Competitor.com http://running.competitor.com Your Online Source for Running Fri, 12 Feb 2016 00:35:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Excitement Mounts As Olympic Trials Marathon Fast Approaches http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/excitement-mounts-as-olympic-trials-marathon-fast-approaches_139476 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/excitement-mounts-as-olympic-trials-marathon-fast-approaches_139476#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 20:04:03 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=139476

Over 300 men and women will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The state of American marathoning is strong as excitement builds toward next February's U.S. Olympic Trials.

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Over 300 men and women will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in February. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon is on Saturday in Los Angeles and speculation about how things might transpire at the front of the field is nearing its peak.

Four members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon team—only Meb Keflezighi for men; Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Kara Goucher for women—are slated to be on the starting line in L.A., and there’s good reason to believe all of these individuals will be in the mix to punch a ticket to the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer. A record $600,000 in prize money is also up for grabs among the top male and female finishers, with the payouts extending 10 deep on both sides.

Keflezighi returns as the defending champion in the men’s race, and despite the fact that he’ll be 40 years old when he steps to the starting line, there’s no reason not to label him the favorite. His 2:08:37 winning time at Boston in 2014 is the fastest time—and only Major marathon win by an American—in the 2016 qualifying period, and the 2004 Olympic silver medalist has shown very little signs of slowing since joining the Masters ranks in May. He’s coming off a seventh-place finish at the New York City Marathon and also finished eighth (second American behind Dathan Ritzenhein) at the Boston Marathon in April. As long as Keflezighi is on the starting line in L.A., he can’t be counted out.

Two-time Olympian Ryan Hall, runner-up to Keflezighi at the Trials in 2012, announced his retirement on Jan. 15, citing chronically low testosterone levels and persistent injury issues as the reason for his exit from the sport at age 33. Abdi Abdirahman, who held off Ritzenhein in Houston to finish third and qualify for his fourth Olympic team, scratched from the race on Feb 1., after experiencing a setback in training.

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

RELATED: Sizing Up 2016—Who Will Make The Olympic Marathon Team?

The absence of Hall and Abdirahman makes the men’s race a wide-open affair with no less than 15 runners with a legitimate shot of landing on the podium. And while he didn’t make the Olympic marathon team in 2012, it’s worth bringing Ritzenhein into the conversation from the get-go. The 32-year-old three-time Olympian, who finished fourth at the 2012 marathon trials but later made the Olympic team in the 10,000m, is hoping to carry the momentum of a solid 2015 racing campaign into the Olympic year. Ritzenhein’s 2:07:47 clocking at the 2012 Chicago Marathon falls outside the official qualifying window, but he did run 2:09:45 there a year later, making him the only other sub-2:10 qualifier in the field along with Keflezighi. Ritz was the top American at April’s Boston Marathon, where he finished seventh—one spot and over a minute up on Keflezighi. Making his fourth Olympic team and landing a spot on the starting line of the 2016 Olympic Marathon in Rio is high on his priority list.

“I love racing all distances, but there’s something about the Olympic Marathon,” Ritzenhein told the media in a conference call last fall. “The excitement just captivates you and I want to be a part of that real bad.”

Reigning U.S. marathon champion Jared Ward, who also won national titles at the 20K and 25K distances in the past year, doesn’t have one of the fastest personal bests in the field (2:12:56), but he’ll carry the confidence of his recent racing successes with him all the way to the starting line. He also knows what it’s like to race well in hot weather, having triumphed at last years U.S. Marathon Championship in L.A. in toasty conditions similar to what’s forecasted for this weekend.

“Winning the national title gave me a lot of confidence,” Ward admitted. “I loved L.A. and all the people out there. I’m really looking forward to competing at the trials. I see it being hard for someone to be a surprise because the list of guys who have a shot is so long.”

RELATED: Jared Ward Takes Winding Road To Olympic Trials Marathon

The 27-year-old from Provo, Utah thinks the current depth of U.S. marathoning makes for a wide open race, and he’s right. Including himself, there are now 12 men who have run under 2:13 during the Olympic Trials qualifying period, and another seven under 2:14. Luke Puskedra carries the momentum of a fifth-place, 2:10:24 Chicago finish last fall with him to the starting line, and while another sub-2:11 runner, Jeffrey Eggleston, will be looking to elevate their careers to the next level. Ryan Vail, whose 2:10:57 personal best put him amongst the pre-race favorites, announced on Wednesday that he won’t race due to a femoral stress fracture.

The big wildcard on Saturday will be Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp. The 29-year-old made his marathon intentions official on Jan. 29, adding an interesting twist to an already unpredictable men’s race. Rupp, who qualified for the Trials with a solo 1:01:20 half marathon effort at a low-key race in Portland on Dec. 13, will be making his marathon debut.

“It’s definitely a new challenge and it’s a little daunting just because I’ve never done it before,” Rupp said during his announcement on USATF.TV. “It’s such a big step up in distance but I’m really excited to give it a shot and I think with everything we’ve done to prepare me that it’s going to turn out alright.”

Also worth considering are Diego Estrada, who won last year’s U.S. half-marathon championship in 60:51 and will be making his marathon debut at the Trials, and 2:14 marathoner Tim Ritchie, who just blew away the field at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon with a massive 1:01:22 personal best. While a fast half marathon doesn’t always translate to instant success over 26.2 miles, if someone like Estrada is still in the mix with a few miles to go, watch out. There’s also new U.S. citizen Elkanah Kibet, a former Auburn All-American from Kenya, who ran 2:11:31 in Chicago in October; Matt Llano (2:12:28), the U.S. runner-up behind Ward last year in L.A.; Llano’s HOKA Northern Arizona Elite training partner Scott Smith, who is aiming to improve on his 2:14:40 personal best; and Craig Leon (2:13:53), who turned in a strong race with an eighth-place finish in New York City earlier this month. Brett Gotcher, six years removed form his 2:10:36 personal best, was fifth at the 2012 Trials and is hoping he can improve a couple places on Saturday. The sheer volume of potential contenders is so staggering that there are just too many to name.

RELATED: Resurgent Brett Gotcher Taking Hard Road To The Trials

On the women’s side, there’s Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden—who went 1-2 at the 2012 Trials in Houston—and then there’s everybody else. Times aren’t everything in marathoning, but they can’t be ignored, especially when the results back them up in a big way. Flanagan and Linden are the clear-cut favorites to make another Olympic team in the marathon, and with good reason.

Since winning the 2012 Trials in event-record time (2:25:38) and finishing 10th at the Olympic Marathon in London, Flanagan has not let her foot off the gas. The 34-year-old has added more national titles in cross country, road and track to her already extensive racing resume, and has posted the two fastest marathon times by an American female during the Olympic Trials qualifying period (2:22:02 and 2:21:14 at Boston and Berlin, respectively, in 2014).

“I think we [my coach and I] will work back from the trials knowing that’s an important race to be ready for and what fits in making sure I’m ready for that day,” Flanagan told Competitor.com last fall. “I still have a lot of aggressive goals.”

Flanagan was fourth at Boston in 2013, seventh in 2014 and ninth this past year (although she could move up a spot in 2013 and 2014 pending whether or not drug cheat Rita Jeptoo is stripped of her titles), and also took third at Berlin in 2014 when she ran the second-fastest American time in history. No other American woman has been as successful at World Marathon Majors races with the exception of Linden, who became the only American ever to beat Flanagan in a marathon this past April in Boston.

The diminutive Linden, who finished fourth at this year’s Boston Marathon in 2:25:39—two minutes and five places ahead of Flanagan—was runner-up to her rival at the 2012 Trials in Houston but was forced to drop out of the London Games due to a femoral stress fracture. The 32-year-old, a longtime member of the Hansons-Brooks training group in Rochester, Mich., says she hit the reset button after the disappointment of her last Olympic experience and is looking forward to competing for another chance to represent the red, white and blue on the world’s biggest stage in Rio next summer. “This is like starting over,” Linden said of her mindset heading into the 2016 Trials training cycle. “It was awesome to call myself an Olympian but I don’t feel like I lived up to that label.”

Linden finished 10th at the 2014 Boston Marathon in 2:23:54—the second-fastest marathon run by a U.S. woman during the Trials qualifying period. That mark is over three minutes faster than that of third-fastest qualifier, Amy Cragg, the fourth-place finisher at the 2012 Trials who was Linden’s college teammate at Arizona State. More on her in a bit.

Kara Goucher, the third member of the 2012 Olympic marathon team, has traveled a rocky road since finishing 11th—right behind her former training partner Flanagan—at the 2012 Games in London. She placed sixth at the 2013 Boston Marathon in 2:28:11, but then left her Portland-based Nike training group and returned to Boulder, Colo., where she currently trains under her collegiate coaches, Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs. Injuries have prevented Goucher from showing her once-dominant form over the past two years—she finished a disappointing 14th at the New York City Marathon in 2:37:03—but she’s had some bright spots too, most recently at last weekend’s Big Sur Half Marathon, where she won in 1:11:13.

“This is the starting place for me leading up to the (Olympic) Trials,” Goucher said after her victory. “It’s a good place to start; it’s the fastest I’ve started in years.”

Leading a tight group of women who have run between 2:27 and 2:30 is the 31-year-old Cragg, who equaled her personal best of 2:27:03 to finish fifth at Chicago in 2014. She’s had a good run on the roads the past two years, winning national titles at 10K in 2014 and 15K earlier this year, and posting runner-up finishes at last year’s 20K championships and this year’s 5K championships. But she’s struggled as well, dropping out of Boston in April and finishing 14th at the U.S. 20K championships this past fall. Fueled by the disappointment of 2012, and now training with Flanagan as a member of the Nike Bowerman Track Club, Hastings is keen on punching her ticket to Rio in L.A. this February.

