The Little Things . . .

a Going the Distance newsletter

Late Mid January 2020 || issue #88
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Fernando Braz -- Hall of Fame

Fernando Braz will be inducted into the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association (MSTCA) "Athlete Hall of Fame" on January 26th at the Reggie Lewis Center. The 11:00 induction ceremony will be a prelude to the MSTCA Large School state coaches track & field meet to follow.

In Coach Braz's high school years at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School he won 12 individual state titles in cross-country and track.

▪ He was the first athlete in the state to win back-to-back All-State titles in cross-country.
▪ He held the New England indoor 5000 meters record, 14:52.8 (January, 1980) for 28 years, and that record still holds in Massachusetts.
▪ He was ranked 2nd in the country at 10,000 meters with 30:42.
▪ He was an All-American in cross-country and spring track.
He was the first athlete in the state to win back-to-back All-State titles in cross-country.
He held the New England indoor 5000 meters record, 14:52.8 (January, 1980) for 28 years, and that record still holds in Massachusetts.
He was ranked 2nd in the country at 10,000 meters with 30:42.
He was an All-American in cross-country and spring track.

Double Hall of Fame -- Athlete and Coach

While his athletic accomplishments in high school are impressive, and Coach Braz's selection to the Massachusetts Athletic Hall of Fame is extremely deserving, there is more. In 2015, Fernando was inducted into the MSTCA Coaches Hall of Fame. This is a rare "Double Hall of Fame" achievement by Coach Fernando Braz.


Linda Jennings

{In issue #86 (Early Mid December), Linda described how a medical issue brought her running to a virtual halt, and her determination to re-gain her competitiveness. In this issue she loops back to two earlier stages of her amazing running life -- (1) her walk-to-run start at age 48, and (2) her successful participation in the national masters circuit.]

Starting to Run

At 48 years old, I knew I needed to start an exercise program as I was clearly out of shape. I was never involved in sports but I knew I could walk. Over time the distance I walked increased. I bought a treadmill as winter approached and soon almost all of my walks were on that treadmill.

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As I improved, my walks were getting longer and I decided I could 'run' the last mile instead of walking longer. I had hit my time limit on the treadmill. At first, that 'run' was slow and torture. I wasn't so sure I would ever run more than a mile. Again, over time I improved. Gradually I transitioned to running the entire 3 miles. Slowly I added distance and got to 5-6 miles of running. I had no intentions of running outside. As far as I was concerned, this was success and I had no intentions of messing with success.

I did venture outside in the spring. My first outdoor run was a 3 mile road race. The race had walkers and runners starting together. Although I could run further than 3 miles on the treadmill, I wasn't so sure I could run that distance without the help of the treadmill. The walk/run race felt safe. If I couldn't run the distance, I knew I could walk it and would blend in with the walkers. I did run the entire race and placed 4th in my age group. After that race, I started doing most of my runs outside.

Shortly after that race I started track workouts with Fernando. That was a different challenge. I didn't understand why anyone would do a warm up. To me, it seemed crazy to run a mile or two before a workout. Figured it would only make me tired and doing a workout was intimidating enough. Fernando placed me in a group based on the race I had done.

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The group was very supportive and patient with me. They needed to explain almost everything to me. Running a 400 at a specific time was mind boggling. No idea how I was supposed to know how fast to run to finish the 400 in the time on the workout card. The others in the group had this skill so my goal was to stay with them. My first few repeats were ugly. I could only run 300 or so meters when the group ran 400. It didn't take too long before I could run repeats with the group.

By the end of spring track, I had improved enough to move up a group.

I had set a goal of a half marathon that fall. I thought that was an overly ambitious goal. Just about everyone I was running with at the time was doing a fall marathon. They kept telling me I could run a marathon as well, despite my insisting that was not possible. I didn't think I was capable of running that distance. It just wasn't possible for me.

