Tag: Kevin Gray

Interview with Former World XC Champ John Ngugi

Throwback Thursday. Each Thursday we will publish a post that was previously released in our magazine. This one comes from our September 2012 issue. Level columnist Kevin Gray caught up with world champion John Ngugi. 

For you new school athletes/readers, John Ngugi is a five time world cross country champion.  No small potatoes.  If you’re old enough and have a good enough memory, you might recall that he picked up the 1992 world title in our own backyard—in Franklin Park.

Kevin Gray: How did you come to be a runner in Kenya? As a boy growing up in Kenya, was it a tough life and did you struggle with poverty? I know that you were famous for your toughness and strong work ethic; did your upbringing contribute to this toughness? We would love to know what it was like to grow up in Kenya.

John Ngugi: First and foremost, I send greetings to all my fans in Boston and you. Thank you for taking your time to have a wide profile of my athletic career. My running in Kenya played a big role in my childhood. Most of the successful athletes that are now millionaires must have faced the real sense of poverty before their final success. In my case, my life was difficult since we only earned a livelihood through agriculture, that involved cattle rearing and seasonal harvesting. With such as the key means of earning income one was never sure of any school fees, clothing, and to some extent food due to the uncertainty that comes with farming. A good education system was a privilege of a few due to lack of school fees caused by financial difficulties.

My heroes at that time were many, for example Henry Rono. With such heroes to emulate I got the determination and courage to exploit my potential in athletics to such great heights and there after emerging a success in the athletics field.

KG: What sports did you play as a youth? Do young boys in Kenya want to emulate the famous runners that they see around town? Who were some of your athletic heroes growing up?

JN: At the time, I did not really have a clear sense of sports. Back in the days most of the games played today had not come to Kenya. We loved soccer even though we did not have any actual soccer balls (we had some made of polythene papers).  We did some river swimming and the best of all was a hunting game. We would have a gathering of friends, neighbors, and relatives. We would gather all dogs in our neighborhood and involve ourselves in a hunting race. The winner would be the person who would capture the most dogs in the shortest time possible. My brother and I would always emerge victorious with as many as five catches with the others having one, two, or none. Such activities were of help to my career in athletics as they enhanced my long distance running. At that time life was good and interesting.

level interviews 430x300 9.7.14Most of the best runners have been emulated by the young upcoming athletes and have had them as their mentors and role models. You hear echoes of pedestrians saying they have either seen Paul Tergat, Makau, Rudisha and the rest which gives the young talents people to look on to pursue their careers in this field of athletics, which is a privilege especially given that some in other countries would wish to have such heroes to look up to but lack.

KG: As you began to have success, Mike Kosgei began to coach you and you adopted his methods of training three times a day.  This began to become known as the “Ngugi Routine.” Was this incredible training regime what propelled you to be the best cross country runner in the world? How many kilometers were you running a week and how often would you do track workouts/hills or tempo runs? Can you please explain what a typical training week would like when you were the world’s best?

JN: Mr. Mike Kosgei played a big role in my training sessions and all credits go to him for making me who I am. Through him the Ngugi spirit still rekindles among our athletes. My passion and desire to be world champion increased my strength. I had to accept his tough and tedious training but the results were all to favor me. Before Mr. Kosgei came, I used to have training which to me I called “hard.” However, after his arrival with his training I did like three times of my so called “hard training.”   The irony was I had longer long runs than I expected.  I always wondered why the long run seemed to go by so quickly, despite being in dark hours. (Editor’s Note: Ngugi did his long runs as early as 4:30 am and for a good portion of his career he did not own a watch.)

My weekly routine had an average of 200km (124 miles). I would make sure on Mondays and Saturdays to have a daily program not exceeding 20-30k. On the track sessions, my program range was 800 meters and above. The program expected from my coach had a focus on 10,000 meters. That’s why I had the courage to do both 10,000 meters and 5000 meters at the same time in all my events.  My motto was “Train Hard, Fight Easy” which made me shine in most of the appearances I made. In fact I had less time on hill work since the geographical scenery had plenty of them.

KG: You won World Cross five times, and are widely considered one of the best cross country runners ever. Which of these five victories has a special place in your heart? You are considered a legend here in Boston because of your epic run in the deep snow, taking on and beating the Ethiopian team single handedly. Do you have any special memories of your victory in 1992 at Franklin Park? If I remember correctly, the Ethiopians tried to block your progress by running four or five across up the narrow path to Bear Cage Hill.

