Running with Ruth

Stories that Inspire & Motivate...Not for New Runners Only! By Ruth Gursky


Ruth Gursky

Coach Ruth
Photo by Howard Zucker Posted by Hello

My Soggy Hamptons Half-Marathon Adventure

Chapter 6: I’m Ba-a-a-a-a-ack!

Article 1:
My Soggy Hamptons Half-Marathon Adventure: Basking in Glory - Glisters Galore!

This column is dedicated to my physical therapist Luanne Sforza, orthopedist Dr. Catherine Compito and chiropractor Dr. Brandon Cooper (“Team Ruth”), without whom I wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone run!

In the 3-1/2 years since my nasty fall on a broken sidewalk, I’ve been able to do some running, but each effort at completing a half-marathon (my goal distance) has landed me back in physical therapy – and even surgery (don’t ask)! In other words, these last few years have been a nightmare for me, as I’ve gotten used to telling my body what to do (from marathons and triathlons, to rock climbing and scuba diving) and after proper training, accomplishing whatever physical challenge I set for myself. Additionally, without the ability to work-out at the same level, I’m now packing an additional 20 lbs...OY!

So, this spring, in a rush of high hope and determination, I set a new goal for myself: to complete The Hamptons Half-Marathon, a flat, fast course that takes runners through The Springs, an East Hamptons suburb, to the scenic dunes of Peconic Bay and back.

My training through the spring and summer went well – I was cautious and took special care of my knees and right shoulder by running very slowly (even by my own back-of-the-pack standards). With Jeff Galloway’s advice and blessing, I had already brought my running interval down to a mere 15 seconds followed by a one-minute walk – slow and steady was the new name of the game. And in a little more than four months, I felt race-ready for my Hamptons debut.

Unfortunately, for the first time ever on a race day, the weather gods were not with me. (Yes, I’ve been very lucky weather-wise: successfully completing 5 marathons and 25+ half-marathons in mostly cool, but always dry temps.) The day before the race, at the time I was picking up my race number and t-shirt, the rain was coming down in torrents, with heavy winds…I vowed that I wouldn’t compete if I awoke to this weather on race day. As luck would have it, there was no precipitation when the alarm sounded at 5:45am, but 20 minutes before the start of the race, heavy clouds darkened the sky and it started to drizzle. By the time the horn sounded, the ominous drizzle had turned into a driving downpour. Several runners gave up and turned around within the first couple of miles; I continued slogging along, alternating running and walking, as my trusty watch beeped its intervals.

I started near the back of the pack. In a short time, I made my move, passing three Team-in-Training walkers, clad in wet purple t-shirts. My next ‘victims” were a couple way up ahead; it took awhile, but I finally caught up and passed them, too. And I was so determined that they not pass me again, I began running for 20-30 seconds instead of merely 15. I monitored how I was feeling and all systems and body parts felt OK, so, I decided to lasso some more walkers, up ahead, using my imaginary rubber band. (Thanks, Jeff, for teaching me this cool “mental trick!”) It took about a mile, but I eventually passed them, too. Shortly after overtaking them, the course changed from a paved roadway to a dirt (now muddy) path. With no one in front of me, it took a few moments to orient myself to this ‘cross-country’ turf, but I pleased to find myself able to maintain a fairly steady pace, despite the intermittent rain and the nature of the course – puddles and traffic and mud (oh my!).

The miles seemed to fly by – the beauty of a runner’s endorphin high – and I continued running strong, but alone. In my mind, I thought back on enjoyable conversations shared with my running buddies, Chris, M’Shell and Cherelle, and imagined how each of us would trash the presidential and V.P. candidates, Star Jones’ divorce, Emmy Award winners and losers – so much to ‘virtually dish’ about while traversing 13.1 miles!

Toward the end of the race, at the Peconic Bay turn-around, I was buoyed by the speedy marathoners who were gunning for their 3+hour marathon PR’s. So, as I slowly charged toward the finish line, I felt my inner warrior coming out! I picked off a solo runner and another pair of walkers - there’s nothing better than finding the energy to pass others as you sprint toward the finish line – making sure I smiled for the cameras, of course!

In my mind, while my realistic goal was to complete the race injury-free, a part of me really wanted to do it in 3:30 or less – yes, a far cry from my 3:08 PR the year before my accident, but if this is my “new normal” then, I must embrace it…at least, for now.

After sprinting to the finish line, my rain poncho, now tied around my waist, blowing in the breeze, I was delighted to learn that I had achieved both of my goals! I finished strong, in 3:30:17!

But given that I was running in soaking wet sneakers and socks for 3-1/2 hours, once I stopped running, I soon discovered I suffered not only the usual post-marathon limp, but I could barely place my feet on the ground without feeling like I was stepping on glass. So many blisters – so little relief! Thank goodness, my girlfriend was there, waiting to whisk me off …by car! Another successful half- marathon experience under my belt…now, it’s time to bask in the glory with a warm soak and glass a red wine!

For sure, you can proclaim: I’m ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack!

Gettin' Racy!

Chapter 5: I’m Back…With a Vengeance!

Article 2: Gettin' Racy!

As many of you know, I've been sidelined for over a year with injuries sustained during a nasty fall on a broken sidewalk last April. Well, the good news is that I ran my first race, the Mother's Day 5K, a couple of weeks back. And while there are still some lingering medical issues to deal with, it feels great to be back!

To those of you who are new to the Galloway Program and have never raced before, let me assure you that participation in a race is lots of fun…and a great way to see how your training's coming along. Whether you're "speedy" or "speed challenged"…that's OK! As the Nike ad promotes: Just Do It!

And by joining the Galloway marathon and ½ marathon training program, you’re going to be trained to do just that, pain free and injury free (if you follow your group leader’s instructions, that is)!!

And while we're on the subject of participation and doing our personal best, why not check out the late summer or fall race schedule and pick a goal race. Whether it’s a marathon or ½ marathon, you’ll have five months of training that’ll get you safely to the finish line, with a big smile on your face and the spirit to wanna do it again…soon!

Looking forward to seeing you "get racy" this season!


Recovery Took 5 Painful Months...

Chapter 5: I'm Back…With a Vengeance!
Article 1:
Recovery Took 5 Painful Months…But who's counting?

For those of you who've kept up with my goings-on (or lack thereof), you'll recall that in mid-April, I fell on a cracked sidewalk while walking in my neighborhood. And in the split second that it took me to be propelled to the ground, I broke a few bones, ripped some tendons and ligaments, and dramatically changed my spring and summer plans.

Instead of running local races in Central Park, coaching my beloved "speed-challenged" Galloway marathon group and training for a handful of summer and fall ½ marathons, I was forced into an intensive physical therapy and home exercise program in the hope that, I would regain the strength, flexibility and stamina required to run ½ marathons once again.

Well, I'm extremely pleased to report that almost 5 months to the date of my accident, I ran my first tentative steps on the treadmill, under the watchful eyes of my physical therapist! WOW! It felt terrific…and only somewhat painful! My quads reported in, almost immediately, telling me that they weren't prepared for this exertion. My hips said they were of out whack. My ankles didn't appreciate the jarring. And even my "good" knee chimed in with a painful "don't forget about me." But amazingly, my knees held up and my running form was aligned and balanced (according to my therapist). And after observing me run/walk, using the tried-and-true Galloway training method, for about 10 minutes, I received the long-awaited "go-ahead" to return to running, the one sport that truly enhances the quality of my life.

So, I'm back…with a vengeance!

As I continue in physical therapy on a once-weekly basis (down from 5x/week), I've also reconnected with the personal trainer whose TLC rehabbed me 20 years ago, when I initially injured my right knee. And I'm hopeful that with my team at my side, I will work out the kinks that remain in my injured knees, elbow, shoulder and wrist, and rebuild my strength and endurance to the level it was before that horrendous day in April.

And in the category of hitting someone while she's already down (which we all know isn't a nice thing to do), when I was recovering this summer, and feeling quite down and sorry for myself, I received an invitation to join AARP, the senior citizens' support organization. Was "big brother" watching me limp along with a cane borrowed from my 85-year-old neighbor? Do the "powers-that-be" think I'm ready for Shady Pines? Needless to say, that was one letter that hit the infamous circular file without passing go!

