Your Bi-Weekly Running News Roundup!

Posted by Filed Under: News and Opinion

hot_off_press.jpgRunners Count

A survey in Portfolio magazine confirms what you probably already knew: Runners have clout. The economic effect of the World Series (which can last up to seven days) pales in comparison to the New York City Marathon (one day). The economic impact of the 2003 Series was $62.1 million, while that year’s marathon generated approximately $140 million in expenditures. Portfolio notes that the NYC Marathon is the city’s highest grossing single-day event. Last year’s Marine Corps Marathon generated $31 million in spending, more than that produced by the 2004 and 2005 World Series combined. Now you know why local authorities like to impose such high taxes on hotel rooms, restaurant meals, and rental cars.

For Runners, Bigger ≠ Faster

Gina Kolata of the New York Times examines how body size plays a role in athletic performance. Looking at the winners of your local road race confirms her findings: the best runners tend to be small and light. The bigger you are, the more effort is required to drive you along. There are exceptions, of course. Robert Cheruiyot, the winner of this year’s Boston Marathon, is 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m), but only 143 pounds (65 kg). I’m about the same height and figure that I can match his weight if I cut off my right leg.

Don’t Go it Alone

Although I’m a member of a running club, I’ve always run alone. I never train in a group. I don’t listen to music when I run, either. Kolata has a wonderful piece explaining why I should reconsider. Running with others provides a way to share experiences and learn new things. She notes that many people find that they create an entire new circle of friends, completely separate and distinct from their other friends.

The Quest for a Healthier Donut

A tip of the hat to Jeanne for forwarding me a terrific article from the Boston Globe on Dunkin’ Donuts efforts to produce a donut free of trans fats. Trans fats are produced through hydrogenation, the process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. Hydrogenation allows liquid oils to remain solid at room temperature (e.g., Crisco, which was originally made from cottonseed oil). Trans fats are ideal for producing certain baked goods and they also increase the shelf life of products. Unfortunately, like many things that taste good, they have some unfortunate side effects. They raise the LDL, or bad cholesterol, in your body.

Thus food producers and restaurants are under increasing pressure from governments and non-governmental organizations to reduce or eliminate trans fats from food. The Food and Drug Administration calls saturated fats are the “main dietary culprit” that raises LDL cholesterol, but no one is in a rush to ban butter, whole milk, or meat. So, what did Dunkin’ Donuts do? It came up with a new type of frying oil, made from a blend of oils. The article notes that the oil still has the same amount of fat, “it just redistributes trans fats into saturated fats.”

Should Sports Drinks be Regulated?

To some extent, we need government intervention in the market for food. Consumers deserve assurances that the food they buy is safe to eat. Recently, however, we have seen greater regulation by government, particularly at the state and local levels. Montgomery County, Maryland, has recently banned trans fats in restaurants because of the rise in obesity. If regulators are determined to put an end to obesity, maybe they’ll be pushing for a seat at your table next. Now we have proposed federal legislation that will set standards for foods and drinks that schools sell outside of cafeterias. Some groups are pushing to ban sales of sports drinks like Gatorade, as well as flavored waters, such as VitaminWater. Are we looking at a future where sports drinks are “controlled substances,” available only at road races? Don’t laugh, the Institute of Medicine issued a report urging that “sports drinks be made available in schools only to student-athletes participating in more than one hour of vigorous activity.”

Quick Hits

The Los Angeles Times reviews new exercise equipment designed to add variety to your normal gym routine. How about a bosu ball filled with pellets? Or maybe a machine designed to simulate rope climbing? The Austin American-Statesman looks at athletes who participate in ultra-endurance events, such as ultramarathons and extremely long bike races. What happens when training becomes more important than work or family? Jen Murphy of the Wall Street Journal profiles Jack LaLanne (subscription required). He’s 92 years old, but can still kick your ass. I don’t agree with all of his dietary advice—he takes much of the joy out of food and wine. Meals are more than opportunities to ingest nutrients. (For a dissenting view on the role of cholesterol in the diet, look at this from the Los Angeles Times.)

  1. 21stCenturyMom on October 3rd at 12:08 pm

    What great information -I love your weekly roundup.

    I’m disturbed at the direction nutritional guidelines are going in. If kids ate well for the standard 3 meals a day and had ample opportunity to run around outdoors they would need a bag of chips or a Gatorade as a snack. The problem isn’t the snacks – it’s the garbage kids are fed for meals and a country where it isn’t safe for them to play outside. Too much fat, too much food, too little exercise. A mid afternoon bottle of Gatorade is not the problem.

  2. Jon (was) in Michigan on October 3rd at 7:51 pm

    Once again Dunkin Donuts has missed the mark. Not that they could do otherwise since they sell complete poison anyway. But replacing the trans fat with saturated fat just exchanges one evil for another. In all the fury about trans fats, we seem to have decided that saturated fat is now healthy for you simply from the virtue of not being trans fat. The truth is that eating donuts made from saturated fat is still bad for your body and your health, and no amount of goodwill advertising about the evils of trans fat will change that simple fact.

  3. RunFlux on October 4th at 3:58 am

    It comes down to the psychology of the marketing.. If a sugar-laden drink is marketed as sporty, that suggests healthy, and a non-sporty kid trying to do the ‘right thing’ will choose it over Coke because it seems a healthier option. Either that or it allows individuals to rationalize their choice and salve their conscience: ‘I know this is packed full of sugar, but hey, it says sport on the side – so it’s not my fault’.

  4. Your Running News Roundup » Complete Running Network on November 14th at 6:58 am

    […] About a month ago I passed along a story about how Dunkin’ Donuts was trying to create a donut that was free of trans fats. The company eventually succeeded, but the new donut has the same amount of total fat as the old one—the trans fats have been replaced by saturated fats. As you might suspect, Dunkin’ Donuts is not alone in this. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that other companies are doing the same thing. Kellogg swapped the trans fats in its Eggo waffle for palm oil, which is high in saturated fats. Kraft did the same thing with Oreo cookies. As the Journal notes, “The biggest danger of the trans-fat swap-out could be that consumers will eat more junk food because they think it’s healthier.” […]