1 2

Mayor’s Cup Wrap Up

After much delay we can finally present the rest of our coverage of the Mayor’s Cup races. First up is the Franklin Park 5k, which was held in addition to the men’s and women’s championship races. It was won by Jake Shoemaker and Cailin Kowalewski in 15:38 and 18:44, respectively.

Next up we have interviews with Brennan Bonner (GBTC), Brian Harvey (BAA) and Nich Haber (NE Distance). The hot topic on the day was the wrong turn taken by the leaders. Brennan went the wrong way, Brian didn’t and Nich was there to see it happen.

Of the incident, Tom Derderian (USATF-NE President) issued the following:

“After the recent Mayor’s Cup cross-country meet, several elected athletes representatives came to the monthly USATF-NE board meeting with observations and suggestions about what happened as the lead pack in the men’s championship race ran loops in a different order. The athletes reps had gathered information from participants about what had happened and their complaints and compliments.  The rule book states that runners can be disqualified if they run short of the official course but nothing about mixing up the order of loops. For the future a decision process will be used that will include some of the provisions in the rule book such as a designated meet director, referee, course marshall, and games committee to adjudicate any unforeseen occurrences.”

Finally, we have something that is going to ultimately fall victim to poor timing. The night before this race was the infamous obstruction call in the World Series. Since we’re in the heart of Red Sox Nation, we know we weren’t the only ones that were left feeling disgusted by it. Ultimately it was the right call, but it was still very disappointing. We wanted to get the reactions of runners to the call. We also wanted to post it that day so it was still relevant, but the onset of pneumonia and crazy software issues prevented that from happening…until now. So here’s the video that should’ve been released back in October.

If you didn’t like it, blame it on the pneumonia. Also, don’t forget about Scott Mason’s photos from the day.

Mayors Cup Mason

Didn’t think this stuff would see the light of day. Gonna play up the pneumonia card as long as possible. So please, forgive the lateness. After all, I had pneumonia.

The Red Flags of Injury

By Ian Nurse, DC

Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of highlighting some of the most prominent running related injuries including IT band syndrome, Achilles tendonitis, Runner’s knee, and piriformis syndrome. We have also explored different treatment options such as Active Release Technique (ART) and Graston to help you get through any injury and put you back on the road. This month, I want to take a preventative step and discuss the red flags of injury. As runners, we are constantly dealing with aches and pains. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a run that didn’t involve some little annoying ache that made my mind wonder, “Is this something that is going to hurt during my next race?”

Hopefully, this article will provide some guidelines to help you answer that question. As an ART/Graston provider, treating running injuries everyday, I’ve seen first hand how important it is for runners to know these red flags so that they can curtail the injury process into an easy fix as opposed to a chronic problem.

As mentioned earlier, all runners must become accustomed to having aches and pains while running. Running isn’t easy! With each foot strike, a single leg is forced to absorb five times one’s body weight. Aches and pains are a normal response from our body as it learns to adapt to that burden. As one’s muscles grow stronger, many of these little annoyances will disappear. However, some will not and we must also listen to our body and recognize when we are asking too much of it.

Green flagHere are a few guidelines that usually indicate normal aches and pains (and should allow you to keep running:

Mild pain while running; however, it doesn’t change your gait. In other words, it’s not making you limp or even shorten your stride to make you experience less pain. A good example of this type of pain would be those first few minutes of a run where you are stiff and probably a little sore but after getting warmed up, you are good to go.

You have some pain while running but as soon as you stop you don’t feel the pain again. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can get overworked while running and start asking for some rest. If the pain you have goes away immediately when you stop running and doesn’t come back, you should be in the clear. Though, it’s always good to monitor these types of pain and keep tabs on when and how long you felt them.

In light of the previous guideline, the duration of a certain pain can be an indicator of its seriousness: discomfort that only lasts 2-3 days is usually a characteristic of normal aches and pains. If it lasts more than 3 days, training may be altered and preventative measures might be necessary.

red flagThe below guidelines, on the other hand, are more indicative of a true injury that may need both rest and medical advice:

Feeling pain in the same location for several runs in a row. You felt a little twinge a few days ago in your calf that you didn’t think much of at the time but now a week has past and it’s still there.

Pain that worsens as the run continues. As mentioned earlier, it’s normal to be a little sore at the beginning of your runs. However, if the pain increases the farther you run, something is definitely in need of attention.

The pain is starting to change your gait. This is a big red flag in my book. Not only are you probably aggravating the current injury but you are most likely injuring something else (usually the opposite calf or glute) by altering your stride to compensate.

