Month: March 2014

Ali and Rocky

Stallion and Butterfly – Rocky and Ali

“Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.” ~ Rocky

“I run on the road long before I dance under the lights.” –Muhammad Ali

As different as these two boxers were, they had one thing in common: they ran to get ready for their battles. And in the case of the fictional character of Rocky, he inspired whole legions of runners who celebrate his training run to this day.

So you might be asking yourself, why do boxers run, or “do roadwork”, anyways? It’s all about having a good foundation. Roadwork builds your stamina, stamina allows you to have longer and more intense sparring sessions, good sparring sessions make you into a great boxer. So both the butterfly and the stallion needed to put in the miles before stepping into the ring – one needed the stamina to dance around his opponents, the other needed the stamina to keep coming straight at them.

Ali doing situpsLet’s start with the butterfly. As smooth a talker and as handsome a man as Ali believed he was, he knew the value of hard work. His training sessions are legendary and he has shared some good advice about working on your core – as we know a strong core makes a strong runner. When he was asked about how many sit ups he did, he said: “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. That is when I start counting, because then it really counts. That’s what makes you a champion.” 

When it comes to running, Muhammed’s famous fight preparation for the rumble in the jungle comes to mind. You see the kids running alongside him. They are learning about hard work and the discipline it takes to win. He is getting his body and mind ready for a battle against the most powerful puncher the world of boxing has ever seen. 

Now, lets talk about Rocky. With this dude … it’s personal. I was nine or ten when I saw the first Rocky movie. Right after the movie I ran from one end of my town to the other, shadow boxing along the way. It was the first time I really felt bliss while running. To this day, when the running gets tough, I sing a little bit of the “Eye of the Tiger” (am I alone here?), and keep on trucking. 

Rocky might be a fictional character but his movie has inspired real people to run. Running fans have analyzed the famous training run from Rocky’s movie and documented it here. The entire route is over 30 miles. There is even an official event to celebrate the run that changed lives.

Rocky over bench


rocky celebrating

As Ali’s career and the Rocky movies have taught us, you need to run to be a champion boxer. Running also seems to be the medicine that calms and focuses a fighter before the big event. So get out there, run, and get ready for your next challenge.

The Mighty Czech Locomotive

The Mighty Czech Locomotive – Emil Zátopek

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” ~ Emil Zátopek

Emil lived behind the iron curtain in Czechoslovakia. I grew up behind the iron curtain in Poland. Emil is known for for his contorted facial expression and wide swinging stride. I have been known to look tortured while on the run. Emil was named The Greatest Runner of All Time (PDF) by Runner’s World Magazine. I sometimes read Runner’s World Magazine. 

While I grasp at having things in common with Emil, I fall far short with regards to the dedication, accomplishment and spirit embodied by Emil Zátopek. He was simply awesome and I dare you to read this post and not run out and buy a picture of Zátopek and display it prominently in your home. Good luck.

Emil became a runner quite late in life by today’s standard. He was 18 and working in a shoe factory when the factory’s sports coach ordered him to partake in a race. He tried to get out of running, complaining of not feeling well and not being in good enough shape to compete. The coach was not so easily detered, he sent Emil to the doctor who gave him a stamp of approval and off he went to the races. He finished second out of the pool of 100. More importantly a seed was planted. He was “in” … “ALL IN!”

Once in, he took the rational attitude towards the sport: “Running is easily understandable: you must be fast enough and you must have enough endurance,” he said. “So you run fast for speed and repeat it many times for endurance.” And that is precisely what his routine looked like. Except  he took it to new heights. And even in the hardcore old-timer’s era of training – where there were plenty of stories of athletes running until they passed out, going to sleep in a ditch, waking up and continuing to run – his regiment was fearsome. He took speed work to another level. For him 40×400 were routine, he would escalate that to 50×400, 60×400 and in extreme times 100x400s (that’s 25 miles of speed work in a day). He ran in heavy work boots in the snow. He even ran tempo runs with his wife (an olympic gold medalist in the javelin) on his back. Here are a few words of wisdom from Emil:

Emil Zatopek Quote

He did preach gradual escalation.

Emil Zatopek Quote Pain and Suffering

Now, let’s get to the greatest feat of Emil’s performance. It was the 1952 Helsinki Olympics where he became, and still is, the only runner to win gold in the 5,000 m, 10,000 m and while running it for the first time the Marathon. All of these wins were accomplished in spectacular ways: the 10k was total domination, the 5 k was a dramatic sprint to the finish with Emil coming from behind, and the marathon literally knocked the top contenders off the course. 