JN: In 1992 in Boston, I only used one trick in beating the Ethiopians. I made sure I would zap the Ethiopians strength by making them run hard. As soon as the race got tough bit by bit, one by one, they slipped aside and gave me space to move on. The best thing is that in my training sessions most of the times it was rainy. The muddy and steep route was hectic but I fought easy.

KG: Switching gears a bit, you were known primarily as a runner who excelled in the bush, but you also won a gold medal in the 5000 meters in Seoul. Can you please bring us through this race?

JN: This was my best run, the one that bears a special place in my heart at the Seoul Olympic Games. My mind recalls each and every step of that day. At that time, most of the athletes underestimated my efforts and I had to prove them wrong. If you have a look at that clip, I almost lapped the 2nd finisher. I wish I had a chance to speak to him, and he would claim the same.

KG: It’s a great thing to see that you have decided to give back to the less fortunate children of Kenya through your foundation. Can you please talk a bit about the the mission and purpose of the group?

JN: Having had a good platform, it’s best for me to have a foundation known as The John Ngugi Foundation. Our key mission is to identify young Kenyans who have sporting talent and build them into responsible adults and world champions.We have received numerous sponsorships from all our partners. For some time, we have been offering sponsorships to the needy and poor families. In this year we launched a shoe campaign process which we intend to distribute to most of the less fortunate talented youths here in order to enhance their running capability. We have also been working all along with Mt. Kenya Development Talent Centre, a charitable organization with  a similar mission and objectives which is giving aid to the less fortunate underprivileged talented youths. Most youths here have talents but all go to waste due to abject poverty, lack of training facilities, and people to monitor such talents. It’s so bad to see such young people get wasted to drugs, HIV/AIDS, lawlessness, and other societal ills.

Our main purpose is to have a sponsorship program where we can assist the young upcoming but less fortunate athletes and to make their athletic dreams a reality. Abject poverty coupled with lack of proper training facilities has been a major contributing factor to loss of would be world athletic heroes. It’s our belief at the John Ngugi Foundation and our affiliated charity, Mt. Kenya Talents Development Centre, that should these young talents  be hosted in a camp and be provided with all necessary training, that we will have some new Ngugi’s in the athletic world. We wish to reduce this loss of talent and have good sportsmen and women.

KG: Can we talk about the explosion of Kenyan marathoning over the past five years? The times have just become unfathomable, and as seen recently, the Kenyan Athletic federation probably had the hardest job in sport picking only three athletes for the Olympics. Any thoughts as to what has led to this utter domination? From what I’ve read, young athletes may have copied your training regime in the camps, training multiple times a day and really just honing an already strong work ethic.

JN: Athletics Kenya had a hard time in making their decisions on the issue of the Kenyan athletes to feature in the 2012 Olympics. The worry was who would be the successor to the late Samuel Kamau Wanjiru who I knew from his early runs. (He even once came to my training camp at Nyahururu Central County.) But keep in mind that if there were 3 Olympic Games at the same time, the Kenyan spirit would still dominate the best. Critics argue that every Kenyan runner is a champion due to tough competition. This utter domination has been caused solely by advanced training that has come up even to some extent on having foreign coaches training our athletes. In addition to this, many Kenyans have also come to the reality that athletics is also a major income source.  Still, most train hard all in the name of wanting to secure that chance to represent the country.

KG: Do you regret that you never had the chance to excel at the marathon or were you happy with your success at the shorter distances?

JN: The little efforts that I attained were worth the success in that short period. I have no regrets at all since I broke a record of being a 5 Time World Cross Country Champion.

KG: You are Kikuyu, and not many people realize that within Kenyan culture, there are 42 distinct tribes. The Kalenjin are usually known as the “running tribe.” Were you a pioneer, one of the first Kikuyu who proved that you could be a champion? Does this rivalry exist amongst tribes in Kenya today?

JN: Let me say I adore my tribe as a Kikuyu. The rivalry tribes do exist among some athletes. One of my friends just disclosed to me a secret he kept for more than 20 years on how they used to play tricks on me. Their worry was I never stood up in either of their game plans. In some sense the Kalenjin still dominate. Athletics to them is like going to school. The majority of athletes come from there and most of their children must have started early practices as from 5 to 10 years of age. That’s why they shine.

