From what little I've read, he appeared to not be a big mileage guy and never liked to use the term training. He just ran. Anyway, I'd like to get some more info and get into the specifics if possible. Who knows out there?
I just did a "Jack Foster" Search on this site. I found tons of stuff, much of which is dated June, 2004, when Foster died in a cycling accident. Try that while you await replies.
I know he did not like the term trainning .
Ran in trackheadesque shoes.
Ran on very, very hilly terrain, often.
Ran on grass, often.
I knew Jack well (also have run with him)and live in the same town, in fact as I write this I can look at the farmland he ran over.
I have posted on here in the past about Jack, so there may be some archival stuff on this site.
What do you want to know ??
I did a couple of searches on letsrun last night and came across some great posts that you mention. It seems that Jack mixed it up really well with his running. Easy jogs, steady aerobic running over tough terrain, mile repeats, and hard racing. Is this an accurate account of how he approached things? Oh, and I'm assuming he was doing this all the while still enjoying the bike.
I'm interested in the specifics because I really believe that while it was very obvious Jack was a natural, it's also obvious he was doing the right training. Did he build a base first and periodize like Arthur's boys? Etc.
I'm also near the same age Jack was when he picked up the running bug and I'm inspired by what he was able to accomplish. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
I hope Kim puts some stuff up, but Jack just ran and enjoyed it from what I can tell. When I have more time, I can put up the sample of his running that's in his book.
I read an interveiw of Jack Foster years ago and he said he prefered to do most of his mileage on asphalt, and that was his secret to staying uninjured. He said he prefered the hard surface to the undulation and uneveness of dirt or grass.
I have the book "The Ancient Marathoner" and it has an excerpt of his schedule in the back. Not a huge mileage guy, but he didn't start running till his early 30s (was a recreational cyclist) and he likely had a huge cardio base to draw from because of his cycling. Anyway, he ran mostly through high grass, knobby, countryside. He has said no one could stay with him for an hour out there. He just went out and ran everyday, some days hard, some days not. Every now and then a couple mile repeats, but nothing more than that. In I think 1971 he set a masters marathon record of 2:11 and change at the age of 41. During his peak he put in 3 or 4 marathons a year. His first marathon he "only" ran in the 2:30s and has said he doesn't really enjoy them but that it's the one race he was good at. Makes you wonder why we concern ourselves with detailed schedules.
Pretty much a good summary from Jack's book.
I have 3 800m runners busting to head into the forest (one of Jack's favourite training areas) for a run so will put my thinking cap on and put together some answers to everyones questions. Will post later.
No ! I am not running as I have a slight knee injury so will sit on my Mountain Bike while these guys do the "business".
who is jack foster???
His Obituary from 2004
From Athletics New Zealand
23 May 1932 - 5 June 2004.
By Murray McKinnon
Jack Foster a legend amongst marathon runners in New Zealand and a pioneer in the Masters grades was tragically killed in a motor accident, while out on his other passion, cycling, in his home town of Rotorua on Saturday June 5. Foster is best remembered for his silver medal performance in the marathon at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch where at the age of 41 he set a world masters record of 2h 11m 18s.
Born in Liverpool England, Foster first came to New Zealand as a 24 year old, then he returned to Britain, married Isabella and emigrated again five years later. Cycling was his life in Britain, but in Rotorua the cycling was limited to riding to and from work. One day at the age of 32 he had the bright idea that he would go for a run. It was for only seven minutes, but this was the start of an outstanding career and record.
Foster didn't like the term training, for him running was an enjoyment and he just went for a run each day. He didn't like running on the roads, preferring to run over very hilly country, where the very nature of the terrain gave him all the work out he needed. He was not a big mileage person either, rarely going over 80 miles a week. For Foster running was a pleasure and the success he achieved was almost accidental, and not planned. He ran hard, bloody hard and times meant more to him than wins. He would prefer to run a personal best in a race and be third or fourth than win in a mediocre time. Anything other than full out effort was negative running. From his local club runs in Rotorua to the international events Foster always raced full out. His philosophy was 'a fit person has a higher quality of life'.
