Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PERSONAL BEST

Two years ago, in September 2012,  I began writing my second book.

Much happened in the past two years, and the book has taken many twists and turns.

Today I am proud and humbled to announce that my second book, "Personal Best," will be published on September 26.

"Personal Best" began as a runner's self help book, in which I used my running and coaching experiences over the past 38 years to guide the reader toward a personal best. I wanted it to be a recipe book of sorts, in which I provide the reader with the proper ingredients, then advise the reader how to mix them together in order to create a successful finished product.

April 15, 2013, compelled me to alter the course of my book. Having been witness to the horrific events at the Boston Marathon prompted me to begin "Personal Best" by writing about my personal account of the day.

As runners, we are all extraordinary in our own ways.

In a chapter entitled "Extraordinary," I tell the stories of three extraordinary runners: a Roman Catholic priest, a wife, mother, chiropractor/coach who has experienced the sting of personal tragedy, and a gentleman from Mississippi who turned a debilitating disabling injury into a positive life changing event.

When I signed copies of my first book, "Running Shorts," I encouraged the readers to, "Make each day your personal best."

In my latest book, "Personal Best," I want to help each runner achieve their personal best.

Check out my webpage,  www.muldowneyrunning.com., where you can pre-order a copy of "Personal Best." I will be very happy to personally sign the book for you, and I will mail it to you as soon as I receive my copies. On September 26, it will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu.com. It will also be available in ebook form.

I hope by reading my new book each day WILL be your personal best.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

IT'S ON!

The summer heat and humidity has disappeared. Summer vacations, picnics, and endless weekend activities are fading in the rear view mirror. Mornings are cool and crisp.

The fall racing season has arrived.

In some areas it has already begun.

This past weekend, some of my training partners ran marathons here in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and in Bozeman, Montana.

Running friends in Florida and Mississippi are excited about logging big miles in cooler weather now that summer is behind them.

It is the time to train. It is the time to race.

Along with my daughter, my son-in-law, my wife, Felix Shipp, my Mississippi running friend, and Father Chris Zelonis, my local running friend, I plan to run either the Philadelphia Marathon or Half Marathon at the end of November, depending upon how my rehabilitated torn hamstring responds between now and then. All of us are grinding out the long runs at a time of year when we need not worry about searing heat, stifling humidity, gale force winds, snow or ice.

In every state, and in every corner of the United States and Canada, the next eight to ten weeks is prime racing season.

If your preference is the half marathon or marathon, I can offer the following suggestions.

 Over my long running and racing career, I have run four New York City Marathons. It is, indeed, an iconic event. Put it on your marathon bucket list as a "Must" race.

In the northeast, the Steamtown Marathon, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York, are fine, small-town races, with smaller crowds. I would highly recommend both races.

Our neighbors to the north have a couple of excellent fall events. Many years ago, I ran the Toronto Marathon. Toronto is a beautiful city, and they conduct a first-class marathon.

Last year, I delivered a speech at the Niagara Falls International Marathon's pasta dinner. This is a flat, fast race, with breathtaking scenery.

I also spoke at the Atlantic City Marathon Expo last October. If you want a flat marathon, you'll find it in Atlantic. Several miles on the boardwalk can ease tired legs, This is a fine race.

If you're looking for a small, well-organized race, consider the Harrisburg Marathon in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, The crowds are small, the course is fast, and they've been holding the race for 40 years. It is an excellent small marathon event.

Midwest hospitality abounds at the Twin Cities Marathon, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This is also a fast course, featuring a large field and enthusiastic spectators.

Finally, of course, what's not to like about the Philadelphia Marathon? I think I could close my eyes and run this phenomenal event, since I've raced and trained on every inch of the course. Historic, fan-friendly, and fast, the Philadelphia Marathon ranks only behind Boston as my favorite marathon city.

Of course, all of the aforementioned races offer half marathons, along with shorter races as well.

Train hard, race well, and enjoy.

Fall racing season is on!


                                                            Wineglass Half Marathon

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

FROM MARCO ISLAND TO MARGARITAVILLE

The iconic balladeer of our time crooned from the steamy stage in Hershey, Pennsylvania: "Yes, it's been quite a summer!"

On Labor Day weekend there was no better way to celebrate the unofficial end of summer than to listen to Jimmy Buffett, as the ageless ambassador of summer lead the crowd through songs we all knew.

