Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Moorestown Running Company - State of the Union 2008

A lot of people ask “How’s the store doing?” I figured the end of the year would be a good time to do a status on our little endeavor…

We opened in May of 2007. We started the store with 4 goals:
- Make walking & running more enjoyable and fun for all of our customers
- Support running in our surrounding communities
- Create a comfortable environment for our customers and employees
- Create a sustainable long term business in a small town setting

I viewed the store as a good way to fit in with my overall goal of trying to contribute to Moorestown thru what I know best – running. It fit well with my volunteer coaching for the high school cross country and track teams as well as our efforts to build trails at the high school and now around town.

The first three goals all kind of boil down to helping runners and the running community. I can report that this has gone very, very well. Let me share some examples:
- We get comments every day about how our fitting process and shoes have really helped make people feel better. Whether it is a woman with bunions trying on a pair of Nike Vomero’s or a high school runner who has ITB problems because they were in the wrong type of shoe or the store clerk who is on their feet all day and need the extra cushioning and fit of our shoes. It sounds corny, but we love it when people come back in and say how they are enjoying their new shoes – and we get a lot of those comments!

- We definitely are a place for runners to come in and “talk shop”. Whether they are looking for some training or injury advice, or to share some pictures from their latest race we just love to talk about running.

- We had an Army Reserve unit get outfitted for a big team race. They gave us a picture of the whole team looking sharp that is hanging on our wall.

- The Thursday Night run is a great time and way to get together with other runners.

- The Moorestown Distance Running Project – this is something Ed and some of the hard core runners in town put together. It is a great training group and they have had fantastic success – with the co-ed team getting 4th place in the Blue Division in the Chicago Marathon this year! This group sees the store as their “hang-out” place, and we think that is fantastic!

- We’ve helped to sponsor and man the top local races – the Scott Coffee Moorestown Rotary 8K, The Moorestown Turkey Trot, our new July 4th Moorestown Mile, and our annual New Year’s Day Fun Run.

- We get a lot of college runners coming back and meeting at the store. It is cool to see the runners grown up from when they were in high school. As the store gets older and our customers get older we are looking forward as being a way to help people stay in touch.

- Our website has become an important place for people to find out about races – getting literally thousands of hits per month by people taking advantage of the largest racing calendar in the area. Likewise, our high school cross country and track coverage is the best in the area – and we get large spikes of hits on our results summary and links pages.

- The team we have at the store – Joe, Ralph, Ed, Marc, Dave and myself really do see it as our home away from home. You will find all of us at various times just “hanging out” there even when not scheduled to work. Meeting up to go for a run together or with others in the community.

Quite simply, we are having fun, and it seems like those that come to the store have fun too. It might be my imagination, but it just seems like more people are running in town. There are lots of reasons for this, but we are glad to be a part of encouraging the trend of health and fun.

The final goal is to create an on-going business on Main Street. To be honest, this is a challenging endeavor. The trends of business away from Main Street toward the easy parking of strip shopping centers and the on-line ordering play against us. The additional challenge of the economy is also playing against us.

Fortunately, we have a couple of things going for us. First, we are more of a destination that does not really require lots of browsers like those shopping carts at the Mall or Airport. We also benefit from the fact that people really do need help in selecting proper running or walking shoes and that knowledge seems to be spreading. But our most powerful advantage is plain old word of mouth and loyal repeat customers.

I really feel we are all kind of in this together, so I figured I would share some of the numbers…

Since the store opened 18 months ago, people have bought 4,639 pairs of shoes from us. Wow! This represents about 2,400 customers. Some of those customers have just bought clothing or other items – so we get a lot of people who keep buying shoes from us. This demonstrates that we seem to offer a good enough service that keeps people coming back. And we get the comment every day from new customers that someone had recommended that they come in.

We also have a pretty good spread of customers. About 37% of our customers live in Moorestown – around 900. That is roughly 5-10% of Moorestown who have shopped at our store – which is great. We even have a town council person who shops in our store! We have customers from all of the surrounding towns like Mt. Laurel, Delran, Cinnaminson, Riverton, Cherry Hill, and even beyond out to Medford and up towards Northern Burlington. So the word of mouth has definitely spread.

This kind of repeat business and word of mouth was very obvious as we saw our business expand dramatically year over year in the summer and early fall. For example in both August and September, our sales were up over 50% from the previous year! That is very cool and gives us a good metric that we are heading in a positive direction.

However, the economy since October has really cut into that growth. In October we grew about 20% over the previous year, in November the growth was down to 5% and we are flat even with last December.

For the year we had revenue of about $440K, which is good for a Main Street business. However, we were not profitable and we were not able to pay off any of our loans at that level of business. The good news is that our investor (me) is really not expecting this to make money for me. The store is a work of passion and as I detailed above we seem to be hitting on all cylinders there. However I do want to get to at least break even this year so it does not require more cash from our savings.

