A newfound ‘Joy’ for runners

For more than 700 runners, the Fourth of July means more than parades and parties. It means Four on the Fourth, the annual four-mile road race in Chester sponsored by Chester Rotary on July 4.

And if any of the runners want to do a little reading to help gear up for the race, Dominick Bosco of Chester has a suggestion, "The Joy of Running." The book by Thaddeus Kostrubala, originally published by J.J. Lippincott in 1976, was recently reissued, this time self-published by Kostrubala and edited by Bosco.

The 37-year gap between the original issue and the republication poses no problem, according to Bosco.

"The book was ahead of its time. Its message is still alive and meaningful today," he says.

And that message is simple: run, run and then run some more. Run marathons not to set records, but to experience the unadulterated delight of a runner's high and the insight that comes with undertaking the challenge of the marathon.

"Slow-distance running is the path to self-discovery," Bosco says.

According to Bosco, running is now going through a second period of great popularity. After the running boom in the 1970s, enthusiasm waned. But now, interest is once again peaking, at least judging by statistics about who finishes races. Today twice as many men finish races as did 20 years ago; the number of women finishing races in the last two decades has taken a more dramatic jump, from less than 1 million to more than 7 million.

Posting a good time, Bosco noted, is not the point of a marathon. It is the personal liberation that comes from running long distances. Bosco emphasized that the key to experiencing the joy, the freedom and even the personality change that running can bring, is running a marathon.

"You just don't get that experience running three to five miles; a marathon is the highest experience in running," Bosco said.

But there is good news. "If you can run three to five miles, you can run a marathon. Your heart and lungs have the air to do it," he says. "After that, it is just training muscles and joints and building endurance."

Kostrubala, an overweight, sedentary psychiatrist, took up running more than 40 years ago at the suggestion of his doctor who labeled him a heart attack risk. He hated running at first, but somewhere along the painful path to fitness he discovered an inner joy in his daily exercise. So great was his belief in the healing power of a good run, he began to use it as a medical tool, running with his patients rather than seeing them lying on the traditional psychiatrist's couch. He became what his nickname made clear: the running doctor.

Kostrubala called his theory "paleoanalysis," reflecting his belief that the urge to run was embedded in human pre-history. He argued that running stimulated the brain growth that turned proto-humanoids into human beings.

"It was the first book to draw parallels between running and evolution and what running means to a human being," Bosco says.

Bosco interviewed Kostrubala, now in his 80s, when "The Joy of Running" first came out. At the time, Bosco was an editor at health magazine Prevention. Over the years, the two became friends and fellow runners. They have even run marathons together. Bosco has completed 10, never running faster than his first in Honolulu: 4 hours and 55 minutes. Kostrubala, whom Bosco refers to as Tad, has run some 40.

The reissued "Joy of Running" contains some updated statistical material as well as a revised introduction and an entirely new after forward. In the afterword, Kostrubala writes about what has brought the marathon to the front pages of newspapers of late: the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

"When I heard about Boston, I contacted Tad and said we had to write something about it," Bosco recalls.

Kostrubala maintains that running a marathon is an expression of freedom and defiance of tyranny dating back to the very first marathon, where legend has it, a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran some 26 miles to inform the Athenians that their democracy had withstood the invasion of the much larger Persian army. (Having delivered his message, the story is that Pheidippides fell down dead.).

"The message is we will run, we will run for Boston," Kostrubala wrote.

IF YOU RUN

What: Four on the Fourth road race, sponsored by the Chester Rotary

When: Race starts at 9 a.m. Day of race registration is from 7 to 8:30 a.m.

Where: St. John's Parish Center on Route 154, Chester.

Information: www.chesterrotary.org

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