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Announcing… The 2015

Pacific Northwest and the East Coast Tours will announce stops in late March

The American Running Staff is hitting the road. We are going to put on some “miles” to go support and promote the many schools and communities who have committed to hosting a Mile event in May. In the past 5 years, there has been a mini-Tour to 4 sites in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Now there is an official “RUN A MILE DAYS TOUR” that will have two components, one out west and the other back East with its beginning and end in Virginia. Here is how the Tour is going to work.

Two Tours: Pacific Northwest and California will be our West Coast Tour. Our largest MILE DAYS community is in the Gig Harbor – Tacoma Washington area. There are also other schools in Washington State plus schools and communities in Oregon that will see the “RUN A MILE” Van make a visit to their MILE DAYS’ event. The other RUN A MILE Tour vehicle will use Northern Virginia as its’ hub. The expanded timetable of available dates in May will hopefully spread out the “Mile Days” events, so the East Coast Tour can visit schools and towns to the Southeast States (Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina), the Mid-Atlantic (Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey) and the Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia). There will be others too. The driving force will be the dates that sites choose for their Mile Days events.

Click the image above to view a PDF of the three programs

Donors and supporters of our AMAA Youth Fitness Campaign are responsible for the Tour’s expansion and for the added materials ARA is providing to schools and organizations. The “RUN A MIILE DAYS TOUR” is planning on tallying over 2000 miles in visits to the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and eastern areas of the Midwest. The ARA staff is in its planning stages right now. We want to visit as many schools and communities as possible. Running the Mile is fairly simple to run. Driving from one state to another to race a mile is a bit more time-consuming.

our inspiration

The Mile as a track or distance event is truly American. Miles measure roads and distances in the United States. Phys Ed class started using the mile run as the longer measuring stick of physical fitness after President Kennedy kick started the President’s Council on Physical Fitness in early 1961. After our 2005 American Running Honors Gala, we knew that we needed a tangible event to attach to our stated goal of improving the physical activity levels of America’s youth. The mile seemed appropriate. PE classes used it and the distance was not unreasonable for nearly all children and adolescents. We also needed an icon or national or international achievement to tie the mile to our fledgling event. It was the sub-4 minute mile.

Anyone who has run track in high school or college knows the story of the sub-4 minute mile. Prior to the 1950s, it was considered an untenable quest. Breaking 4 minutes in the mile was tantamount suicide as early as the turn of the 20th century. Its lore grew and soon the race was on to see who could be the first man to break 4 minutes in the mile. The date would be our anchor point for NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS, May 4, 1954. Oxford England was the spot and Roger Bannister was the track runner. It may seem trivial today, yet on that date and time period in sports history, Roger Bannister’s feat of breaking the 4-minute barrier in the mile was epic. Sports historians still claim it as one of the top 10 sporting achievements of the past 100 years. It was the date in May and the story of a British medical student that gave us pause to create an event around the “mile”. It is only fitting that our nonprofit organization has many physicians as its members. Roger Bannister showed the world that a barrier thought impossible to break was achievable. He showed us and dared others to begin what he predicted accurately would be a deluge of sub-4 minute milers.

Bannister’s breaking of the 4-minute barrier is as much of an example to young boys and girls today. If they see what one man can do with some talent and a lot of grit and determination, then they can achieve anything they set their minds to doing. Just getting active through running is a start. For many young children, simply running a mile has become a barrier, an obstacle. We aim to fix that impression that is a mindset in many of our youth. Getting up and moving is a step to a healthier life. Running the mile takes it one step further.

May 6th is the center point or anchor to our “MILE DAYS” campaign. We want classrooms, teachers and educators to tie the historic story of Sir Roger Bannister to their students. They can begin to appreciate the effort it took the young medical student in the 50s. Why not have today’s kids dream of greatness? Come up with goals to be more active each day. Go out and run for 10-15 minutes in that first week. Get motivated to pick up the pace in week’s 2-4. Chart your training and develop goals for running the mile. At the same time, come up with goals for your academic classes. Make training for the mile equal to preparing for a test in your multiplication tables.

We are committed to the “Mile”. It is our anchor base and our beginning point to all fitness goals. We have a long ways to go to have “RUN A MILE DAYS” schools and groups in all 50 states. We are moving in that direction.

No one ever said breaking the 4-minute mile was easy. Our NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS are a start-point for our youth. It can form good habits for staying active. Physically active kids can be more inclined to adapting better nutrition and eating habits.

We started “MILE DAYS” with a simple goal in mind. Help us get more classrooms and schools committed to running the mile. The mile is a great test and lots of fun to race. All of those sub-4 minute milers who followed Sir Roger Bannister’s lead would whole-heartedly agree.

Indoor Track Facilities: Build them and athletes will come

A continued look at the need for Indoor Track and multi-sport facilities in the U.S.

One of my quests as a coach, fan and supporter of the sport of track and field is to visit as many indoor track facilities as possible during the harsh cold months of winter. Despite the lack of indoor facilities for track and field where I reside (Fairfax County in Northern Virginia), there are a growing number of newly constructed indoor track facilities taking hold in the U.S. Just in Virginia alone, there is a fairly new facility at Liberty University in Lynchburg Virginia. In nearby Lexington Virginia VMI is building a new 200m hydraulic-lift banked track. Virginia Tech is slated to expand and renovate its premier 200m-banked track and indoor training facility in late 2015. Across the mountains in western West Virginia, Marshall University opened a new $25M multisport indoor training facility with a competition 300m (over-sized) track. Three years ago, an oversized 300m-track facility was open in the amazing $110M Sports Complex called the SPIRE Institute east of Cleveland Ohio along Lake Erie.