With the economy signaling that customers will simply buy less this coming year, we need to figure out other sources of income to get to that breakeven level. We have several ideas. First is team sales. Ralph is heading this up and we have had some success so far with team sales at Moorestown, Cinnaminson, Seneca as well as an Army Reserve Unit. There is a lot of potential business out there – not just in Cross Country and Track, but beyond into other sports as well like Crew, Soccer, Field Hockey, etc. Since we represent all of the top brands like Under Armour, Nike, New Balance, Asics, Brooks, etc. we have very good capabilities of getting the right apparel for any team. And since we have the buying power of the three stores and a healthy team business in Haddonfield, we should be able to expand this channel of business by providing competitive pricing. Second, we are looking at rolling out new ways that we can help race directors with a variety of services. There are a lot of things we can do to help race directors that can also bring us additional revenue and make their races better. For a sneak peak, you can look at to see some of our ideas that we should be rolling out in January for the 2009 racing season. Finally, we will be doing some other experiments on the web to find new sources of income.

Joe, Ralph, Ed, Marc, Dave and I are very optimistic about the future of the store. We all love being a part of the running community and thank our literally thousands of customers for your continued support. We know we will be successful with the help of everyone! So keep spreading the good word and let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can serve you better…

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Moorestown Turkey Trot

The Moorestown Turkey Trot was a great success this year. We had about 150 people participate in the One Mile Fun Run/Walk. We had about 650 participate in the 5K. We raised nearly $7,000 to be used for the Moorestown Distance Running Club, which supports the high school cross country teams, the new middle school program and the building of the new Cross Country Trail we ran on. There are some pictures on the website, and hopefully some of the other photographers that were there will drop off a CD with their photos at the store so I can put them up as well.

We started this 5 years ago as a fund raiser and a low key event that would be a fun way to connect with others on Thanksgiving morning. It was designed to not be a competitive race since we do not do official timing. The event has grown quite a bit over the past several years – I thought we had kind of peaked last year with about 450 people, but it seems to keep growing, which is great.

We did a survey of people who attended this year and have gotten over 100 responses. You can see the results here.

At a high level, it looks like we are doing pretty well – with 65% being “Very Satisfied” and only 5% being “Neutral” of “Somewhat Dissatisfied”. Lots of nice comments like “Great Family event-something for everyone”, “The food was amazing and it is great to see the trot grow through the years”, “It is a nice small "home town" race”, etc.

I think most of the suggestions are related to the fact that we did not expect this much growth (we ran out of water, we did not have port-a-potties, etc.). We will fix those things next year. I thought it might be good to address some of the most common suggestions below:

Timing: We started with the premise that this is community event and a “Trot”, not something like an official USATF certified race – there are plenty of those. We wanted to keep the cost low, yet still be able to raise some money. Our assumption is that most people who really want to be timed run with a watch. To supplement this, we have the Stadium Scoreboard clock. We designed the race to finish so runners could see the scoreboard clock as they finished and people who are watching could see it. Finally, we have the low cost way of timing – we hand out place cards and have a simple timing device that prints off the place and time. We hang that on the wall of the concession stand afterwards to allow people to check their time.

All that said, we have several ways we will improve things next year. First, we will have more volunteers at the finish line, along with a real chute to make sure everyone gets a card. Second, we will scan the results and put them up on the website and post the originals on the window of the Moorestown Running Company. Third, we will update the brochure and website to be clearer that this is a Trot and to set expectations on timing better.

Crowds: Having 600+ runners on a cross country course is a LOT. I think we can handle this size crowd for a Trot, but growing too much more may force some changes. There are several things we plan to do this summer to help ease the several problem spots though. First, the start could be done so it has a longer straightaway for the crowd to thin out more. Second, we have plans to try to improve the spot around the corner of the tennis court and build that out a bit more, as well as put a little bridge over the stream to get behind the stadium. Third, we are looking at making a second trail in the woods after the mile and just before coming onto the grass behind the tennis courts. This would prevent people from running into each other there. If you are interested in helping, please let me know.

Logistics: Only two real complaints here. We needed more than 700 bottles of drinks (we thought we might have like 600 people rather than the 800 that showed). We also need to add some port-a-potties.

T-Shirt & Prizes: We want to continue to keep the cost low, so we are not going to give a T-Shirt, but will sell one next year with our famous little Turkey on it. As for prizes, it sounds like people have a preference for the finger puppets over the bracelets.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


We went to NCAA Division III Nationals to cheer on Allison, Wash U, and an MXC alumni Eric Holaday. Eric and Allison graduated from Moorestown in 2006. It is amazing that two Moorestown grads worked hard enough to earn the honor of racing at the NCAA's.

It was a fantastic meet. There were about 300 runners in both the Men's and Women's races. And a LOT of fans. We are talking college teammate rabid fans. Running around in 25 degree weather shirtless, some in diapers, most painted with school colors. Here are some of the Wash U faithful who drove 5 hours to cheer on their teammates!
There is a lot ot be said for Division III athletics. It might not get the TV time of a Penn State-Michigan State or Ohio State-Michigan football game, but I can tell you the runners had a great experience. And in spite of their SAT scores, these fans were just as stupid!

More pictures at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Going to Hanover...

Marlise and I are heading to Hanover to see the NCAA Division III Nationals. I am very, very excited! It looks like Allison, who was the alternate at Regionals last week, may run because Kelly has a bad back. Plus it will be great to cheer on the Washington University Bears! They are ranked 7th. I have to say it was cool to see Allison's name in the program guide.

