Monday, April 30, 2018

Total Ascent

It's a statistic that those running apps give you. So every once in a while, someone has to ask what the total ascent is in the Grand Rapids Marathon course.

I don't know.

But maybe I'd be willing to find out. So--if you happen to have run the race with a GPS app that told you that piece of information, how about sharing it with me and I'll put the word out.

After that, for those of you interested, I'd really like to know how knowing that particular statistic will go into your race strategy.

I just run. I don't have a clue what I'd do with that if I had it. Now, if I were in the mountains or something, it might seem like a more useful piece of information. But here in Grand Rapids, where the high point on the course is about 665 feet and the lowest is 582 feet, you've got to figure that a bunch of mountain climbing just isn't going to be a factor. 

Try and Focus

Image may contain: 1 person, textSo stuff like this gets posted and shared. I think someone's trying to make a very twisted point about guns here. Here's the answer: We blame the driver.
If you're trying to make a point about guns here, I have a few thoughts:
1. The van was NEVER built or sold as a weapon. There was no intent on the part of the manufacturer that it would be used to kill people or animals or even plants. 
2. Before we're able to legally use a van, we're required to have training in driving. All 50 states require licenses and insurance. 
3. If you think that a van is analogous a gun (i.e. a weapon or an "arm"), then it must be protected under the second amendment. So according to the interpretation of most people posting this kind of thing, we shouldn't put any restrictions on vans whatsoever.
4. Criminals cause crime. They'll act with whatever instrument they chose. No amount of regulation will keep criminals from existing. Some people are assholes. We can try to control them with laws. It won't always work.
5. All the other comparisons (like how many people die of cancer, are killed by cars, how many abortions, etc.) are not subject to gun laws. 
If we're going to do something about guns, then do something about guns. Make the debate about guns. Everything else can go in some other debate.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2018



"Got a is a week and a half to race day and I'm burned out! I ran 8 miles last Friday and I had to MAKE myself do it. And I was supposed to do it Thursday! Sunday was supposed to be a 20-mile run, and I just too sick of it after 13 and quit! I did 4 on the treadmill yesterday. Got up this morning to do speed work and I'm sitting here frustrated and procrastinating.
Total burn out! And my race is a week and a half away!
What should I do???"

Wow. I got this text one morning. I had some thoughts.

Relax. Realize that it's all part of the process. Sometimes we go through cycles. And get out of your own head!

There are at least 10 reasons why you are feeling this way and NONE of them have anything to do with your lack of ability. (Time to write down a list of those 10 reasons.)

We all go through this kind of thing. Doubts creep in. You start stressing out. So what, you missed out on a couple of the runs on the printed schedule from the River Bank Run that Greg Meyer designed. THAT PLAN WAS A SUGGESTION!!! No one can do the same thing everyone else does. We all have lives. We do our best. It's cool. 

Do something different. Text a different friend than you normally run with and schedule something. Run at a different time or in a different place. Do something small that's totally unrelated but still needs to be done, just to get a tiny success into your head. Plan dinner and make a shopping list or something. You'll be just fine. 

Race day will come. You'll be fine. Your friends will all be there, getting ready with you, running with you, and partying afterward. It will be great.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Hope Water Project

One of our charities for the Grand Rapids Marathon. Last night I went to their kickoff for this year's training for the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon. I came away inspired!

Last year, the chapter here brought 120 runners to our event. They raised $140,000. They put in enough wells in Africa to provide fresh water to villages with 9000 people. 

In the process, lots of people became friends. Lots of people became healthier. People set goals and accomplished them. People became friends and supported each other. 

I witnessed success. Even among the new people for this year. "How many people are freaked out right now?", Ron Bussa asked at the beginning of the program. A bunch of the new people raised their hands. 

Hope Water International founder Bill Clark in his remarks said "If your goals don't scare you, they're not big enough." So there you go--new freaked out people. You've already been successful in the program without even realizing it! You've set a big enough goal!

We're proud to have Hope Water Project as one of our charities here in Grand Rapids. I look forward to meeting you as you cross that FINISH LINE in October.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Posting Stupid Stuff

Almost everyday one of my friends on Facebook shares something that is totally false.

I know the intentions are good, but really---

The newspaper that had the same picture on the same day but with different story content. Yeah, it happened, but not with the intent that was below the "meme" which indicated that it was a different story for a different political area designed to be part of the media brainwashing us. It was the early edition in one picture, and the later edition in the second--and a lot had happened to change the story between the two times.