Are taxpayers in these locales approving new bonds? Do politicians recognize the need for year-round state-of-the-art Indoor Multisport Facilities, or are there philanthropic individuals or foundations stepping up to fill a community or university void? Regardless of who and how these indoor sports facilities are being financed and built, the cities and communities are the beneficiary. I saw a shining beacon in the new multisport facility at Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia. The sport of track and field is a winner and so are the community and all other sports tied to that university. Is $25 Million a worthwhile investment in a community starved for year-round indoor sports? Every region of the U.S. is stumbling in ways to get more of our youth physically active. There is the growing need for places that are safe, local and available to the public.

We need more facilities like the one I visited at Marshall University in Huntington WV. Our health and fitness is worth it. Take a look at what local and state governments spend on entitlement programs and it does not seem costly to spend $25 to 30 million to build indoor sports facilities that include top-flight indoor tracks.

Taking Some Heat – Time in a sauna

Hot news from Finland: A 20-year study of Finnish men indicates regular sauna use improves health, especially heart health. Regular sauna users had fewer fatal heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular deaths. Furthermore, there was a dose dependency effect, with more frequent sauna sessions and longer sessions associated with better health. The study, conducted by lead author Dr. Jari Laukkanen of the University of Eastern Finland, appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Some details:

  1. Study Size: Approximately 2,300 Finnish men, average age early fifties, were tracked for twenty years. They self-reported their sauna usage, including frequency and duration.
  1. Sauna Session Frequency: Men who used saunas less than once weekly were twice as likely to die of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, as men who used saunas four times weekly.
  1. Sauna Session Duration: Heart-related deaths were more common in men whose sauna sessions lasted less than 11 minutes vs. men whose sauna sessions lasted more than 19 minutes.
  1. Temperature: Saunas were 174 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, for frequent users.

So should you head to the health spa, or maybe set up a few space heaters in your walk-in closet? Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) are a possible contributing cause to the sauna health effects. HSPs are proteins produced by cells in response to stress (such as heat, inflammation, infection, or toxins). HSPs play a role in maintaining protein structure, helping to refold proteins after insult. In the cardiovascular system, HSPs prevent platelet aggregation and can protect cells.

The up regulation of HSPs by intermittent heat falls generally in the category of hormesis (Greek for to get going). Hormesis is the idea that something that is harmful in large doses may be beneficial in small doses. (Jeanne Calment, who had the longest confirmed lifespan at 122, reportedly smoked a single cigarette a day.)

It appears, though, that runners may already have a higher level of some HSPs. A 2008 study in Medical Science Sports Exercise found male runners had a higher resting level of HSP60 than nontrained males. (There was no significant difference in HSP70, another Heat Shock Protein).
The standard disclaimer probably applies: More research is needed. But, especially given the temperatures of late, you may want to wait for those results in a hot, dry place.

Seen and Heard while Running

Healthier Snacks invade track meets. It used to be the big bags of popcorn or large bags of sour Gummy Bear candy or even boxes of Cheetos. Now, more air-cooked chips that have “No GMOs” and offer 0 Grams of Trans Fats are the norm. They are ending up in athletes’ warm-up bags. Sure, the energy bars are the staple of pre-race food along with water bottles. It is a far cry from days when kids would buy Costco-sized bags of chips and boxes of traditional processed foods that were high in sodium and saturated fats. It is catching on in the food manufacturers too. New product lines tout canola oil or coconut oil was used in creating these delicious healthy, 100% organic snack foods.

Maybe the message is starting to seep into the heads of our teens. Fatty high carb snacks are not the answer for energy pre or post competition. My reaction? I just keep it to a silent up-and-down nod of my head. This is no time to be preachy to teens about what to eat. When they do something that is smarter and ultimately more beneficial to their nutrition and well being, I think it’s just wise to nod in an approving way.

Charging Stations: We see charging stations in parking garages at airports now for the Electric Cars and the Hybrid version of Gas-Electric cars. Now indoor track facilities have jerry-rigged electrical outlet boards in the team areas at many indoor track and field facilities. You’d think that upgrades to bathrooms would be a higher priority than ensuring a “charge” for athlete’s smart phones. Nope; it’s all about staying plugged-in. There are the selfie photos with teammates and the need to post that cute photo of your “bestie” as you both lean up against the banked curve while waiting your warm-up time. Taking photos with smart phones has become so commonplace at indoor track meets that most websites that cover Track encourage athletes to post photos on social media sites with the ubiquitous hash tag symbol.

The Get-Back to Running Class. We have classes for swimming, Pilates, kickboxing and yoga. Guess what class seems to be the catching on in local towns and communities? The Running Class for the Moms and Dads who want to restart or even begin a running routine. I’ve seen it in my household with my spouse. A local running store chain has successfully launched a series of classes that borrow from the college scene: RUNNING 101 and 201. The class of running students tends to be female and Mom-centric. What they quickly realize and like are the camaraderie of group running. It was never more apparent during the past month or so when temperatures on Saturday mornings were hovering near single digits. Was it a deterrence to my wife? Nope. Out the door she went to drive to meet her “crew” to go run 3-4 miles. She admitted afterwards that if it were just she or even going out to run with me, then she would have bailed on that group run.

Well, here’s to all the Moms and some Dads who have found a new love of running in a “Back to School” running class.

Snow? A challenge for those with 3-6ft on the ground! Run safe and enjoy the last gasps of winter!

The American Running Association Staff

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