We get a double treat since Eric Holaday
will be running for Amherst. He was their top runner at Regionals, and they are ranked 12th on the Men's side. It is great to see he was able to progress on after a frustrating high school career where he was limited by stress fractures. Eric ran 16:47 at Holmdel, but had much brighter potential, as he has proven in college!

Friday, November 14, 2008


In the fall of 2005 a new group of runners came out for Cross Country and has arguably been the most infuential class to date on the Moorestown Cross Country Program. Sunday (lightening is on their side of extending their high school XC careers!) is their last Cross Country race in high school.

I started looking back thru some photos earlier today and thought I would create a collage from 2005 and one from this year. It brought back a lot of really good memories.

Three of the Captains this year came from that class, Ben Friedman, Alex Matteson and Ryan Wolff. Dave Fauvell, Tim Simpson and Jon Plaut were a part of that initial class and are still running for the team. Micah Friedman stayed for three years and then went onto football this fall. But this core group was made up of guys who really liked running and guys who knew how to have fun. This led to growth of the team from their freshman year (36 runners to 67 this year).

Friedman, Matteson and Wolff took their training seriously and really helped to popularize year-round running. Friedman leaves with the most accumulated mile of any runner in recent Moorestown history - regularly logging 80+ miles per week (perhpas more impressively he has not missed a day of running in high school). Their dedication has been a great example for the rest of the team.

Fauvell, Simpson and Plaut have chosen not to take the year round path to training, but come out each year and are great parts of making the team who we are. Plaut is one of those guys who came out as a freshman unable to run a mile and has steadily progressed into a very good, solid runner. And they all provide plenty of entertainment to the whole crew.

These core guys were joined their sophomore year by Ringwood, Balch, Josephson, Shah, Ellison, and Mejia. Ringwood has had a stellar career and been a big part of the Varsity 7 since joining the team and became a Captain his Senior year. Balch, Josephson, and Mejia have become some of the very core guys on our team. Balch has improved greatly the past 3 years and made the Championship Squad this year. He and Fauvell also found a new passion with Triathlons where they can combine their running talents with biking and swimming. Josephson has grown tremendously. From early knee aches because of his growth to becoming a solid, steady, competitive Varsity level runner. Mejia is a free spirit who found a level of training and competitiveness that took him to being a real, competitive runner.

2007 brought on a couple of new runners from this class - Wilson, Dwosh and Briggs, while 2008 brought our Shelley, Sexton, Pica, and Thomas. Of course Wilson had enough time and spirit to really embrace the sport. He put in amazing work - 60 miles per week - and has made our Varsity 7. The other guys have come out more to enjoy the sport, and I am hopeful later in life when they go out for a run or pledge to lose a few pounds they will think of their teammates on the Moorestown Cross Country team and what great shape they got into that fall of 2008.

I have good memories of all of these guys. They've helped each other become better runners and have all really represented our 4 guiding principles - Work Hard, Learn, Be a Team, and Have Fun!

Tom Donnelly - Haverford

Great article in the NY Times on Tom Donnelly, the long time XC coach at Haverford.

My favorite quote is "You can only justify the existence of a team at a college campus if being on the team benefits the athletes’ educational experience." I think this goes for high school as well. I know I learned more from XC than any course I took at college...

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Sectionals were held across the state today. There is a very good website that has all of the detailed results. We ran in the South Jersey Group 3 race, and there was some fantastic competition. I decided to take a look around the state. Obviously all courses and conditions are different, but I did a quick listing of all the "quality times" that cover about the top 25 teams (not including prep and private schools).

I may be biased, but it seems like the South has the most quality times with 12 teams. Central and North 1 had 5 each and North 2 had 4. Group 2 has 2 quality teams, Group 3 has 10 quality teams, and Group 4 has 13 quality teams moving on (although South Jersey seems to have 7 in that category).

It will be interesting to see if it was simply the flat Delsea course that accounted for the strong South Jersey performances when all these teams converge on Holmdel next week. Maybe it was the South Jersey Running Companies ;-)

Group 2
Haddonfield - 16:31

Group 3
Ocean City – 16:42
Kingsway – 16:51
Shawnee – 16:56
Moorestown – 17:06
Highland – 17:07

Group 4
Toms River North – 16:43
Cherokee – 16:49
Washington Twp. – 16:54
CH East – 16:55
Southern – 16:57
Not qualifying – Mainland – 16:50, Lenape – 17:01

Group 3:
WWP North – 16:13
Holmdel – 17:11

Group 4:
WWP South – 16:45
Old Bridge – 17:00
Manalapan – 17:03

North 1:
Group 2:
Wallkill Valley – 17:17

Group 3:
Morris Hills – 16:31

Group 4:
Randolph – 16:47
Ridgewood – 16:51
Livingston – 17:11

North 2:
Group 3:
Mendham – 17:22
Millburn – 17:14

Group 4:
Ridge – 17:31
Bridgewater – 17:31

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I have never been more proud of our country.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

MXC Alumni

We just came back from Atlanta where I got to see my daughter Allison run in the UAA Championship. Her team, Washington University in St. Louis, finished a very close 2nd in an exciting race to Case Western 48-52. Allison ran a nice race, breaking 24 minutes for 6K on a fairly hilly course on an absolutely gorgeous fall day.