The quality of the pain can also act as a red flag. Stabbing, knife-like pain (as felt when one pulls a muscle or with IT band syndrome) is not a normal ache and pain.

Pain that consistently interrupts sleep also indicates a more serious injury process. Our bodies heal themselves while we sleep (yup, you can use that as an excuse for a 2 hour nap on a Sunday afternoon). If you wake up due to pain, your body is doing some serious healing (usually something bone related like a fracture) and you should seek medical advice.

Sometimes the body not only speaks to us but also shows us there is some sort of injury process happening. Swelling and discoloration are two additional red flags that will also help your health care provider determine the gravity of your injury.

While there may seem to be several guidelines to remember, the most important one is to be mindful of your body, to listen to it, and to respect its limitations. As runners, we love the idea of “No pain, No gain.” Unfortunately, that can’t always be our mantra. Understanding this will keep injuries at bay and allow for more consistent and effective training.

Ian Nurse is a chiropractor and 2:25 marathoner. Oh yeah, he’s recently engaged too. Congrats Ian and Amanda! This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

Manchester City Marathon

By Brandon Newbould

Sunday, November 3rd, was a difficult day to race a marathon this year.  The realists among us would point out the physical conditions of race day and the challenges presented by them, but to me it seems that there is in our universe an unseen dimension that only evidences itself through an intangible climate of adversity.  I am very likely the only person who even secretly suspects such a hare-brained and paranoid concept, but I will espouse it agnostically until a scientific authority demonstrates its validity.  Conditions on race day were certainly far enough from optimal to account for the prevalence of slow times and blow-ups, but sometimes it just seems like a tough day.  After reading so many accounts of drop-outs and disasters in NYC the same day as Manchester, I console myself in knowing that I suffered with many others.

Suffering is okay in a marathon, or if I can be more precise, suffering is appropriate and expected.  Sometimes the race seems effortless.  My first one was like that, really successful and pretty painless.  Amby Burfoot has written the same thing about his historic win at Boston.  But those of us who were so fortunate probably all agree that we knew it would never quite be that easy again.

But after that opening, I wanted to take this another direction, because I didn’t really have a bad race.  I race to exemplify and practice certain values, like facing adversity courageously, and this race provided a nice big stage for that.  I knew when Manchester was selected for the Grand Prix series that this would be a difficult race.  The course is challenging, or maybe very challenging, and the race is held in early November, so the 15 mph winds and mid-30s temperature could only be expected.  And that’s what I faced on race morning: a drive through spitting snow to a cold, windy, daunting marathon course.

Newbould Manchester Kozlosky

Brandon finishes up, courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

I looked forward hopefully to some competition on race day.  My goal was to win, whatever the time, and I know that competition brings the best out in me.  I was confident too, so really the worst-case scenario was showing up to find nobody left in New England who hadn’t already raced their fall marathon or was busy with cross-country.  That said, I admit that I was intimidated a little bit when I came across a camp of Ethiopian runners resting in the hotel before the start.  There must have been fifteen of them, and they looked every bit as fast as their dominant group performance proved later that morning.  Knowing they were there, I visualized various scenarios and prepared to take them and anyone else on when the gun sounded.

The first mile of the race is downhill, and I anticipated a quick opening mile.  I was fresh off of a five mile race in central Mass in which Glarius Rop and friends went out in under 4:30, and the poignant memory of that start lingered as I toed the line in Manchester.  The half marathoners began with us, differentiated by bib color.  At the gun, at least twenty people were out in front of me before I got through my first strides.  I would have face-palmed if I wasn’t afraid of tripping on all the guys in front of me, because I completely failed to stay abreast long enough to see who was running the full marathon.  It didn’t matter, because I would not have hung with them anyway.  Through the first mile in 5:18, I could see that the leaders were already ten seconds up on me.  On that course, on that day, I was not going to go out that fast.

The best laid race plans of mice and men gang aft aglay.  I was supposed to go out with the leaders, even if it was fast, and instead I had twenty-five miles to go and I was completely alone.  I focused on what I was doing, and managed my efforts over the immediately aggressive hills until the half-marathoners peeled away at mile 10.  At that point the lead pack formed a tight unit far enough in the distance that I could not count them individually.  So far I had pulled in only one casualty from their aggressive early pace.  Some others from the group went with the half marathoners, leaving one down and, I was informed, four to go in the lead group.

