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Leading athletes to 'Cool Impossible'

Published 9:56 am, Tuesday, May 7, 2013
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It's an unsettling coincidence that Eric Orton is promoting a book about running within weeks of an event that thrust the sport into the national spotlight. The irony hasn't been lost on the renowned coach and Jackson Hole, Wyo., resident.

Orton, best known for being a "character" in Christopher McDougall's best-seller "Born to Run," recently wrote his first book, "The Cool Impossible" ($26.95), about training to run. The former fitness director for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center oversees the training of dozens of athletes, from recreational racers to elite ultramarathoners.

Given his relationship to running, he was devastated by the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April that left three dead and more than 100 injured. Orton said one of his students actually ran in the race -- she's fine -- and they've both struggled to process the events of that fateful day. "She had a very good race," Orton said. "Her experience was `Is it OK for me to be happy about this race when this happened? Should I be racing when people are getting hurt?' How do you balance those feelings?"

But, Orton said, his philosophy has long been not to let anything stand in the way of what you want to accomplish. Though the tragedy in Boston, and the ripples of fears it sent across the nation, are a stark difference from the injuries and insecurities that keep most people from running, Orton's advice is the same as it is for overcoming most obstacles.

"Ultimately, this should not stop us from doing what we want to do with our life," he said.

Orton was somewhat thrust into celebrity after "Born to Run," which followed McDougall's quest to train for and run in the inaugural Copper Canyon ultramarathon, a 50-mile race in Mexico. The coach's newest book guides runners through his training program, which includes not just exercise, but nutrition and a new way of thinking about running. Orton will speak about his book at 6 p.m. Friday, May 17, at R.J. Julia, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison.

During a recent question-and-answer interview, he talked about his motivation for writing the book and exactly what is the "cool impossible."

Q: This is your first book. Why did you decide to write it?

A: That's easy. "Born to Run" has essentially revolutionized how the run industry has looked at shoes and inspired a whole run boom. It's sort of taken ultrarunning to the mainstream. But there wasn't a lot of "how-to" in that book. After the success of "Born to Run," I had thousands and thousands of people looking to me to put it together.

Q: The new book is called, "The Cool Impossible," and you frequently use that phrase throughout the book. Where does that term come from and what does it mean?

A: That term came to me a few years back and has always stuck with me. For the book's purposes, the "cool impossible" is living beyond fear and living beyond limits. I think it's human nature to want to know how something is going to turn out before we tackle it. But the point is not to worry about the outcome. Just put one foot in front of the other and see what happens.

Q: Who is the best audience for this book? Is it new runners? Experienced runners who need to change up their training methods? A mix?

A: My goal for the book was to appeal to every kind of runner. There's a part of book that everyone can learn from. For elites, they're going to learn things about foot strength they never thought of before. For beginners, they're going to go through the whole program.

Q: What sets your training method apart from that of other coaches?

A: The first real part of the program is foot strength. Nobody talks about training your feet for athleticism and running. We always focus on our core. It's my goal to help people understand how important training the feet is. (Another key element of the program is) the running form. There are a lot of people who have never thought of the form. (But) the form is so important and goes hand-in-hand with the strength.

Q: Ideally, what are you hoping people gain from this book?

A: I hope that they can knock down the barriers of their thinking and do something really cool with their running. Whether they do all the exercises or not is not really the point. In writing this book, my goal is to create one runner per household worldwide. Part of the book is "Here's a tool for people." If we have more runners in this world, it's going to be a better world.

To reserve a seat for Orton's talk at R.J. Julia, visit http://www.rjjulia.com/eric-orton-517 or call 203-245-3959.

acuda@ctpost.com; 203-330-6290; twitter.com/AmandaCuda; http://blog.ctnews.com/whatthehealth/