So, as I struggle to regain the mindset of an athlete and dedicate myself to getting back to race-ready shape, I'm gonna do my best to block that misdirected missive from my memory banks…although, admittedly, it was somewhat hard to do today, on this glorious fall day, as I ran my first mile along the West Side Highway. Just me, some younger runners training for the NYC Marathon or jogging for their health, and a few gray-haired retired couples - all of us, enjoying this new pedestrian walkway, the fresh city air and vista views of NJ's new Hudson River skyline.

Guess they're all "my peops" now: young and old, marathoner and stroller. Now, which group I belong in…?!

Ruth & Jane Hanson Posted by Picasa


Words of Wisdom

Chapter 4: Sidelined with Another Injury
Article 3:
Words of Wisdom
Unexpected Sources Help Us “Find Gain in Pain”

"There is no better teacher than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time." -- Malcolm X

While no one in their right mind would think of Malcolm X as a sports coach, his words reached out and touched me, as I find myself straining to regain the strength and flexibility I took for granted before I fell on a broken sidewalk three short months ago.

And I’m learning from other “masters,” likes the great Hasidic Rabbi, Reb Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), who used to say to his followers: “Know that whatever you break, you can fix.” Well, his words are certainly ringing true, I’m pleased to say! Eight weeks after my accident, my doctors reported that the fractures in my jaw and elbow had healed. And with physical therapy continuing and intensifying, I’m hopeful that I will regain full use of my right elbow (which, at the moment, remains swollen and in a slightly bent position) as well as my other injured body parts (right shoulder, wrist and knee).

In seeking solace from my adverse situation, I was delighted to discover the book “Sacred Therapy” by Estelle Frankel, a psychotherapist, who uses Jewish spiritual teachings to help her patients (and readers) find healing from their physical and/or emotional wounds.

I was intrigued with Ms. Frankel’s thesis that traumatic events force us to develop new strengths: “Certain powers of the soul can emerge only when we struggle with adversity. Though none of us would ever consciously choose to be ill, when we are lifted out of the secure confines of our ordinary lives by an illness or trauma, we discover new qualities and strengths in ourselves that we may never have imagined ourselves to possess.”

While I never thought about it in such “high and mighty” terms, this notion also rang true for me. Twenty years ago, before injuring my right knee the first time, I was a couch potato; complacent and content to work, come home, have dinner and watch TV. An occasional night out shakin’ my booty at a dance club satisfied my need to exercise! But after sustaining the knee injury and enduring a lengthy treatment and recovery process, I felt a compelling need to challenge and prove myself physically once released from my doctor’s care. Thus began my first-ever exercise regime, which I stuck to like glue. Unlike my “Old Self,” the “New Ruth” loved the excitement of trying new sports, such as rock climbing, boxing and scuba diving and competing in road races and triathlons. And as I reached greater levels of strength and fitness, I became healthier, more energetic, and I daresay, a better person. I know, in my heart of hearts, that none of this would have happened but for my knee injury!

Ms. Frankel also address the age-old issue of “why bad things happen” in a fairly novel way, by asking questions such as: “What is God revealing to me through this particular revelation of divinity known as illness?” Whoa! What’s that she’s saying? That God’s talking to ME through my fall on the sidewalk? Could a slab of concrete be my “burning bush” experience?!

Not really!

To support her thesis, she explains that instead of asking “why me?” and seeing a trauma as “God’s punishment,” one can transform the negative into a revelatory experience, seeing it “as emanating from the same divine source to which we turn for healing.” OK, I may need a little more time to fully absorb this teaching…but as “basic believer,” I already see that as a result of my trauma, I’m developing a deeper sense of connection with my community…and in time, I hope, with God.

A friend of mine recently asked if I found it frustrating to serve as “head coach” of my loyal group of speed-challenged runners as they train for their fall marathons and ½ marathons while I remain sidelined with injuries. Quite the contrary, I explained! My being a part of their training is tremendously rewarding for me (and hopefully, for them, as well)! To share my knowledge and experience with friends and feel supported by them as I take them with me on my journey to recovery…well, that’s what’s helping me get through each hellish physical therapy session and weekend walking workout!

So, instead of allowing myself to spiral down the slippery slope of negative thinking, I’m doing my best to remain optimistic by complying with my physical therapists’ instructions, seeking guidance from books and support from friends, and in my own way, re-discovering the power of prayer…with the hope that it’ll all help me get to a place of “complete healing”...of body, mind and spirit. And in the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill:
I promise to “Never give up. Never. Never. Never.”

(…Even if it kills me!)


Ruth's "Marathon Lie"

Ruth's "Marathon Lie" (as seen at GallowayNYC's 2004 post marathon celebration) Posted by Picasa


Favorite 10K I Didn't Run


Article 2:
My Favorite 10K that I Didn’t Run

One of the first races I participated in, when I was just starting my running “career” was the Advil 10K in Central Park. Begun in the ’70’s, at a time when women were still considered the “fairer sex” and were prohibited from competing in marathons, the “mini–marathon” as it was then called, has morphed into one the largest women’s races in the country.

Throughout the years, this race has been blessed with several sponsors, L’eggs and Advil among them. Starting in 2004, the race has taken on the moniker of its newest sponsor, Circle of Friends, a nonprofit organization that promotes anti smoking programs.

About 25 in my personal "cirlce of friends" ran the mid–June race this year, but not moi, as I’m still sidelined with injuries incurred 7 weeks back when I fell on a broken sidewalk. The ONLY saving grace about sitting out this race, which I’m holding onto like a life preserver, is the knowledge that it will be around next year…and having that (and other goal races) to look forward to keeps me going as I struggle in physical therapy!

So, why does a “mere” 10K rate as a favorite? I guess it’s time for a story from the “Ruth Archives.” About 20 years ago, when I was recuperating from my first knee injury, I befriended a woman who frequently wore her L’eggs Mini–Marathon t–shirt around town. I didn’t have many “athletic” friends growing up, as my parents encouraged my scholastic achievements and frowned on anything that took time away from studying. So, when I met this woman, I naturally asked how she got into running, what “qualifications” one needed to enter races, etc. I had no idea there was a “running community” in NYC and had only a vague memory of the historic first women’s marathon that had taken place a few years before, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

When I started running in the early ’90’s, I eventually joined the NYC Road Runners Club, which organizes weekly races of varying distances in Central Park as well as the annual NYC Marathon. And that year, I entered my first Advil Mini–Marathon (L’eggs dropped its sponsorship) AND I received my first–ever finisher’s medal!

I was so excited to get a medal (and such a beautiful one, too!) that I wore it proudly all day, even on the subway out to Queens to meet my parents for lunch! So picture me, sitting in the booth of the Georgia Diner on Queens Blvd., across from my parents, proudly showing off my prize possession. And the first words from my Dad were: "Oh, but everyone gets one." For a split second, maybe two, I was stung by his reaction, until I realized that my parents – who were never athletically inclined, and thus tried to pass on their non–athletic genes to their daughter – just didn't "get it." So, I said, in a tone of voice laced with sarcasm: "Yeah, well, where's yours, then? NOT everyone gets one...only those who finish the race!"

To all my friends who ran the 2005 Circle of Friends 10K, I hope you had a great race! Enjoy your first “BLING” of the 2005 running season!!

PS: Oh, and my friend who inspired me by wearing her L’eggs Mini–Marathon t–shirt – we lost touch, but I saw her again a few years ago. She’s no longer running…in fact, the L’eggs Mini was one of only a handful of races she ever ran. She was genuinely surprised to learn that her running was an inspiration for me. And she shocked to hear that I completed 5 marathons, as when she last saw me in the mid ’80’s, I was recuperating from two knee surgeries. And so, I learned another of life’s lessons: that we can influence others and sometimes, not even know it. Guess that’s life!

At the 2004 "Mini 10K"

Coach Ruth finishing the 2004 "Mini 10K" Posted by Hello

Down, But Not Out


Article 1:
Down, But Not Out:
Coaching Myself Through Another (Non–Running-Related) Injury!

