John Lofranco is our new John Stanton (in an good way). He is the founder of Montrealendurance.com a blog for competitive runner.
Official Bio > He revived the Concordia Stingers XC team in 2004. From 2006 to 2010 he was head of Canada’s mountain running team, and improved the national team’s world ranking from 20th to 11th. He ran for the University of Waterloo and the University of New Brunswick before moving to Montreal in 2003. In high school he was a part of the St. Michael’s College Blue Harriers dynasty, helping the team to five consecutive Toronto High School championships, part of a streak that spanned four decades.
Trimes et MontrealEndurance ont beaucoup de points en commun alors nous tenions à vous faire découvrir ce personnage franc et authentique.
The interview is in English and French.
Tu as recemment commencé a écrire Montréalendurance, peux tu nous dire ce qui t’as motivé à faire cela, est-ce une réaction face a ce milieu?
C’était une réaction a un conversation qui a eu lieu au CIS de cross à Sherbrooke cet automne. Les athlètes de mon groupe, à Concordia, et quelques autres coureurs québecois lamentaient le fait qu’il manquait un vrai groupe de training d’élite à Montréal. Le problème est qu’il y a plusieurs groupes qui s’entraînent un peu en parallel, c’est-a-dire des petits groupes qui faisaient plus ou moins la même chose, mais pas ensemble. Notre but c’était de réunir plusieurs de ces groupes, avecles entraîneurs, pour essayer de former une seule groupe d’entraînement. Peut-être qu’ils ne sont pas vraiment elite en ce moment, mais le fait de s’entraîner ensemble pourrait leurs aider à y arriver.
The response from other coaches was good at first: they agreed that it would be a good idea in theory. Unfortunately, no one was willing to actually take the time to sit down and figure it all out. One experienced coach actually got mad at me because I cced the athletes we have in common on an email that said, hey, this is what the athletes want. He said that my inexperience showed and that I should clear these things with coaches first. This is my biggest problem with the running scene: this idea that somehow coaches know best. Of course they do in some cases, but the athlete is really the one driving the relationship.
So, in the end, the coaches scuttled the training group idea. And it’s very hard for athletes to contradict their coach, so I don’t blame the athletes one bit for that. If coaches weren’t insecure and worried about how « their » athletes were doing etc, then imagine the group we could have. In fact, we have been able to get a couple people from different groups together on occasion to help get a bigger group, but it’s not exactly as envisioned.
Back to the website: in lieu of the actual training group, the website is meant as a reflection of the community that DOES exist amongst the distance runners in Montreal, regardless of what club they are from. As I said in my article, I really believe that for this most recent generation of athletes that community is the driving force behind why they compete in the sport. The website does not replace club websites (but there are no club websites that are any good at community building anyway), nor does it replace clubs. It simply reflects what already exists.
Quels sont les réactions de la communauté face a ton site?
Reaction has been positive. There was one criticism that at first the site was « too English » but again, it seems that the athletes don’t care about that at all. I’ve been getting compliments on it from all sides. I can only accept responsibility for the content. The design was done by Steven McElligott, one of our training partners. We are looking at some partnerships too, broadening the scope a bit. Stay tuned!
Chez trimes, on est souvent impressionné par le manque de curiosité des pratiquants face a leur sport. Exemple parfait, surement que 95% des coureurs de marathons ne savent toujours pas qui est Reid Coolsaet. Comment expliques tu cela, doit-on blamer les médias?
I know what you mean, although I think that more people know about Reid than you are suggesting. Canadian Running magazine syndicates his blog, and that appeals to a lot of the « recreational » audience. Anyway, I’m not sure blame is the right word. Media these days is fragmented and niche oriented, and it’s a business. Sport is entertainment, and entertainment is money. There’s no money in distance running. Point finale.
So there’s no reason for media outlets to report on elite marathoning: their advertisers don’t care because it doesn’t bring in viewers/readers. The big stories are the number of people running, the health and fitness aspect, the random deaths, the road closures. That’s the stuff that gets people riled up. As for appealing to runners: there aren’t enough runners to warrant it. So I don’t think it is the media’s fault. They are doing their job. I do think there is a serious misunderstanding of the sport by many runners at the recreational level, though. I have heard comments that are not only ignorant of elite runners, but even derogatory to them. Like: fast running is boring because it is easy for them. Of course that’s completely wrong. But recreational runners struggle with training and their day to day lives, so they see people who get to train for a living as privileged. And they are right, but I don’t think that means their achievements are less valuable, or that they are less worked for. Not everyone thinks this, but it is pervasive. I blame the Running Room, if anything. Again, John Stanton is a business man, and his business model is sound: create customers by convincing people they need to run (this is good) and that they need all kinds of expensive crap to run (this is bad). So when you create a cult, you have to have rules, and one of the rules is that fast runners are freaks, and not like you or me. Because once you realise that running fast is very simple and all it takes is hard work (and ok maybe some talent), then you don’t need all that expensive gear or « run your best 5k on 3 runs a week » training program crap.
Optimiste. Il y avait une lacune dans le development: il y avait un program scolaire tres fort, et un bon system de club civil, mais il manquait au niveau collegiale, ce qui a crée aussi des manqumants au niveau universitaire. Maintenant le circuit collegiale de cross (et bientot de piste) est en croissance, et avec ça, on va voir plus de coureurs, alors, l’avenir est beau!
