dailymiler of the week: Mike C.

Every week we pick one inspiring dailymiler to be featured on the blog. This gives you a chance to learn the stories of members of the dailymile community. Check out past dailymiler’s of the week. Do you know someone that would be a great dailymiler? Nominate them!

Mike Croy, better known as Dirt Dawg, ran his first marathon in Detroit in 1999. The race finished on first base in the old Tiger Stadium. Mike will never forget running across that plate or the sense of accomplishment that went with that event. Since then, Mike has run 19 more marathons, a few ultras and a number of shorter races. In 2010, Mike ran the Detroit half marathon with his dad and the next year he ran the Nashville Marathon with his wife. Spending time with these two people he loves as they ran was special to Mike. Mikes first 50K was a rainy, muddy mess on a two-mile course. He could see his car the entire time and passed it sixteen times! He admits, “It was so tempting to stop.”

Croy started his Dirt Dawg’s Running Diatribe podcast in 2009 as he was getting ready for his first 100-miler, the Burning River 100. Originally, it was an audio journal of his training runs, but over time it morphed into something more. Croy discovered a love for talking about running, books, movies, life. When he brought his wife in for a few episodes, covering her on-and-off training, his listeners loved it. Mike’s favorite episodes were the one where he read, Zen and Running, by Fred Rohe and his hundredth. Of his hundredth he said, “I never thought I would get to that number.”

When race day rolled around for the Burning River race, Croy assembled a crack crew which included his wife and a couple friends that he’d met through the internet. His training had gone well, but during the race he went through a really bad patch. “I had to walk for about 20 miles,” he said. That long, slow walk accounted for six hours of the twenty-seven and a half it took him to finish. If it hadn’t been for his crew who played their roles to perfection, he might have quit. They kept urging him on. His spirits were also buoyed by the kind words of those who’d listened to his podcast. He met several of them out on the trail.

In recent years, Dirt Dawg has started his own informal, no-fee trail 50K. The Fat Ass 50K, run annually around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, is a great way to burn off the turkey dinner and spend time with a few friends. Even though there are no aid stations and the threat of being shot by hunters is very real, 15 people showed up at last year’s event. One of them, a podcast listener from Florida who just happened to be visiting family, ditched the upcoming Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon to run in Croy’s event. With temps in the upper fifties and trails in immaculate condition, a great time was had by all.

While Mike has enjoyed the races he’s competed in and those he’s hosted, he generally likes to just get out there and run. Most of his training runs, especially his long ones, are solo. He once ran for a day in Rocky Mountain National Park. He took the hiker shuttle up and arranged to meet his wife several hours later. This is one of the moments in training that he treasures even today. He saw no one. It was just him and the mountain.

There are, of course, exceptions to the solo rule. From the time they were old enough to be strapped into a baby jogger Croy’s kids have gone out to run with him. “I used to take them out for runs with me after their morning feedings,” he reported. Now that they’re older, sometimes they’ll just race from house to house for fun. On one 50-mile training run a few friends got him started and his family ran him home. For the last two miles, his wife ran with him while he pushed the stroller that held their daughter. Their son rode his bike alongside the rest.

Croy has done all kinds of sports activities with his children, but he hasn’t pushed them into anything overly structured. They’ve played soccer and various iterations of baseball, but even as their coach he’s kept the pressure low. Watching the joy on their faces as they run around and learn new things is proof enough to him that this choice is the right one. “I’ll do just about anything with them they’re willing to try,” he stated. This past winter they decided to give ice skating a whirl. None of them were very good at it, but that wasn’t the point. The adventure of strapping on skates and stumbling across the icy surface was fun. That was the point! They’ve taken a crack at bowling too. Who knows what they’ll attempt next!

As for what’s on Croy’s personal bucket list, he’s not really sure what to put on it. When he was young, his mom took him to watch the start of the Boston Marathon. They rode the bus with the runners. He thought, One day, I’m going to run this. Of course, he didn’t know you had to qualify to compete in it. Still, the seed was planted and in 2008, Mike qualified in the Columbus Marathon with a time of three hours, nine minutes and fifty-one seconds. He ran from Hopkinton to Boston in 2010.

That goal accomplished, the list of future plans grows fuzzy. “I have had fleeting moments when I’ve thought about what I would like to do,” Mike says. The few ideas he’s had have been big ones. He might like to run-walk across the country or do the entire Appalachian Trail. Neither stands out in his mind as that gotta-do-it thing. For now, he’ll just keep doing what he’s doing – writing, running, podcasting – and enjoy it.

About Mike N

Mike Neifert is an avid runner and cyclist who lives on the plains of Kansas. He works out mostly in the early morning hours before the sun comes up. He drags his wife and kids along on runs and rides whenever he can. He's run a 50K, but not a marathon. He wants to ride 200 miles in a day sometime soon and plans to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours in November 2012.
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