Episode 161 Chris Cooper Long May You Run

The RunRunLive Podcast Episode 161 – Chris Cooper – Long May You Run

[audio:http://www.RunRunLive.com/PodcastEpisodes/Epi161.mp3|titles=Episode 161 – Chris Cooper – Long May You Run]


Show intro by:

Eric Cameron – http://www.doggonerunning.blogspot.com/


Hello and welcome to the bizarre untimely injury podcast where we wonder if we are losing our minds!

Yes it’s me, your host, Chris and this is the RunRunLive Podcast where we wax poetic about running, but we don’t wax our back as has been suggested by some people in my life who don’t; share my positive self image – but that’s another story…

We have a great show for you today.  We speak with Chris Cooper about his new book, “Long May You Run”.  We wrap up our 10 secrets series and we dive into the darkness of training.

I’m also going to include a clip of a poem that a certain student read for the finals of a poetry competition.  You have to remember when you are listening that this was not merely read, but spoken and emoted on stage, from memory in an auditorium with over 500 souls in attendance.

Yeah, so…about that losing my mind thing.  It seems I have tweaked something in my left calf.  I went out with Buddy on Saturday last to run some hill repeats, and somewhere either on the hills or slogging through the random knee deep snow on the trails I apparently hurt myself.  The snow is weird right now because it has a crust on it that sometimes supports our weight and sometimes doesn’t so I was doing a lot of random post-hole wipe outs and I think that’s where I hurt it.

I noticed I was limping when I went to Sweeney Todd. I figured it was just normal gimpyness because, with my training, frankly, something always hurts.  Then Sunday morning I massaged it out and warmed up well for my long run but only made it a few feet before I realized something was amiss.  SO I gave it Sunday and Monday off then tried to spin up some speed work on the treadmill Tuesday morning before my flight.  I got through a couple miles before I realized it was a problem.  It feels like a small stretch or tear deep inside the left soleus that twinges on my toe off as I land and transition.

It’s now Thursday night, and I can still feel it.  If it feels ok by Sunday I may still race, if not, no big deal.  I’ll go down and volunteer anyhow.

Hey – you’d think I’d have more free time since I’m not running this week, wouldn’t you?  It doesn’t really work that way!

So, my friends, consider yourselves lucky.  You dodged a bullet.  I was all set to give you the full taper-madness whining this week about how I didn’t feel ready and felt heavy and wah wah wah.  Now there’s no need.  C’est la vie, mis amis.

On with the Show!

Audio clips in this episode:

Excerpt from “Prelude – Sweeney Todd” Steven Sondheim, Original cast.

Excerpt from Sweeney Todd the movie – “The Contest” – Sasha Cohen as Pirelli…

Skits, commercials and parodies in this episode:

Going to the dark place.

The Dark Place

I was watching, or rather being forced to watch a show called “Strange Addictions” with or by my oldest daughter this weekend.  They had the following roster of aberrant freaks to parade: a guy who ate glass compulsively, a lady who plucked and ate her own hair, a man who was in a deep and meaningful relationship with his real doll and, wait for it, a gentleman who was addicted to running.

I only saw parts of it, but apparently the runner was, to my eyes anyway, a run-of-the-mill ultra runner who liked 100 milers.  The real issue was that his fiancée was a bit of a shrew and was put out by being a running widow.  She was whining about being nothing more than a glorified support crew.  Really?  Is that the same as eating your own hair or munching light bulbs?

The whole time my daughter was telling me that I was addicted to running.

Last week, I was out on a long run with my friends Brian and Frank.  Both Brian and Frank are, shall we say “seasoned’ amateur athletes who I have known as running buddies for over a decade now.  They are just normal guys, like me, with mortgages, wives, kids, regular jobs, and tuitions to pay.

Both of them run Boston with me every year and both of them have beaten the 3 hour marathon barrier at Boston over the last couple years but are now slowing it down again to my speed.

We were talking about qualification standards.  We are of the opinion that any normal person who is willing to put in the work can run the qualification standards.  But, we have done it, and that gives us a different vantage point.

In this conversation, at one point Frank’s brow furrowed and a shadow crept over his countenance.  He uttered the phrase “…if you are willing to go to that dark place…”

Brian and I nodded gravely and suppressed shudders.  We know about the dark place.  And I think, many of you do too.

For us mortals of normal ability the only way for us to achieve these ‘A’ level goals is to traverse the dark place at some point in our training.

To know the dark place is to know weeks of cold and dark and ceaseless, mindless and mostly joyless work.  The only way through the dark place is to keep moving forward or to jump out of the boat.  There is indeed a loss of self to this quest.  Where just about everything else is put on hold and you commit monk-like to the work.

