Monday, 2 September 2013

Running History (5): Advice to Runners from 1895

The Book of Athletics, edited by Norman W Bingham Jr., was published in Boston in 1895 by the Lothrop Publishing Company. If there's any doubt what it's about, just check out the full title: 'The book of athletics and out-of-door sports : containing practical advice and suggestions from college team-captains and other amateurs, on football, baseball, tennis, rowing, golf, sprinting, bicycling, swimming, skating, yachting, etc.'

There are two chapters for runners. The one on 'Running and Hurdling' was written by Bingham himself:

'Scarcely any form of athletics has so many followers who differ so absolutely in physique from the popularly accepted idea of an "athlete," as do the so-called " pedestrian " sports, which include running and hurdling. The frailest and palest youths have  sometimes proved themselves the most powerful racers ; and it is no uncommon sight on the track to see a thin, weak-looking boy run a big, muscular fellow "off his feet." The possession of a pair of long legs is no assurance that their owner will be able to get over the ground quickly, nor, as has often been proved, do decidedly short ones prevent his doing so. The fact is, there is absolutely no means of judging off-hand what sort of a racer one will make...

The most popular distances with amateurs in America are the one hundred yards' dash, the two hundred and twenty yards' dash, quarter-mile, half-mile, and mile runs. The three-mile and five-mile runs are less often attempted, and the still longer distances are seldom covered except in " cross-country" running.

There are many theories as to the best method of preparing for each one of these distances. One trainer may tell you to do one thing, and another will say that is just wrong. Moreover, persons of different temperaments and dispositions will not always do well under the same treatment. Experience alone will prove just how much and what sort of work will bring a man into the best possible condition...

Men who are training for distances from the quarter mile up scarcely need to be sent beyond their distance oftener than once or twice a week. The rest of the time may be spent in running from half to two-thirds the distance at a much sharper pace.

As to a man's "style" in running, there is not much to be said, except that he should be as natural as possible. He should stride out freely, getting his knees well up in front of him, but should not attempt to step too far. The arms should swing easily backward and forward, and should not be hugged up to the chest in such a way as to contract the lungs. Above all, don't attempt to run with your mouth closed. It is pitiful to see some men half strangle themselves in a race by attempting to breathe through the nose alone'.

The chapter on Hare and Hounds Runs was written by David W Fenton, of Harvard and Manhattan Cross-Country Teams. As discussed here before, the popular school game of hare and hounds (or paper chase) was the basis from which developed much college and adult cross country running in Britain and the United States. Fenton writes that most events took place over five to ten miles, and offers observations including the following:

'Long before cinder tracks and spiked shoes were known, our ancestors settled their disputes of superiority in regard to their powers of speed by running across the meadows and plains. It is an interesting fact to note the decline of this long-distance running during the past century, and its revival again, chiefly through the medium of hare and hounds runs, in the larger American universities.

Any one who has enjoyed these runs on brisk fall afternoons, and experienced their invigorating effects, will never avoid an opportunity to take part in this popular out-door sport. The delicate youth who is urged into it by the enthusiasm of the old runners, increases his powers of endurance, gains health and strength, and sees Nature in all her beauty...

In the past, college hare and hounds chases have been confined to the fall ; but any number of fellows thus inclined can enjoy this sport at any season of the year. Those who are accustomed to the routine work of chest weights and dumb-bells should take part in this out-door exercise, by going out for a five-mile spin twice a week, and, on the return, experience the reaction of a cold shower-bath'

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