Foster's first marathon of any importance was second in the Rotorua marathon in 1966 in 2h 27m 50s. His first major overseas race was the Canadian International marathon in 1969, where he finished third in 2h 19m 2s. He first represented New Zealand at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh where he was a creditable fourth in 2h 14m 44s. Also in 1970 he returned to the Canadian International event in Toronto which he won in 2h 16m 23s. Later in 1970 he ran the Fukuoka Marathon in a New Zealand best time of 2h 12m 17s, finishing fourth. In 1971 he ran the International Classic Marathon in Athens and the Fukuoka event again, claiming third in both. On August 15 1971, Foster circled Porritt Stadium Hamilton to set a world record for 20 miles and also set New Zealand records for 15 miles, 25,000m and 30,000m. As he wrote in his daily running diary, '80 bloody laps, must be stupid, three New Zealand records and a world best, not bad for an old bugger'.
Foster won the 1970 Rotorua marathon and won a further three titles around the Lake. Following his 1972 Rotorua victory he went on to represent New Zealand at the Munich Olympic Games where he finished a fine eighth in 2h 16m 51s. A year later Foster won the Kyoto Marathon in 2h 14m 53s and in 1973 ran second in the New Zealand championship in Christchurch, which doubled as the Commonwealth Games trial. Foster ran his most memorable and best marathon at home in the Christchurch Commonwealth Games. He was beaten by a better man, on the day, in Ian Thompson of Great Britain, but he had achieved his goal of running five minute miles over a marathon distance. His silver medal was presented to him by the Queen a moment he always treasured. Six months later in Los Angeles he won the USA title in 2h 18m 24s. He won the 1975 Honolulu marathon in record time. In 1976 Foster won his only New Zealand marathon title, in Auckland, in 2h 16m 27s, and competed at the Montreal Olympic Games where he finished 17th. On his return he won his only other New Zealand title, the 1976 road title.
Cross country running was his other love. He was part of the team that won the World Teams title in 1975, where he finished 36th. In 1977 he was 33rd and he also competed in the 1979 World Championship. In 1973 he was awarded the Lonsdale Cup by the New Zealand Olympic Committee for the most outstanding performance in an Olympic sport in that year. One of his most amazing runs in New Zealand was in August 1973 in the annual Onehunga to Auckland 6.9 mile road race. Raced across the isthmus Foster cut out the distance in 31m 34s to carve 57 seconds off Jeff Julian's record. His fourth mile was in 4m 24s, the next in 4m 33s and the downhill mile to the Parnell Rose Gardens in 4m 19s. He was flying on that day. Foster was justified in later saying that it was his fastest ever road race, as his time at the six mile point in the race was 27m 19s, 3.8s under Rex Maddaford's New Zealand track record, at the time.
Described by his son Jackson as 'like a white Kenyan' and 'an oxygen processing unit on legs', Foster was an economical runner who virtually floated over the ground. His fastest marathon times each year from 38 invariably ended up world age group records. One of his disappointments came in 1977 in the famous short course Auckland marathon. In great form and in perfect conditions Foster was set to record the fastest marathon in the world for a 45 year old. He finished fifth in 2h 4m 53s, and immediately expressed how annoyed he was that it was not the correct distance. The course was one and a half miles short and taking into account this extra distance his adjusted time would have been 2h 12m 39s. In June 1981 he returned to the scene of his greatest moment and the Christchurch marathon and at the age of 49 finished fifth in 2h 22m 48s. A year later in the Auckland marathon Foster set a world 50-54 age group record of 2h 20m 28s, finishing tenth. Foster was on record after this effort saying that the world records didn't worry him, the challenge that day was to become the first 50 year old in the world to break 2h 20m.
Throughout his career Foster remained extremely modest over his achievements. He felt uncomfortable in a crowd of people and as a result declined invitations to attend special functions and anniversaries, where his efforts would have been acknowledged. For him, out cycling or running and being at one with the elements gave him the greatest satisfaction. Foster summed up his career by saying, 'what I've achieved as a runner may have inspired other 35-year-plus men to get up and have a go. I'd like to think so'.
