Naoko “Q-chan” Takahashi’s great disappointment (circa 2008)

Here’s the recap of the 2008 Nagoya International Women’s Marathon as it appeared in The Japan Times.


A conversation with Kip Keino

This feature on Kenyan track legend Kip Keino appeared in The Japan Times in September 2007, just as the IAAF World Athletics Championships wrapped up.

Remembering Ron Clarke, the legendary runner

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 21, 2015) — Ron Clarke, Australian running legend, is the subject of my Sunday Olympic Notebook.

Clarke’s death a few days ago at age 78 was prominent news around the world, with major coverage in newspapers and on websites, as well as broadcast reports.

Here’s what I wrote:

Clarke is featured in numerous YouTube videos, including: (documentary) (1964 Tokyo Olympics’ 10,000-meter final) (’64 Olympics’ 10,000 final lap) (interview with Billy Mills’ about his 10,000 triumph (ABC News Australia “Ron Clarke: The Road to Tokyo”)

(Column flashback) Remembering the late Johanna Nilsson and one of her finest hours as an athlete

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Dec. 3, 2005.

Note: Johanna Nilsson was one of the most supremely talented athletes I’ve ever seen. She passed away at age 30 in June 2013 in an apparent suicide.

Nilsson’s run-away cross country championship was no small feat

By Ed Odeven

Winning should be enjoyable for any athlete. Sometimes, though, it’s even more enjoyable for a coach.

Such was the case for NAU cross country coach John Hayes on Nov. 21 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

While at nationals, Hayes witnessed history being made in the women’s 6-kilometer race. Lumberjacks standout Johanna Nilsson took first in a field of 253 runners, setting a course-record of 19 minutes, 34 seconds in the process. Nilsson shared or held the lead for the entire race.

“As a coach, you may or may not ever have another NCAA cross-country champion,” Hayes said, flashing a million-dollar smile a week later. “It’s different than track, where there’s all the events. These are all the best distance runners. So I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach her this year, and if it works out that she’s able to repeat or come close to a repeat, I’ll be more than happy to be there.”

What’s more, Nilsson, a junior, obliterated the competition, winning by an astounding 12.1 seconds.

Is this really a big deal? You betcha.

Let Dr. Jack Daniels, the head distance coach at NAU’s Center for High Altitude Training and one of the world’s foremost running experts, explain why.

“It is not often that a runner can run with the pack, including some very talented runners, for 5,000 meters and in the final 1,000 run away from second place by (almost) 13 seconds,” Daniels said. “You just don’t beat that many good runners by that much in that short a distance.”

It was the fastest time on the course since the 2002 NCAA Championship Race, when North Carolina’s Shalane Flanagan crossed the finish line in 19:36.

In other words, it was an exceptional performance.

Or as Hayes put it: “It’s the best race I’ve seen from her. It was so dominant. It was hard to say she could’ve done better.”

During the race, Hayes ran back and forth on the course’s big loop to observe how the seven Lumberjack runners were doing.

It didn’t take Hayes long to realize Nilsson was having an exceptional day. His eyes and ears told him as much.

“With about 800 (or) 1,000 meters to go, I had heard the announcer say she had gapped the field by 15 meters,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Wow, that happened pretty quickly.’ About two minutes later, that 15 meters had become 80 meters. So I knew she was in pretty good shape.”

A week after her extraordinary triumph, Nilsson didn’t appear to be in a state of glee. In fact, when she spoke to reporters about winning her second national title — she won the indoor mile at the 2002 NCAA Indoor Meet — Nilsson downplayed her win.

“I don’t think I’ve been thinking about it that much,” she said. “I mean you notice it because people come up and (and say) congratulations and all that. It’s fun, I guess, but other than that it’s just school and normal life again.”

Nilsson’s response didn’t surprise her coach.

“She’s got so much ability and she’s worked so hard that she tries not to overemphasize one thing,” said Hayes, a former Russian linguist in the Army. For her, she enjoys winning, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of life. It was nice to win. And so we try not to put too much importance on one race.”

Nilsson competed in five races during the fall season, taking first at the Aztec Invitational, Big Sky Championships, NCAA Mountain Region Championships and nationals. At the Pre-National meet, she placed seventh.