Since Emil had never run a marathon before he kept his strategy simple: follow the leader. So he introduced himself to the world record holder, Jim Peters, at the start line and ran alongside him for a while. At the one hour mark, Emil asked Jim if the pace was fast enough. Jim sarcastically responded that it was way too slow. Although Emil spoke six languages, he apparently did not understand sarcasm fluently, accepted Jim’s response as fact, and started to speed up. Shortly thereafter, Jim saw Emil disappear over the horizon and Jim was forced to withdraw due to fatigue.

Emil Zatopek - Hope in heart quote

So he was fearsome at training, and a legendary athlete, but those who were lucky enough to meet him would all tell you that his athletic prowess paled in comparison to his enthusiasm, friendliness, and love of life. His humble home in Prague served as a hostel of sorts for athletes from around the world. The Australian Ron Clarke, who was a great runner with terrible luck, was one of those visitors. Ron admired Emil greatly and wanted to join his idol in the record books but repeatedly fell short of reaching his dream. After a two day visit, Emil handed Ron a package – a small gift – as he was leaving. On the plane home, Ron opened the package to discover that Emil had gifted him his 1952 10,000 m gold medal engraved with the day’s date and Ron’s name.

After all, as Emil said:

“Great is the victory, but the friendship of all is greater”

Here is a good video talk about Emil from Mike Sandrock who wrote “Running Legend” about Emil.

Here is a synopsis of the 1952 marathon.

NonRunner Marathon Runners

Who is Your Target? – The NonRunner Runner Edition

“My doctor told me that jogging could add years to my life. I think he was right. I feel ten years older already.”
-Milton Berle

It’s official … with the race in Tokyo last weekend, the 2014 marathon season has officially started. London is just around the corner on April 13 and Boston is just 8 days after that. So I do hope that everyone has got their target picked out for the year.

If you are like me, a human and a runner, then you might get some motivation by selecting an adversary. The graphic above and the list below is there to help you choose your nemesis.

LEVEL 1 – IF AL CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU CLUB. Anyone who undertakes the marathon has my respect. Even top notch athletes will tell you that there is no guarantees when it comes to the 26.2 mile event. So hats off to Al Roker on getting in way under the 8 hour mark. Al Roker (7:09:44)

Level 2 – CATCH HER IF YOU CAN. You may want to do some beach runs to keep up with Pamela who came in under 6 hours. Pamela Anderson (5h 41min) 

Level 3 – IT’S GETTING SERIOUS. Now we’re talking about not having much time to talk, at this pace you won’t be taking too many walking breaks on your run. The sub 5:30 mark is a constant motion event. Katie Holmes (5:29:58) Eddie Izzard (5:00:30), Al Gore (4:54:25), Drew Carey 4:37:11

Level 4 – YOU GET OUT OF IT WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT. That’s how Oprah describes running. This eclectic bunch certainly had to put in the mileage to go sub 4:30. Oprah Winfrey (4:29:15), Alanis Morissette (4:28:45), P. Diddy (4:14:54), Bobby Flay (4:01:37), Paul Ryan (4:01:25)

Level 5 – LESS THAN 2 HOURS AFTER THE WINNER CLUB. OK, so maybe the race winners have already collected their trophies and left for the airport to catch a flight to the next marathon, but among mere mortal runners going sub 4 is a big rite of passage. Sarah Palin (3:59:36), Will Ferrell (3:56:12), Flea- Red Hot Chili Peppers (3:53:00), Ed Norton (3:48:01), George W. Bush (3:44:52)

Level 6 – “AGE GROUP” BRASS COLLECTORS. This is a club which will take home an occasional age group trophy and not just the “Finisher” medal after the race. Much respect. Gordon Ramsay (3:36:xx LA Marathon), Björn Ulvaeus, ABBA (3:23:54)

Level 7 – PERHAPS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER CHANGING YOUR CAREER PATH. I’m grateful that Alan Turing decided to decrypt the enigma machine, break the Nazi code and help end World War II, but at this speed Alan, along with David and Dominique, definitely had options. Dominique de Villepin French Prime Minister (2:57:06), David Petraeus (2:50:53), Alan Turing (2:46:03)

On a personal note – I’m happy to say that last weekend, after many attempts, I was finally able to step into the sub 4 hour club. (Sarah Pailin was my target for the last several years.)

My Marathon Time

Joy of RunningIt was perfect weather in Taipei – sunny, breezy, and not too hot. It was the first marathon in three races where it didn’t rain … the whole time.