail to startle.

I am coyly smiling as I write this …


To purchase “SCARY!” Large Southern Copperhead [TOY], click HERE.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

92. to stretch or not to stretch?

Running tip #92

It’s time I addressed the controversial subject of stretching.

Runner’s World answers the question “Should I stretch before or after my runs?”  with a simple, “Neither.”  And, it’s true, if you do an easy 15 minute jog before any workout or race you will likely not need to stretch … but there are occasions where I would answer, “Yes” to stretch or not to stretch.



1.)  The social stretch  – after a 15 minute warm-up jog when you’re waiting around for people to finish using the restroom … do that half-hearted, hold-your-leg thingy while you catch up on gossip.

2.) The endorphin-release stretch – after an evening bath and you have your PJ’s on because, like the ritual of brushing your hair 100 strokes that really does nothing for “healthier hair,” it feels good.

3.) The pre-race jitter buster stretch after you put your race shoes on and you have what seems like hours to wait before the gun goes off, it’s something to do with all that nervous energy.

4.) The new yoga mat stretch – because it’s pretty and new, and you want to use it before it comes to reside permanently in the front hall closet.

5.) The intimidate-the-other-teams stretch – when you want your cross-town rivals to think your team is a smoothly operating running machine, circle up and have your biggest dog bark, “Stretch, two, thee, four!” with military precision.

6.) The show off your flexibility stretch – when the faster runners can’t even touch their toes and it’s your one & only chance to win the workout, lead the stretches in all your slow-twitch plumage!


Please add your own to the list 🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

93. Movie night.

Running tip #93

Counting down the days to 101 (I will not make it to 365, having set a challenge too big for my britches), I must hurry and scribble down a few loose-ended lists … like favorite races, and favorite books, and today’s post:  my favorite running movies.  I already told you about Saint Ralph, and recently I saw the Disney movie of McFarland’s cross-country team (annoyingly void of ANY strong female characters or, duh?!?, female runners … though it did have a classic Disney “princess” in a literal tiara smiling up at her daddy-prince).

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 8.33.41 AM  But, I digress …

Here is my top-ten list of favorite “running” movies:

1.) National Velvet – Elizabeth Taylor and the Pie (a horse) inspire steeplechasers the world over.  Strong female lead!!

2.)  Children of Heaven – a subtitled, Iranian gem you will never forget.  Pure running delight.

3.) Chariots of Fire – the music alone makes this a must-see.  And, oh!, the scene with the Champagne and hurdles …

4.) Running Brave – who doesn’t love a Robby Benson movie?  Billy Mills’ 10k race is truly the grand finale. Thrilling, still, after all these years.

5.) The Triplets of Belleville – an animated masterpiece lifting the veil on cycling intensity insanity.  Runners can relate.

6.) The Long Green Line – the true story of a storied cross-country dynasty (I would  have put it higher on my list except, AGAIN, no girls in the movie at all).  Love the clever documentary stylistic tricks.

7.) Endurance – Haile Gebrselassie’s almost-true story (they left out the EPO bits).   The radio moment …

8.) Karate Kid – not literally about running, but all athletes must learn the lesson of “Wax on/Wax off.”  And, I had a crush on Ralph Macchio when I was a kid.  Wrote him a fan letter.  He never replied.

9.) Rocky – another non-running movie … but when he sprints to the top of the steps at The Philadelphia Museum of Art?  You know – running chills forever.

10.)  A League of Their Own –  I only added this because I often allude to Tom Hanks’ famous line when I tell my team, “There’s no crying in cross-country!”  (several strong female characters, including Madonna).



1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

94. Lighten up, Francis.

Running tip #94


Don’t take yourself so seriously.  One beautiful thing about running is that, unless you’re the world record holder, there’s always someone faster than you and there’s always someone slower.  Jump right in the middle and get to work.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

95. It’s hammer time.

Running tip #95

More advanced runners may want to try what I call “split intervals” during spring track season.  Take any distance and split it up with steady/float/fast to prepare yourself to move around on the pace within a race.  Even-splits are only run in time trials; in races, especially the 1500 and mile, there is a LOT of surging and jockeying for position.  Split intervals help you learn to absorb and accommodate (both mentally & physically) all the sudden moves.