KG: What are some of your interests outside of running? How are you enjoying retirement?

JN: I am enjoying my retirement. These days I do offer some training sessions to the youth. I am also the director of coaching at Mt. Kenya Talent Development Centre. In 2009 I was selected to be the Peace Ambassador of our country. I spend most of the time in meetings regarding peace forum. When I am out of business, I spend my times with my two sons, Stephen Kamau Ngugi and James Wahome Ngugi. They give me hope, strength, and encourage my heart. I believe they will follow my footsteps. They are doing extremely great and making remarkable progress.  Thank you for having your precious time on my profile.  Thank you and God bless you.

Kevin Gray is a regular contributor for Level Renner.

A Run With Tim Ritchie

By Kevin Gray

Current Editor’s Note: Reposting an interview with Tim Ritchie that first appeared in the May/June 2012 issue issue of Level Renner. Seems appropriate since Tim was just named the 2013 Male Athlete of the Year for the USATF-NE. At least we think he was. Haven’t seen anything official and there’s since been word of a rogue snapchat stating another athlete won. 

Rolling along effortlessly at 6:10 pace (for Tim, not me) along the Charles River, I get to know Tim Ritchie. On an unseasonably warm morning in late March, he reminds me of what consistency, passion, and intelligence can do for a runner. As a native of Worcester and graduate of Boston College, Tim’s first love was baseball, though he was self admittedly “awful.” “My favorite part was running the bases and the warm-ups, which I should have taken as an early hint,” he recalls. Following in the footsteps of his two older brothers who ran cross country, Tim started to develop a passion for the camaraderie, training, and racing that come with our sport, quickly finding himself hooked. Although talented and a hard worker, Tim ran modest times in high school (4:35 for the mile and a top 5 finish at the Massachusetts State Meet) that were not fast enough to earn a scholarship. “BC doesn’t have scholarships, and if they did, I probably would not have made the team.”

Tim’s road to success has been one of long, steady improvements as his big picture approach to training is starting to pay dividends. We started to see Tim cash in on this training in the winter and spring of 2011 as he catapulted himself onto the national scene while earning a reputation as a grinder, a true blue collar runner. Exactly what The Level likes.

I would often see his solid results (top 10 at BAA ½ Marathon twice) when perusing the internet, but after clicking onto Flotrack this past January to check out the mile at BU’s Terrier Classic, I did a bit of a double-take after seeing him run 3:58:49. Less than four hundred Americans have ever broken 4:00 for the mile, and to do it on a 200 meter indoor track in January is quite an accomplishment. To then double back in the 3000 an hour later in 8:05 is why I’m writing this article.

As we head into Watertown along the Charles River, Tim lets me know that the Terrier mile was meant to be more of a “hard workout,” not really an attempt at sub 4:00, and he was more stoked that his athletes (Tim in an assistant coach at BC) had run well earlier in the day. This served as a positive distraction, busying himself worrying about others, and before he knew it, it was time for his race. The one downside to this historic day was that his parents were not in attendance at the meet, but through the beauty of the internet, they were able to watch.

Currently coached by former Arkansas standout Matt Kerr, who Tim credits with taking him to the next level, both men subscribe to the “strength equals speed” approach, focusing on lots of tempos/ progression runs and a solid long runs rather than hard track intervals. Arriving halfway through Tim’s time at BC, he speaks very highly of Coach Kerr’s approach: “I believe that he is an innovative, intuitive and caring coach who has given his time and energy to my running over and above anything that I could have expected.” With the Olympic Trials quickly approaching in June, Tim’s goal is to qualify in the 10K rather than the 1500. The intent is to use his January sub 4:00 performance as a springboard into the 25 lapper.

Tim Ritchie Kevin Gray Mag
Back to our run on the Charles: after a few miles, I looked at his wrist and noticed that he was not wearing a GPS, sticking with the old fashioned stopwatch. About my observation, he responds a bit circuitously, “Often times Coach Kerr will find an open field and have us run intervals around the perimeter, running off of effort and not being overly concerned about pace.” The strength over splits approach is working for Ritchie. In addition to his indoor results, a recent 3rd place finish (44:41; 4:48 pace) at the Gate River Run (which serves as the US 15K championship) affirmed his place on the elite runners map. In five short years, Tim has gone from a 4:35 schoolboy miler to an elite who will take a crack at qualifying for the Olympic Trials at the Payton Jordan Invitational this spring.

