Jeff Galloway - Everybody's Mother
Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
Human nature is a funny thing. You can hear something and know it is right, but yet you still resist it with every bone in your body. For years, I have done this repeatedly with two people in particular. These individuals have always given only the best advice, designed to be helpful and constructive, and I have boldly rejected every bit of it, simply because I always thought I knew better. These to people are my mother and Jeff Galloway.
My thought process started about 3 years ago, when Jeff Galloway, world renowned “less is more and slower is better” guru started writing a monthly column for Runner’s World Magazine. I had heard of his philosophies for years, and had always readily dismissed them. His theories just didn’t jive with what I had become a slave to. He encouraged runners to walk during their long runs. Yeah right, what would my neighbors think if they saw me walking around the neighborhood. He encouraged runners to run slower than they ever thought possible. I don’t think so. I don’t want any weekend warrior passing me under any circumstances while I’m on a training run. He suggested minimal miles and reduced days running between long runs. No way. When I run, I want everyone out there to know they can count on seeing me pound the pavement day after day for at least an hour.
Many of Mr. Galloway’s columns broach the subject of marathon training. For years, now, I have had a fantasy about training properly to run a marathon. That’s not to say I’ve never run one. I have in fact, finished two. The first was the Long Island Marathon in 1983, in just a tad under four hours. I did this on no marathon training at all. Three yours later, I completed New York in about 4 hours 15 minutes, with much better training under my belt. I then promptly retired from running for the next three years.
Well, when I picked up my May,1996 issue of Runner’s World, I noticed Mr. Galloway’s column immediately. I decided to read it to see if he had finally discovered what all of us real runners already knew. That is, to become a better runner, you had to run fast, run long, race every weekend, and run every day without fail. The title of his article gave me hope. "Long May You Run" was the name of the article.
But by the second paragraph, I realized I had been snookered. He was suggesting slowing down by 2 or 3 minutes per mile on long training runs and taking walk breaks every mile. This was the last thing I wanted to see. Why would Runner’s World devote a monthly column designed to educate the masses on how to NOT run???? I continued to read, against my better judgment. Interestingly enough, this article ended the same way as any Galloway article I had ever read in the past. Someone had actually implemented his system and had found success in using it.
A few months earlier, I had learned that, if you have a conception and everyone agrees with it, then it’s not a good idea. The best ideas are the ones that people scoff at. The truly brilliant inspirations are the ones that nobody supports until the belief is implemented and successfully reaches fruition.
I actually started thinking about this. He certainly couldn’t have become an acclaimed and universally respected author and innovator if his systematic views were all wet. Could Jeff Galloway, in essence, be giving good advice that us runners just don’t want to listen to? Is Jeff Galloway, in spirit, every runner’s mother? I thought about my two marathon efforts. Why did Long Island go so much better than New York on only 20 mile a week training? Maybe it’s because I stopped to walk every time I encountered a water stop. How often did I approach a water stop? there was one at every mile! For New York, I doubled my weekly mileage, threw in long runs, and didn’t stop to walk once during the race until mile 16. I mostly walked the last 10.
Before I could embrace Mr. Galloway’s teachings, I still had one final hurdle to overcome. I had to think of a time my mother gave good advice that I didn’t listen to. I also needed proof that not listening to it was a bad idea. The example came readily.
A couple of years ago, I was attending a race in North Carolina. My father and I ran the race, and my mother came out to support us. As the age group awards were being announced, we noticed a couple of dogs mingling with the crowd of people. One of the dogs then squatted and did his business not five feet behind where we were standing. On cue, my mother said “Watch where you step,” pointing out where the dog had pooped. “Great advice,” I thought, as the awards ceremony continued. “I couldn’t have figured that one out without her loving guidance.”
As we were leaving, we walked by the object of my affliction, which had taken on the shape of a pancake sporting the familiar imprint of the Saucony waffle sole. I was wearing Jazz 2000’s. Dad was wearing New Balance. The dispersing crowd chuckled as I muttered profanities under my breath. “Mom”, I said sheepishly, “I really should have listened to you just this once.” She smiled, as if to say she already knew that.
July 4th, 1996, I was with the rest of the world at Peachtree. I was volunteering near the start line, making sure that people were lining up with their appropriate time groups. A slight man with a low, orange number came jogging up past where I was standing. The color of his number indicated that he was an invited masters runner. It was Jeff Galloway. After the last official runner crossed the starting line, which was about 20 minutes after the race winner crossed the finish line, I jumped in as a bandit ( a first for me ) and ran a very Gallowayish 10 kilometer run. I jogged along at about a 10 minute pace, occasionally having to stop and walk, due to the sheer mass of humanity. By the time I reached the finish banner in Piedmont Park, I had run for over an hour, but felt refreshed, almost as if I hadn’t even run the race.
So I made a decision. I followed Mr. Galloway’s program and focused on the Kiawah Marathon in December of 1996. Of course, I did my long runs at 3 in the morning. I still didn’t want my neighbors to know that I was jogging at a 10 minute pace, and I didn’t want them to see me walking. This needs to be our little secret.
Anyway, a funny thing happened while I was training. I scheduled a marathon for November to use as a long training run. I ran slowly, and walked every couple of miles. Guess what? I finished the race within 5 minutes of my marathon PR, and it was easy. The darn training program worked. I ran Kiawah a month later, not for the fast time, but for a fun time. I was addicted to marathons. I ran another one in January, and a fourth four weeks later in PR time. Four marathons in four months. They were all respectable times for me, and a great deal of fun.
Thank you, Jeff, for introducing me to real running. Running to finish, and running to enjoy the experience. Now I proudly walk during my long runs, and say “ I am a Galloway disciple.”
And by the way, I called my mom the other day, just to tell her I will start listening to her more.
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.