Monday, 27 February 2012

Running movies galore

I came across this running website a few weeks ago. It has catalogued almost every movie that somehow involves running (even if only briefly). Pretty good; it's got plenty of the obscure, including old documentaries dating back to 1920s and the amazing Atanarjuat (reminds me I should re-watch it sometime).

Of course there are also plenty of great travel movies and documentaries that are not necessarily running-related. This site is a comprehensive database, but I would hate to forget about all the other filmed endurance stories out there. Recently I watched The Long Way Round and The Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, about their motorcycle trips across Eurasia and Africa. I was surprised how good they were. Both documentaries felt very honest; they were not just a stunt or promo for some other movie (that would have been redundant). And while in Africa they met a man who was en route to touring the world via bicycle. That in turn reminded me of the recently completed trip by Montreal's Jean BĂ©liveau, after 11 years of walking around the world. You find these amazing people everywhere you look.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Worldwide trends for various racing distances

I have compiled a list of the top running performances worldwide for distances of 100 meters up to the marathon separated by the date they were run. I have included top times for Canadian men at 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and the marathon in order to compare how Canada has progressed as a whole. Data presented is thanks to the IAAF website, the Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) and a personal communication from Marathon Canada's founder, Alex Coffin. For this post I restricted myself to men's performances only, but I do also have times for women, which I can include next if there's interest.

UPDATE: In the first draft of this post I had erroneously speculated on why some data appeared to be missing. You will see what I mean when looking at the men's 100 meter plot. A new, more straightforward, explanation is given. Thanks to Dr. Alex Hutchinson from Runner's World for pointing this out, and reposting this blog entry on his Sweat Science column. I know he more typically reports peer-reviewed publications. Not many blogs get cited! End of update. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I was wrong!

For weeks I was convinced that I had an Achilles tendonosis-type injury. That changed on Friday when I visited M.C. Dion, a supremely talented physiotherapist located at McGill's sport medicine clinic. Though I suspected there was something different about this injury compared to the time I (actually) had an Achilles problem, her visit put any doubt to rest. After a few minutes of prodding she confirmed it was the muscle/tendon behind the Achilles causing problems: the Tibialis posterior muscle, or tib-post for short. When M.C. added an electrical current to the muscle, the same tingling sensation was present as when it first started healing (slowly) on its own. A day after her visit it already felt better (though it still needs time to heal). Were these the middle ages, I imagine physiotherapists would be suspect of witchcraft sooner than doctors.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Running fears, real and imaginary

Warning: this topic degenerates into talk about zombies.

As frequently as I run, I have almost never run scared. Not that I want to run with the fear of god in me, but it occurred to me that most people, including pros, set out to run distance X with effort Y and pain level Z and usually follow through to a tee. Race winners work hard but look relaxed. My idle thought was to imagine how often runners use their skills -however unexpectedly- to save their very lives?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Dickens was a (competitive) walker

Never would I have imagined reading this article. For I have now learned that Charles Dickens had an obsession for walking incredible distances. Yes, in the 19th century walking has the same place in the public's heart as today's marathons. Though just like modern distance runners, the sedentary public looked at such activities with some suspicion. Dickens was relentless, apparently, routinely walking 17 miles a day and once 30 miles straight starting in the middle of the night. (Not so special now, are we Mr. Karnazes?) His strolls even took on a competitive edge:
As several of his walking companions described it, he had a distinctive "swinging" gait. And, like many a serious runner of today, he "made a practice of increasing his speed when ascending a hill

PhD defense completed

Well, the long road is at last near its end. Transitioning from one path to another, this time in Halifax. I'm feeling a mixture of joy, exhaustion, and I don't know what else. This has everything and nothing to do with running. I started my PhD with little more than casual running experience. It was used as my backup plan in case the snow wasn't good for skiing. Often I would even run with poles. Then I came to McGill. Nothing of that nature changed initially. I was busy with school, learning the city, and trying to understand what my research project was going to be.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Do weights have anything to do with sprinting?