The coach’s schedule becomes a driving tyrannical metronome of one impossible work out after another.  There are no garbage miles.  There are no fun runs in the dark place.  Every workout is tantamount and punishing.  Today we will warm up for 20 minutes then run 6 miles at 10k race pace.  Tomorrow we will run a double to get our mileage up over 60, 70 and 80 miles per week.

It makes no sense so we shut the mind off throw ourselves like punch-drunk soldiers into the shield wall again and again until either we break or we come out the other side, blinking, into the light to run our race.

We look back on these campaigns with wonder as if we are looking at some other person, because indeed we become some other person, or half-person or animal and pitch to the storm blows of work.  Like a storm, when you are inside you are only thinking about how to stay on your feet and brace for the next wave.

Is it the achievement at the end that drives us into the slave galley of the dark place? Or is it the ecstasy of mindlessness that comes with the work?  The way it narrows your focus?  Your cares become very simple.  How can I get enough rest to hit that next workout with the intensity required?  When can I schedule the 2 hours I need on Thursday?  Other, more every day, mundane things become spurious.

And, yes, in this way it becomes an addiction.  Because it begins to crowd out everything else in your life.  Your thoughts tunnel to when and where your next workout will be…your next fix…

That’s what we mean when we say that anyone can do it if they are willing to do the work.  What we really mean, what we wear like a bizarre badge of honor, is that we are willing to go to the dark place to achieve our goals.

This, my friends, is really the difference.   Not talent, not grace,  but the abilityof a normal everyday person to subvert self towards a goal.  It is the purification ritual of our sport and that’s why we hold it in high esteem.

My Dad use to say to me when I was younger that the reason you want good grades is that it shows you are either smart or work hard, and either way it’s a good sign.  In much the same way when we make the standards for running it means we are either talented or willing to work hard, or some combination of both.

I’m pretty sure I could or could have broken 3 hours at Boston if I was willing to do the work.  But I was and I am not.  I am willing to run 60 miles a week at the peak of my training and commit an hour a day or so to it.  I have drawn my personal line beyond which, into the darkness, I will not venture further as we all must.

My line might very well look like a dangerous and strange addiction to someone else, Or it might look like a waste of talent, of selling myself short to men like Frank and Brian who galloped through the dark place with 80+ mile weeks.

When I first started running I thought I was dedicated with my 15-20 mile weeks and occasional long runs, but I did not know success until I found my line, deep within the dark place.

Everyone draws their own line.  It is a choice.  And it is a choice only you can make.  But this sport, this pursuit, this sometime obsession is not a spectator sport.  You cannot claim the wisdom of a traveler by looking at posters and brochures.  You have to go.  You have to meet the people, eat the food and drink the water.

You cannot claim camaraderie with the veterans if you were not in the war.  And you can’t claim a veteran runner’s zeitgeist unless you have gone to the dark place and come out again.  To truly know the joy of the sport, the heft and weight of its experience you have to get down and roll in it and soak up its stench.

The dark place is not an easy journey.  Many will break before they are through, but even the broken will be forged well in the heat of it.

Some people will see an unhealthy pursuit, an obsession, ne an addiction.  But we know the truth.  That it is a journey through personal challenge that pits us against our own nemesis; our own selves.  And when we emerge we emerge well-forged and whole.

If you have been to the dark place you know this.  If you have not you will never be able to know, or to judge until you seek and find your line.

Story time:

Poetry – Phillip Larkin – “Aubade”




I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.


Equipment Check:

Ten secrets to successful running

Secret #10 – the Long View

Secret number 10 – Take the long view.

Welcome to the 10th and final installment of the 10 secrets of successful running.  Hope you enjoyed the journey.  I speak to you this week from an apropos vantage point of having an injury before a goal race.

Throughout all the years I have run I had to learn to take the long view.  First I had to learn how to temper my enthusiasm of going out too fast and spread it across the entire race.  And second I had to view my running as a lifestyle choice, a permanent fixture that had to be managed like all other lifestyle choices.

You my friends, if you are just starting may be just a little afraid to see your first tremulous steps as part of a journey around the world.  But, in truth, it removes much of the stress from day-to-day events when you put your actions in context of a life-long running career.

You are on a long journey.  You will take side trips and make many special visits.  You will meet new people, learn new things and find new experiences continually on your trip.  At least you should.  This is not punishment – this is discovery.

Just look at Chris Cooper’s book and you’ll get a sense of the many flavors and variants available for you to sample.  It’s a bounty and it’s all yours for the taking.

I’ve got some really bad news for you.  You can’t keep getting faster.  And you can’t keep going longer.  At some point we all reach our limit of either talent or effort or age.  You need to learn to live with that.  And that is why it is great to have a long view of your relationship with running.

Certainly as you lay out your journey you may decide to take a side trip down a speed or distance path, but you want to keep it sustainable.  If you are on the faster/longer track right now you need to think ahead of how you are going to get back down from that ledge, when the time comes, without losing your relationship with running.  How are you going to keep it in your life when it is no longer brings the visceral high of a PR to the table?

