Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thumbs Up Thursday...Greg

This week's spotlight is on Greg of Predawn Runner (here).  Once you read Greg's interview head on over to his blog and say hello.  I promise you will be truly inspired.  Did I mention he won a marathon this past Sunday?

Jodi:  How long have you been running?
Greg:  Well, it's been around 22 years "elapsed time" I guess, but there was a bit of on and off in that - so maybe 3 years in high school with track (specialized in the mile), maybe 5 in college and after I got married (my early road-race era), inexplicably took a few years off, 4 years in the early '00's (where I experimented in marathons, but didn't inhale), and now 3 years of the really serious stuff - so 15 "net" years.

Jodi:  Why did you start running?
Greg:  There was a girl on the high school track team I was interested in. We only dated briefly, but fortunately the running lasted a lot longer. In my first track meet, I ran the fastest 2-mile time of the year thus far for the team with just a week of training, so I guess my soccer background had given me a good fitness base to build off of, and I was hooked on running. I stuck with track even when the girl became less of a motivation (though, admittedly, there was another one...).

Jodi:  How many years have you been racing?
Greg:  I did my first road races in college, right around 1993 when I met my now-wife. The peak of this was my first half-marathon, the Buckeye Half down in Peninsula (I went to college at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland). I honestly don't remember my time but I think it was around 1:40. I had to walk out one side stitch but otherwise the race went well. I didn't really run to race then, it was more to lose the "freshman 15" and get some time away from the hard-core engineering / economics curriculum.

Jodi:  What is your favorite distance to race and why?
Greg:  I am heart and soul a marathon runner. I love the event because it is something you can build your whole season around, and in doing so you can still put in some solid half-marathon's, 10K's, even 5K's. I may someday make the leap to ultras, but I like the fact that marathons are more "comparable" - while courses may vary on hilliness, time of year (and thus temperature), etc., you don't have the wild variety of surface that you typically see in the ultras. Thus, you can focus on your PR and continue to drill it down for years - well into your 40's, for example, especially if you come late to running. I have done 9 of them now (4 Chicago, 1 Cincinnati, 1 Boston, 1 Cleveland, 1 Akron, 1 Towpath), and plan to continue at a 2-3 per year pace for the foreseeable future.

Jodi:  What is your favorite race memory?
Greg:  I'm going to focus on the 2nd favorite here because my favorite is also my proudest, below. This was my first Boston Qualifier (BQ) marathon at Chicago in 2002. It was my third overall marathon, I had trained pretty well but still didn't know if I had a BQ in me. I went out too fast, but managed to hold on until mile 25, at which point I had to pull off, under McCormick Center, to stretch out a hamstring strain. The 3:10 pacers (my BQ time) passed me at that point, so I got back out on the road and put in a 7:40 mile, even including the stretching, to finish in 3:09:08.

Jodi:  What is your least favorite race memory?
Greg:  I skipped my first Boston opportunity as it was a few months after our first son was born - we now have three boys, and I was stupid enough with the first to think that I could train through those early months. I then ran Boston 2004, after "tuning up" at Chicago 2003. One thing about the Boston course is that it has no forgiveness for fools, especially when the high temperature is 85 degrees as it was that day. I don't think my training was particularly strong ahead of that race, but I didn't let that stop me from blowing out the first few miles, on the early downhills. By mile 9, I was cooked. There was a lot of walking the rest of the course, though I did manage to run Heartbreak Hill (my heart was broken long before then anyway). My final time was 3:56, my worst-ever marathon performance. Now I recognize that there is nothing wrong with a sub-4:00 marathon, so I don't want to come across as arrogant, but when you are running Boston and had qualified with a time nearly 50 minutes faster, you can probably appreciate the sense of disappointment. And my wife had stayed home with our son, so there wasn't really a shoulder to cry on. Not that I cry but, well, you know what I mean.

Jodi:  What is your proudest running moment to date?
Greg:  This one is easy - this past weekend I enjoyed a completely unexpected win at the Towpath Marathon. I had a strong season of training, logging many 70+ mile weeks and some of the best tempo and interval runs I've ever done (though also some absolute flops due to the summer humidity - which made me stronger in the long run). I felt very confident in my 3:00 goal. But I had no thought ever of actually winning the marathon. Through a fortunate series of events, mostly involving all the leaders fading while I held a steady pace throughout, I moved from fifth place at mile 21 (which I was fully content with) to first by mile 25, and ended up winning by over three minutes. If anyone is interested in more details, I posted a full race report on my blog.

