[Back to TullyRunners Home Page] ... Article Posted August 27, 2005



(A Practical Application (Summer Training)) - Follow Up Article I
 (Josh McDougal Is A Perfect Example Of What Is Wrong With High School Track) - Original Article

by John Raucci


This is the second of a series of follow-up articles expounding the themes presented in the primary article "Josh McDougal Is A Perfect Example Of What is Wrong With High School Track". As with all follow-ups, they would be best understood by first going over any preceding writing. This particular article will serve to present the activity of running in a context whereby we can begin to see the forces which propel this natural human endeavor towards pain, injury, ill health, and frustration. My hope is that as such, running can be approached in a new framework, a framework that will set the basis or pattern for any running or training regimen. The ideas to be presented in this article are fundamentally no different than those offered in the preceding articles. However, they will be laid out in such a way as to offset much of the prevailing misinformation that has unleashed a mass of damage onto the activity.

Economy can be usually understood as that aspect of humanity whereby goods are produced, transported and consumed. It is vital to life upon the earth, and often understood in terms of its relation to nations or certain particular goods and services. Human economies are often interconnected. The rise of one can lead to the rise of another and vice-versa.

As I came to observe running and the sport of track and field, I found that this activity was wedged between two kinds of economy. However, in this case, the economies are mutually exclusive, antagonistic to one another, and even in conflict with each other. In regard to running, the rise of one of these economies leads to the fall of the other. The expansion of one will spur on the shrinkage of the other. The vitality of one will drain the life out of the other.


As I write this piece in July of 2005, I cannot help but to follow the Tour De France - Lance's last great competition. I came to understand that Lance was the beneficiary of not one, but two teams. The first of course was the team of bikers that work solely to protect Lance from the winds and hazards of the road, such that he could finish off his competitors one by one. It is however the second team that caught my attention. They work to train the first team and design the equipment. In biking, wind is the enemy, or as they say "drag". Meticulous attention is paid to every detail of the biker's equipment in order to counteract drag. The shape of the helmet might take minutes off a biker's time. The lean on the bike is studied such that a perfect angle is established through which the biker can shave the maximum amount of time off of his race. Even the shape of the fabric of the biker's shirt can mean the difference between a win and a loss as it faces off with drag. Naturally, the design of the bike with its myriads of contours is worked and reworked to perfection or as close to it as possible. Needless to say, the more I observed how the second team paid attention to every fathomable detail of design, I began to feel jealous. I asked myself, "Why we do not pay likewise attention to human design when it comes to running?" As runners, we have an undeniable advantage. We are in fact the design, and an incredible one at that. Lance may be paying millions of dollars for his team of trainers and designers, but it is nevertheless no match for the team that designed us if we consider God and the angels. And of course, they did it all for free.

The first economy can be termed "running economy". We may have even come across this term in running books. It is just another way of pointing to efficiency in running. We run efficiently when everything clicks. We conserve energy, and apply it appropriately as needed. Energy is devoted solely to the activity. All motion is in accord with our forward movement. For example, we do not jump vertically in the air with each step. That would cause us to expend energy unnecessarily to counteract gravity. Rather, we move horizontally with a forward lean. Shaking our heads back and forth wastes energy while running. Swinging our arms all around our bodies would do likewise.

While running economy is not the traditional type of economy that we have come to know through the flow of goods, and services, it is nonetheless an economy of sorts. It involves the consumption of food, water, and oxygen, the production of energy, and the movement of energy throughout the body in order to stimulate activity. When this economy is undertaken properly, running will bring only benefit to the runner, as opposed to injury, illness, or even the kinds of heart attacks that joggers and runners sometimes succumb to during the activity.

If we are really to be mindful about running economy, we must be far more serious about our own human design than Lance Armstrong's hired hands are about the design of a bike.


Recently, President Bush, on an International Visit to the UK, took time off from meetings to go biking. His ride caught the attention of the world as he slammed into a policeman. Why was he biking? Undoubtedly, Bush bikes because he wants to continue exercising. Previously, he had been an avid runner. However, as we had been informed, Bush began to develop leg problems due to his "running" combined with the fact that he is aging. Do we not hear such language over and over again? I got such and such a problem from "running". It's almost like saying that I got lung cancer because I was smoking.

