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On Fitness
WRITTEN BY MOLLY MARTIN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MIKE SIEGEL
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Ten years ago, elite marathoner Tony Williams took a leave of absence as a counselor at Echo Glen juvenile detention center in Snoqualmie to see if he could develop a business coaching runners. Now he trains 60 to 80 clients through his Green Lake company Always Running.
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Short Run, Long Run
A hike gets only better with a little preparation

TEN WEEKS to Bloomsday. If you've ever entertained thoughts of joining the 50,000 or so people who take part in Spokane's spring tradition, be assured that 10 weeks is enough time for most people to prepare to walk, jog or run the 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) course.

Many folks stroll the distance without particularly training for it; some even jog or run despite little or no preparation. But others prefer pain-free movement in the days that follow. Or they use Bloomsday as incentive to get going in a running program. For them, training advice abounds, from books to Web programs to running clubs and personal coaches.

"The biggest mistake that everyone makes getting into a running program is too much, too soon, too fast," says Tony Williams, founder of Always Running Personal Conditioning Studio in Seattle (7300 E. Green Lake Drive N.; 206-985-7405).

These first two months of the year are probably the worst, Williams says, because enthusiasm and motivation often cause people to do more than their bodies can handle.

"We try to bring them down to reality."

For starters, Williams and his staff accept clients only on a six-month contract, which ranges from $900 to $2,500. "Running is definitely a high injury sport," he says. "It requires lots of stretching, and lots of precautions. People say, 'Over the past 12 years, I've put on 20 pounds.' I say, 'Then one year to get it off is a good deal.' "
 
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Seeds of Bloomsday
In 1977, The Lilac Bloomsday Run was founded by Don Kardong, an Olympic marathoner and Spokane resident. Kardong combined the nickname for Spokane, The Lilac City, with the word used by James Joyce scholars and fans to refer to the day Leopold Bloom, the hero in his book "Ulysses," spends wandering the streets of Dublin. The premise for the race is that ordinary people are involved in unassuming yet heroic journeys every day of their lives.
Running online
The Bloomsday Web site, www.bloomsdayrun.org, includes an eight-week suggested training schedule. Registration for the run is $10 by April 11 or $25 afterward; you can enter online or via brochures, which can be obtained at local running stores or by sending a self-addressed, stamped business envelope to Bloomsday, P.O. Box 1511, Spokane, WA 99210-1511. (Mail-in entries must be postmarked by April 11.)
www.runnersworld.com
www.halhigdon.com
www.runningtimes.com
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Not surprisingly, Williams thinks those considering running are better off when they seek help getting started — and says he's happy if, after six months, his clients don't need him anymore.

"People believe you buy a pair of shoes and just run," he says. "No one would buy a tennis racquet and just play."

Many runners (and tennis players) might beg to differ, but nevertheless Williams offers some pertinent considerations.

For example, one recommendation for beginning runners to build a foundation gradually and avoid injury is to increase time or distance by not more than 10 percent a week: If you cover 1 mile this week, don't do more than 1.1 miles next week. Williams says it's a good general guideline that works a bit like an insurance chart — that is, 80 to 90 percent of the time. "But sometimes the increase is less than that."

We all have different biomechanics, Williams says, which can influence training. So his staff does a biomechanical analysis of each new client. He sees many cases of excessive pronation (when the foot rolls inward), which can call for particular shoes or orthotics. Another common problem is legs of different lengths. "It might be fine when you're walking around every day, but when you put in miles, that 1/16 or 1/4 of an inch really makes a difference."

Ninety percent of his clients can run at least a little at first, Williams says, with a 15-minute walk for warm-up and cool-down. More overweight people do a lot of cross-training — cycling, elliptical machine, stationary bike, hiking — "anything that can be low-impact but keep the client active for a long time." All must have heart-rate monitors, and Williams says although they train for the most part in low heart-rate zones, "Where I differ from more people is I throw more intensity in a little earlier. It helps with the psyche of the client, to get out there and work hard."

Training plans in books usually work in theory, Williams says, "if nothing gets in the way." He tries to reduce common obstacles, especially concerns about safety, since 80 percent of his clients are working women. He matches runners of similar ability, drive and motivation so they have running partners. He gives solo clients two-way radios for checking in. Group runs have staggered starts, with the slower people first. "That way, someone's always catching you, and you're always catching someone else."

But, always, not too much, not too soon, not too fast.

"The average person, who's even 15 to 20 pounds overweight," Williams says, "if they start a program in February, walking or jogging, they could do Bloomsday easily."

Molly Martin is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. She can be reached at 206-464-8243, mmartin@seattletimes.com or P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

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