[Back to TullyRunners Home Page] ... Article Posted November 30, 2005



(Running and the Two Economies) - Follow Up Article II
(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 third of a series of follow-ups stemming from the original article: "JOSH MCDOUGAL IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIGH SCHOOL TRACK." Again, and as before, since the approach to Running presented through these articles is somewhat novel, a reading through of the previous articles will serve to make this and all succeeding writing clear and comprehensible.

Like A Revolving Door

If we run, and are serious about the sport, we will fall into one of three categories. Either we will be active and fully participating in training and racing, or we will be injured or ill, or we will be on the verge of injury or illness. Generally speaking, runners as a whole gravitate from one category to the other, over and over. Unfortunately at some point, runners, beset by a cycle of pain, often determine to throw in the towel. I have seen this happen even among the young runners of High School age. Such a turn of events utterly defeats the fundamental type of value that illness and injury can provide us with. For, indeed, if understood for what they really are, illness and injury might be the very means through which longevity in the sport becomes not only possible but probable.

"Strike Me Down Darth, and I Will Only Come Back Stronger"

In a society driven mercilessly towards immediate gratification, our very lives tend to center upon anything that brings us comfort in the moment. So, with a knee jerk reaction, we often resist illness and injury simply because they bring us discomfort and intrude into running season. We view them as adversaries, and engage an army to drive them off. We enlist the physician, the sports medicine doctor, the athletic trainer, the pharmacist, etc., etc. In many cases, they act simply as hired thugs or assassins. They use all their power to drive off the illness, the injury, to make us comfortable once again, and to do it quickly. This reminds me of the scene in Star Wars whereby Obi Wan Kenobi is about to be defeated in his struggle with Darth Vader. Just prior to Darth's final blow, Obi Wan warns his arch enemy that he, Obi Wan, can never be defeated, and that striking him down would only make him stronger. Like Obi Wan, running ailments can never really be struck down. They will only come back stronger than before. Deep down inside, those hired contract killers - the doctors, trainers, pharmacists, etc., are not at all blind to such a reality. In any case, society has graciously arranged it such that their very survival depends upon our contracting them over and over again. So, they have little incentive to do what is really necessary to see us off for good. While we begin to flounder and decay through the onslaught of illness, and injury, they profit. If it could only be the other way around! How about if we could see the healthcare providers once and be taken care of once and for all? In that case, we could pay them a royalty year by year, based upon the fact that we no longer have to return to them. However, should we need to return to their care, we would extract a fine. Under such circumstances, can you imagine how much energy would then be diverted to indeed making us fit and healthy for good?

Initially, Illness and Injury Are a Runner's Best Friend

If we conclude that the body breaks down at whim or by chance, we are seriously mistaken. If we surmise that the body is somehow at war with us, willfully obstructing and frustrating our hopes and desires, we are in even greater error. Far more than we dream, the body musters massive amounts of energy to maintain vitality. If injury or illness sets in, we must trust that the body has done everything possible to prevent such an onset. Having tried everything conceivable, the body comes to understand that alone, it can no longer succeed at maintaining stability. So it seeks to enlist an ally - the mind! By forcing us to sit out in pain, it catches the attention of the mind and slowly but surely asks that we re-evaluate all we have been doing that brought us to such a state. So, as a result of the injury or illness, we are put on notice that we must make changes.

There is a certain beauty to this process in that in today's world, almost all the information we receive is skewed such that we buy something, or go somewhere, or behave in such and such a way, mostly for the benefit of the information giver. On the other hand, the message given us through illness or injury is pure, unadulterated, undiluted, straightforward, and for no one else's benefit but our own. This is a rare event in a society where advertising and misinformation permeate the atmosphere and misguide us morning, noon and night. Initially, running ailments are often minor and/or easily able to recover from. They are a rather small price to pay for the changes we must make in regard to the activity.