American marathon record holder and Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, who ran 2:27:47 at last October’s Chicago Marathon to break the U.S. Masters record (Kastor is 42), announced on Wednesday that she will not be competing in Saturday’s race due to a glute strain.

In addition to Flanagan, Linden and Cragg, only five other women have run under 2:30 during the trials qualifying period, and one of those athletes, Laura Thweatt—who ran 2:28:23 at her debut in New York in November—has said she will keep her focus on the track and not run the marathon trials. The unheralded Annie Bersagel, who lives in Oslo, Norway, where she works as an attorney, could very well run her way onto the Olympic team in February. She ran per PR of 2:28:29 at the Dusseldorf Marathon in April, winning for the second straight year and also captured the U.S. marathon title in 2013 at the Twin Cities Marathon. Serena Burla has ran 2:28:01 and was 10th overall at the world championships in Beijing this past summer. Reigning U.S. Marathon champion Blake Russell, who made the Olympic marathon team in 2008, will not race due to a recent hernia surgery.

Kellyn Taylor, who trains with Hoka Northern Arizona Elite in Flagstaff, Ariz., debuted in 2:28:40 earlier this year and has run under 1:11 in the half marathon, while another relative marathon newbie, as Sara Hall (2:31:14 at Chicago in October), also figures to be in the mix. Hall rebounded nicely at Chicago this fall after a forgettable debut in L.A. last spring. While forecasted temperatures and a loop-style course may slow down finishing times a touch, it’s going to take a low-to-mid-2:20s type of effort to make the Olympic marathon team and there are bucketloads of women knocking loudly on that door.

RELATED: Kellyn Taylor Ready To Handle The Heat In Los Angeles

The state of American marathoning is strong heading into Saturday’s Olympic Trials Marathon. Some old favorites will once again be looking to wrap themselves in red, white and blue while a large group of ambitious up-and-comers hope to catapult their professional careers into orbit by way of an Olympic berth. If you’re not in L.A. to watch the action up close, be sure to tune into NBC at 10 A.M. PST to see how it all shakes out.

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Blue-Collar Runners Putting It All On The Line at U.S. Olympic Trials http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/blue-collar-runners-putting-it-all-on-the-line-at-u-s-olympic-trials_144359 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/blue-collar-runners-putting-it-all-on-the-line-at-u-s-olympic-trials_144359#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 16:02:49 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144359

Lauren Smith is one of dozens of runners who trained for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon while also working a full-time job. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Like boxing, distance running has always been a sport that propagates hard-working underdogs.

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Lauren Smith is one of dozens of runners who trained for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon while also working a full-time job. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Like boxing, distance running has always been a sport that propagates hard-working underdogs.

At the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, maybe a dozen runners in both the men’s and women’s races have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top three and making the U.S. Olympic team bound for Rio de Janeiro later this summer. But with the exception of those top few professionals who can manage to make a living through sponsorships and prize money, the starting line in the City of Angels will be filled with hundreds of runners who work full-time and fit their passion into the bookends of the day and night. In our sport, we call them blue-collar runners, and they are as about as tough as they come.

For them, it’s all about the love of running, the passion to pursue excellence amid considerable sacrifice. They’re the dreamers. They can run fast enough to enter a race that determines the American Olympic team, but most are not nearly fast enough to actually don a USA singlet and pass beneath the Olympic flame. And yet they carry on, training just as diligently as their more polished professional contemporaries.

That’s just fine with Louis Serafini, a 24-year-old Bostonian who is the epitome of the blue-collar grinder.

“I’m still young and as far as I’m concerned, just being able to toe the line with America’s greatest distance runners is an honor,” says Serafini, who works 9 to 5 as a sales associate Heartbreak Hill Running Company. “For me, the Trials are an opportunity for me to have a great running experience and hopefully turn some heads in the process.”

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Every day, Serafini hits the streets of Boston early in the morning after a lot of coffee for his first run. Like the fictional boxer, Rocky, he attributes some of his speed to the protein he gets from eating eggs, albeit not raw ones like the movie character ingested on a regular basis.

“I’ve been favoring the egg quesadilla—it’s been a bit of a game-changer for me,” he notes.

After a day of selling shoes and gear—and occasionally dishing out bits of advice to recreational runners—he heads home for his second run. At 7 p.m., a time when most of us are ready for dinner, PJs and some binge TV watching, Serafini hits the roads with this roommate for 5 to 7 miles. He’s back by 8:30, stretches a bit and then hits the sack at 10.

The next day, he does it all over again. Day after day, for weeks on end. It’s that monotonous consistency, that hardened discipline, that earned him a place in the U.S. Olympic Trials. He punched his ticket to Los Angeles at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Oct. 31, finishing 13th in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 31 seconds—just 29 seconds faster than the 1:05:00 cutoff.

Matt Sonnenfeldt also got his Olympic Trials qualifier in Philadelphia last fall, but by the narrowest of margins—a mere 2 seconds. His 1:04:58 effort makes him one of the slowest runners in the men’s race, but it doesn’t matter because he’s in. He, too, works close to the sport as a marketing assistant and promotions coordinator for Flynn Sports Management in Gray, Tenn., the athlete agency operated by legendary miler Ray Flynn.

“When your boss has run 3:49 for a mile, he is one of few bosses who understands the time and dedication that goes into training for something like this,” Sonnenfeldt admits.

When it comes to the reality of making the team, Sonnenfeldt doesn’t mince words.

“I think I can speak for a lot of the people that are in my position in that making the Olympic Trials is kind of like our Olympics, and a lot of the motivation came in the months, maybe years, leading up to trying to qualify for the race,” he says. “I was one of the last qualifiers to make it in, so for me, the motivation for the Olympic Trials is to finish in the first half of the field.”

Maintaining a full-time job while trying to compete against pros that get the luxury of naps and personal massages could be grist for the mill. But Sonnenfeldt won’t have any of that.

“Not everyone can have it as a job,” he says of the elite pros. “Just like not every college football player can make it on a NFL roster or to the Major Leagues from the minors. Yes, there are runners that probably are good enough to merit a contract, but I believe the majority of the pros that do this for a living have earned the right to do nothing but train, and I’m fine with that.”

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

Along with his full-time job, Sonnenfeldt manages to fit in triple-digit weekly mileage, two hard workouts (typically Tuesday and Friday) and a long run of 20 miles or longer on Sundays.

“It’s probably the best jobs one could have, if they wanted to juggle training and work,” he says. “I’m very fortunate and I’m very much an outlier. There are many who have it much worse than me.”

Lauren Smith, of Lake Jackson, Texas, doesn’t have it much worse than Serafini, but she does have to get up pretty early to get her miles in. Smith, who works as a fitness coordinator at the Angleton Recreation Center, earned her qualifier at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon on Dec. 6, finishing in 1:14:53—just 7 seconds ahead of the cut-off time.

She got there by waking up at 5 a.m., and often running twice a day, sometimes at lunch, sometimes late at night. Despite these challenges, Smith isn’t bitter about her full-time professional rivals come marathon day.

“We all have 24 hours in the day and that’s plenty of time to get in the training I need to get in,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of perks most runners have. I don’t have a massage therapist, chiropractor, altitude tent or a coach, but I do all the hard work and put in the miles, and I think that’s the most important part.”

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Kellyn Taylor Ready To Handle The Heat In Los Angeles http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/kellyn-taylor-ready-to-handle-heat_144924 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/kellyn-taylor-ready-to-handle-heat_144924#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 15:19:03 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144924

Kellyn Taylor is heading into Saturday's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon confident and ready to compete. Photo: Justin Britton | A Runner's Eye

The 29-year-old firefighter-in-training is hoping to land a spot on the podium at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.

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Kellyn Taylor is heading into Saturday's U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon confident and ready to compete. Photo: Justin Britton | A Runner's Eye

The unseasonably warm weather forecasted for Saturday’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles isn’t ideal for marathon racing, but the predicted 80-degree temperatures really don’t faze Kellyn Taylor all that much.

The 29-year-old firefighter-in-training from Flagstaff, Ariz., will only be racing her second marathon on Saturday, but she’ll be stepping to the starting line wth the confidence of a veteran who isn’t afraid to hold her hand close to the flame.

“I told Ben [Rosario, her coach] that I felt bad feeling as confident as I do,” admits Taylor, who ran 2:28:40 at last year’s Houston Marathon, placing sixth among a competitive international field. “I have no doubts that if I hit a good day that I can run with anyone else out there. The workouts I did leading up to the trials were good. I am both physically and mentally ready.”

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Taylor, a 2009 graduate of Wichita State, has thrived since joining Rosario’s HOKA Northern Arizona Elite training group in January of 2014. After a breakthrough campaign that first year saw her place fourth at the U.S. cross country championships and win a national road title in the 25K, Taylor went on a PR tear in 2015, following up her strong Houston debut with personal bests in the 10,000m (32:29.88) and half marathon (1:10:59), not to mention a bronze medal in the 5,000m at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto. That success, combined with a inherently fierce competitiveness, has helped her develop the confidence to butt heads with the best runners in the country every time she takes to the starting line.

“She’s super confident in herself as an athlete,” Rosario says. “And I phrase it that way because she’s super confident in any athletic endeavor she takes on. If you’ve heard of a baseball player bringing a ‘football mentality’ to the locker room, that’s sort of what Kellyn is like. Most runners are humble to a fault. She’s outwardly humble of course but inwardly she’s nothing but fierce.”