The biggest problem with distance running in Quebec is, ironically, barriers to entry. I just got an email about the McGill Team Challenge meet this weekend, about standards and rules about who can race, etc etc. It’s all such bullshit. It’s ironic because running is a simple sport. Just let people run. Fees, and affiliations and standards complicate things unnecessarily. Sure, standards are important, at a certain level. But you need to have a base of competition first. That base of competition comes from the schools and it goes all the way up to university running. Contrary to what people might think, university running is not « elite » sport. It’s sub-elite, maybe, and while there are some truly elite athletes who participate, on the whole, it’s the last of the « age-groups. » As long as there is someone willing to race, they should race. It’s not like we are overflowing with athletes in Quebec anyway. As long as things keep opening up, I am optimistic, but if the bureaucrats who have run the sport into the ground since the late 90s win, then the sport will not get better.
La course à pied semble etre beaucoup plus populaire dans l’ouest du pays, est-ce qu’on se trompe?
I don’t see it. I don’t know the numbers, but it may seem that way because they have more months of runable weather for recreational athletes. Again, it comes down to the base: the bigger the base, the better the elites. You need both for a healthy sport.
Tu mets tes entrainements directement sur ton site, tu le sais que les coachs préfères garde tout cela secret et mystérieux comme une sorte de savoir. Je sais recemment que tu as écrit un texte très intéressant disant que tu n’avais pas de recette magique et que le savoir était accessible. Tu sais que beaucoup de coachs agissent comme si seul eux savaient?
Yeah, I don’t get the secrecy. I mean, what’s the difference if we do 5x600m or 6x500m? Is one really better? Coaches have philosophies that are on either end of a spectrum of what’s important, sure. Like more or less mileage, amount of quality, tempo runs or not. But it’s not like any one system is so far and above the other. The reason for this is that every athlete is different, so it’s just not accurate to say that 3 interval workouts a week is better than 2 workouts and a tempo run because the results may vary from athlete to athlete. Same goes with mileage: 60 miles a week is a lot for someone who regularly runs 30, but it’s a recovery week for someone who regularly runs 80. I guess one reason might be the idea that a coach’s knowledge is valuable, and proprietary, otherwise, what good is he or she. But I think that a coach distinguishes him or herself on their relationships and communication with the athlete. Because if you have that, then you can decide whether it’s intervals or tempos for that third workout of the week. If you just go by a book or a chart, that’s not very valuable. It may work short term for athletes who are raw and are looking at a steep improvement curve, but eventually you have to be judged on communication.
Parlons de technique, il y a beaucoup de débat sur les chaussures minimalistes en ce moment… Le fameux enfant Kenyan qui court de l’avant du pied, le livre Born to run… Qu’est-ce que tu penses de tout cela?
I think that like every trend, or fad, there is some truth to it. I went from wearing a motion control shoe (because the Running Room told me I should: good call!) and wearing orthotics, to doing most of my running in racing flats. It took me about 3-4 years to fully transition. Adaptation is the key. So a Kenyan or Mexican who runs barefoot all his life is going to have no problem with it. A recreational runner who is overweight and running 4 times a week to stay healthy probably doesn’t need to worry too much about cutting weight on his shoes. It’s all about context. I think that a more minimalist shoe will allow your feet to get stronger, and your calves and achilles, too, but it might also cause some strain. So everything in moderation. I think this quote is relevant: jamais par la force, toujours par la technique. The same could be said for things like « Pose » running or « Chi » running. All that is is good posture, good turnover and being relaxed. It’s not a big secret.
Est-ce qu’il existe un commerce de la naiveté du sportif selon toi?
I’m not sure what this means…You mean people get ripped off by Running Room because they are told they need a fuel belt and GPS when all they need is a watch and a route that goes by a water fountain? If so, then yes.
Tu sembles t’intéresser au triathlon, les newtons sont très populaires dans ce sport, qu’est ce que tu penses de tout cela. Comment expliques tu que les triathlètes semblent voir la course a pied totalement différement?
I’m not really that interested in it, haha. I’m just trying to save some triathletes who could be really good runners if they weren’t wasting their time being mediocre in two other sports. That’s a joke.
I don’t really know what the triathlete perspective on running is, so I’m not sure I can comment. I think that when it is one sport out of three, then maybe you are not as obsessive, but I’m not really sure. I think maybe this question needs clarification. I don’t really have an opinion on Newtons. Same as my response to Pose and Chi etc above.
Les cyclistes disent de nous les triathletes que nous ne savons pas conduire nos velos et qu’on tombe tout le temps. Est-ce que les coureurs ont aussi un avis sur nous?
I think runners want everyone to be runners, so we don’t understand why you want to bike and swim as well. Also, the gear: lay off the gear. If I ever do a triathlon, I’m going to do it in a cotton t-shirt and basketball shorts, on a mountain bike, and I’m gonna win and all the triathletes are going to be so mad…lol
As-tu quelques choses que tu voudrais ajouter?
I wish there were more female coaches. Kyla Rollinson has been working with our group and she’s great. I coach men and women, and I think there is a difference in how they need to be handled. This is of course a generalization, and as I said, every athlete is different. Male or female is one factor in figuring out how to best work with an athlete, and it is an important factor. With that in mind, I think that the dynamics between men and men, women and women, and women and men are all totally different. So maybe female athletes are missing out on something by not having the opportunity to be coached by a woman. As I said, the technical knowledge is available to all. Communication skills are what makes it happen, and I think that, again, very generally, there are some female-centric ways of communicating that could be beneficial to athletes out there. To all athletes, and coaches: take an interest in your sport. Study it, learn it, become an expert.