One of the most consistently frustrating things about life is that sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense! For instance, at the end of February, I spent 2 very special weeks in Israel, checking out the sights as part of a jam–packed group tour followed by a shopping and fun spree with my sister and her family. As luck would have it, however, my flight home was on the “TB Express,” where I was imprisoned in an airless cabin with a bunch of sniffling, sneezing and coughing passengers! I started sneezing in the cab ride home, developed a fever before I had time to unpack and was soon bedridden with a combination of bronchitis, sinusitis, laryngitis and yes, even conjunctivitis (pink eye)! Oozing from every orifice…not a pretty sight! And when this demon cold was finally exorcised, I felt alive and ready to conquer the world!

April 18, 2005: an early spring hit NYC – a beautiful, 80 degree day, perfect for a walk in the neighborhood. God, however, had other plans in mind, for on that day, the toe of my right sneaker wedged into a crack in the sidewalk about a ½ mile from my home…and down I went…in a fall which I’ve been told measured 4.0 on the Richter Scale! As a result, I broke my elbow in 2 places, fractured my wrist and jaw and injured my shoulder and knee!

In less than a minute, my life was changed.

Now, as a spiritual person, I believe there’s a reason that things happen. But why, after just experiencing the highs of Sabbath in Jerusalem and the lows of a cold from hell, did I deserve this?! Alas, a rhetorical question…but the road to the answer, I believe, lies in what I do from this point on.

Sidelined – – again! And a month before the spring marathon training program is set to begin. Sheesh! Could my timing be any worse?

So, what to do? Crying elicited some much welcome sympathy from family and friends for the first couple of days, but left me drained and headachy. Plan B, then, was to arrange for 2 veteran runners to share my coaching responsibilities. OK, so I’ve taken care of everyone else, now what about me!

Do I accept the lemons that life put in my path or go for the lemonade?

As a “glass is ½ full type of person,” I clearly opted for the lemonade and decided to become my own coach.

With my knee surgeon’s blessing (she’s a runner, too), I started a course of physical therapy for my right knee about a week after my fall; a month later, I got the go–ahead from my hand surgeon to begin therapy for my right arm.

Physical therapy (or PT, a/k/a “Pain and Torture!”), for the uninitiated, is a course of treatment whereby trained professionals poke, prod and manipulate your damaged and highly sensitive body parts, hoping to cajole them into doing that which they’re no longer capable of doing because of an accident (in my case) or some other trauma. But if you’re willing to put in the hard and excruciatingly painful work required, then slowly, over time, your injured body parts should grow stronger and develop the range of motion and flexibility they once had...and this is my much hoped–for outcome.

PT helped me 20 years ago when I injured my knee (again, non–running-related) and underwent two knee operations. At that time, after months of blood, sweat and tears in PT, I decided I didn’t want to be a “couch potato” anymore and developed a game plan to create a new “me.” My PT and medical care ended when I was told that I had achieved “maximum benefits.” I then began working out with professional trainers and coaches and slowly, over several years, I built up my strength, endurance and aerobic capacity. I then began testing myself physically (and mentally) by competing in duathlons, sprint triathlons and road races, taking up rock climbing and becoming scuba certified. And in the spring of 1999, I took the boldest step of my life: I enrolled in the Galloway Marathon Training Program, trained for and completed the first of 5 marathons, 20+ half marathons and scores of shorter races.

And now, armed with the knowledge learned from experience – and with a leap of faith that will get me to enter a fall 1/2 marathon as my goal race! And I’m confident that even though I’m 20 years older, by following a rigorous PT regimen and returning to the gym (with my doctors’ OK), I can…and will…coach myself back to the fitness level I was at before this accident (or die trying)!

So, you may consider me down (for now), but don’t count me out! The ”Running with Ruth” columns shall continue – with more stories about my running and racing experiences accompanied by new and fabulous finish line photos!

At the Philly 1/2

Coach Ruth with her running group at the Philly 1/2 finish line (Sept. 2004) Posted by Hello

Summer Running Tips


Article 3:
Running in the Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Dear Friends:

A message from US Olympic track & field athlete (and my "running guru") Jeff Galloway: "Something to remember: even the most heat-conditioned athletes will record slower times in warm weather. The faster you run in hot weather, especially from the beginning, the longer it takes to recover."

Usually, our training groups reduce their speed and take more frequent walk breaks in the summer, but here are some things to remember when running on your own or as part of a group during the lazy, hazy crazy days of summer:

* Run slower and take more walk breaks, especially as the mileage and heat/humdity index increase...for example, those running 5:1, should go down to 4:1, the 4:1 runners should go down to 3:1; and those running 2:1 should do 1:1 .

* Hydrate well before, during and after your runs...and bring along power bars and gels to provide energy and sustenance as long runs exceed six miles and you're on the road in excess of one hour.

* Wear coolmax or other technical running clothes (no cotton).

* Wear a white (or light colored) cap made of coolmax (with holes in it) that protects your eyes from the runs’ rays and allows your head to expel heat (NO canvas baseball caps that hold in the heat).

* Apply sunscreen in advance, and bring along small tube in your water bottle holder. This is especially important for those of us with fair skin, but even those runners with darker skin tones can get sunburn and sun poisoning!

* Take extra walking breaks, as needed.

* If you're feeling unwell at any time during a run, IMMEDIATELY tell your group leader; if you’re running on your own, make sure you have a cellphone with you at all times. (I suffered minor heat injury a few years back, while running just 4 miles in Riverside Park. It can happen to anyone at anytime!)

* Galloway group runs generally start earlier during the summer months…if you’re running on your own, aim to run in the early morning hours or after the sun sets; avoid the midday, if possible (unless you’re on a treadmill in an air conditioned room!).

I've said this for years: you need to run with your HEAD (in addition to your feet)!

Be smart and take good care of yourself at all times...the training runs are intended to prepare you to run longer distances; they're not supposed to kill you!!!!!

"Coach Ruth"

At the Lakeshore 1/2

Coach Ruth, in action! (Chicago, May 2004) Posted by Hello

Winter Running Tips


Article 2:
Happy New Year’s Resolution & Winter Running Tips!

Dear All:

Well, I can't let this occasion pass by without a word or two to my running buddies!

Looking back, I'd say the past year was a pretty good one: we each set and reached our running goals, some of us experienced the disappointment (and real pain) of injuries, others had some personal setbacks -- but all in all, each of us accomplished at least one of our personal goals for the year: completing a marathon or 1/2 marathon! For some, it was the first time at that distance; for others, it was a 5th marathon or the 20th half marathon! Congratulations to all!

What I'm most proud of, is not that each of you set a goal - because that's one of those things that most people do around new year's - but that each of you set a goal AND created the environment to accomplish it...and you did this by showing up and running as part of the group, week after grueling week!

Whether or not you re-join the Galloway program next year, I hope that you take the "life lessons" you learned this year and use them in the future to mold you into the best person you can be!

And before I leave you, let me offer some reminders about running outdoors during the cold, winter months: the key to staying warm is to wear LAYERS! You don't want any one layer to be too bulky - and by wearing layers, IF you should get warm during the run, you can take off one layer and not risk freezing to death.

The layer closest to your body should be a long sleeved coolmax top. The next layer should be something fleece (that you can remove if you get too warm). The top layer is your wind breaker - best if made with polypropylene, Gore-tex or something protective like that!

If you're running a race that offers baggage check, bring along a plastic bag with your race number pinned to it and about 15 minutes before race start, check your coat -- that way, after the race, you'll be nice and toasty! (But carry your money & keys on your person during the race, just in case the bag is lost or taken by mistake....)

Long tights are definitely in order - sometimes, if it's really cold, I’ll wear a pair of short tights under the long ones. They also sell tights that are a bit thicker for colder days, but I would stay away from wind pants (cuz the swishing noise is really annoying)!

In the fall, winter and early spring you'll also need a hat - a stocking cap will do, but a hat made from coolmax is even better cuz it allows your head to sweat - and gloves - and sunglasses if it's sunny out (to protect against the glare beaming off the snow).

Don’t forget your water bottle - you still need to replace your water intake as you sweat, even in the cold weather – and a power bar/gel is you’re going out for a long run!

The same sneakers and socks you're used to wearing are OK for winter use - but when the roads are icy or it's actively snowing out, you won't find me on the road, as I don't really want to risk injuring myself!

If you're careful and dress properly, winter running is lots of fun…enjoy!

Best wishes for a joyful, healthy and meaningful new year!

