Posts Tagged ‘runners world’

by: Richard Westbrook (October 2010)

Almost forty years ago, I was running in the northwest region of Tennessee while attending graduate school. My running was, as George Sheehan has said, and “experiment of one.” I was going to coach cross-country and track upon graduation if I could find that kind of job. I had spent a lot of time researching training methods and the history of the sport of distance running.

My running was an activity of finding out what worked best. I tried everything just to see how it worked. Some worked well, some were OK; and some almost killed me. But I learned.

I was also increasing my mileage to see what effects it had no my racing. The allure of the marathon was right around the corner. I ran right into it. Now, you have to understand that marathons were few and far between back then. Boston was king as it is now, but now it is serious competition for the crown. Finding a marathon to run to get ready for Boston was a serious quest. Now, it is no problem, but then, it was different.

I had subscribed to a new magazine on running, Runner’s World Magazine. It was a black and white publication on coarse paper. But, it was about running, and nothing else outside of Track and Field News came close. I took a plunge and sent my $75.00 in to answer their call for lifetime subscribers. It was for those of us who had faith in the magazine to fork over that much money to give to impetus. It was a big step for me being in graduate school to part with that much money. My financial level was such that I would buy the fish sandwich special at the local Fish Hut that would give me five sandwiches for a dollar. That would last me several days. But, my gamble on Runner’s World Magazine turned out to be a good thing…one of the few gambles that I have won.

With my mileage increasing and long runs stretching out, I was thinking about trying a marathon. There were some up north, but the south was a little sparse. Then I read in the Nashville Banner about an upcoming marathon in Percy Warner Park in Nashville. It would be the first marathon in Tennessee. I would run it.

The race had eight entries including me. The publicity focused on a Nashville runner who was a Boston Marathon veteran. So, that gave me my plan. I would run behind him and do what he did. I may not be close behind him, but I could still copy and learn.

I finished that one and learned some stuff. I was patient enough in my first marathon to give me the winning result. I was able to run past the Boston veteran in the last three miles and felt pretty good. I began thinking about my next marathon which was kind of against the grain after one’s first marathon. Usually, the first thought after finishing is, “I’ll never do this again.”

Marathons then were skeletal affairs. There were aid stations but not like now where aid stations are events all their own. Aid stations now can have a multitude of workers and even workers dressed in theme costumes for the event. There will be a variety of energy drinks, sport drinks, energy snacks, gels, medication, lubrication, fruit, candies, cookies, ice, cold compresses, and just about anything else they can think of putting out there. There may be music, scales to check your weight, clocks giving your projected finish time, porta-potties, chairs to sit and rest awhile, cheerleaders…anything but a local zoo animal.

Today’s marathons will have really big medals and the obligatory race shirt. the “tech” shirt is now very popular – not better, just popular. Chip timing is in vogue and works great. Race expos are the rage. It is rare that a race will not have their expo. It might be small, but it will be there. There may be special posters for the marathon. Cash prizes for the top overall finishers add luster to the race. And, to get runners there, the race will be listed in national publications.

Well, I stepped back in time this last September (which is time travel month) when I ventured to New Mexico to run the Turtle Marathon in Roswell. You may know Roswell as the site of the extraterrestrial crash landing near there in 1947. Flying saucers and stuff…and the town has its own UFO museum and festival. Also, a marathon that would fit in just fine in 1947. It just happens to be in 2010.

First of all, the entry fee was just $20.00 compared to $85.00 o up for today’s races. The race did have shirts for finishers, but you couldn’t find that out at the expo. There was no expo. In fact, it was hard to find anyone who knew anything about the race.

I tried to find out just where it started in the park that was named, but that didn’t work. Therefore, I couldn’t find out where the course went. I did have a starting time, so I showed up then to find out the rest of the information.

“What would be at the aid stations?” I asked. “Water,” was the answer. It would be every five miles…”or so.” It turned out to be “or so.” Actually, some aid stations or water, wasn’t there. The person assigned to place them didn’t make it for the ones near the turn around point on the out-and-back course. When they were there, they were just bottles of water sitting on the ground beside the road. Under the New Mexico sun, the water heated up pretty fast.