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

In the buildup to the Trials, Taylor, the lone female from NAZ Elite competing on Saturday (teammates Matt Llano, Ben Bruce and Scott Smith are entered on the men’s side), has taken her training to the next level. A rough last few miles at Houston isn’t far from her memory, and both she and Rosario feel they’ve made the necessary adjustments to ensure she has what it takes to go the distance on Saturday. Rosario, a former Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier in his own right who finished second at the U.S. marathon championships in 2005, has bumped Taylor’s mileage consistently above 100 miles per week, while continuing to emphasize the essential elements that made her first go at 26.2 miles a successful one.

“Houston went so well until the last two miles,” admits Taylor. “With two to go I hit a wall and jogged it in with 6-plus minute miles. I felt as though I had adequately prepared but knew immediately that an AT (anaerobic threshold) distance run would be beneficial in my trials buildup. This cycle we did many of the same workouts, and also a 26.2-mile run, and had several other workouts and runs that hit 20-24 miles. My body should hold up for 26.2 miles this time around.”

RELATED: Sneak Peek—Elite Runners’ U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon Gear

Rosario, who contends that Taylor is stronger than she’s ever been in the two years they’ve been working together, believes that his athlete simply needs to have the race that she’s capable of executing in order to punch her ticket to the Olympic Games. With forecasted temperatures expected to be 30 degrees higher than what’s considered ideal for racing a marathon, Taylor has been training alongside her teammates in San Diego the past two weeks, bundling up in layers to better acclimate to the dry, oven-like conditions she’ll encounter in L.A.

“It was definitely sports bra weather,” Taylor says of her team’s mini pre-Trials training camp 120 miles south of L.A. “But in order to prepare for the heat we wore tights, long sleeves and jackets. We looked crazy but I feel that will significantly help my teammates and I on race day. I’m not going to go out race day and do something stupid. I want it to be an honest race and I feel it will be. Fluids will be huge and will make or break some people’s races.”

Warm racing conditions aside, the competition in the women’s race will be a deep mix of established superstars and ambitious upstarts all vying for one of three slots on the U.S. Olympic marathon team. All three members of the 2012 squad—Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Kara Goucher—will be on the starting line when the action gets underway at 10:22 a.m. on Saturday. In addition to Flanagan and Linden, three other women—Amy Cragg, Serena Burla and Annie Bersagel—have qualifying times faster than Taylor’s mark. Despite an experienced field full of firepower, however, Rosario is confident Taylor has what it takes to handle the heat and put herself on the podium.

“She just needs to go out and run what she’s capable of,” Rosario says matter-of-factly. “I really believe she controls her own destiny. I remember going for a run with Kellyn in Palo Alto last year the day before the Payton Jordan track meet (at Stanford) and I told her that exact thing. What I meant was that if she did everything right from that point on, and got in as good of shape as she could possibly be in by the time the Trials rolled around, then there would not be three women that would be able to beat her on the day. My mind has never changed.”

RELATED: Onto The Radar: Interview with Kellyn Taylor

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Out There: Runner’s Face? Really? http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/out-there/out-there-runners-face-really_144894 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/out-there/out-there-runners-face-really_144894#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 22:09:55 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144894

Does running cause us to age faster?

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Lately, I’ve been getting emails from plastic surgery offices, each one suggesting I write an article on their latest fix for the so-called epidemic of “Runner’s Face” afflicting athletes. The first time it happened, I rolled my eyes and hit the “delete” button—everything’s a syndrome these days, right?

The second time a procedure for Runner’s Face popped up in my inbox, I was equal parts amused and annoyed.

After the third, fourth, and fifth time, I began to wonder if the universe was trying to tell me something.

Runner’s Face, if you haven’t heard, is a premature-aging phenomenon affecting the appearance of athletes in their 30s and beyond. Those affected claim all the bouncing from running causes the skin to lose its elasticity and sag; that, combined with exercise-induced weight loss, causes a runner’s visage to look like the face-melting scene from Raiders of The Lost Ark.

At least, that’s what it sounds like in most written descriptions of Runner’s Face. To confirm, I did a Google Image search for Runner’s Face. Note to self: Never, ever, ever do a Google Image search for Runner’s Face again.

“I think I need Botox,” I told my sister in a panic, showing her the photos I had discovered of haggard-looking men and women with sunken cheeks and droopy bags under their eyes.

“I think you need to get your head checked,” she replied.

“LOOK AT THIS!” I poked at my cheeks frenetically. “I’m just one marathon away from becoming a shar-pei!”

Meghan rolled her eyes and walked away, refusing to acknowledge my fears. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the cosmetic fate in store for me. That afternoon, as I ran past glass storefronts downtown, I scrutinized my reflection in motion: Are those jowls? Are they bouncing? Do I need to wear a supportive garment on my chin, like a face bra? Does anyone even make face bras?

That night, I browsed through the seemingly millions of anti-aging products available—creams, serums, balms, potions—hoping to find the fountain of youth. I bought something called “Hope in a Jar,” convinced it sounded exactly like what I needed. Later, I stumbled onto a video series that claims to tone and tighten facial muscles through a series of stretching and poking.

“What are you doing?” My husband said when he walked into the living room. I was mid-stretch, my eyes widened and mouth in a surprised “O” shape while extending my neck as far as it would crane.

“Turning back the hands of time,” I said with determination.

Neil turned on his heel and walked away, presumably in search of a wife who wasn’t following DIY facelift instructions from YouTube.

“I think we need to have a talk, Susan.” My dermatologist said when she walked into the examining room, a printout of my unnerved e-mail in hand. I had requested an immediate appointment to discuss my options for keeping my emerging Droopy Dog at bay. As a runner and triathlete herself, I was certain she’d understand my concern.

Instead, she shook her head and sighed: “Runner’s Face? It’s not a real thing. There is no evidence that running causes anyone to look older than they are.”

“But all those doctors—”

“Stop,” she interrupted. “You should know better. You see runners every day. What do they look like?”

I paused for a moment, scrolling through my mental photo album of fellow runners. She was right: I was being irrational. The only time I had actually observed a case of pallid, haggard Runner’s Face was in the photos from plastic surgery websites during my panicked Googling. In the real world, it was…well, not a thing in the real world.

Faces change as they age, yes. People get wrinkles and crow’s feet and deep ridges around their mouths. But they get those things from living—from smiling at their loved ones, furrowing their brows at a gripping story, squinting in the sunshine on a beautiful spring day, and laughing so hard they cry. The changes of aging aren’t always desirable, but they’re earned.

My doctor was right—there’s no hard evidence that running accelerates the natural processes of aging. She sent me on my way with a recommendation to drink more water, remember to reapply sunscreen often, and stop reading unsolicited e-mails from plastic surgeons.

I’m still keeping my Hope in a Jar, though. Just in case I need it someday.

* * *

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.

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Injuries Sideline Kastor, Vail from U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/injuries-sideline-kastor-vail-from-olympic-trials-marathon_144879 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/injuries-sideline-kastor-vail-from-olympic-trials-marathon_144879#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:19:15 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144879

Photos: PhotoRun.net

Deena Kastor announced via Twitter on Wednesday that she’s out of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon that will be run through the

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Photos: PhotoRun.net

Deena Kastor announced via Twitter on Wednesday that she’s out of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon that will be run through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 13. A three-time Olympian who won the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, Kastor was the fourth-fastest qualifier in the women’s field for Saturday’s race. The American-record holder in the marathon is out with a strained left glute that arose during practice last week.

“Our Mammoth Track Club team has been in Folsom, California for sea level training camp for two and a half weeks,” Kastor said in a USA Track & Field Release. “After months of working hard, I strained my glute muscle in practice while on the American River Trail. I was diligent in resting, but my glute just won’t settle down.

“I look forward to witnessing a great Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, cheering on my Mammoth Track Club teammates and celebrating the members of the U.S. Olympic Team.”

Ryan Vail, the fifth-fastest qualifier in the men’s field with a 2:10:57 PR, is also out, due to a femoral stress fracture that presented itself last weekend. He confirmed the news on Twitter on Wednesday. He was injured last fall and only started training for the Olympic Trials 12 weeks ago. “I understood the risks attempting top marathon shape in a short period of time, but it is still gut wrenching so close to the race,” he said.

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Kastor, who turns 43 the day after the Olympic Trials Marathon, ran a strong race at the Chicago Marathon last fall, setting a new American masters record of 2:27:47. She was also an Olympian in 2000 (10,000-meter run) and 2008 (marathon) and set the American record in the marathon (2:19:36) in 2006.

Vail, 29, was sidelined with a navicular stress reaction last summer and then a sacral stress fracture last fall. He got clearance from his doctors to start training in mid-November and put in a solid 11 weeks of training that included two weeks of 140 miles. Two weeks ago in Portland, he ran a 16-mile tempo run at 4:58 pace alone in a cold rain and believed he was fit and ready to compete.

He had been training all winter in Portland but headed to Chula Vista, Calif., on Jan. 29 to acclimate to the warmer weather that is expected on race day. He said he experienced some extreme thigh pain while training last weekend and found out on Feb. 8 he has a femoral stress fracture.

Although Vail didn’t have the kind of year he though he’d have in 2015—his last race was a fifth-place 28:22 effort in the 10,000-meter run at the U.S. track and field championships last June—he believed he was getting close to his previous form of 2014 in recent weeks. His 2:10:57 PR effort at the 2014 London Marathon galvanized his place in the upper echelon among American distance runners and was the result of years of gradual progression.