"Coach Ruth"

At the Las Vegas 1/2

Coach Ruth at the Las Vegas 1/2 Marathon (January 2004) Posted by Hello

Tips for Marathoners


Article 1:
Marathon Tips for New Marathoners (and Veterans)

Well, this is it! The week before the marathon; your date with destiny! I know you're nervous and excited, so I want to share a few things to help you get ready for the big day:

1. Maintain your regular, daily routines - sleeping, eating, workouts, etc. Don't change anything - don't try to throw in extra workouts…after 6 months of training, trust me: You're ready for this race!

2. Keep your suitcase open and when you think of something you think you might need for the race, throw it in! Go through the entire race weekend in your mind, from the time you awake in the morning through bedtime. Think of all the clothing and cosmetic/pharmaceutical needs you may have for each day of race weekend.

3. As for your running clothes, think of what you wore all season and throw them into your suitcase, including: sports bra, sneakers, orthotics (if you wore them), Galloway singlet, running shorts, socks and your watch-timer. Now think of what you may have forgotten: sunglasses, hat, scarf, running gloves, windbreaker, Vaseline, ibuprophen, sunblock, power bars/gels, water bottle holder, water bottle, throw-away camera (I used it during my first marathon - had others take photos of me along the route!). Throw in a long-sleeve coolmax shirt if the weather is supposed to be cool on race day - you're either going to wear the long sleeve shirt under or over your Galloway singlet (more on that later on) and find an old pair of sweatpants to wear if it’s supposed to be cold or rainy on race morning (to be thrown away before the start of the race).

4. Beginning the Wednesday before race day, start increasing the amount of water you drink each day. Keep a water bottle at your desk and go through it at least twice in the course of a day, and then feel free to have another few glasses at home.

1. If your race is on Sunday, go to the race expo on Friday! To avoid the crowds, go as early as you can and also, by going on Friday, you can be off your feet and away from the running masses the day before the race.

2. "If" you plan on packing a bag to check at the start of the race, find out at registration is you have to use the plastic bag they give you or if you can use a bag of your own. Generally, I don't use a race bag at marathons. I wear a windbreaker at the race start and tie it around my waist once I warm up. If I have friends meeting me at the finish (or if I'm going to a friend's house after the race), then I plan in advance and give them dry clothes for me to change into at their home or a restaurant (underwear, long-sleeved shirt, pants, jacket, socks, shoes if it was rainy on race day, etc).

3. Since it may be cold and/or windy on race morning, bring along an old pair of sweatpants to wear to the start - take them off and throw them away just before the race starts. Before I leave my home, I cut off the stretchy band at the bottom to make them easier to take off over my sneakers. You'll see a lot of runners sporting large garbage bags with holes cut out for head and arms. I did that once - when I forgot my sweats. It's not a fashion favorite, but it works, in a pinch!

4. If you and your running partner aren’t staying at the same hotel on race weekend, you need to arrange a specific meeting place so that you're together when the race starts -- do this in advance, and make sure you're both 100% clear on the exact meeting location, because if you don't plan this out well, chances are good that you won't find each other in the crowd of runners on race day!

5. If your friends are planning to meet you along the race route, make arrangements so that you know specifically where they'll be standing. It is much easier for you to spot them than vice versa. Tell them to be patient (and to dress warmly - it's cold when you're standing still)! Have them bring extra food (bananas, peanut butter crackers, etc) that you may want during the race (and that you’ve trained with in the months leading up to the race; don’t eat any foods you’ve not trained with on race day)!

6. Try to stay off your feet the day before the race. The rule of thumb is to rest for as many hours as you think it’s going to take you to run the race (you can figure this one out for yourself). Part of your rest time can be spent driving you along the course – doing this also reduces your “jitters” on race day because you’re somewhat familiar with the course. If the race directors offer a bus tour of the race course, try to book your tour for Friday. If possible, stay away from the race expo the day before the race – too many nervous runners!

1. Lay out everything you plan to bring with you to the race or wear the night before, so you're less likely to forget something in the morning. If it's supposed to be chilly on race morning, you may want to wear a long sleeve coolmax top either under your singlet or on top of your singlet. Wear it under your singlet if you think it's going to be cold all morning; wear it on top and either throw it away or tie it around your waist when you warm up, if you think the temperatures will warm up. Either way, you'll pin your race number on your singlet. Don't forget to put your race chip on your sneaker the night chip - no finish time! And don’t forget: stick with clothes and sneakers that you’ve trained in! The marathon is not the time to wear clothes you just picked up at the race expo!

2. Make sure you get a good night's sleep on FRIDAY night (2 nights before the race). On Saturday, you'll be too nervous and restless to sleep (you'll also be up all night peeing!). Have your carbo-loaded dinner on Friday and go to bed at a decent hour. Don't go pasta-crazy on Saturday night - just have a nice, balanced dinner with water. (Needless to say, no wine, beer, etc.!)

1. Have your regular breakfast on Sunday morning - do what you've done all season-long (cereal, bagel, juice, coffee, etc.) - don't go food crazy the morning of the race. But do bring a snack you’ve trained with to nosh on while you're waiting for the race to start (banana, bagel, energy bar, etc.). Also, find a waiting place near a port-o-john and plan to use the port-o as many times as you need to before the race because for most races, they're few and far between along the course.

2. Don't eat anything new on race day that you haven't already tried during your training runs. Spectators may offer you treats, like gummy bears, jelly beans or chocolate chip cookies. Don’t eat them – unless you’ve eaten them during previous training runs! Stick with the tried and true to prevent an upset stomach during the race.

3. A note on walk-breaks - we've been training with walk-breaks all season. Don't cut them out now. For the Marine Corps Marathon, the key is to make the bridge before the cut-off time! (Other races may have other time limits that you should be aware of prior to the race.) After passing the bridge, depending on how you're feeling, you can reduce your run-walk ratio or take extra walk breaks, as needed. If you're feeling good at mile 18, however, Jeff Galloway says it's okay to reduce the number of walk-breaks, or cut your walk-breaks down to 30-45 seconds.

In the nights leading up to the race, and as you wait for the gun to go off on race day, concentrate on how it will feel to finish the race and visualize how you're going to feel during its 3 parts: the first 10 miles, the second 10 miles and the last 10K.

You'll be feeling strong during the first 10 miles - you're running on fresh legs, the crowds are loud and you're running with others who are going at your same pace. Enjoy this part of the race - take in the scenery - feel how good your legs feel when they're running strong!

Between miles 11 - 20, you're going to start to feel tired. If you're lucky, and your endorphins kick in, the mile markers will start to go by quickly and your legs won't feel how far you're running! BUT if your "endorphin rush" hasn't hit, you may be in a bit of pain. But you can't give in - you must persevere, as you did during your training runs! You need to remind yourselves that you ran 22+ miles together in training runs - pain-free and injury-free - and you're going to do it again today, on race day! Keep eating the foods you brought with you and drinking water (or power drinks, if you trained with them in the past) along the route to prevent your “hitting the wall!”

Enjoy the thrill of starting the "negative countdown" -- once you've passed the halfway mark, you should start to feel it, deep inside, the tingling sensation that's slowly making itself felt throughout your body! That's the feeling of knowing you're going to do it! You're not quite sure how, but you know, deep down, that today's the day you're going to finish your first marathon!

By mile 20, you're well on your way to the finish line! Now, you can really start the "countdown to the finish" -- 6 miles to go. Well, the first time you ran 6 miles was 6 months ago -- that was a long time ago...and look at how far you've come!

5 miles to go - now, you should really begin to feel that the race is yours! You've conquered your demons!

4 miles, this race is so totally yours!

And before you know it, it's 3 miles to the finish – you’ve run 5K races before you ever dreamed of running a marathon – the rest is a piece of cake!

Then, it’s just 2 miles to go. The race is in the bag!

And when you reach the 25-mile mark, you know, in every cell of your body, that with 1 mile to go, YOU WILL DO IT!

And once you've crossed that finish line, well, there isn't anything sweeter than that! It's something that you've done for yourself! Something that no one can ever take away from trained for it - and you did it! Savor the moment forever!


Have fun! Enjoy every minute of YOUR RACE!