As our jaunt progresses, we come to what I thought was the end of the loop where I would usually head back to Boston. Here, Tim’s face lights up with delight: “This is the best part of the loop, nice dirt trails and boardwalks.” I have to admit, after close to 10 years of running on the Charles, I thought I knew every section, but I’m giddy with delight as only a runner who finds a new trail can be. As we run along towards Waltham, I’m a bit surprised to hear Tim mention that he takes Sundays completely off to recover, does his longrun on Saturday, and does not run doubles. He will max-out with a weekly total around 70-80 miles in six days with the majority of it done at a quality pace. I start to process this in my head and again appreciate the simplicity of his training. Seventy miles may not be viewed by some as high mileage, but it’s working for Tim. I inquire about any potential sponsorship deals, and Tim is again very happy with the current support he receives from the BAA and does not feel that he has run fast enough yet to receive an offer: “I am very happy with my situation at the BAA, and they have been overly supportive of my running and racing goals. Long term goal would be to find sponsorship, if I found a situation I thought would maximize my running, but I do not think it is all that crucial at the moment. I think it demonstrates that you do not need money to run all that fast, you just need a strong work ethic and an attitude of gratitude.”

As we reach a stone pillar at the far end of some baseball fields, Tim reaches out and touches it and with a smile says “five miles” as we turn around and head back to his apartment in Brighton’s Oak Square. I chuckle to myself, as laid back as Tim appears, he needs to touch that pillar marking five miles, just as I would do, runners being the creatures of habit that they are. We begin to talk of the balance that Tim’s life requires, with full time-training, coaching at BC, working part time at the South End Athletic Company along with daily mass and a social life. Although he will occasionally get out to train with BAA or BC runners, Tim does the majority of his runs solo, sticking to the Charles River, Newton Hills, or BC Reservoir, which have all become his favorite routes. “Training is definitely a priority,” he says, “And the understanding after graduation was to give it my all for two years, and so far, so good.”

The conversation on our run home turns to life outside of running and another pillar of Tim’s life, his strong faith. I question how he has developed such a strong faith, and he tells me that his parents laid a strong foundation, but it was the friendships that he developed at his time at Boston College that have really fostered it. From some background research for this article, I learned that Tim encompasses this passion into all aspects of his life, helping run Campus Retreats for college students in the Boston area (yes, even BU students). He teaches the idea that faith is similar to athletics and running in general, where there may be days when you don’t want to run for any number of reasons, but if you show up and lace up, you will improve. We all have crosses to bear in life, but Tim’s feeling is that through tenacity, consistency, and passion, those crosses can be carried.

The pace drops as we re-enter Watertown. We are lucky to catch the traffic light and manage not to break stride. As we race through the intersection, I’m struck not by a car but by what a humble, gracious guy Tim Ritchie is. He mentions to me on numerous occasions how flattered he is that Level Renner is doing a piece on him. The only time he actually talks about himself (without me directly asking something) is an anecdote from high school while racing against Chris Barnicle (see future Level Renner article). When I press him for the major influences regarding his steady improvement, he speaks of a large group of supportive family, friends, Coach Kerr and Jesus Christ who he feels “has truly given me the gift, the strength, and opportunity to train hard, run fast, and love every moment of it.”

[Retro Editor’s Note: Ritchie ran 28:44 at the Stanford Invitational on April 6 to meet the Olympic Trials “B” qualifying standard. Let’s hope he gets the “A” standard at Payton Jordan. Ritchie recently participated in the BAA Invitational Mile. You can read his race report on www.levelrenner.com.]

Kevin Gray is a regular columnist for Level Renner and a self-proclaimed running geek. Reach him at [email protected]

***As was stated at the beginning, this article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

Powell’s lead Oregon to Coast to Coast Battle in Boston

The University of Oregon will make their first ever visit to Boston’s Franklin Park on September 27th, ushering cross country back to the hallowed grounds after a year hiatus, for the Boston College invite. Former Massachusetts standout and Stanford graduate Andrew Powell enters his ninth year in the coaching ranks as the Associate Head Coach for the Oregon Cross Country team.