The best part was getting to see her. She is doing great - loves Wash U, has great rommates and teammates. My parents also came down to the meet, so it was a real nice time. Meet Results.

I figured I would check to see how other MXC alumni were doing...

Eric Holaday at Amherst was the second man on his team in helping them to a 3rd place in their conference meet. Meet results

Kevin Healey is having a good first season at University of Rhode Island. In spite of some injuries, he was 5th man in yesterday's A-10 conference meet. Meet Results.

Brendan Banks continues to run well at Fordham.

Jess Rogers continues to run at Boston College.

Bri Rogers was part of the Brown team that took 3rd in the Ivy League Championships over the weekend. Meet Results.

Ursinus has three former MXC runners - Stephanie Donatone, Alex Morris and Lauren Goldstein. Stephanie and Alex helped them to a 7th place finish in their Centennial Conference meet this past weekend. Meet Results.

Devin O'Connell is also continuing to run at Towson State.

It is really great to see all these runners continuing into college, and I hope it is a trend that continues for future graduates.

Monday, October 27, 2008

19:02 or 15:30? Age and Weight Adjusted Racing

I entered my first race since 2004 where I have had a goal this past weekend - the Lupus Loop 5K in Philadelphia. My goal was to break 19 minutes - we have that as our qualifying time for Varsity on the Moorestown Cross Country team, something that 20 of the guys have achieved this year. I felt I was in shape to do around that, although I have not really done any speed work and little threshold work.

Well, I blew it. I ran 19:02, which was monumentally disappointing to me. I blew it in two ways. First, I kind of fell asleep in the middle of the race. Maybe it was trying to be conservative with the first fast race I have run in a long time. Maybe it was the Evil Mini-Bob on my shoulder telling me that it was just easier to go slower. Where I really blew it was the long straight finish. I thought I was going to make it no problem. There was a guy ahead of me, and I really do not like to showboat and blow by people in the last 400 meters. Anyway, I stayed just behind him and then with about 10-15 seconds of race left I realized I was not going to make it. A real bummer...

So I made two mental mistakes, but 30 years ago I could have run much faster. So the idea came to me to ask where did I lose it? Well, it is in three areas:
- Weight gain
- Age
- Training

Looking at weight gain, I have gone from about 135 pounds to about 155 pounds - or about 61 kilograms to 70 kilograms. If I reference back to Jack Daniels basic ideas of VDOT and VO2Max, I see that the 19:02 is roughly a 55 VDOT (there were some hills on the course). 55 * 70 kg = 3850 units of oxygen my body is able to process. If I then divide this by the 61 kg that I used to be, I found my VDOT would be about a 63. So my weight gain is worth about 8 VDOT points - if I check my chart, that translates into about a 17:00 5K. So by extralopation, if I lost 20 pounds and returned to my college running weight I would be able to run 17:00.

Next, I looked at the age factor. I used a website to help me understand this. It says my 19:02 would be worth about a 16:40 if I was not so darn old.

Now this makes me wonder how to add these two factors together. If I use the VDOT factor first, and translate the 17:00 time if I weighed 135 again, and then apply the age factor it drops me down to a 14:50. If I go the other way, and use the 16:40 time if I was in college again, that gives me a VDOT of 63. Add 8 VDOT points and it gives me a 71 age and weight adjusted VDOT - which would put me at around a 15:30. Hmm, I like the first method.

In reality, if I had run all out when I was in shape on that course in college, my guess is I would have done about 14:20-14:30. But I was not going all-out even in my current condition - so let's say I would have run around 15:00.

This analysis puts me around the right ballpark. But the third factor is a pretty big one. My conditioning is not nearly what it was. I was running 100 miles per week and doing some pretty hard workouts and races, while today I run about 25-30 miles per week and do not train hard. My resting hear rate was around 32-34 beats per minute and it is around 42-44 now as one example of not being in the same shape.

I think the error factor comes in the fact that the age based rankings probably take into account the fact that older guys weigh a bit more than younger guys. There is also the fact that there are multiple variables being used here, that are based on tables compiled on experience. So the numbers are bound to be a bit off.

Nonetheless, I am hoping this provides me with a bit of motivation to maybe lose a few pounds. And maybe train a bit more. It was fun to run kind of fast again (even with the extra baggage and years). Maybe I will try to find a 5K before the XC season ends and qualify for Varsity...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Moorestown Cross Country Course

One of the great accomplishments of the Moorestown Cross Country Team was the building of their own home course. This has been a long endeavor that started in 2005. You can read some of the history here. And here and here.

We got a nice article written in the Philadelphia Inquirer. They really captured the spirit of the team in persevering thru 3 years of effort that required about 600 hours of volunteer effort by the Moorestown Cross Country Team. And we learned that it takes cooperation across a wide range of people and groups.

