Tuesday, September 14, 2010

0 Interview with Blaine Moore of "Run To Win"


Below is a transcript of the recent interview I conducted with Blaine Moore, who is an RRCA-certified running coach at the Maine Running Company in Portland, Maine. He's also the author of Marathons Don't Have to Hurt -- How to Prepare For (and Recover From) Your Next Marathon, and has just started a new running magazine, Run To Win Magazine. A runner since age 11, Blaine's running career has thus far spanned a total of 19 years. He competes competitively regularly in distances ranging from 5 to 50 miles and is just as often seen helping out behind the scenes at local races.  He offers regular running advice and tips on his website, Run to Win, & can also be found on Twitter, @RunToWin, and on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/RunToWin & http://www.facebook.com/RunningTips.

Blaine, and his wife Erin.

Corey: Hello, Blaine. It's great to catch up with you again. I've got lots of questions for you, so let's jump right in. :)

Blaine: Thanks, Corey, I'm looking forward to this chat.

Corey: How did you get into running? Who first introduced you to the sport, if anyone? Who were some of your early running mentors?

Blaine: I've been running as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I used to go out and run in the road that went out behind our house, and would just cut through the woods to come back into our yard.

Officially, I first started running in middle school on the cross country team. My middle school cross-country coach, Mrs. Heffernan, just did a wonderful job of introducing the sport to young people and got hooked on it right from the get go. It was a great introduction when I had to start running on an organized team.

My first road race was actually after my first cross country season when I was in 7th grade. I ran the Manchester Road Race in Connecticut, which was just a lot of fun and that got me into the sport outside of just the regular school running seasons.

Some of my early mentors would have to be Mrs. Heffernan and my high school coach, Mark Logan. They just did a great job of teaching me the fundamentals and helping me to learn a safe and effective way to get into the sport, and certainly did a good job of getting me hooked on it.

Corey: Why do you run? What aspect of the sport do you most enjoy?

Blaine: I run just because it's part of my lifestyle. It's kind of got an addictive quality to it. If I don't go out to run, I just don't feel as well after a couple of days.

But one of the biggest parts of the sport is just that I love competing. Competing not just against myself, but I also just love to compete against other people. I like to put myself on the line and see how well I can run against my competition on any given day.

One of the best parts of competition is that everything is black and white when you're on the same line, running the same course, and facing the same weather. It doesn't matter necessarily how fast or how far you're running, just "Can you can run faster than the guy next to you?" My priorities are changing a little as I get older and I've started running some of the longer distances like 50k and 50 miles, but as Joan Benoit Samuelson once told me, "The track is like a stopwatch and it doesn't lie. But then you get old enough that you can't read the watch."

Corey: What drives you to compete? What does "running to win" mean to you, personally?

Blaine: I've always been competitive in everything that I've done. Whether it's my school work or sports like basketball or wrestling, it's just something that's a  part of who I am. Even in something like board games or card games, I just always want to win.

To me, running to win means that I'm always going out there, I'm putting my best on the line, and I'm seeing how fast and how far I can drive myself. A good day is day when I find myself at the starting line and I get to the finish line before anybody else. If that isn't the end result, then hopefully I made the other guy work for it, and drove myself to a new standard on the clock. I almost prefer losing a close race then winning a time trial.  (Unless there's money or notoriety on the line, of course, in which case I'll take the win with a healthy margin if I can manage it.)

Corey: How would you describe your overall running philosophy? Has it changed considerably from when you first began running, and if so, how?

Blaine: There are a lot of different motivations that people can have to run. Some people run for health or to lose weight. Other people just like the social aspects. And those are certainly big benefits that I enjoy.

But the big thing for me has always been the competition aspect. That's just been one of the biggest motivations for me to get out there. I like being able to test yourself against how you ran in the past, and how you can run against everybody in your community. With some of the bigger races, I love how you can run against people across the country or across the world. It's just fascinating to me.

Now as I've gotten older I've found that I like pushing my limits and running further and further. This isn't to say that I'm enjoying things that others can't do because most people are certainly capable of doing the same feats that I've done. I've found it's just more interesting to do things that other people won't necessarily choose to go out and do.

For example, some of my favorite races involved running for 50 miles out in the desert, or racing 50 kilometers on a 2 mile stretch of road in 97 degree heat. Those kind of things I actually enjoy doing. I find them fun, just running for hours on end. In early 2011 I'm planning on running my first 100 mile race.

The biggest thing anyone can do is just to get out there and make sure that you enjoy whatever activity you are taking part in and to find whatever your motivations are. Once you find what they are, latch on to them and run with it.

Corey: What's the most valuable piece of running advice you've ever received from someone? How has this insight helped you & your running?

Blaine: I think the biggest piece of of advice that I've ever gotten is probably from my high school cross-country coach who taught me "fat old man pace." Not that he was particularly fat or particularly old, but that was what he jokingly used to call when he would lead the run to make sure that we all ran slow enough in the day before a big meet. He would keep our pace down to a reasonable level.