One year ago, a study out of the University of Utah by Bramble and Lieberman made the case for running as that which distinguishes us at least physiologically in our humanity. Their writing was entitled "How Running Made Us Human". In it, they demonstrate how the body is in fact anatomically designed for the purpose of running. To quote one paragraph:

"I Run, Therefore I Am"

Bramble and Lieberman examined 26 traits of the human body - many also seen in fossils of Homo erectus and some in Homo habilis - that enhanced the ability to run. Only some of them were needed for walking. Traits that aided running include leg and foot tendons and ligaments that act like springs, foot and toe structure that allows efficient use of the feet to push off, shoulders that rotate independently of the head and neck to allow better balance, and skeletal and muscle features that make the human body stronger, more stable and able to run more efficiently without overheating."

In reality, when running is performed in accordance with human design, there is essentially no possibility for any harm at all to come to us. Running injuries never come from "Running". They arise from both ignorance and alteration of our fundamental human design.


In the fall of last year, after the modified cross country season, I began to work with a young and scanty eighth grader in Red Hook named Klaus Schmidt. I put him to long runs on the fields around the schools. He soon began to develop strong pains in the knee area. As his mother was one of the head nurses assisting in surgery at Northern Dutchess Hospital, she sent Klaus to Doctors and physical therapists who put him through an array of treatments and exercises for weeks on end. Apparently, Klaus had a pronation problem in one foot causing what the Doctors termed a runner's knee. Finally, after no success, they concluded that there was but one solution - orthotics. As I cringed at the sound of the word, I asked his mother to let him try barefoot running. It was Spring by then, and the ground was warmer. Klaus ran 2 weeks barefoot, and his pain subsided. Running barefoot, he strengthened the muscles in his foot so as to naturally keep from pronating. I was aware that shoes are behind all pronation in any case. By mid-summer, Klaus who trains with us, made it up to over 100 miles a week. He runs barefoot and breathes through the nose. He is pain free and ready for varsity cross country.

Ian Ellis is a slim and thin legged Red Hook Freshman who performed well in Football and Wrestling. This year, he went out for Spring Track, and proved to be a swift half miler. Encouraged by coaches and other runners, he contemplated giving up Football and Wrestling. He began training with us in June after the State Meet to which he competed in the 4 X 8. Running barefoot, and breathing through the nose, he went from 20 to 30 miles a week in Spring Track to over 100 miles a week without complaint. At the end of July, Ian ran his first 5K ever in his life at the Saratoga Silk and Satins Road Race. He came in at 17:11 and won an age group medal in a race of 1200 runners. His 17:11 was the equivalent of a 16:50 on a track. Amazing!

Glen Brent just turned 50, just a little younger than myself. He is father of the perhaps soon to be captain of the Red Hook Cross Country team, Evan. Glen ran in High School, and continued afterwards, but always with nagging aches, pains, minor injuries etc. For most of his life, running was more like a battle as opposed to a joy. Open to a change in his training, he took off his running shoes, worked on his nasal breathing, and headed for the fields around the schools and away from the roads. He got a new lease on his running life. He soon began to compete competitively in road races winning medals consistently. His feet and legs were much stronger, and no longer giving him the kinds of pain he came to be accustomed to. In July, he qualified for the Empire State Games in the 800, 1600, and 10K Road Race. He took home two golds and a silver in the Masters - ages 50 to 55. Now in his 50's, he looks forward to a long future in the sport.

I am not predicting that any of the above will soon represent the USA in the Olympics. But, they are all doing simple and fundamental things right - long aerobic barefoot runs, over and over, much like the Africans. In addition, they nasal breathe, just like the Native Americans. Should they continue, they will all reach their potential as runners, without being needlessly sidelined because they followed what everyone else was doing!


How would you like to come face to face with the best running coach in the world? Well, it's not all that difficult. But, before we do, we should take a look at another type of running - that of Race Horses. Recently, a most beautiful movie depicted the story of Seabiscuit, a has-been, washed up horse, who rose to becoming an undisputed champion. In a face-off with favorite War Admiral, he caught the attention, love and admiration of the whole of America, as he sailed across the finish line well ahead of the so-called "best around". How did he do it? Who taught him to run so well? As the movie so brilliantly puts forth, no one taught Seabiscuit. His owner, trainer, and jockeys did all they could to work with him, to adjust their own racing patterns according to his. Seabiscuit knew what he had to do. He needed no teacher, no coach. Synchronizing each footstrike with each breath, and breathing fully and deeply in and out through the nose, Seabiscuit was a sight to behold.