At the More 1/2

Coach Ruth at the More 1/2 Marathon (Central Park, 2004) Posted by Hello

MORE for Women 40+


Article 4:
MORE For Women 40+

If you’re a female runner who can recall where you were when JFK was shot; and if you watched the Beatles perform live on the Ed Sullivan Show and waited impatiently for their White Album (not its re-mastered CD) to be released, then you could’ve participated in the More Marathon and Half-Marathon held in Central Park on March 21, 2004!

These races – the first-ever “just” for women over the age of 40 - were co-sponsored by More Magazine and the NY Road Runners Club and drew about 3,000 runners, including many out-of- towners and first-time long distance runners!

Personally, I find it really special to run a women’s-only race. For me, these rare events offer a friendlier, less competitive atmosphere, with opportunities for fun and joking around…at least, from my vantage point (at the back-of-the-pack)! For example, at about mile 6, we passed a man standing at the side of the roadway, holding a sign: “You Don’t Look A Day Over 29!” When I saw his sign, I called out: “I’m better now than at age 29!” Several women near me laughed and called out their agreement with my comment. At about mile 11, a runner who was wearing earphones and singing (off-key) along with her walkman, shouted out loud and proud: “I’m 52 years old!” What motivated her outburst, I haven’t a clue – but it caused lots of laughs and a few “woo-hoos” from those of us running near her! Now, can you imagine this happening in a co-ed race – ever?!

OK – so, enough about the mood of the race – what about the race itself? Let me start by saying that I made a pledge to myself 4 years ago, after running the 2000 Manhattan ½ Marathon, that I’d never run 2 full loops of Central Park again. Well, as my parents always warned me: “Never say never!” - ’cuz along comes this special race, which I felt compelled to register for as my way of encouraging More Magazine and NYRRC to continue sponsoring events like this for my age-group. So here I am, once again, lining up to run 2 loops of the park! And it’s up and down the “rolling” west side hills, then up-up-up and finally down the infamous and seemingly endless Harlem Hill and then up and down the “rolling” east side hills till I return to the starting point…when, somehow, from somewhere deep within myself, I must find and ignite that spark that’ll allow me to do it all over again…culminating in the final muscle-ripping uphill sprint to the finish line! What a great sense of accomplishment – and a shiny medal, to boot! Woo-hoo!

As I reached inside myself for the strength to conquer those last few hills – and questioned, once again, my sanity for having signed up for this race - one thought kept percolating in my brain: that when I am finally finished running the ups and downs of Central Park’s multitudinous hills, there would still be some poor gals out there - running the marathon - who have 13.1 more miles to go! And in my imagination, I envision that by the time they reach that magic line, I’d be sitting with my legs stretched out in front of me, drinking my iced hazelnut decaf and biting into my second Krispy Kreme donut ! (No, I didn’t actually allow myself that forbidden treat - in reality, I had a grilled veggie sandwich and OJ - but thinking about what I’m gonna devour after I’m finished usually keeps me going in the final stretch!)
As for the marathon itself (which I didn’t do – I ran the 1/2), I have 5-words to say: “5 loops of the park!” Now, the majority of non-runners truly believe that the majority of long distance runners are lunatics! And I guess to some extent, we are! But as a 5-time marathon finisher and regular Central Park runner, I feel I’ve earned the right to opine that anyone who feels the need to run 5 hilly loops of Central Park (the original course for the NYC Marathon in the early 70’s before being replaced by the 5-borough course) is truly “crazy” and deserves the aches and pains that are sure to follow! As my Mom used to say, as she shook her head in disbelief and admonition after I told her about my latest race or long training run: “Mishiggah” (“crazy” in Yiddish)!

So, that’s all there is to report, my friends! In a nutshell: a great race! Great weather (cool and sunny)! Great crowd support (it’s always fun to see husbands and kids cheering on wives and moms) offering us encouragement along the course! Great goodie bags (including More magazine and a water bottle holder)! And best of all, great treats at the finish line – and a new medal to add to my collection!

I’ve heard that More Magazine and NYRRC intend to make this an annual event – let’s hope they take it a step further and offer it in cities across the country! I say: Let’s do MORE for women 40+!!

At the Rock & Roll 1/2

Coach Ruth at Rock & Roll AZ 1/2 Marathon (Jan. 2004) Posted by Hello

Inaugural Rock & Roll Marathon


Article 3:
The Inaugural Rock & Roll Arizona ½ Marathon

In keeping with my resolution to run ½ marathons across the country, I started off the new year with “A” (as in Arizona): the inaugural Rock & Roll Arizona ½ Marathon held on January 11, 2004!

I know there are people out there who enjoy running inaugural races, just as there are those who seek to run marathons in 50 states, on the 7 continents, etc. This was my first “first” and I think from now on, I’m just going to wait till the “second annual” event before registering! This race, the newest addition to the “Rock & Roll” roster, missed the mark in starting line organization and as a result, the race started 30 minutes late. And while I’m always one for sleeping-in an extra hour, when it comes to running in the desert heat, I say: the earlier the better! That being said, the event gets high marks for its pre-race expo, variety of race souvenirs and support along the route. This being a “Rock & Roll” race, the organizers touted bands at every mile. As a back-of-the-packer, I appreciated the fact that even when bands were packing up or on break, music was still blaring from the loudspeakers, to keep us moving. And local high school cheerleaders lined the roadways, with their high-energy, specially designed running cheers and joie de vive! While port-o-potties were scarce, aid stations every 2-1/2 miles were fully staffed with cheerful volunteers. Even a local firehouse got into the spirit, with firefighters offering runners a spritz from fire hoses.

All things considered, I was pleased with my race results - the same finish time as I ran in Philly last September (3:08). This time, however, I was running in the intense Arizona heat - with no shade to protect me from the sun's rays and of course, no running buddy to keep me company!

As it turns out, however, I met another Galloway runner (recognized his familiar “run injury free” singlet) from Orlando at about mile 6. He was hobbling and seemed to be in trouble. I called out: "Hey, Galloway Runner - how're you doing?" He said that he was having a hard time, so I offered to run/walk with him. Seems that he ran another 1/2 marathon only 3 weeks before and didn’t do much training since. He was running 5:1, so I suggested that he try running 2:1 with me. (I proudly told him that Jeff Galloway personally prescribed this running ratio for our group!) We ran/walked about 3 miles together, then at about mile 9, he said he needed to walk and urged me to continue on my own (which I did). At about mile 11, at a turn-around point, I spotted him on the other side of the road. I was glad to see him, walking proudly and not giving up!

I heard that the marathon was very difficult because of the extreme heat (it was 10 degrees warmer than usual - in the mid-to-high 70's), so I was pleased with my decision not to run 26.2 -- and the cactus-shaped 1/2 marathon medal is really cool! At the expo, I bought a gold record plaque that will have my name and finish time inscribed on it, to be added to my running “wall of fame” in my office. Very, very cool - and totally unique, too!

So, 6 states down (NY, PA, FL, SC, LA and now AZ) – 44 to go! 2004 is already off on the right foot – next stop: Chicago’s Lakeshore ½ Marathon in May…and then, who knows?

