All competitive runners can benefit from additional physical activity, and that includes veterans who have been accustomed to counting solely on roadwork for their success.
Dalton State College is preparing for its first season of cross country — the Roadrunners will have men’s and women’s teams and compete as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics — and Andy Meyer is sharing head coaching duties with Margie Bruner. The coaches have had their runners focus on weightlifting and stretching this summer as they prepare for their season opener.
According to the school’s athletic website, dsroadrunners.com, that will be the Berry Invitational on Aug. 31. Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh said previously that the school anticipates joining either the Southern States Athletic Conference or the Appalachian Athletic Conference beginning with the 2014-15 school year, so the Roadrunners’ athletic teams are putting together non-conference schedules this season.
Regardless of the competition, though, Meyer wants his teams prepared. That means doing things differently than distance runners might have years ago.
“When I was coming along, you just went out and ran,” said the 51-year-old Meyer. “Now I know that there is a lot more to it.”
Meyer went to high school in Ohio, where he clocked 4 minutes, 28 seconds in the mile and 9:48 in the two-mile run. He went on to compete with the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga’s cross country program before becoming a physical therapist.
“I found that 85 to 90 percent of the runners I treated with physical problems had a lack of mobility,” Meyer said. “That led to such things as weightlifting and stretching to help the runners.”
Now as president of his own company in Dalton, Industrial Capability Systems, he coordinates fitness programs for various businesses.
“On our first day of summer workouts for our college runners, June 15, we worked with weights,” Meyer said. “A lot of the runners had never done it. They had never seen a weight room. We didn’t want to cause any injuries, so we did it slowly with light lifting at the start. Coach Bruner and I broke it up into training cycles. Little by little, they add a little more weight. The guys, who are naturally stronger for the most part, will do heavier weights.”
Since Dalton State does not yet have a dedicated weight training facility for its athletes, these workouts have occurred at Bradley Wellness Center, a Hamilton Health Care System facility in Dalton.
“They’ve been real good about letting us use it,” Meyer said. “We lift two to three times a week. We will total about 2 1/2 hours a week.”
He considers stretching just as vital.
“The mobility is so important,” Meyer said. “We’ll do that about three times a week at 15 to 20 minutes each time.”
The Roadrunners are adapting well to the lifting and stretching, Meyer said.
“They’ve all pretty much bought into it,” he said. “They realize that it will make them better runners.”
In the early workouts, the Roadrunners were logging some 30 miles over five days each week. Their maximum will likely be 60 miles.
The customary college racing distances are 8 kilometers (almost 5 miles) and 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) for the men and women, respectively. But some races will vary — for instance, at UTC’s Twilight Invitational on Sept. 6, the men will run a 5K and the women will cover a 2-mile route.
Bruner and Meyer recruited heavily from the area in putting together their first rosters, signing several local high school seniors and transfers from other college programs who graduated from local high schools. With five runners needed for team scoring, there are 11 women and 10 men going through the paces for the Roadrunners.
“Margie and I were concerned before starting the program that we might not have enough runners,” Meyer said. “However, we have been pleasantly surprised.”
In the future, Meyer expects more prospects from the immediate area to be more attuned to training aspects of the sport other than just running.
“The high school coaches in this area are doing a pretty good job now of having their runners do more than just run,” Meyer said. “It is also good to do some swinming and other physical activity.”
Meyer coaches from experience. Five years ago at age 46, he finished eighth in the Atlanta Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes on the 26.2-mile course. He earlier posted a 2:32 in the Savannah Marathon. During his UTC days, he logged a 24:53 in the 5K and 31:50 for the 10K. With Meyer’s wisdom as an example, even the veteran adult runners who have long shunned extra activity might want to take a hard look at expanding and diversifying their training.
• Many area runners will participate Saturday in the 40th annual Missionary Ridge Road Race at historic Bragg Reservation in Chattanooga. The 4.7-mile event, set for 8 a.m., is a points race for the Carpet Capital Running Club’s Runner of the Year competition.
Proceeds from the race will be split between the American Red Cross and Team Bruner, which gives college scholarships in memory of former Dalton High School distance runner John Bruner, Margie’s son. Bruner died at age 19 as the result of a coronary artery anomaly after competing in the Missionary Ridge Road Race in 2007. With no parking available at the race site, a free shuttle service will be available at McCallie School.
• If anybody doubts the impact of running and related activity, consider the Waterfront Triathlon in Chattanooga, which contributes some $1 million annually to Chattanooga, said outgoing co-director Sherilyn Johnson.
As a regular volunteer for that activity, I always come away so impressed with those performers who complete the event. Most years, competitors swim about one mile, bike 26 miles and finish with a 6.2-mile run. Since the Tennessee River was far above its normal level for the mid-July action, though, the swimming was eliminated this year.
Instead, a two-mile run took the place of the swim, and other events followed as in the past.
Two sleek athletes claimed the top prizes: Craig Evans, 35 of Hendersonville, Tenn., at 1 hour, 51.37 minutes; and Meghan Degan, the 23-year-old female champion from Marietta in 2:01.36.
Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at email@example.com.