Something was special, though, about Nilsson’s performance Nov. 21. And she knew it as soon as the race began.

“In the race I felt really good all the time,” she says now. “I was, like, positive, of course. .. It was a nice feeling. I was like, ‘Maybe this is going to turn out really good.'”

“I guess I’m pretty either/or, up or down with everything I do, maybe that reflects in racing, too,” she added. “I either have good races or (bad) races. When I’m on, I’m on, and when I’m off, it’s bad.”

And how big a deal was Nilsson’s victory back home? Three Swedish newspapers interviewed her within two hours after her title-winning race.

Nilsson’s older sister, Ida, closed out her collegiate career by winning the 5,000-meter race at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships. She also won the 3,000 steeplechase at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships. And she set more than 25 Big Sky Conference records during her days at NAU. (She’s now in South Africa at a training camp while rehabbing from an injury.)

Does that means Johanna’s success in running has something to do with genetics?

“It’s so hard to figure,” Hayes said. “There’s always the question with great athlete: Is it because they work so hard? Or) is it because they have natural talent? I think you’ve got to have the combination of both, and she’s someone that’s stayed around. She does the extra drills. She does extra stretching where the team is long gone.

“Johanna is doing all the little things to allow her to win in such a dominant fashion.”

Naturally, when she first began participating in running events in her hometown of Kalmar, Sweden, Nilsson enjoyed these activities like other kids enjoy an adventurous game of hide-and-seek.

“It was like you ran (a kilometer) you got an ice cream and candy and you were all happy,” she said. “It wasn’t that competitive.

“You run the 800, you do the 16 (1,600), you do the shot put, and you’re just rushing around. … But then I ended up not being very good at anything else,” she said, laughing.

So she decided to stick with distance running.

It’s unclear, however, if Nilsson’s future will involve competitive running. She did place second at the 2002 Swedish National Cross Country Championship and could probably earn a spot on the 2008 Swedish Olympic team.

“I don’t really have long-term goals,” she said, “because I don’t really function that way too good I guess. So we’ll see what happens.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do,’ like some of the kids have that dream when they are young.”

Is she a future Olympian? I asked Hayes.

“I’m not sure,” he said.

“She’s just trying to figure out what she wants to do in her life, and over the next few years I’m sure it’s going to become more clear,” Hayes said.

Then, he added, “If she wants to be (an Olympian), she will be.”

It’s hard to argue with that conclusion.

High-altitude training, physiotherapy and more

This featured appeared in the May 8, 2004, edition of the Arizona Daily Sun.

Training in all phases

By Ed Odeven

Nobody ever accused Babe Ruth of being in tip-top shape — he was notorious for eating a dozen or more hot dogs in one sitting. Once, the portly, famous home-run hitter consumed 24 frankfurters between games of a doubleheader.

The Sultan of Swat may have done pretty well for himself with his eating habits, but in today’s society it’s common knowledge that high-caliber athletes perform better when they keep in excellent shape.

“I’ve learned that the key to having a good season is staying healthy,” Canadian middle-distance runner Diane Cummins, who recently did a stint at Northern Arizona University’s High Altitude Sports Training Complex, told the Edmonton Sun in a 2001 interview.

“… Being more concerned about my health allowed me to train effectively and consistently.

“There are lots of everyday things I do or don’t do to make sure I am on top of my game.”

A handful of running coaches’ training doctrine is quite unsophisticated — what they tell their pupils can be summed up in two words: run faster.

Others, like Cummins’ coach, Wynn Gmitroski of the Pacific Sport Victoria Endurance Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, develop a more complex fitness regimen.

While running fast is certainly objective No. 1, Gmitroski expects his runners to do more than run wind sprints.

The Pacific Sport team, which completed a month-long training camp at HASTC last week, does yoga, massage therapy and medicine-ball exercises.

A holistic approach to training, the 46-year-old Gmitroski said, is an important part of his coaching. He is a registered physiotherapist who has been coaching for a quarter century.

“He certainly seems to be ahead of the game,” said Pacific Sport’s Andy Brown, a 26-year-old-Scot who runs the 800 and is vying to make the United Kingdom’s Olympic team. “He’s always trying to find out the latest research and the most advanced techniques to make sure we benefit.”

