The other day someone asked on Instagram if I have balance in my life in reference to all of my training.  I use my Instagram account as a running account, and it’s full of training pictures, but it still made me feel a little defensive.  I read the post right before I went to bed, so I went through various stages of answering this question in my head throughout the night (made possible when your baby wakes you up in the night and starts the thought process over again).


I woke up clear headed with my answer.  No, I don’t have balance.  That’s not my goal.  If we’re honest, not many people have balance, whether they are training for crazy goals, or just trying to survive motherhood in a world that has traffic and work and grocery shopping and housework and relationships to attend to.

I don’t think there have been many stages in my life where I lived a balanced life.  I’ve always lived in extremes. I finished first in my class in high school, skipping my senior year and going to college early.  I didn’t drink before I turned 21. I was not good at math growing up, so I majored in engineering and ended up getting my masters degree in it.  I finished the masters degree in 1.5 years, while my peers took 3+ years to finish.  I married the first person who I ever went on more than three dates with.  I never missed a workout until I hired a coach and she made me so tired that I finally took rest days seriously.

Like most runners, I’m a bit A type, and I also really love to train and get stronger and faster.  So this past year of running postpartum has been a lot of work, but it has also been extremely rewarding.  I compared my Boston Marathon experience to Disney for adults.  In that case, training for my first 100 mile race and completing it was heaven.  And the feeling of satisfaction in training a little harder to get my sub-3 marathon was the icing on the cake.  While I can do it, I’m going to keep going.  I have a supportive husband and a baby who fits right in to the schedule.  It’s hard work, and I have to make sacrifices, but that’s where I am in life right now.  Unbalanced.  🙂


Is balance one of your goals?

Reflections on Running: Jim Webster Interview Part 2

This is the second installment of my interview with Jim Webster. If you missed the first installment, you can find it here.  I’m excited to share the rest of this great interview and learn more about the history of our sport.  Don’t miss the email excerpt at the end from Jim’s friend who describes selling Blue Ribbon Shoes (which later became Nike), and ultimately selling his shoe store to none other than Sally Edwards!


Mission Bay, San Diego ~’64-’67, early 20s

5. One of the things that intrigued me in talking to you is that you got to experience running from the same start line as some of running ‘s most iconic figures. Can you name drop a few of the runners who you toed the line with?

Jim: Name drop…actually only three, yet, who knows.

In my 4:14.6 mile in Jefferson Georgia in April 1968 (while I attended Navy Supply Corps School) the winner was Jack Bacheler, a two time Olympian, 5000m in Mexico City in 1968 (so like 3 months after our race) and Marathon in Munich in 1972.  He was 6’7” weighing in at 170 lbs and ran a 4:04.2 that day, his personal best; I was fourth.    He was on the Florida Track Club with Frank Shorter and our own Jeff Galloway, and these are three the guys that, in my opinion, led the second wave of American track growth. In Munich the marathon was won by Shorter, Kenny Moore was second and Bacheler was ninth.  Shorter’s success moved many in the US to actually run the marathon and imitate his training.  A side story is that Jeff Galloway, who had already qualified in the Oly Trials 10K for Munich, chose to pace Bacheler in the Marathon trials and eased up at the finish, so that Bacheler could get the third spot.  Jeff is a wonderful person.

A year earlier, while in Pensacola with the Navy, I started a track club to compete with the FTC.  I called it the ALFA TC for Alabama and Florida.  We had good runners from Eglin AF Base, Pensacola JC and a Mobile army base, I think, along with my Naval Air Station.  That year we scheduled a meet with the U of Alabama and the FTC, and those three guys got three of the first four spots.  Craig Boylston of my NAS got third and no telling where I finished…probably 10-12th of 21 among the Alabama guys.  I’ve run 38 Peachtree Road races, but that shouldn’t count.  Another place that I have run against some big names was at All-Comers meets in Los Angeles where I grew up.  That is where I raced Archie San Romani, mentioned in the Bowerman book.  He won.  I’m sure there were others in those meets, in my track & cc at Notre Dame and after when I was hitting my peak, but they were not runners of any fame.  Not like the FTC guys.  So, really only those three qualify as icons.

