Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Coaching at Hampshire College

For the past year, I've been coaching the Hampshire College running team - for cross country in the fall and 'track and trails' in the spring.  It's been a fun experience - I really do enjoy working with runners, getting them excited about running, watching them improve, and hopefully inspiring them to continue to run after college. 

Anyway, one of the athletes, Gwyn, is a sprinter so I only got to work with her on occasion - but she wrote the essay below for her 'Intro to Coaching' class where she had to observe a coach in action.  

By Gwyn Burns
“How many more ‘till no more?” Amy says to the conglomerate of sprinters that are located outside of the Hampshire College multisport center. “Three more ‘till no more!” We all shout back.

Today we are asked to work on our starts, which involves running down beside campus way, on the grass since Hampshire’s un-sporty attitude can be seen through the lack of an outdoor track. Eric, the normal sprinting coach is gone for the day, probably off working his other job as an electrician, which means Amy is our coach for the day.
 You wouldn’t think that Amy Rusiecki, at 5ft. 6in. would be an imposing force, but she is. She is someone that finds a way to compete in 50k as well as 100k races, a distance that some would shy away from, but one that Amy faces full on. With her welcoming smile, and joking attitude, some might forget that she can be intense, often making the workouts harder than they need to be, creating competition between the runners. You can hear her feelings in her voice, when she is excited it increases an octave. When she is serious or disappointed, her voice will lower, but she is hardly ever disappointed. She walks with power, probably from all the running she does, or with the confidence of someone who can run for longer than others.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Gender and Trail Running

Over the past few weeks, I've had a few opportunities to discuss gender in trail running - and in many different contexts.  It's wonderful to have so many folks (and groups) looking at these issues - so I want to comment on a few topics below.

Transgender Runners

In the past few years as a Race Director, I've had to deal with feedback on the fact that I awarded a podium position to a male-to-female transgender runner at VT100.  While I'm glad that folks feel free to ask questions about this decision, I am confident that the correct decision was made.  The transgender runner followed the USATF (and IOC) regulations regarding when, during her transition, she was required to still register as male for races and when she was allowed to register as female. 

Much of the criticism from others seems to involve the fact that I didn't conduct any drug testing on this runner to confirm that her testosterone levels were in alignment with the USATF regulations.  However, as I pointed out to those who raised concern, I have not tested any other athlete in the race for their potential use of performance enhancing drugs (or other drugs on the USATF/IOC banned list) nor have I questioned the gender or age of any other runner.  Trail running, where all that is being won is a pair of shoes or some sponsor's swag, is often built on the trust of each runner registering and I believe it would be hypocritical to scrutinize one group of athletes more than any other.  Runners could lie on their age, for example, and win age group awards...yet I have never checked IDs at registration to confirm that everyone signed up appropriately - trusting each runner to be accurate.  All runners also sign a waiver that they comply with USATF regulations (which include their ban on the use of certain performance enhancing drugs), and I trust that all runners are in compliance with that regulation also.

While I respect that every race director has the right to handle each situation as they see fit (it is their race, after all), I chose to follow the guidance of the USATF and the IOC for many things, including their stance on transgender runners.

Non-Binary Runners

The registration company that I use ( defaults to allow runners to register for any of three gender categories - 'male', 'female' or 'non-binary/prefer not to answer'.  This is a relatively new thing, and I think it's a wonderful acknowledgement for folks to recognize that how you identify may not be in alignment with your born gender.  I don't believe this issue (i.e. how to handle/score non-binary runners) has been tackled by many race directors yet.  While I don't know that I have determined the ideal solution, through extensive conversations with a non-binary runner, at least I am offering a solution that will hopefully be a jumping off for other races to use.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wind at my Back into a Headwind - Boston Marathon 2018

On Monday, I ran my 12th Boston Marathon.  While I would identify myself more as a trail runner and ultra runner, there's just something about Boston that keeps me coming back year after year.  It could be the enthusiasm along the course - as if for one day, everyone gets out and rallies for crazy endurance runners.  It could be the familiar faces I see along the course - from my Uncle Sam at mile 6, a friend from high school xc at mile 16, my parents at mile 17, and random trail friends at mile 20...and all the random folks that are waiting to cheer for each and every one of us.  However, I think it mostly comes back to being a young child watching the Boston Marathon and thinking that these folks (no matter their pace) were the best athletes that I would ever see.

In my 12 runnings of Boston, I've run through quite a few different weather conditions - from driving rain to blazing sun, headwind or tailwind, and 90-degree sufferfests to 40-degree hypothermia-inducing days.  This year, however, was likely the coldest conditions I had experienced at Boston (and with the rain, made worse).  Luckily, I had some amazing Inov-8 gear that is designed and tested in England, so I just layered up and was good to go.

My friend Kyle was also racing, and starting later in the same wave as me, so I stepped back a few corrals to start with him.  There was something magical about crossing the Boston Marathon starting line, and all the better to share it with a friend!  Starting with him put me at the back of Wave 2, so I was immediately blocked and slowed by runners ahead.  'Don't panic, starting easy is smart' I told myself as I eased into the first downhill mile.  As much as I tried to keep my feet dry, I splashed through a puddle and soaked my feet only 100 yards into the race - oh well!

(Kyle and I pre-race)