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January 22, 2017

Standing at the Inauguration compared to marathon running

This week was an historic week with the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The coverage was on almost every television station, other than the cable channels like HBO, Showtime and ESPN. There was a lot going on, with all the pomp and ceremony that viewers were watching.

Of all that was happening, my runner’s thought process kicked in over one of the unnoticed parts of these festivities. People in attendance were standing in large groups for anywhere from four to six hours before the ceremonies. Police, military personnel and security people were also standing in position for the same, or even greater, time periods.

How does this relate to a runner’s mindset, you might ask?

I started to relate how long it takes a person to run a marathon to those individuals standing during the ceremonies. While the lead runners in a marathon arrive at the finish line in a little over two hours, over 50 percent of the runners come in at over four hours; and 50 percent of them don’t cross the line until after five or six hours.

My first marathon took 3:45 and left my legs locked up to where I could not step up on a curb. I trained a good number of people to run a marathon and told them, “Follow me and we will run a marathon in 3:30.” I paced some runners to run a four-hour marathon, and even a few to walk a seven-hour marathon. That is a substantial time frame to be out on the pavement doing exercise.

I started to compare the difference between standing for four or five hours to running for four or five hours. When I ran a marathon, it was at times difficult; but I always managed to finish and feel good. There have been times when I have had to stand in line for over an hour; and it was harder on me than the running was - or so it seemed.

I had a friend that I trained with to run marathons, and he also played soccer – a 90-minute game. He took a job at a retail store over the Christmas holidays where most of his day was just standing. He almost quit the job, as just standing was harder for him than all the running.

I relate standing in line to a similar difference between riding a bike outside versus sitting on a stationary bike in a gym. The bike ride may be several hours in time. The longest I have been able to ride a stationary bike is 20 minutes.

Thinking that the effort for both moving to run a marathon, or going for a long bike ride, involves the legs the same as standing up without moving. The main difference is that the muscles used for running are contracting, relaxing, contracting and moving blood from the muscles to the heart and brain.

Standing has the muscles in a semi-isometric contraction, with no chance to relax or change stress on them. When a muscle contracts, it moves the blood through the body to counteract the pull of gravity. Standing in place often finds the blood hanging around the legs, and not moving on like when the muscles contract and relax. There have been a few times when a ceremonial guard has passed out because of a lack of blood flow to the brain.

One other area that is different is the stress on the feet. While running may produce up to five times the runner’s body weight when they are in contact with the ground, there is also a short time where that is no weight bearing, and muscle contraction keeps things moving.

Standing in place has the same body weight as what you were when you stepped on a scale that morning. The difference is that there is no relief in the muscles, and no change in the pressure on the feet the entire time. If the knees are locked, blood just seems to pool in the lower legs and not move on to the brain.

There was a lot going on at the inauguration, but my thoughts were with the individuals that had to stand in place for those hours; and my hat went off to them, as it was something that to me is harder than running or biking for the same amount of time.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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