Archive for August, 2009

NYT: Wiggling their toes at the shoe giants

It’s a revolution… The Barefoot Revolution!


August 30, 2009 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

“Take a look, it’s in a book…”

Via kottke: Reading Rainbow is going off the air today after 26 years, making it the third longest running show on PBS (after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers Neighborhood).

August 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm 1 comment

Update: (One of) The Most Difficult Runs… IN THE WORLD! A trail runner’s rating guide

Republished from one of my older, now-defunct blogs (originally posted November 2007); was recently featured at, an athlete-generated website focused on endurance trail running and racing.

One of the difficult — and appealing — things about trail running versus road running is the near-impossibility of comparing various routes and races of equal distances.

In 2004, Scott Jurek set the course record in the Western States 100 ultramarathon with a time of 15 hours and 36 minutes. The course record for the Wasatch 100 was set in 2005 by Karl Meltzer with a time of 19 hours and 45 minutes which was broken in ‘07 by Kyle Skaggs with a time of 19:35. In 2008, Kyle Skaggs broke Scott Jurek’s course record at the Hardrock 100 by almost 3 hours with a time of 23 hours and 23 minutes. So in three different 100 mile races, the course records vary by almost 8 hours!

In contrast, the difference in the course records among the Boston and New York City marathon is 21 seconds; adding the London marathon to the mix, the difference in course records is less than two minutes.


Lest people think us crazy trail runners are simply looking to enjoy nature, let me disabuse you of this notion. We are a competitive type, too. We just mask our ambition under stained and tattered “Running Is Life” t-shirts.

Until now, though, there has not been a real good way to measure, rate, and compare trail runs. A winning trail marathon time could be sub-three hours, or closer to four. What to do? Thanks to Jim Vernon, lead coach of The Endurables, we now have a reliable trail rating system.

Simply create a ratio of accumulated ascent/descent divided by distance.

Easy to measure the not-so-easy. The need for this kind of system came from a trail run we recently did that can only be described as epic. It was a 28-mile route. The first 9 miles had 3,800 feet of climbing. After 15 miles, we had climbed 6,700 feet. At the end of the run — finally! — we had ascended and descended over 23,000 feet. Holy cow!

To say this 28-mile run was tiring is the understatement of the year. It was utterly exhausting, even demoralizing at some points. As a consolation prize, Coach Jim said it was certainly one of the most difficult runs we would ever run and one of the most difficult anyone in the world would ever run. Just how difficult? Drumroll, please…

Utilizing Coach Jim’s trail rating system, our 28-miler had a difficulty rating of 821. (!) No Few organized runs, even those that brand themselves as the hardest or most difficult in the world, comes close to matching its difficulty. (Additionally, Coach Jim looked at the cut off times for each race and converted them to a 28 mile distance. I ran this beast of a training run in 5 hours and 15 minutes.)

Hardrock 100 – Rating: 679 Cut Off: 13:25

Diablo 50 – Rating: 535 Cut Off: 8:58

Wasatch 100 – Rating: 523 Cut Off: 10:04

Angels Crest 100 Rating: 483 Cut Off: 9:20

Western States 100 Rating: 400 Cut Off: 8:25

As for the Boston Marathon and the legendary Heartbreak Hill? It registers as a speedbump. It’s difficult rating is a pedestrian 98.

[Update: A number of readers have used Coach Jim’s rating system to identify incredibly epic and difficult trail runs, including the Barkley, with a rating of 1,040, and MMD50km in New Hampshire, with a rating of 1,062. Keep the ratings coming, everyone! Post them in the comments so we can start to gather a list of the truly most difficult runs in the world.]

If interested in tackling this brutal, epic 28-mile run, contact Coach Jim at The Endurables for a map. Good luck. Pack a lunch. And a GPS cell phone. Write down some personal affirmations and reasons you love trail running. When your spirit is broken, break-out these items. Eat some food. Find some motivation to keep going. And if you can’t will yourself to push on and up, call a helicopter to get you home and into a La-Z-Boy.

Note: commentators at have suggested that the formula be tweaked to take into account weather and altitude. No doubt Coach Jim will come out with a “trail running rating guide, v. 2.0.”

Run With It!
J.R. Atwood

August 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm 6 comments

Boston Globe: Pressure-cooker kindergarten

A new emphasis on testing and test preparation — brought on by politicians, not early education experts — is hurting the youngest students.

More here.

August 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

MC SpandX. ‘Nuff said.

August 27, 2009 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

The Atlantic: Fixing lunch

“Food directors are quietly making real progress. Jean Ronnei uses a central kitchen to make from-scratch meals for the 40,000 students in the St. Paul, Minnesota, school system, and removed a-la carte junk food. Her program runs in the black, and her success was a large part of an analysis by economists at the University of Minnesota that came to a contrarian conclusion: ‘Healther school meals are possble without higher government spedning to fund nutrition education programs or increased reimbursement rates.’ Labor costs may go up, but only initially — and food costs go down.”

More here.

August 27, 2009 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

ASCD: What would Socrates say?

Is Socratic inquiry the life jacket that could save students from drowning in a sea of trivia?

Peter W. Cookson Jr. (“What Would Socrates Say?”) may not think you can Twitter your way to enlightenment, but, he does think teachers can blend the best of traditional intellectual linear culture with the current digital culture to meet the cognitive and expressive demands of the 21st century.

Specifically, he lays out “four elements of the 21st century mind” as the basis for a Socratic-anchored sea change in education: critical reflection, empirical reasoning, collective intelligence, and metacognition.

Students need the tools to understand the world before they can change it. Cookson’s hybrid of Socratic inquiry shaped by immersive technologies dismantles the false dichotomy of learning environments and the “real world.”

How do you support 21st century minds in your classroom?

More here.

August 27, 2009 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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