Genetically modified runners

A year ago you didn’t see warnings like the one posted next to the sign-in table of a 5-mile race I did earlier this summer.No GMR's

Now it’s commonplace, and almost every road race in Eastern Washington has a similar clause in their race entry forms.

GMR’s (Genetically Modified Runners) started showing up in early 2013. Gene therapy involving injections of horse DNA into runners was developed by a small group of genetics graduate students unable to find work. By sheer luck they met working temporary jobs last summer at a local running store. Putting their minds together, they developed a brisk backroom business offering pricey gene therapy.

It's all under the table, but if you say "I like horses", to a sales person, you'll get preferential treatment.

It’s all under the table, so you have to say “I like horses”, to get preferential treatment.

After horse DNA is injected, runners improve to levels that are beyond human. Some side effects include a mutation of the feet which gives a slight hoof-like appearance, and a thin strip of mane on the upper

GMR’s have quickly learned to throttle back to avoid suspicion. Winning by a minute or two is okay. Crossing the finish line when the second place runner is at the halfway point is not.

Fortunately GMR’s won’t challenge elite runners. Any non-human DNA in the body is easily detectable, thus this issue is limited to small-time fun runs that don’t test entrants.

One runner who admits to receiving the therapy is Todd Oglesbee, below, leading a race he easily won. When I asked if he was happy about getting the treatments, he gave a thumbs up.todd GMR runner

“They needed someone to test the therapy, so I volunteered. I’ve won every race I’ve entered. Other than an occasional intense desire to eat a bucket of oats, I feel great.”

I spoke with a couple race directors, and both said they were more than happy with Todd running in their races. When I asked why Todd could enter, but not other GMR’s, one replied, “It’s because Todd’s such a nice guy. He’s an exception to the exception.”

Finishing a race with finesse

Dr. Steve Miller, RFT Coach

Dr. Steve Miller, RFT Coach

In some sports there are coaches that focus on just one small aspect. Football teams have a linebackers coach, special teams coach, strength coach, and a whole bunch more.

Distance running is seeing this specialization as well. Dr. Steve Miller is one of the nation’s top RFT (race finish techniques) coaches. I always thought how you finished wasn’t important, and if you did something fancy, you were grandstanding. But Dr. Miller insists it isn’t so.

“Like other areas of life, you need to self-promote to be successful. Finishing a race is your most visible moment. You need to take advantage of that. So many people are focused on stopping their watch and checking their time. That’s not going to get you into the Olympics.”

Coach Miller says he can improve this race finishing form

Coach Miller says he can improve this race finishing form

I know a great time can be advantageous, but I questioned how a unique or stylish finish gives you an advantage other than being noticed by onlookers. Dr. Miller insists I can’t see the forest for the trees.

“Jim, when a basketball player steals the ball, do you want to see him trot to the basket and lay it up, or would you rather see him do an aerial 360 and a reverse slam dunk?”

I thanked Dr. Miller for enlightening me. For sure, I do want to see fancy stuff. Dr. Miller went on to describe the transformation of one of his best students, Todd Oglesbee.

“When Todd first came to me, he didn’t have a race finishing technique. He just crossed the line. But we worked hard together. He wanted the arms in the air in victory look, but at first he looked like a monster trying to scare children. Now look at him – hands made into fists, elbows even with the shoulders, and an expression of painful satisfaction. Todd is on the path to stardom.”

Dr. Miller says Todd Oglesbee has a bright future because of his distinct race finishing technique.,

Dr. Miller says Todd Oglesbee has a bright future because of his distinct race finishing technique

Another student Dr. Miller has high hopes for is Hsiang Chun Yu.

“He has unbelievable leaping ability. I’m working with him on his form, and we’re doing workouts to gain even more height. You’re going to see him doing fantastic things at the finish line that you’ve never seen before.”

Hsaing Chen Wu brings enormous talent to race finishing

Hsaing Chun Wu’s enormous talent is pushing the limits of race finishing