As a Massachusetts’s prep Andy ran to a state record of 4:02 in the mile at Oliver Ames, leading to a successful career at Stanford. While at Stanford, Andy was teammates with future wife (Franklin, MA native and six-time state track champion) Maurica Carlucci, who is currently the assistant coach for the Women Duck’s.

Having such a high quality meet this early in the season should prove to be a special allure to Boston cross country fans. Boston College assistant coach Julie Heyde was able to confirm that the women’s side will have four top twenty-five teams in Oregon (3rd), Providence (1st), Cornell (10th) and Boston College (25th). The Men’s side will showcase perennial power-houses Wisconsin (coached by Providence College grad and long-time Iona Coach Mick Byrne), Oregon and Providence. “The meet was Randy’s (Thomas) idea, who reached out to Oregon and Ray Treacy from Providence who then reached out to Mick Byrne” according to Heyde. “ There will be unlimited entry for runners, but we are trying to keep it to a maximum of thirteen to fourteen teams.”

The Powell’s certainly have their hands full leading one of the marquee athletic programs in the country. Each year begins with the hope of a National Championship (to go along with his victories in 2007 & 2008). This season Oregon’s cross country team is again stacked with forty-three distance athletes on its mixed cross country roster, including former high school All Americans and national champions.

Coming up through the ranks at Stanford and Oregon, Andy has had some great mentors in Vin Lananna and Alberto Salazar, and he has undoubtedly used their influence in his success in coaching. As a result of this success at Oregon, and of being in charge of the everyday training and racing for so many athletes (as well as recruiting), Andy unfortunately has had to drop some extracurricular activities. On the chopping block: coaching athletes post-collegiately, where he had some huge success with athletes such as Matthew Centrowitz and Luke Puskedra.

Currently ranked 12th (men’s) and 3rd (women’s) in the 2013 pre-season poll, even the most casual cross country fan will tell you, Oregon attracts the cream of the crop from high school runners. One would expect a high-pressure program in Eugene, but Coach Powell was adamant about keeping it light and fun while performing at the highest level. According to Powell, “our first priority is to always win outdoor track, and build on the rest from there.” The trip across country to Boston will be in this spirit as an early season meet, to have some fun, but also see where they are from last years 20th place finish at Nationals. “I do not pay much attention to pre-season poll’s, but the trip will be a good experience for the New England athletes.” This year’s team should have around six or seven strong athletes vying for a varsity spot.”

On top of serving as an early rust-buster, the trip to Boston should serve as a home-coming for a number of New England Athletes on the Oregon roster. A late addition to the Oregon squad was surprise Northeastern transfer and New Hamsphire native Eric Jenkins, who sports a 13:18 5K P.R. and should contend for a top-ten spot at Nationals. Beyond the New England roots of the Powell’s and Jenkins, the men’s team has three New Jersey runners in Jeremy Elkaim (Livingston), Brett Johnson (Ocean City) and two-time Foot Locker National Champion Ed Cheserek (the Blue Chip recruit of 2013 from Newark). On the women’s side, Sophomore Abbey Leonardi (Kennebunkport, Maine) and Megan Patrignelli (Monroe, N.Y.) will also make the trip to Boston after being contributors to last years National Championship team.

Friday September 27th should be a great day to cut out of work or school early to come and support the return of cross country in a big way to Franklin Park. The women will lead things off at 3:30 with the men following at 4:15. The Level Legion hopes to see you there.

Q & A with Chris Magill

 Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the July/August 2012 Issue of Level Renner magazine.  We are re-issuing it here to celebrate Chris Magill’s 2nd place finish in the masters division at the Falmouth Road Race held on August 11, 2013.  Magill ran 37:58 (5:21 pace) for the famous 7 mile course and finished just ahead of another local runner, Joe Navas (38:29 for 3rd).  Kevin Castille won the division in a scorching 34:01 (4:47 pace).

By Kevin Gray

Magill at the Amherst 10 Miler in 2012. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

Magill at the Amherst 10 Miler in 2012. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

Chris Magill, a native of Rhode Island, has been a fixture on the New England running scene for the good part of twenty years. A former Kinney Finalist (pre-cursor to Foot Locker and Nike Cross Nationals) while at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, Chris went on to have a successful career at Iona College and has run post collegiately for the BAA for the past 14 years. After being in a self-described “rut” for the last year, and now 39 years old (and father to three boys), I caught up with Magill  as he recently returned to form with a 15:26 at the BAA 5k.