I recall the first day we ran as a team on the trail as it neared completion. Nearly 70 guys running thru the woods cheering and shouting. I wish all of our benefactors had been there to see that. And we got a LOT of help and support, since the multiple phases cost us about $30,000. So special shout-outs to Leonberg Nurseries, Moorestown Alumni Association, Moorestown Rotary, Family Fun Day, RBC Wealth Management, Long & Foster Realty, and the Moorestown Education Foundation!

Chris Barr, a runner from the early 1960’s teams at MHS, was kind enough to make a map of what the course looked like back in 1963. The course was down at Memorial Field and Strawbridge Lake and on the roads for almost 1/3 of the race. At some point in time in the 1980’s the course transferred over to the high school, but involved running on the roads in Stanwyck Glen. This got outlawed by the State in the 90’s and the team has been without a home course since then.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Long Distance Motivation

One of our runners came up to us after practice yesterday and asked "Runner X does not run as many miles as I do and yet he beats me in races. Why?"

I buy into the logic that runners are good because of three things:
1. Natural ability to deliver and burn oxygen and fuel in their bodies to produce the energy to move them forward (Jack Daniels VDOT). In other words, some people are built with better engines.
2. Mental and nerve system ability. This is a combination of being able to deal with pain as well as being able to run a race well (even pacing, competitiveness with other runners, etc.).
3. Conditioning. How have they conditioned their bodies to best tune their engines. Lots of debates on how this is done - miles, speedwork, thresholds, cross training, etc. But it is clear that people can run faster if they train, and up to a point get better as they train more.

On the logical level, the answer to his question is that some people have better cardiovascular systems, more efficient bodies and strides for distance running and have better abilities to deal with the pain and logistics of a race. Tough luck that someone has a better #1 and #2 even though you feel you work harder.

This seems like such a stark answer. But if you think about it, every runner faces this. Ringwood is the best runner on the Moorestown team right now, and the other 60-70 guys think he is amazing. However there were 35 guys that were faster than him at Holmdel on Saturday. Should he feel frustrated that he only ran 16:44 and Brett Johnson ran a minute faster? In essence, Ringwood could ask the same question this runner asked.

I would propose that the answer comes back to something I call "long term motivation". It kind of fits with "long distance running". Just like distance races last a long time - 15 minutes for a 5K compared to 10 seconds for a 100 meters, or 2-3 hours for a marathon vs. 45-60 seconds for a 400 meter race - long distance runners need to think of their training in a similar way. And I don't mean a single 10 mile run - but years of running to improve the complex systems in their bodies. And even with years of training, it is more likely than not that there will be lots of people better than you.

Therefore to be in this sport, you need long term motivation. The first thing is to find joy in the simple act of running. Some people talk about a "runners high". I'm not sure I have ever experienced that, but I do enjoy the simple act of going out for a run. It feels good, it helps you get away from the rest of the world, it makes you feel like you accomplished something.

The second key to long term motivation is having a set of short term goals and milestones that are realistic and achieving them. These are goals for a particular race or a season. Near term things that measure whether the work is producing some positive results. On our team we focus on Personal Records. It is something that every runner can celebrate from the front of the pack to the back of the pack.

The third key to long term motivation is having a long term plan and set of goals. A freshman coming in to the team should realize they have a tremendous advantage of saying they will work hard over the course of 4 years and get a whole lot better over that time. Ben Friedman is a great example of this. There may in fact be other people on the team that have more talent (#1 And #2 above) than him, but there is no one on the team who has ever worked harder than Ben. He has put in more miles and has worked harder in each individual workout. He took a long term approach and that is paying off for him – last week he went sub-17 at Holmdel with the 8th fastest time ever recorded at Holmdel by a Moorestown runner.

The final, important piece to long term motivation is being part of a team. A group of people you can share your experiences with, the good races and the bad, the training miles, the tossing of frisbies, the jokes during stretching. High school and college teams offer the best environment since there are team-related goals to point toward. Being a part of the team competing for those goals can make a huge difference. From a personal perspective, this was the key aspect that motivated me at Bucknell. Coach really had us focused on running together and helping each other, making team oriented goals that would motivate all of us to work hard and work together.

Dave Simpson (the guy in the middle without his shirt holding the mascot Elk Head) was the best example in my mind of a runner who was motivated by the team. In 2005 we had a very good team that won Group 3 Sectionals and finished 2nd in State Group 3. He was a Captain on the team and had worked very hard all summer and fall to make the top 7, but was edged out by other runners who had a bit more of #1 and #2 above. If you ask any member of that team, they will say Dave was a key part of that team. From my perspective, he was one of the best Captains we ever had. He was a natural leader. He made practice and races fun. He reached out to everyone on the team to make them feel good and to encourage them. And I know he had a heck of a lot of fun running cross country. He had long term motivation for the sport – he enjoyed the training, being with the team, and his role as a leader on the team. Certainly he was disappointed that he was not on that final Top 7 who ran, but he was proud of the role he had in leading that team.

