In the second half of an with Patch.com, running expert Muldowney, 57, of Pottsville -- and the town's mayor from 1989 to 1997 -- discusses his book “Running Shorts.”
Q: What’s your view of heart health and running?
A: Occasionally, a runner or triathlete will suffer a heart attack in an event. This brings out the skeptics who say, "See, running is not good for you." In any given population of 20,00 to 30,000 individuals (approximate field at the Boston Marathon) someone is going to suffer a heart attack. The heart is a muscle that requires exercise. Running improves heart efficiency, keeps arteries clear and lungs healthy. Few things are better for heart health than running.
Q: You’re very candid about basic needs and problems -- occupational hazards -- serious runners face. You write of there never being “enough job johnnies,” trouble guys suffer from including “bloody nipple syndrome” and “gnarly feet.” Please elaborate.
A: In my book, I attempted to articulate matters and conditions, sometimes not too pleasant, that all runners face. Recently, a colleague, new to running, who just read my book, was enlightened by my description of "bloody nipple syndrome." He thought that the condition was unique to him. Based on trial and error over the years, I offered my suggestions on how to make the sometimes difficult tasks of training and racing a little easier. For example, before running a marathon, I smear my feet with copious amounts of Vaseline. The unpleasant feeling of feet swimming in Vaseline is better than the pain of blisters, that can slow or stop a marathoner in his or her tracks.
Q: So, you’re not a treadmill guy. What’s the benefit of running outdoors versus on a machine?
A: I guess I'm a traditionalist, but I like conquering the 90-plus degree days, snowstorms, and biting winds. In addition, up and downhills, the feel of the road, as well as the weather conditions that one must face during a race, are elements that cannot be replicated on a treadmill. Sometimes, time constraints, darkness, or conditions like lightning storms, force us indoors. During those times, the treadmill can be beneficial.
Q: You discuss in the book the importance of hydration, diet and dress. What mistakes do new runners make regarding these topics?
A: Sometimes too much can be too much! Novice runners often wear too much clothing. If you're cold when you begin your run, that's a good thing. The body heats up like a furnace, so overdressing can make for an unpleasant training run. In the book I tell the story of a runner who kept pace with me during the first 14 miles of the 2009 Boston Marathon. Running only his second marathon, he drank large amounts of water at each water station. At the 14 mile mark he left me. Hours after the race he called me to tell me he had been slowed by a bathroom stop and had a hard time getting started again. He had simply ingested too much water. What's written in the running magazines isn't always was best for each and every runner. Know your body. Each runner is different. Also, you don't have to become a vegan. Use common sense. An old coach once told me, "You have to fuel the fire." Eat sensibly. I enjoy a steak once in a while, but not once a week. If it's colorful, it's good. Fruits and vegetables are terrific. Don't eat too much the morning of a race. The food WILL come back to haunt you.
Q: You write you, “detest” winter, yet you run more in January than June?
A: I really do detest cold weather, but there's something about January, the new beginning of a new year, wanting to start the new season off right, that motivates me, even on the worst January days. Also, there is really nothing else to do in January, and running helps to deter cabin fever. Finally, it's a good feeling to have conquered the elements. When someone says, "The wind chill is ten below zero out there," we runners have been out there actually feeling it.
Q: Races you still want to conquer?
A: I love attending unique races these days. I just ran the Winegleass Half Marathon, near the Finger Lakes, in New York. They offer wine glasses and a carafe of champagne to runners. After the race, my wife and I toured several local wineries. I have always wanted to run the Pike's Peak race. There are actually two races. The first is a complete marathon ... up AND down the mountain. I would like to someday run the half marathon, which is run only to the top. Also, the Honolulu Marathon appeals to me, simply because it's Honolulu.
Q: What would your life be without running?
A: I will always run, as long as I am physically able. Someday I may choose not to compete, but I will always run. A trip to the beach, the mountains, or a big city would not be the same if I didn't log a training run to see the sights. Running is an integral part of my life. I control it. I rely on no one but me. In the book, I compare running to the rugged individualism that made this country. There are no excuses in running. It is the simple endeavor. The good and bad times of my life have been celebrated and soothed by running. My 90-year old mother continues to tell me that I'm getting too old to be running so much, and that I'll "die out there running someday." Although I hope that doesn't happen for another 40 years or so, it's not a bad way to go.
Q: What’s the most important thing you want readers and runners to know about this book?
A: I wrote "Running Shorts" for runners, about runners. My purpose was to attempt to take my experiences over the years and apply them to all runners. The veteran runner can look back on races past and relate to them; while the novice runner may want to try some of the races I talk about in the book. My hope is, that a runner in Minnesota can say, "hey, we have a race like that," or that runners anywhere can relate to dog attack, snakes, geese, and irate drivers, as I describe them in the book. Finally, I hope all readers are inspired by the message of the book. That is, really, anything is possible. My daughter never ran a step in her life, but after six months of training she completed a marathon, and her competitive running continues today. Running is a great activity, for anyone at any age. I hope my book inspires folks to enjoy and appreciate the sport I love.
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