I was doing some squats yesterday morning. Today I'm trying not to think about tomorrow's defense, so I wrote this post. Here goes.

I was thinking about my previous post which briefly mentioned good lifting technique. What I wrote was when lifting heavy, you must keep your heels firmly planted on the ground. You benefit from wearing shoes with as little cushioning as possible. You'll see people wearing Vibrams at the gym these days. Don't laugh, they have the right idea; laugh at the ones wearing thick-soled shoes believing this to be a good idea. Never mind, the whole idea of keeping on your heels was what as interesting to me: it got me thinking about its connection to running.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Cashing in on running booms

I just read Steve Boyd's recent post regarding the semi-recent decline in competitive running among Canadian athletes (Follow Feb 6th blog entry "The 'De-sportification' of Running?"). From the title most readers will correctly predict where the piece is going: Canada used to have a lot of running talent (in the late 70s to mid 80s). More people in Canada are running that ever but we're not getting faster because of it. To be clear I am not brining up his article to debate against it. Rather I want to supply some of my own thoughts I had while reading his.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Filling holes

As a semi-competitive runner enthusiast (5 years so far), I have been playing catchup on the science and history of the sport. I have not read enough about running to be called well-read. Missing from my shelf are many of the obscure books and even a few popular ones like Duel in the Sun and The Perfect Mile. It seems every second book I see is one I do not recognize. Once you start looking, there's a lot to catch up on, especially when you're a slow reader. This doesn't bother me so much because no matter how much you've read there's always someone out there better read than you.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Pool runnings

Nothing like an afternoon of pool running to wake the from body head to toe. Achilles getting better, as usually happens when you take care of it. You also get extra time to think in the pool, and that's fine too. Reminds me of how I first learned to pool run (cue fade).

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Movie review: Tokyo Olympiad (1965)

A few days ago I decided to watch Kon Ichikawa's 170-minute long Tokyo Olympiad, chronicling the two weeks of competition of the 18th summer games. The games were originally intended to be filmed by Akira Kurosawa, but things fell though after he demanded total control of the opening ceremonies. Japan's officials preferred to hire someone who'd play up the post-war reconstruction and economic growth of the city. Obligingly there are early shots of old buildings demolished to make way for the new 71,000-seat National stadium. It's fair to say the movie was unavoidably inspired by Riefenstahl's 226-minute-long Olympia (1938), an artistically-managed depiction of Berlin's summer Olympic games.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Winterlude here and there

Canadian winter festivals are upon us for the next few weeks. In particular there's Ottawa-Gatineau's Winterlude/Bal de Neige. I grew up skating on the canal where once upon a time beavertails were reserved only for those who braved the ice. Always memorable too is the annual Winterlude Triathlon (skate, ski, run) happening today, which I have participated in a few times.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Exercise according to a philosopher

I'm reading a little philosophy. I wasn't a big fan of studying the subject on its own, but lately that's changing. God knows why I started now. That being said, I've taken a liking to Seneca (The Younger) who, according to wikipedia was born in 4 B.C., died 65 A.D. and lived much of his life in Rome. As a Roman Stoic, he lived during a time of the decadent period (good timing). He fashioned gems like
We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Getting back into weights

Yesterday I didn't do much of anything exercise-wise. In part that was because a snow squall was lulling me to stay indoors. I walked home through the snow, which takes about 25 minutes, and spent the night reading instead of heading to gym. On the bright side, coming off the heels of a good sleep the day left me time for some interesting new chemistry project ideas. Not sure if they'll see the light of day, but I enjoy a good thought experiment now and then.
Photo from serious running

All fine to rationalize, but because of all that sitting around I had a crummy night's sleep compared to yesterday. As important as it is to rest, too much of anything can be too much (duh). Right now I'm at a point where my nerves need a stimulus of some kind, and more than 45 minutes of walking. I vowed to pool run, though it seems today fate had other plans.