Q: Can you bring us through a brief history of your career, maybe touch on your proudest accomplishments?

A: In high school, it would have to be the 1989 Penn Relays, where St. Ray’s won the DMR championship of America, beating out the favored Jamaicans in front of 20,000 people. The Victory Lap was awesome. Besides that, it would have to have been placing 2nd in the 1990 New England Cross Country Championships and qualifying for the Kinney Championships in San Diego. Other accomplishments, while at Iona, would be making the IC4A finals in the 3,000 meters indoors in 1993 (I believe I placed 5th) and making the IC4A finals in the 1,500 meters outdoors.  While running for the BAA, I am proud to say I won two road race Grand Prix titles and helped the team  win Grand Prix team titles.  If you look at the list of winners, I am proud to even be mentioned with them.

Q: After a brief stint at Old Dominion, you transferred to Iona College and ran for Mick Bryne.  How was your experience at Iona?

A: My experience at Iona was great.  Mick Byrne is a great coach and certainly helped me establish the PR’s that I have today. My transition from being the number one runner on the cross country team (at Old Dominion) to battling to be in the top five certainly helped me become a better collegiate runner.   Qualifying as a team to the 1993 NCAA cross country meet (back when there were only 22 teams invited) was a highlight while at Iona.  Also, I established friendships and had some good times on North Avenue with guys such as Martin McCarthy (13:42 for 5k), Mark Churchill (former Foot Locker Finalist from Vermont), Billy Myers (former Rhode Island standout) and Jermaine Hall.  After I finished my undergrad, Mick brought me on to be the graduate assistant coach.  This was a great experience as I recruited some top athletes including current Gaels coach Ricardo Santos.

Q: You also have been a fixture of the New England racing scene post collegiately for a good while now. You must have had some good battles with some of the Providence College guys; any races really stick out in your mind?

magill 10 quickies 8.15.13A: I have had some great battles with many athletes.  In terms of battling against some Friars, I do remember the leadoff leg of the Championship of America 4×1500 where I battled David Healy (Providence) and Jason Bunston (Arkansas) for the lead. I ended up with a 3:47 split with Healy just ahead of me and Bunston may have had a second or so on me.   I did compete with Keith Kelly on the track at a Northeastern Twilight meet for a lap or two.  I ran 14:16 and I believe he ended up closer to 14 flat (I think he was only a freshmen).  Also, at another Northeastern twilight meet I tried staying with Mark Carroll for as long as I could and ended up running 8:12.  I believe he was near 8 flat.  Other battles I have had included battling David Hinga on the track at the end of the Ro-Jack’s 8k to win the overall Grand Prix road race series.

Q: As time has progressed, I imagine you have had to change your training and racing a bit now that you are married and the father of three young boys. How do you balance a very demanding job along with all the responsibilities at home?

A: A typical training week for me includes a long run of 16 to 18 miles on Sunday with guys like Chris Lawrence, Kevin O’Neil, James Dandeneau, Matt Pelletier, and Pat Moulton.  My job requires a lot of travel, so my most recent week was Monday: 8-9 mile run on the canal in Phoenix, AZ, Tuesday: 8-9 mile trail run in Portland, and then back to Cumberland for a track workout on Wednesday. I would end my week with 10 miles a day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday on the roads of Rhode Island. As far a homelife balance, I have great support from my wife and kids and they understand that running is still an important part of my life.

Q:  What kind of mileage are you hitting? How many workouts a week? Do you double?

A:   I am all over the place with my mileage, but I try to look at monthly mileage as it is tough to get good mileage when I travel for work.  To answer your question it ranges from 60 if it is a tough travel week up to high 70’s if there is no travel.  I like to workout once a week and put in a tempo run during my Sunday long run.  Long run is typically with 5 to 8 miles at 5:30 pace.  I do not double.

Q: Favorite workout?

A: I am olde school, so I like the classic latter track workouts such as 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400.

Q: Do you wear a GPS every day? At what pace do you typically train?

A:  I wear a Garmin that my wife bought me.  I did not think I would like it as much as I do.  I wear it everyday except for track workouts.  I think it is especially helpful during long runs and tempo runs.  Other than track workouts and long runs most of my runs are slightly under 7 minutes per mile.