The massive UFO picture taken in Australia that is amazing everyone.

The kid who just wants a million person people to say happy birthday to him before he dies of a rare disease. Then you find out that the kid died four years ago.

And the green moon thing that's happening on 4/20. Seriously?

People--if it's really stupid or weird, at least Google it before you repost it.

If this gets a million likes, I'll post a naked picture of myself on the Internet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


The light from a distant star reached the mirrored surface of the Hubble Space Telescope after traveling nearly 26,500 years from a distant arm of the Milky Way galaxy. Far enough away and faint enough, a designation would never be given to it by earth scientists. With nearly a billion objects already categorized, it wouldn’t have had a very interesting name anyway, just something like SDJRp J134857.94-587898.1, representing its celestial coordinates and other location criteria meaningless to the average person. To relocate it one could use such coordinates and an extremely large telescope and never actually find it anyway. It was that faint and far away from earth.
It was also too far away for astronomers to see the minuscule changes in stellar emissions that would indicate that planets orbited the star. But there were planets. One of those planets, circling that star in an egg-shaped orbit with an average radius of about 122 million miles was full of life. Its inhabitants referred to it as Stel. They called their planet Vargo.
The present day location of Vargo was actually millions of miles away, the earth scientists knowing for sure only where the Stel was 26,500 years ago when the light we currently see first left it.
Eight thousand earth years earlier, the light from our sun was detected by  the telescopes of astronomers on Vargo. Three hundred years later, they had the technology to see clearly the planetary system orbiting the sun. 

It was an interesting time in earths distant past back then. When they first saw us, they could only see that there was a planet passing in front of our sun. Earth wasn't visible until after the bigger ones in our solar system, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. 

Like Earth in the present day, they were sweeping the cosmos for signs of planets, with some hope of learning they were not alone in the universe. After several hundred years of advancing technology, they were able to locate planets with at least the potential of intelligent life developing within a few years. Out of the billions of stars in the galaxy that had been examined, only a dozen or so showed the potential. Hundreds of years passed before identifying those planets. 

Planets need liquid water. Some kind of "Goldilocks" atmosphere that’s warm enough and cool enough to support life. It also helped to have the large outer planets whose gravity would attract meteors that might otherwise impact the habitable one and protect it from cataclysmic events. 

A planet would also need to develop a race of intelligent beings who could develop electronic communications before the potential for contact could ever happen. 

Finally, when Vargons could see the planets they had identified as potentially life-supporting in real time, they found that one had reached the age of electronic communication. 

Kent Dern, sitting by the fireplace enjoying his morning cup of coffee saw an interesting communication via email. It was in somewhat broken English. He had received similar emails before. Nigerian heirs to massive fortunes looking for help to export millions out of their country in exchange for a large fee. Beautiful young women trying to strike up a conversation with an American man in exchange for, well, the companionship of a beautiful young woman. 

This was a different accent though. more precisely worded, and without the normal spelling errors. There was a certain sincerity to it that Nigerian heirs and the Russian women never possessed.  

"Greetings from Vargo," was the subject line. Kent thought it sounded like the name of a planet in some science fiction book. "OK, I'll bite." He opened the email. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Boston Marathon

Yesterday I spent a good deal of my time paying attention to the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon. It was a great day for USA, with 7 of the top 8 women (12 of the top 15!) being Americans, including Desiree Linden being the first US woman to win in 33 years. Ten of the top 15 men were Americans.

That was pretty fun to watch. Plus watching Yuki Kawauchi from Japan win his FOURTH marathon of the year. I like this guy. He's like a lot of my friends. Except a lot faster. (Most elite runners will do at most 2 marathons a year!)

The other thing I found that got me going was the 122nd Boston Marathon on the medals. My first Boston medal said 100. It's been 22 years since then, when I got in because they had a special lottery for the100th marathon and I entered and got in. I was still training for my first marathon when I sent in the entry.

What a 22 years it's been. That Boston was my 3rd marathon. This weekend I'll be running marathon #323. In the years in between, I've seen all the states multiple times, run marathons in 32 countries, on all seven continents. I've met thousands of people, and many have become good friends. I've watched while people tested their limits and found out that they didn't actually HAVE limits.

If you went to school with me, you know I was never athletic. I had asthma as a kid and couldn't play sports for crap anyway. I was frequently picked last for the teams in gym class. I got a varsity letter by being on the debate team.

