Middletown Athletic Club

(serving the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend, Delaware Running Community since 2002)

"That's the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is."  - Kara Goucher


  • April 04, 2022 8:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thoughts on the Run – What’s your go-to excuse:

     “Coach, I caught a cramp on the last turn.”  “If it hadn’t had been for that gust of wind, I was there!”  “I ran a long run yesterday and my legs were shot.”  “I haven’t raced in a long time, and this was just a tempo run.”

    Excuses.  Well, they’re like… well, they’re like.  The last one in the above paragraph is always my favorite, although I gotta say, if you can catch the cramp, you should be able to catch the competition.  I mean, those things are fast!

    In my 43+ years of running and racing, I’ve heard a lot of excuses.  And by a lot, I mean a lot!  What’s an excuse?  Well, it’s quite simply the reason you state that you didn’t do what you said you were going to do.  From gusts of wind to imported humidity, from catching muscle spasms to ill-timed workouts, excuses give us a reason to say why we didn’t achieve our goal for the day. And the loftier the goal, the more imaginative the excuse!

    Let me state here and now, for the record, forevermore… it is okay to fail!  There, I said it and I own it.  Failure is a part of growth and improvement.  Without failure, success really isn’t very fulfilling.  But too many runners are afraid to fail so they either don’t try OR they determine the best excuse to fit the current environment.  From training errors, to weather, to injuries (real or imagined), the excuse ‘waters down’ the failure. 

    Please don’t confuse excuses with failures.  I’ve had plenty of failures.  My 1991 Boston Marathon is a perfect example of a failure.  Poor race execution caused me to DNF.  It’s really not an excuse.  My first 13 miles were run in 1 hour 14 minutes.  I was ill-prepared to maintain that pace for another 13 miles and paid for it by dropping out at 21 miles. 

    In my years, I’m sure I’ve had a few ‘excuse’ races as well.  But the thing about excuse races is that once you make the excuse, it’s typically forgotten.  The above ‘long run, legs shot’ excuse came out of my mouth at least once, but I don’t recall when.  Perhaps it was a reality, but what dummy sets themselves up to use that excuse before the race even begins?  Well, that would be me. 

    So why do so many of us look to the excuse rather than the reality?  Quite simply, we view our performances as a way of judging ourselves.  And if we don’t live up to the expectations we think others have for us, we just HAVE to sound off as to why.  Even the innocuous ‘just didn’t have it today’, relieves us of the burden of the failing. 

    Many of you who know me have often heard me say ‘Don’t Suck’.  There’s a double meaning to that short phrase.  The first is ‘do your best, whatever your best happens to be today’.  The second is ‘own it’.  Your worthiness is not and should not ever be measured in how poorly you think you did in a running event.  No excuses are ever necessary.  You are where you are.  No one can or should ever attempt to take that away. 

    Failures are where growth and learning come from.  Excuses are where imaginary cramps go to die.  Those suckers are fast!  Please never confuse the two.  I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails. 

  • February 28, 2022 8:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thoughts on the Run – The art of Coaching:

    Jerr the Bear.  He was a HUGE man to a high school sophomore in 1978.  He loomed large, his voice boomed and he scared me and the entire team to death.  Ah yes, my first experience with a running coach was Jerr the Bear.  Jerr followed the team everywhere on his bike, so there were no cutting corners, no goofing off, no hiding in the cornfields.  We ran FROM him, not for him.  Boy, I miss him.

    Moving on to college, I ran for a former nationally ranked 3-miler.  Coach D ran for Michigan in the 60’s and was good!  Coach D also wasn’t fond of goofing around and he also followed us everywhere… on his Harley!  Well, at least we could hear him coming.    I miss Coach D, too.

    Coaching is an art form.  Imagine dealing with 15 or more student-athletes who are either motivated to run or not, motivated to succeed or not, motivated to persevere or not.  It’s the ‘or not’ group that baffles most coaches.  Cross country, track and distance running in general are not natural sports for most young athletes.  It just isn’t.  Baseball, soccer, softball, football, field hockey - they all have some allure.  Running is just… running?

    I have tons of respect for any running coach who can tap dance through the minefields of middle school, club and high school and, to a lesser extent, college runners.  Tell a kid he or she will run 3 miles as fast as they can and watch them start silently computing how to avoid practice and still be on the team.  Oh, and don’t get me started on the helicopter parents.  What running is not is ‘just run faster’, mom and dad. 