Q: What are your goals for when you hit 40?

A: I have been thinking about getting back on the track to try and run a solid mile.  I also have been thinking about running some National Masters Races such as the Master Cross Country Championship and some road championships (5k, Half Marathon).  In terms of the mile, I would like to run the New Balance Master’s Mile at Reggie Lewis.  I really have to sit down with Coach Pieroni to make sure I am focused on specific goals for 2013.

Q: Have you had any major injuries over the course of your career?

A: Yes, I had a stress fracture in high school and a torn meniscus a few years ago.  Other than that I have had some hamstring issues which I deal with on occasion.

Q: How is your diet? Are you strict about what you eat, any beer or ice cream?

A: I am not strict about what I eat, but my wife is trying to get me on a healthier diet.  She believes I can run faster if I eat healthier.  I only drink beer in some social occasions.    My favorite snack is Italian meats and cheeses.   Believe it or not I am half Italian.

Q: What is your favorite race in New England?

A: There are many great races in New England  such as the Mayor’s Cup Cross Country Championships and the BAA 5k, but I have to go with the Arnold Mills 4th of July Road Race in my hometown of Cumberland, RI.  It is one mile from my house.  Everyone in the community either runs the race or is there to watch the race (there is a parade after).  If you win the race you are an instant local celebrity no matter how slow or fast you run.

Magill and training partner Chris Lawrence at the 2012 Norwood Turkey Trot. Photo by @kevbalance.

Magill and training partner Chris Lawrence at the 2012 Norwood Turkey Trot. Photo by @kevbalance.

Q: How many more years do you think you will be able to beat CJ in a 5k? He is coming on fast and you’re getting old.

A: CJ , who will be 9 in June, is begging me to run 5k’s but I will  not let him yet.  He did run under 7 minutes for mile so it may not be long before he beats me.  My other boys, Connor (6 years old) and Cooper (one year old) are also looking to knock me off the medal stand.




Chris Solinsky Interview, Pt II

On the eve of the Falmouth Road Race (Saturday August 11th), Kevin Gray and Joe Navas ventured over to Falmouth with former American 10k record holder Chris Solinsky. Chris was cool enough to hang with the Level for quite some time, and we ended up getting a two part interview out of it. Before you go any further, go watch Part I if you haven’t already. Good to go? Okay, here’s the thrilling conclusion to our interview with Chris:



Take away quote:

I’m just not strong enough. I need to be aerobic at the bell, versus anaerobic, and that’s why all the East Africans (the Kenyans, Ethiopians) are always able to close so fast, because they’re not working very hard. And, so that was like the lightbulb moment and that’s what I trained for.” -Chris on his lightbulb moment, in the aftermath of getting his “doors blown off” on the last lap of the ’09 World Championships.

Great stuff! Sorry if the audio quality isn’t the best, we seem to have bad luck with PA announcers (or guys in the background asking for Bic lighters, as you probably heard).

Chris Solinsky Interview, Pt I

On the eve of the Falmouth Road Race just last weekend, Kevin Gray and Joe Navas ventured over to Falmouth to check out the Elite Mile. While they were there, they witnessed Kevin’s cousin Chelsea Reilly run a PR of 4:30.18 en route to a third place finish. Chelsea ran quite well, as did David Torrence (who won the men’s race with a 3:55.79), and they both just so happened to ride down with Kevin. Get a ride with The Level, tear it up on the track!

Oh yeah, and while Kevin and Joe were there, they also happened to hook up with former American 10k record holder Chris Solinsky. Chris was cool enough to hang with the Level for quite some time, so we’ll split this up into a two part interview. Here’s part one:

To be continued, so keep checking back. In the mean time, check out our Falmouth 2012 photo album on our Facebook page. There (and in our Level T’s album) you’ll find some nice shots taken by Kevin and Joe from that night. To name a few names…SolinskyTorrenceDixon…check it out!

Olympian Reid Coolsaet Chats With Kevin Gray

Q&A (On The Level) by Kevin Gray

Reid Coolsaet is one third of Canada’s Olympic Marathon team for London via his 2:10:55 in adverse conditions at the Toronto Marathon. Reid possesses quite an impressive range of times, including a sub-four minute mile, a 13:21 5k, and being the only person I have ever heard of to skateboard a mile in under four minutes (3:49). The New Balance sponsored athlete is a native of Ontario Canada and runs for the Speed River Track Club. We caught up with Reid as he returned from a stint of Altitude training in Flagstaff Arizona.