Nestled in the hills of central Pennsylvania, we pregamed with thousands of Parrotheads, many of whom expressed envy as we swilled our Yuengling Oktoberfest beer brewed, literally, right down the street.

The worst injury of my 38-year running career, a double hamstring tendon tear, rendered m feebly lame as I went for a run with my running friend of 25 years, John Ausherman, at my daughter Kelly's wedding at Dewey Beach, Delaware in mid-May. It appeared as though it was, for me, going to be a long, slow summer.

Some excellent physical therapy and more stretching than I had done than I had done in my previous 37 running years began to take effect when my wife and I vacationed at beautiful Marco Island, Florida in July.

In August, training runs in the 9:30 range had been pared to an 8:30 clip, and track mile intervals dropped into the sevens. A far cry from where I was when I crashed to the concrete in May 2013, but steps in the right direction nevertheless.

So, as another season of running came to a close, I achieved what we all strive for in our sport: improvement. And that improvement is relative. I will never run the rimes I clocked in my 20s and 30s, and I may never run a 3:04 marathon as I did three weeks before I tore my hamstring, but I AM improving.

I urge all of you to watch the video of Admiral McCracken's 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas, delivered in May.

The former Navy SEAL explains to his audience that when a SEAL candidate can no longer endure the training, he rings a special bell, which signifies his resignation.

McCracken tells the graduates: "In life, NEVER ring the bell."

I'm borrowing the Admiral's words when I tell you as a runner, "Never ring the bell!"

I don't intend to, and neither should you. You can overcome any adversity, injury or illness. You can always reach a personal best.

You can make each summer, "Quite a summer," and you can do it for the other three seasons as well.

Never despair. Never give up

Each day we get out there to do what we love, every day we take to the roads or the trails, we are in Margaritaville.

                                               Buffett concert with Lindsay and Ray Richards


Monday, August 25, 2014

TRANSITION

Today was the best first day of school in my entire life.

After 30 years as a classroom teacher, I decided to retire in June, and today marked the first official day of my retirement.

The weather was beautiful and I was able to crank out a hard, hilly 7-miler.

In the afternoon I held the first meeting of my cross country team at Penn State Schuylkill campus, where I have coached for the past seven years. Tomorrow is our first practice.

Then, this evening, I put the finishing touches on my second book about running, entitled, "Personal Best," which will be published sometime in September. Much more about that later.

The only bad thing about retirement is that you have to be old to do it, but, so far I'm loving the transition to my new life.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

EIGHT ELECTRIFYING REASONS TO ENJOY THE NEXT EIGHT WEEKS

The summer is season is coming to a close, school is about to begin, and for many people, those events evoke sadness.

For runners, however, especially here in the northeast, the next eight weeks may be the most enjoyable of the entire year.

Here are eight reasons why.

1. Weather-Mornings are pleasantly cool. Oppressive humidity seems to vanish, and even warm afternoons are tolerable. Rain is refreshing, not icy, and breezes are mild. Overall, weather conditions can be near perfect for running.

2. Scenery-Mother Nature provides the canvas for a magnificent mural, as leaves change colors and fall foliage explodes around us.

3. Races-Not having to worry about snow, ice, or tropical heat, race directors love to schedule fall events. Runners face difficult decisions as they decide exactly which race they choose to attend.

4. Going Long-Many runners are preparing for marathons or half marathons, scheduled during the months of October and November. Thanks to pleasant weather conditions, this is the perfect time of year to crank out big miles, in the form of long training runs.

5. Cross Country-It's great to see groups of young people taking over the roads, participating in the sport we love. By doing so, they're setting themselves up for a terrific, positive lifetime addiction. Forget about being Number One. The fifth person on the cross country team is as important as the top runner. And success is measured be personal improvement. Make it a point to go to a cross country race and cheer on the runners. We all love to have our running efforts validated.

6. Seeing the Light-Squeeze out the extra hours of light, as the earth makes its trip around the sun. The time change occurs in early November, plunging us back into darkness.

7. Cashing In-If you maintained your fitness level throughout the summer, and you turn in some killer fall workouts, you'll be able to cash in by running some good races during the next eight weeks. Select two or three race distances and concentrate on them. Your odds of having perfect race conditions, combined with your fined tuned training, will certainly pay off.