But running. I found out I could do that quite a while later. It changed my life. In the running world, you can be fast or slow and still find lots of people to hang with. You can help other people reach their goals. You can pretty much do anything you want. It doesn't matter if you're fat or skinny, young or old, or most anywhere on the continuum of humanity. Runners will welcome you.

I've been a marathon runner for over 22 years now. It's an amazing life. I hope I'm around to watch the 200th Boston Marathon.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Boston Marathon Day

Five years ago--this happened. The memory is still fresh. April 15, 2013

Monday afternoon, I stood at the 26 mile mark of the Boston Marathon, and with great pride watched as Francine Robinson ran by me on her way to a sub-4 hour, personal best Boston Marathon. I ran down the sidewalk toward the finish, then walked, then was stopped by the wall of spectators. I cut through a store and out the other side, and as I walked around the block to get past where the finish line was on Boylston Street the text message came over my phone telling that she had finished in 3:59:23. I was proud, excited. Seconds later a loud explosion happened. I thought maybe it was a construction site or something, then a few seconds after a second explosion happened. A Boston cop hurried by and was on his radio. "Two bombs by the finish line" is all I heard him say. I was on the phone, trying to locate Francine, she didn't answer. She had just finished within a minute or two of the blast. I left a message, sent a text, and tried to find my way around the block.
Immediately, cell phones were in action everywhere, and getting calls in and out was next to impossible. TJ Suchocki managed to reach me and became my relay person for messages and information. After repeated attempts at text and calls, Francine and I reached each other at the family reunion area. 

The City of Boston reacted in the most remarkable fashion on Monday. As soon as the blasts went off everyone took action. Runners who were stopped before turning onto Boylston were immediately met by Bostonians pouring out of their houses, offering help, drinks, their houses and their bathrooms to confused sweaty-and-getting-cold runners. Boston police, FBI, National Guard, and what seemed like every ambulance in New England were on the scene immediately. Businesses that were open welcomed displaced runners and spectators in out of the cold. 

Our rental car was stuck under the Prudential Center, which was part of the locked down portion of the city. As we walked around a few blocks looking for a place to get in out of the cold a young girl saw Francine's medal and said, "God bless you, I'm glad you're safe," as we passed each other on the street. We found refuge at the Cheesecake Factory and stayed for quite a while, eating and drinking and hanging out with other runners. Everyone was on Facebook and checking up on each other via text messages. Phone service was spotty, with all the bandwidth jammed, but the occasional call we could get out was relayed to family and friends. 

People pull together in the face of these events. Our friends, Carol Neckel and Nancy Wooley invited us to spend the night with them at their hotel. On the way there, a woman who was helping us with directions saw that Francine looked cold and offered to give her the sweater she was wearing. Farther down the street a group of guys saw us walking and stopped us just to make sure that we were OK and that we didn't need anything. 

The event was tragic, yes. But it's times like these that remind us that there's more good in the world than bad, and that Americans will come together when we're met with adversity. Boston Marathon Monday was filled with tears of joy and with tears of sorrow. With confusion, with resolve, with strength.

One of my favorite quotes of the the day is this: If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, MARATHON RUNNERS are the wrong group to target. 

Thank you to all my friends and family who have expressed their love and concern. I treasure you all.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Not sure I'll live Forever

Last time I went in for a physical a couple things came back. Swelling in my neck that with some followup and more doctors turns out my thyroid was really big on one side. (I didn't know where my thyroid was before that--should have paid more attention in science class.) In June or July I had half of my thyroid removed. No big deal-home that day and eating normally. 

Prostate--things change as guys get older. Stuff to keep an eye on and monitor. Teeth keep needing attention. 

But that brings up the next thought in my head. My own mortality. Not that I'm planning to die any time in the next 40 years, but here's my question: 

Why don't we ALWAYS live like we only had two more years? 

That would mean we stop putting stuff off. Sign up for a trip. Get an estate plan in place. Let someone know where things are. Write good short summaries of everything so somebody can find it somewhere. Spend more time with kids, parents, grandkids. Train your replacement. Write that sonnet. Or novel. 

Stuff like that. Maybe it won't last long, but I'm going to start today by doing just a little bit better. What if I only have two years. May as well make it as amazing as possible. Then I'll work on the next two. 

