I’m hoping this post will begin a new series here on the dailymile Community Blog. While dailymile workout updates are fantastic for keeping up with the fitness-related lives of our friends, sometimes I find myself wanting to know a little more about the people that I have befriended here. Recently I discovered a series of posts by Greg S. on his blog, Predawn Runner, in which he interviewed fellow dailymilers Brian A., Brendan M., Susan D., and Nils A. – these are all fantastic reads! Greg has a knack for asking great questions, and all of these posts provide great insight into the lives of some of our friends here, both on the running and personal fronts. After reading Greg’s interviews, I enlisted the (considerable) help of Brian A. and decided to interview the interviewer – what follows is the result. Thanks Brian for your help!
Let’s start with the basics; how long have you been running? What is your favorite race distance?
I’ve been running off and on since high school, and I’m hoping the “off” portions are finished. I first started running marathons in 2001. After watching the Cleveland Marathon on a local station, I told my wife “I should really do that someday.” She had heard me say this before and finally retorted, “well, there is no better time than now.” She was absolutely right, and for once I listened.
My favorite race is still the marathon. Frankly, since 2001, I don’t think I’ve run any other race distance more than twice, while I’ve now run several marathons. I like how it sets the agenda for your training season, and that every one is an event, even if it’s small. I recently ran my first 10-mile race, and really liked that as a shorter distance option.
You’ve mentioned on your running blog, Predawn Runner, that your parents grew up in farming communities and that your father still runs early in the morning. How much did your parents’ early morning ethic shape you as a person and a runner?
My father didn’t start running until I was in college, but he was always an early riser. When I was young, he would go to work early so he could earn overtime to help fund our college education (which he ended up not needing to do – my brother and I both had essentially full scholarships to Case Western Reserve University), and still have time in the evenings to coach our soccer, basketball, or baseball teams. My mother instilled a pretty strong work ethic as well, and also exposed me to the idea of the dual-career family, which is a challenge I happily face every day now. These days, my father gets up around 3:00 to 3:30 to run nearly every day, so he can still be at work by 6:00 or earlier. He no longer earns overtime – he just likes to work. I am grateful for the sense of pride in my work that they both taught me.
When did you start running competitively? What were some the early milestones that shaped your event performances?
I joined the track team in mid-season my sophomore year in high-school because, well, I was interested in a girl on the team. The girl didn’t work out but the running did, and I’m much better off from both outcomes now. The very first weekend after I joined the team, I posted the best time of the year to date in the 3200. From then on, I was hooked.
As far as early milestones, I set a mile PR of 4:45 my senior year, but regrettably slacked off in training due to a different girl (she didn’t work out in the long run either) so missed our school record by 4 seconds. In college, I didn’t run competitively (I played soccer for a year), but did start running again to lose the “freshman fifteen” I had gained. After meeting my future wife (finally) my sophomore year, I started doing road races and ran my first half marathon my junior year. I don’t remember the time but do recall being pleasantly surprised, especially given I had to walk off a cramp. That was 1993, and I continued the on-and-off approach to running until the situation in 2001 I described above.
You’ve mentioned that you BQ’d in Chicago in 2002; how many times have you qualified for Boston and actually run there?
I have now qualified twice, including this year at the Cleveland Marathon. With my 2002 BQ I ran Boston 2004 and it was a disaster for me. I don’t recall whether my training was poor (which was likely given that much would have been done in the winter). I do know that I spent too much time on my feet exploring Boston the day before the race, wasn’t used to the later start time for a run, and went out too fast on the early downhills. Of course, the 85-degree heat that day didn’t help either. I finished at 3:56, which was my worst marathon time ever. I hope to redeem that at Boston 2011, and I’m excited that my wife will be joining me on this trip for our annual spring weekend getaway.
Why the five year layoff from running in marathons?
In a word, children. We had three sons from 2003 to 2007, and while I kept running with the first (who fortunately liked the running stroller), it became too much with the second. To add to the challenge, my oldest son is autistic and, like many autistic children, he suffered from sleep issues (you can see some of our struggles in this blog post on establishing sleep habits in autistic children). It seemed that anytime I set the alarm to get up early to run, it’d drive him to have a bad night, to the point where my wife would cringe if I even suggested the idea. We really only got that under control (knock on wood) in early 2009, and that’s when I started getting more regular in my running again.
