“They were doing 10-mile long runs by that time and I dropped them. And they were like, ‘Oh, this kid is tough!’ I was coming and going on rolling hills and my coach was like, ‘Hmm, you ran the last mile in 4:55.’ I didn’t even know what that meant—4:55 a mile? I just ran. I used to clock [time] in kilometers, so I thought it was a kilometer, and I was like, ‘That’s slow.’ But it was miles. A few months later I came back and ran my first indoor [race] and they were like, ‘You can run!’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ That’s the moment I fell in love with the sport and I ended up quitting the soccer thing and just focused on running.”
Excited to share a recent conversation I had with Edward Cheserek on this week’s episode of the podcast. King Ches, as he’s known throughout the running world, recently tied the IAAF world record for the road 5K at Carlsbad 5000, breaking the tape in 13 minutes and 29 seconds. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the 25-year-old Kenyan for half an hour a couple days before the race to learn a little more about his life, his upbringing in Kenya, moving to the U.S. as a high schooler 10 years ago, his record-setting collegiate career at the University of Oregon where he won 17 NCAA titles, what it would mean for him to gain his U.S. citizenship and represent this country in an international championship, where his competitiveness comes from, and a lot more. (more…)
“I always found myself working very hard to try and be the best at those little things but also enjoy what I was doing. This was evident at a very early age—I wanted to be competitive at something but I wanted to enjoy it while I was doing it. I don’t think I gain most of my enjoyment from the competitive side of it and from the racing or the competing. It was more from the just being present there and enjoying seeing other people enjoy what we’re doing and enjoying it with them.”
Excited to share a recent conversation I had with a guy many of you outside the Bay Area running scene may not have heard of yet: His name is Paddy O’Leary, he’s an Irish lad living in San Francisco, and he’s a North Face-sponsored trail and ultra runner who has risen through the ranks of the sport in just a few short years. He’s also got a fast set of wheels, having run a big personal best of 2:20 and change in the marathon last fall at CIM, a race he ran on somewhat of a whim after The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships got cancelled due to the California Wildfires.
O’Leary’s a friend and sometimes training partner of mine and he’s got an incredible story—not to mention a beautiful Irish brogue—that I’m excited to share with you in this episode. Before he got into running about five years ago, O’Leary played on the Irish national lacrosse team from 2007-2014, captaining the squad to its first European Lacrosse Championship final in 2012. He’s also been a cancer biologist at UCSF since 2013, was the co-leader of the November Project in San Francisco from 2014-2018, and has a love of traveling, community, sport, and, of course a good Guinness.
On Saturday, April 13, O’Leary will attempt the Wicklow Round in his native Ireland, a self-supported long-distance run which involves summiting 26 peaks with over 20,000 feet of climbing over 70 miles with no GPS—just a compass, a map, and his own questionable senses.
This is a long one but it was an enjoyable exchange that covers a wide range of topics, from O’Leary’s upbringing in County Wexford, Ireland, why he came to the U.S. to do his postdoctoral research, how he got into trail and ultrarunning, what he’d like to do in running over the next couple years, and much, much more. I really think you’ll take a lot away from it, so settle in and enjoy my discussion with Paddy O’Leary.
“A lot of the folks I interact with now, whether it’s a newly post-collegiate athlete who’s still got goals that they want to achieve, or a middle-aged athlete who has a general fitness goal they want to achieve, or they’d like go for that Boston qualifier, whatever it is, most of these goals are achievable if you stick with it and keep building the tower—I call it ‘the Jenga tower.’ My outlook on coaching, generally, is: Let’s build the tower and we’ll eventually get there. Sometimes you do have artificial timelines, but if you can avoid them that’s better, and just concentrate on building on what you have done and not worrying about what you aren’t. So I try to think inductively about coaching and I think that’s partly due to some of these experiences—let’s assume we’re going to get there. It’s just a question of ‘how’ and not ‘if.'”