“He tries different things,” Brown continued. “A lot of coaches run the same programs every year, whereas Wynn’s training always seems to progress. It changes as he finds out the latest techniques and finds out more about different things that he can use.”

Teammate Aimee Tetevis concurred.

“I would say Wynn is definitely the most knowledgeable coach I’ve ever worked with,” said Tetevis, who previously starred at Rice University. ” He really actively pursues keeping up to date on new training methods and ideas.”

“He went to a conference in Colorado Springs a few months ago on altitude training,” Tetevis said. “This was before we came here and in preparation for us coming here, so we would have the latest ideas on what the best way to train at altitude is.”


In simple terms, the key to Gmitroski’s training program focuses on rest and recovery, both psychological and physical. He said without proper R&R, athletes cannot maximize their potential.

“I know to try to get fit towards even the best in the world, you’ve got to have support,” said Gmitroski, who owns a sports therapy clinic in Victoria. “You can’t do it yourself. It’s not just a matter of hard physical training, but it’s also what you do in between your training sessions that count. Having the right support makes a big difference.”

The Pacific Sport team, comprised of 10 runners and a support staff of four, utilized six-day training cycles during its recent training camp.

In Flagstaff, the team ran at Lumberjack Stadium, did yoga sessions at the Rolle Activity Center and used saunas and hot tubs at the Flagstaff Athletic Club. The hot tubs and pool, Gmitroski explained, are used for hydrotherapy and contrast therapy. Say what? “They’ll get into the hot tub and then they’ll hop into the pool,” he said. “It’s good to have that contrast, and that improves circulation.”

Two of the six days were spent running at lower altitudes, one day in Camp Verde, the other in Beaver Creek on the trails east of Sedona. On the sixth day, the team rested.

So what are the key aspects of rest and recovery?

Gmitroski broke it down into three primary building blocks:

* Rest (this includes naps and passive rest, during which you are “not doing much” between training sessions).

* Proper hydration (some Pacific Sport athletes drank 10 liters, or 2.6 gallons, of water a day while training in Flagstaff).

* Nutrition (Gmitroski’s athletes are well-versed in the importance of body-weight optimization).

“The lighter you are, the more powerful you are, the better you perform,” Gmitroski said.

Pacific Sport’s top performers who trained here are: Cummins, who is ranked seventh in the world in the women’s 800 and finished sixth at the 2003 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Paris; and up-and-coming Gary Reed, who broke the Canadian indoor record last year in the 800.

The aforementioned standouts and the rest of Pacific Sport’s athletes are gearing up for the Canadian Olympic Trails, which will be held July 9-11 in Victoria, B.C. In the meantime, they are competing all over.

For instance, Pacific Sport runners are competing at the Jamaica International Invitational, a Modesto, Calif., meet; and a low-key meet in British Columbia this weekend. In mid-July they will travel to Arles, France to begin final preparations for the 2004 Athens Games, which will be in August in Athens.

Asked last Sunday, two days before the team’s departure, how the training camp had gone, Gmitroski said, “Every time we come back, we get a little smarter at how we do things. “I’m quite happy with how the camp has gone.”

Added Tetevis, “(This was) the best training of my life I would say, the most intense.”


When he’s not devoting countless hours to his sports therapy clinic or Pacific Sport, Gmitroski has developed another passion: serving as a consultant for Cirque du Soleil.

Gmitroski picked up this intriguing diversion last year after participating in a recovery and regeneration summit in Montreal.

“We spent a week with them brainstorming and looking over their program and making suggestions (about) how they could enhance the (tenure) of the performers in their shows,” he recalled.

For Gmitroski, one of the advantages of being a consultant is that he gets to see many Cirque du Soleil shows. In the past year, he’s seen three of the circus’ nine traveling acts in Las Vegas, another one in Belgium, and one last week: the Varekai show, in Scottsdale.

“It’s just something that’s fun and something on the side that adds a little interest to life,” Gmitroski said.

During Gmitroski’s travels, he’d “spend a day or two with the staff, go out to dinner and they’d pick my brain. They’d just like an outsider’s point of view a lot of times.”


