Tag: Kevin Johnson

WMDP Struts Their Stuff

The Chicago Marathon

the western mass distance project struts their stuff in the midwest

“When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.” – Haile Gebrselassie

[Editor’s Note: This was submitted by an Anonymous Wolf about the WMDP team’s experience at the 2012 Chicago Marathon. Since we’re in the midst of fall marathon season and Chicago was just last weekend, we thought it was appropriate to re-share.]

WMDP in Chicago
Chicago, IL – The men of the WMDP Wolves toed the line of the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7th, 2012 with vague expectations. We expected it to be long. We expected it to be painful. We expected it to change us as runners. However, what we did not expect was the degree to which each of these expectations would be met.

The race was the reason for the formation of this rag tag group of Western Massachusetts runners. As with any training plan, this one began with a base and became more defined throughout…and so did the powder blue of the WMDP. What started off as a reason to send sarcastic emails and trash talk to each other progressed into serious training advice, Grand Prix wins, and a large group of teammates descending upon Chicago on October 7th.

The gun went off and we immediately grouped together like penguins in an Arctic storm. The feel was intimidat- ing, but much more bearable with the group. In an event requiring such mental strength the age old saying “two heads are better than one” holds true, and eleven heads are even better than two.

The first 8k passed by like we were standing still. It was more a game of consciously selecting our pace, constantly checking with each other if the group agreed. I am unsure if there was any passing going on, though there may have been hundreds of others still around us. All that’s clear to memory is turning to Dave, turning to Kevin, turning to Nico, looking for a quick nod at each mile marker. It was shortly after this point that Duncan let the group ahead drag him in their wake. We opted to hang back. It would later become clear that everyone involved made the right decision.

The next portion, 10k through 13.1, seemed to be a one mile transition from floating to tempoing. The pace remained perfect and the now group of four looked smooth. As a foursome we now rolled through Chi-town alone, feeding off the “Western Mass!” yells that occurred every 1200 meters or so, compliments of Sean Duncan’s warning ahead. We imagined floating off the back of Coach OB’s little green Tacoma, rolling through the country roads of Hadley listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Becoming aware of where we were in the race and the crew I was rolling with, I began to get a little giddy, maybe displaying more comfort than was warranted.

Entering the third quadrant of the race, the group was cut down again. This felt a lot like the end of a long summer at summer camp. We were approaching the infamous 20 mile mark and the cool, calm, and collective four had to dismantle. Enough piggy-backing. It was now a long and lonely battle we each had to bear…alone (and that’s not easy for a pack of wolves).

I’ve heard about the wall. I’ve also wussed out in races ranging from 1 mile to the Half Marathon, but I can say with 100% honesty: I did not bag this. This just happened. I found the wall.

Mile 23 felt like someone from the crowd ran out and gave me a bear hug, one which the spectator decided to hold tighter and tighter through each remaining mile and not let go. The difference in the end of the marathon and the end of a 10k is in the 26.2 you’ve earned so much more of what’s behind you. Fading in a 10k with 1200 meters to go results in a bad feeling, may be a bad time, but another opportunity next week and only 5.5 invested miles. A marathon, however, is your baby by mile 23. You’ll fight to the death to protect it.

As we congregated at the finish line, watching our teammates pour in and crowd the finish chute with blue jerseys, I must say I was living my best running experience to date.

“Four under 2:30!”… “Six under 2:34!”… “Peabody! You crazy bastard!”… “Eight under 3:00!”… “Get me an IV of beer… seriously…”

We shared a large portion of that race as a unit; we all had similar experiences (confirmed through conversations that followed), but we all came out with a different number. The number is more than a PR; it’s the title to an entire story.

I can’t tell the story of my teammate’s numbers. I imagine there were loud drums in the background of the story titled 2:24:59 (Sean Duncan) as it was told in a heroic war-like setting. The story of the 2:33:20 (Matthew Peabody) taught a message of dedication and self-belief, an inspirational story to say the least. The story of 2:25:43 (Kevin Johnson) was a comeback tale teaching lessons in maturity and control.

At the end of the day your marathon PR will by no means change the world, but it will change yours, and that seems a significant enough change to me. Many could RUN one, I recommend RACING it.

An anonymous WMDP Wolf wrote this article. This article originally appeared in Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

Johnson Out-Duels Pelletier

The New Bedford Half Marathon was a few days ago, so you probably are already well aware of the outcome by now (if not, it’s probably a good idea to read this earlier entry by Jim Dandeneau). Kevin Johnson of the Western Mass Distance Project (WMDP) outlasted Matt Pelletier on his way to a win and a new PR of 1:06:04.