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

Vail, a former Oklahoma State All-American in college, placed 11th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Houston, running a 2:12:43 in what was his debut marathon. Later that year, he ran 2:11:45 at Japan’s Fukuoka Marathon. After his breakthrough in London two years ago, he felt like he reached another level—perhaps on the verge of running in the 2:09 range—before the 2014 New York City Marathon. But cold, windy conditions slowed the entire field that day and he wound up at 2:15:08, which was still good enough for ninth place.

Other potential contenders who have dropped out of the Olympic Trials recently include four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman (injury), two-time Olympian Ryan Hall (retirement), as well as Aaron Braun (injury), Matt Tegenkamp (injury) and Chris Derrick (unknown setback) in the men’s race, and Lauren Kleppin (injury), Sarah Crouch (injury) and Neely Spence Gracey (injury last fall, now focusing on the April 18 Boston Marathon) in the women’s field.

 

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Workout Of The Week: 600-Meter Breakdowns http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/training/workout-of-the-week-600-meter-breakdowns_11298 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/training/workout-of-the-week-600-meter-breakdowns_11298#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:30:46 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=11298

These intervals are just long enough to develop your body’s fatigue resistance at faster speeds. Photo: Mario Fraioli

It doesn't matter what you're training for, there's a place for these in your training.

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These intervals are just long enough to develop your body’s fatigue resistance at faster speeds. Photo: Mario Fraioli

Six-hundred-meter breakdowns are a great speed workout for all distance runners. Whether you’re a first-year runner or a veteran competitor, whether you race 5Ks or marathons, there’s a place for 600-meter breakdowns in your training.

The workout consists of fast intervals of 600, 400, 300, and 200 meters run in descending order. These intervals are short enough to be run very quickly and thus develop the speed and sharpness you need to achieve your race goals. But those 600m intervals are long enough to also test and develop your body’s fatigue resistance at faster speeds. So, by no means is this a sprinter’s workout. Six-hundred-meter breakdowns develop speed in a way that helps you improve your 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon times — not your 100m dash time!

Like all workouts involving very fast running, 600m breakdowns require a thorough warmup. Start with some light jogging, then perform some dynamic flexibility exercises, such as giant walking lunges and standing forward-backward and side-to-side leg swings. Finally, run a few strides (100m runs at 90% sprint speed). Now you’re ready to break it down!

How fast should you run the fast intervals? Almost — but not quite — as fast as you can. Go very hard but stay relaxed and take the edge of the misery you would feel in a true all-out effort. Write your times down in your training log for comparison with future 600m breakdown sessions.

Here are two versions of the 600m breakdowns workout:

Beginner Version

Warmup: Run 10 minutes easy, dynamic flexibility, strides

Main set: Run 600m, 400m, 300m, and 200m fast with slow, 300m jogging recoveries between fast intervals

Cooldown: Run 10 minutes easy

Advanced Version

Warmup: Run 20 minutes easy, dynamic flexibility, strides

Main set: Run 2-3 x (600m, 400m, 300m, 200m fast with 300m jog recoveries)

Cooldown: Run 20 minutes easy

Even the advanced version of 600m breakdowns is not a killer workout. Because 600m breakdowns are not highly race-specific for distance runners, they are not intended to be among the toughest workouts you do. You should finish a session of 600m breakdowns feeling as much exhilarated by the speed you attained as you do tired from the effort.

Incorporating 600m Breakdowns into Your Training

When should you do 600m breakdowns? They’re pretty challenging, so you should keep them out of your training until you’re within 10 weeks of a race and actively pursuing peak race fitness. Once you introduce them into your training, you’ll want to do them and/or similar workouts once every seven to ten days to develop speed and high-intensity fatigue resistance and then maintain these capacities until you race.

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Go Gordy Go! Ultrarunning Legend Gordy Ainsleigh Earns Western States Qualifier at 68 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/features/go-gordy-go-ultrarunning-legend-gordy-ansleigh-earns-western-states-qualifier-68_144833 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/features/go-gordy-go-ultrarunning-legend-gordy-ansleigh-earns-western-states-qualifier-68_144833#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 14:50:32 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144833

Gordy Ainsleigh at the finish of the 2016 Rocky Raccoon. Photo: Lynnor Matheney

It wasn't without drama, but Gordy Ainsleigh will be at the start line of Western States.

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Gordy Ainsleigh at the finish of the 2016 Rocky Raccoon. Photo: Lynnor Matheney

While Gordy Ainsleigh will be the first to admit he didn’t invent the sport of ultrarunning, he’s definitely the venerable godfather of the modern form of crazy long-distance trail running.

In the early 1970s, Ainsleigh, a spirited mountain man from Auburn, Calif., twice completed the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse race through the Sierra Nevada mountains of northern California. But in 1973, as legend has it, he had to drop out of the event when his horse came up lame. The following year, Ainsleigh, then 27, started the race on foot alongside the horses to see if he could complete the course in 24 hours. When Ainsleigh jogged his way over the finish line in 23 hours and 42 minutes, he proved that it was, in fact, possible to cover 100 miles over dusty trails in less than a day.

Although it took years to catch on, his courageous effort—even though it was considered ridiculous at the time—created what would become the 100.2-mile Western States Endurance Run (WSER) between Squaw Valley ski resort and Auburn, which helped spark the consistent growth ultrarunning has experienced for the past four decades.

Back then, not only were there no other 100-mile trail runs, there was, of course, no Internet or Facebook, either. But thanks to the proliferation of longer events like the Rocky Raccoon 100 (RR100), his 28-hour, 31-minute finish at the 2016 RR100 on Feb. 7 in Huntsville, Texas, and the #LetGordyRun social media campaign, the godfather of modern ultras will once again toe the line in Squaw Valley on June 25 for the 39th official running of the historic race.

But it hasn’t been a smooth journey for the sometimes zany 68-year-old chiropractic doctor, who is a self-professed homebody.

Since 1981 WSER has used a lottery system for race entry. Runners must qualify—meaning run a qualifying time at a 100-miler or 100K by officially finishing a designated race or, in the case of the approved 100K events, finish within a certain time. Races must fall within the November-to-November window. Qualified entrants are included in the lottery, held in December, to determine the start list for the following June.

For the 2016 race, there were 3,510 applicants. According to the event permit with the U.S. Forest Service, the WSER is allowed to have only 369 starters.

“About 100 of those spots are reserved for elite runners, aid station volunteers, a few other key race officials and a few sponsors,” said John Medinger, President of the Western States Board of Trustees, which oversees the race. “The remaining slots are determined in a public lottery.”

As the first person to run Western States (when it was still the Tevis Cup), Ainsleigh usually gets one of the automatic spots. But he still has to qualify, a task he was unable to accomplish during the 2016 qualifying window.

Ainsleigh had a bad luck year. Lingering effects from a fall during a training run resulted in a missed cut-off time and DNF at WSER 2015. Ainsleigh finished the Where’s Waldo 100K in Oregon last August, but missed earning a WSER qualifying time by just over 8 minutes. He made it to mile 62 of another qualifier, the Javelina Jundred, before dropping out because he blacked out from falling and hitting his head. He kept on running, but was finally encouraged to stop by a good friend, who’s name he couldn’t remember. (According to Gordy, she said, “If you can’t remember me, then you need to go back to medical.” Once he got to the medical tent he also couldn’t tell them what race he was running.)

Indignation about him not being able to run the race he helped bring to life is what caused Ainsleigh’s fans to start the #LetGordyRun and #GoGordyGo campaigns on social media. Many wanted him to be given an automatic entry to WSER for life, regardless of whether or not he’s able to qualify.

For both Ainsleigh, who was astounded by the outpouring of support, and the WSER board of directors, the discussion was never whether Ainsleigh should have to qualify. In fact, the optimistic ultrarunner said, “I respect that I have to qualify and am grateful to WSER for the adventure it’s added to my life and for the races I’ve had to run because of it.”

Ainsleigh’s request to race management was for more time to qualify. But, until the public outcry, the answer was “No.” However, Ainsleigh’s request, as acknowledged by Medinger, was not without precedent.

“Gordy made the point that a few elite runners were allowed to qualify late in one of six ‘Golden Ticket’ races, where top runners can earn a spot in the race by finishing first or second place,” Medinger said. “So, because he asked—and, well, because he’s Gordy—we agreed to allow him to qualify up through April 9, which is the date of the last Golden Ticket race.”

Which is exactly what the owner of the original beard of ultrarunning—he says he has a beard because he doesn’t like to spend time in front of a mirror in the morning and it’s a secondary sexual characteristic, one of the signs of manhood—accomplished at the 2016 Rocky Raccoon 100 last weekend. Ainsleigh ran the race wearing a helmet—yes, you read that correctly: a helmet!—because “there was too much on the line” and, even though it’s a relatively smooth course, he couldn’t risk being taken out by another concussion.

“I fall a lot. Since my 50s, I just can’t see the trail as well,” Ainsleigh said. “I’m getting good at it though. I usually have a beautiful tuck and roll.”

Recovering from his fall during the Javelina Jundred last October in Fountain Hills, Ariz., and being down with a bad lung infection for most of December put Ainsleigh behind in his training for RR100. He likes to have a 45-mile training run a few weeks before a 100-miler, but all he was able to get in then was running the Way Too Cool 50K course in Cool, Calif., although it took 11 hours instead of his usual 7-8 hours because he wasn’t well yet.

“I appreciate the opportunity the WSER board gave me and was ready to suffer to earn my spot in Western States,” Ainsleigh said. While he definitely did suffer, he also had fun, enjoying a solid back and forth race with 71-year-old Gunhild Swanson, who finished just ahead of Ainsleigh in 28:22. (Ainsleigh says first goal at WSER is to finish. His second goal is to beat Gunhild.)