I was running the part of the course that I had actually managed to preview a few weeks earlier, and I pictured myself pulling the lead group in before we came back to the highway at mile 17.  Instead, on a stretch of gravelly rail trail, my Saucony Type A5 flats picked up a few rocks in the outsole “breathing holes.”  I don’t know what the holes are for.  They’re nice shoes and all but what is it with holes in the outsole?  Some of the rocks just scraped a little on the road, but one of them was big enough that I could feel the pressure on each footstrike, right under my big toe knuckle.  Instead of focusing on running down the leaders I faced a distracting choice: did I stop to take the rock out or soldier on?  I tried to remember what the Princess and the Pea could teach me about this predicament.  Nope, I couldn’t remember how that story goes.  I kicked at the road, a futile effort, and decided I needed to stop.  15M was too far to risk leaving the rock in place.  I pulled a glove off, aimed for a mailbox to lean on, and stopped to take the rock out.  I clawed at it like a fighting cheerleader but the thing only turned circles in the outsole.  Finally I pulled it out and hit the road.  I couldn’t get my glove back on – I looked down to see the fabric snagging on my bloody torn fingernail, and suddenly remembered a scene from The Silence of the Lambs: “It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again!”  Another encouraging picture in my mind with more than half the race to go.  I was thankfully rescued from this downward trend by observing another casualty from the lead pack: one of the runners walked down the road, rubbing his calf and grimacing.  Three to go.

I told myself to stay positive and pushed through some of the biggest hills on the course, around mile 16.  They would all come back.  Up ahead I spotted another fast runner, darting through the half-marathon crowd as we rolled down Hanover St, and I pushed to catch him.  As I reached him he spotted me over the shoulder, and I surged hard.  Thankfully I got away, but as I reached mile 19 and turned through the thick crowd my effort caught up to me.

From then on, the race became the marathon we all dread.  I refused to let up, but I was pushing into the wind and over the hills with weakened legs.  Looking back over my splits, I didn’t actually slow down, but in terms of effort I was maxed-out.  The next runner came into sight, but I was closing too slowly.  Calls of 70 seconds came slowly down, but I could see the lead and it was hard to imagine it closing completely unless he cramped or took a wrong turn.  Speaking of which, the course turned like a Go-Cart track all the way to the finish.  Every time I tried to build my momentum I would hit a turn and feel a muscle grab, or I would have to let up slightly while I tried to figure out where the course went.  Finally we reached Elm St. and the finish straight, and the runner was away from me.  I had cut the lead down to 30 seconds, but it was never actually close.  I drove hard to the finish line anyway, knowing I had a long break coming and that I had given all I had.  The only thing left to do was pour the rest out.

The result was bittersweet.  I won the New England title and could justify some the time and energy that I took away from my family to prepare for this with a decent prize check.  But in the race situation I felt that I had competed and lost, whatever titles bestowed on me.  I felt pride as a local finisher, which only magnified the sense of loss, but also gave me plenty to smile about in the finish area.  After the race I continue to practice the mindset I strove for as I ran through Manchester – focus on how I compete.  I raced those guys and offered them my best.  It wasn’t good enough to get me across the line first, but that doesn’t mean it was a wasted effort.  It was a tough day, and I’m glad that I could endure it with my teammates alongside and my family watching.

Brandon finished third overall in 2:28:26 and was the first USATF-NE competitor. The overall Grand Prix series (won by Sean Duncan with 39 points) concluded with this race. Brandon finished up the year strong by scoring 19 points over the last two races (9 at the 30k in Nahant and 10 in Manchester), which was good enough to put him in 5th place overall.

CPTC Women Take The Cup

Yeah, still rolling out the Mayor’s Cup coverage. Here we have the top women from the Central Park Track Club, fresh off their team victory at the Mayor’s Cup. Featured here are birthday girl Rolanda Bell (5th, 17:36), Catherine Beck (6th, 17:39), Jane Vongvorachoti (8th, 17:43), and the Secret Weapon: Erin Koch (10th, 17:51).

Catherine and Jane went on to run quite well at the Dash to the Finish 5k in NYC. They ran 16:56 (22th) and 17:10 (24th), respectively.

Beginning to think I should’ve edited out the ‘mom and pop’ line at the end. Why not embrace the weird? It’s what separates us from the pack.

King is Queen, Ashe is Back

By Jim Dandeneau

On a spectacular November day fit for cross-country, Eric Ashe and Jillian King both won their first USATF New England Cross-Country title at historic Franklin Park in Boston. After a one year hiatus due to course renovations, with last year’s championships held at Stanley Park Westfield, MA, the racing returned in the 100th year since cross-country began in 1914 (at Franklin field).