    As a 40 plus year participant in this sport, I know the benefits of a good coach, and the pitfalls of a bad one.  Most experienced runners love sharing their knowledge of the sport with less knowledgeable-types, particularly if the less-knowledgeable ones have a real interest in learning.  For a coach or a mentor, one key is to know when to share and when not to share.  Bad coaches often don’t know when to turn it off.  By the way, my first two coaches were excellent. 

    Finding a good mentor isn’t as hard as you might think, and quite honestly, isn’t for just the school-aged runner.  Almost anyone can and will benefit from some sort of mentoring or coaching.  It could be as simple as having someone look over your training plan and recent logs, or it could be having someone willing to stand on the edge of the track with a stop watch, barking splits (I refer to exhibit A, Jerr the Bear). 

    Ask around.  Check with your running friends or some of the local running clubs. Visit the Road Runners Club of America’s website.  Be open to suggestions, but also remember to set boundaries and let whomever know what you expect and don’t expect.  After all, you are the runner, not the runn-ee.


    I love to coach willing people and I love mentoring people who are unsure of their abilities but willing to try.  And I love questions.  That is the key to a great athlete-coach relationship… always ask WHY.  Even younger athletes deserve to know why they are doing what they are doing.  I learned a long time ago that every workout has a purpose.  It serves the athlete well to know what that purpose is.


    So go ahead, hire a coach or seek out a mentor, and watch your running performance soar. And if you hear a ‘ching ching’ coming up behind you during a training run, it’s probably just Jerr the Bear.  But if you hear a ‘vroom vroom’, better get moving!


    I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails.

  • January 26, 2022 1:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "Waning Winter"

    This morning, I noticed that the days are getting noticeably longer. Just a few weeks ago, the average day was 9 hours, 22 minutes (the shortest day of the year). Today, it’s fully 35 minutes longer, and in another three weeks, it will be 35 minutes longer still. To quote James Brown in The Blues Brothers, ‘Do you see the light?’ February is a short month, but my oh my it takes soooooo long to get to March. February seems colder than January. It seems more depressing than January. And it certainly seems more ‘wintery’ than January. But those length of days! If your glass of water hasn’t frozen, it is half full and not half empty. February is a month of patience for runners. The end of the year often brings with it the annual ‘couple weeks off’ or shifting into different training phases, or maybe your one of those Phunt runners (kudos if you are). The January runner is usually about transition. March is usually about shedding layers of clothes and adding turn-over in the legs. March might even be an early season test of race readiness. But February? Patience, my harrier friends, patience. I saw a great quote the other day, from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is patience.” What we do in February will have a major impact on the remainder of our training cycle or year. This is especially the case if we do too much or get too anxious. February is definitely a time of patience. I’ve run more than two dozen marathons. My best races were always springtime affairs. Whether it was Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Boston, I always ran better in a spring race. And the reason? February patience. My top five spring races averaged 2’44. My top five fall races averaged 2’52. For many, when the temperatures moderate and the days length, we tend to go overboard with exuberance. It might be one too many miles, or one too many repeats, or one too many races. Heck, it’s light until 9 pm! But the patience of February... My very last marathon was in Burlington, VT in 2010. I remember it not because of how it ended, but what came after. It had to be one of my best winters and early springs for training. Miles, tempo runs, marathon pacing, and even a couple solid tune-up races. February patience at its best. But marathon race-day rolled around and by three miles, I had no desire to finish what I had started in January. I literally walked off the course and out of the world of marathoning. This story does not have an unhappy ending. The patience of February that year paid major dividends. Even after the DNF, I continued to train and had one of my best springs and summers of racing in a dozen years, including adding a few overall race wins at age 46. Lemonade from the lemons. With February and the groundhog comes the need to exhibit patience. Keep the clothing layers on, continue to stay safe with reflective gear and running partners, continue to moderate the pace and focus on good form and posture. Your February patience will pay springtime dividends. “Do you see the Light?”. Why yes, we’re puttin’ the band back together! I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails.

  • December 31, 2021 7:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Sometimes the best stories of running are told through the eyes of the athlete. Meet my son Ben. Ben runs XC at Appoquinimink High School and recently wrote a class assignment about taking a journey. Here is his journey.