Meanwhile, I'll deal with the problems when I find out that they really are problems. Right now, they're just unknown stuff. We'll see what happens later.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ten Things I Believe In

  1. Anyone powerful enough to create a universe would have no reason to keep me alive forever
  2. People are basically good. At least they want to be. We might disagree on the definitions, but I think everyone wants to be good.
  3. There are good people in every religion. 
  4. Whether there’s a God (god) or not, I’m going to act like I think I should act. 
  5. You don’t do good or refrain from bad because you’re hoping to go to heaven or you might go to hell. You do it because it’s the right thing to do
  6. Miracles are things that we just don’t understand yet. That’s why there are fewer and fewer of them.
  7. I don’t care what your religion is. But I really don’t want you to be an asshole.
  8. Treat everyone as a valuable person. Assume that he or she is one.
  9. Figure out how to do something nice for someone every day.
  10. The only way I’ll live forever is by leaving behind a legacy worthy of emulating.
  11. It’s our responsibility to leave this world in better shape than we found it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

It Takes Both Teams To Have A Game

I got into a brief discussion with a guy I don't really know very well yesterday. He started in with "oh, you're a Trump supporter," and starting to go off on some of the disrespectful dialog we hear so much of lately.

"No, I'm not a Trump supporter. But he's the guy we elected."

"I didn't elect him. Maybe you elected him."

I decided to cut the conversation fairly short, because clearly it was just a guy wanting to get confrontational for no good reason.

But it got me thinking later. (What follows is the point I'm making, so don't turn this into a Trump is good or bad discussion!!!)

When there are two teams playing a game, one of them wins. (I know some games can end in a tie, but ignore those for the sake of this discussion.)

Can you ever give 100% credit for the win to the winning team? NO. The losing team also had a lot to do with it. One team prepared better than the other. They put the right people on the floor. The team that lost maybe didn't prepare for a particular aspect of the battle. They put the wrong person in at the wrong time. They didn't prepare for everything the other guys were going to throw at them. Both winners and losers get the credit for the outcome.

We all voted in the last election, right? Whether your person won or lost, we were all part of the process. So instead of blaming the problems on the winner (conservatives and liberals have taken turns at this in the last couple of elections) we should prepare ourselves better for the next election. Put the best team on the floor. Make sure the people are getting what they should have.

And yes, whoever we each voted for, it wasn't just the winning side. It was WE THE PEOPLE who elected President Trump, President Obama, President Bush, ....

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I'm going to be in another movie

I'll probably never be a movie star

Maybe you've heard of the Marathon Maniacs. Well, my good friend Nelsen Petersen is making a movie about them. (Or I should say, about us.) He's also posting some of the interviews he does along the way. This week, he talked to me about the Millennium Meadows Marathon, the newest of our events. So if you want to know more about The Meadows, or are wondering why running marathons are similar to having babies, check out this You Tube video from Nelsen. (Yes, I'm aware that a finisher medal doesn't require 18 years of constant attention after you get it, so go easy with your comments!) 

I've been in a few of Nelsen's videos, including the 2003 North Pole Marathon, and a few others along the way. 

My big screen premier was, in Our Beautiful Secret, the story of Jonathan Peavey and his family. The whole thing is out there on YouTube. 

I'm probably never going to be a movie star, but it's fun being involved once in a while. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I'm trying to find a better quote than this

The Chinese nation is a great nation; it has been through hardships and adversity but remains indomitable. -- Xi Jinping

So the reason I'm trying to find a better quote is that this guy is just ripe for having someone say...

"That's what Xi said"

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I promised myself.

Every day I’m going to make a blog entry. Today I had a great day. I got to spend a little time with a good friend down in Kalamazoo after making an adjustment to their marathon course. Then I stopped on the way out of town and visited Boatyard Brewery. In spite of the temperature today even being out riding around on my bike was not bad at all.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Questions I Get Asked

I'm a race director. So every day I get asked if people can "partner" with our events. By partner, they really mean they want to sell me something. At least twice a week on T-shirts. Medals. Registration services. Clothing. I usually delete the emails.

Today I got an interesting thing. Maybe you can give me some feedback. It's from the agent of Matt Beilis, a singer from New York. My immediate thought was, "probably not." But then I listened to a song he did called Marathon. It's inspirational. I like it.

So here's his video. Check it out.

I'm not sure having a concert in conjunction with one of our events is something that works. But I'm open to suggestions if anyone has some. Let me know.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

What Time Is It?