If a horse spontaneously knows everything he needs to about running, should human beings be any different? Are we more or less than horses? Here, some may point out that horses get injured. Indeed, they do get injured, but only after being forced to live and train in accordance with human ignorance and ambition. Even horse shoes are being re-evaluated, as they too pose injury possibilities for horses. Horses, left to their own devices should run for a lifetime. Have you ever seen a veterinarian in the wild? Horses who exist in accordance with their natural design need nothing from us.

Do the young Africans have coaches as they run miles and miles a day to and from school? Did Native American Indians have coaches as they ran as a way of life, countless miles, many of them until the day they died?

The best coach in the world lies within you. You must let yourself live and run as you were designed to, and your own very body will rapidly carry you towards total economy and efficiency. You will not even have to think about it. And, you will not have to grapple with injury. When I work with High School kids in the off-season, I never tell runners how to run. I ask only that they approach this activity in harmony with their very own human design. And then I just watch. They all begin to look more and more like runners with each passing month.

So, what do we mean by human design? In relation to running, it is very simple. The mind and body should be integrated so as to support one another. Fighting oneself will always lead to eventual problems. Nurturing the body to give more and more, slowly, but surely, will lead to the fulfillment of potential. Running should be done without footwear, and on uneven natural type surfaces. The body was designed to make its gains through aerobic activity. As Lydiard so precisely taught, anaerobic activity is inefficient, unhealthy, and a limiting factor in terms of performance gains. Thus, long easy runs are in perfect accord with human design. Anaerobic activity works contrary to human design, creates acidity in the body, negatively alters the PH level, and ultimately leaves the body defenseless to germs and injury. What is little known today is that when aerobic energy is perfectly accessed, we can run even further and faster than any amount of anaerobic energy could ever provide us the means for. We were designed to breathe through the nose. This is a secret key to human health, and a practice of indigenous tribes throughout the world for 1000's of years. Wherever it has been practiced in human history, disease and the likes have been almost non-existent. Among many, many other positive factors, nasal breathing helps us to keep accessing aerobic energy, and allows the mind and body to come together in harmony. Of course, we were designed to eat natural foods in balance as well.


For those of us who do not subscribe to the first economy, and run totally as designed, we will have no choice but to submit to the second economy. The second economy is comprised of the myriad of economies that have come to surround the sport. In the not too distant past, no one could make a living off of runners. Now, we have the shoe companies, sock companies, orthopedists, podiatrists, sports medicine doctors, surgeons, orthotics makers, drug companies, the sports drink economy, the sports bar economy, the electronic monitor economy, the cross-training economy, the treadmill economy, the running literature economy, etc., etc., etc. Although there are many good, well meaning, and sincere people involved with such economies, the economies themselves depend for the most part upon the fact that runners ignore their own human design. Thus, heaps of money can be raked in through injuries, illness, fatigue syndromes, the creation of new and better shoes, orthotics, pills, energy foods or drinks - you name it. Exercise Induced Asthma is one of the biggest windfalls I have seen. Go to a High School Meet, and you will see people all over the place popping those inhalers out - steroids ingested directly into the lungs. And for good reason! If I were to breathe through the mouth, I would need those steroids too. But, breathe as you were created to, through the nose, and then see if you need the inhaler. My kids threw away their inhalers three years ago, and for good. The second economy is built upon ignorance, half truths, and in many cases out and out deception. There would be very little money to be made off of runners who subscribed to the first economy.


I must admit that I have rarely seen a runner pick up a cigarette. However, what in fact is smoking? It is the practice whereby we ingest carcinogens directly into the lungs. Do you think that cigarettes have a monopoly on carcinogens? Long before any of us were born, many, many tribes and societies throughout the world maintained the practice of nasal breathing. There have always been poisons in the air. But what about today where we have so damaged the atmosphere through pollutants ad infinitum? In any case, God put an army of security guards at the main gate, such that no poison would enter into the lungs. Those trained and well-equipped guards can be found in the hair follicles and mucous membranes of the nose. When we breathe through the nose, they close the gate on the poisons, and allow the pure air to enter. Not to be outdone, the poisons of today have found a hole in the fence. Streaming through the mouth, they invade the lungs with each breath we take. So, we understand why Peter Jennings, a smoker, got lung cancer, but we are perplexed as to how the wife of Christopher Reeves, a non-smoker, would wind up with the same disease. Well, the lungs were never designed to deal with any kind of poison. They are agents of respiration, and are too busy handling the give and take of oxygen and carbon dioxide to be fighting back against an army of invaders.