Be Your Own Doctor

If you want to be a good runner, the last thing you need is simply a patched up body. You need a body that is full of life and brimming with energy. If you became ill or injured, that illness or injury was more or less the tip of the iceberg of a chain of events that led to the tangible conclusion - the illness or injury. In fact, more likely than not, many more things went wrong physiologically speaking than just what you feel. More important than a focus on the ailment should be an investigation of the chain of events. A very good and sincere doctor could assist in such an investigation, but most are trained to dispense pills and be done with it. As such, those who simply treat the symptoms are unreliable in terms of helping us build up a solid foundation of health as a basis for running. What I have learned about running, I came to understand virtually on my own. I often had questions and asked many professional people, but was somehow never really satisfied with the majority of the answers. It was through analyzing illness and injury that I came to understand everything I have been writing about. I now act as a kind of doctor for my own children. I am striving to become that kind of doctor that you see only once. My credentials would include a high school biology and chemistry class, both of which have totally faded by now within my aging memory. Yet in working with the young runners, I have developed a sense of how to approach physical activity in the overall context of spiritual and physical health. Anyone can do the same!

How To Embark Upon Your Medical Career

The human body is incredibly complex. That's why physicians require 10+ years of schooling. However, at the same time the body is undeniably simple. Though there are trillions of cells, and myriads of cellular interactions, the body in essence was perfectly designed to act as the vehicle whereby the mind comes to express itself. The simplicity of the body lies in its ability to spontaneously visibly manifest that which resides in the invisible mind. In that, we should come to think of the mind or spirit as the place of hope or desire and the body as the place of fulfillment. I dream of being a good runner, and then through the substance of the physical body, I express that hope, that dream. In order for the body to be capable of expressing the highest hopes of the mind, it must maintain vitality; otherwise, it could never be on duty 24 hours a day to answer the innumerable calls of the mind. Though health professionals are quite sharp at understanding the complexity of the body, they often ignore its simplicity. They have become an army of specialists, each dealing with this or that part, not many really cognizant of how all the parts fundamentally function together. The body is essentially simple. By balancing all organ functions, all systems, all chemical reactions etc. etc., it comes to possess a staggering versatility, and flexibility, so as to flow with the slightest nuances of the mind. So now, if you want to be your own doctor, the first step necessary to unleash all physiological potential is to assist the body to come to balance itself. Illness and injury are in fact coping mechanisms. They are the body's perhaps feeble attempt to maintain some semblance of balance in an atmosphere of devastation that we may have unwittingly thrust upon it. Health is restored when the body regains true balance. Achieve true balance, and you will experience the fullness of health. Observe what is out of balance, and you will also become aware of the chain of events that brought on the problems. And ultimately, illness and injury will have succeeded as friends once they re-ignite within us that path towards the restoration of balance as opposed to the disposal of symptoms..

Arthur Lydiard Was A Great Doctor

If we conclude that balance, rather than the illness or injury, should become the focal point of our attention, we must credit Lydiard with a medical astuteness far superior to the great majority of practitioners of the day. Towards the end of his life, he spoke powerfully against perhaps the guiltiest parties in the struggle for balance - running shoes and anaerobic training. He blasted running shoes for their weakening effects upon foot muscles, a phenomena which drives the ankles, legs and even the upper body into a cycle of compensations and over compensations culminating in overuse and breakdown. Lydiard spoke against shoes long before a host of studies verified his experience. In addition, he complained that the emphasis upon anaerobic training (which lowers the PH) made it virtually impossible for young (American) runners to reach their full potential. A shift in the PH is a fundamental shift in physiological balance altering virtually every single function of the body. It is a barometer for physiological balance and perhaps the first indication that there is something wrong with us, that we are out of balance. PH kits can be obtained easily for about $10, and they can give us a fairly accurate reading as to where we stand. If we remember, Lydiard taught that the long run must be the center of training. Through it, we form capillaries which while proliferating abundantly, feed the running muscles, ceaselessly creating an astounding amount of endurance. As we shall see, a shift in the PH (acidity in the body) renders even massive capillary formation virtually useless.