It's nine o'clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in.

After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out.

It's a quarter after one, I'm a little drunk, and I need you now.

It's quarter to three. There's no one in the place, except you and me.

And she says, Baby, it's three a.m. I must be lonely.

The six o'clock alarm would never ring.

Hi, hi, hi beautiful Sunday. this is my my my beautiful day.

Monday, Monday, so good to me.
Tuesday's dead

Gotta get down on Friday, Everybody's looking forward to the weekend.
Come Saturday Morning, I'm going away with my friend
It's Saturday night and I ain't got nobody

That's what I have so far. Figured if it's here I can keep editing.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

I get aggravated

Reading posts by people (FRIENDS!) that seem to be designed just to inflame the people on the other side of the issues.
Then people posting responses that are even more inflammatory. Calling the people we put into office (on both sides of the aisle) ignorant, stupid, bitches, and all kinds of other derogatory names.
We can all do better than that. Start out being nice and using words that will help to solve problems instead of making them worse. Get informed about things and help educate the people we elected to office. Make intelligent, well-thought-out arguments.
We can never solve problems by starting with calling the people on the other side names. So everybody start being nice. Please.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Facebook is using my data!


One time I accidentally posted some information about myself on Facebook. No wait. That didn't happen.

I "Googled" something and then saw ads on every subsequent site I visited. What a coincidence. I wonder how Yahoo Finance knows I buy Ex Officio underwear. (aside--Don't go searching for a dildo online. Unless you want to be one.)

We use Gmail too. That's Google. So is Blogger. Literally sending all of our communication through their servers. Apple and Microsoft too--I wonder if they're collecting information about me through their operating systems that can be used to target me for advertising.

Most people don't really care, I think. The current generation scans all their groceries, then puts their credit card in the slot, allowing the store to instantly associate your name with what you like to buy, and make a decision what kind of coupon to print out with your receipt.

I'm drinking coffee I bought using my Starbucks app. I get free refills that way. You think they know that I've never once ordered an iced cinnamon almond milk macchiato? I'm betting they do. They'll probably try to sell me one this afternoon.

Cookies (the computer kind, not the Girl Scout kind) have been around for almost as long as the Internet. You knew that, right? "They" track us whenever we do something. We just need to be aware of what's going on. Pay cash once in a while if you don't want everybody to know everything. Don't publish naked pictures of yourself. Don't say stuff you don't want the government to know. Or Google or Facebook or Starbucks.

#deletefacebookmyass #maybemovetoacaveinkentuckyorsomething

*Other Acronyms I Don't Understand

Thursday, April 05, 2018

It's Only A Theory

It's only a theory. Evolution. Like the other ones. Gravity. Relativity. Planetary motion. You know. that sort of thing.

People who want creation taught alongside evolution in science classrooms say "It needs to be taught as a THEORY."

As if "Theory" means something that we're speculating about. That's not what theory means in a science class. A theory is based on real-life observations. It's well substantiated. Supported by facts.

We test theories. Scientists observe things. They publish papers. They invite peers to review their findings. They actually WANT other people to prove them wrong if they're wrong. They want other people to further refine the theory.

Maybe we should teach creation in a science class as a theory. Observe things. Compare findings. If there's evidence of dinosaurs living at the same time as Adam, let's see it. Put it out there with your evidence so other people can compare. Get some substantiation.

Scientists. Let's not call those who believe in creationism stupid. Let's do what we want them to do. Look at their evidence. Be honest and nice with criticism.

Creationists--Invite other people to review what you believe. Not with snarky comments. With real life observation and study. Read your initial text book, in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things. Hold fast that which is good. Are you testing things? Examining evidence? Share the evidence. Compare findings.

Report the findings in science classrooms. Encourage students to think critically and not just blindly accept things. Present your evidence.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It!

First Saturday in December, 2015. We were running by the Coke Plant and there it was. A fork. Bent up a little bit from being run over. I knew what I had to do. I picked it up. 

Three months later, I was running the Savin Rock Marathon in West Haven, Connecticut. It's a double course (it used to be just a half marathon), flat for the first 4 miles, hilly for 5+ miles then flat for the last 3 or so. I was running with a new friend around mile 7 when my foot hit a piece of metal. It jingled against the pavement and I looked down. Another fork. Obviously run over a few times. I picked it up and carried it for the last six miles of the loop and stuck it in the ground near a fire hydrant by the finish line while I went out for my final 13 miles.  I had come to a fork in the road. So I had to take it.