Which gets me back to the question the runner asked us yesterday. We tried to explain this concept that he had to have a long term motivation for the sport. I hope he reads this and it helps put things into perspective some. I hope he internalizes our guiding principles of Team, Work, Learning, and having Fun. I know he can be an important part of this team. Maybe in the way Ringwood is, maybe in the way Friedman is, the way Dave Simpson was, or his own new way that helps himself and the team.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Moorestown XC from 1966

I got an email from Chris Barr, a graduate of Moorestown in 1966. Here is a great description of the team back then:

"Although we were second at the Bridgeton Meet [our equivalent of the So. Jersey All-Group Meet] and fourth at states, we were seven individuals. That 1963 team eventually had one sub-12:20 runner, two sub-12:30 runners, two sub-13:20 runners, one sub-13:40 runner and a sub-14:00 runner for Moorestown's 2.5 mile home course [one senior, two juniors and four sophomores]. I don't know what mileage the others ran over the summer; but, I remember I put in about 21 miles/week [3 miles a day, seven days/week]. Each day I ran about as hard as I could, developing a 600 yard drive at the end of each race. It may be age catching up to me; but, I do not remember ever being passed during the last 600 yards my senior year. I remember the Edgewood coach telling me my sophomore year, that if you are in shape, winning is 90% desire. That credo won many a race for me. In hindsight, I regretted not sharing this with my teammates."

Three sub-12:30 is roughly equivalent to sub 16:50 at Holmdel today. Pretty darn good team...

Thanks for the memories!

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Batch Meet

Cinnaminson has a good XC team. They beat our Moorestown team this past Tuesday in the first batch meet of the season 26-29.

They were led by Todd Campbell, who was only 1 second off Steve Grabowski’s 16:19 course record. Ben Friedman (M) ran the whole way on his shoulder before Campbell broke away in the final 600 meters. Friedman ran a 16:27 – good enough for 3rd best on the all time list (actually 4th now), ahead of Jon Anderson’s time from 2002.

They went our in a 5:25 first mile, then Campbell picked up the pace for a 5:04 second mile. This stretched the field out and gaps developed in 3-10th place.

Steve DeLuca (C) has made a big move forward this year (Holmdel best of 18:10 last year) and ran a 16:50 for 3rd place, ahead of Dave Ringwood (M) at 16:53. Alex Matteson ran a nice race at 17:05 – all top 20 times on the all-time list for a course that goes back to 1995 and has seen some fast runners.

Todd Campbell (C) 16:20
Ben Friedman (M) 16:27
Steve Deluca (C) 16:50
Dave Ringwood (M) 16:53
Alex Matteson (M) 17:05
Dylan Tooher (C) 17:13
Damien Clayton (C) 17:16
Brandon Greenwood (M) 17:38
Ian Dill (C) 17:42
Ryan Wolff (M) 17:45
Joel Robinson (M) 17:46
Sam Weintraub (M) 17:47
Tyler Ems (M) 17:55

The good news for our Moorestown team is that we had 10 guys set PR’s of over 1 minute from last year – most of those coming from runners who had made a more serious commitment and did a lot of summer running. Of the 64 total runners we had compete, there are 51 PR’s (many of them coming from new runners establishing their first race time at 5K.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Relaxed Running

After Usain Bolt won the Olympic 100, setting a World Record, I heard so many people comment “think how fast he could have run if he had not eased up”. I take the counter view – think how much slower he would have run if he was running tight?

Go to any high school (or college) cross country meet this fall. You will see the people who finish at the top look relaxed when they run and the further back in the pack you get, the more the runners seem to labor. Certainly part of this is explained by conditioning. But each runner is running at their maximum – I doubt Bret Johnson is not trying as hard as the guy who finishes 100th in the race. Yet Johnson will look light and easy, with a relaxed facial expression, limber arms and fingers as he blazes up the final 200 meters of grass on Holmdel.

I wrote a blog that form does not really matter. I think what matters more is the efficiency and focus of energy into the effort of moving your body forward. Clenching a fist, scrunching up your face, tensing of any muscle does not make you move forward any faster. In fact, it saps energy from your body. It uses up valuable oxygen on the wrong muscles, and can cause a chain reaction that makes your stride tighter and less efficient.

Back when I was in high school I got into Transcendental Meditation a bit. It is a technique to teach your body to relax and become more aware of yourself. One day during my junior year of track, I did an experiment to try to transfer some of the things I had learned from TM onto the track. I had noticed that the best runners really looked very relaxed and I felt that maybe if I found a way to relax, then I would be able to run better.

It was a dual meet against Catholic Central, and they had a great two miler. I decided my strategy would be to forget about everything else in the world and just focus-in on staying right behind him and zeroing in on his feet. For about 7 laps I was able to keep nearly a total concentration on his feet and forget about everything else and become very relaxed. He dragged me to a 20 second PR and got me close to the magical 10 minute mark.

I still use TM methods when I am running in a race. I close my eyes a bit and actually slow by breathing and breathe more deeply. Focus on making sure my muscles are relaxed – the shoulders loose, the hands unclenched, the stomach just breathing in and out.

Maybe Bolt could have run a 9.65 that day, but I doubt he would have enjoyed it as much…

Pack Running

Running in packs is something we pride ourselves in at Moorestown. It is something I learned at Bucknell from Coach. He had one philosophy above all else – “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Every runner in every race always has questions going thru their mind “can I keep this pace”, “geez, this hurts”, “maybe I’ll run harder and better next week”. Running in packs helps to get rid of these questions.