“I asked him after he finished lap three if he was going to do it. [Gordy] simply waltzed right through the crowd into the aid station stating, ‘Well, looks like it, there’s lots of time left’,” said Chris McWatters, Rocky Raccoon 100 race director, of a mid-race exchange with the confident Ainsleigh (The RR100 is a five-lap course). “And sure enough, he stayed steady enough to cross well in front of the cutoff.”

His choice of pacers also helped. In a pre-race Facebook post, Ainsleigh, who as a living legend is frequently photographed “vertical snuggling” with other (predominately female) runners, said he was aiming to become the “George Burns of trail ultrarunning.” In his request to find pacers to help him get through the 20-mile loops of the Rocky Raccoon races, he posted that, in addition to being able to comfortably run 20 miles of easy trail in four hours, “applicants must be talented, gorgeous, young, nubile athletes under the age of 76 and a better-looking woman than I am.”

Unapologetic for his flirtatious behavior and love of women, the happily married ultrarunner (who often runs and climbs shirtless, he says, to help with vitamin D absorption) says his wife has a good sense of humor. “She doesn’t mind the flirting as long as it doesn’t go too deep,” he says.

In a December Facebook post, Ainsleigh asked his “incredibly loyal friends to give the Western States board a breather.” Now he can take one too, although he’s already planning his qualifying run for WSER 2017, with an eye toward running the Umstead 100 in Raleigh, N.C., this April.

But, Ainsleigh admits, he’ll have a tough time finishing WSER in June. He has 23 finishes to his credit (including 1974), but he hasn’t completed the course since 2007, when he was 60. Still, he’s running this year’s race with reaching Auburn in under the 30-hour cut-off time as his main goal.

“The chances of me finishing WSER aren’t good, but I keep waiting for one of those magical days, like at WSER in 2001, where I came in 17 seconds under 24 hours,” said a thoughtful Ainsleigh. “Those days happen. I’m not done yet.”

As for the crew at WSER, they are also glad he qualified.

“We feel it’s really important to have a well-defined and transparent process so that everyone can see exactly how everything is done,” Medinger said. “But it’s also important to have a heart, and to have the ability to be a bit flexible when it comes to someone who is so entwined with the history of the race. We’re really delighted he got the job done and look forward to having him in the race again in June.”

Ainsleigh will be covering the route from Squaw Valley to Auburn to prove that life is good and encouraging others to get as much out of it as they can.

“In his early years, the Buddha was a river crossing guy,” he said. “That’s how I feel about my life. I’m helping people cross a river to a new way of living.”

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Chasing Rio, Part 2: Meb’s Support System http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/chasing-rio-part-2-mebs-support-system_144840 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/chasing-rio-part-2-mebs-support-system_144840#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 23:05:43 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144840

Watch as we follow Meb on his last long run before the Trials.

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The second episode of “Chasing Rio: Meb’s Road to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials” presented by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series follows Meb Keflezighi during his final long run before the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. We also take a deeper look into Meb’s support system that helps him chase his dream of being an elite distance runner.

Stay tuned for more episodes of “Chasing Rio” leading up to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Los Angeles on Feb 13.

RELATED: Chasing Rio, Part 1: Meb’s Quest for Rio

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

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Boston-Bound: Focus On Building Strength With 10 Weeks To Go http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/training/boston-bound-10-weeks-out_144812 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/training/boston-bound-10-weeks-out_144812#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:25:13 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144812

Photo: PhotoRun.net

Coach Greg McMillan talks about the best workouts for weeks 3 and 4, or 9 and 10 weeks out from race day.

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Photo: PhotoRun.net

In the first article in this series, you learned the ideal workouts for this early stage in the training. You were also encouraged to seek out routes that mimic the Boston course since you’ll need to do lots of course-specific running in the coming weeks. And, if you need to lose a few pounds to reach your ideal racing weight, now—while we’re still in the early part of the training plan—is a great time to do so.

In this second article, let’s talk about the best workouts for weeks 3 and 4, or 9 and 10 weeks out from race day.

I want to reiterate that I’m just going to present the key workouts and long runs in each week. Each reader will be different in the number of runs completed each week, so I’ll let you fill in the other easy runs, cross-training and off days based on your usual running schedule.

Week 3

Our focus with 10 weeks to go until race day continues to be on improving VO2max, leg turnover, leg strength and mental toughness. I suggest another hill workout and a long run for this week. Advanced runners accustomed to doing two workouts and a long run each week can do another progression run as we did in Week 1. The main difference in this week’s workouts is that we’ll do a few more hill repeats and extend the total time of the progression run.

Workout No. 1: Hill Repeats. Warm up with 15-30 minutes of easy jogging, then run 8 to 12 times up a moderately sloped hill (6-8 percent grade) at 5K effort or harder for 60 to 75 seconds. Jog back down the hill as recovery between repeats, then cool down with 15-30 minutes of easy jogging.

Workout No. 2 (advanced runners): Progression Run. Run easy for 70-90 minutes with the last 10-20 minutes at a slightly faster pace (around tempo effort).

Long Run: 2:00-2:30 for sub-3 hour marathoners; 2:30-3:00 for 3+ hour marathoners.

Again, your goal is to complete these long runs on as little external sugar as possible. Slow-release carbohydrates are acceptable to get you through the run (if you need them), but try to limit fast-acting sugars like gels and sports drinks. We are trying to teach your body to become ultra-efficient at using your internal energy stores. We’ll practice race fueling later in the training cycle but for now, we want to limit fueling.

RELATED: Carbohydrate Manipulation For Better Performance

We also want your brain to get used to running in a fatigued and low-fuel state, so that on race day your brain won’t perceive marathon fatigue as anything it hasn’t experienced before. According to the “central governor” and other psychological models, your brain won’t “cut the power” to the working muscles. A happy brain = less fatigue and more power.

Week 4

If you’ve followed my advice over the years, you know that every few weeks, I suggest you take a “down” week where you reduce the training volume by 15-20 percent to allow the musculoskeletal (the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and fascia—the tissues runners most often injure) and the mental systems to catch up and stay fresh and ready. An example would be if you normally run 40 miles per week, cut this week back to around 30-35 miles. You can accomplish this by omitting an entire run (i.e., take an extra rest day) or reducing the duration of some runs across the week. It’s your call.

In this down week, I have my athletes do their first “test” workout. It’s called a Steady State run (check out the McMillan Calculator to get your exact pace) and it’s a continuous run at an easy to medium effort. This pace is slightly faster than your easy run pace but isn’t as fast as a tempo run.

Steady state runs test your aerobic threshold. The aerobic threshold isn’t as well known as the lactate or anaerobic threshold but it’s vitally important for marathoners. It’s the point where lactate begins to gradually rise in your blood. This is in contrast to the lactate/anaerobic threshold, which is the point where lactate begins to rise rapidly.

When running at your easy run pace, lactate levels are low, barely above resting levels, because the lactate shuttle is removing the lactate as fast as it’s being produced. As you transition from your easy run pace to steady state pace, your lactate levels increase but only slightly. If we stay in this zone, the lactate shuttle gets a good workout and this is exactly what we’d like to see. If you run faster, e.g., tempo run pace, then the lactate shuttle reaches maximum capacity. We’d like to stay away from that in this steady state run and for marathoners, efficiency in the lactate shuttle is really important.

Workout No. 1: Steady State Run. Warm up with 5-10 minutes of easy jogging, then run 30-45 minutes at steady state pace. Cool down for 5-10 minutes when you’re done. Resist the temptation to progress to tempo run pace. Keep it easy-medium for the entire run and try to see how easily you can run at steady state pace.

Workout No. 2 (advanced runners): Progression Run. Run easy for 70-90 minutes with the last 10-20 minutes at a slightly faster pace (around tempo effort).

Long Run: 90-minute Progression Run. In this recovery week, I suggest you run a shorter long run. But, instead of just running easy, pick up the pace every 30 minutes. Start the run slower than you normally would and 30 minutes into it, progress to your usual long run pace. Finally, in the last 30 minutes. pick up the pace a little more (the effort will feel like your steady state pace). It’s a fun, shorter long run to finish off your recovery week.

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Brooks Prints Elite Marathoner Trading Cards http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/elite-marathoner-trading-cards_144802 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/elite-marathoner-trading-cards_144802#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:11:00 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144802

Brooks put out a set of promotional trading cards to highlight its runners in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon race on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.

A few interesting tidbits are on the back of each card.

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Brooks put out a set of promotional trading cards to highlight its runners in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon race on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.

For the past several years, Brooks has produced promotional trading cards for the track athletes and marathoners it sponsors. (Think baseball cards, only with runners!) Here’s a look at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials trading cards set. In each pack, there are 15 cards with a glittery, holographic background (but no bubble gum sticks!) highlighting Brooks runners such as Desiree Linden, a 2012 Olympic marathoner, and Ryan Vail, one of the fastest U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiers with a 2:10:57 PR. On the back of each card, the athlete’s nickname, racing style, PRs, Twitter handle and other details are called out. Here’s a sampling of some of the best ones:

Desiree Linden’s Walk Up Song: “Sympathy for the Devil,” The Rolling Stones

Ryan Vail’s Race-Day Hashtag: #PutOnYourBigBoyPants

Katie Kellner’s Celebratory Drink: The tears of my competitors.

