This article originally appeared in our Sept 2012 issue, #9. We are re-releasing this profile due to the recent Twitter feud between MacKnight and our most recent cover subject, Matt Pelletier. We didn’t want Eric to feel he wasn’t getting enough Level Love.
10 and 10 is a new series in Level Renner. What we do in this feature is ask our subject 10 essay questions and 10 short answer questions (1-2 words). Eric MacKnight has been ripping it up this year (top finishes at New Bedford and Bedford), and we thought he’d make the perfect athlete to get this new column off the ground. We’ll start with the 10 essay questions.
1. Who are you? How did you get started in running?
My family is an active one so we are all always doing something. My dad and mom have run a handful of marathons each. My three older sisters competed in all different sports in high school. I played soccer from kindergarten to 8th grade. I didn’t really like the high school coach so I wasn’t too thrilled to play soccer my freshman year of high school. I did participate in the cross country “program” in 8th grade during the off season (basically running twice a week with a group after school). My mom pulled me to a few road races a year before high school. I attended one of my sister’s high school cross country meets. I was hooked as soon as I saw the first glimpse of the men’s race. My mom said I needed to do a sport in high school so I decided on cross country my freshman year. Since then, every year I enjoy running more and more.
2. What do you think is the hardest thing about the sport of running?
The most difficult thing about running is the daily motivation to get out the door for a run. Once you’re out there, it’s not a problem. It can be tough after a long day of work to change up and hit the pavement running. Sometimes all I want to do is sit on the couch and relax. As long as I have a race set for the near future (anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months), I am pretty much good to go. Luckily, I truly enjoy just being out there and having my health. Sometimes you need to look at the bigger picture and be grateful for your health.
A close second is the setbacks due to injuries. I luckily haven’t had any that have been too serious. Nonetheless, being on the sidelines never helps with the motivation factor.
3. Describe your best performance and proudest accomplishment.
One of my best performances was my junior year of high school when I placed 24th in the state of Connecticut at State Opens. I had placed well the week before within my class, LL. I printed out all the classes and studied that packet of paper for hours. With my time, I was right at 25th. It was probably the toughest race of my high school career. I vividly remember exiting the last woods trail (800 meters to go) at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT and my dad screaming, “You’re 25th!” I passed one guy to move into 24th and started charging the last 400 meters uphill on the grass. Then I realize I have two guys surging to pass me and one being my teammate. I sprinted my brains out to hold place and earn All-State Honors. Plus, we won State Opens as a team that year beating out favorites like Amity, NFA, and New Milford. It shocked the state of Connecticut.
My best performance was easily placing 5th at the New England Regionals my senior year running for Keene State College. As a team, we had a chance to qualify for Nationals, but my coach made sure I secured a spot for myself individually. The course was at Mt. Greylock High School. We had run there a handful of times. We didn’t want a repeat of my sophomore year when we did not run well as a team at the course for the same race, New England Regionals. My teammate, Tim Pipp, and I approached the race with vengeance and calmness. We ran together the whole way and pushed each other to the finish. We qualified for Nationals individually with our 4th and 5th place finishes in that race. We were stoked as soon as we crossed that line.
4. What’s your “go to” workout?
I don’t really have a “go to” workout yet. The one workout that was usually right before a big race in college was mile, 2×800, 4×400. Quick but relaxed. Other than that, I am still learning what my body likes and I am always up for something new.
5. How do you know you’re ready to race?
The best indicator is the week of the race. Most of the time, I know I am running a race at least 2-4 weeks in advance. If I am cruising right through my recovery runs and hit a solid workout, I am ready to rip it up in a race. I am not the type of person to just jump into a random race. In the end, I am always training towards something. It keeps me motivated and my eye on the prize.
6. Do you run doubles?
I double when I can. The last 6 months I was working 6am-2:30pm so doubles weren’t realistic. I tried waking up at 4:30am to get out for 3-4 miles, but those runs were far and few between. If my sleep suffers, my training suffers. Now I am currently working 7:30am-4pm and have started marathon training for the fall. Doubles are now part of my life with the ramp up of mileage to 85-100 mpw. You can’t do that on singles. My college coach, Pete Thomas, said the more runs you can get in a week, the better the recovery and the more benefit to your fitness. I definitely agree with that. If I workout on a Wednesday and can get 2 double days (4 runs) in before a Saturday morning race, it works wonders. As always, you need to work with your schedule to take advantage of your free time. Everyone can make excuses about not having time to run, you need to set aside time to train. If you don’t, it isn’t going to happen.