    "Blue Hen Conference Championship" - by Ben Shearer

    The weather was cold and rainy as I was shivering in the cold. The gun finally went into the air and went Boom!! The next thing I see is the backs of the other teams and the green grass as we sped into the woods. I chased the other teams into the woods as if they were the prey and I was the predator. As I keep getting closer to the 1st mile, I see a familiar face in the crowd telling me to keep with them. It was my coach!! I nod my head like I understand (which I did) and I keep up with some of the tougher teams ahead of me. I pass some of them one by one and I say to myself, keep them coming. I then get to the mile and a half and there's nobody around me, I feel relieved, and my stress went down. As I thought to myself alone, I realized that I was the number 5 guy on the Appo team. As I kept thinking, a Middletown kid passed me out of nowhere and I just let it be. I lost some ground as I was in my own world. As I kept thinking about the big pack of guys I passed earlier, I realized that some of the Appo guys who were ahead of me. As I get to the second mile and there's a group of guys that I recognized earlier, I stay with them until the 2nd and a half. Some of the guys I hung behind were Middletown, Concord, Saint Georges, Mount Pleasant, and Hodgson. A couple of them were good and the others, I was beating myself up on how they were in front of me. Just as I get to the 3rd mile mark, I see a farm that is planting flowers and trees and another familiar face. The family friend told me that I was super close to the finish and to turn on the speed, I nod my head and start to speed up. I´m super close to leaving the woods, all I have to do is to go up a big hill and turn right. I went up the hill like it was no problem and I made that turn. I knew that this was the moment to beat them after my teammates were there cheering me on telling me to go now. With the rest of my energy, I passed the 5 guys who were around me and left them in the dust. I finished and didn't have to go any faster because the 5 guys I stayed with were just finishing as I was catching my breath. My body was cold and a little numb. I came up to my coach to ask for my time and he said that I ran 19:40. This was the first time I broke 20 during the season.

    I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails. 

  • June 03, 2020 1:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Middletown Athletic Club

    Group Run COVID Guidelines

    Adapted from RRCA/CARA Operational Preparedness Guide

    Updated 6/3/2020

    We are excited to resume our group runs, with some clear cautions in place. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with our recommendations below for safe group running. We look forward to seeing you out there!

    • Do not participate if you are sick or have any concerning symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches, etc) or if you have had recent contact with someone with COVID.
    • If you are in a high risk population for complications of COVID infection, please contact your physician before participating in group runs.
    • Practice social distancing - 6 feet minimum at all times, and 6-8 feet minimum while running (unless you are from the same household).
    • No group photos for now, but please share your individual photos on our facebook page!
    • Faster runners head out first, followed by slower runners to minimize passing.
    • Run single-file.
    • Carry your own hydration/snacks, if needed.
    • No spitting or ‘snot rockets’ - bring a tissue or handkerchief.
    • Bring a face covering! DNREC currently requires all visitors (state parks, wildlife areas and reserves, including the Mike Castle canal trail) to carry a face covering and wear it when social distancing cannot be maintained.
    • Please be courteous to other trail users, and avoid gathering in areas that limit the ability for others to pass at a safe social distance.
    • If you become sick with or test positive for COVID within 14 days of participating in a group run, please notify our club president, Phil Smith, at helenandphil@gmail.com or 302 690 5569 .

    Let’s get out and enjoy exercise, nature, and each other’s company  in a socially responsible manner! See you on the trails!

  • March 16, 2020 11:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Here is an informative note from Runners Connect concerning the necessary cancellation of races and how they can be handled by runners that hvave been training for them.


    "If you’re reading this article, I know you’re not in a great mood.

    All the preparation, hard work, and miles on the road seem like they are about to be a waste thanks to something out of your control.

    While there’s nothing I can do to truly make you feel better, my hope is that with this article I can give you a good guide for…

    • How you can make the most the training you have put in.
    • Potentially adjust your schedule for another race down the road
    • Shift your mindset so something good can come out of this.

    Read on if your race as cancelled or might be 

    Your race is 1-3 weeks away

    1. Run your own race

    This is the easiest solution, albeit not the most satisfying.

    1. Try to find an area around your home (it’s okay to drive a little) that is flat and free from traffic.
    2. Create a route (loop is best) that is the same distance as your goal race. You can even set out some water bottles and fuel like you might find at a normal race.
    3. Warm-up and prepare like you normally would and then race your loop to the best of your ability.
    4. Maybe you can convince a fast friend to pace you or get someone in your family to bike along side to help you keep pace.
    5. Some races are even going virtual (I don’t have a list) so do a quick google search and maybe a virtual race could be some extra motivation.