Nature's Hidden Secret - Running Performance is a Direct Function of Balance

"PH is a scale that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The scale ranges from 1 to 14 with 1 being very acid, 7 neutral and 14 very alkaline. So what does pH have to do with you and your blood? Well, the pH of your blood is extremely important. The ideal pH level for your blood is right around 7.35 and your body goes to enormous lengths to maintain this level. Why? Because if your blood pH were to vary 1 or 2 points in either direction, it would change the electrical chemistry in your body, there would be no electrical power and in short order you would drop dead. As you can see, maintaining the right pH level in your blood is pretty important!!With this in mind a good way to avoid upsetting this delicate bio chemical balance would be to take a look at those things that can compromise the maintenance of the ideal pH level in your body. And what is the main culprit in this case? The answer is the creation of acid in your body. Before we look at what causes acid, here's a graphic example to give you an idea of what can happen in the blood when your pH drops to less than ideal. Red blood cells are how oxygen is transported to all the cells in your body. As red blood cells move into the tiny, little, capillaries, the space they have to move through gets pretty small. In fact, the diameter of the capillaries gets so small that the red blood cells sometimes have to pass through these capillaries one red blood cell at a time! Because of this, and because it's important for the red blood cells to be able to flow easily and quickly through your body, they have a mechanism that allows them to remain separate from each other. This mechanism comes in the form of the outside of healthy red blood cells having a negative charge. This causes them to stay apart from each other, sort of like when you try to push the negative ends of two magnets together. They resist each other and stay apart. Unfortunately, acid interferes with this very important mechanism in a pretty frightening way. Acid actually strips away the negative charge from red blood cells. The result is that your red blood cells then tend to clump together and not flow as easily. This makes it much more difficult for them to flow easily through the bloodstream. But it also makes it harder for them to move freely through those small capillaries. This means less oxygen gets to your cells. Acid also weakens the red blood cells and they begin to die. And guess what they release into your system when they die? More acid." - Written by Andy Long

I'm Running Slower And I Do Not Know Why

Often, young runners come to a point where their performance flattens, and then proceeds to slacken. Sometimes, this is a temporary phenomena, but other times, this may become ongoing, and even approach a permanent state of affairs. Runners together with coaches are most likely baffled as to why such a downturn occurs, especially when the athlete maintains a hard work ethic. Questions arise as to training regimens, and the word "burnout" may pop up on the screen. However, rarely is attention paid as to overall health and physiological balance. It is my opinion that a proper restoration to a balanced physiological state (good health), would place a runner back into the good graces of steady and continual improvement, at least up until age 35 or 40. It is this Western Medical obsession with eradicating symptoms of illness and injury that render us all vulnerable to the more long lasting and debilitating effects arising from the all but ignored chain of events behind the ailments. Those chains can always return becoming more and more devious as time goes on.

As we should realize from the section on PH, acidity in the body will scrape away at a runner's endurance by curtailing blood flow within those ever so vital capillaries which feed the running muscles. Have we ever heard of a running coach recommending that we alkalize the body in order to restore endurance? How could they make such a recommendation if the medical community at large pays little or no attention to this issue? Yet, Lydiard was deeply concerned about this reality. Damage to health equals damage to running ability!

In the End, Illness and Injury Are a Runner's Worst Nightmare

Western Culture is very odd in a way. It may be one of the only cultures where athletes are not only not assured of a long and healthy life, but are in fact on the way to serious illness or an early grave. Pro football players live an average of 56 years. Baseball greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gherrig succumbed to devastating illnesses towards the end of their playing days. A number of basketball players such as the great Pete Maravich were stricken with heart attacks in the midst of play. Recently, hockey great Mario Lemieux, and biker Lance Armstrong have battled cancer and made incredible comebacks in each of their respective sports. Runners are not exempt from this pattern. Running guru Jim Fixx fell to a heart attack while training. Milers Martin Liquori had Hodgkin's Disease, and Steve Scott had testicular cancer. Author, doctor, and runner George Sheehan died of prostate cancer. Fred Lebow, N.Y.C. Running Magnate, died of brain cancer. Recently, Grete Waitz at 52 was diagnosed with cancer. She won the N.Y.C. Marathon 9 times, the London Marathon twice, was the world marathon champion in 1983, and the world cross country champion from 1978 to 1981. Behind these who are mentioned, there are countless others. Marist running coach and sports reporter Peter Colaizzo has informed me that in addition, he has come to notice a significant amount of serious illness striking runners on the local level. I sense this to be the case beyond the State of New York.