Jen Rock’s Racing Style: Blissful, Salty, Mysterious

Bobby Curtis’s nickname: “Ole Tex”

Luke Humphrey’s nickname: “Mr. Pants”

Dot McMahan’s Celebratory Drink: Belgian wit beer

Clint Verran’s Nickname: Old Man Verran

Melanie Brender’s Race-Day Hashtag: “I prefer race-day hash browns”

Melissa Johnson-White’s Celebratory Drink: Dirty Martini

Mohammed Hrezi’s Nickname: Mo Daddy

Desiree Linden’s Race-Day Hashtag: #DEStinationaRIO

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

RELATED: How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13

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Watch the Trailer for Season 5 of Salomon Running TV http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/watch-the-trailer-for-season-5-of-salomon-running-tv_144813 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/video/watch-the-trailer-for-season-5-of-salomon-running-tv_144813#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 17:42:33 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144813

The acclaimed series Salomon Running TV is back in 2016 with 11 new short films following runners around the world, in places like Japan,

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The acclaimed series Salomon Running TV is back in 2016 with 11 new short films following runners around the world, in places like Japan, Alaska, Iceland, Utah and more.

Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect this year. The first episode is expected to launch on March 1.

 

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Skechers Extends Contract With Meb Keflezighi Through 2023 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/skechers-extends-contract-with-meb-keflezighi-through-2023_144787 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/skechers-extends-contract-with-meb-keflezighi-through-2023_144787#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 00:32:35 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144787

Meb Keflezighi's 2014 Boston Marathon win—in Skechers shoes and apparel—was a groundbreaking moment in U.S. running.

Meb Kefelzighi and Skechers are staying together for another seven years. Skechers Performance announced Monday that they have extended

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Meb Keflezighi's 2014 Boston Marathon win—in Skechers shoes and apparel—was a groundbreaking moment in U.S. running.

Meb Kefelzighi and Skechers are staying together for another seven years.

Skechers Performance announced Monday that they have extended its sponsorship deal with Keflezighi through 2023. Skechers will remain Meb’s official footwear and apparel sponsor and will continue to feature Keflezighi in marketing campaigns. It will also work with the 40-year-old on footwear introductions.

“Being 40 years old and training for the Olympic Trials is a huge achievement and Skechers Performance has helped make this possible,” Keflezighi said in a release. “They know what it means to be a partner and working with the brand to help create the best running shoes possible has been a rewarding experience. It’s not something many athletes have the opportunity to do.”

Keflezighi first signed with Skechers in late 2011, and he has had great success since then. He won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Houston, then finished fourth in the London Olympics marathon. Less than two years later, he won the 2014 Boston Marathon wearing his namesake Skechers GoMeb Speed 3. He is currently set to compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon on Saturday, where he’s one of the favorites to make the Olympic team. He will again wear a version of GoMeb Speed 3s in Los Angeles.

Keflezighi is the only runner in history to win the Boston Marathon (2014), New York City Marathon (2009) and an Olympic medal (silver medal, 2004 Olympic marathon).

“Working with Meb has been an incredible journey and we are truly honored to have not only a star athlete on our team, but an inspirational person,” said Rick Higgins, SVP of Merchandising/Marketing for Skechers Performance. “Meb’s motivation is contagious. Anyone that has the pleasure of meeting him knows what I mean. He is a phenomenal role model, an essential ambassador to the sport, and a champion on and off the course. We are excited to continue working with Meb, as he has truly become a part of the Skechers’ family.”

RELATED: Meb + Skechers = Huge Success Story

 

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First New Balance Run Hub Opens in Boulder’s Flatirons Running http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/shoes-and-gear/new-balance-unveils-first-nb-run-hub-store_144642 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/shoes-and-gear/new-balance-unveils-first-nb-run-hub-store_144642#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 23:19:00 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144642

Henry Guzman and Sarah Rebick inside the new Flatirons Running New Balance Run Hub store in Boulder, Colo. Photo: Brian Metzler

Just as recreational running and retail buying patterns have changed in recent years, so too have running stores.

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Henry Guzman and Sarah Rebick inside the new Flatirons Running New Balance Run Hub store in Boulder, Colo. Photo: Brian Metzler

Most people would expect great service and the best new shoes and gear at their local running store. But what about a Strava leaderboard that highlights local challenges, a custom footbed service, the chance to get some physical therapy work done, plush leather chairs to hang out in and, oh, free coffee too?

Just as recreational running and retail buying patterns have changed in recent years, so too have running stores. While there are still many mom and pop type stores that thrive as they did 20 years ago, the most modern of running specialty shops in the U.S. combine leading-edge elements of design, technology, functionality and comfort and to engage and sustain its local running community.

Instead of merely being a place to buy shoes and apparel, the best running stores in the U.S. are becoming places to hang out and interact with other runners—through events like happy hour fun runs, athlete Q&As, high school spike nights, local training club workouts and even running book club gatherings.

In a nutshell, that’s the vibe behind the New Balance Run Hub store that was unveiled recently within Flatirons Running Company in Boulder, Colo. It’s a unique set-up to be sure. While one side of the store sells shoes and apparel from numerous brands, the other side is essentially a massive New Balance concept store. It’s a unique mix that blends everything a running shop normally sells from a wide range of brands—shoes, apparel, accessories, nutrition—with an amazing, state-of-the-sport New Balance showroom, a comfortable sitting area, complimentary coffee bar, treadmills for gait analysis and training runs and physical therapy and massage treatment rooms.

It’s not the first running shop to combine some of those elements, but few stores rival the stunning layout, atmosphere and amenities of this one.

The newly redesigned store held its grand opening party on Feb. 6, but the idea has been in the works for more than a year. Flatirons Running opened in August 2014 as a 3,000-square-foot shop, but with the addition and remodel the entire space is now about 7,800 square feet (including backshop storage and offices). New Balance invested heavily in the makeover and expansion of the original shop (made possible when a fly fishing store moved from the adjacent space), but Flatirons Running owners Henry Guzman, R.L. Smith and Tricia Vieth are the ones responsible for making it profitable.

“It’s all about community,” Guzman says. “But it’s more than just selling shoes and gear. It has to be. You want people to feel comfortable so they can meet other runners there, sit down and talk about a trail run, plan for a race or just hang out and stretch for a bit.”

PHOTOS: A Look Inside Flatirons Running New Balance Run Hub

The exquisitely re-designed shop includes locally sourced fixtures—including a reclaimed wood New Balance sign and coffee table—and local scenic imagery that highlights Team New Balance athletes (and Boulder residents) Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn and Mirinda Carfrae. The Flatirons Running New Balance Run Hub also features the custom footbed business of Flatirons co-owner R.L. Smith, who had operated his InStep business in the original space since 2009.

While the newly remade store is still focused on community, it’s also aimed at gaining a bigger foothold in the competitive Boulder marketplace, as well as serving as a testing ground for initiatives and products New Balance could develop on a national or global scale, said New Balance executive vice president Chris Ladd, who helped oversee the project.

“For us as a brand to re-establish our leadership position in running in an iconic town like Boulder that has so much great running heritage and history, it’s really important to build that community, re-connect with consumers,” Ladd said recently. “And what a better place to launch our innovative products and what better partners than the team at Flatirons Running to help us do it.

RELATED: New Balance Signs Historic Deal With New York Road Runners

Boulder is a smallish city with a population of about 100,000, but it is known as one of the most active cities in the U.S. It’s been one of the country’s most influential running hubs since the early 1970s, when Olympic champion marathoner Frank Shorter made it his training base. Boulder has three other great running shops with notable prominence: Boulder Running Company, the large flagship store for the Denver-based Running Specialty Group’s national network of stores; Fleet Feet Boulder, recently purchased by Boulder Track Club boss and former Australian Olympian Lee Troop and being redesigned with the help of Fleet Feet’s corporate team; and the stunning Newton Running shop on Pearl Street mall, which is operated by Newton’s Boulder-based world headquarters.

One of the most fascinating elements at the remodeled Flatirons store is a new digitally enhanced running community New Balance is rolling out in various communities later this year. Called The New Balance Run Club powered by Strava, it will feature digital and physical running community experiences, in which local runners will be encouraged participate in group and individual training programs for key running events, weekly challenges and local running routes. Runners can compete with peers within the local Boulder running community and see the results on a digital leaderboard inside the store.

New Balance plans to roll out more Run Hub stores in the near future, including one partnered with the New York Road Runners adjacent to Central Park in New York City.

“We have bold aspirations of being a top-three global athletic brand that has its core, its heritage and its authenticity in running,” Ladd said. “What we love to say is that all athletes run in their sport, whether it’s for training or while competing. If we continue to establish our leadership position in building great products for the best athletes in the world, then we can compete on that level.”

VIDEO: Beer & Running—A Running Store with 20 Beer Taps

RELATED: The 50 Best Running Stores of the Year for 2015

 

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Coach Brad Hudson Hoping To Help Elevate American Marathoning http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/brad-hudson-hoping-to-elevate-american-marathoning_144557 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/brad-hudson-hoping-to-elevate-american-marathoning_144557#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 21:55:44 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144557

Brad Hudson leads a workout in Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Brian Metzler

The 48-year-old coach believes it's only a matter of time before there are more sub-2:10 and mid-to-low 2:20-type women.

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Brad Hudson leads a workout in Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Brian Metzler

Brad Hudson of Boulder, Colo., isn’t shy about sharing training information, and heading into the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, he’s hoping that his open-book policy can help elevate the status of marathoning in the United States—even if it takes a few more years.