At the Disney 1/2

Coach Ruth runs past Cinderella's Castle (Disney 1/2 Marathon) Posted by Hello

My Favorite 1/2's


Article 2:
A Few of My Favorites 1/2’s

Since “coming out” as a half-marathoner, friends have asked me to name my favorite races. While it’s difficult to choose, here are a few fun, flat and well-organized races (my personal race priorities) worth checking out:

The “happiest” race, by far, is the Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon in Orlando held in early January. OK, so the races start at 6 am and the last bus to the race start departs the Disney-owned hotels at 4:45 am! Setting that little issue aside, these races offer runners a flat course that begins in Epcot and transverses the highways and by-ways of Disney-owned property taking runners into the Magic Kingdom - where America’s favorite cartoon characters, Winnie the Pooh, Goofy, Minnie Mouse and more, come out to cheer you on (the 1/2 ends here). For those doing 26.2, the course continues through the Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios and finishes back at Epcot. How fabulous is that?! I suggest that if you’re not serious about your finish time, take along a disposable camera, as there are photo ops galore in the Magic Kingdom and along the route! Fortunately for us, the race organizers overcame a complaint lodged in the inaugural year that it was a "lonely" race – in pure “Disney-style,” you’ll now meet legions of volunteers along the route, handing out water and cheering you on. Now, they might not be “your” family members, but these enthusiastic fans are great at shouting “Lookin’ good!” or “Keep it going!” just when you need it most! Another advantage of running on Disney property is that they can line-up as many porto-potties along the course as they want without any limits imposed by local authorities – in other words: NO POTTY LINES! At the finish line, you’ll be delighted with the finisher’s medal bearing the likeness of Donald Duck (for the 1/2) or Mickey ears (for the marathon) – plus – the opportunity to have your photo taken with Mickey or The Donald! For those of you with PR’s (personal records) in “expo shopping” (like yours truly), your credit card will get a good workout with the phenomenal race merchandise sold at this race expo! T-shirts, sweatshirts, fleece jackets and baseball caps are sold at most races these days, but at Disney, you’ll also find pins, posters, mugs, bobble-head dolls, stuffed animals, water bottles, pens, key rings and just about every kind of race-related tchotchke imaginable! If you have a partner and/or kids who usually have to be dragged to your races, this one will require no arm-twisting! The race organizers have a fun-filled weekend in store for everyone – and with the winter holidays over and schools back in session, you’ll be delighted that there are no lines for your favorite rides and attractions! So, if you haven’t experienced a Disney race – just do it! It’s a great Boston qualifier – and guaranteed fun for everyone!

The Lakeshore Marathon and Half-Marathon, a/k/a the “other” Chicago marathon, is another great race to try, scenic and flat. Held on Memorial Day, the weather is warmer than the mega fall marathon and thanks to the smaller number of race participants, the course runs along the shore of Lake Michigan (instead of transversing the city, as the fall race does). The day I ran was cool and not particularly windy – but I suspect that given its “Windy City” nickname, this could be a factor! This is the first race I’ve done which didn’t have a mass start. Due to the narrow running path, runners are seeded based upon projected finish times, and waves of 50-100 are sent off every few minutes from the starting line. As a result, if you don’t own a watch with a timer, it’s difficult to know your exact finish time till you visit the Lakeshore website after the race. For this back-of-the-packer, that’s not an issue – but for those who are concerned about your time, this could be a source of frustration. But all things considered, the opportunity to race alongside one of our Great Lakes is totally worth it!

Another fun, flat race is the Philadelphia Distance Run, a half-marathon held in mid-September. This race can serve as a great training run for those planning to run a fall marathon. For first-timers, get your “feet wet” in this mega-race and I predict you’ll be hooked for life on distance running! The course takes you through downtown historic Philadelphia, passed the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and its grand staircase made famous in “Rocky”) and around the Schuykill River. For “marathon shoppers,” plan to get to the race expo early for great bargains in sneakers and running gear! Finally, it’s worth acknowledging that for the last few years, the race organizers have been giving out medals (race t-shirts used to be distributed to finishers at the finish line), making yours truly a happy runner – with yet another piece of “jewelry” to proudly wear home on the train!

Other races worth noting are:
Mardi Gras Marathon and Half-Marathon: Held in New Orleans in early February, just before the city’s Mardi Gras festivities are in full bloom, this race give runners a tour of the infamous French Quarter and some of the city’s most fabulous homes - and the finish, inside the Nokia Sugar Bowl, is awesome! Running from the street into the bright lights of this domed stadium made me feel like a “real athlete!” In my mind, I heard an announcer call out my name, followed by the roar of the assembled spectators…in reality, by the time I finished, most finishers and their guests were chowing down on chili and other Southern-style finish line food! Much to this runner’s chagrin, medals were given only to marathoner finishers (hate that)! And don’t expect a lot of crowd support – in fact, one gets the distinct feeling that everyone in the city is still asleep – but hey…crowds aren’t everything!

Myrtle Beach Marathon and Half-Marathon: Held in late February, this race offers us nor’easterners the chance to get out of the cold and visit one of South Carolina’s premier coastal towns at a time of year when it’s almost tourist-free. The first half of the race offers vista views of the Atlantic Ocean (although when I ran it, you needed a good imagination to “see” the ocean through the dense fog). The second half takes runners through the commercial section of town – not much to see, but it’s flat as a pancake…so no complaints from yours truly!

Rock & Roll Marathons and Half-Marathons: This series of well-organized races features live bands at every mile. Races are held throughout the year in L.A., Phoenix, Virginia Beach and Nashville.

As the popularity of the half-marathon increases, more marathon directors are offering them, which I think this is a great running trend, as I hope to criss-cross the country 13.1 miles at a time!

Finishing Richmond Marathon

Coach Ruth completing her "farewell" marathon (Richmond, 2003) Posted by Hello

My Farewell Marathon


Article 1:
My Farewell Marathon

I approached the Richmond Marathon with an added layer of trepidation, knowing that it would be my fifth and last. Yes, I've said those words before, but anyone who knows me knows that the early mornings are not my “thing” and after 5 years of early morning, long distance runs in the unbearable heat of NY summers, enough is definitely enough! So, this was my mind-set as I approached the start of this momentous race.

The course was beautiful and took the runners through much of downtown Richmond. I particularly enjoyed running along Monument Street, a roadway that features statues dedicated to a variety of confederate generals situated along the wide median dividers - and right there, in the middle of "racists' row" is a monument dedicated to the memory of tennis great Arthur Ashe! I think that's truly "social justice" - a proud black man immortalized on the same roadway as those old confederate soldiers…oh, if they could only speak, what curses would come out of their bronze mouths!

One of the most awesome portions of the route was the strip of secluded roadway that looped along the James River. Imagine a perfect fall day, with golden and red-hued leaves on trees abutting the river on both sides - no one in sight - a few homes overlooking the river - and the only sound you can hear, other than your own footsteps, is that of the rippling river. If I could bottle that moment, I'd call it "Tranquility" (and sell it to stressed out businessmen and women, students, parents, etc. and make a mint)! This part of the course featured many "Kodak moments" (where’s a camera when you need it?)!

Having run 5 marathons, I know that most back-of-the-packers have to settle for "less than" the services promoted in the race brochure - no water, no music, no time clocks or mile markers, etc. Well, in Richmond, I'm happy to report that I didn't miss out on any of the services offered to the elites! Aid stations were intact throughout the course - there was water and powerade on the tables and toward the end, even pretzels, chips and candy! Time clocks were removed after mile 13, but mile markers were still in place. And while the course featured 34 bands and musicians along the route, there were a handful still playing by the time I got there, which I truly appreciated in my tired state!

So, back to the race - the miles slowly went by until mile 17, when I started my single-digit countdown to the finish - that was when it hit me: (a) that the race was almost over, (b) that I’d never again have to run such a long distance again and (c) that I'd finish - regardless of the time it took. So, I kept on going – ticking off the miles, feeling much like the Energizer Bunny!

From the beginning of the race, I was successfully stretching a “magic rubber-band" around the legs of runners and walkers who were ahead of me – and one by one, I reached and passed each of them! And so it went - except for a man and a woman, who seemed “immune” to my rubber band. For the whole race, they were ahead of me; despite my best efforts, they kept slipping through my rubber band. But instead of this being a source of frustration, just knowing they were still in front of me was incentive to keep on moving.

When I reached mile 24, my body quit on me, but by switching my run-walk ratio, I continued trudging toward the finish line. At mile 25, I finally caught up with the man who was ahead of me, but that one woman still eluded my best efforts at rubber-banding her. About 1/4 mile from the finish, I resumed my race pace, as I wanted this %*)#$)@ race to be over!

Just ahead, I saw the finish line - and "that woman"! By now, I passed the man and continued running through the pain – I gave it all I had. With less than a block to go, I finally passed the woman, too, and found myself running on my own toward my last marathon finish line. And for me, THAT was the "real" race – running through the pain to beat the lone runner who stood between me and the finish line!

What a HIGH! What a tremendous achievement! And what proud memories I carry of all five marathons and the months of training for each…and now, it’s onto half-marathons – and perhaps, I’ll accomplish my next dream of running half-marathons in all 50 states!

Jeff Galloway's Proud Marathoners

Jeff Galloway's proud marathoners (Richmond Marathon finish line, 2003) Posted by Hello

Going the Distance (from


Article 3:
Going the Distance
People of all shapes are running marathons. Could you?