Such things as “(we) look at patterns of injuries … and is it happening because they are not getting enough recovery? Or is it because the stunts they are trying to pull are too dangerous?” Gmitroski revealed.

As much as he said he’s fascinated by seeing time and again the fantasy world of Cirque du Soleil, Gmitroski said these experiences have been beneficial to Pacific Sport.

His staff helped Cirque du Soleil build a special orthotic (foot padding) for a Cirque du Soleil star tumbler who kept having foot problems. It worked so well that they then devised a specialized, lighter orthotic for a runner’s spikes. “As a result, you are going to see faster times,” he said.

“There’s a spin-off between these things and learning to be done,” the coach added.

By all accounts, Gmitroski has learned how to run a productive, well-organized training camp.

“The hard work for the season’s been done,” Gmitroski said. “For 90 percent of them, it’s gone really, really well.”

Credit the coach for steering them in the right direction.

And keeping them away from those hot dogs.

“Water sustains all life. … When water is threatened, all living things are threatened.”

This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on March 2, 2006.


By Ed Odeven

“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds,” someone once said.

For the Hopi Tribe, running is a sacred tradition, a link from the past to the present. It’s an activity that’s been proudly passed on from generation to generation.

Nowadays, Richard Dawavendewa, 39, is one of many individuals committed to preserving the significance of running for Hopis.

“I think at this point and age all we can do is try to carry on the knowledge and the traditions that we do know and make sure that they are being continued and practiced in the right way — how it was meant to be,” Dawavendewa said.

“(Running) should be a habit, a constant, not just an off-and-on approach.”

The Tuba City High School art teacher and cross country coach, is one of more than two dozen Hopis ranging in age from 12 to 74 — Krystyne Sumatzkuku is the youngest, Bob Mac Harris is the elder of the group — who are taking a 2,000-mile trek called the 2006 H2opi To Mexico City Run.

Some New Mexico Pueblo tribes and Ivan Gamble, a Navajo man from LeChee, are also taking part. They will arrive in Mexico on March 15 for the 4th World Water Forum. (See the related story on A2.)

The 14-day journey began Thursday at Coyotes Springs in the Moencopi Village. There was a water-blessing ceremony at sunrise.

Today, the group ran to Zuni, N.M. Saturday’s journey extends from Zuni to Isleta, N.M. Sunday’s trek: Isleta to Truth or Consequence, N.M.

Each of the group’s runners will cover about 15 to 30 miles per day by foot. Support personnel will follow them in vehicles, and after one portion of the group finishes its run for the day another will begin its stage. All in all, they’ll run from dawn till dusk during this grueling journey. Think of it as two-week relay race.

So why are they going to Mexico City?

In short, Dawavendewa’s own experience underscores what’s happened on the Southwest’s native lands.

“I live in an area where we have a lot of local springs that were alive back in my grandfather’s day that are getting used up from the water that was being slurried out of Black Mesa for coal,” said Dawavendewa, who’s from the village of Lower Mungapi. “The (water) table level’s dropped significantly, so a lot of the local springs have dried up.”

As an official press release posted on its Web site, put it: The 4th World Water Forum seeks to raise “the awareness on water issues all over the world. As the main international event on water, it seeks to enable multi-stakeholder participation and dialogue to influence water policy making at a global level, thus assuring better living standards for people all over the world and a more responsible social behavior towards water issues in-line with the pursuit of sustainable development.”

Dawavendewa found out about the H2opi To Mexico City Run in December 2004. It piqued his interest, and then he attended a meeting in his village.

Since then, he’s been actively involved in the group.

“We’ve been helping out with various activities like fundraising, helping with the runs, donating bikes for the runs,” he said at a Flagstaff restaurant over lunch with his wife, Miranda, and their two young children, SiKuyva, 1, and Jacob, 5.

The celebrated artist also created the H2opi group’s official logo. (To help raise money for the H2Opi trip to Mexico, Black Mesa Trust and the H2opi Committee had commemorative T-shirts and sweatshirts made with the following words of wisdom:

“Water sustains all life. Her songs begin in the tiniest of raindrops into flowing rivers, travel to majestic oceans and thundering clouds and back to earth to begin again. When water is threatened, all living things are threatened.”