King, 23, a 2013 Boston College graduate, dominated the USATF-NE 6K championship winning in a time of 20:48.84, leading her New Balance Boston team to victory. King, who took a lengthy break from racing following the outdoor track season, broke away from a tight pack going up famed Bear Cage Hill, prior to 1.5 miles, coasting to victory by 15 seconds over Katrina Spratford, 23, of NE Distance, with Joanna Murphy, 29, and Sydney Fitzpatrick, 24, both of New Balance Boston in 3rd and 4th respectively. “The first mile (completed in 5:24) felt like a hard tempo. I decided to make a move going up Bear Cage hill…I love hills. I do alot of hill work on Heartbreak. This is only my 2nd post-collegiate cross country race,” said the Scotia, NY native who is back to running “in the 50′s” for mileage with workouts split between her alma mater’s cross country team (where she is a volunteer coach), and her New Balance Boston team. King, who is presently applying to medical and grad schools, stated she is planning on running the the USATF National Club Country Championships at River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend, OR scheduled for December 14th prior to hitting the indoor track circuit. The New Balance Boston women’s team scored a nearly perfect 17 points with the Boston Athletic Association (62 points) finishing second and Greater Boston Track Club (70 points) finishing 3rd.

Ashe, a 2011 Boston University graduate, broke away from a pack of 8 runners just after 4 miles running to a somewhat surprising victory in 30:49.99, for the 10K distance. Ashe, a Boston Athletic Association member who is only in his 8th week of running following a serious heel injury likely caused by high arches, won by a comfortable 7 second margin over teammate Sam Alexander. In fact, the B.A.A. showed its incredible depth by also taking spots 3-4 with Dan Harper and Brian Harvey just over 1 and 4 seconds behind Alexander, 23, who was running at the front of the pack prior to Ashe making his move, with Colman Hatton rounding out the BAA scoring in 10th, leading to a dominating victory of just 18 points. New Balance Boston (with 56 points) was runner up while Western Mass Distance project, aided by the 7th place finisher Kevin Johnson, finished 3rd in the team standings with 72 points.

Ashe, 25, a Hanson, MA native, who has tremendous range (PR’s include a 4:03 mile and 2:26 marathon on the challenging Cape Cod course), decided to put the foot on the accelerator following relatively slow splits of 4:55 (mile), 10:02 (2 miles) and 15:48 (5K). When Ashe surged no one could go with him “I could sense the guys around me getting a bit tired. I pressed it a bit up Bear Cage and continued to keep a gap,” stated Ashe, the UMass Boston assistant track and field coach. “I was able to cross-train in the summer riding a bike for 1 hour a day as hard as a could and 1 hour and 30 minutes on the weekends. When I got back running I started on a treadmill however I had to place it on an incline to get a good effort in. I also did alot of workouts for my core.” Ashe also plans on competing at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships and possibly the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in January 2014.

In the men’s master’s division Sandu Rebenciuc, 44, of the Greater Springfield Harriers cruised to victory in 26:44 for the 8K distance. In 2000, he had also won the New England Open men’s title, becoming just the second male athlete to win the USATF NE Open and Master’s division (Mark Coogan 1991 and 1997). Rebenciuc, a Romania native, and Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) graduate where he was the 1991 National Division III cross-country champion, made a break in the second wilderness loop from a pack that included Amherst College men’s track and country country coach Erik Nedeau, Peter Hammer (47, of Needham, MA), Chris Magill (40, Cumberland, RI), Greg Putnam (44, Stoneham, MA), Harry Stants (40, Needham, MA), and Binney Mitchell (44 Burlington, VT).

Rebenciuc, the owner of a 23:29 8k best at Franklin Park stated, “I’m just coming back to racing again. When Erik Nedeau started to press I went with him and I pressed it a little. I’m only running about 50 miles a week…I’ve had some stomach problems lately…I might be a bit anemic…I’m not sure about club nationals yet…it depends on the team. I’d like to take a shot at the over 45 American record in the steeple (9:17) next year.” In the men’s team race, the Boston Athletic Association, with Hammer and Magill finishing 2-3, Stants 5th and O’Neil 10th, easily claimed the New England title.

In the women’s master’s race (combined with he open race) Diana Bowser, (40, Needham, MA and spouse of Peter Hammer), racing back into shape after the birth of her second child, won the New England Master’s title in 22:57 over Mimi Fallon, 48, Walpole, MA by 29 seconds.

Mayor’s Cup – Men’s 8k

The universe conspired to set things back at the Level a bit, but we can finally start getting some of the backlog out of the way. Here is some raw race video from the Mayor’s Cup men’s 8k championship race. The race was held on October 27th at Franklin Park. Full results can be found here. More to come on this event later.