April 17, 2000 (Venice, Calif.) -- Struggling along at mile 25 of last October's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., Ruth Gursky heard the organizers announce that anyone who didn't make the seven-hour cutoff time -- just minutes away -- wouldn't get a medal. So Gursky, a New York attorney in her mid 40s, summoned her reserves and picked up the pace -- only to find a big Marine blocking her path. "I wasn't about to let all my hard work be wasted," she says. "I said, 'Move it!' and pushed him out of the way." With an official time of 7 hours and 12 seconds, she got her medal.

The Marine wasn't the only obstacle between Gursky and that finish line. "I'm a little chunky," she says. "And I've had two knee operations." What's more, she'd been seriously injured twice during the past few years: once in a fall down subway stairs and once in an automobile accident.

But though she seems an unlikely candidate for finishing a 26.2-mile race, Gursky is among a growing number of neophytes who are swelling the ranks of marathoners. "The spectrum of ages and body types now entering marathons has definitely widened," says Ryan Lamppa, a researcher for the U.S.A. Track & Field Road Running Information Center. According to Information Center figures, the number of people completing marathons nearly doubled from 1989 to 1999, jumping from 250,000 to 435,000. Many marathons have now extended their cutoff times to seven, eight, and even nine hours so that people of all abilities can finish.

Still, whether it takes seven hours or nine, a marathon is no walk in the park. How do people like Gursky do it?

It's not that they've stumbled onto some magical exercise potion. Rather, they're relying on some tried-and-true techniques that can help anyone struggling to establish and stick with an exercise habit.

For Gursky, one of the most important elements was having workout partners. Months before the Marine Corps Marathon, she joined Jeff Galloway's Marathon Training Program, which provides coaching and sets up group workouts around the country. Galloway, a former Olympian, promotes a run/walk approach to marathoning that, because it's easier on the body, has proven to be a good alternative for people who might not otherwise be able to go the distance.

"I couldn't have done it without the group," says Gursky, noting that there's more camaraderie than competition among the members. "They motivated me and I motivated them." Adds Lamppa, "Training groups are one of the biggest factors behind the marathon boom. I haven't heard of one training group that doesn't have a success rate of 90% or higher."

Indeed, reams of research shows that having buddies to work out with is a crucial element that keeps people moving. "Over and over again, studies have found that one of the factors influencing whether people will become active or continue being active is social support," says James F. Sallis, PhD, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University who studies exercise motivation. "Having people around to talk to while you work out and who are encouraging can be very motivating."

Exercise partners, Gursky found, also make it harder to blow off a training session. "This is a girl who never sees 5 a.m.," she says. "I cherish my sleep more than money, but I got up and out every morning to train because of the group." Indeed, while workout partners may be sympathetic to your struggles, they won't necessarily make it easy for you to give them the slip. "If you don't show up, they'll be calling and emailing you," says Victoria Seahorn, national director for Jeff Galloway's Marathon Training Program. "If you're going to have pressure, that's the best kind."

Another reason for Gursky's success is that her exercise group also provides coaching. Under the watchful eye of a coach, you're more likely to improve your technique than if you were training alone. And you're more likely to train sensibly -- which is especially important for beginners who are at particular risk for injury. Sallis' research, in fact, has shown that injuries are the number one reason people quit exercising. So anything that can keep you injury-free -- whether you're training for a marathon or simply trying to maintain a three-day-a-week cycling habit -- can make a big difference.

Having a specific goal can be helpful, too. Gursky's was that 7-hour, 12-second date with destiny last October, but a goal doesn't have to be quite as lofty as a 26-mile marathon. It could be anything from losing weight to getting strong enough to walk five miles in an hour. Yet it's also important to make your goal a moving target, says Sallis. "The danger is that once you reach the goal, you'll lose interest," he says. "Ideally, you'll use a goal to help you get started, then find something along the way that inspires you to make it a habit."

That, in fact, has been the case for Gursky. She still works out with her running partners, and instead of resting on her laurels, she plans to run the Chicago Marathon this coming October. "When I crossed that finish line, I was totally exhausted and totally fulfilled," she says. "I am total proof that anyone can do it."

Daryn Eller is a freelance writer in Venice, Calif. Her articles have appeared in Health and Cosmopolitan magazines and many other publications.
2000 Healtheon/WebMD. All rights reserved.

"Thumbs up" for the "Mini 10K"

Coach Ruth running the "Mini 10K" (Central Park, 2004) Posted by Hello

So Many Sports, So Little Time


Article 2:
“So Many Sports, So Little Time”

Is it a NY “thing” or are we more scheduled, with less spare time, than ever? It sure seems to me as if we’re chasing our tails 8+ hours a day, squeezing in our mandatory post-work “networking” at bars, gyms or professional associations and somehow, trying to do juggle a somewhat “normal” home life, to boot! So, given the scarcity of time, why did I choose running marathons, an activity that requires mega hours of training, as my sport of choice?

Like many 40-something Baby Boomers, I spent the better part of the late ’90’s seeking a leisure time activity that would bring me the spiritual, emotional and physical satisfaction that I wasn’t getting from my day job as an attorney. I gave the ol’ college try to many of the “sports du jour” - climbing, scuba diving and kayaking - but in the end, I returned to running. And as luck would have it, I discovered Jeff Galloway’s run/walk program and by the time the new millennium rolled in, I was proudly calling myself an athlete and marathoner!

“You tried climbing?” Yes - and it was love at first sight! While I had the “normal” fear of heights, when I first laid eyes on the multi-colored climbing wall in The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, I knew I HAD to check it out! And within a week, I qualified for my climbing certificate and began a weekly climbing ritual. While I didn’t advance much beyond novice/intermediate, it wasn’t long before I headed out to the Shawangunk Mountains (affectionately called “The ’Gunks” by locals), located outside of New Paltz, where a female guide introduced me to the great outdoors. Saying that I was “scared” doesn’t begin to address the fear and trepidation that coursed through my body when I looked up to see just what she expected me to climb! But slowly and carefully, I inched my way up to the top and then, just as carefully, rappelled down …begging to do it again! Some time later, I tested my mettle on other climbs in the ’Gunks and during a spa vacation in southern Utah, I spent a perfectly clear and sunny morning climbing the red rocks with another professional guide. I guess you could say that “bagging” a 160 ft. peak (which is akin to scaling a 16-story building) was my climbing P.R. (personal record)! After cranking it up another notch by competing in a 2-day climbing competition in Amsterdam, I hung up my climbing shoes and chalk bag, as I felt it unfair to ask my legs to climb and train for marathons at the same time. And while I found great “spirituality” in the mountains and enjoyed the challenge and focused concentration required in this sport, the “fear factor” sounded the death knell to my climbing career.

After conquering my fear of heights, I decided it was time to rid myself of my fear of open water swimming that surfaced during my first sprint triathlon. A week after that race, while trying to figure out why I freaked out during the ½ mile lake swim, I had a memory breakthrough: I vividly recalled nearly drowning in a lake in upstate NY when I was about 8 years old – a memory I successfully blocked for over 30 years! To overcome my fear, I enrolled in a scuba diving class at a local pool in Manhattan. Once again, the phrase “scared to death” minimizes the feeling in the pit of my stomach as I tried each new skill, culminating in the ultimate test of my emotional and physical fortitude: passing the required certification dives during my week in Curacao at a triathlon training camp. With a patient diving instructor, I succeeded in all the deep-water tests and became scuba certified. Afterwards, we swam together in the crystal-clear Caribbean waters, where I discovered Jacques Cousteau’s wonderful world of natural beauty. I marveled at the variety and colors of the fish and the ingenious way coral reefs were created on the hulls of ships, cars and other large objects that sunk into this under-world. I swam past schools of fabulous neon-colored fish and scary-looking moray eels, barracudas and stingrays. And when I returned home, I fantasized about opening a diving school for “nervous” women like myself and even bought the advanced scuba certification book to prepare for my next diving adventure - but for one reason or another (mostly related to time and money), I never made another dive. Looking back on that experience, with pride, I view my scuba certification as proof that one can conquer even deep-rooted fears!