To prepare for the demanding physical rigors of this trip, Dawavendewa has increased his workouts and competitions in recent months. Last March, he ran in the Valley of the Sun Marathon. In January, he completed in the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half-Marathon with his oldest son, 16-year-old Lance. Dawavendewa completed the race in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 49 seconds. Also, he recently ran the 90 or so miles from Lower Mungapi to Dilkon in one day, he said.

“All those races were part of my preparation, in mileage and in different distances,” said Dawavendewa, who averages about 7 minutes per mile for shorter races but slows down his pace for longer treks.

The 1984 TCHS graduate points to his upbringing as a major factor as to why he still runs.

“I’ve been running for a long time just for the enjoyment of it,” he said.

In eighth grade, he began racing competitively and was a member of Tuba City’s junior varsity team in his first three years of high school.

After graduation, he moved to Phoenix and began racing on a regular basis.

In those days, he ran a race “at least one every weekend,” Dawavendewa said with a hint of pride in his voice.

“(I ran) mainly for me, for my enjoyment, challenging myself, different mileage, different road races, (including) marathons and half-marathons.”

These days, the NAU and University of North Dakota graduate (he earned two undergraduate degrees at the former, and a master’s in fine arts at the latter) actively embraces the way running keeps young and old physically fit.

He spoke about Sumatzkuku, the 12-year-old runner, and Harris, the 74-year-old, with equal admiration, detailing the youngster’s dedication and Harris’ legendary status on the Hopi Reservation.

“During the basket dance at lunchtime, they have these races that are footraces, … Bob Mac is always a constant presence in running those. Because of his stature, he just gets more recognition that way.

“He’s always beating somebody,” Dawavendewa said of Harris, laughing.

Basket-dance races are held in the autumn as part of the harvest celebration at various villages, including Shungopavi.

“They can be pretty challenging,” he said. “Not only the terrain, but the distance as well. For example in the village of Shungopavi, they go up that back side of the mesa, and that mesa is steep. You just literally stop and try to get up that hill.

“It’s all in dirt. It’s all literally cross country, running through the bushes. Literally climbing up the back side of the mesa.”

Just like it was centuries ago for Hopi runners.

In those days, “running was actually a means of carrying messages to other villages at that time,” Dawavendewa said. “We didn’t have any cars or roads or anything like that. So you needed to get your strongest runners out there to carry a message from one village to the next.”

Today, he said, an equally important message is this:

“…As you grow up, you do see the changes that have been made and you try to preserve what you can.”

The same is true about water.


In an article posted on, Dan Brannen details some of the most significant milestones that were recorded by Hopi runners. He writes:

“The Hopi Indians particularly have many stories told of their running prowess. Walter Hough described a Hopi Indian running 65 miles in eight hours, from Oraibi Pueblo (Oraivi) to Winslow, before turning around and running home. George Wharton James wrote in 1903 that on several occasions he had employed a young man to take a message to (Oraivi) to Keams Canyon, a distance of 72 miles, and that he had run the entire way and back within 36 hours. Another Hopi, Letayu, carried a note from Keams Canyon to Fort Wingate and returned, covering over 200 miles in three days. …

“The most famous of the Hopi Indians was Louis Tewanima, who won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters in the 1912 Olympics, and finished ninth in the 1908 Olympic Marathon. In his younger days he would reputedly run from his home to Winslow and back, some 120 miles, just to watch the trains pass.”

A profile of iconic mentor Jack Daniels, aka “the world’s best (running) coach”

This feature appeared in the July/August 2005 issue of Cross Country Journal

By Ed Odeven

It’s June 20, 2005. Jack Daniels isn’t ready for retirement. He’s ready for a new challenge. And so, the day after an interview with this correspondent, he was to meet with movers at his upstate New York home.

The next destination: Flagstaff, Arizona. It is here where Dr. Daniels, formerly the cross country coach at State University of New York at Cortland, will begin his new job, July 1st, as the head coach for the U.S. Distance Running Program at Northern Arizona University’s Center for High Altitude Training. He will also spearhead the Center’s Community Olympic Development Program.