The Curse of Youth

Running in accordance with the design of the human body is an extremely healthy activity. However, running in opposition to human design can be deadly. It would be unfair to say that running causes cancer, but running improperly in my opinion is certainly a contributing factor to not only cancer, but many other harsh diseases. When we are young, we are incredibly resilient, and unfortunately almost invincible whether we run properly or not. But, poor habits will take their toll sooner or later. We should all analyze why great athletes succumb to illness and injury, and learn from what must be termed as their mistakes. Cancer does not just pop up. It comes at the end of the Chain. Cancer cells thrive in an environment without oxygen, when the body is acidic, and when copious amounts of sugar are ingested. Runners who stress themselves improperly, and who rely upon anaerobic activity as a basis for their training, are setting themselves up for a problem. Runners who have developed themselves anaerobically muster up a great many pathways within their bodies through which that type of energy can flow. Anaerobic energy comes about when oxygen is not present. Cancer cells multiply in an acidic environment, and again, without the presence of oxygen. By building up anaerobic pathways, we have now created a super oxygenless highway system whereby cancer cells are free to move throughout the body. When we hear that a young Lance Armstrong developed testicular cancer which spread quickly to his lungs, brain etc., would this not then be connected to his own anaerobic development as a super athlete? In addition, any type of stressful exercise gives rise to free radicals which break down human tissue, and are now credited with a link to cancer.

My boys Joe and David have raced on average for almost once a week or twice a month for the last five years. They are certainly going anaerobic in the races. Yet, their health is incredible as evidenced by their immune systems and resistance to injury. The reason I would give for that is connected with their training. It has been essentially aerobic. They always run long, but comfortably in training. Their hard days for the most part have been left to the races, and those have been somewhat spread apart as indicated. I am not saying that we must avoid any and all anaerobic activity. I am saying that we should work anaerobically with disgression. What we gain from it in the short run is far overshadowed by the negatives that can come over time. Lydiard was very well aware of all this.

Run Like An African, Breathe Like An Indian, Eat Like An Eskimo

If we are really to be concerned with balance, we may have to look beyond Western Culture. With all the advances of our civilization, we have not yet become a people of harmony, neither internally nor externally. Many other cultures, though less technologically gifted, nevertheless outclass us in a wide array of areas, and balancing life, physically and spiritually is one of them. Good runners should always look beyond their borders and learn from elsewhere.

Africans run long and slow from early on, and with nothing on their feet. It's so simple, but so right. It makes for great running and incredible health. The best runners now in American Colleges are Africans, and the same is becoming true for American High Schools. Running long and slow make for physiological strength and balance throughout the body. Running without shoes brings about power and balance in all of the running muscles from the feet on up.

Recently, Integrative Health Specialist, Dr. Andrew Weil was asked by Larry King if there was one point that people should work on in their lives to make for the biggest gains in health. To King's surprise, Dr. Weil, who always speaks most often of nutrition, made no mention of food. He said that if he were to pick one element, it would have to be breathing. He said, if we learn to breathe correctly, we can vastly improve our health situation. We should learn from Native American Indians as to how to breathe. In America, we incur stress through breathing, especially when we use the mouth and breathe shallow breaths into the upper chest. Wrong breathing is exasperated during running, and throws the body into severe imbalance. Indians breathe deeply, and slowly, in and out through the nose. This is the cornerstone and starting point of all human physiological balance and harmony.

Eskimos have been regarded as some of the healthiest people in the world. Interestingly enough, they could not even eat fruits and vegetables. They lived on good raw meat consumed sparingly throughout the day. The body does well when eating raw food. It's much less taxing on the digestive system, and thus easier for the body to assimilate. If meats are not contaminated with growth hormones and processed feed, they can be very healthy. As such meats are hard to find in this society, we still may eat raw foods by consuming fruits and vegetables. Big meals are a monster for the digestive system. Digestive enzymes do better when they attack one type of nutrient at a time. Eating gradually throughout the day has many advantages in terms of human digestion. When food is not digested properly, toxins from the undigested food circulate throughout the body, thus taking a toll on the body's ability to balance itself. We should study not only what people of other cultures eat, but how they eat, and we should apply the many good things.

Adam and Eve Were Born in a Garden and not in a Drugstore

Imbalance connected with over-acidity in the body, can be brought on by a wide variety of elements. Some that come to mind are the following: emotional stress, improper stress arising from exercise (anaerobic activity), shallow mouth breathing, processed food, an over abundance of acidic foods in the diet, alcohol, soda, coffee, cigarettes, drugs, and medicines. This is but to name a few. Remember, Adam and Eve were born in a Garden, a place of beauty and harmony, and that which comes from the Garden is closely connected with healthy living. Try to keep close to nature - warm sunlight, fresh air, clean water, fruits, and vegetables. And keep away from the drugstore. Good health makes for good running!


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