In 2005, we had Dan Rinehart, Eric Holaday and Ben Leonberg as seniors who really adapted to that strategy of pack running. They were all about equal in capabilities, yet each had different strengths. They would run together the first couple of miles of the course – using each other as a guide post of where they were in a race. It is always easier to know where you are in the big races at the end of a season if you have your buddies around. They pushed each other to performances (all were sub-17 at Holmdel) that were better than they could have achieved alone. The last mile (and sometimes the last 400 meters) would decide who was better that given day.

I had a similar experience in college with my roommate Lee Edmonds. “Eddie” and I were about the same level of runner coming into Bucknell. Coach put us together as roommates – in my mind he saw something in each of us that would feed off of the other. Eddie and I tied about 80% of our races in college and probably split the rest. Eddie would always start off slowly, but we would always be together by the mile point. There was something comforting about him sliding up next to me “Hey Bic”, “Hey Ed”. If any of those little voices crept into my head about wanting to slow down, I was able to fight them back primarily with the thought that I did not want to let Eddie down.

We also used this to our competitive advantage. I remember running the ECC championships at Belmont Plateau. Mike Glavin of St. Joe’s was right on our back coming up “Sure Kill” the big hill that goes above the Schuylkill Expressway. We worked the hill pretty hard and when we got to the top he was still there. I said in a voice loud enough so he could hear “Ready to go now Ed”. We heard a grunt behind us as we pressed on the flat area at the top of the hill for only about 200 meters and broke free.

I was up at Bucknell this past weekend. While Coach is gone, the team still uses the pack mentality when running. Helping to feed off of each other. Encouraging each other to reach new levels. And making the achievement of those new levels meaningful.

We’ve adopted Coach’s quote for the Moorestown team. We’ve also added another one – “Why run hard? For yourself. For your team.”

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Visiting Bucknell

I went up to Bucknell this past weekend so Mollie could take a look at the school. As always, it was neat to be back and get to run on the hills and roads.

I got to see the opening meet for Bucknell. I loved seeing the top guy from Bucknell turn around in the chute and shake hands with the 2nd place guy from Susquehanna. I also love the video wrap-up and the winning women's and men's runner talking about running in a pack together and helping each other.

I did a nice run early Saturday morning on Turtle Creek/Pheasant Run/Old Schoolhouse Rd. 7 miles and only 9 cars. Real hills. And of course a lot of great memories.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Right Way to Run

There is an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer by Gina Kolata from the New York Times News Service with the title "The right way to run? There isn't one".

She articulates one of the discussions we were having last weekend at the store about how the winner of the women's marathon, Constantina Tomescu, had terrible looking form. Paula Radcliffe, the world record holder at 2:17 also has a bobbing, jerky motion that looks very inefficient. Haile Gebrelesassie runs on his toes. Steve Prefontaine wasted energy when he ran.

My Coach always said that if you ran enough miles, your stride would eventually smooth out to be right for your body. Maybe for Paula Radcliffe, bobbing her head is what makes her most comfortable.

The author of the article sites a couple of different researchers. William Kraemer of the University of Connecticut did a study of top marathoners. 62 percent are heal-toe runners like Deena Kastor. 36 percent are midfoot runners like Olympic 5K and 10K champion Kenesia Bekele. 2% are toe runners like Haile Gebreselassie, world record holder in the marathon, and my daughter Allison.

To me the answer always comes back to - go run more miles if you want to get better. It will be the key to building your cardiovascular system and pumping more oxygen to your muscles more efficiently - the key to improving your running. As Peter Cavanaugh, head of orthopaedics and sports medicine for the University of Washington, said of his tests he ran on Pre back in the early 70's - "Pre made up for it (wasted motion) with a tremendous ability to pump blood to his muscles. He had the biggest engine."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

South Jersey Returning Runners

We are getting the 2008 South Jersey Cross Country website ready at One of the early pages we have done is to put together a list of returning runners and what their times were at Holmdel.
Returning Boys
Returning Girls

Let us know if you see any updates or corrections we can make.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting in Shape

Each year the same thing happens. A new runner comes out for the team. The team starts together and all of a sudden they are breathing hard and falling behind, while the veterans of the team seem to be talking and hardly breathing at all, and running faster. The coaches say “just get your miles in and you’ll get into shape”.

But what does getting in shape really mean?

Well, to push your body forward you need two basic things – muscles and oxygen. Muscles make sense. Just like when you do pushups every day for a couple of weeks, you can do more at the end of two weeks than when you started, the same is true in running. Your muscles become more toned to push your body forward, and you can go further and faster.

Oxygen delivery is the really important factor in distance running though. Every time your muscles contract to push yourself forward another step there is a little chemical reaction between the glucose and oxygen in your body creating that energy. People generally have plenty of glucose – especially for a 5K race or under an hour of running – so that is not the limiting factor. Oxygen is the limiting factor. It is why you get short of breath so easily when you are starting to get in shape.

The best way to improve the oxygen delivery system is to run. Every day. At an easy pace.