Don’t Judge Us

“Don’t Judge Us” originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner.  

by Muddy Puddin’

Let’s face it.  We’re all a little long in the tooth to be composing the age-old, back to school, five hundred word essay How I Spent My Summer Vacation.   In fact, a simple dissertation such as this wouldn’t be very interesting at all for we know how all members of The Legion spent their summer—running! Yet, though we are dedicated harriers, it is just not physically feasible for us to run 24 hours a day. At some point we have to bite the bullet and, after maybe showering and definitely rehydrating, melt back into society and deal with “them.”  The others, aka non-runners, are a wide and diverse cohort of individuals whose only requirement for membership is non-ambulation.  To be sure, at some point this summer, you were forced to attend backyard BBQs, birthday parties, and family gatherings. Undoubtedly, during these revelries, you were judged by a non-runner.  This person most likely, at some point during the conversation, had a comment for you about running being detrimental to you, or perhaps they even gave you the smug half-smile and brief head shake that implies: “you’re crazy” or “you’ll just get hurt.”

This frustrating experience can be difficult to handle.  Although they are brief and usually non-antagonistic, these repartees can grow quite tiresome over the course of 2-4 hours in a partially shaded backyard. Although I’m trying not to stereotype stationary pupils, (I’m constantly trying to teach my three children not to judge anyone), I need to vent.  This has been building inside me all summer, nay for over a decade, so I apologize in advance. Chances are you’ve endured similarly frustrating encounters as well.

…So, seriously you sedentary slugs, the next time our paths cross, please don’t judge us. Don’t judge us because we run “all the time” and talk about running half the time.  Sorry, but we’re gregarious by nature and quite knowledgeable and passionate about the subject that is most near and dear to our hearts.

dont judge us 430x300 11.10.13Don’t judge us because we run doubles.  Nothing says fitness and fun like a hard morning effort followed up by an evening shakeout.  We’re sorry for the massive loads of sweaty running laundry but not sorry enough to stop.  We’ll take the blame for that one but still, please try not to pass judgment, especially since you don’t wash our shorts.

Don’t judge us because we turn down that extra beer, cognizant of our impending brutal track workout at sunrise the following morning.  On the other side of the coin, don’t judge us because we do have that extra beer (or three) given that we already killed our workout earlier in the day. And while we’re in the realm of ingestion, don’t judge us because we turn down double cheeseburgers and fries and instead opt for grilled salmon over salad.  And please don’t be shocked when we have that latter meal but also chase it with those two burgers and a generous amount of fries and possibly some ice cream.  We’re fresh off a 20 miler and despite feeling like a million bucks we’re also paradoxically a glowing furnace, starving for fuel.

Don’t judge us because our bodies are constantly worn out and beaten down.  So what if we have purple and black toenails that are disgusting yet somehow badges of honor?  Sorry but we’re still going to wear flip flops to the party because that’s what renners do!  Instead, just be happy that we’re not lying down sleeping in a comatose state, with a bag of partially melted ice attached somewhere to our bodies.

Don’t judge us because we spend an obscene amount of money on race entries and running gear.  Shoes are a given but we also need shorts, compression socks, tech shirts, BodyGlide, GPS watches—the list goes on and on.  And if it seems like we are constantly clad in old race T-shirts, it’s because we are. If this makes us appear as wandering vagabonds who care little about their appearance, look at the bright side: at least we’re not bumming money from you or mooching food.  We’re a self-sufficient bunch, trained to make it on our own… you wouldn’t happen to have any ibuprofen would you? 600 mg should be fine.

Don’t judge us because we have toned muscles and low body fat.  We have worked and continue to work, very hard for this.  In all honesty, most of us are not working directly towards these morphological goals, they’re just ancillary benefits.  Our ultimate goal is fitness first, sexiness second.  But I suppose if you do have to judge a little bit, do you like the way these pants fit over my sculpted quads?

Before I become too nasty and turn into a monster of adjudication, please just don’t judge us, the legion of runners.  Instead, come for a run with us.  We’re not judging anyone then.  We’re not smug and we’re never condescending.  We’re encouraging, helpful, supportive. All we’re doing is gaining fitness, making friends, chiseling our bodies, strengthening our muscles, lowering our PR’s, improving our cardiovascular efficiency, increasing our flexibility, adding years onto our lives, and just being all around awesome.  But you probably already cast your verdict didn’t you?

 Muddy judges no one except himself.  To read more of his articles, peruse through our back issues.  Muddy is always a good read.



Strength, Flexibility & Injury Risk

How to Measure Your Strength and Flexibility to Assess Your Injury Risk

Guest blog by Matt Phillips (RunnersConnect)

injury assessment and treatmentWhen you see the word “couch” in the title of an article about running, you can generally assume it is referring to the one in your living room in front of the television.

