Tips From An Expert: A Gift For The Runner In Your Life

In his book “Running Shorts,” Joe Muldowney details running over 400 races -- including Pottstown’s Grand Ole Flag 5K and 49 marathons -- with a personal best marathon time of 2:22:54.


Over the last 36 years, Joe Muldowney’s footprints could circle the world more than four times. 

In the first half of an interview with Patch.com, running expert Muldowney, 57, of Pottsville -- and the town's mayor from 1989 to 1997 -- discusses his book “Running Shorts.”  

The book is filled with encouragement and practical advice for runners of all levels, funny stories and some scary experiences. 

Pottstown Patch on Wednesday will publish Part Two of the Q & A with Muldowney.

Q: Why write a book about running?

A: Running has always been an enjoyable, social experience for me. Almost every day presents a new experience or a story. When I finally decided that my book would be about runners, for runners, or those who want to try running as a means of fitness, a competitive outlet, stress release, or for whatever reason, the writing became easy and the stories flowed. My purpose in writing the book is to present my perspective on running, with its local flair, and others, no matter where they live or run, can relate to my experiences and apply them to their own training. I began writing the book in the summer of 2010 and completed in June, 2011. Nights, often until the wee hours of the morning, weekends, and, a marathon session when I had a horrendous sinus infection in March, were my prime writing times.


Q: You said you used to run a July 4th race in the 1980s in Pottstown called the Grand Ole Flag 5K. What are your memories of the event and town?

A: My last race in Pottstown was probably in their early 90s. I recall that the downtown association sponsored a race. I still have my award plaque on my wall. The 4th of July race was always hot and humid, and it drew some fierce competition. Pottstown had a very good runner, Wayne Deegen, who always did well in the event. He also directed several races. I found Pottstown to be very much like my hometown of Pottsville. A town of hard-working, friendly folks, who always treated me very well at their local races.


Q: Pottstown Borough has bicycle lanes along High Street. What does this type of infrastructure mean to a runner?

A: Bike lanes are terrific for runners and cyclists and I commend Pottstown for installing them. First, a bike lane provides a much safer venue for runners, as, sometimes, motorists hate to cede any ground to non-motorists. A well-marked bike lane keeps motorists safely on their portion of the road. Next, bike lanes are often marked with mile posts, giving runners a better idea of distance traveled. Finally, bike lanes installed by a community prove that the community is forward-thinking and non-motorist friendly. 


Q: The Reading Pagoda race sounds especially grueling. What was that like?

A: The Reading Pagoda Race was a 20-Kilometer (12.4-mile) monster. From a start in downtown Reading, the course climbed some 600 feet, around Reading's famous Pagoda and back. What's more, it was held in July, usually in searing heat. It was challenging and a little crazy. Reading has, and continues to be, a tremendous area in which to race. Today, Ron Horn runs Pretzel City Sports, which conducts numerous high-quality, fun races throughout the Reading area.


Q: You and your daughter Kelly ran last year's Philadelphia Marathon. You called it, “A running daddy's dream to have his daughter run in the same marathon.”  What’s it feel like to see your daughter cross the finish line?

A: Running a 26.2-mile event requires dedication, determination, and involves a major investment of time. Anyone who completes a marathon is to be commended. My daughter, Kelly, is a remarkable woman. She is very quiet, but very driven. When she decides to undertake a project, she will do everything in her power to complete the task. She always politely tolerated my running, but never cared to become involved in the sport. When she announced she would run a marathon I was skeptical, but thanks to coaches and teammates from the Leukemia and Lymphoma's Team in Training, she received excellent training and advice. She did complete her marathon in San Diego in June of 2010, raising over $3000 for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. Then, in November, 2010, she and I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. After having completed my end of the bargain, I waited anxiously for Kelly, and she did not disappoint me. She finished the race exactly one hour faster than her first marathon. Goose bumps and tears consumed me as she crossed the finish line. It was truly one of the proudest moments of my life. She is now as addicted to running and racing as I. In fact, her birthday present this year was an entry to the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. Now, she has begun to pursue her doctorate, and, like the marathon, I know she will complete her mission. Additionally, because it is a great cause, as well as for the way the organization helped my daughter become a runner, I have teamed with the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, and have agreed to donate $1 from each book sold to the organization from now until December 31.