I think it took me a long time to really latch on to what that really meant, and how important that is for your overall training. I certainly had a few instances in college where I've realized that I was training at a little bit too high of a level and running too hard or too fast all the time. But after graduation I've just found that the more easy running that you do and the more you concentrate on having quality workouts where you need them, the better that you're going to run and the better you're going to perform on race day, and the less likely you are that you're going to get injured. And it's made a big difference just on how much I've been enjoying things, and how well I've been running.

Corey: How many years have you been coaching? In that time, what is one of the most valuable lessons you've learned as a coach?

Blaine: I started coaching about 4 or 5 years ago, just in terms of helping out some friends and starting to really branch out and pay attention to more than just my own personal training or my immediate teammates. However, in terms of taking a more active role and officially become a coach, it's been two and a half years since I got my coaching certification through the RRCA. That's when I started coaching at the Maine Running Company and working with John Rogers, Michael Gaige, and all the other great people at the store. So most of my experience has been in the last two and a half years, when I've been working with a lot of people at once.

I think one of the biggest lessons that I've learned as a coach is just how much the little goals could really matter. It's a great feeling, and one of the most rewarding parts of being a coach, when you can greet your runners behind the finish line and they've met a time goal or finished their first race at that distance or had a certain experience that they've been looking for. But no matter what somebody's goal is, you just really need to help them define what it is that's important to them so that you don't just focus on what your goals as a coach necessarily are. Success is much easier to find when you find something that they're going to be motivated by and will actually work towards and be able to achieve.

Corey: There's clearly a large repository of information & advice available on the internet for new & beginner-level runners. So, do you have any sage words of wisdom specifically geared towards (more) experienced runners?

Blaine: I think the biggest piece of advice that I can give to more experienced runners is to not close your mind and always be open to learning something new. It doesn't matter if you are talking with somebody that's just started running in the past year and is just learning things for the first time. There's always something new that you can learn.

I've found that to be true time and again whether I'm talking to somebody that's a lot faster than I am or that's just finished their first marathon. There's always something I can take away from what they're doing that I can possibly apply to my running or to some of the athletes that I coach, and making it better. Whether it's something in training or something to help recovery or some race tactic that is perfect for a specific race course, they just might have something that has never even occurred to me that can be really beneficial.

With that said, you want to take almost everything that you hear with a grain of salt, because what works for one person may not necessarily work for you.  Running is such an individual sport, but it's still worth experimenting and seeing what you can learn.

You also need to be proactive and share what you know as well. The sport gets better by making everybody around it better. Don't worry about giving away your secrets, because they're just going to pull you into an even better run than what you might have done if you were out there by yourself.

Always keep an open mind and be willing to keep finding what that next thing is going to be that will work for you.

Corey: What do you generally like to think about or focus upon while you're running or racing? Do you tend to think mostly about running or do you let your mind wander to other topics?  Is your inner running "dialogue" mostly a conscious process for you?

Blaine: It depends upon the type of workout that I'm in. If I'm out on an easy run, then my mind will wander from one thing to the next and it's where I kind of let my creative juices flow, I guess. If I have some problem that I'm working on, it's almost always solved just in the subconscious as I'm running along. I just putting enough attention forward to make sure I'm not getting hit by a car again or tripping over a curb or rock or root.

If I'm doing a workout or if I'm racing, then I'm usually pretty focused on the moment and on what I'm doing. I'm paying attention to my body and how it's responding to the workout or to the pace. If it's in a race, then I'm paying attention to my competition and I'm looking for where can I put in a 10 second surge, or if somebody is coming up behind me, or what do I need to do to be able to catch that person up ahead, or who can I work with or who can I draft off of, what's going to improve my position in this race.

For the most part, it's just seeing how close to the red line I can get without going over and have the best performance that I can. The faster I'm running the more focused that I get. Sometimes in a marathon I might get a little chatty early on but in shorter races it's more along the lines of this is how I feel at any given moment, and what do I need to watch out for, and what can I do to improve how I'm running at the moment.

Corey: Do consider yourself an externally or internally motivated runner, or a little bit of both?

Blaine: I would have to say I'm a little bit of both. Most of my motivation is definitely internal, and I would say it's geared more towards that. I usually don't have a lot of trouble getting out the door, and times that I do have trouble getting out the door it's usually because I've been over-training and I'm just in a need of a rest day.

That said, I love reading about some of the ultra marathoners or the people who are trying to raise awareness for their various non-profits, and some of the lengths to which they'll go. I enjoy watching some of these international runners as they have been breaking so many world and national records lately. I find a lot of that motivating and that gets me up, to want to get out and get running as well.

Corey: There's been a lot of hub-bub about barefoot running over the past few years. What's your personal take on the concept & practice?

Blaine: I've been barefoot running since I was in high school. I've always done barefoot striders as part of my cool downs from speed workouts,  and I've noticed that my own health generally is in direct proportion to how much of that sort of thing that I've been doing.

About 2 or 3 years ago I started building up a lot more barefoot running than what I had been doing. I started running without shoes altogether on occasion and my normal training shoes went from built up trainers to racing flats for every day use. Then "Born to Run" came out and that just turned barefoot running right into a fad, so you see a lot more people doing it and it's become more socially acceptable, I guess. I've definitely ramped up the amount of barefoot running that I've been doing since the book came out and have tried doing a little racing that way.