The course ran west from town into the New Mexico countryside. The day started a little cool and then warmed up fast under the cloudless sky. These absent water stops were on a rolling course near the halfway point. And, true to the past, there were no spectators to cheer on the runners. Heck, there weren’t even people at the water stops.

The runners charged into the finish in the park in a multi-use trail. The time was called out as we finished. The finish line was hard to find. I just ran into a crowd of people until I heard a time called out. The awards ceremony gave small ceramic turtles to the top three in the age-groups. They walked up and chose their turtle out of the box. Overall winners got real big turtles. After that, the runners just parted and left. There were no announcements or any postings so the runners could see what place their finish happened to be. A runner could very easily run the race, finish, and leave without knowing their place or time.

What they would know is that they just experienced a marathon like marathons used to be. No frills, no gloss, no extras, just running 26.2 miles and surviving. I enjoyed it. I liked the course, but I could have used a little more aid out there. And, maybe some Gatorade. One has to be self-motivated because there were no cheerleaders out there. One may be running alone for quite a spell. I had no problem with that, but some did.

So, if you want to be a time traveler and run into the past, this is the race for you. You might want to bring your own water bottle belt, or you might not make it back to the present. That guy might not make it out there to put water out again.

“A marathon is a time capsule.”                                                                                                                       Benjamin Cheever,                                                                                                                                                     Strides

Westbrook tells of his incredible feat (and his INCREDIBLE feet)


By Brett Hess, Associate Editor of the CLAYTON NEWS DAILY


2,971 miles.


500-plus hours.

400 cities in 12 states.

64 days.

Six pairs of running shoes and dozens of pairs of socks.

Two removed toenails.

One badly swollen leg due to severe shin splints.

Fourth place overall and first place in the Master’s Division.

Those are just some of the figures associated with Richard Westbrook’s summer vacation.

Westbrook, shown here celebrating the Wildcats' state championship in cross country last fall, was probably just as excited Saturday when he reached New York.

Westbrook, shown here celebrating the Wildcats’ state championship in cross country last fall, was probably just as excited Saturday when he reached New York.

The Lovejoy teacher and cross country coach spent his summer – or 64 days of it – seeing the United States. Westbrook competed in the Runner’s World Trans America footrace, a Tour De France-style competition from Huntington Beach, California to New York City.

It was the first such competition since 1929 and it attracted the world’s best ultra-distance runners as 28 athletes from seven countries assembled June 20 on the west coast.

The race ended this past Saturday and Westbrook returned home Sunday morning – just in time for the start of school Monday. (But the coach took a well-needed personal day and returned to classes Tuesday.)

“Though tired, he wasn’t entirely happy to be done. Finishing was kind of bittersweet,” Westbrook said. “We were all tired, but we were all a little sad to be done and going our separate ways.”

But the trip satiated Westbrook’s strange thirst for an incredible challenge.

“It was everything they said it would be,” Westbrook said. “The scenery, the comraderie, the challenge. It was the experience of a lifetime.”

Westbrook’s Ramble

Ten facts relating to Westbrook’s cross country journey:
10. Shelly Tyler, a runner for Westbrook at Riverdale High a few years ago, drove the support van.
9. Several former and current runners teamed up with the coach and ran with him through parts of Utah, Colorado and Indiana.
8. Colorado, Illinois and Indiana were the three ‘most beautiful states.’
7. Day One: Was his toughest day. A bad choice of fluids nauseating Westbrook to the point of nearly passing out one mile from the finish. “I thought I was in real trouble. Here it was the first day and I couldn’t make it.”
6. The run helped prolong his personal running streak of running at least one mile every day for the last 17-plus-years.
5. What’s next: He plans to run the Blue Ridge Parkway (500 miles) next summer.
4. Averaged 150 miles of running each week for six months leading up to the competition.
3. Better that he ate his Wheaties: Westbrook’s preferred breakfast choice during the run.
2. Favorite state: Ohio. “The Ohio Running Club took care of everything all the way through the state. We had everything we needed.
1. Yes – he would do it again. But only when they change the course so that he could see a different part of America.