In short, Daniels’ decades of experience as a world-renowned coach, author, and consultant (to Jim Ryun, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Ken Martin, among others) will be put to use in a new locale. And for the man who’s been called “the world’s best coach,” by Runner’s World Magazine, it’s his goal to help elite-level athletes maximize their training and help promising athletes blossom under his tutelage.

“I’m really excited about it,” the septuagenarian says. “There are several things I hope to accomplish. One os being able to help relocate athletes that want to come here and train. Another is to get something going to really expand what is available for all the people in the community, whether it’s old kids, young kids, or adults who want to get fitter and involved in running. I’m really interesting in seeing what we can do.

“My whole life has been geared around fitness,” he continues. “I’m really kind of disappointed with how unfit we are as a nation. I guess I’d like to see Flagstaff take the lead and make a genuine commitment to fitness, so they could say this is the fittest community in the United States. All we’ve got to do is go out and do something.”

For his entire life, Daniels has been a go-getter. As a high school student in Redwood City, California, Daniels was eager to participate in the school’s athletic programs. “Looking back on those days, we were just extremely fit at out high school,” he says.

Six years after Daniels graduate from Sequoia High School, classmates Tim Goran and Bob Cooper were representing the United States in diving and water polo, respectively. And Daniels was a member of the 1956 and 1960 USA Olympic squads as a heptathlete. He won a silver medal in his first Olympiad even though he was originally selected as an alternate (a teammate broke his leg in a horseback riding accident, sending Jack to the Olympics.)

Being a two-time Olympian opened doors for Daniels. He studied in Sweden, did research on high altitude training in Mexico City in the 1960s and later spent a years as a consultant to the Peruvian national team.

Over the years, Daniels’ philosophy has been guided by the belief that everybody deserves an opportunity. “This is another opportunity,” he says of his efforts to establish the program in Arizona, including outreach to Native American tribes in the area. “The ability is up to individuals and parents. You have to make the opportunity available to as many people as you can. The final ingredient is direction and hopefully we can offer that to anybody who is interested.”

Daniels commended organizations such as Wings of America and individuals like Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, whom he’s known since 1960, for their efforts in promoting running for Native Americans. “I think there is a lot that can be done,” he admits, “and they are doing a lot right now.”

His future efforts will include education young people and their parents about running and the benefits of fitness. “I’m sure most of them already know about that,” he says, “but need a little boost or confirmation.”

Nowadays, Daniels runs 20-30 minutes every day. “Some days I’ll go a little more,” he says. “Haven’t missed a day in six years.” It’s this commitment to running that goes well beyond his doctorate in exercise physiology and his book, “Daniels’ Running Formula.”

Sean Anthony, the Center’s assistant director, said, “The hiring of Dr. Daniels provides us great leverage in increasing the success of distance running for USA Track and Field. He will be a considerable resource person for Northern Arizona University as a whole, and his presence will likely provide some interesting opportunities for faculty and students in such areas as biology and exercise science.”

Daniels will be a featured speaker July 28 during the altitude center’s Distance Coaching Classic, a two-day seminar for coaches to hear about high altitude training, racing theory, overtraining, sports nutrition, sports psychology and other key topics.

In the Grand Canyon State, Daniels plans to build a strong base of core runners for the short term, but hopes in the long run to have a core group here in Flagstaff for training during most of the year.

Among the athletes who have already expressed an interested in training at Flagstaff are:

Magdalena Louis, 5th in Olympic Trials in 2004.

Heather Tanner.

Amy Begley, a 5,000-meter runner.

Peter Gilmore, who was recently selected to run for the U.S. in August at the World Marathon Championships in Helsinki.

“And there are several others. We’ll see after nationals coming up,” he says. “We’ll be talking to some of the athletes.”

“In all my years of altitude research and training distance runners, I can’t imagine a better place for this type of program. The weather and the environment are ideal, facilities are outstanding, and there is a group of individuals involved and they are very experienced and successful in working with elite and emerging athletes. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I hope I am able to help increase interest and success in running and in exercise in general.”

Under Daniels’ tutelage, Cortland runners captured seven NCAA Division III national championships, 24 individual national titles and more than 110 All-American awards.