Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Another Reason to Run Cross-Country: Shinrin-Yoku

Belmont Plateau Cross-Country Course, Philadelphia, PA
One of the things cross-country runners love best about their sport is the feeling of running freely through woods and forests. They just know it is good for them.
 Doctors in some East Asia countries are now prescribing what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku or "forest bathing"-- using the senses to soak up the sights, smells and sounds of the of the woods.
  Scientists at the University of East Anglia analyzed the findings of more than 140 studies involving nearly 300 million people from 20 countries including the U.S, Spain, Australia, and Japan.
They found that spending more time outside in nature or leaving near green spaces including urban parks is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, early death and high blood pressure, as well as with better sleep and stronger feelings of well-being.
Image result for redwood forest race
Running through Redwoods National Park, California
  In a report in "Forest bathing is already popular as a therapy in Japan and South Korea. The Study's author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennet says, "Our study shows that they have the right idea."
Breathing in phytoncides, which are organized compounds emitted by trees may stimulate our immune systems and reduce inflammation.
Twohig-Bennet says the study found concrete evidence that green space "significantly reduces people's levels of salivary cortisol- a physiological marker of stress."
Of course, cross-country running is one of the few sports to routinely offer this benefit.
Start of a Gloucester Catholic Cross-Country Meet in New Jersey

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Runners Gazette Interview: Browning Ross: The Father of American Distance Running book

Runners Gazette spent a few minutes with Jack Heath to talk about his book Browning Ross: The Father of American Distance Running.
Runners Gazette: How long did it take you to write Browning Ross?
Jack Heath: It took a little over five years. A lot of that time was research. I was working three jobs for much of that span. There were some weeks where I spent a lot of time on gathering information and interviews before I could write.
RG: You had a close relationship with Browning; did anything surprise you about Browning while working on the book?
JH: Three things. First, I was surprised at the number of races he won and the variety of distances. “Barefoot” Charlie Robbins, another national championship runner from the 1950 has called Browning the most versatile runner of all time. I can see why after seeing the results. He competed against a number of Olympic caliber athletes every race, which made the races, wins even more impressive. Olympians Curt Stone, Ted Vogel, Horace Ashenfelter, Gordon Mackenzie, Pete McArdle, Ted Corbitt, Alex Breckenridge, the Kelley’s, John Joe Barry etc. were in all these races so a second place finish might be a tremendous accomplishment. None of these runners ducked each other—the correspondence shows they would invite each other to races.
There are thousands of runners in the big races today but if you scan the top finishers, you don’t often see the same caliber of competition at the top except for races like Berwick. I think the high entry fees scare off many of the top college and high school runners who used to run road races.
Second, I was surprised by the number of races he put on single handedly. For as long as I knew him he put on weekly races but he also put on all-comers track meets, road races and cross-country races going back to the 1950’s.
The third thing that surprised me was what a pioneer he was for women’s running. He started the Road Runners Club of America of course which led to more running opportunities for women, but he was also suspended by the AAU for permitting women to run in races. He was also a life-long advocate for women runners through his race directing, coaching and the columns he wrote in the Long Distance Log and the Gloucester County Times newspapers.
RG: What was the most challenging part of the research for the book?
JH: I interviewed many people and some people never responded. A few others, like some of Browning’s teammates, and Sir Roger Bannister weren’t able to provide much information because of failing memories. Unfortunately I waited too long to contact them, but I was able to contact many of Browning’s peers among many others in trying to present a well-rounded look at Browning’s life.
RG: Can you give us an anecdote that you did not use in the book?
JH: Browning’s friend and Woodbury teammate, the Actor Roscoe Lee Browne, was filming a movie in the South and one of the local people remarked to him between takes that “he spoke good English.” Roscoe replied, “Thank you, it’s my mother tongue.” Of course, Roscoe was the top ranked 800 meter, 1000 yard runner in the world at one time and was renowned for his rich voice and diction.
RG: This April marked the 20th anniversary of Browning’s passing. What do you think would please Browning most about the state of American running today? Do you think there is anything about today’s running that might be a disappointment?
JH: Without a doubt, he would be thrilled with the tremendous increase in women’s participation. Nationally, women are the majority of road race participants. He would pooh-pooh, any credit but he deserves some of the credit for the dramatic evolution of women’s participation in running. I think he would also be thrilled with the explosion of youth running—especially middle school cross-country participation.
Since Browning wanted to see everyone run, I think he would be disappointed in the high race entry fees, and online race sign-ups for the top races that fill up in minutes.
RG: What do you think about Browning’s legacy?
JH: Browning’s legacy continues. I hope the book will help. I recently attended the South Jersey Track Hall of Fame of which Browning is a member. A handful of the inductees mentioned Browning in their talks this year, and mentioned how he helped give them their start. The seeds he planted continue to sprout!
Browning Ross: Father of American Distance Running available on Amazon and Barnes and

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Browning Ross: Father of American Distance Running makes multiple "Best Running Books" Lists

2 Time Olympian Browning Ross coached cross-country and track at Gloucester Catholic High School  (NJ) from 1972 to 1998. He also coached both sports at Woodbury and Woodrow Wilson High Schools (NJ), and at Rutgers University and St. Joseph's University.
Olympian Browning Ross and Dave Williams (Gloucester Catholic and Georgetown great) at the Penn Relays
  Ross was an All American in the Steeplechase and Cross-Country while running  for Jumbo Elliott at Villanova University He was an 8 time National Champion Runner after his graduation and was also the first US International Cross-Country Team Coach. Ross started the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), and founded the first National Running Magazine "The Long Distance Log."

  Browning Ross was an advocate for running opportunities for everyone in an age when only elite men were encouraged to run. He was briefly suspended by the AAU for permitting women to run in one of the thousands of races he directed.

  A gold medal winner at the 1951 Pan Am Games, and a 10 time winner of the Berwick Run for the Diamonds, Browning was able to inspire and influence thousands of runners personally as well as the millions of runners who never met him but profited from the "Running Boom" he was largely responsible for starting through his pioneering efforts.

Browning passed away on  April 27, 1998 after officiating the Penn Relays,  one day after his 74th birthday.

  Browning Ross's biography, "Browning Ross: Father of American Distance Running" has made a number of "Best Running Books" lists including:

"One of the 10 best running books of the year." Runners World Magazine:

"A great book."  Running Journal:


"3 Running biographies to read." Run Ohio Magazine:

"10 books every passionate runner should read and remember." Just Run:

"Awesome Father's Day Gifts for Dad's Who Run":

"This book is a treasure." Runners Gazette:

"Well written and thoroughly documented, Heath's book does Ross justice." South Jersey Times/
Rutgers Magazine:

Catholic Star Herald:

South Jersey Observer:

South Jersey Sports Digest:

 "Browning Ross: Father of American Distance Running" is available through Amazon, and by special order at other bookstores.