I think that barefoot running is something that can benefit most people whether they're runners or not, but you have to take it into consideration how strong your feet are, and how long it's going to take you to get into a level of fitness that you're actually capable of running barefoot.

A lot of people run way too far, way too fast, way too often. They try doing way too much, way too soon, and they wind up getting injured. I'm guilty of this as well. What you really need to do is a very minimal amount of running barefoot. Try and go barefoot as often as you can outside of your running to build up some strength. If it takes even a year just to be able to get up to running 3 miles at a time comfortably, that's fine. Take as much time as you need, and don't risk getting hurt.

When it comes to minimal footwear, or “natural” footwear as the running shoe industry would prefer to call it, then minimal racing flats and training shoes are definitely good to work towards. If you have a choice between two pairs of shoes that are equally comfortable, you'd probably be better off going with the more minimal pair.

However, you have to be careful if you're going to try to use something like the Vibram Five Fingers or huarache running sandals. If you don't have the strength to really support running barefoot, then you're going to think you can run a lot further and run a lot faster than you really should be going, and that's really where I think most of the injuries have been coming from.

Running in these shoes will take away some of the sensations you get from running on the ground without actually giving back the sort of feedback that you need from barefooting, and also without the cushioning that you get from your regular running shoes.

So, to sum all that up, don't rush into barefoot running and make sure that you progress intelligently in your training if you want the benefits of regular barefoot running without the injuries that come from not being strong enough to sustain it.

Corey: What's next on the horizon for you? Can you tell me about some of the projects you're currently working on? For example, you're launching a new running magazine. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Blaine: Yeah! The running magazine is turning out to quite a bit of work, but it's gonna be good. We've got a good team working on it. The magazine is going to be focused on more of the tips and strategies that you can use in your running and less of the sensationalistic fluff, such as “this week we'll tell you how to train for a 10K, and this week we'll tell you how to train to lose 10 pounds.”

You probably know the type of headlines that I'm talking about that people try to sell their magazines with from the stands. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there's room in the market for more of an actionable type of article rather than purely motivational fluff that has no real information. I don't need to focus solely on selling some copies of the magazine to try and get people running in the first place. The magazine will be geared more towards the people that are already starting to workout and that are racing and want to stay injury free and want to race better.

I've definitely got some good ideas about how we can provide a new format that just isn't really being utilized by the traditional publishing houses. We'll be more flexible and more responsive to what people actually want.

Corey: You work a full-time IT job, coach, publish a weekly newsletter, write books, blog, & still find time to train very intensively for major endurance events. Plus, you participate in many other activities, & are now starting up your very own running magazine. Did I miss anything? ;) That's an awful lot of plates to keep spinning in the air at once. How do you manage to fit it all in and still have time for a personal life?

Blaine: Well, after I got married it was pretty easy to balance everything. My wife had just started law school so I was able to spend a lot of my spare time in the evenings and mornings just working on the coaching and the "Run toWin" business, which worked out pretty well while she was studying.

Now that she's gotten out of law school it's been definitely a lot more difficult to juggle everything in the air at once. I found that if I put my personal life and my time with my family first, then everything else just kind of falls into place.

It just takes some organization and fitting in a few minutes here and there and making sure that what I do is done effectively, rather than just spending all my time on tasks that don't actually push things forward and get things done.

Corey: You and I have both been blogging about running for a while now. If memory serves correctly, I believe we "met" at Steve Speir's blog, Run Bulldog Run, and then started following each other's blogs. I think that was sometime in mid-2007, around the same time that both of us first began blogging. It's now 3 years later. How has your blog developed or been transformed since you first began posting there? In what ways do you think other social media like Twitter & Facebook have altered the landscape of running? What are some of your observations about how the online running world has changed over the past few years?

Blaine: I started the blog back in 2005. I originally had wanted to use the RunToWin.com domain for training log software, but I found that when I got home from work I was tired of sitting in front of a computer all day and programming. Instead, I decided that I would put a blog up just to have something on the domain, so that it wasn't just sitting there idle.

It started out pretty random and rambling but I quickly got back into the writing mode. As I've built an audience and as the whole blogosphere and the internet kind of evolved over the last six years, there's been a huge transformation. All of the social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have really brought people together and made everything so much more accessible.

It's hard to imagine what it was like before. You now have instant race results and all these great race reports, you are able to make all these friends all across the country that you can then run into while you're visiting a city anywhere in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world. It's really changed the whole social aspect of how running works.

The new social atmosphere makes it a lot easier for people who aren't as easily self-motivated to keep getting out the door and to keep training even if they don't have regular training partners that they could run with everyday. Now, you can always catch up with people on Facebook, Twitter, or forums, and if you run with iPods, there are dozens of podcasts available to keep you company during your workout. There wasn't anything like this 10 years ago.

Corey: Blaine, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.... It's been a sincere pleasure. Best wishes for a successful running season!

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