Q: What was your toughest marathon and why?

A: My most difficult marathon was the Provident Marathon, held in Philadelphia, in 1979. We had to run three loops around, what was then East and West River Drives. It was only my third marathon, and I made the classic novice marathoner mistake of going out too fast in the early stages of the race. By the time I began the third loop I had 'hit the wall.' The last seven miles of the race were very painful and the time was very slow.


Q: As a runner, you describe your view of Pennsylvania wildlife -- the beautiful geese, deer -- and in contrast, the snakes, stinging bugs and dangerous groundhog holes. Describe some of the best and worst stuff on your 35-year running path across the commonwealth?

A: I have always enjoyed the outdoors. Whether it be on a beach or in the forests of my home state. A good portion of my training has always consisted of running on wooded trails. Seeing magnificent deer, wild turkeys, grouse, as well as an occasional pheasant, is really a tremendous experience. Often, the creatures observe me curiously, but with respect, as if they and I are both appreciating the natural surroundings we inhabit. I think being a runner allows one not only to appreciate nature, but to be a part of it, in an up-close and personal manner. Probably the worst aspect of being 'up-close' to nature, is 'roadkill.' The sight and the smell of a dead animal that has been there for a day or more is not pleasant.


Q: You recommend, “Do your research before you buy your running shoes.” What’s the best way for folks to go about this?

A: Today, with information readily available on the Internet, a runner can easily find information and reviews on every running shoe available. That's a good place to start, but there is still nothing more valuable than to take a pair of running shoes on a, "test drive." Most places that sell running shoes, especially running specialty stores, will allow one to take a short jog in their shoes in order to get a feel of the product. By doing so, a runner can be more comfortable with the style and the fit of the shoe. As I stated in the book, a runner's shoes are his most important piece of equipment. Wearing badly worn, or improperly fitted shoes can lead to injury.


Q: What about injuries? Your toughest? Best advice for other runners who want to get back into their running routine too soon after an injury?

A: My worst injury was a lower back problem that wiped out much of my summer in 2009. While pulling weeds in my back yard in July, I felt a stabbing pain on the right side of my lower back. I could barely stand up with the excruciating pain. The injury was diagnosed as a sprained back. After a few chiropractor visits, and a week of no running I returned to training before the injury was fully healed. Favoring my back, I placed too much pressure on my hamstrings, pulling my right hamstring, resulting in another period of time off. The result was nearly two months of either no running or abbreviated workouts. My best advice about an injury is to not come back too soon. Allow the injury to heal, and perform alternative exercises, such as cycling or swimming. When you return, begin slowly and reduce your mileage. For each day off, the body needs two days to return itself to its pre-injury state.


Q: There’s a lot of description in the book -- some is very scary -- about drivers and other folks who hate runners. “‘Faggot’ is an insult that has been hurled at us on numerous occasions.” How do you cope with this kind of hatred?

A: Things have gotten better over the years. As more and more people run, the naysayers are less prevalent. Still, folks like to lay on their horns, shout epithets at us, and are occasionally, downright mean. Most of the time I ignore it, but sometimes I respond. When I'm 'cut off' by the motorist who can't wait that extra two seconds before pulling into a driveway, I sometimes bang my fist into the fender. The fear that he or she may have actually hit me usually sends the motorist scurrying off. For some odd reason, our gaunt frames cause some to question our sexuality. For the most part, when an insult is hurled my way, I'll wave and respond with an insult of my own.

Check back on Wednesday for Part Two of the Q & A with Joe Muldowney. 

Meanwhile, learn more at:

• https://www.facebook.com/pages/Running-Shorts/228180777226468?ref=ts

• http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/runningshorts 

JColorado December 13, 2011 at 04:52 PM
As a bicyclist, I find runners in the bike lane frustrating. I know it's softer than sidewalk concrete, but runners going the same direction as traffic, wearing headphones, force bicyclists into the street. If there is a sidewalk, please use it. If it's too hard for your shins, choose another route.


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