Sports Columns

June 2, 2013

Doug Hawley: Summer can be used for relaxation and running

We often hear about young athletes becoming most successful thanks to their offseason work. That certainly is true for area high school cross country runners, who have some three months before their 2013 season hits full stride in September. What they do this summer can affect their results during the fall.

Most elite running coaches will tell you that their pupils need time off. Hey, go to the beach — or whatever the destination — and let off steam.

On the assumption that you have not forgotten the running shoes on your trek to the beach, do some refreshing runs along the beach. Remember to use your sunscreen and not return burned to a crisp.

One veteran Boston Marathon runner from years ago related that he took off for one full month to “get fat” and then came back refreshed for the remainder of the year. Many of us who are active runners would have a difficult time implementing that philosophy, though.

Area prep distance runners finished their school track seasons by the middle of May, and many of those non-seniors can now focus on cross country. Most cross country coaches will encourage their returning runners to log summer miles on a regular basis. These youngsters are laying a base that will gear participants for the basic 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) races that fill the prep cross country schedule.

Running extensive miles in the heat can be boring, and that’s particularly true with no competition until the fall.

Coaches would do well to encourage their runners to participate in some racing activity, which should not be considered “blood and guts.” There are various road and trail races within a reasonable driving distance throughout the summer. And from a fun standpoint, there are awards to be won and in most cases, free T-shirts for all participants.

Still, any summer races should be considered low-key. To me, two races a month seems logical — or maybe six maximum before the cross country campaign begins.

Unlike during the fall, speed workouts should be minimal. In fact, these might be limited to the races.

In a relaxing summer, the runners will have a head start on the cross country season rather than starting from scratch.

• Carina Nieto, a 2011 Dalton High School graduate, is transferring from the University of West Georgia to Georgia State University, where she will run cross country and track on scholarship.

“I had a full ride at West Georgia,” she said. “I will get 70 to 75 percent at Georgia State. However, It’s a better opportunity for me all around.”

Nieto, who made The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Cross Country Team three times and was the newspaper’s Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year on one occasion, had a personal-best 5K cross country race time of 19 minutes and 8 seconds at West Georgia. Due to injuries, she redshirted this past school year.

“I will be a junior in class standing,” said Nieto, who compiled a 3.5 grade point average at West Georgia and plans to major in nutrition or psychology at Georgia State. “I will be eligible to run three more years, which I probably will do.”

• Many area runners will participate in the annual Riverbend Run on June 15 in downtown Chattanooga. This serves as part of the 12-race series for the Runner of the Year competition coordinated by the Carpet Capital Running Club.

Participants can enter the 5K or 10K, and both races start and end near the bottom of Cameron Hill.

As usual, these races are held on the final day of the celebrated nine-day Riverbend Festival, a nationally recognized music extravaganza that features more than 100 entertainers on six stages along the banks of the Tennessee River. The site is located at the 21st Century Waterfront.

For people wanting to get into the mood for large crowds in the college football stadiums this fall, the number averages some 60,000 people nightly.

Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at dhawley@optilink.us.

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