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Mastering the art of running … join me in my 365 challenge!

Starting on January 1, 2015 I will attempt to share a tip a day from 40 years of running.  This idea was spawned by the Julie and Julia movie about a blogger who made a recipe a day from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Do you think I have 365 tips?

wait and see …



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1. Start where you are.

Running tip #1

There is no perfect time to begin anything.  There is only today.  Simply press “play” and begin.  Now.  When I was in 9th grade I wanted to try the mile in a track meet but my PE teacher/track coach down in Pelham, Alabama (her name was Ms. Frances … and, being in the south, I don’t recall if Frances was her first or last name or if Ms. – pronounced “Mizz” – was a Miss or a Mrs.) wouldn’t let me race it until I could run “twelve laps around the track without stopping.”  So, on day one I ran one lap … with a plan to add a lap a day until I made it to 12 laps in a row (3 whole miles!).   Since I was a kid and didn’t know anything, I was free to just start where I was.  Day 1 for me in April of 1977 was run one lap around the Pelham high school track.

Day 1 for me on January 1, 2015 is write the first of 365 running tricks.




p.s. after 12 days and 12 laps I raced my first mile in 6:04

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2. “Declare yourself a project.”

Running tip #2

My go-to mantra as a coach used to be “See it. Say it. Do it.” but I stopped using that one after Nike’s ubiquitous yellow bracelets and their “Just do it” ad campaign ruined it for me.   Now I use my artist friend, Lori Vrba‘s, mission statement:  “Declare yourself a project” to help move people from notion to action.  I love the double entendre of this statement.  You are both declaring a project for yourself (as in, I plan to run a marathon when I turn 50) and declaring that you, yourself, are a project/a work in progress (as in, if I’m actually going to run said marathon I’d better get this old body in working order).  “Declare yourself a project” has a third meaning for me [is there such a thing as a triple entendre?].  I believe in order to succeed as a runner you must be accountable to at least one other person.  You must declare (from the Latin “clarare” – to make clear) your intention OUT LOUD to someone.  Anyone.  Your training partner, your coach, your friend, your bank teller, the UPS delivery guy … or, in my case, a summer boyfriend who forced me to consider “Why not All-American?” after 3 years of being an also-ran at UNC.  “What are you afraid of?” he challenged.  I was afraid of saying it out loud, that’s what.



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3. The couch will eat you!

Running tip #3


If possible, never run from home.  Especially beginner runners.  You may be disciplined enough to get out the door in the first few weeks of a new training regimen but, trust me, after a long day of work (or play :)) around week #3 you will walk in the house and choose a bowl of chips and salsa over that same dull,  likely-paved,  neighborhood loop that starts from the bottom step of your front porch and ends at the top of your driveway – where you then must return your boring trash can to the garage.  I know it’s not environmentally friendly, but new runners should get in the habit of driving to their workout site.  Pick a local park, the track, a running store, a trailhead, someone elses’s house … and drive there in your running clothes with water bottle and towel in the backseat or trunk for afterward.  If you are a commuter, pack your car with a running kit in the morning and stop off at your workout site halfway between work and home.  DO NOT GO HOME first, because  (as a certain winged-footed, Atlantan friend of mine once warned, while he was dragging me back out on the dance floor at a post-Peachtree bacchanalia) if you sit down, “That couch will eat you!”

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4. Learn the secret shoe-tie.

Running tip #4

If you’ve ever experienced a sore tibialis anterior tendon (the tendon that flexes when you lift your big toe/forefoot) from a too-tight shoelace, you will want to learn the secret shoe-tying method I discovered back in my New Balance track club days (thanks, Kevin Ryan!).  The reason this method works is that the pressure (or tightness) from one lace pulling across your tendon is distributed over two laces, separated by a 1/2″ or so.

First, take the laces out of the top holes:


Next, make loopholes by threading up the side, not across the shoe:


Then, thread the single laces through each loop.


Finally, pull tight for a snug fit with no tendon pain!


And, by the way, this is just one of several of my 365 tips that has to do with shoe-laces.  Haha, I’m such a dork.


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5. Find a running friend.

Running tip #5

I think there should be an online ‘dating’ website to find the perfect running partner.  For hard days, you could go to and for recovery days try runE(asy)harmony.   In my fairy tale life as a runner, I feel like Jack with his magic beans when it comes to training partners.  In every phase from high school, through college, and pro, to masters, mommy running, and now as an almost empty-nester, I have been lucky – no, blessed – with running mates to brighten my days and lighten my training load.  If you learn only ONE thing from my “running tricks,” let it be this:  find a friend and run stride-for-stride/side-by-side for as long as the magic lasts.  Runner’s World magazine interviewed me, way back when, for an article on the “101 greatest training tips of all time” and I still believe what I said back then (in tip #96) … “It may seem odd to hear a coach say this, but I think a really great training partner is more important than a coach.”  Running alongside your friend with twinned breath and synchronized stride, in winter-spring-summer-or-fall  is like no other relationship on earth.  I wonder if Carol King and James Taylor were ever running partners (?).