Can you guys talk a bit about how Canada’s Olympic qualifying standard is so much tougher than the USA’s? Would you prefer a trials race like the US, or do you like the fact that you were able to chase the 2:11:30 standard at a marathon of your choice?

Canada sets their standards so that they send athletes who have a good chance of a top sixteen finish.  It’s too bad they don’t let everyone go who hits the IAAF standards but the Canadian Olympic Committee distributes money to Athletics Canada based on results. I don’t think a stand-alone trials would work in Canada because we don’t have many guys under 2:20 or women under 2:40.  It would be nice if they chose a big-city marathon to use as the trials, but then it’s nice to plan your own schedule as well.

American runners seem to get all the publicity while Canadian runners are mainly off the radar (is this true in Canada?)  We feel that you guys have a very solid team and are very much on par with Meb, Abdi and Ryan Hall (U.S. team).

We don’t always get much press in the States but things have really picked up in Canada now that we have three guys going to London.  I’m actually pretty happy with the exposure I’ve been getting in the last year.

Training in Canadian winters must be tough! We thought last year was tough in New England, but you guys probably endure much tougher conditions. Do you have access to an indoor track in Guelph? How much training do you do with fellow NB sponsored athlete Eric Gillis?

I only did one indoor track workout last winter, although I did go to Kenya for 6 weeks. We have a brand new indoor track in Guelph and a new outdoor track is on the way. When we’re training for the marathon Eric (Gillis) and I do all of our workouts together, as well as some of the long runs.

We have been reading your blog www.reidcoolsaet.com and following your different training destinations. Can you speak a bit about your experiences in Flagstaff and Kenya?

This winter was my second trip to Kenya and I had a great time, again. The training there is amazing and you get inspired everyday by the amount of runners giving ‘er. After Kenya I was home for 6 weeks and then went to Flagstaff with ten other athletes from Speed River. Flagstaff is also a great training venue, love it there.

How many kilometers (or miles) do you hit per week?

I’ve hit 240km (148 miles) in a week and I average 200km/week (124 miles) when I train for the marathon.  I hope to inch up the volume a little this marathon training block.

Do you believe in doubles, or stick to one run per day?

I usually run 12 times a week.

I imagine both you and Gillis are training full time? Do either of you do anything on the side?

I’m running full-time. I figure if I’m going to spend all this time and energy doing this then I’m going to do it 100%.

What’s the road racing scene like in Canada?  Do you have a serious of National Championships across various distances with good money opportunities?

We have a good series, called the Canada Running Series, as well as some big races like Sun Run & Ottawa Race Weekend. We don’t have all the championship distances like the States. We do have 10km, 1/2 and Marathon. The big races offer Canadian-only prize money as well as overall prize money.

Canada suddenly seems to have an explosion of distance runners. Any thoughts to what led to this?

Things look like they’re on the upswing right now. I’m not sure exactly why but good coaching and a few good athletes leading the way in recent years must be big factors.

Jerome Drayton’s marathon record (2:10:08) seems to be in serious jeopardy with the three Canadian marathoners heading to London? Have you put this out of your head until after London? Any plans to chase it post-London or just one marathon at a time?

I’d love to break the record in London but I’m not going to be too concerned with time at the Olympics, especially if the weather conditions aren’t great. I do want to chase good times in 2013.

What is your favorite New Balance shoe to race in and your favored training shoe?

My favorite racing flat is the 1400 and my favorite trainer is the 890. Also, I’m guessing you’ve seen my custom shoe on my website:


Reid Coolsaet's very own shoe

The shoes I race in are the New Balance 1400 that were made for the upcoming Olympic Marathon (thanks JF Fullum at NB!). Unfortunately this colour of the 1400 is not for sale. 

However, on June 1st New Balance is releasing a Canadian version of the 890 v2 which will be available in most running stores across Canada.  A portion of the sale of this shoe will help support physical therapy for Speed River Track and Field Club athletes.  Also, towards the end of May there will be a contest on Runningmagazine.ca where you can win a free pair of the Canada 890.

Canada 890

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