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Run for your life! A publishing insider’s visit with the co-authors of The Ultimate Runner

April 26, 2010 at 9:31 am

Ultimate Runner

A Chat With Tom Green and Amy Hunold-VanGundy

Creators of Runners’ Lounge

What did you most enjoy about working on the book?

We have enjoyed connecting with other ordinary runners who have an extraordinary story to tell.  Amy and I believe behind every runner is a story—getting started, a comeback, a triumph, new and rekindled relationships.  Stories about fitness breakthroughs, gritty runs and races, and golden friendships are everywhere.  So we have been delighted to have so many runners contribute their stories and reaffirm that great moments in running take place every day.

The other joy of working on the book was the privilege of connecting with expert authors.  While the contributing experts are well known coaches, accomplished athletes, and leaders in their professions, they have been very approachable, helpful and interested in sharing sound information with other runners.  It’s a rare opportunity for ordinary runners like Amy and me to work closely with Olympians, national champions and experts whose work guides and transforms ordinary and elite runners.

What is the great lesson you’ve learned from runners at Runners’ Lounge?

While communities everywhere are filled with established runners, we were also amazed to learn how many people would tell us, “I’m not really a runner,” or “I’m not a real runner.”  Some of very proven, talented, earnest runners are stuck thinking if they don’t run a certain distance—“I just run for 15 – 20 minutes” or a certain frequency, “just a couple times a week,” or haven’t reached a milestone, “I’ve just run a couple 5ks,”—then they can’t call themselves a runner.  Another reason runners were reluctant to lay claim to being a runner is because running doesn’t come easy to them. Nonsense!

So Amy and I squelched that mindset and went about writing about outlawing the words “I’m not a runner.”  We encouraged every runner to see the importance and their right to proclaim they are a runner.  We believe no matter what the distance, speed, or race acclaim, everyone who gets out there is a runner to us.  We heard from an outpouring of  runners thanking us for championing the ordinary runner—middle-of-the-pack and especially back-of-the pack runners.  They told us how they finally came to believe they were part of the worldwide running community.  In fact, we actually created an “I AM A RUNNER!” bracelet that we send free to runners who write us.  The identity of being a runner opens conversations and mobilizes runners to attempt amazing accomplishments.  We believe every runner in some way advances our sport.

You enjoy hearing about others breakthrough and comeback stories. What’s your best comeback story?

I’ve not sure I have one as I’ve never gone for any period of time not running since I was 14 years old, with the longest gap being two weeks.  I did, however, drop out of the racing scene for about 15 years, running almost every day, but just to busy with family to enter races.  So my biggest comeback might be returning to racing at age 39 with a half marathon in 1:26, followed by several marathons in the 3:20 – 3:25 range.  Now each year is a comeback as I experiment with new approaches to training and try not to slow down too much.

What does running mean to you?

I more than enjoy running.  It challenges me, keeps me fit, sharpens my mind and senses, and keeps me connected to things that are important to me.  Many people never discover or have available in an entire lifetime an activity from which they can get so much personal fulfillment—fitness, accomplishment.  I am fortunate to enjoy and be capable of experiencing an activity like running, and I am grateful for this gift. I am very fortunate person to enjoy daily such a personally satisfying activity. I can run for miles and literally enjoy it beyond description, which is why I run quietly, privately, mostly in darkness, year round in all weather conditions at an hour of the day most people would consider brutally early.  Yet, it not only appeals to me, I can’t wait to experience it each day!  The only reason I even take a day off from running each week on Mondays is so I can enjoy running the other five or six days of the week more fully.

What is the most common mistake runners make?

Experienced runners tend to overtrain, meaning they either run too much mileage, too often, or with too much intensity, and without enough recovery.  While runners can amaze themselves with their capabilities, we tend to think because we can run far or fast, or both, that we should.

What is popular in the sport of running now?

While the bedrock of running is the local weekend 5k and 10k, consistently more runners are trying the half marathon and then eventually moving up to the marathon.  The half is a great distance to train for, offers an enormous sense of accomplishment, and it’s pretty manageable to recover from too.  Additionally, trail running and relay races are increasing in popularity. What about running gives you enjoyment?

What are your running achievements you’re proud of besides your times?

Spreading enthusiasm for running with everyone we meet.  When we meet a person who doesn’t runner, we warn them that we will do everything we can to awaken the runner within them.

What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

My wife says, “If you want to lose an hour of your life you’ll never get back, just get Tom talking about running.”  She’s right.  I love to hear about others running, what they’ve accomplished and what they’re focusing on at the moment.  Mostly I just ask a few questions and that leads to an enjoyable conversation about running, training, gear, injuries, races, and their stories.  We love others’ running stories!

What would you still like to accomplish with your running?

I’d like to run in more mid-size races that are the pride and joy in other running communities.  I’m looking forward to running some relays with friends in the next few years.  Finally, if I’m fortunate, I’d like to run in at least two more Boston Marathons.

The Ultimate Runner is an HCI publication and will be available on May 3. Pre-orders are welcome.

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