For example:

1200m split = 400 fast, 400 float, 400 fast  (i.e.  80, 90, 80 for a total 1200m time of 4:00, or 5:20 mile pace)

1,000 split = 600 steady, 200 float, 200 fast

800 split = 500 steady, 150m float 150m fast

600 split = 400 fast, 100 float, 100 sprint

… and my personal favorite, split intervals I affectionately refer to as Harry’s Hammers named after my one-time, long-distance coach who resided in England, Harry Wilson.


Harry is famous for being middle distance gold-medalist, Steve Ovett’s adviser/coach and I am grateful to him for teaching me so much about the British Miler’s club training secrets and for introducing me to split intervals, hammer-style.

So, here’s a Harry’s Hammer:

400 split = 200 fast, 100 float, 100 sprint … time the whole 400 (back when I was a 4:30 miler, I did them in 32, 19, 14 for 65-second split 400’s)… fast jog a 200m recovery before the next Harry Hammer.   I would do a total of 8 x 400 (with the 200 jog = 4,600m total) to prepare for a fast 5,000m on the track.  My best 5k time was 15:24.

The hammers work … but, Dang!, are they hard.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

96. Long may you run

Running tip #96


As I wind down to my final tips, I’m getting a little verklempt, trying to sum up in only a few words how much I love this sport.   Next, is my top-5 list of running songs … or, rather, songs that have inspired me over the years in different stages of  my running life.

5.) young, wide-eyed runner … Dan Fogelberg – Run for the Roses

“From sire to sire
It’s born in the blood
The fire of a mare
And the strength of a stud
It’s breeding and it’s training
And it’s something unknown
That drives you and carries you home.”

4.) never-give-up runnerBob Dylan – Brownsville Girl

“How far are you all going ?” Ruby asked us with a sigh
“We’re going all the way until the wheels fall off and burn.”

3.) angsty professional runner … U2 – Running to Stand Still

“You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice”

2.) waxing philosophical mother-runner … Tori Amos – Ribbons Undone

“She’s a girl
Rising from a shell
Running to spring
It is her time it is her time
Watch her run with ribbons undone”

1.) lifetime runner – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Long May You Run

I know its about a car, but the words apply to all of us lifers in the sport, with trunks of memories still to come.

“We’ve been through
some things together
With trunks of memories
still to come
We found things to do
in stormy weather
Long may you run.Long may you run.
Long may you run.
Although these changes
have come
With your chrome heart shining
in the sun
Long may you run.”

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

97. Red miles

Running tip #97

I would be remiss if I didn’t explain my philosophy of quality over quantity for a lifetime of injury-free running.  Ever since the 1970’s running boom, coaches the world over have trumpeted the benefits of what Arthur Lydiard referred to as LSD (Long Slow Distance).  Runners were encouraged to “up their mileage” if they wanted to improve, with serious bragging rights for those who ran 70 miles per week in high school, 100 miles per week in college, and as high as 140 miles per week as pros. Running lots an lots of miles – even if it was junk miles – proved you were dedicated; greatness could only be achieved through “the trial of miles and miles of trials,” as Jon L. Parker says in Once a Runner.

But not every BODY can withstand this kind of overuse abuse.  Knees and hips and adrenal-glands can only take so much repetitive motion and pounding.  Sooner or later, you WILL get injured if you choose quantity over quality training.  I devised a method of measuring and recording my quality mileage (what I called Red Miles because I wrote the workouts in my journal with a red pen) in addition to my total mileage (written with a blue or black pen) and I discovered that the most important variable for racing success was the red mile figure.