    Of course, this atmosphere isn’t likely to result in your best performance (without the electricity of crowds and other competitors), but it will allow you to take advantage of the taper and hard work you put in this training cycle.

    This is my recommended solution since it allows you to at least take advantage of your current fitness, gives you the chance to run fast, and eliminates logistical challenges down the road.

    2. Find another race you can run

    The “solution” that would leave you feeling most satisfied is to find another race you can run.

    However, this is another gamble since you don’t know for sure if your second choice option will also get cancelled.

    Thus, I recommend finding a race that is close to home or close to the destination you already have travel plans for. You don’t want to book another flight and/or hotel that you may not need.

    If you are able to find a race, you may need to adjust your training if it’s not on the same week.

    It’s a little difficult for me to give specific training advice in a blog article without knowing anything about your training. However, generally speaking, you can extend the last week or two of a taper if needed. Simply repeat the second to last week (maybe add a little extra intensity.

    If you’re a RunnersConnect member, see this section of the article for how to get your schedule adjusted by your coaches.

    Race is 4-11 weeks away

    If your race is 4-11 weeks away, the best solution is to go into “maintenance mode” so to speak.

    By maintenance mode, I mean backing off the intensity slightly, but keeping your mileage up. So, you would eliminate really tough, race specific workouts and instead swap them for moderate, more general workouts (more on this below).

    The reason for this is…

    • It’s possible your race isn’t cancelled yet, but is very likely to be. Maintenance mode allows you to keep your fitness high, so you can ramp right back up quickly without losing anything while also not burning out.
    • If the race is already cancelled up ends up being cancelled, maintenance mode gives you time to think about your options, wait to see how the pandemic shakes out, and plan for another race all without losing fitness or burning out.

    Once you are sure of the date of your next race, if it’s 4-11 weeks away you can jump right back into race specific training where you left off (or backing up 2-3 weeks if it’s postponed) without needing a ramp up period.

    If, after a few weeks of maintenance mode you don’t have another race scheduled or aren’t confident that you’ll be able to race soon, move to the next section.

    Again, RunnersConnect members can see the last section of this article for how to have our coaches write this maintenance block for you.

    Race is 12 or more weeks away

    While this is certainly still a bummer of a situation, I think we can actually make good use of this difficult time and actually help you become a better, stronger runner.

    You see, one of the mistakes I see most with runners is jumping from one race specific cycle to the next, without either giving themselves enough time between races or not “focusing” on training during the time between race and “taking a break”.

    Well, now you have exactly this opportunity. And, I think you can capitalize on it and make yourself a much better runner.

    So, why is this so helpful and how can you take advantage?

    One of the most common reasons runners hit a plateau is that they don’t work on their weaknesses between races (again, either they don’t give themselves the time by racing too frequently or they take a break from training between races).

    Here’s why this works.

    When you’re strong in a particular area (maybe you have natural speed or natural endurance) or focus almost entirely on one distance, the primary energy systems used for that event are maximized in training.

    The energy systems you don’t use during that race specific training plan get little work and lag behind.

    Unfortunately, at some point you will hit a point of diminishing returns where your stronger system can’t progress until you improve the lagging system.

    A good way to visualize this concept is to think of a how window blinds work.

    To raise a blind, you usually have two strings you need to pull. Each string controls one side of the blind.

    If we imagine the blinds themselves to be your race performance and the strings to represent separate energy systems, you’ll find that you can only raise one side (pull one string) so far before you need to also begin raising the other string.

    Therefore, by focusing on your weaknesses now, you’re able to make progress long-term, even without training as hard.

    And, that’s how you’re able to turn this negative situation into a positive. You can now work on your weaknesses and become a more well-rounded, healthier, and much stronger runner.

    How to work on your weaknesses.

    If you lack endurance, but have speed.

    If you’re a speed demon or have noticed that your shorter distance races are better, in comparison, than your longer races then you should concentrate on endurance based workouts, long runs, and aerobic development.

    An example would be reducing your intensity and slowly increasing your mileage. With reduced intensity, your body should be able to handle more mileage easier and thus adapt so you can carry it over to your next race.

