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December 3rd, 2009
11:07 AM ET

50on50: Running for laughs

 

 

 

 

Running coach, Jeff Galloway

Running coach, Jeff Galloway

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I just had lunch with a fat kid who took up running for laughs. He made the U.S. Olympic marathon team. Now, he’s a popular and influential running coach. And this week, after following him to the Whole Foods salad bar where he filled his plate with black-eyed peas and steamed vegetables, he and I trampled the 18-49 year old demo.

Exorcising Lazy

The marathon runner I had lunch with is Jeff Galloway. When Galloway was a kid, his father was in the Navy so the family moved a lot. 13 schools by the time he reached 7th grade.

Because of those frequent moves, Galloway never really had a chance to get involved with school sports. As a result, he says, “I was a fat, inactive, lazy kid.”

When they settled for good in Atlanta, 13-year-old Jeff Galloway’s school required the boys to choose a sport.

Galloway says he sought advice from “the other lazy kids.” They suggested track and field because the coach was lazy too. “Tell the coach you’re gonna run on the trails and then hide out in the woods.”

Galloway’s story might have ended there – an overweight kid hiding in the woods. But some of the older kids who he liked on the team insisted he come running with them.

“They started telling jokes,” he remembers. “I ran to keep up with them so I could hear the jokes – and the gossip.”

Drawn by the conversation, Jeff Galloway started losing weight and gaining strength.

Running for Joy

Galloway’s career as a running coach began just after the 1972 Olympics.

His calls his training approach “run-walk. “

You’ll have to go to his web site  to get the details on what he considers proper running technique.

The bottom line is, it’s easier than I thought. Running should be joyful, he says. That’s why Galloway encourages runners to break up their long runs with walking if they’re starting to feel lousy. Run-walk-run.

That approach to building up stamina, says Galloway, harnesses the essence of long distance running. It’s all about “conservation of resources.” Hey – I can do that.

Maturity & Me

The ability to conserve resources takes some real self-control. That’s why, Galloway suggests, “mature adults” are naturals at long distance running.

Uh oh. There’s that term I keep seeing in my mailbox the closer I get to 50. Mature Adults. That term irritates me like my kids’ 30-something babysitter Anna irritated me when she suggested the cold rain didn’t sting my face on my run the other day because I hadn’t “gotten speed.”  In other words, I didn’t run fast enough for the rain to hit me hard.

Mature. Slow. This is not what I had in mind when I set out to destroy the 18-49 demo and create A NEW DEMO FOR A NEW AGE.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m judging pre-MATURELY.

After all, Galloway, who’s still running marathons at age 64, has designed his technique to help keep people running “Until You’re 100 Years Old.”

If my 50th birthday marks the beginning of 50 year run, then bring on 50.

I took a deep breath and summarized for Jeff Galloway what I’d learned from his book and our conversation about beginning long-distance running on the verge of age 50.

“I guess us mature adults are less impulsive,” I concluded. “I guess conserving resources, which, according to you is the essence of long-distance running, would come more naturally to us than those who are less mature.”

“I guess cutting off “THE DEMO” at the arbitrary age of 49 will miss a huge number of us marathon men and women,“ I added.

YES, Galloway happily acknowledged. I had summarized his thoughts accurately.

In fact, by “trying to be mature,” Galloway proudly told me, he has not had an “overuse injury” in 31 years of running. He had many injuries as a young competitive runner. But never as a mature adult. That’s why he’s become an evangelist for his running technique. A method that allows people of ALL AGES to run long distances injury-free – so that they can experience the pure joy of endorphins.

And so, I left lunch with Jeff Galloway inspired to prepare for my first half-marathon. 13.1 miles. 13.1 at 50. I like it.

Consider This Fair Warning

You network execs and advertisers can therefore expect me to be in the market for frequent purchases of new running shoes and layer after layer of high-tech performance wear designed to wick sweat from my MATURE body.

Yes, I AM THE WICKING DEMO!

Some TV and traditional media insiders say we mature adults are easier to reach than younger Americans because we spend more time watching TV and reading newspapers and doing all the things that get advertisements in front of our eyes. We’re easy gets, the conventional thinkers say. So we’re taken for granted.

Well, I’ve got news for you.

You’ll discover quickly that my mature friends and I, under the influence of Jeff Galloway, may be harder to get than ever.

We, the mature members of your potential audience, will be out running.

Those of you chasing the 18-49 demo – are running in the wrong direction.

Happy trails.


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