“I think that Americans are training very hard and smart,” contends the 49-year-old Hudson. “I just wish there were a little more dialogue. The information is there—that’s why I put the Little Black Book out—but I’ve always felt that if coaches would be willing to share a little more, we’d all be better because of it. Some of the athletes are pretty open with what they’re doing and I like seeing that stuff. I think we’re on the right track, but I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

Hudson, ever the stickler for details when it comes to marathon training, is wrapping up a six-week pre-Trials training camp in Henderson, Nev., with some of the members of his Hudson Elite squad. He’s focused on putting his athletes on track for a solid showing in L.A., but in order to do so, he felt it was important to get away from their high altitude base for a bit so they could better dial in the specific demands of the event. Boulder is situated at 5,400 feet above sea level, whereas Henderson sits at 1,330 feet.

“Altitude is great and Boulder is one of the best places in the country to train,” explains Hudson, who will have eight athletes competing in Los Angeles. “And for a marathon buildup, it really works for the first half or three quarters of the training, but in order to take the mystery out the specific endurance workouts, I felt it was important to go down [to lower elevation] for a few weeks beforehand.”

RELATED: An Excerpt from Coach Brad Hudson’s Little Black Book 

Hudson and his crew rented a house in Henderson, and they have been training in the area since early January. They’ll drive from the desert to L.A. for the Trials before heading back to Boulder, where Hudson has been working to fulfill his vision of a training center that can support elite athletes—who in turn can support the local community. In fact, it was the support of the local running community—many of whom are coached by Hudson’s athletes—that helped make his squad’s pre-Trials training camp possible.

“We mostly raised the money through community coaching,” explains Hudson. “All of those funds come back to the team. We also had some donations and raised $10,000 at our gala a couple months ago. We’re probably about two years away from being a really good club that can cover more things for the athletes, but we’re starting to cover more things, like medical expenses, blood work, massage and whatnot. Are we there yet? No, but we’re a lot closer.”

Of Hudson’s eight qualifiers for this year’s marathon trials, four of them are based in Boulder as part of his Hudson Elite training group and meet with him on a regular basis for workouts. Those athletes include Adams State alum Matt Daniels, who will be making his marathon debut in L.A., and qualified with a 63:43 clocking at the Rock ’n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon last fall; Kara Lubieniecki and Addie Bracy, who ran “A” qualifiers of 2:35:25 and 2:35:55, respectively, at the Cal International Marathon in 2014; and Claudia Becque, a three-time Trials qualifier with a 2:39:12 personal best. Fernando Cabada, who was seventh at the 2012 Trials in a then personal best of 2:11:53, is Hudson’s fastest charge, followed by Carlos Trujillo, who owns a 2:14 personal best. Tera Moody, who was fifth at the 2008 Trials, and two-time Trials qualifier Rachel Jaten of Spokane, are the other two non-Boulder-based exceptions to Hudson’s crew.

“Brad is literally a genius when it comes to marathon training,” says Cabada, who has been bouncing between altitude training in Mexico and sea-level work in his hometown of Fresno, Calif., in preparation for this year’s Trials. “Not only has he had experience on an elite level, he has also done the research. I trust him just off that information alone, but also because he has one of the biggest hearts in the world. He loves to help athletes and has never been in it for the money.”

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Coaching for the love of the sport and sustaining an elite racing team fulfills a vision Hudson has had since his early days as a coach. “I knew I wanted to coach from day one,” says Hudson, who in the past has coached U.S. Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Jorge Torres, along with Australian Olympian Benita Willis and American marathoner Jason Hartmann, among others. “And once I started coaching, I knew that I wanted an elite training group someday. I wanted it to be on the lines of a professional cycling team without the bad stuff [doping]. It takes time to get the right people. I have some great people around me who all share the same vision and they’re putting stuff together for members to utilize five or six years down the road. I’m thankful that I have people who are on the same page with this vision.”

As an athlete, the hard-working Hudson—who was coached by current University of Colorado headman Mark Wetmore as a grade-schooler—would go on to set a national high school record in the indoor 5,000m as a junior, and later garnered multiple All-American honors at the University of Oregon. He set his marathon personal best of 2:13:24 at Cal International in 1990, the high point of a professional career that was cut short by injury and burnout.

A lifelong student of the sport, Hudson knew he would always make his mark in coaching. In addition to Wetmore, he’s had other top-level mentors along the way, including Pat Clohessey, Arturo Barrios, Mike Manley and Bill Dellinger, among others.

“I was always asking people about training and studying training, and even in high school I was kind of coaching myself a lot, getting workouts from different people,” recalls Hudson, who counts Italian coach Renato Canova, who has led many of Kenya’s top marathoners to world-leading times and high-podium finishes with his specific approach to marathon training, as his biggest influence. “My favorite thing when I was a kid was to read from the training logs of Runner’s World. You never know if you’ll be a decent coach until you actually coach, but I never gave it a second thought that I wouldn’t be coaching.”

RELATED: Coach Brad Hudson’s 1-2-3-2-1 Fartlek Workout

Hudson has had athletes compete in the last three Olympic Games. In 2012, 11 of his athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, with three of those runners—Cabada (7th), James Carney (9th) and Patrick Rizzo (13th)—finishing in the top-15. Despite his own athletes’ successes and improvements, however, Hudson’s ultimate goal is to help elevate the status of American marathoning on the global level. Never one to be shy about sharing training information, Hudson, who still tries to spend an hour a day studying training, believes more runners need to specialize in the marathon from earlier on in their careers to be successful at it. Mastery takes time he says, and so does adapting to the specific demands of marathon training. He also believes that coaches and athletes need to continue emphasizing consistently high training volume, demanding race-specific workouts and an intimate understanding of the role that fueling plays on race day.

“I think it’s a very, very hard event because the training matters,” Hudson told me last summer. “It matters a lot, more so than probably most other events. You can’t get by just on talent because you’ll run out of fuel. The training very much matters.”

“The biggest lesson I have learned working with Brad is that marathon training is hard,” admits Cabada. “I mean, really hard.”

American marathoners are heading in the right direction, Hudson says, and more and more coaches and athletes are realizing what it takes to be world-class in the event. He believes it’s only a matter of time before there are more sub-2:10 and mid-to-low 2:20-type women competing at an international level.

“The only thing we really haven’t been great at is the marathon,” contends Hudson. “And I’m really hoping I can make a difference in that in the next 10 years.”

RELATED: Last Lap with Brad Hudson

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How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/how-to-watch-the-2016-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_144478 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/how-to-watch-the-2016-u-s-olympic-trials-marathon_144478#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 21:32:42 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144478

Photo: PhotoRun.net

A look at your options for watching the Olympic Trials marathon.

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Photo: PhotoRun.net

Coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon is better than it’s ever been in 2016. For the first time, both races will air live on network television, in addition to streaming options, through NBC.

Television

NBC will have three hours of live coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT on Saturday, Feb. 13 (1 p.m. ET). The men’s race will start at 10:06 a.m. in Los Angeles, with the women taking off at 10:22 a.m.

Online

NBC will also live stream the race via the free NBC Sports Live Extra app. You can download the app for free to your smartphone or tablet, and it’s also on platforms like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. To access the content, you need to provide login credentials from your television provider. On web browsers, the stream is available at nbcsports.com/live-extra.

In Person

If you’re going to be spectating in Los Angeles, the course setup assures that you’ll see a lot of action. You can line up in one spot along the Figueroa Street Corridor and see the runners pass several times in the span of two-plus hours. The start and finish is in downtown next to the LA Convention Center. A bulk of the race is along Figueroa Street between 11th and 34th Street.

Attendance is free. Inside the LA Convention Center is the health & fitness expo for the next day’s Los Angeles Marathon. It is free and open to the public as well.

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

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Western States Endurance Run Announces Zero-Tolerance Doping Policy http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/western-states-endurance-run-announces-zero-tolerance-doping-policy_144710 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/western-states-endurance-run-announces-zero-tolerance-doping-policy_144710#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 21:15:25 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144710

Runners tackling Western State's first climb up the Escarpment as the sun rises in the background. Photo: Matt Trappe

The announcement comes after two recent uproars surrounding convicted dopers.

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Runners tackling Western State's first climb up the Escarpment as the sun rises in the background. Photo: Matt Trappe

Following growing concerns and conversations around doping in ultrarunning, members of the Western States Endurance Run Foundation Board of Trustees on Saturday voted unanimously to adopt the following new performance rule, now known as “Performance Rule 18,” which reads:

“The Western States Endurance Run has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Any athlete who has been determined to have violated anti-doping rules or policies, whether enforced by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), or any other national sports federation is ineligible for entry into the Western States Endurance Run.

“The Western States Endurance Run reserves the right to conduct pre- and post-competition testing for any and all performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) listed on the current WADA Prohibited List. Any athlete who refuses to submit to anti-doping controls, if selected for testing, shall be disqualified and subject to a lifetime ban from the Western States Endurance Run.”

The announcement comes two months after the uproar surrounding Italian trail runner Elise Desco’s participation at The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships. Desco failed a drug test following the world mountain running championships in 2009, testing positive for EPO, and subsequently served a two-year ban from the IAAF. That ban was up in August 2012 and she has been eligible to compete since. At the TNF50, Desco’s participation was scrutinized by athletes and fans alike on social media. On race day, fans hounded her along the course before she eventually dropped out.

“My final thought is races like The North Face Endurance Challenge need to have the anti-doping tests, at least for the podium finishers,” Desco told competitor.com in December. “The few money for this it’s only an excuse, because it’s enough to cut some prices and eventually add 5 dollars at the entry fee of anyone to find more money. But maybe it’s easier to pull me out from the race and let people run that you never know if they run clean.”

Less than two weeks after Desco’s participation at the TNF50, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s win at a low-key 35K trail race in California only added gas to the doping-fueled fire. Armstrong, who is serving a lifetime ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is slated to take part in a Western States training run in Auburn, Calif., on Feb. 13.