    With no race on the horizon, you’re not stressed to include intensity like you normally would be.

    If you lack speed, but have lots of endurance

    If you’re an aerobic monster, if you’ve run a few marathons in a row, or maybe you’re an older runner, then you should focus on improving your speed and mechanics.

    An example would be slightly reducing your mileage and backing off some tempo run sessions and instead including more speed development work, strides, and explosive hill sprints.

    You can also start to include lots of drill work, plyometrics, and other exercises designed to improve your power and efficiency. Things you might not normally have time for with a full mileage load.

    If you’re constantly injured

    If you’re someone who always has something nagging them or can’t seem to get through a training cycle without a hiccup or two, this situation might actually be the best thing that can happen to you long-term.

    Now you can take your foot off the gas and really focus on what you need to get healthy. This might mean…

    1. If you currently have an injury, back off your training and focus on therapy.
    2. Begin adding that strength work, stretching, foam rolling and all the little things you let take a back seat when your training for a race. Now you have the time. 

    3. Start working to find the underlying causes for your injury because most times, simple strength training isn’t enough. It’s only the first step. 

    Don’t let yourself get down about the cancelled race. Instead, start making some lemonade from this lemon!

  • February 06, 2020 10:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We have 2 vacant positions and another opening in March. We meet once a quarter for a few hours to review financials, club status, and upcoming events that support our mission while having fun. We welcome new ideas and new people to support them. We try to divide and conquer tasks outside of the officer roles. Respecting that we all have jobs and personal lives, we encourage Board members to participate in MAC sponsored events within reason. Please email macrunning@verizon.net if you are interested in learning more, or talk to one of the current board members, Phil, Charlie, Lauren, Martina, or Beth.

  • February 06, 2020 10:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    While living in San Diego, I tried joining a few running clubs (three to be exact), but decided a running club wasn’t for me.  While it was nice to join a group of runners at different locations in the most beautiful city in California, it wasn’t a fit for me.  My first try started great upon arrival with everyone appearing friendly and welcoming, to ending with the group leaving before I even made it back to my car. The second group I tried was the famous “SDTC”, with 800 members. I was sure to find a friend.. I arrived at Mission Bay Park on Saturday morning that happened to be their “time trial day”.  They had a course marked and clock set up to time everyone. I though “fun”, kinda like a free 5k! The next run was Tuesday night where I was “grouped” with the walkers because my time was too slow for the runners! I never returned. SD had a fun adult social activity league which I was a captain of a kickball team. Adults would play and different watering holes would sponsor the social hour afterwards. They offered a running group so I gave this one a try. While much less competitive than last experience- it was definitely like moving to a new high school in the middle of the year when all the “cliqs” have already been formed.


    So when I moved back to Delaware in 2010 a coworker told me about MAC and I was less than excited to check out the club. She forwarded me a couple of Andy Shearers club update emails. They were full of riddles and fun comments about people. I was intrigued. I emailed Andy and asked if there were any “turtles” in the group or are there mostly elite athletes and fast runners? He welcomed me and said there were runners of all levels. Sure enough- there were all ages and speeds that Saturday morning. I was introduced, waited for and talked to afterwards- even invited to Dunkin Donuts where Barb Ward slipped me acoupon for a free coffee! Everyone said see you next Saturday as I left. Over the weeks to come Barb and Joe Ward took me under their wings, coached and inspired me, the and while my “pace” didn’t match the Soucy’s, Heaths and Shearer families they all took an interest in my runs and made me feel part of this special community. Almost 10 years later, There are so many people that have been part of my MAC experience and friends made have become family. When I introduced my friend visiting from San Diego to MAC on club run, he felt welcomed and could feel what a special group of people I belonged to. That friend (now my husband) moved to Delaware a few years ago and we are proud to say we plan on being active in the club for a long, long time.

  • March 24, 2017 12:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As promised, here are the Core Sling exercises that Lauren Grieder presented at our recent club meeting.  These are some great exercises to get muscles activated in preparation for your runs.  Check them out and give them a try!  You can see descriptions and photos of the exercise at this link:  Core sling activation[1].pdf

  • March 01, 2017 2:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Here is a listing of new classes (free) being offered at the REI store near the Christiana Mall.  Check them out at the following link:  New REI Course Offerings - REI Christiana

Middletown Athletic Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 99 Willow Grove Mill Drive, Middletown, DE 19709

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