I think Galloway pioneered the third wave in running with his run/walk model.  It made 1/2s and marathons doable by everyone.

6. How would you compare the running culture in the 60s and 70s to the running culture today?

Jim: NO ONE ran in 1957 when I began.  I really didn’t “go out for a run” until fall of that year when my high school cross-country team was inaugurated.  For all of those high school years, I was heckled by kids in cars as they drove by me.  “Hut two, three, four”  being the most common derisive yell.  Running was something they made you do in the military or military schools, I suppose.  Real males played football, basketball and baseball.  NO women ran.  This was way before Kathy Switzer became the first numbered female entrant in the Boston Marathon in 1967 and the race director tried to tackle her to take her out of that race.  Women weren’t officially allowed at Boston until 1972.  The first woman’s Olympic Marathon I witnessed in 1984 in LA.

The shoes we wore in the early years were black heelless Keds.  That was it.  Nike, Blue Ribbon Sports, Puma and even an Adidas non-spiked shoe was far in the future.  I think the first real running shoes were introduced to me at Notre Dame in 1964.  There were no open road races.  If you mentioned the word 5K and no one would know what you were talking about.  For h.s. x-c [high school cross country] we ran 2 miles.  For college x-c we ran 4 miles…even at the Nationals, which for many years were always held on Michigan State’s golf course.  “Track & Field News” the “Bible of the Sport” was only 9 years old when I began running.  (I actually have a library of the 60’s issues, if you’d like to take a look. [Yes!])  “Runner’s World Magazine” began in 1966.  Most high school track and cross-country coaches were also football coaches who didn’t have anything to do in the spring.  And they knew nothing about running.  There just was no US information about those two sports at the time.  There were no training programs to emulate.

We did read about “fartlek” (meaning speed play) training that the Swedish runners used.  And, I may have mentioned Percy Cerutty to you earlier who “was one of the world’s leading athletics coaches in the 1950s and 1960s.  The eccentric Australian pioneered a home-spun system of “Stotan” training, embracing a holistic regime of natural diets, hard training in natural surroundings, and mental stimulation.”  What I remember about his training method was his students running on the Portsea beaches in Australia, running up and down sand dunes.  And, yes, when we went the the beach that is what we did.  When I coached later, on occasional weekends, the team would meet at a beach near the airport, and we’d be joined by the St. Bernard team coached by one of my high school teammates and run the hills.  LA beaches also had steep hilly dunes maybe 30 yards up at a 40 degree angle.  (For fun, Google that teammate Walt Lange Jesuit.  After college he went on to become one of the premier high school coaches in the country.)  Cerutty’s Herb Elliot won the 1960 1500 meters.  Shortly thereafter came Arthur Lydiard with marathon training for all runners and his book “Running to the Top”, published in 1962, was our inspiration.  His top guy, Peter Snell, is the only runner to win both the 800 & 1500 in the 1964 Olympic Games.  Oh, and I visited the Snell museum on a trip to New Zealand a few years ago.  “Jogging with Lydiard” was, to my knowledge the first ever use of the term “jog” and it was written in 1983.  Thus, it was very very different 50 years ago.  My Boston had 800 or so runners.  My son just finished the NYC Marathon with 50,000 runners…3:49.  And we are all so very much healthier being runners than were the adults of those years.

7.  Tell me more about your experience selling shoes out of the back of your car with Blue Ribbon Sports. At the time, did anyone have any idea that Bowerman and Knight would ultimately create the company that would become Nike?

Jim: […] I think I remember selling shoes with Walt at All-Comers track meets in 1965’s summer.  That is, at most, all I ever did.  I’d not coached high school since mid-Spring of 1965 when the school principal offered me a job to teach Chemistry (I was an accounting major at ND) and be the assistant track coach for $386/month salary.  I went from part time at the LA Times payroll department to full time for probably double that salary.  I did keep private coaching one of my cross country guys…one Paul Petersen, who that summer broke a Jim Ryun high school record for the 3 mile or 5K in 1965 at an All Comers meet.  [Below] I hope you enjoy Walt’s story and you may wish to look at some of his links.  And, yes, he is still coaching at Jesuit High 38 years later!