I talked to Fernando who agreed with the others and suggested doing a few longer runs to gain confidence. After successfully completing those long runs, I signed up for the Bay State marathon. Training went well and I ran my first marathon at 3:45 with less than a year of running. The next spring I ran my first Boston Marathon. Something I never expected to be able to do. I gained confidence in running and racing and continued to improve.

Masters Races

I had run many local races including the New England Grand Prix races. In looking for different races, I found the Masters Championship races. I wasn't so sure I belonged in that group. I looked at the women in my age group who placed in previous races and their times were faster than mine. After talking to Fernando, I decided to do some of these races. I had traveled to races before but this time it was different. For me, it was intimidating competing at this level.

The championship races are a race within a race. The only requirements for entering these races is being a master (over 40) and a current member of USATF. There is a technical meeting the evening before the race. I never attended a technical meeting before. Different rules than before. This time I needed to wear a back tag/bib which had my age group. No back tag would mean disqualification.


Most championship races start a few minutes before the others. This gives us an opportunity to see where our age group competitors are. Awards are by 5 year age group and by age grading. Age grading is used to help level the competition among the masters. It's unfair to compare times of a 40 year old vs a 70 year old. Age grading is a calculation for each single year age that is a percentage of your time as compared to the approximate world record for that age. Age graded results are by percentage only. A result of 100% would be a world record equivalent. Results above 90% are considered a world level and above 80% are national level.

I headed out to Ann Arbor, MI, for the Masters Championship 10k. I met many other master runners from various parts of the country. All were welcoming and encouraging. I was very nervous for this race. The race went well, better than I expected and I placed in my age group. I ran 43:02 which age graded at 89.2%. After talking to the other master runners, many of whom were going to the next master's race which was a 5k in Syracuse, I decided to go as well. I ran 20:40, placed 3rd in my age group and age graded at 88.6%. At each race I felt more comfortable that I did belong at these races.

I returned to Ann Arbor the next year and ran 42:55, 2nd in age group and age graded at 90.6% Later I ran the masters 15k in Buffalo NY finishing at 1:04:34, placing 2nd in my age group and age graded at 90.6%. I also ran the masters half marathon in Melbourne FL finishing in 1:34:49, placing 2nd in my group and age graded at 89.6%.

These races also had a social aspect. Everyone was traveling and all of us generally stayed at the same hotel. We got together for meals and celebrations after the races. These races became a time for us to get together. I got to know these runners better and still keep in touch with a few. I've run the Cherry Blossom 10M a few times and every time connect with some of these master runners.

As I get back to being competitive, I plan on running more of these races. Many of the runners that I know have had time off for various issues. All of us hope to get back.

[A final note, for the moment, on Linda. Near the dawning of her competitive running life at the New England and national level, she ran the Stowe 8 Miler in Vermont. I happened to finish just ahead of her. Right after the finish she walked over to Fernando and said "I never want to lose to Dave Smith again." Of course it was not personal -- it was her determination to break out of the mid-pack herd. Which she certainly did.]


GTD Summer Programs -- XC and All-Sports

Registration for the 2020 GTD cross-country and all-sports conditioning programs will be available on March 1. Onsite sessions for the programs will begin on Monday, July 6.
More information on the cross-country program.
More information on the all-sports program.
Questions? Contact Dave


Personal Coaching

Coach Braz provides personal coaching for runners at all levels who want to improve their performance or want a guided maintenance program.

Registration Form

The program is designed for runners who have a specific racing goal, or a series of races to prepare for, or want to build or maintain their running fitness.

Program details
Sign-up Steps


Previous Issues of The Little Things

Please go to this link for previous issues of The Little Things.


Going the Distance is a coaching service for runners at all levels.
If you know someone who might benefit from the Going the Distance program,
tell them about us, and forward The Little Things to them.
Visit our website -- Going the Distance
Head Coach -- Fernando Braz
Webmaster and Director -- Dave Smith
For more information, contact Dave at dave@goingthedistancefb.com

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