Really enjoyed sitting down with Dena Evans for this week’s episode of the podcast. Evans is currently the coordinator and coach of the Peninsula Distance Club, a competitive post-collegiate team based in Palo Alto, California that she founded in 2007. Evans also coached at Stanford from 1999-2005, and in 2003 was named the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the year after leading the Cardinal to the national title. A few of her athletes during those years are some names you might recognize, like Lauren Fleshman, Sara Hall, Alicia Vargo, Malindi Elmore, and others. She’s also been on the coaching staff for Team USA at multiple world championships. In addition to her coaching accolades, Evans was a standout athlete at Stanford from 1992-96, where she was a three-time All American in track and also star player on the soccer team.
We covered a lot of different topics in this conversation, from getting into multiple sports at a young age to her thoughts on specialization, her career at Stanford and how she juggled being a two-sport athlete, her relationship with coach Vin Lananna and how he influenced her as both an athlete and a coach, how she got into coaching and what she’s learned working with different levels of athletes over the past 20 years, what’s exciting her—and what she would change—about the sport of running right now, and a lot more.
I don’t know about you but it seems crazy to me that the Boston Marathon is a little less than three weeks away. I’m not running it this year but I’ve got four athletes competing so the race has been top of my mind for the past few months. Not to mention all the usual excitement around the men’s and women’s elite races, which, for the first time in history, will see the pro men start two minutes ahead of the open field. The pro women, as they have since 2004, will go off at 9:32, the pro men will leave at 10 AM, and Wave 1 of the open field at 10:02. In past years, the men’s pro field and Wave 1 of the open field have started at the same time (the pro men, however, were roped off at the front of the start line while Wave 1 stood a few meters back), technically meaning open men were eligible to compete for prize money because they started at the same time as the pro men, whereas open women who started nearly 30 minutes after the pro women were not. The race rules stated that to be eligible for prize money, a woman had to be a part of the pro field—more on why that’s significant in a bit. (more…)
“I think what made me me was taking big risks and training really hard. And I think that’s what allowed me to have such high highs but it’s also why I had so many low lows as well. I think if I would have taken the edge off my training I probably would have just been a lot more steady in my results and not so up and down and all over the map. But also, in my mind, I don’t know if I would have gotten to the same place—and for me, I would rather risk everything and see what’s going to happen than play it safe and just get to mediocre for me.”
It was a treat to speak with Ryan Hall for this week’s episode of the podcast. Hall, who retired from professional running in 2016, is still the fastest American male marathoner (2:04:58) and half marathoner (59:43) of all-time. He made two Olympic teams and finished in the top-5 at numerous World Marathon Majors, including a third-place finish in Boston in 2008.
We packed a lot into this 45-minute conversation, including his reflections on retirement and when he realized he couldn’t push himself to the level he wanted to in running. We talked about battling extreme fatigue toward the end of his career and what he might do differently in retrospect, especially as a high school athlete who trained hard from a young age. There was some talk about nature vs. nature as it relates to athletic success, body image issues amongst male runners—including his own struggles—and where his own independent and competitive streaks come from. Finally, we got into his attraction to Ethiopia and what led to he and his wife Sara adopting four daughters from that country, his upcoming new book, Run The Mile You’re In, what that phrase means to him exactly, and a lot more.
“The bottom line is that a lot of people look at running and they want to try it but are intimidated by it—and I think the more encouraging and welcoming we are, starting from the top of the sport, the better it is. And so that’s exciting for me to watch and to cover and I hope [elites] continue to be encouraging and welcoming.”
I had a great time sitting down with Erin Strout for this week’s episode of the podcast. Just a few weeks ago, Strout was named the digital editor at WomensRunning.com and for my money, she’s one of the top journalists covering the sport of running today. In addition to her work at Women’s Running, Strout has also written for Outside, Runner’s World, Running Times, and numerous other publications.
We covered quite a bit of ground in this conversation, including Strout’s introduction to running, when she began to think of herself as a runner, and the evolution of her career as a journalist. We also discussed the current state of the sport, the collective rise of American women in recent years, and what can be done to bridge the gap between elite athletes and middle and back of the packers. Finally, we got into the issue of gender equity in coaching, how she deals with feedback and criticism of her work, why she wishes freelance writers would stop pitching her personal essays, and a whole lot more, including some fun anecdotes about Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan.