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Book offers blueprint for running longevity.

Byline: John Conceison


You never know what you'll find in the mailbox at the office.

Usually all that winds up in my slot is next week's work schedule or direct-deposit receipts. But early last week, a good-sized paperback awaited, and that could mean a couple of things:

1) Someone wants me to enrich myself by reading books, not merely the sports pages (could that be Mom?).

2) Or maybe this is the hint for me to whip back into shape (I haven't been such a good boy this winter).

Apparently, this book's arrival can accomplish a little bit of both. The title in bright yellow letters, "Run for Life," next to a photo of a couple running the roads in fine form, is enough to stir up my guilt complex. The subtitle, "The Anti-Aging, Anti-Injury, Super-Fitness Plan to Keep You Running to 100," that's telling there is some kind of program involved here.

Roy M. Wallack, a health and fitness columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has just published his sequel to "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100," and his latest book is quite involved, some 320 pages of 7-3/8x9-1/4 inches, spanning two columns on most pages.

Now like our Congress last month, I'm not going to pretend I've already read all the way through this stimulus package. But even by scanning the "Cheat Sheet" preceding Section 1, it's apparent there's something here appealing to all runners.

Wallack offers a blueprint for running longevity - run soft, run less, run stronger, run flexible, run straighter, run motivated, run faster - and suggests the plan can work for runners of all ages and abilities. He introduces soft running, a five-step mechanic overhaul designed to reduce knee-joint impact and thus injuries, citing laboratory studies and testimony from experts.

The book ventures into strength training, interval training, running in water, even yoga, as activities to preserve ourselves for running at a ripe old age.

Again, Wallack loads a lot on the runner's plate, a lot to digest, but he's not advocating that the reader follow everything to the letter - or else. He advises that with each little suggestion taken, strides are made toward running longevity.

While we can agree or disagree with some of these philosophies and techniques, Wallack includes 10 interesting oral-history interviews with famous figures who have endured, featuring favorites like Frank Shorter, Rod Dixon and Bobbi Gibb, the real first woman to run the Boston Marathon. And in the first interview, Bill Rodgers colorfully recalls his journey to supremacy in Boston. The interviews alone make this book worth reading.

Though a West Coast type, Wallack writes with sincere appreciation of the Boston Marathon, of how in 1999 he applied "soft running" to his trek from Hopkinton, noting how his approach helped him while citing mistakes he made on the course that prevented him from breaking four hours.

He takes us to Kenya, where he hit the roads with some of the world's greatest runners and tells how the country, which already had produced world-class runners, started developing the finest marathoners.

"Run for Life" ($14.95 retail, Skyhorse Publishing, New York) may not provide the instant fountain of youth and have us running 5Ks 50 years from now, though our author sure wants us to try. But we're always looking for ways to maximize performance while minimizing the pounding, and Wallack provides an agenda worth looking into.

Beat the retail price by ordering via Internet - Amazon and Barnes & Noble have fine deals.

Boston's short route

For those who would like to cross the Boston Marathon finish line without running 26.2 miles or cutting the course a la Rosie Ruiz, time is running out to register for the first BAA 5K - they're only accepting the first 4,000 entries. Going into the weekend, 2,750 had entered.

The Boston Athletic Association is conducting the timed event at 8 a.m. April 19, the morning before the granddaddy of them all, and it is open to those 10 and older. The course will follow the first miles of last year's U.S. Olympic Trials Women's Marathon, which also ran early on the Sunday before Boston. The race replaces the Freedom Run event that ran on Marathon Weekend.

Registration, which began March 5, is all done online, and the entry fee is $40. To register and obtain more information, visit

Contact John Conceison at
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 15, 2009
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