When it comes to running-related subjects, Owen Anderson is the equivalent of a one-man track team.
The Lansing, Mich., resident coaches several elite runners. He’s written four books on running, including the soon-to-be-released “Running Science.” Anderson is the race director of the Lansing Marathon. He runs a non-profit organization that promotes activity by children in Lansing schools as well as a program that helps families in strife-torn areas of Kenya.
What’s more, since he has a Ph.D. in zoology from Michigan State, Anderson can even identify the animals that might be seen while out on a long run in the country.
“I guess I’m still hoping to find a way for running to pay the bills,” he said with a laugh.
That all makes him a good choice to be part of a “speakers bureau” that will take place at the Buffalo Marathon’s Expo at the Buffalo Convention Center on May 25, the day before the marathon.
The collection of speakers is another sign that the Buffalo Marathon continues to grow up, little by little. This is the first time the race has hosted a group of speakers. Anderson was a good choice for inclusion, since he knows the way from Lansing to Buffalo.
“I’ve been there many times. I love it. It’s a lovely city,” Anderson said about Buffalo. “I love the running community there. I was there last summer for the Subaru race, coaching some elite athletes.”
Anderson obviously could have found a traditional job instead of wearing such a variety of hats. Since so many aspects of the sport interest him, he has become a part of almost all of them.
“I’ve always had a strong passion for running, ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “I’ve never run on an organized team. In fact, when I was a kid I was interested in music. I played the drums. But, I still run several times a week and work out almost every day.”
It’s the scientific side of the sport that continues to fascinate Anderson in particular, as he tries to keep up with the latest research on the subject. That’s where the idea for the new book came from. There’s a lot of information out there, and he tries to sort it out.
“Think about the dominance of the Kenyans and the Ethiopians — how can they dominate? It’s amazing how they are faster than the rest of the world,” he said. “What causes fatigue? What are the scientific variables involved in running?
“The amount of information has exploded. There’s so much information, it’s challenging to follow it all. There’s a lot of great information in journals. The challenge is to get it to move to the running community. For example, people can change their training a bit just on how they are using sports drinks.”
As the science of running improves, the times figure to get better. But how much better?
“That’s a very interesting question. We really don’t know what the limits are,” Anderson said. “We can take a look at a two-hour marathon for men, and maybe 2:12 for women. That sort of time would have been really unimaginable for women a short time ago. Are those times possible? We just don’t know. It’s difficult to project. World records will continue to fall, but there must be an upper limit.”
Anderson’s two speeches at the Expo are titled “Can exercise science help the endurance runner?” and “The top three things a marathon/half-marathon runner should do to improve performance.” Yet he gives the impression that talking to runners in the question-and-answer session might be his favorite part of an appearance. Anderson never knows what the next question is about.
“They are absolutely fascinating,” he said about the questions. “It’s fun to talk to people about training. I get many questions about long runs for the marathon. How often should you do them? What’s really important for me in order to reach my potential? … Science is revealing a way to improve the ability to run fast. Top marathon runners are fast people. The top Kenyan runners can run a mile under four minutes. The average runner doesn’t prepare to think about being a faster runner, but that’s important. Improve your maximal speed for 300 meters from a running start, and you’ll do everything better.”
Other speakers at the Expo include:
• Neely Spence Gracey, a top finisher in the women’s senior event at the recent World Cross Country Championships in Poland.
• Glenn Kaifas, owner/operator of Fitness 360 in Buffalo. He’ll talk about the importance of distance runners implementing a balanced diet.
• Steve Gosner, who has a doctorate in physical therapy from Daemen College. He’ll speak on how to prevent injury through run form and exercise.
• The Elephant Run, 4 miles, Delaware Park’s Marcy Casino in Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. today, 836-7045.
• Town of Tonawanda 5K, 1 Pool Plaza in Town of Tonawanda, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 876-7424.
• Buffalo Greek Fest 5K, 146 W. Utica St. in Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 796-3381.
• Run with the Rapids 5K, Old Falls St. in Niagara Falls, 9 a.m. Saturday, 278-2111.
• Bully Free 5K, 71 Lorraine Ave. in Buffalo, 9 a.m. Saturday, 816-4809.
• Chris Griswold 5K Race, Como Park in Lancaster, 10 a.m. Saturday, 685-2640.
• SSPP’s Charge of the Knights 5K, 5480 Main St. in Williamsville, 6 p.m. Saturday, 440-8003.