Below are two email exchanges with Jim’s friends who sold Blue Ribbon Shoes with him and truly pioneered running in the 1960s and 1970s.

From: Walt Lange
To: Jim Webster

Jim, Well, this is probably more than you wanted or needed.  –Walt

My experience with Blue Ribbon Sports and Nike lasted from around 1966 to 1973.  My first awareness of BRS was through their advertising in Track & Field News and other running publications. Early on, Jeff Johnson was selling shoes by mail only, out of Seal Beach California.  He eventually opened a store in Santa Monica. Jeff would take pictures at road races and if you wanted your picture, you had to go to his store and fish through a shoe box full of pictures to find yours.

After a move to Sacramento in December of 1968, I became involved with the distance runners at Jesuit High School.  I began ordering shoes from Jeff (there were no running stores in the area, or in Northern CA for that matter).  After a while, Jeff suggested I become a dealer out of my house, he would sell me the shoes for $2 off the normal retail price.  So I wound up stocking my garage with Tiger shoes.  I believe I only stocked two models, the trainer called the Cortez, and the racing shoe, the Marathon.  The Cortez sold for $11.95 (team price), others paid a buck or two more.

The family car was a 1967 VW Bus.  I would take out the middle seat, load the car up with shoes, and travel to road races or high schools (by appointment) and sell.  People would come to our house weekday evenings, try on shoes in the garage, and buy what fit.  Eventually, the traffic became too much and I opened a small store a couple of miles from our home.  Store hours were evenings and weekend afternoons.  At some point (1972?), BRS dropped Tigers and switched to a new brand, Nike.  Jeff Johnson was the guy who came up with the new brand name that many, including me, thought was kind of weird.  Phil Knight wanted the name “Dimension Six”.  My store, “Sacramento Athletic Shoes”, was the first to carry any Nike products in the Sacramento region.

The store did well for a couple of years.  I expanded into wrestling and basketball shoes.  But eventually a Nike guy (maybe Bob Woodell, later to become Nike president?) wheelchaired into the store to tell me that unless I went full-time, they would stop supplying me, that they were ending all operations like mine.  I had to choose between going full-time and the security of the full-time teaching/coaching job I had begun in 1970.  I chose teaching and coaching.

I sold my inventory to two women who were starting a new store in town, Fleet Feet.  Sally Edwards and her partner Elizabeth Jansen came by our house and loaded my remaining shoes into their vehicle.  Their new store eventually became a nationwide chain, still doing business.

I’ve run into Jeff Johnson a few times over the years and have an autographed book of notes he distributed at a coaching clinic. At the time he was coaching the Nike Farm Team, having retired from Nike many years ago.


From: Paul Petersen
To: Jim Webster

Thanks, Jim, for including me in this email!

Walt, I didn’t realize you had shoe store that sold the pre-Nike product line, and that you knew the giants in that industry when they were just starting!

Jim, I think you can still brag about selling shoes for Blue Ribbon Sports, because I think I bought them from you, out of your bug. I can’t be the only one you sold to. I remember the sizes were all screwed up and they were sometimes too wide because the Onitsuka Tiger’s were Japanese-sized. They were amazingly light. I also remember driving to either Seal Beach, or Santa Monica to get more pairs when they wore out, and you weren’t around. I had their t-shirts, too, and wore them in all-comer races. They still sell a vintage Tiger shoe online at this link: http://bit.ly/2gwFuUU  – not exactly the same shoe.

You found the weakest existing Ryun record – a sophomore class three mile record, and talked me into besting it an all comers meet  – I think it was ’66. Ryun’s time was 14:52 and mine 14.48. Then Prefontaine did 13:something soon after!

I remembered that I still have the 50 year old program for the 1966 All-Comers season. That’s the one we went to all summer, Jim. I scanned it and attached it below. You might remember some of the names in it.

Hi Meredith, – You can get some good training advice from these guys!



[A few more interesting article links to give background to the story.]

Jeff Johnson:   http://www.runnersworld.com/masters/employee-number-one
Phil Knight:  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nikes-fiercely-competitive-phil-knight/
Fleet Feet:  http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/stories/2003/05/05/focus6.html


Below is a race picture of Jim (far right) with his wife, Beth, and neighbors at the local (hilly) 5k race held this past Saturday.  Jim took home the pie with a time of 28:12!