On May 23, 1972 Jack Foster would be 40 years old. Here are a few chestnuts from a RW interview in Jan. 72 .
His PR’s at this time:
6 mile 28:47
10 mile 48:11
Marathon 2:12:17 in 1970.
RW: You mention that you were a cyclist. How extensive was your participation in cycling and what if any advantage do you think that this gave you as a runner?
Foster: During my years as a bike rider (age 14-18), we used to do some really long rides, up to 150 miles some days. We went all over Britain, also France and Belgium bits of Italy and Germany, staying in youth hostels or sleeping where we could-all great fun and adventure to 14-20 year old lads. Those tough rides in all weather what Lydiard’s “100 a week” does-build up an efficient cardio-respiratory system. Incidentally, my wife is/was a good “bikie” and we had a memorable six weeks honeymoon touring Scotland, Wales England and the continent on a tandem.
RW: At age 39 (Foster began running at 33) you’re still improving? How much longer do you think the improvement will continue?
Foster: As a consequence of my “foundation” running has never been any trouble to me. I am only 132-135 pounds at 5’9”, with long limbs, perhaps something of a natural, I don’t know. I have not improved my three mile time of 14:10 since 1965. My 6 mile time in 1965 was 29:36, I can only do 28:36 now. So I don’t really think I’m improving speedwise. The daily running is enabling me to maintain my speed. I think that I can break my 2:12:17 marathon in the near future.
RW: In an earlier RW article (Meet Jack Foster Sept. 1970) you said, “I don’t train. I just run my 3-15 miles a day.” Can you expand on your “training” approach?
Foster: Looking back through my diaries, I can trace my few lapses from form to trying different training methods. (I still don’t like the sound of that word “training”). I run almost exclusively over farmland. When I’ve tried road running with any regularity, I notice in my book entries such as “sore legs” “could not run hard” or “bruised feet.” Lost toenails etc. The same when I tried interval training on a track, surely the most soul-destroying and unimaginative system ever thought up. I must confess though, I now do a type of interval running once a fortnight. I go to our local race course and churn out 9x one mile fast-slow. The fast ones I do in about 4:40-4:45, the slow ones around six minutes. I do this only if there are no short road or country races available.
I’ve been lucky, I think in finding the methods which produce the best results for me and I found it very early in my running life.All this is purely personal, though and I would not recommend my hill-country training to anyone as it is very hard work, although pleasant and exhilarating, the closest thing to skiing without skis.
For one thing, I’ve not seen the same type of country outside of New Zealand-miles of rolling hills with grass cropped as only sheep can crop it, the hills broken by gullies and outcrops of “bush” making really excellent running. Running on this country, I never get fed-up with it or think of” “retiring” Who wants to retire from something one enjoys? I look forward to my run like my working colleagues look forward to their pint or five holes of golf each day. It’s very difficult to get this across to a non-runner-that a man can actually enjoy running and physical exercise. Does this explain my “longevity”?
RW: I’d imagine it’s safe to say you’re preparing for the Olympic Games next year. What will go into that preparation? Will the fact that the Games come during the NZ winter work any hardship on you?
Foster: I won’t do any special preparation for Munich. For one thing, I may not get selected, and I’d hate to waste 12 months doing anything specialized, or worse, missing out on anything that I normally do. No, I’ll carry on as outlined earlier. I’m running OK on it. People should be able to compete at any given time of year provided they have ample notice (four years is adequate). “Out of season is a very poor excuse.
Runningart2004 and HRE - great posts. I eagerly await Kim's post.
Wow ! Rich has added even more to the mix. Thanks ! I have'nt seen those interviews in years .
Okay I may repeat what I have written in the past but here goes !
Jack did'nt "Periodize" his training at all. He just ran everyday he could.(Don't forget in the 70's he had 4 young children and held down a "normal" job)
What he did though was make sure his week was well mixed with Long runs and faster work.
Running wise : He loved Cross Country first and foremost (This contradicts Murray Mckinnon somewhat).