Well, as someone always keen to keep you on your toes (metaphorically speaking – please do not start trying to run on your toes), I am in this article actually talking about the couch you lie down on when you visit a physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath, etc.

Though our natural tendency and expectation when seeing a manual therapist is to lie back and let him/her “fix” us, the aim of this article is to consider whether having us lie down on a couch is the most effective way for a therapist to be able to assess our injury and in doing so reach conclusions as to how to treat us.

Assessing range of movement: static vs dynamic

Any runner who has been to see a manual therapist will be familiar with the basic protocol. The therapist asks you about your medical history, previous injuries, the circumstances surrounding the current injury and then embarks on a physical assessment of your body in order to see what, when, why, how – all important questions that will help creation him/her create an appropriate treatment plan and recovery programme.  One of the most common indicators used to assess an injury is range of motion (ROM).

We are all familiar with the fact that when we hurt ourselves, we typically lose some degree of mobility in that area of the body.

  • To assess the hamstrings (back of leg), the therapist will typically ask you to lie on your back on the couch and raise a straight leg
  • To assess the quadriceps (front of legs), you lie face down and bend the heel back towards the bottom, and so on.

These tests can give the therapist a lot of information, but the problems start if an assumption is then made, as is often the case, that the ROM seen lying down on the couch (static) is a predictor of the ROM exhibited when you are on your feet and moving (dynamic).

An example: I have treated runners who when lying face down on the couch and bending a leg back cannot get the heel anywhere near their bottom. If I help by pushing on their bent leg, the heel gets a little closer but not a lot. And yet, when I watch the same clients running at a high enough pace (outside or on in the gait lab on a treadmill), their heels are more or less touching their bottom every stride.

In other words, the static ROM they showed when lying on the couch was not a predictor of their dynamic ROM when running, and therefore any assumptions I make based on the couch ROM with regards to the mechanics of the injury, how I best treat it, how I could improve their running performance, etc. become unfounded.

Static range of movement is not an accurate indicator of dynamic range of movement.

The Thomas Test

My personal experiences are not conclusive. For that we need to have a look at the research. Runners who have ever seen a manual therapist for pain in the hip, front of thigh or the knee will probably be familiar with The Thomas Test.

It is commonly used as a way of assessing range of hip extension “permitted” by the hip flexors (front of the hip), and thought to be an indicator of how much hip extension is available when the runner’s body travels over the weight bearing stance leg during forward propulsion.

As can be seen in the image below, the test involves the runner lying back on the couch, clutching one leg close to the chest and allowing the other to relax and move down towards the end of the couch.


  • The back of the runner’s right leg can be seen to be making contact with the end of the couch.
  • Hip extension on the right leg is therefore recorded as satisfactory.
  • If a gap had existed between the back of the right leg and the couch, limited right hip extension would have been recorded.
  • The angle of the knee is also used as an indicator of restriction, specifically for the rectus femoris, one of the quadriceps muscles that as well as extending the knee also flexes the hip.

In the image, the runner’s relaxed right knee has an angle of 900, which again is typically regarded as satisfactory. If the angle were less than 900 (it is not uncommon to see a near enough straight leg), a limited ROM would have been recorded.

Now, it is important to stress that I am not saying this test is a total waste of time.  As a therapist I still find a place for it during some assessments. However, hopefully some of you are already looking at the image and thinking “But he’s lying down – this only tests static hip extension!”  Well, recent research would agree with you.

In a 2009 study, Schache et al. set out to compare the degree of hip extension during running to the hip extension flexibility measured in the clinic using a Thomas Test. Their results were such that they concluded:

Static hip extension flexibility, measured using the Thomas test, was not found to be reflective of these dynamic movements (running)… It is advised that clinicians need to be extremely cautious about making predictions about the dynamic sagittal plane movements of the pelvis and hips based on the outcomes of the Thomas Test.

If we accept that the degree of effectiveness of a treatment depends on the accuracy of the assessment and diagnosis, this could well be a problem for therapists who base decisions solely on static assessment. Using it in combination with dynamic tests is another matter.  The question is, why are static tests so popular, and why has no one talked about this much before?

Your muscles don’t decide how you move

Part of the reason that assessment by manual therapists has to date largely ignored the differences between static and dynamic movement is the way we have been taught to view the human body. Movement is typically presented to us as the product of individual structures like muscle, ligaments, tendons and bones.

For example, if you are unable to touch your toes you are told that your hamstrings are “too tight” or “too short”; if you find it difficult to lift something heavy, you are told a particular muscle/s is “too weak”; if you get tired too quickly your muscles are said to lack endurance; go over on your ankle a few times and you are told certain ligaments are too loose, and so on.