But it wasn’t as tough as the “experts” said it would be. Running experts and scientists predicted that no more than four competitors would reach New York. But 13 finished and the baker’s dozen posed for a group picture Saturday.

Despite being competitive, Westbrook said the runners supported each other in achieving the main goal: finishing.

“We all wanted to win, but it was more important to finish,” Westbrook said. “We had a great time trading advice and getting to know each other in the evenings.”

But the mornings were strictly for making progress. At 5 a.m. each day the group – along with a dozen or so ‘journey runners’ who ran portions of the race just for the experience – set out on a pre-determined course that would take them to an average of 45 miles.

Lovejoy coach Richard Westbrook shows off the six pair of shoes that he wore in his cross-country run this summer. Note the shoes second from the left: Westbrook had to cut the toes out because his feet had swollen in the desert.

Lovejoy coach Richard Westbrook shows off the six pair of shoes that he wore in his cross-country run this summer. Note the shoes second from the left: Westbrook had to cut the toes out because his feet had swollen in the desert.

Westbrook: Thought trip was worth the trouble

The runners were aided by their own support groups and just five Runner’s World staffers. Along the way volunteers chipped in with drinks or a post-run meal. Many of the towns scheduled welcome parties for the runners and donated sleeping quarters and home-cooked meals.

“I’ve had so much spaghetti and pasta that I can’t even look at it,” Westbrook said. “It was great that people came out to help, but 60 straight days of spaghetti and pizza is enough.” 

A day with Westbrook

Following is a rough diary of what Westbrook did each day along the 64-day journey.

4 a.m.  Arose and prepared for the day’s run. Ate a large bowl of Wheaties with a spoon of sugar.
5 a.m.  The run (anywhere from 30 to 55 miles) began. He chose not to eat any fruit or solid food along the way, instead alternated drinks of Kool aid, Coca Cola and fluid replacement drinks like Gatorade.
Noon-2 p.m.  The day’s run was over and he drank a large glass of milk to settle his stomach. After a light bite to eat, he would nap for two to three hours.
6 p.m.  Arose again to do a little stretching before eating the day’s big meal (usually heavy on pasta).
7-10 p.m.  Enjoyed the evening’s festivities or just sat around talking with the other runners.
10 p.m.  Went to sleep in preparation for the next day’s run.

Considering the daily grind, Westbrook said many of the runners thought the biggest challenge would come later in the race. But the desert proved to be the testing grounds. If runners make it into Colorado – as 15 of them did – they had proved their mettle and went on to finish the voyage.

“I knew the desert would be tough but it proved to be the greatest challenge,” Westbrook said.

Runners battled blisters from head to toe and swollen feet while running for several days in the intense heat. Although many of the runs were completed by noon, runners still encountered temperatures as high as 114 degrees.

“It was hot 24 hours a day,” Westbrook said. “Everything was hot, even the water we had to drink seemed hot.”

Westbrook was hot – literally and figuratively. Literally in that his feet swelled to the point that his shoes didn’t fit. Since he only had six pairs of the same brand, make and size of running shoes, Westbrook had to cut out the toe box of one pair of shoes to allow his feet adequate space. He lost the toe nails on his second toe of both feet.

Westbrook overcame this minor obstacle to jockey for position in the overall standings.

The 45-year-old entered the race with the hopes of experiencing the trip and finishing. But as many of the runners dropped by the wayside, Westbrook moved up to second in the standings.

“That was a real surprise because a dozen of these guys were famous for this type of thing,” Westbrook said. “I kind of caught the bug and started thinking about winning.”

After eight days in the California and Nevada deserts, the field ventured into the wilderness of Utah. For the better part of two weeks the field of runners were on their own. Primitive campgrounds were the likely evening rest stops and the food was basic (usually out of cans).