Running too fast is one of the most common errors made by new runners (and even veteran runners). Running too fast makes muscles sore and limits the ability to go out and run every day. Running too fast increases the risk of injury as you are stretching your muscles and ligaments to their limits. Running too fast limits the distance that you can go on a single run. Your heart and oxygen delivery system get built up a lot more by going for a slow 5 mile run than a fast 3 mile run.

Coach used to tell us that we did not get the elite level runners at Bucknell, and the only way we could compete with these other schools was to build up our base. We ran 100 miles a week most of the year. Over four years this had an accumulating effect of building very high capacity and efficient oxygen delivery systems. We may not have been as talented as other teams, but we had built up to the point where we could compete with them.

We take a similar approach on the MXC team. We recommend the following template for runners:

Freshman/Year 1: 25-30 miles per week.
Sophomore/Year 2: 35-40 miles per week.
Junior/Year 3: 40-50 miles per week.
Senior/Year 4: 50-60 miles per week.

To optimize this, the mileage should be done on a year-round basis. With some variation of lowered mileage towards the end of a season and a week or two off when the XC and track seasons are over and a gradual rise back up to this mileage level.

While some elite high school teams train in the 70-100 mile per week range, we do not recommend it except for the unusual athlete. We think most high school boys are still growing and developing, and too much mileage can cause injury or burn-out on the sport.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MXC Guiding Principles

We have 4 Guiding Principles on the Moorestown Cross Country Team:

1. We are a Team. Most people think running is an individual sport. However, MXC is a team. We run workouts in packs. We run races in packs. When one of us has a bad day, the other guys pick him up. We are always there for each other. We can always count on each other. We trust that we are each putting our best efforts forward for the sake of the team.

2. We Work Hard. From the Championship Squad thru the guys trying to earn a Varsity letter by running 19 minutes thru the guys trying to earn their first Mileage T-Shirt. We all know that to be our best, we have to put in the miles – year round.

3. We Learn. While Cross Country seems like such a simple sport (run as fast as your body will allow for 5 kilometers), the fact is we all learn something from the sport every day. What is the best way to get in shape? How do I avoid injuries? How far can I push myself? Can I make the Championship Squad? What does it take to wear the Bumble Bee Shirt at Meet of Champions? How is what I learn running useful in school, in life?

4. We Have Fun. We like running. We like competing. We like seeing far we can push ourselves. We like our teammates. We like seeing our team progress during a season. We like Psych Parties. We like Summer Camp. We like cheering on our teammates.

The MXC 2008 team has the chance to be our greatest team yet in terms of fulfilling our guiding principles. I can’t wait for the real season to begin!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Mileage

There is one overwhelming key to a successful high school cross country season - a summer full of running.

The chart is of the mileage and performance compare for the MXC team of 2005. It shows that the more mileage run, the better the times.

The only real way to get enough miles in for a season is to run all summer long - starting in June.

I'll do another post at some point to give the physical reasons for this, but the basic principle is that with each mile run, the cardivascular system is built up a bit more. Making the delivery of oxygen to muscles more efficient and effective.

This is not a secret, and most good high school teams have their top runners logging 40-80 miles per week during the summer.

There are a wide variety of summer programs out there. Here are some quick links to give ideas on how different schools approach summer training:
WWP South, NJ - 40-80 miles per week
Flathead, MT - 40-50 miles per week
Claremont - 40-60 mpw
Washington Lee - 40 mpw

Joe's Eugene Pictures

Joe Halin, the manager for the Moorestown Running Company, went out to see the Olympic Trials. You can see some of his photos on our store website. He has pictures with Ryan Hall, Alan Webb, Gabe Jennings, Nick Symmonds, and Anthony Famiglietti. Very cool...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

York High School

Joe Newton has been the coach at York High School for over 50 years. Coach Newton and York have created a template for high level success in cross country teams. He has deep teams with over 200 runners, and the team is typically one of the top in the State of Illinois and quite often in the country.

There is an excellent book he wrote called Coaching Cross Country Successfully that should be on any coaches reading list. A movie was made of the team's 2005 season called the Long Green Line, and was introduced at the Eugene Olympic Trials. The YouTube clip below is a sampe from the movie.

Moorestown Cross Country

Lorenzo Eagles started coaching the Moorestown Boys Cross Country team in the fall of 2004. Fortunately, I got to tag along as a volunteer assistant coach. We have a blast.

We set up some basic Guiding Principles that have served the test of time:
  • We are a Team
  • We Work Hard
  • We Learn
  • We have Fun

One of the things I love so much about cross country is the fact that almost anyone can do it. While some people have more talent than others, nearly everyone will improve by doing work. And the more work they do, the better they get. From our point of view, this is a pretty good life lesson.

Our team welcomes anyone and we celebrate their individual progress. This helps to account for the growth of the team - our first year we had a little over 20 runners. This year we should have over 60 runners of all abilities and levels of personal commitment. What we try to do is have each runner expand their level of commitment and work over their years in our program. It is great to see them move forward.

My Running Blog

I have another blog that really focuses more on my business life. I thought I would start up one where I could write about the running side of my life. The Moorestown Cross Country team, the Moorestown Running Company, my own current and past running and any interesting topics I find. I'm hoping others can learn and share from this blog.