Among all the sports I have witnessed, runners are number one when it comes to ingesting poisons into the lungs. Heavy mouth breathing goes hand in hand with the sport, and little thought is given to human physiology which clearly states that breathing through the mouth is absolutely bad for our health. What's more is that running the way we do, we accustom ourselves to mouth breathing, and that mode of breathing permeates virtually all of our daily and nightly activity. Night time is essential for recovery, and repair if necessary. When we breathe through the mouth during sleep, the lungs must divert respirational energy to contending with the invaders. In addition, air is ingested directly into the stomach, wreaking a havoc upon the digestive system when it should be in a state of repose. When two systems of the body are battling through the night, can the rest of the body reap the vital benefits that only rest can provide? Thus, not only does the day takes its toll upon us, but also the night.

However, can you imagine how many economies would be disrupted should we change our patterns of breathing? There is little incentive for Western Society to work this out. In any case, improper breathing will take a toll on runners--maybe not in High School, but certainly there after and down the road. And they will become fodder in one way or another for the second economy! Failure to breathe properly is an example of ignorance.


Certainly, this has been debated for the last twenty years. Personally, I support Cross Training, and my kids are avid Cross Trainers. However, if a human being runs according to design, there is absolutely no need for Cross Training. Did Native American Indians who ran on a daily basis spend a few days a week at the gym? Did they get overuse injuries? Absolutely not! If we run as designed, there is absolutely no way to overuse anything. On the other hand, just lace up a pair of shoes, and run consistently around the track, and you are on the path to an overuse injury. How could that be? Well, it's very simple! The shoe alone forces you to rely on certain foot muscles while leaving others alone. Then, when we run on a flat surface, we will use even fewer foot muscles - those that are called upon for flat surfaces. The muscles we use will become strong while the others which lay dormant will weaken. As certain muscles weaken, the ankles will be called upon to compensate, and so on up the leg. And injuries, such as stress fractures and the like will be on the horizon. On the other hand, run without shoes on natural uneven surfaces, and all muscles will be called upon, eliminating the need for any kinds of compensation. There will be no overuse. Overuse never comes from running. It comes from failure to observe our human design. Overuse injuries are an example of a half truth. Cross Training will never eliminate running injuries as long as running is practiced against the grain of human design.


Bill Bowerman was a great coach in my opinion for reasons beyond coaching itself. He must have been a man of deep heart because he served his runners so beautifully. He made their running shoes, and he did the best he could with the understanding that he had. He created light nothings that could only be used once or twice, but those shoes helped his boys to run faster in those times. Nike took his lead, and an empire was established for the purpose of athletic footwear. Other companies followed, and a monster economy sprang up. Running shoes from whatever company were designed and redesigned with one element in common. They all encumbered the foot. Motion Control etc. was the name of the game. And everyone was getting hurt. Then, a year ago, Nike designs the Barefoot Shoe - the Nike Free. They advertise that it is best to free the muscles of the foot, as if we are barefoot. So - which is it Nike? How can you sell shoes even today that both encumber the foot, and free the foot? This is an example of out and out deception. Nike is not alone. Many so-called sports drinks and bars contain ingredients that enhance energy production, but at the same time deplete energy production. And of course, many doctors will prescribe drugs that will solve one problem, and then create ten more. I do not believe that all deception is deliberate, but nonetheless it is there.


Often times people ask me if I am a doctor, or a physiologist, or a biologist, an Athletic trainer, or even a Running Coach. To all such queries, I am compelled to confess that I am not any of those. But, then I qualify that response by adding that I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night. Unfortunately, only Americans will understand what I am talking about, and this article will circulate beyond American borders. So, suffice it to say that anyone who sleeps at the Holiday Inn sleeps so restfully that they wake up a genius or so it is advertised. In any case, if you want to subscribe to the second economy, don't worry about where you sleep. But if you want to run economically, you may have to sleep at the Holiday Inn. You may have to wake up real fresh and think more clearly and more deeply than even those who have been educated in the various fields related to health and athletics, and then, discern for your own self which economy you wish to support.


 ... (John's e-mail address is ideal@webjogger.net )