Westbrook said the beautiful scenery of Colorado helped off-set the pain of running at altitude, but then the 10 days spent in Kansas took their toll.

“It was hard to keep it up because it was so boring and there were few towns to break up the monotony,” Westbrook said.

Meanwhile Westbrook continued to cruise through the days feeling better as he grew accustomed to the daily ritual. A strong performance through Missouri (July 28-31) allowed Westbrook to gain on overall leader David Warady.

But little did Westbrook know that when he went to sleep in Hannibal, Missouri on July 31 that everything would change by morning.

August dawned and Westbrook awoke with a severely inflamed left shin. It didn’t feel like shin splints but the race doctor diagnosed it that because, according to Westbrook, he didn’t know what else to call it. Luckily for Westbrook, a relatively short (35 miles) and flat stage was on the day’s menu and he was able to walk-jog to the finish line just seven minutes [short] of the day’s cut-off time.

The shin problem never worsened, but by the time Westbrook was able to run comfortably again (five to six days later) he was back to fourth place.

Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania proved to be an enjoyable time for the field as cool temperatures and extremely interested local citizens chipped in to pamper the runners.

Westbrook was happy just to be running again and had no chance of winning the race. He was able to hold off Emile Laharrague of France for the  master’s title.

“That’s my little piece of fame,” Westbrook said.

No one, including the race’s overall winner (Warady) received anything more than a certificate for finishing.

Richard hugging his wife and youngest daughter at the finish of the TransAmerica Footrace.

Richard hugging his wife and youngest daughter at the finish of the TransAmerica Footrace.

Runner’s World has scheduled a race for next year but the entry fee will jump from $200 to $1000. Don’t look for Westbrook to sign up, though.

“I’d do it again some day but they would have to change the course,” Westbrook said. “That was the best part of it – seeing America.”

            This is a look into some books that are running related.  The relationship may seem like a stretch at times, but it is there.  That may include tapping into the psyche of running and not just the obvious physical aspect.  But, as most serious runners know, our running is affected in one way or another by everything we perceive.  Reading helps us to broaden that perception.

BOOK:  My Life On The Run, The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon

AUTHOR: Bart Yasso

PUBLISHER: Rodale, 2008


            The author, Bart Yasso, is the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World magazine…Whatever a Chief Running Officer is.  As the dust cover leaf states, Yasso has competed in more than 1000 races, triathlons, biathlons, and eco-challenges over the past 28 years.  He was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions.  He has also been called the “Mayor of Running”…Whatever.

            I met Bart when I was running the 1992 Runner’s World TransAmerica Footrace.  He was sent out west by Runner’s World to quiet the rebellious runners who seemed to think their running was what the race was all about.  After his ranting, raving, and threats, we continued doing things our way with no problems.  Bart was replaced with a more sane liaison.

            But, Bart did write an interesting book about his various running adventures.  Most of these were initiated by Runner’s World sending him to differing races in order to report on them for the magazine.  That sounds pretty sweet, going to races with all expenses paid, and Bart readily recognizes this fact.

            The book is easily read and is entertaining.  It is not just a compilation of races in which he competed.  It gives good descriptions of the background of the races.  Personalities are described when they are important to the character of the events. 

            Bart’s racing adventure takes him to far off places like Antarctica, Africa, and Nepal.  He recommends marathons that should give the reader the best and most enjoyable experiences.  This is intertwined with the stories of his travels to and from the events.

            He, also, relates health problems that hampered his adventures.  This was complicated by his location being out of the USA.  Medical treatment could get suspect when you get away from our medical system.  The reader can appreciate Yasso’s determination in completing assignment under these conditons.

            Just as the reader is immersed in the stories, Yasso changes gears and starts telling the reader the more practical aspects of such runs.  This leads to training program for 5-K’s up to marathons.  The programs tend to be on the easier side of training as typical for the parent publication, Runner’s World Magazine.