Finally, through The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, I was introduced to kayaking. While this is not usually considered an “extreme” sport, in my mind, I feel that any activity performed in the Hudson River belongs in that category! The initial training session was held in the club’s pool, where we were taught how to survive if our kayak flipped over – not an auspicious introduction to a new sport, in my opinion! In our first open water lesson, we paddled between the piers, where the water was calm (although a golf ball landed in my kayak, inches from my little toe…a sign from heaven? You tell me!). The following week, while the sun was about to set and most people were returning home for an evening in front of the TV, I was part of a covey of kayakers quietly paddling down the Hudson. Scared to death of tipping into what was once NY’s dirtiest waterway, I sat up stiffly, eyes bolted straight ahead, while I followed the kayak immediately in front of mine, praying that I wouldn’t catch a wave or current that was beyond my limited ability. Truth-be-told, all I wanted to do was paddle down to the World Trade Center (our destination) and return to dock in dry clothes! My instructor, meanwhile, exhorted me time and again to relax and enjoy the moment! He tried to de-bunk my fear of tipping over by dipping his hand in the water and taking a sip of the Hudson. After a little more cajoling, I risked a glance toward the horizon – and lo and behold, I discovered a “new” New Jersey; one that never looked so beautiful, with its new glass and steel buildings glistening like gemstones as the tangerine sun set behind them. After 2 beautiful but uneventful hours of paddling, I returned to the pier, with achy shoulders and the knowledge that I’ll never think of the Hudson in quite the same way again.

So, after purchasing the requisite climbing and scuba gear – and almost buying a purple kayak (don’t’ ask!) - I ventured out my front door and re-discovered running…a simple sport, which doesn’t require extravagant accessories or distant venues - just some sneakers, shorts, shirt and socks; a city sidewalk or park; and perhaps, a buddy (when and if you want one). Running. It’s something I can do just about anytime or anywhere the mood strikes and for me, it provides all the physical and metaphysical “things” that I was seeking:

(a) Gravity! After trying other sports (I also went parasailing once in Key West – though it took a few pina coladas to get me airborne!), I finally figured out what it is that I crave: terra firma! Hey! If G-d wanted me to climb, I’d be a monkey; if I was supposed to swim underwater, I’d have been born a fish – you get the picture!

(b) Courage! While running doesn’t pack the same vein-popping punch as climbing or deep-sea diving, there’s definitely a “fear factor” involved in running marathons: Can I really do the distance? Will I hit the wall? Was my last run long enough? Yadda, yadda, yadda. Marathoners…. We drive ourselves crazy with fears and doubts. But somehow, from deep within, we find the courage within ourselves to persevere. We run through aches and pain, we conquer fears and self-doubts. And after crossing the finish line, when we get that shiny medal and we’re wrapped in a logo-embossed aluminum space blanket, we return home, like conquering heroes, with a new sense of who we are! We’re marathoners; athletes with the courage to train for and complete a 26.2 mile adventure…a boast that fewer than one percent of the world’s population can make!

(c) Individuality! While I excelled as a kid in team sports, as an adult, I find that I no longer crave competition and dislike depending on others to catch, kick, pass, spike or throw the ball. I like a sport where my only competition is “me”: how did I do on this run compared to my last, in terms of distance, speed or aches and pains?

(d) Creativity! Most other sports require so much concentrated effort to avoid injury (or a worse fate), that there’s little time to think, dream, feel and create. Some of my best writing has its genesis in a long run. “The loneliness of a long distance runner”? Nah! While running, you’ve got all the time in the world to get to know your “best friend:” YOU!

(e) Destiny! For some reason, running has put me at the “right place at the right time” – or, maybe, I’m just “open” to what, or who, is put in my path. During my 5 marathons and scores of shorter distance races, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to help struggling runners reach and cross the finish line. My favorite story took place in Central Park, about halfway through a 4-mile race. I was running, half-heartedly, wishing that I had bagged the race and stayed in bed, when I came upon a young African-American girl, maybe 10 years old. When I first saw her, she was crying and hyperventilating. So, I started to walk with her and listened to her tale of woe. It seems she started out too fast and lost steam. And to make matters worse, her friends continued on, leaving her alone. We walked together till her breathing returned to normal, then I showed her the Galloway method of incorporating walking intervals into your running. As we passed the Bethesda Fountain, a short distance from the finish line, she beamed as her friends called out her name and cheered her on. By the time I crossed the finish line, moments later, I realized that my face muscles hurt from 2 miles of smiling.

Running has brought me to new heights, physically and emotionally, and as an added bonus, this sport has given me the opportunity to become a Galloway group leader. As coach and mentor, I do my best to inspire and motivate my beginner and veteran runners to perform their personal best. For me, I need to look no further. I’ve found the sport and the role I was seeking!

At Prospect Park

Coach Ruth (2nd from right) and running group, Prospect Park (2003) Posted by Hello

How I Fell Into Running


Article 1:
“How I fell into running - and discovered the Galloway Program”
(Or “Try it…you’ll like it!”)

In 1986, I fell down a flight of subway stairs, tore up my right knee and following 2 surgeries, started a course of physical therapy which eventually led to my taking up swimming, cycling, power walking and strength training – things I had never done before! When I felt strong enough, I challenged myself by participating in a variety of charity events: bike rides to fight MS and lung cancer, walk-a-thons and swim-a-thons benefiting AIDS organizations, etc.

Then, one day, I saw an ad for a local duathlon (2 mile run, 10 mile bike ride and another 2-mile run). Figuring that my walking, cycling and gym workouts was sufficient training for this (Boy! Was I ever wrong!), I entered the race – and came in 3rd place! (OK, so there were only 3 women in the race…doesn’t “showing up” count for something?!)

Shortly after that, I joined a running club, learned “proper” running technique and entered many races in Central Park. I ran 5K’s, 4 and 5-milers, 10K’s and finally, in the mid-90’s, I even ran a 10-miler (alongside of Fred Lebow, who was training for the NYC Marathon!). But that “ultimate” distance – the 26.2 mile marathon – seemed to evade me.

For 3 consecutive years, I was entered in the NYC Marathon. The first year, I broke a toe and couldn't train, so I deferred my application. The following year, I couldn't motivate myself to run more than one loop of the park (6 miles) in the summer’s heat…another deferral. And by the third year, I gave up hope, believing I couldn’t do it on my own and that it was “wrong” to ask my friends, who were all faster and better runners, to help me train.

Then, in 1999, I read about an opportunity to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC as a benefit for a local AIDS organization and I knew that this was my chance to run a marathon! I immediately signed up, began telling friends and started lining up pledges!

The night I was scheduled to meet my group, I learned that the program was canceled due to low participation. I cried as I walked the ½ mile back home, seeing my marathon dream disappear (yet again). A week later, a former US Olympic runner named Jeff Galloway wrote me a letter and inviting me to join his training program...and “the rest is history!”

I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 1999, the Chicago Marathon the following year (shaving off 20 minutes from my finish time!), followed by the NYC Marathon, Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA (my "PR") and finally, the Richmond Marathon! And now that I have 5 proud “notches on my belt,” I've decided to run across the country, 13.1 miles at a time!

As a runner and group leader, I can attest to the brilliance of the Galloway training program – a plan that’s opened up the sport of marathoning to men and women across the country – most of whom (like me) probably never thought they’d ever run a marathon in this lifetime!

While crossing the finish line is the “ultimate” moment, it’s the day-to-day workings of this “sane” 6-month run/walk training program that keep many of us coming back year after year! All that Jeff asks of his runners is to run for 60 minutes during the week (which can be accomplished in one 60-minute session, 2 30-minute or 3 20-minute runs). He also recommends mid-week cross training (e.g., swimming, cycling, rowing) and strength training. The long runs, which increase from 3 miles to goal distance in 6 months, happen on the weekends in training groups; it’s the task of the group leader to maintain the pace of the group – with the slowest person setting the pace! Brilliant – or what? And as the group runs get longer and the summer weather sizzles into the triple digits, groups are encouraged to slow down their pace and take longer walk breaks to prevent injury.

The Galloway run/walk program allowed me to accomplish my dream of crossing a marathon finish line…5 times! So, if you’re like me and never thought a marathon was in your future, I say: “Try the Galloway method – you’ll like it!”


The "real" boss, "Coach" Truman Posted by Hello