“I think it’s going to be funny to watch and see how people react,” five-time Western States champion Tim Twietmeyer, who is also a board member for the race, recently told the Sacramento Bee regarding Armstrong’s participation in the training run.

Per Western States’ new policy, Armstrong will never be allowed to compete in the actual Western States race, but unofficial, untimed training runs do not appear to fall under Performance Rule 18’s jurisdiction.

Western States “Performance Rule 18” is similar to the World Marathon Major’s anti-doping policy regarding convicted dopers, which states, “In addition to any punishment imposed by the IAAF, national federation or any national anti-doping agency or government, any runner who has been found by such body to have committed a doping offence (at any competition or out of competition) past, present or future, shall be disqualified from the Event and lose eligibility for and has been subject to a ban of 3 months or more, shall be banned from all AWMM Events for life unless otherwise agreed by the AWMM and be ineligible any time to receive any AWMM prize money or AWMM points.”

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Photos: Beachside Running at the 2016 Surf City Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/photos/photos-beachside-running-at-the-2016-surf-city-marathon_144672 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/photos/photos-beachside-running-at-the-2016-surf-city-marathon_144672#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 19:52:14 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144672

The beachside marathon in Southern California had its 20th running on Sunday.

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The 2016 Surf City Marathon took runners on a tour of the Orange County coastline in Southern California for its 20th running on Sunday.

About eight miles of the marathon is along a beachfront running path in Huntington Beach, Calif., ensuring spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. As is custom with the race, all finishers of the marathon and half marathon received a unique surfboard medal.

Here are some photos from the race, courtesy of the Surf City Marathon:

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Jared Ward Takes Winding Road to U.S. Olympic Trials http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/jared-ward-takes-winding-road-to-u-s-olympic-trials_144481 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/olympic-trials/jared-ward-takes-winding-road-to-u-s-olympic-trials_144481#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:08:31 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144481

Ward competing at the Houston Half Marathon in 2015. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Jared Ward is on the short list of contenders, but his rise was anything but ordinary.

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Ward competing at the Houston Half Marathon in 2015. Photo: PhotoRun.net

It’s a little recruiting trick that Ed Eyestone pulls out on occasion. Little did he know that it may come full circle, 10 years later.

In 2006, Eyestone, the cross country coach at BYU, went to Kaysville, Utah, for an in-home visit with a state-champion runner named Jared Ward. As Eyestone came into the house, Ward right away noticed the bling on the coach’s finger.

“This ring,” Ward says, “that had the Olympic rings on it.”

“I don’t pull it out often,” Eyestone says with a laugh.

Eyestone was a 1988 and 1992 Olympic marathoner with a résumé that puts him among the greatest marathoners in U.S. history.

The ring wasn’t the deciding factor in Ward eventually choosing BYU, but the choice to follow Eyestone was indisputably the right one for him. A decade later, Ward is now trying to get an Olympic berth of his own in the marathon—and Eyestone is still coaching him.

“It’s nice, and like I say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” says Eyestone, 54. “We’ve had some success working together.”

Ward’s rise to the short list of contenders in the Feb. 13 U.S. Olympic Trials is far from ordinary. He committed to BYU, but before enrolling he went to Pittsburgh for two years on a Mormon mission, where he barely did any running and actually gained 20 pounds. But the time away from running taught Ward a lot that helps him to this day.

“There are very few people that are excited to get into a big conversation about deity on their doorstep,” says Ward, 27. “It’s certainly a trying experience in terms of stamina and emotional resiliency. I feel like I really grew up in those two years. Anything that I lost (with not running) at the time I think was gained in other life lessons that I learned. It gave me a lot of perspective.”

Ward then enrolled at BYU and quickly flourished under Eyestone’s watch. But he soon made headlines for being ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to his participation in a fun run between his mission and enrollment at BYU. Expected to lose the 2013 cross country season as a result, Ward instead ran the Chicago Marathon that fall, finishing in a very respectable 2:16:17.

Soon after, though, the NCAA reversed their ruling and reinstated Ward’s college eligibility. So he ran the NCAA cross country championships a month after the Chicago Marathon and still earned All-America honors with a 36th-place finish, helping the Cougars finish fourth.

Which brings us to 2015, when Ward really broke out as an elite distance runner. At the L.A. Marathon last March (which served as the U.S. marathon championships), Ward finished third overall in 2:12:56 (a new PR by 64 seconds) and first among Americans, claiming the national title. He followed it up with U.S. championship wins in the 20K and 25K as well, capturing the 2015 USA Running Circuit title alongside Molly Huddle’s women’s title.

In the middle of all that, Ward finished his masters degree in statistics (with a thesis on pacing strategies in the marathon) and continued to raise his two children in Provo, Utah, with wife Erica. Oh yeah, and he teaches a couple of statistics classes at BYU.

So, yes, overall an unusual ascent for Ward. But make no mistake—he’s a true contender at the Olympic Trials marathon, and his training for the Feb. 13 race has gone as good as he could have hoped.

“Things have gone really well in this buildup,” says Ward, who’s sponsored by Saucony and GLUKOS. “I’d say this (buildup) screamed consistent all the way through. It’s been a very healthy block of mileage and training. We’re trying to capitalize on things that worked well last year going into L.A. and add things where we can in other areas. I feel good. I’m excited.”

The Olympic Trials race will be his fourth marathon, and the first three progressed two minutes from one to the next—2:16:17 in Chicago to 2:14:10 at Twin Cities in 2014 to the 2:12:56 in hot weather in L.A.—and if he continues that progression, he’ll find himself close to his coach’s PR of 2:10:59. For now, Ward owns the 15th fastest marathon time in the trials field. But Eyestone is confident that a repeat performance like his 2015 L.A. Marathon result would be enough to put Ward on the Olympic team.

Ward is a little more reserved about his chances, but is eager to see how it all plays out.

“It’s always hard to say, depending on weather and spur-of-the-moment decisions from some runners,” Ward says. “I think there’s certainly a talented debuting crowd, and then veterans who have done it a bunch of times, and then you have a few guys like me who have run a couple of marathons and are trying to make it to that next level.

“I see the race going out to an early, honest pace and then being a war of attrition. But it’s hard to say. You never know what the other guys are thinking. “

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Molly Huddle, Ben True to Run 2016 NYC Half http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/molly-huddle-ben-true-to-run-2016-nyc-half_144649 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/molly-huddle-ben-true-to-run-2016-nyc-half_144649#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:52:16 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144649

Molly Huddle and Ben True after winning the 2015 B.A.A. 5K. Photo: Scott Draper.

Huddle is back to defend her title, while True is making his half marathon debut.

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Molly Huddle and Ben True after winning the 2015 B.A.A. 5K. Photo: Scott Draper.

The NYC Half on March 20 will feature two prominent American runners leading the field—Molly Huddle and Ben True.

Huddle will be defending her title after tying the course record (1:08:31) last year, becoming the first American winner in the 10-year history of the race. In addition to her NYC Half win, she won six national titles in 2015—5K, 10K, 12K, 10-mile and 20K on the roads, and the 10,000m on the track.

Huddle is aiming for a spot on her second Olympic team this year, after qualifying in 2012 in the 5,000m.

“The strong field will be challenging, but I hope to start off the Olympic year on a high note, and to return to New York City for a few more races along the road to Rio!” Huddle said in a release.

True, 30, is coming off a breakout year in 2015. He set the U.S. 5K road mark at the B.A.A. 5K, won the Healthy Kidney 10K in New York, and finished fifth in the 5,000m at the IAAF World Championships. It will be his first half marathon.

“I am very excited to run my first half marathon in the Big Apple,” True said. “New York City was great to me last year, and here’s to hoping the trend continues!”

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Father Sets World Record, Wins Half Marathon Pushing Stroller http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/man-sets-world-record-wins-half-marathon-pushing-stroller_144584 http://running.competitor.com/2016/02/news/man-sets-world-record-wins-half-marathon-pushing-stroller_144584#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 06:30:27 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=144584

Photo: Bill Baumeyer/Bayou City Half Marathon Series.

The 31-year-old will have to submit evidence to Guinness.

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Photo: Bill Baumeyer/Bayou City Half Marathon Series.

Calum Neff had his sights set on a Guinness World Record soon after his second daughter, Holland, was born.

With Holland about to celebrate her first birthday, Calum pulled it off Saturday. He won the Katy Half Marathon in Texas in a time of 1:11:27, which is believed to be a world record for a half marathon pushing a stroller.

The previous record, according to the Guinness World Records website, was set in 2013 by Travis Boyd and his 1-year-old daughter in 1:13:50.

Neff, 31, will have to submit the evidence to Guinness to get the record verified, and there’s plenty of proof—his stroller was set up with a GoPro, he Periscoped almost the entire race, and he has the Strava data to prove it, too. He ran with a Thule Glide, noting that “Guinness rules say it must be a stock commercially available push stroller, no modifications.”

Neff is an operations manager for an oilfield service company, and with his wife Julie has a 3-year-old daughter, Alessandra, along with almost-1-year-old Holland (who was technically the real winner of the race, right?). He ran collegiately for the University of Houston and according to Strava has PRs of 1:08 in the half marathon and 2:22 in the marathon. He’s also run several ultras and competes at shorter distances, as well. He is sponsored by Altra.

“The stroller gives mom a break and gets my girls outside which they love,” Neff said. “I wanted to show that being a Dad and running competitively can both happen, and to promote people to get out with their kids.”

RELATED: A Jogging Stroller Unlike Any You’ve Seen

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