Dr.J. on Running


B.S. in Running

Here is a New Major

Published January 7, 2002 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Running. Is it an art or a science? If a university offered a degree in running, would it award a bachelor of art or a bachelor of science? Which courses would the students take? Where would they go after graduation?

The proposal to create a degree in running is not far fetched. Such a program can prepare students for careers in education, coaching, broadcasting, physical therapy or sports nutrition. It can prepare them to become athletes or agents, officials or managers, footwear or track designers. It can even prepare for graduate study in law or medicine.

My engineering bias suggests a bachelor of science degree. Two years of calculus provide the foundation for statistics, the lifeline of all sports. A year of physics, from forces to motion, prepares for statics and dynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and the science of materials. This track teaches the mechanics of energy and motion, and leads to computer-aided design of biomechanical systems.

An equal dose of chemistry presents physical and organic transformations, and provides the basics for a study of nutrition. In turn, nutrition ranges from fast-food preparation to high-energy nutrition for athletes. An elective course covers sports drinks and energy bars. Biology, from life forms to gross anatomy, is an obvious component of this curriculum. This track extends into cell biology, nephrology and physiology, with biochemistry capping the scientific treatment of running.

Training strategies, from preparing for a race, tapering off, race-day tactics and recovery, make for interesting study. Different training philosophies are discussed, leading to a study of running injuries when a training strategy fails.

On the liberal arts front, runners must learn to read and write. A year of English leads the way to philosophy - why we run, history - why the pilgrims ran, geography - where do Africans run, sociology - which women run, and political science - how to run in caves.

Moisture-wicking UV-absorbing fabric and positive-energy-return mid-soles lead the topics in a course on running apparel, which may constitute the core for a minor on modeling athletic wear. We can throw in caps and glasses, lip gloss and lubricants, gloves and socks.

A course on the rules of competition -- from sprints to ultras -- introduces the alphabet soup of governing bodies from NCAA to IAAF. The politics and economics of amateur and professional competition make for an interesting study for journalists.

Race management suggests a formal treatment of course design and measurement, shooting practice, start line and finish chute layouts. Timing has developed into a science, from digital stopwatches, timing chips and photo finish, to fully-automatic timing, requiring serious study.

Finally, no B.S. in running is complete without running. This required practicum meets every morning at 0600 hours for a six-mile run around campus, and takes care of retention issues.

© 2002 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.