2017 Tartan Trot 5k winners


Thank you, Jim, for sharing so much of your running history with me.  You are a remarkable runner, and you give me so much pride in the history of our sport. I have thoroughly enjoyed every sentence that you shared about your running journey, and it helps me relate to the running giants who made our sport what it is now.  Many more miles to you, and best of luck on your 40th Peachtree Road Race!

Reflections on Running: Jim Webster Interview Part 1

When I think about running, I think of going forward (fast) and what my future will be as I continue to train.  But one aspect of running that adds to its beauty is also to look backwards to see where we came from.  By “we” I mean a collective we, the running community, the coaches who formed our training methods of today, the first men and women to toe the line and ignite a passion in this country for the run.

This past fall, I was talking to a man at our neighborhood clubhouse about running and he casually mentioned that he ran the Boston Marathon in the early 1970s.  Wait, what?!  I am not as well read in the history of our sport as I would like to be, but I do know that if you ran Boston in the 70s, you were part of a very different culture of running.  If you were a runner in the early 1970s, you were competitive.  My neighbor, Jim, continued to talk about his connection with Blue Ribbon Sports, the company created by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, which would later become Nike.

I had to know more about Jim’s story, and he graciously agreed to an interview for this blog.  I sent Jim a list of questions, and he answered with the most thoughtful insights, anecdotes, and bits of history.  It’s even more interesting and enriching than I anticipated.  There is a lot of content, but I can’t bring myself to shorten my list of questions.  It’s just so good.  So get ready to have a new appreciation for the sport and enjoy these installments interviewing my friend, Jim Webster.

Now for the interview questions:

1. You mentioned earlier that you started competitive running at the age of 13. Can you tell me what brought you into the sport?

I had just turned 11 and my dad suggested that it was time for me to get a job. My memory [of being a paper boy] is that we’d start our careers with about 100 papers and load those folded papers into two heavy denim bags. I must mention that my paper was the morning edition of the Los Angeles Times and my day began at 4:30 in the morning.  […] Now consider, I and I alone, am now getting up every morning and riding 10-12 miles and practicing my throwing accuracy working for the Times.  I did this job for 7 years!!!  Yes, all the way through high school.

So, you probably see where I’m going with this.  My freshman year, I did not go out for football or basketball, because I knew it would be fruitless.  However, come spring, ignoring my friends going out for baseball, I chose to see what track was all about.  Nothing special came of my first season in track, but the next year, Pius decided to add a cross-country team.  Father Daley was to be the coach and, as it turned out, one of my first mentors. Walt Lange, the answer to the password question, “who was your best friend in high school?”, also went out for the team.  The workouts were, it seemed, merely lots of miles of running.  This combined with my morning workout of riding a bike for miles gave me an obvious advantage vis-à-vis my fellow runners.  I was good.  I don’t believe I was a top three guy, but the team did well and so did Walt & I. […]

There was an incredible consequence of my dad encouraging me, maybe telling me, to get this job or throwing papers.  It seems that the Los Angeles Times gave five full tuition scholarships each year to any college in the country that would accept them to those of us still throwing papers their senior year and whom had worked at least five years for the paper.  I was accepted at Notre Dame.

I became a Catholic League champion and record setting (1:58.4) half-miler.  Walt, Bill Petersen, Mike Cauldero and I were third in the country in the two-mile relay with a combined time of 8:06.3 in 1960. I ran at Notre Dame, coached cross-country and track at Pius after graduation, and formed a cross-country team in Pensacola while in the Navy that competed with many southern colleges including Alabama.  For the Atlanta Track Club, I competed and also became its treasurer and Peachtree Road Race Associate Race Director.  The club set the world record for the 100 man 100 mile relay for men over 50 with me running 5:56.8 at 56 years old in 1999, with the 100 of us averaging 5:57. I just finished my 60th year of running since that first 440 for Wally Nowicki [73 years old].  And none of that success would have come without my paper route workouts!



2. When I first met you, you told me that you ran the Boston Marathon in the 70s. I’ve also heard that you clocked a very fast marathon time. Can you tell me a little more about that race and your results?

