1. Did/do you always find running enjoyable? Definitely not. I was an active kid but my main focus was on baseball. I could sprint pretty fast and I was coordinated enough to get some interest from a professional team for my defense, but distance running was not my thing at all until the end of high school. After years of poking fun at the runners at my school for “running circles in duck suits” (they warmed up for their workouts by running around the track in yellow sweatsuits), I set a personal goal of running 10 miles nonstop as a high school junior. The journey toward accomplishing that goal hooked me on the sport, and I donned my very own duck suit a few months later.
2. What is your favorite distance? I have always been fascinated by the marathon distance because of the consistency required to clip off mile after mile at the desired pace. I want to keep taking new strategies into my marathon efforts until I feel more confident at that distance, but in terms of enjoying a race and still being able to get out of bed the next day, I prefer 10-milers and half marathons. In triathlon, I love to race the Olympic distance. But I like to sign myself up for challenges that make me uncomfortable, just to push myself, so I try to find enjoyment in all distances and efforts. I’d like to spend some time focusing on everything from a fast 400 or 1600 to a 50-miler or full Ironman.
3. What do you struggle with most in running? I used to go hard on every single run, until I met some levelheaded runners who gave me good advice. I’m better at slowing my pace now, but the patience involved with running isn’t always easy for me. I ran six marathons before punching my ticket to Boston, and then after the most promising training cycle of my life, I finished Boston nearly 25 minutes slower than my goal time. I was so tempted to sign up for another marathon a few weeks later to try to “use my hard-earned fitness” to “run a time I truly deserve.” But that’s not how the marathon distance works… at least not for me. It’s a distance I have to respect and be patient enough to come back to when the time is right. If I ever have to take a long period of time off from swimming/biking/running, or even give those sports up altogether, I think that would become one of my greatest struggles. It’s scary but humbling to think about what our lives would be like if we had to rely on something besides running to fulfill so many of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs, isn’t it?
4. Do you remember your first 5k, half marathon and/or marathon time? I can rattle off my mile splits from every cross country race I ran a decade ago, so yes, my memory has also hung onto the results of my first distance races. I ran a 19:48 at the 2007 Forest Park XC Festival, a 1:47:11 in the 2008 Go! St. Louis Half Marathon, and a 4:10:05 at the 2010 Wineglass Marathon.
5. What is your advice for someone looking to improve speed and/or endurance? Experiment in short races. You can sign up for a 5K race every weekend, which is good, because to run your best at that distance, you need to learn painful lessons by going out too hard (or too slow) and finding out what you are capable of. The discomfort of a 5K doesn’t translate perfectly to the discomfort of a marathon, so it presents its own challenge that you simply need to figure out through trial and error. That said, weekly interval and tempo workouts have dramatically improved my race times at every distance, as have taking rest days and running at an easy pace every day except for track days. For most long runs, I have no GPS, no watch, and no cell phone, and I run at whatever pace feels good for me (or the group I’m with), whether that’s 6:30s or 9:30s. It’s sort of primitive, but I like to know my body and mind independently from the influence of those other factors, so when the mile markers don’t match the GPS on race day or the watch battery dies mid-race, I can stay in my own head and confront those challenges calmly.
6. What is your can’t live without running gear, besides shoes? A hat. Sure, it keeps the sweat from pouring and blocks the sun, rain, and snow, but it also helps me manage my flowing mane. Most importantly, I always start a race wearing my hat forward and then turn it backwards whenever I determine it’s “go-time,” as a way to mentally reset and settle in for the final push.
7. Ok shoes, do you rotate? If yes, how many in rotation – explain. I typically have a shoe with some stability for my longer runs and a lightweight shoe for my speedwork and races, but I’ve had nagging plantar fasciitis for nearly six months now, so I’ve switched entirely over to a solid stability shoe for every easy run, workout, and race. Please help me cure this so I can give a different answer to this question.
8. Do you have a mantra that you use when racing or training? If I’m doing a workout with my girlfriend, Sarah, I like to tell her that we are strong enough and that if she can do it, I can do it (and vice-versa). It helps us hold each other accountable and push through the same workout, and I truly believe that we are always capable of a successful workout or race if we keep our thoughts under control. In the lonely miles of any race, though, I sometimes think about Bruce Lee’s advice: Be like water. Water can be calm and tranquil (the early miles of a marathon), deceptive and whirlpool-y (tactically dropping the competition), or strong and powerful (kicking to the finish). Running is also my favorite way to feel connected to something bigger than myself, so I like to start and finish every race with a quiet moment of gratitude for the day and the opportunity.
9. Do you ever feel unmotivated to train? If so, how do you overcome? For better or for worse (and it has definitely been both), training usually lands at the top of my priority list, so I’ll typically find a way to fit it in, even if that means I have to run a few minutes late to something else. So if I’m really feeling burned out or worn down, I treat myself to a day off. But running really is my favorite thing, because I feel like it makes me my best self and offers me a chance to be a part of a community without having to think of the right words to say. It’s also nice to know that if I ever had to literally run for my life, I’d be able to do it, at least further and faster than most people behind me.
10. What is the best thing running has given you? Wow, that’s tough. Running has given me some of my favorite quiet, contemplative moments, and it has also given me some of my best memories with friends and family. I met my best friend and partner through running, and my love for running inspired my dad to join me in my first marathon. At the end of the day, running gives me an activity that doesn’t come quickly or easily, but instead requires immense patience, courage, and experience. So the satisfaction that comes from a good run is practically unparalleled.
Tim is currently training for Indy Monumental Marathon and is on track for an incredible race. He was 2nd overall in the recent Big Bad Wolfe 20 Mile training run. We’ll be watching for that hat to turnaround in Indy!