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The Running Revolution

Today's Runners Indebted to Doctors

Published Sept. 29, 1997, in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The early '70s witnessed a revival of the sport of running. Many referred to it as the running revolution. Frank Shorter's gold medal in the Munich Olympic Marathon excited the Nation while Jim Fixx's Complete Book of Running brought the benefits of running to the people. However, the running revolution owes its success to a junta of doctors: Kenneth Cooper, David Costill, Jack Daniels, Nathan Pritikin and George Sheehan. In word and in deed, these men laid the foundations on which running stands.

Dr. Cooper was the heart of the running revolution. A U.S. Air Force surgeon, he wrote the landmark book, "Aerobics," in 1968, which started America running. In his book, he presented a simple test to measure fitness: the distance covered on foot in 12 minutes. Fit people can cover 1.5 miles. He recommended a gradual program to build up to 12 minutes of running, four times a week, to achieve and maintain fitness. Cooper also studied the role of aerobic physical activity in treating and reducing disease, in particular heart disease.

David Costill, Ph.D., was the muscle of the running revolution. A professor of exercise science, he studied the physiology of running. He reduced running to its basic physiological components: oxygen intake in the lungs, fuel conversion in the liver, sugar transport in the blood, and work generation in the muscles. While Cooper promoted exercise to treat an ailing society, Costill focused on competitive racing. Through muscle biopsies and treadmill tests on the best runners in the world, he measured the relationship between performance and oxygen capacity, running speed and lactate levels, heart rate and interval training. Costill also demonstrated fatigue from overtraining, and established the significance of rest in a training program.

Nathan Pritikin, Ph.D., was the energy of the running revolution. A nutritionist, he defined the connection between diet and exercise. Instead of exercising to eat, he taught us how to eat for better performance. He studied food as a cause of disease and as a fuel for our muscles. He compared the diets and diseases of Eastern and Western societies, and attributed our health problems to a diet high in fat. For peak athletic performance, Pritikin recommended a diet rich in grains and vegetables, and low in fat.

Dr. George Sheehan was the soul of the running revolution. A cardiologist, he wrote with authority on the benefits of running. Yet his words were poetry and philosophy. He explained "why" we run, instead of "how" we run. Sheehan preached the need for one hour of running every day, 30 minutes for the body and 30 minutes for the soul. He considered running a way of life, and glorified the racing experience. Sheehan lived and inspired through his writings.

Jack Daniels, Ph.D., was the mind of the running revolution. A professor of exercise physiology and a track coach, he has trained numerous Cortland State runners to national titles. Every day, he puts into work the theories developed in human performance laboratories and in life. He translates the works of Cooper, Costill, Pritikin and Sheehan into running schedules and workouts. His quiet and personable demeanor hides an amazing talent that transforms the science of running into the art of running.

Running is alive and well by every measure. Joggers, runners and racers share the roads and the tracks. New road races and track meets appear every year. The running calendar is busier than ever. According to USA Track & Field, almost 8 million runners entered road races in the USA in 1996. This number is twice that at the peak of the running boom of the '70s. We are grateful to the junta of doctors that started it all.

Dr Kamal Jabbour missed the first running boom, but insists on making up for lost time. He runs and writes in the hills of Pompey, and his RUNNING Column appears every Monday in The Post-Standard.


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