Jim: When talking of my marathon, ‘tis easier to say two things at once…I ran a 2:55 and the Boston Marathon.  In 1970, I ran the Palos Verdes, CA marathon in 2:55:01.  In April 1971, I actually ran the Boston Marathon in 3:12:06 and placed 376th.

So, now for the complete story.

There was no such thing as a “half marathon” back in the 70s; my longest race had been a 15 miler around Mission Bay in San Diego.  But, due to the successes of American runners, notably Frank Shorter, I decided that I should add a marathon to my resume.  I chose one close to home: the Palos Verdes (CA) Marathon.  It’s profile was interesting and beautiful.  The first 10 miles were uphill and I ran accompanied by three or four of the high school kids I was coaching at the time.  We chatted up the hills knowing not to push too hard in the beginning.  They finished the 10 and got a ride back to the start.  At that point the mountain ended and there was a long gorgeous downhill to the Pacific shore where Marineland used to be.  There was a good long flat run along the beach and we finished in Redondo Beach at the water’s edge.  I actually cried when I saw the finish.  My time was 2:55:01 and I was ecstatic, but totally wiped out and needed to tend my blistered and bloody feet.

Boston.  Some months later my job training for Merrill Lynch in 1971 was to be completed with a 3 month stint in New York City in the spring.  I decided to run Boston on Patriot’s Day while there.  There were no qualifying times required…you just had to be male.  Women were barred then, due to their fragile natures!  I drove to Boston, spent the night and we took a school bus from the Prudential Building the next morning to the start in Hopkinton.  I graduated from Notre Dame and chose to wear my ND jersey in the race for all the Boston Irish.  I was in much better shape than I was for the PV run.  So, my goal was to break 2:50.  Those three sentences proved to be my downfall.  But, I learned an important lesson.  The course profile, you may know, is the exact opposite of PV: downhill for the first 12 or so miles into Wellesley, then Heartbreak Hill somewhere near the 20 mile mark.  The ND singlet had many of the spectators encouraging me along the route and, unfortunately, I probably ran too fast because of that.  I have no clue as to my splits, but I’m guessing I hit the 1/2 in under 1:25.  By 18 miles I was toast and struggled to finish, including some walking (oh, the horror).  I actually thought about stopping and taking the MTA back to the Pru.  But after Heartbreak it leveled off and I was able to finish in 3:12:06.  I remember going up the elevator for my Brunswick stew (a tradition) and sitting in the back of the elevator vowing to never run another marathon…and I never did.

What did I learn?  Beware the course elevation profile.  My quads were dead when the hills appeared and I was unable to maintain my pace.  Once in Atlanta and running the Peachtree, with a downhill half and then an uphill half, I always ran the first part with someone slower than me that forced me to hold back.  In the “old days” when the course started at the Sears building on E. Paces and finished at Five Points it wasn’t as difficult for me.  Last year I ran with my wife for the first 3 and then was able to finish decently.  On the track and in most relatively flat courses I’ve always been a “negative split” runner: the first half slower than the last.  It is the way to get your best time, which has been proven by many runner’s experiences.


3. What other races do you consider your top accomplishments? Do you have a favorite distance?

Jim: You already have the mile race, which was 4:14.6, and double in the half…my best races.  There are tables produced by the IAAF which assign points for the times and distances of all Olympic and other events.  I got the most points for that mile, second was a 3:03.4 3/4 mile time trial I ran in Athens a week or two before the mile race which awarded the second most points and the 880 the day of the mile was third on the table.  There were no tables for the marathon.  My best 5k came in 8th in the table with a 15:40; 10k 13th with a 34:42.  It is clear that I’m at my best in the middle distances from 800 to 2 mile (9:23.8).

On the other hand, those are merely my best times.  My best races, the most memorable, exciting ones I didn’t win.  At Notre Dame in my sophomore year in an indoor mile in the Fieldhouse built in 1906 or something, I passed a U of Pittsburg guy in the last 300 yards for 3rd with 1000 screaming students cheering me on.  My two ND teammates were way ahead winning in a boring fashion.  A similar race, a 2 mile at the end of the meet in Pensacola where I’d already won the mile and came in third in the half, I went from 5th to second in the last lap to almost catch the leader.  And one more in Kingsville, Texas, in a meet between Texas A&I and UT San Antonio, with me as a guest…again I came from way back in the last lap to almost catch the local favorite at the finish.  The fans loved it, especially because the home town guy, Homer Martinez won.   I’ll never forget those three races.