Did you have to make major life and training changes to get back into marathon running condition for your recent BQ performance in Cleveland? If so, what were they?
As I describe in another blog post on my path back to marathon running, I didn’t start with such a goal in mind – I was driven by the fact that my weight was creeping up past 190, maybe even 195 lbs. It was only by signing up for a challenge on Facebook in October that I got more serious about my running, and after finishing 3rd in a local 5K and putting in a strong 4 mile race, I felt that I probably could get back into marathon shape. The biggest sacrifice has really been getting up earlier, which has never been much of a problem. I did find my performance improved further when I improved my eating habits, which I forced by giving up vending machine food for Lent this year.
You currently maintain 2 blogs; what are your goals for your blogs? What prompted you to start Predawn Runner? Where did you get the idea to start doing interviews?
I started Constant Cogitation as more of a “personal branding” / career development blog, with the intention to include occasional posts on running. While it was successful on helping me build connections and learn more on topics of interest to me (marketing, strategy, and leadership), I found that the running posts got some of the best traffic and comments. I was really interested in writing more about running, but didn’t want to dilute my professional presence, so I started Predawn Runner. The goal there is to share and learn more about running, to inspire and be inspired by runners here on dailymile and elsewhere. The niche I focus on is runners who have a busy life but still want to be competitive and make significant gains. Thus I include content on training, motivation, fitting it in, running while traveling, and similar topics. And, I’ll be blunt, I have aspirations to perhaps build a small business around Predawn Runner, but never to the point where it interferes or conflicts with my primary career objectives.
I had seen other blogs have success with interviews, and it occurred to me that, while we see updates that give us slices of a runner’s background and purpose, we never see the whole picture. Thus, the Predawn Profiles were born.
What’s been your favorite race all-time?
That would have to be the 2010 Cleveland Marathon. I’ve run Chicago 4 times and, while a great event, it all seems to have blended together. Even my BQ at Chicago is a bit blurry – it almost seems like more luck than intent (though that was definitely my goal). Since Cleveland was my first marathon in over 5 years, plus the first time I had run this race, I think the 3:08:48 time I achieved there will always stand out as the best example I have of setting a goal, building a plan, and executing. Plus, as a smallish (2300 finishers) race, my time was good enough for a top-100 finish, which I had never done before. Finally, I’ve lived near Cleveland for nearly 20 years now, so it was nice to see the city in this way.
One of your declared goals is to run Boston in sub-3 timing; what are you changing in your overall training program to achieve that goal?
As I describe in a post on my marathon training plan for Akron, I’ve always started with a Hal Higdon plan (this time Advanced-II) and added my own modifications. As compared to my Cleveland training plan, I’ve added three major elements:
- An extra day per week of running (now up to 6 days / week)
- Replaced the mid-week mid-length run with hill training (Paul Sherman has convinced me of the value of this, especially with Akron and Boston both having significant second-half climbs)
- Added strength training and core exercises
I could have just assumed that doing the Cleveland plan, but faster, would have gotten me there, but I would rather “overkill” the goal a bit to make certain. I’m glad to have Akron as a trial marathon to measure the progress.
What unknown fact would surprise most of your online friends and followers?
Well, I guess I use this one at every team-building ice-breaker, but I’ll throw it out for a new audience – I was the 6th grade State of Ohio math champion. Thus, I can still calculate paces in my head while I’m running!
There you have it – Greg S. in his own words – bet you didn’t know he was a math geek (this said with the utmost respect from a fellow nerd)! To learn more about Greg, visit his running blog, Predawn Runner, his dailymile profile, or follow him on Twitter (@GAStroz).
Hope you enjoyed this interview, and I’d love to do more of these. If you would like to interview someone (or be interviewed), and have it posted here on the dailymile blog, visit my profile and send me a message. We can work out the details from there!