            I liked the book, especially the accounts of the races.  The pictures of the sites and of Bart through the years add to the enjoyment of the book.  An overriding message from the book is that each of us can find adventure in our running and races just may be the best source.

            That’s well worth the read.   

  Richard Westbrook


“I had taken running for granted or at least put too much emphasis on the wrong things.  I had never won a race of the mythical 26.2-mile distance, and at age 43, I probably never would.  It was time to appreciate the sweaty exertion for what it was – an affirmation of life.”

                                                                                                               Bart Yasso

An article from The New York Times about the 1992 TransAmerica Footrace.

RUNNING; After 2,935.8 Miles, Warady Is First to Finish Line

Published: August 23, 1992

Looking every bit as fresh as someone who had just run 2,935.8 miles in 64 eight-hour days, 35-year-old David Warady breezed into Central Park yesterday morning to claim victory in the first Tour de Tired, or, to use its offical name, the Runner’s World Trans America Footrace.

Warady, one of 28 ultramarathoners who left Huntington Beach, Calif., just south of Los Angeles, on June 20, was one of 13 survivors who made it to the finish line at Columbus Circle after traversing 13 states in stages ranging from 30 to 60 miles, in conditions that included temperatures of 120 degrees and mountainous climbs at 12,000 feet.

“I feel great,” said Warady, whose time of 521 hours 35 minutes 57 seconds (21 days 18 hours) became the foundation record for what the organizer, the Ultra Marathon Runners Association, and the chief sponsor, Runner’s World magazine, hope to make an annual event. Kept a Steady Pace

Warady, a computer programmer from Huntington Beach, won only 10 of the race’s 64 stages, but his steadiness had built up such a lead that his victory had long been virtually assured. He coasted through the last stages of the event, finishing almost 6 hours ahead of his nearest competitor, 32-year-old Milan Milanovic of Switzerland (527:16:21), who won 14 stages.

The race’s youngest competitor, Tom Rogozinski, 22, of Pittsburgh, who led the race for six days in Kansas and Missouri before developing a stress fracture and who led the field with 16 stage victories, was third (528:48:54). Richard Westbrook, 45, of Jonesboro, Ga., was fourth (537:33:04).

The Trans America was the nation’s first coast-to-coast race in more than 60 years, and among those who gathered to greet the finishers was 85-year-old Harry Abrams, the only survivor from the immediate predecessors, the 1928 Bunyon Derby from California to New York and the New York-to-California derby in 1929.

“This is the very spot where we began the 1929 race,” said Abrams, who did not fail to tell Warady of his own peak achievement: running 70 miles in 10 hours, an average of 7 miles an hour. By contrast, Warady averaged 5.6 miles an hour over the entire race.

Based on pre-race expectations, the victory by Warady, whose longest previous run had been 300 miles in a six-day race, was something of a surprise.

In part, Warady’s victory reflected a series of successive disasters that struck other competitors, including the pre-race favorite, 46-year-old Al Howie, a Scottish-born resident of Canada who had set a record in a trans-Canada run in 1991. Howie was forced out of the race after seven days when he developed severe blisters running through the Mojave Desert.

Warady’s main advantage, however, was his own meticulous preparation and the exclusive services of his own full-time crew: his wife, Kelly Babiak, who quit her job so she could accompany her husband in a minivan, providing him with liquids at three-mile intervals and with peanut butter and banana sandwiches two or three times a day.

While the other runners slept in sleeping bags and on cots in churches, community centers and the like — at one point camping out in the open beside a Utah highway for two successive nights — Warady stayed with his wife in the comfort of motels.

Thank you to The Atlanta Journal and Constitution: Image (original article)

David Warady //

I will personally attest to Tom’s toughness. Without a doubt, in my 20 years of racing, Tom Rogozinski and Richard Westbrook (4th in TA) were the toughest runners I’ve ever competed against.   Rogo’s 8hr, 59 mile stage, might be the most incredible individual effort in the 1992 TransAmerica race.