4. How has running changed for you as you’ve aged? Do you have tips for longevity in the sport?

Jim: This one is tough.  The obvious is that goals must change…no more PRs.  There is now concern about injury and the long term effect of the pounding required in workouts and races.  The sun is setting not rising.  On a run the other day, I made a decision, or set a goal, to curtail or even stop running when I’m 75 1/2…7/4/2018.  My last Peachtree, my 40th Peachtree.  Those thoughts never entered my mind in my 50s and even 60s.  One of the things that keeps me going is that my wife, Beth, runs, as well.  She’s 69 and looking to moving into a new age group next January and getting first or second rather than thirds.  We are about to go to Brook Run [Park] in the next few minutes to do a 3-4 miler, not together, but…together.  She started in ‘92 and got committed after we were married in 2000.  It is great to share things…like mixed doubles.  We only play together, for example.  This helps whether it is your spouse or a friend.

Age group awards, though trivial, actually do satisfy the testosterone led competitiveness.  On the other hand, I now look at running as a way of life and health. My parents both had heart issues and I’ve been running from my genes for years.  I truly believe that it has helped me live longer in addition to increasing the quality of my life.  Beth & I did a tough 7.2 mile hike at Black Mountain State Park last week-end, through beautiful fall forest with a spectacular view halfway at the mountain peak.  Were we not fit we could not have done it.  We did decide not to do any “strenuous” hikes anymore, but to move down to “moderate”.  It was a b@*^h!  We’ve hiked Yellowstone, the Andes, Denali and more.  ‘Tis a good life.  And being fit is the gateway to many things most people cannot experience at 60 or 70.

Longevity:   I believe the mechanics of our individual running form contribute to how long we can do it.  As I mentioned to you, I think, “Born to Run” had a clue as to why some can run longer than others. Think of the fluidity of some top runners; it looks so easy…and beautiful.  When I first started running in California as a freshman in high school, we had a track with a nice grass infield.  We often ran our workouts just inside track….barefoot.  For cross country we’d go to a park very close to the school and run miles around the park…barefoot.  During the summer, a track buddy and I would go to the beach and run along the water line in the sand…barefoot.  (Easily done on many California beaches.)  Even in college at Notre Dame the cross-country team practiced on the golf course and I ran…barefoot.  I believe that this helped my joints build strength around them that really prevented me from ever having an injury.  Sure, I have run on the roads and sidewalks in Atlanta for years, but the base was built in those early years.  I still run barefoot when I can.  And I think I’ve been lucky!

But, most people today do not have the luxury of that kind of start.  So, the main thing that I’d pass along is that if you wish for running to be part of your life for a long time, go easy and listen to your body.  There are many regimens out there today; local coaches, internet training programs, and training groups.  But you are unique.  Build strength slowly; let your body get used to this.  Find what feels good to you; it shouldn’t hurt.  For years I have been saying that what you do this year will be there to help you next year.  So, don’t expect or ask for immediate gratification and superior results.  Due to some heart issues, I am very “out of shape” right now.  I’m putting in miles now and running races as if they are workouts, not RACES.  I’m building a base.  I’m looking to next March, when I expect to be ready to run faster than I am this year or even last year.  And my age is on a downward slope, so improvement in 2017 vs. 2015 is a challenge, but one I believe I can accomplish by doing more in 2016 than I could do in 2015.  I think you must look beyond and make sure you’re ready for your goal race.  I was influenced by a New Zealand coach (not personally) Arthur Lydiard who espoused a philosophy of pointing to one race six months down the road.  Even his countries half-milers did marathon training in January to prepare for the Olympics in August.  When I coached, it seems I’d lose two or more dual meets in the season.  But, at the end of the season’s championship meet, we’d win going away.  We had less injuries and were focused on the goal.

This is the end of the first interview installment with Jim Webster.  To keep reading click here.