Jodi:  What one item do you absolutely have to have with you on a training run?
Greg:  I'm pretty minimalist about gear, I rarely take water unless it's over 15 miles (maybe 12 if it's humid out), and I rarely use my iPod. My must-have item is my Garmin Forerunner 405, as I am really big on metrics. However, I've taken to running all of my recovery-type runs with leaving the watch on time of day and not automatically showing splits, so that I'm running by feel but still get the final miles and pace to calibrate my "feel" on an ongoing basis. Since I don't really care about pace while I'm running such runs, there is no disappointment if it's slower than normal, but plenty of satisfaction when an "easy" run comes in surprisingly fast, as it did on one of my runs the week before the Towpath - thought I was running around 7:40, ended up at 7:05.

Jodi:  What is your favorite fuel during a race?
Greg:  Turns out Gatorade from the aid stations is all I really need. I've taken gels offered during past races, but missed the opportunity to do so at the Towpath and suffered no bonk whatsoever. I think the fact that I run 90% of my miles before breakfast, including 20 milers, has helped me develop a pretty good ability to utilize my glycogen efficiently.

Jodi:  What is your favorite post race snack?
Greg:  I'm not real picky about this either, and with most of my marathons being local these days due to family commitments (I had to miss the awards ceremony at the Towpath to coach my son's soccer game), we don't really go out to celebrate either. So it's generally whatever we make for dinner that night, which is typically kid-friendly. We did go to Morton's for a nice porterhouse (well, I don't think my wife had a porterhouse) after my first marathon in Chicago, but haven't really done anything like that since. I do tend to indulge in beer during my post-race recovery period, whereas I forgo it during the two months or so before the marathon.

Jodi:  Do you have a favorite quote?
Greg:  It may seem a bit of an odd quote, but my favorite comes from Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, where I spent the first 13 years of my career. I'm not sure if he got it from someone else, but he once stated, "yesterday's news warps today's fish". To me, life, and running, is about looking ahead, not looking back. This is true whether your past has been successful or, well, less than you hoped for. So celebrate your accomplishment, or lament a tragedy, but at some point you have to realize that you can only influence what happens from this point on, not what has already happened. It is pointless to waste energy over the latter.

Jodi:  Finish this statement: When I run a feel _________.
Greg:  empowered. What I love about running is that you control your own fate. Yes, natural ability comes into play, but you control how you take that ability and apply it towards setting and reaching your goals. Your race is rarely against others (though it is fun when that starts to happen), but it is against your own self - thus the quality of competition doesn't matter, the abilities of other "team members" doesn't matter. It is all about your own heart, discipline, desire, and intelligence (the latter comes into play in sorting out the approach to running and gear that is right for you).

Jodi:  Who do you admire most and why?
Greg:  I'm pretty humble about this I guess, as I would say it is my own father and my father-in-law. Both were hard workers, good fathers, and good role models for their family, and that is all I have aspired to be. Anything beyond that is gravy. Yes, I have dreams and goals, advancing in business, stretching towards ever-better running accomplishments. But I want to be remembered for what I did with and for my family, and if I fail at that, then I've failed at life.

Jodi:  What is your current goal?
Greg:  I assume we are still talking about running here (my other goals are as stated above). Since my goal was a sub-3:00 marathon, I guess I need to adjust it now. I'm pretty simplistic about this in general - at a high level, my goal is to see how much longer I can continue to improve my marathon time before my age starts to catch up with me. I suspect I have a good 5-7 years to go on this. So as a next step, I'd like to work towards a 2:50 marathon, maybe 2:45 in the long run.

Since we all know pictures make Thumbs Up Thursday even better, I give you Greg.

2011 River Run Half Marathon

2011  Towpath Ten 3-Way Race

Greg and his beautiful family

Thanks again for the opportunity to give you a Thumbs Up Greg!  Best of luck achieving your new found goals.

Keep running, you're simply the best, and Greg YOU inspire ME!!


  1. Thanks for choosing me for Thumbs Up Thursday Jodi, honored by the opportunity!

  2. Excellent interview with Greg. I enjoyed reading it. I followed Greg's training on DailyMile and know how hard he works everyday. Thank!

  3. Ummmm, awesome!!!!! I'm going to go stalk, I mean read, his blog to get the Sub 3 secret.