He ran marathons because he found he was good at them. BUT as the years rolled on he found he disliked the preparation more and more (3 hour runs over steep hill country are VERY hard).
Sheep grazed country is actually very good to run on. Sheep do not damage the grass like cattle and also their light weight means they don't damage the ground at all.
Sheep also have a tendency to form trails on hillsides. Note the picture that has been posted and you can see jack running on one..
The country Jack ran on was almost exclusively steep, sheep grazed farmland. He pushed the uphills hard and sprinted the down hills. After years of this running he was so skilled he made it look a work of art. Very few of us could keep up with him on a 2 hour run on this country. If we did we could not do it week in week out like he could.
Virtually no none could run with him for 3 hours.
His next favourite running area was the local Horse race track (In New Zealand these are grass covered) here he ran Interval miles. Once again very few athletes ran these workouts with him on a regular basis.
He mentions those workouts in the article that Rich posted.
The next favourite running area he ran was our forests.
Usually his long Sunday run with some mates if they did't head for the Farmland.
The roads are all Volcanic Pumice and very smooth. Good running and with 100's of kilometres of roads the choices are amazing.
When I said he had favourites. These were only so because the Farmland was close to his home and the race Track close to his work.
Now the really amazing part : Jack probably did not start his runs until around 5 to 5:30 in the evening. In our winter that means it is dark by 5:30. So Jack ran that farmland at night !!!.
On a full moonlight night that would be Okay but on a cloudy night visibility would be zero.
he had his share of crashes at fences !!
I would say in Winter the only runs he did in daylight were on Saturdays and Sundays.
Regarding races : Jack was the ultimate Club man. If the club had a race or just a training run he would be there.
In an interclub race he ran as hard as he could. He did not discern the difference between a club race or an International. If he was in a race. He was there to do just that RACE !.
He won a club Championship 10 miles once in 49 minutes ! He did not need to run that hard but he did.
I was 17 at the time and our race was the first 5 miles of that 10 miles. I hung on for grim death and ran a pb of 28 minutes. Jack had disappeared after the first mile !!
At a club training run the pace would not be overly hard, Jack enjoyed running with the groups and would chat away about all sorts of things. But if any 'wannabe" started to get "bigheaded" A lesson was taught very quickly !
10 years ago I was part of a group containing Jack that did exactly that to some "new kids on the block" who fancied their chances during a 12 k run. Jack gave the word and all the old hands flew up this hill like rockets behind Jack. When we reached the top I said to Jack "Shall we wait for those guys" Jacks answer was "Since when did we wait".
The group then carried on quietly carrying out the conversation that was being held prior to the sprint up the hill. We arrived back at the Club 4 or 5 mins ahead of the "newbies". The man was over 60 then !!!
Lastly : One aspect that Jack never let go was his cycling.
Even when he was running at his best he probably got in one or 2 rides a week. He mentioned that quite often after a 3 hour run on the farmland on a Sunday he found he was quite tired and unmotivated to run Monday so he just jumped on his bike and road for 20 or 30 kms.
Two weeks before he was killed I was talking to a mutual friend who said Jack had run to his place the previous day.
I said "How did he look" (he had been spending more time cycling the last 10 years than running) The answer was "As good as ever". He was 70 years old !!
Just to give a little more sense of Jack, I once called him to ask some questions for an article I was writing. I asked if I'd interrupted anything important.
"Yeah," he answered. "I was about to have a beer."
Jack Foster is a personal hero of mine. That last post was one of my favorite things I've ever read on this board. Thank you.
Could you further describe the shoes Jack wore. I think you wrote previously that he ran in the Tiger Marathons. Could you describe those? Did he train and race in the same shoes? What was his running form like? Most runners now have a hard time imagining how you run marathons in shoes with zero cushioning, but Jack seemed to handle it well. Was it a simple matter of conditioning himself to it?
Thanks in advance.
Kim, thanks very much for this information, it is really great to read this stuff about Jack. I am a big fan of Jack Foster, and have read his book "The Ancient Marathoner" many times, he has always been an inspiration to me. I was fortunate to see him run in Munich and Montreal.