It's that time of year when runners return to the streets in large numbers.
Which means it's time to think about stretching.
Some warm-up time is always a good idea before a run of any sort -- particularly a race -- but some people don't know how to warm up, and how long to do it.
Michael Adesso, director of physical therapy and athletic training at University Sports Medicine in Williamsville, as well as a contributor to The News' Life and Arts section, starts with the good news.
"You only need to warm up for as little as 10 to 12 minutes," he said.
But you have to make sure it's the right type of warm-up. Adesso told the recent Runner's Medical Forum at the University at Buffalo that runners shouldn't grab their ankles and pull them up to touch the back of their thighs -- which is the stereotyped pose for a runner's prerace stretch.
"That shuts down your nervous system," he said. "It doesn't prepare you for what you are about to do."
Adesso is a believer in doing exercises that mirror the activity, which makes a great deal of sense. In this case, that includes a little light running.
Try some of these exercises:
*Make a variety of chopping motions with your arms -- first up and down, then on a diagonal, and finally from side to side.
*Do leg lunges, in which you'll squat down a bit into a lunge position and then take exaggerated steps and swing your arms while keeping your chest up. A mere 10 to 15 yards on lunging will do.
*Grab on to something and swing one leg forward and backward like a pendulum, and then repeat with the other leg. Repeat 15 times. To get even closer to the running motion, bend the knee when the leg comes forward.
Adesso believes slow, steady stretching can wait -- "afterwards or on the next day," he said.
Books about actual events in American distance running -- as opposed to instructional volumes -- are relatively rare. When a good one comes out, it should be celebrated.
That's the case for "Duel in the Sun," John Brant's book on one of the most famous races on American soil, the 1982 Boston Marathon.
In that race, Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley left the rest of the field behind a few miles in and essentially went neck-and-neck the rest of the way. They were separated by only a couple of seconds at the end.
The book covers the race, of course, but it also reviews the running careers of the two men before and after the competition. What's interesting, in hindsight, is that neither man was the same after that amazing battle.
Beardsley was involved in a farm machinery accident in 1989, and he became addicted to pain killers. Salazar, the world's best at the time, never regained his form. He later fell into depression, had a spiritual experience overseas, tried ultramarathons, and moved into coaching young people.
American distance running really hasn't been the same since that race in terms of world standing, so it's interesting to look back in that sense. But this also is a fine human-interest tale of two people who had to deal with unexpected adversity and who happened to be runners.
Brant cruises through the story in no time, so it's a pleasant, easy read. "Duel in the Sun" is worth your time.
Change in plans
It didn't take long for the Runner of the Year calendar to change slightly.
The Subaru 4-Mile Chase, originally scheduled for Saturday, July 15, has been shifted to Friday, July 14. Race director Jim Nowicki says he wants to see if a Friday night will work better for runners and volunteers alike.
Buffalo State Bengal Run, 5K, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave., 9:30 a.m., March 25, 878-6001. . . . Marilla Miles for Smiles, 5K, Marilla Primary School, 11683 Bullis Road, Marilla, 10 a.m., March 25, 207-1244. . . . Bemus Point 5K, Long Point State Park, Bemus Point (Route 430), 9 a.m., March 26, 488-0788. . . . Shoes for the Shelter 5K, Canisius College, 2001 Main St., Noon, March 26, 888-2977. . . . Nancy Price Power Run, 5K, Veterans Park, Youngstown, 9:45 a.m., April 1, 745-3606. . . . Run Against Hunger, 5K, D'Youville College, 320 Porter Ave., 10 a.m., April 1, 881-7786. . . . Young Life 5K, Hamburg Wesleyan Church, S4999 McKinley Pkwy., Hamburg, 11 a.m., April 1, 572-1625.