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6. Don’t worry so much about what you eat.

Running tip #6

When it comes to food, I tend to side with Quentin Cassidy from Jon L. Parker’s Once a Runner“He did not live on nuts and berries; if the furnace was hot enough, anything would burn.”   So, for today’s tip I say stop worrying so much about what you eat.  Remember when you were a kid and you came home from school to immediately change into your “play clothes” to go outside and find who(m)ever was playing in the neighborhood?  There was kick-the-can and chase, hide-n-seek, ditch-it, or any number of running games where you ran and ran until you had to stop to catch your breath before running again … then, when it was getting dark,  you’d hear everyone called home for dinner (in my case it was a barbaric yawp from my dad shouting, “JeffJulieJoanJohn!” out the front door) and you’d sprint home to meatloaf and Parker-house rolls and a tall glass of cold milk waiting at the dining table.  Back then, I don’t recall anyone being vegan or gluten-free or lactose intolerant.  We just ate.  Because we were hungry. When you run hard, you work up a healthy appetite.  It’s pretty simple.  Don’t fret about calories or carbohydrates; just eat what your body craves.  Unless, of course, you are Homer Simpson:Simpsons_Bacon_Blue_Shirt_POP


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7. Beating a dead horse.

Running tip #7

Speaking of bread and butter (see Parker-house rolls, tip #6), there are a couple of workouts that anyone who has been in the running business could tell you about.  There’s the standard 5 X 1,000m intervals for cross-country and the (pardon my yawn) 10 X 400m for track.  Coaches across the nation use these same two workouts with variations on recovery (the time you stand around or jog between each interval) and I don’t know if it’s my rebellious nature or my intolerance for boredom, but I find both of these bread-n-butter workouts to be tedious and, ultimately, ineffective.  Sure, there is something to be said for physical repetition creating muscle memory … note, the Karate Kid’s “wax on/wax off” …. but one must weigh the benefits against the costs of beating a dead horse.  If you disengage mentally in a workout (or in any project, really) I believe your muscular/skeletal/neurological system will stop firing on all cylinders and your performance will flatline.  When your brain goes on auto-pilot, the body follows.

So, for tip #7 I say mix it up!  Stop doing the same dull workouts week in and week out.  And if you must do 5 X 1,000 or 10 X 400 … at least do them with a trumpet.


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8. Oil up!

Running tip #8

Baby it’s cold outside, so here’s a tip for how to add a layer of warmth that doesn’t make you feel like the little brother from A Christmas story.


Rub a generous amount of oil all over your body before getting dressed to run.  My daughter’s cross-country team at Oberlin College heard of this insulation method before a particularly frigid race and chose to slather themselves with Olive oil on the starting line . . . but I prefer smelling like a diva rather than an Italian pizzeria, so I use the deliciously aromatic *Neutrogena “light sesame formula” body oil when I pre-game for cold weather running.


So, oil up and get going!

*Special thanks to Nnenna for this lovely tip.


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9. Get your run on.

Running tip #9

Anyone who set a New Year’s resolution to run more is already starting to think it’s okay to take today (Friday) off because, hey, the week-end’s coming and you’ll have two free days to get that long run in, but then tomorrow you’ll want to sleep late – have a lie-in, as the Brits say – because the holidays are finally over (with the inlaws, outlaws, and in-between-laws well-visited) so you convince yourself you deserve to enjoy “a normal Saturday” without the pressure to do anything, including running, this thing you promised yourself you would do way back on January 1st but now are wondering, “What the heck was I thinking?!” to make promises you cannot keep with miles and miles to go before you sleep, so you might as well get that damned run over with today [this morning, in fact] and I do happen to have the perfect tip for this kind of I-don’t-wanna-run day which is rather gross but oh-so-necessary when your petulant inner child is stomping her “You can’t make me!” foot:  find the exact outfit you wore yesterday from your pile of stinky laundry and throw the whole thing in the dryer for a two-minute tumble (at which time you can brush your teeth) then plug your nose and eat your peas to get your run on.

This run-on sentence was inspired by Virginia Woolf and others …

5 Wonderfully Long Literary Sentences by Samuel Beckett, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald & Other Masters of the Run-On


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