Modern research suggests that movement is not a product of how short, long, weak or strong a muscle, ligament or tendon is. Just as bones would be nothing without muscles pulling them, muscles would be nothing without the brain communicating with them; it is the brain that decides how and to what extent we move by comparing sensory feedback at that moment (using a multitude of systems in the body) with a stored memory bank of every movement you have ever performed in your life.

Quite a powerful little hard drive when you think about it. The feedback systems used are proprioceptive, visual, vestibular, and include visual horizon, orientation against gravity, joint compression, angle and torque, tissue tension and length. The feedback is obviously very different when you are lying static on a couch, compared to the dynamic movement of running. We have obviously removed the need for balance, acceleration, deceleration, etc.

Range of motion itself is traditionally seen as a skill. Flexibility is seen as a skill. We are commonly labelled as either inflexible or flexible depending on whether we can touch our toes or do the splits, neither of which our body requires when running. In reality, flexibility and range of movement is very much movement specific.  Ben Cormack of movement specialistsCor-Kinetic summarizes this as follows:

Flexibility is a component of successful movement. We need to be able to achieve the right amount at the right time in the right movement.

With that in mind, the effectiveness of lying a runner down on a couch in order to assess whether they can achieve the required range of movement needed at the various stages of the running cycle does seem to be less than we may have once imagined.

How should movement be assessed?

The obvious answer is how we started this article, i.e. get off the couch!  Again, I am not suggesting there is no place for a couch in a clinic, but I am suggesting that to assess a movement required for an activity, we need to recreate as much as possible the motor patterns needed for that activity. So for a runner, standing up is pretty much a must. We need to see how much hip extension is achieved on a weight bearing leg, whilst body weight is being transferred, with an element of acceleration or deceleration, throw a rotation in. Not easily done if the subject is lying down on a couch.

Modern research into the role of the brain in governing movement, as opposed to the muscle itself, has also brought with it a departure from the traditional method of pursuing “norms”, i.e. the idea that there is an optimum way for everyone’s body to move. We have talked about this a lot on Runners Connect with regards to there being no one optimum running style that will suit everybody.

If the brain and nervous system are responsible for how we move, comparing sensory feedback from multiple systems with a stored memory bank of movements that an individual has performed in his or her unique life, we should expect and welcome a great deal of variety in the way individuals move.

Taking a median of a sample population and setting that as a per-requisite or goal for efficient movement is simply not backed up by research. Injuries do not always correlate with deviation from such medians.


A good example of this is the way in which a “normal” level of pronation has traditionally been preached as a way to fix and avoid injury. A median point was created and suddenly a huge percentage of the runners in the world were labelled as “overpronators”.

Research has shown that trying to “fix” such runners by enforcing a certain type of running shoe or orthodic does not always work, and can in fact sometimes make things worse.

So, instead of comparing ourselves to others, maybe an assessment should involve spending more time comparing what is going on in our own body, e.g. the left side to the right side. I am not talking about striving to achieve perfect symmetry – the idea that symmetry promotes good health and asymmetry leads to pain has been weakened by a lot of research, along with the common and sometimes obsessive goals of “fixing” a tilted pelvis, leg length discrepancy, fallen arches, etc. What I am referring to comparing the capability of the left and right to produce the dynamic movement necessary in running.

Movement variation

Asymmetry is normal and should be accepted as part of nature, but the question is when does our personal variation in movement become a limitation? Ben Cormack explains:

At Cor-Kinetic, we look more at the comparison of the system against itself, e.g. left vs. right. The variation between segmental capabilities, especially in cyclical activities such as running, in an integrated system may provide more clues to increased workload and avoidance strategies of the brain and body than objective comparisons of a median ROM from the subject.

In a future article, we will look at some more modern and potentially appropriate ways that a runner can be assessed when seeking injury treatment. For now, what I hope you see is that even though lying down and “getting fixed” is what we expect and often hope to receive when seeing a manual therapist, the road to recovery in future may well involve us standing up and becoming more involved in the both the assessment and treatment process.

In the meantime, if you are a runner who has experienced less couch use during a physical assessment or indeed a manual therapist who has made a move to using the couch less in assessments and/or treatments, do please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. below.

Recommended courses for therapists

Therapists in the UK: If this article has made sense to you and stimulated an interest in learning how to integrate 21st century knowledge, skills and techniques into your practice, I can personally recommend you contact Ben Cormack and his team at Cor-Kinetic.