8. Pending Doom-Too bad we can't take the next eight weeks and project them into the spring months. In between, there's going to be icy...snowy...Ugh, I can't say it. Well, you know what I mean. Enjoy the next eight weeks or so, because many of the weeks after that will not be so enjoyable.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

START WITH THE SHOES


Injuries are the nemesis of all runners.

In previous blogs I have opined about a runner's daily logbook and how it may be utilized to analyze, prevent, and speed up injury rehabilitation.

If you have sustained a running injury, or feel an injury coming on, don't panic; rather, start with the shoes.

First, NEVER allow your shoes to be excessively worn down. Not only does that mean that you can see the white of the midsole, but look for compression of the midsole, and if you can feel every pebble beneath your foot, buy a new pair of shoes immediately.

Above, I have offered a personal pictorial tutorial of footwear's role in injury rehabilitation.

In May 2013, I fell during a training run, suffering two torn tendons in my left hamstring. Rehabilitation has been long, arduous, and frustrating. My 7-minute a mile training pace ballooned to nearly 10-minutes a mile. What was most frustrating, however, was the strength deficit, which caused me to drag the leg and clip the toe as I ran, producing several abrupt meetings with the sidewalk. I feared a future fall may occur in front of oncoming traffic.

An examination of the three left shoes in the picture illustrates the progression I have experienced in the past few months, as, finally, strength and flexibility has returned to my gimpy limb.

The shoe to the far left was worn during my most horrid running workouts, approximately four months ago. The front inside of the toe is worn almost to the nylon. During any given workout I would scrape the toe numerous times, and was always prone to a fall.

The middle shoe still has an excessively worn toe, but check out how the heel has been shredded. My mobility increased during this period, and I began to follow through with my stride, my heel taking the brunt of the impact.

To the right is the shoe I am currently wearing. I'm still coming down hard on the heel, but the toe wear is minimal. I would say I have regained 75% of my stride, and I feel safe on my training runs now, with a fairly good chance of remaining vertical.

So when the family pressures you to throw away those old running shoes, remind them that your stinky old running shoes are valuable research and analytical tools. Check your wear pattern. Is the inside of your knee aching? Perhaps you pronate. Set your shoes in front of you. Look at the heels. If they lean inward,  you do pronate, and you should find a shoe that addresses that issue. If you smash the insole of your shoes, don't buy the feather-light shoes on the market. Believe me, you need the cushioning more that you need an ultra light shoe.

Beginning with the feet, the knees, hips, and lower back will feel the effects of excessively worn or improper running shoes. Do your research, do your analysis, but always start with the shoes.




Monday, August 4, 2014

TAKE A HIKE!

This is my 38th summer of running.

Most of the over 120,000 miles I've logged over those years have been on the streets of my hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a small city of approximately 16,000 residents.

Although running has become a bit more mainstream these days, and the sight of a runner on the narrow, mottled streets of our town rarely causes drivers to aim toward us, at least as much as they used to, it never ceases to amaze me that we continue to serve as lightning rods for the stupid.

This afternoon I turned in an enjoyable 5-mile training run. The final two miles of the run are largely uphill, so when I reach the '5.00' on my GPS wristwatch, I'm ready to walk the final hill to my home.

Heavy-legged and drenched with sweat I slowly strode up the final 200-meter incline.

At an intersection, a women who apparently knew me, although I had no idea who she was, offered a suggestion that now goes down in my mind as one of the most inane comments I've ever heard from the naysayers.

"You should have been hiking all these years Joe!"

Huh??

I scowled and replied "Whatever you say."

I'm not sure what prompted her scolding.

I enjoy nothing more than taking a hike with my dogs in the mountain behind my house.

Apparently she's never seen me or many of you at the end of our 20-milers. If so she may have said, "You should have been quilting all these years Joe."

I gotta tell you, the haters inspire me. They are filled with jealousy and rage over what we do.

I've been doing this a long time, and, yes, I'm not nearly as fast as I used to be. But I guarantee you this: If someone is slowing down in their vehicle to offer a negative or snarky comment, this old carcass will surely kick their ass at any distance.

There you have my blog/rant for the day.

Time for me to take a hike.

                                                               Mountain Hiking Trail