7. What do you do when you have a cold, ache, or pain?
It all depends on the injury. I usually just tone back and run through it unless it is switching up my gait and causing me to compensate for the ache/pain. I have had Achilles problems because my calves tend to strain easily. With these, I lean more towards a day off or a short day. The run is surrounded with lots of preparation and recovery methods. I will heat, stretch, foam roll, and massage prior to the run. Postrun will be more stretching, massage, foam roll, and icing.
As for colds, I have made the mistake of running through my colds and making them worse. College was always a push to perform and had time constraints. Sometimes you feel like you couldn’t afford the weekend off of racing or a couple days of rest. Now being post collegiate, I use the rule that if it is only in your head and it hasn’t reached your chest, train through it. As soon as it enters the chest (if it gets to that point), take a day off and rest up. Sleep is always crucial, but especially when you are under the weather. I swear by gargling apple cider vinegar when I have a sore throat. If you can keep your mouth and throat “clean,” it goes a long way. That and orange juice. Lots of vitamin C.
8. What type of ancillary activities do you do to support your running?
My number one thing is warming up before any run. I learned it from my dad and it has shown to be successful. My warmup consists of jumping jacks, lunges, foam rolling, and light stretching. That doesn’t mean I do it everyday, but I try to before every run. I am not the person to just lace up the shoes and hit the pavement running. 95% of my postrun routine consists of foam rolling. I consider it the poor man’s massage. With IT band issues, it is basically required for me.
I think I enjoy icing way too much. Most of my icing is precautionary. Lifting and core work is not part of my weekly routine, but I am attempting to incorporate it as best as I can. With marathon training, I am just keeping it simple with push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups.
9. Describe your diet.
I love eating food. Breakfast mostly consists of a bowl of cereal. It depends on what’s on sale. Oatmeal as a backup with real maple syrup (race day breakfast) is another favorite. I’ll make myself an omelet on a Sunday morning after a long run. I drink Simply Orange orange juice or Gatorade. I thoroughly enjoy a double decker peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. I am not really carb conscious but do chow down on pasta or rice. I mostly eat chicken and ground beef (burgers with onions and mushrooms in a tortilla). My lunches and dinners will consist of a carb, meat, and vegetable. Vegetables include eggplant, broccoli, peppers, black beans, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Mozzarella and cheddar cheese are always in the fridge.
I have a slight addiction to Stony Field yogurt with granola and banana. I live on Nature Valley bars and Nutrigrain bars. My two staples that I am never afraid to indulge in are avocadoes and Nutella. Most of my snacks can be topped with Nutella. Most of my lunches and dinners involve avocado, raw or sautéed. It goes on my burgers, salads, pasta, sandwiches, wraps or by themselves with a pinch of salt. I do have a couple weaknesses: Oreos and frozen dairy products. I can eat anywhere from 10-15 Oreos in one sitting. They aren’t allowed in the house unless my mom buys them for me. Neither is ice cream. After Wednesday workouts, I swing by TCBY for frozen yogurt with dozens of toppings.
10. What are some things you do outside of running?
Some activities I dabble in are fishing, hiking, and kayaking. My mom is an avid hiker so we try to make an annual trip to the White Mountains for a hiking trip. I completed a 4 month internship/volunteer work with the U.S. Forest Service as a backcountry caretaker for the Franconia Brook Campsite in Lincoln, NH last summer. In a nutshell, I lived in the woods 4 days out of the week for that summer. It was a great opportunity and allowed me to train on trails half the time for my first marathon back in October in 2011 (Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon).
I guess I could say that one of my other hobbies is writing my blog (http://macknighteric.blogspot.com/). I have a blog that I update close to everyday. It basically runs through the day’s events, start to finish. It started out as communication with my family members (direct and extended) on my summer internship in the White Mountains including my running. Now, it is the day in the life of Mac the Knight. It’s fun and I always look forward to updating it. With my three older sisters living in different states (Massachusetts and California) and my parents back in Connecticut, my writing gives them a chance to keep up with my life since I don’t get a chance to talk with them on a daily basis.
To read more from out Sept 2012 issue, click here.