Therapists in the United States: In terms of focus on brain, neuroscience and modern pain science, I am yet to discover any other education provider who delivers the same training as Cor-Kinetic. (If you are aware of anybody in the States, do let me know!) That said, with regards to learning to see movement in a context based and integrated fashion, The Gray Institute stands out as an international leader in delivery of Applied Functional Science, so they may well be a valuable first point of call.

Happy running!

Matt Phillips is a Run Conditioning Coach, Video Gait Analyst & Sports Massage Therapist with over 20 years experience working within the Health & Fitness Industry. Follow Matt on Twitter. For more great training, injury prevention and nutrition advice, be sure to check out the RunnersConnect blog. If you’re in the market for a personal coach then it’d be worth checking out their coaching service as well.

The Mile, Franklin Park-Style

By Owen Kendall

The goal of the Franklin Park Mile is bigger than you can imagine. The aim is to transform the world, changing the way people experience their lives. The world today is a global one; it is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-gender mosaic with more connectivity than anyone ever imagined possible.  And though community is sometimes forgotten with the possibility of faraway connections, it is essential for everyone.  A strong community can produce wellness in a way that almost nothing else can and yet many people are becoming less and less connected to those around them.

The Franklin Park Mile’s role is to raise awareness for community running and community development through running that a new movement of free community running is making a reality. Free community running supports the natural development of communities that revolve around common activities, supporting a population that is both empowered and capable of empowering those around them.

In its first year, the Franklin Park Mile drew well over 200 people to an incredible day in Franklin Park.  Many of them had never raced before, while others were winners of prestigious races, and yet it appeared that every person walked away from the event with a bit more bounce in their step and a feeling that the Franklin Park Mile was onto something.

There were only winners at the first annual Franklin Park Mile.  Everyone who toed the line tested themselves.  There were incredible races for the tape, with the women’s race decided over the last forty meters, Kim Lockwood out-kicking Forest Hills Runners’ own Jennifer Flynn (who’d already raced a 5k that morning), and Alyssa Charney of Vassar College charging at the end to round out the top three.

Pat Fullerton bested the men’s field, floating over the distance in 4:25, after which he only said, “that was a tough course” with a bit of a smile. Andrew Rotz cruised through in 4:37 with a big smile on his face.  Dave Moyer, a steepler who ran for Penn State’s club team until graduating this past summer, came in third.

The best part of the day came with the 16-and-under race. Some amazing young athletes showed up since every kid ran free.  Even with a slight mixup with the start and an unnecessarily long warmup, 14-year-old Isaiah Sealy flew over the hilly one mile course in 6:15 with Maya Freifeld, the top 16-and-under girl for the day, pushing him to the tape in an amazing photo-finish.  Freifeld barely nosed Sealy out to become the top 16-and-under finisher overall.  Francisco Fernandez and Brandon Tejada finished in second and third for the boys, while Angelise Santos and Paola Sepulveda took home the prizes for the girls.  These young runners have a bright future ahead of them, especially considering that this was the first race any of them had run. Most importantly, we hope they won’t forget the great feeling that came from competing, from pushing themselves, and from seeing how much more they could give if they reached down deep enough.

Running is possibly the greatest metaphor for life.  Some days, every step you take will be incredibly difficult; other days, every step of your run will feel light and joyful. But if you stick with it and you do a little every day, you will improve.  Unlike most parts of life, where you’re never quite sure if you’re progressing or not because it’s difficult to define what better is, the clock doesn’t lie.  You will see your improvement and that will help you to see that if you put a little time every day into the things that matter to you, you will improve.  Giving more people, from diverse backgrounds, the opportunity to experience this is one more reason the Franklin Park Mile is an important event for Boston, but even more for the people from the neighborhoods surrounding Franklin Park.

Results from this first year event can be found here.

Ritchie Does It Again

Tim Ritchie has been named the athlete of the month for October by the USATF-NE.

Ritchie CVS 5k Mason

Tim crossing the line at the CVS Downtown 5k in Providence back in September. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after the way he ran at the Twin Cities Marathon.  Per the USATF-NE website:

Tim Ritchie of the Boston Athletic Association and Brighton MA is the USATF – New England Athlete of the Month for October 2013. On October 6 at the USA Marathon Championships held at the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, Tim finished 6th in 2:14:50. This is the fastest marathon by a New Englander in more than 20 years. Ritchie, a 2009 graduate of Boston College and currently an assistant track and cross country at his alma mater, improved his previous personal best at the distance by almost 7 minutes. He was also USATF-NE athlete of the month in November 2011.

Check out the full list of USATF-NE Athletes of the Month.

Congrats to Tim on yet another well-earned accolade!

Contact Form Powered By : XYZScripts.com