Saturday, December 11, 2010

Alberto Salazar is like Charlemagne

Perhaps an odd comparison, but not if you're a runner/medievalist, like me:
Alberto Salazar, the great marathoner of the early 80s and winner of the "Duel in the Sun" (1982 Boston Marathon), reemerged into the running fore in 2001 when he created the Nike Oregon Project. Salazar did this in part to address the decline of American runners in the world stage, saying, ""The rest of the world has gotten faster, and Americans have gotten slower." I pulled some information from the Track Town USA website:
The Oregon Project has also taken advantage of the following equipment and technology:
  • Laptop and Russian software: analyzes heart rate patterns torecommendoptimal intensity for daily workouts
  • Vibrating exercise platform: increases leg power
  • High-pressure oxygen(Hyperbaric) chamber: accelerates repair of muscle tears
  • Underwater treadmill (like the one on the back patio of Nike House): a way to increase training miles while reducing injuries
  • Whirlpool: relievesmuscle soreness
  • Medical testing equipment: monitors hemoglobin levels
Current runners who are involved include Shalane Flanagan, Kara and Adam
Goucher, Galen Rupp, Chris Solinsky, Amy Yoder Begley, Alan Webb, and Dathan Ritzenheim. These are all Olympians, American record holders, and continue to lead the pack in the recent boom in American distance running.
Recently, one of the major additions to the Project is coach Jerry Schumacher, who coached Shalane to a second place finish at the NYC Marathon. This in part occured due to Salazar's heart attack in 2007, but the addition has been quite beneficial to the project.
Ultimately, the project stands as a testament to not only what a good team can do together (versus training individually), but the effects of a single man's vision for positive change. The project has been hailed as one of the most innovative ideas in running in the twenty first century, and will hopefully continue to produce world-class runners for years to come.
So, how is Alberto like Charlemagne?
Brief summary of Charlemagne: Charlemagne was king of the Franks beginning in 768, and then was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800. During his reign, he expanded the Frankish empire tremendously into Western and Central Europe. In addition to his territorial advances, Charlemagne was also hailed for his contributions to the Carolingian Renaissance. His court, Aachen (pronounced Ah-ckin), was a center for learning. It became so renowned in part because it was a wonderful center for the liberal arts, and so people from diverse backgrounds and interests came together at Aachen. Charlemagne had to work very hard
to get Alcuin of York to come to Aachen. Alcuin was a well-known grammarian and litearay scholar, and adding him to the court enhanced Aachen's prestige. Other notable scholars included Theodulf (a Visigoth), Paul the Deacon (a Lombard), Peter of Pisa, and Einhard, who wro
te the first major biography of Charlemagne. These were the heavy hitters - the big writers of the age, and Charlemagne brought them together. Therefore, I submit to you
....The Carolingian Court Project
The idea came while I was reading David Bullough's Alcuin and Achievement in preparation for a final paper. Probably proof that it is the end of the semester, but there is a little bit of a connection. Both great men, great coaches if you will, and they put together great teams. Both are winners, and will certainly always go down in the annals of history, whether medieval or running.


  1. Now I know more about Charlemagne than ever before... Interesting points.

  2. Great comparison Vanessa! Thanks for the history lesson too.