Yogi Berra, the legendary baseball player who just died sometime in 2015, I think, was not only one of the greats of the game, he was also famous for his interesting quotes. One of his most famous was, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." And, being "one of those guys," it seemed to be the thing to do.

A year later, in Fort Smith, Arkansas for another marathon, somewhere around mile 14, was another one. A nice black handle on it this time. Remembering Yogi's famous words, I stuck it in my little waist pack and took it with me.

Running marathons. Sometimes we need distractions. Sometimes, that distraction comes from a fork in the road. Sometimes it's even a literal fork. Whatever gets us through the miles. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

I Quit Buying Lottery Tickets

I never bought too many of them. But it's kinda fun thinking about what to do with all that money when the jackpots get over $100,000,000.
We were having some post run food and fellowship at Christina's house one time, when Paul asked me, "Don, what would you do differently if you won that much money?" He had a point.

We get to decide how we want to live our lives. My choice is to stay in shape, and collect experiences rather than "stuff." So having tons of money wouldn't mean driving fancy cars or buying a huge house or something. I do take trips frequently, but really enjoy being frugal when I'm doing that. Road tripping with an occasional night spent in my car. Marathons, mountain hikes, microbreweries, hanging out with friends. Doesn't have to be expensive. When all I'm doing is sleeping, an inexpensive bed is as good as a fancy hotel.

Life is pretty abundant already. Enough to eat. Enough to wear. A warm place to sleep. I'm pretty happy with what I have. So when the jackpot got to half a billion last week, I wasn't even thinking about it much.

But in the case of a hypothetical win--I'd do more charity work. I'd hire a couple people to help putting on marathons. Maybe a personal trainer. But I'd try really hard not to complicate my life any more.

I answered Paul when he asked the question: "I'd sit in First Class a lot more often."

Monday, April 02, 2018

Five Minutes (or less) To Being A Better Runner

Five Minutes (or less) To Being A Better Runner
By Marathon Don Kern

Who has time for all this stuff? Not me. Most of us have a lot of life going on, so running mega-miles every week in order to get stronger and faster isn’t always going to work. But if you have just a few minutes, you can squeeze in some of these workouts. Maybe right after one of your mid-week shorter runs or even while you’re waiting for Game of Thrones to come on.

1. Get To The Core Of The Matter. If your core muscles aren’t strong, your endurance will be compromised. Experienced marathon runners know that as you get into those higher miles and the fatigue sets in, your form starts suffering. Your shoulders droop a little. Your lungs are compressed and you don’t breathe as well as you did a few miles earlier. They put a finisher medal around your neck, and the weight of it seems to pull your head down. It’s not just because someone turned up the gravity where you are—it’s because your core muscles aren’t supporting your body the way they should. This will help.

The workout: Rolling Planks. Start in a plank position, which is like a pushup position but resting on your elbows. Keep your body as close to perfectly straight as you can. That’s the front position. Hold it for 30 seconds. Now, without allowing your body to touch the ground, roll to your right side and rest on your right foot and right elbow. Hold it there for 30 seconds. Now back to the front position for another 30 seconds. Then to the left side for 30 seconds. Now back to the center for the final 30 seconds. Total time 2 minutes 30 seconds. Do this three times a week while you’re waiting for something else to happen.

2. Building leg strength and turnover. Running long distances keeps you in the fat-burning zone for a long time, but if we don’t pay attention we end up running slower. So take a few minutes once a week for this quick drill to get those legs turning over.

The Workout: Hill Blasts. Start with an easy warm up run, then stand at the ready at the bottom of a hill that’s steep enough to get your attention. Now run uphill FAST for 10 seconds. Then walk backwards down the hill, focusing on recovery and stretching your legs out on the way back down. Repeat until you’ve blasted the hill 10 times. Then do the grand finale for the eleventh time and run hard up the hill for 20 seconds. Walk down backwards and stretch out a little bit. Total run time is 2 minutes. With the cool downs in between you’re finished in less than ten. As you jog back to your car on a flat road, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to run flat on the way back. Get enough of a cool-down run to get your legs back to a relaxed state. By the way, your calf muscles will be a lot happier with you tomorrow if you be sure to strike mid-foot instead of running on your toes during the blasts.