It’s OK.  By taking the long view you begin to understand the cycles of your life.  You begin to find the meaning of life.  Running becomes a companion.  A contstant clear-eyed companion who takes only what you are willing to give.

When you get to the long view you can take injuries and set-backs in stride without the emotional fear of loss.  You see it as a side trip, not a derailment.  Because your trip really has no destination.

So take the long view and join me in a long and fulfilling and successful life of running.

Featured Interview:

Chris Cooper – “Long May you Run”  http://www.chriscooperonline.com/

Long May You Run goes beyond the basics of running, training, and racing.  It is a collection of essays, stories, statistics, humor, resolutions, achievable goals, and advice on nearly 200 separate topics to help you fill the gaps in your running life.  In addition, you will be inspired and challenged by the recommendations and running tips contributed exclusively to the book by these Olympians and running authors.

Among other things, you will learn . . .

·    the one road race everybody needs to run

·    “destination” runs every runner needs to experience

·    how you can win a race even when finishing last

·    what to do with those old running shoes and race T-shirts

·    where to find a  luxury cruise just for runners

·    how you can run across the U.S. without leaving home

·    why listening to the right song may help you run faster

·    who Ted Corbitt is and why you should care

·    why running backwards is good for you

·    how to “give back” and become a vital part of the running community


Quick Tip:


Attend the story of Buddy Dog, his head was hairy his tale was long.  He bothered squirrels and chased the birds, did Buddy, Buddy the Dog, the demon collie of Fleet Street!

Ok, my friends, my fellow travelers, you have survived the 161st session of RunRunLive therapy for the clinically depressed endurance athlete – episode 161 in the can!

Coming up I have the guy who broke the record for the most marathons in a row, Guinness that is, and I did manage to speak to Dave McGillivray, race director for the Boston Marathon about the new qualification standards.  I also have an interview with the 75 year old runner.

Today’s show was edited by the daughter of one of our listeners and she might be doing some more work for us if she can stand the tedium of it.

Since I finished up the 10 secrets series is there any other topics you would like me to do a series on?  Send me a note.

I got a lot of positive feedback on last week’s show, thank you very much.  And, BTW, I post all these shows on my website at www.RunrunLive.com so if hear something that you’d like to comment on you can do so – it’s all in wordpress blog format.

I’d like to do a show on just answering any questions you might have about me or Buddy or anything.  I’ll add a blog post for that and see what we can scare up.  Also I’m going to run a contest to give away a couple cases of Honey Milk – so look for that on my blog too.

Remember the Groton Road Race, 20th anniversary edition is coming up on April 10th so come on up and join me and my club and a couple thousand of our closest friends for some fun.

Maybe I should do a series on what it takes to pull off a road race?  Here’s one tip for you.  Don’t send the race director an email asking if you can break the rules.   Like “I see you say no strollers, can I bring my stroller?”  Most of these things fall under the don’t ask don’t tell policy.  So, my advice would be to just do it or don’t do it but don’t expect the race director to let you off the hook!

I was hunched over a counter working in an airport this week when I heard a little voice say “Hi!”  Like the voice of Cindy-Lou Who.  I looked up to see I was eye-to-eye with a toddler being carried on a hip.  She was smiling at me brilliantly, fearlessly, engagingly – with true empathy and guiless interest – and I smiled back and said “Hi!” (because I still have the hard wired remote control response of a parent).

Her Mom turned and smiled too.

Isn’t it cool that this little being looked at hairy, old, gnarly me with my funny hat and my scary beard and thought “hey, let’s meet this guy!”?  And that her bright light of a life drew me instantly into her sphere of emotion, overwhelming years of practiced and calloused defenses?

I wish we could all regain that openness and innocence.  Let’s try, huh?

I’ll see you out there.

Lot’s of great music in this show from the podsafe music network – this song to take you out is by blair_miskie_and_the_goods- and is called manic_depressant.



From Podsafe




Standard Links:







Cyktrussell At gmail and twitter and facebook and youtube

Chris’ book on Amazon – > http://www.amazon.com/Mid-Packers-Lament-collection-running-stories/dp/141961584X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228687012&sr=8-1

Mid-Packer’s Lament E-book

Mid-Packer’s Guide to the Galaxy E-Book

Dial in number for RunRunLive is – 206-339-7804

Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy.  Chris is the author of “The Mid-Packer’s Lament”, and “The Mid-Packer’s Guide to the Galaxy”, short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack.  Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at www.runnerati.com.  Chris’ Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at www.runrunlive.com. Chris also writes for CoolRunning.com (Active.com) and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners and the Goon Squad.

Email me at cyktrussell at Gmail dot com

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