Dr. David Martin, Pioneer U.S. Physiologist and Coach, Remembered, by Peter J. Thompson, for the IAAF


Dr. David Martin, a man who influenced athletes, coaches and the sport with his thoughtful analysis and practical application of modern science with training, died on February 28, 2018. "Dr.Dave" was loved and admired by several generations of athletes, who had relied on Dr. Dave to help fine tune their training, help with over training issues, hydration and how to focus their training for World Championships and Olympic Games.

Peter J. Thompson wrote this fine obituary/memorial on Dr. David Martin for March 2, 2018. We wanted to pay our respects to this fine man, who dedicated his adult life to helping coaches and athletes fine tune their training. Peter J. Thompson reminded us that the good doctor had a fun sense of humor. My rememberances of Dr. Dave were around 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, and his patience with my questions for American Track & Field Magazine.

b13627b6-b98f-4623-8a7a-715a2784215d.jpgLasse Viren, 1972/1976 Olympic double gold medalist, Dr. David Martin, photo courtesy of Peter J. Thompson

The IAAF is deeply saddened by the news that Dr David E Martin, the globally respected and renowned USA physiologist, coach, statistician and historian of running, died on Wednesday (28 Feb). He was 78.

Recognised as one of the world's leading experts in the marathon and long distance running, Martin was a research scientist who combined scientific enquiry and knowledge that few coaches could match, with a practical experience and knowledge of coaching that few physiologists could claim. Known for his intellect, voice and quick wit, he could converse on the full spectrum from robust scientific discussion to appropriate, situational levity.

In 1970, Martin was recruited to join the faculty at Georgia State University, immediately establishing the 'Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance', LEAP. This famed laboratory was to become his base of operations for the next four decades.

Through the 1970s Martin became one of the key figures in the development of women's running and, in 1980, authored, 'The Avon Report on the Status of Women's Distance Running', that proved to be a very influential document. That report, plus the increasing global entries that the Avon women's running series attracted, alongside the work of the International Runners Committee, IRC, convinced the IAAF and IOC to add the women's marathon to the IAAF World Championships in 1983, and to the Olympic Games in 1984.

From its establishment until 2012, hundreds of USA and international athletes would periodically visit "Dr Dave" at the 'Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance' for a 4-day evaluation, including Steve Scott, Sebastian Coe and Arturo Barrios. And the work and legacy of the LEAP continues today, now serving many additional USA National sports teams.

David was one of the cleverest people that it was my great fortune to have met in my life," IAAF President Sebastian Coe said. "He was an essential and integral part of my backroom team and I think it's probably safe to say, I could not have achieved what I did without his guidance, his support and his intellectual rigor. He was simply the best in class at what he did."

Cross Country was another of Martin's passions and from 1980-2006, he was a five-time men's senior Team USA leader at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. In 2006, following the outstanding preparation and success of Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi in Athens, 2004, Martin was honoured with USA Track & Field's prestigious Giegengack Award. The award goes to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development and success of USA Track & Field and the larger community of the sport.

Martin published more than 100 articles in academic and coaching journals and running magazines, including the current best practice on hydration in Athletics' environments, with Tim Noakes, in 2002. This document was the basis of the current USATF 'Hydration Guidelines' in 2003 and the current IAAF 'Policy on Hydration'.

He wrote several acclaimed books including 'The Marathon Footrace' (1979) and 'The Olympic Marathon' (2000), both with Roger Gynn. But, his seminal book, 'Training Distance Runners' (1991) and an expanded second volume, 'Better Training for Distance Runners' (1997), uniquely melded science and coaching practice. It was co-authored with Peter Coe, father and coach of the IAAF President.

On his retirement, he was awarded the title of Regents Professor Emeritus at Georgia State University's Division of Respiratory Therapy in the School of Allied Health Sciences. As his health deteriorated from the long-term effects of Parkinson's disease and travel became increasingly impossible, he threw his intellectual energy into further research, consulting, mentoring and writing articles.

Roger Robinson, of Runners' World, summed up David E Martin's influence as "a lifetime of priceless but self-effacing contributions to our sport."

The IAAF wishes to pass on its sincerest condolences to David Martin's family and friends.

Peter Thompson for the IAAF

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