3. Increasing leg speed. As a distance runner, sometimes you need to make sure that your legs “remember” what it feels like to go fast. Every couple weeks, throw this one into your rotation.

The Workout: Speed Bursts on a track. Do a few laps and warm up until your legs and your breathing feel good, then start the repeats. In the straightaway sections, pick up your speed a couple notches to just past your “comfort zone” and run hard for the full length. My training buddy Jim likes to call that speed “comfortably uncomfortable.” That means if you can talk while you’re at that speed, you aren’t working hard enough. At the curve, slow to recovery pace, even if that means walking for a little bit. As you approach the next straight, pick it up again and run until the next curve starts. On a 400-meter track, do 5 or 6 laps. On the indoor track at the club, adjust the count accordingly, or maybe alternate a hard half-lap with a recovery half-lap. Aim for 5 minutes total at the fast speed. When you get done, run easy for a lap or so to cool down.

4. Building the Glutes. Hey, we all like it when someone looks at us and says, “Nice butt!” Well, at least I do. This will benefit your hill climbing ability while it strengthens and firms up that backside of yours. Not that it’s bad right now.

The Workout: Step ups. Find a picnic table, hopefully one sitting on level ground. Step on the bench then on the table top and bring your feet together. Then back down to the bench and to the ground and bring your feet together. That’s one repetition. Alternate your leading foot on each repetition, or if you aren’t that coordinated, start with your right leg 5 times, then with your left leg 5 times. Reach the top of the table 20 times before you stop.

5. Quads and Abs. A long run is one continual progression of lifting one leg after another. So here we’ll work on getting the leg lifting muscles to be a little happier with us. 

The Workout: High Knee March. Slow, then fast. Stand in a normal posture, walk in place, lifting each knee a little higher than it takes to make your upper leg parallel to the floor. Swing your arms as if you are walking at the same time. It takes a bit to get the rhythm, but it works. For your first couple sessions, stand close enough to a wall so you can reach out and balance yourself if you need to. You’ll get the hang of it pretty fast. As you lift each leg, count it. When you get to 100, you’re done. It’s a LONG way to 100 the first few times you do this. 
Now catch your breath—we’re not done. Second verse, same as the first. A whole bunch faster and a whole lot worse. Repeat the exercise, but at double time. Or faster. Count to 100 lifts, and make sure your knee comes up as far is it’s supposed to even when you get past 70 or 80. The good news is that the second time goes ever-so-much faster than the first time. 

6. Building the Endurance. Short blasts are good for a lot of things, but let’s ramp it up a bit. These actually go fast. But it doesn’t seem like it. When you get done with this workout, you’ll feel like you did something. 

The Workout: HIITs - High Intensity Interval Training. Get a warm-up in so your legs and your breathing are ready for this. Find a fairly flat, or even a slightly downhill stretch. Sprint for 60 seconds. Turn around and walk back to the start. Keep a mental note of how far you got—or drop a rock or a stick or something. Repeat 5 times to start with. Try to get at least as far as the previous spot on each succeeding sprint. Work your way up to 10 repeats on this exercise. Be sure to recover fully after each one. 

7. Day After Day Stamina. If you’re preparing for a multi-day event, it’s important to train for many days in a row. The good news is, it’s not that hard. Runner’s World ran a challenge at Thanksgiving, encouraging runners to run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year. Since I was signed up to run a challenge of running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, doing at least some running every day seemed like a good idea. 

The Workout: Run a Mile Every Day. For a couple months run at least one mile every day. (More than 5 minutes for most of us, sorry.) Your normal runs which are over a mile, are included, of course. But on any day that would have been an off day, just go run a mile. Even if it’s on a treadmill or taking two laps around the block. Keep your legs working every day for a while.

8. This Might Be The Hardest One. Or the easiest. There are some days you just don’t feel like working out. That’s normal. This drill will change your attitude toward today’s workout FAST. And it’s easy.

The Workout: Tie your shoes. Just throw on a pair of shorts and put your running shoes. Take one step out the door. That’s it. Very small actions make very big changes in attitude. You will be amazed. And you’ll be running.

That’s it. Not a lot of complicated stuff. Not a gigantic effort. Rotate some of these into your regular routines and before you know it, you’ll see the improvements.

and the adventure continues….

 “Marathon” Don Kern is a marathon race director, a veteran of over 300 marathons, and a former Guinness World Record holder for running marathons on seven continents in the shortest period of time.