You can see in the graphs above, that my red miles hovered around 10 miles per week and my black miles around 70, when I was racing well in the 1980’s.  In the 90’s I lowered my total mileage to 45-50 mpw by replacing morning runs with swimming and ran just as fast (actually much faster) than I had with the higher mileage.  I never experimented with the 100 and 100+ miles per week (b/c I simply couldn’t afford to get injured) so I don’t have any hard data to support my claims that quality trumps quantity… but I do believe my successful experiments with lower mileage kept me improving and injury-free my entire career.  Here’s a sample week of how I would record my workouts with red and black pens.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

98. More on Percy Cerutty

Here is why I love Percy Cerutty:

And, this, from an interview with Cerutty’s most famous runner, Herb Elliot (Olympic champion & undefeated world record holder in the 1,500m and mile):

Herb Elliott: Well I’ve got to start before Rome … on every occasion where I was running in a major race, Percy, the day before, would just absolutely beat hell out of himself running around four laps of a track somewhere, and he’d finish, and he’d stick his face that far from mine with froth-flecked lips, and exhausted. And he’d just sort of eyeball me, and he’d say, ‘You might be able to run faster Elliott, but you’ll never be able to run harder!’ and then he’d go and collapse somewhere. So I mean, that was the way he dealt with the tensions of my race the next day, it was a genuine sharing of that tension. But it was also a challenge to me, you know, just run, ‘Try and run as hard as me mate, you’ve got no hope. I can run harder than you can.’


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

99. Train chubby, race thin.

Running tip #99

Runners tend to worry about their weight because, it’s true, the leaner the better if you want to run fast.  I’ll admit, early on in my running career I was a bit obsessive about counting calories.  But I soon grew bored of weight watching … so, because I was in the sport for the long haul, I had to come up with a sustainable way to remain competitive without getting injured or sick or burnt out or amenorrheic (because I did want children some day) or chronically fatigued or chronically irritable from being HUNGRY all the time like all the other get-rich-quick dieter/runners out there.

Here’s what I came up with:  Train chubby, race thin.  

Like a wrestler, I treated the national championships as a match I needed to “make weight” for.   I would “let” myself eat normally – while training very hard – without worrying about the scale for most of the year (my body had a set-point training weight of 103 pounds).  Then, about 6 weeks before the championships,  I would consciously cut out dessert, snacks, and seconds on meals until I lost one pound per week to get down to 97 lbs racing weight.  I know that sounds obsessively thin, but I am only 5’1″ so it’s still on the not-so-lean side of the elite-runner spectrum.

My college coach once called me “Nubby” because of my name “Nesbit” and my lack-of-height (pencil nub?) so I snapped this picture on a road trip.


You can see by my full cheeks ^ that I was in the “train chubby” phase of the year.  Fast forward to the end of track season, senior spring at UNC, where I had safely lost those 6 pounds in order to be lean enough to break the ACC record in the 10,000m.


Today, my mantra is more along the lines of Train Chubby, Race Fat because I’m still in it for the long haul and, besides, nobody likes a skinny (cranky) Santa.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Running tip #100 … save quotes, for yourself and for others.

Photo on 4-10-15 at 8.06 AM

Here are the first four quotes I ever saved.  They were hand-written, in red and black and purple ink,  inside the front cover page of my 1982 Jim Fixx Day-byDay Running Log and Calendar:

“familiar Romantic feelings … the melancholy, loneliness, and proud isolation of the contemplative wayfarer, sensitive to the pathos of the distant past and never-again.” (definition of Romantic from Norton Anthology of English literature).


“For the runner, less is better.  His needs and wants are few; he can be captured in a few strokes. One friend, a few clothes, a meal now and then, some change in his pockets, and for enjoyment, his thoughts and the elements.”  (from an essay by George Sheehan, re-printed in the New York Times).


If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  (Henry David Thoreau)


“You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” (Khalil Gibran, The Prophet).



Filed under Uncategorized