After the race, the cool down and taking a moment with the fans (the phrase “a brush with greatness” was thrown out there, which would make for a good title of the video), Jim interviewed Kevin:

Although Matty P wasn’t on camera for an official interview, we did catch up with him later to get his take on the race:

426507_552719524748477_1738086516_nIt was disappointing not getting the win. I felt like I was in similar shape to last year, but I’ve been sick a lot this winter (something kind of serious) and missed more days of running than I’ve missed in a long time. That said, I bounced back pretty quickly I thought that maybe being sick hadn’t been as bad as I thought. I feel like the difference was in the wind. Our first mile was 10+ seconds slower than last year, and our 2nd mile was 14 seconds slower. I feel like the wind aided miles were about the same as last year. Aside from not getting the win, I’m disappointed I couldn’t match Kevin’s move when he passed me. I feel like I should have been able to go with him, but he was really strong and it just wasn’t my day. Kevin’s time was faster than my PR, so it would have taken a great day from me to beat him, and it wasn’t that kind of day. He looked really smooth. I think had I been able to push him for another 2-3 miles, he would have gone under 1:06.

Like I said, I think I was in similar shape compared to last year so I was hoping to go under 1:06:30 and just be a few sec. faster than last year. I don’t like to race in the cold, so when I got to the race and warmed up I knew it would be tougher than last year. I wasn’t really sure how the race would play out. With the WMDP kicking ass lately, and Brian Harvey moving up in distance, I wasn’t positive I would win. This was a stepping stone on the way to VCM, so a fast time, a win, or both were all goals. Obviously I walked away with neither, but it is what it is. I still have 10 weeks to prepare for 2:17 guy Chris Zablocki and some other fast guys. Hopefully this will serve as motivation for Memorial Day weekend.

To complete our coverage of the open men’s division, here’s an interview with Rob Gomez (Dirigo RC). Rob played a key role in the race by helping to break it open earlier on. He then slowly worked his way up the ranks and finished an impressive third.

In the men’s masters race, Chris Magill enjoyed his first road race as a master by cleaning up. Although he was the second master in the race, he was the first from the USATF-NE association so he still ended up being a masters champion for the day:

See the rest of our New Bedford coverage here. Want to see more race pictures like the ones included here? Be sure to visit Scott Mason Photography’s great website. Also, special thanks to our sponsors for providing prizes for some of the top runners: Skechers provided pairs of shoes, along with a couple hundred goodie bags for finishers, and Sigvaris provided custom fit compression socks. They support us, so please consider supporting them.

New Bedford Half Marathon – Raw Footage

Well, this is embarrassing. With a big time new camera in hand, I was ready to get some great footage the race. It was set to auto focus, but for some reason that didn’t exactly happen. I think in all the running around from point to point I must’ve bumped the manual focus dial. Hopefully you can look past the focus and the shaking (we gotta start using a tripod!).

I got the start and then headed over to Mile 5, where Nico Naranjo helped me out. He used the “big camera” while I jumped out into the road with my phone to capture some “live” video to tweet out. We then made our way back towards the finish, stopping by the McDonald’s (approx. 12.8 mile mark). After watching Kevin Johnson (totally working two cameras by myself there) and then Matt Pelletier go by, I sprinted to the finish to get what I could. For a write up on the race, check out this piece by Jim Dandeneau, then watch the video below:

You can see the “live footage” here. Interviews and more coming later.



Guest blog by Jim Dandeneau

Kevin Johnson, 24, and Stephanie Reilly, 35, took different paths in winning the 36th Annual New Bedford Half Marathon race, the second leg in the very competitive New England Grand Prix road race series. Johnson, a 2011 University of Massachusetts alumnus and presently a graduate student at Dartmouth College pulled away from defending champion Matt Pelletier just prior to the 8 mile mark in running 1:06:04, significantly faster than the 1:07:22 he had run last year in placing third.


After a conservative first 3 miles covered in 15:41, Robert Gomez, 29, started to break up the pack of approximately 15 runners with a push up Hathaway Rd. After making the turn onto Rockdale Ave. Pelletier started to put the hammer down covering miles 4-6 well under 5 minutes a mile and had a lead of approximately 5 meters hitting 6 miles in 30:21. However, he could not shake Johnson who was running off the 2012 champion’s shoulder and had caught Pelletier just after 10 kilometers. Hitting 8 miles in 39:58 Johnson started to gradually pull away and by 10 miles, reached in 49:53, had a 175 meter lead and cruised up County Rd. to the finish in dominating style to win by 50 seconds.

Johnson, who had also won the DH Jones 10 mile race, the first leg of the New England Grand Prix road race series and had to stop two times during that race due to intestinal issues suffered no similar stomach ailment on this day. Gomez, running determined throughout, ran a significant person record clocking 1:07:14.

Reilly, 35, running in 2nd place throughout the 13.1 event, passed Erica Jesseman, 24, just after 20K (12.4 miles) in running 1:15:52. Jesseman, prepping for next month’s Boston Marathon, ran 1:16:09.

More to come on this weekend’s racing, stay tuned!

Amherst 10 Miler: Johnson Repeats

Different singlet, craptastic weather, same results. Kevin Johnson of the Western Mass Distance Project (aka WMDP, the Wolfpack) repeated in Amherst. This time he was wearing the powder blue WMDP singlet whereas last year he was rockin’ the GBTC red. In fact, Kevin was our very first post-race athlete interview. Check it out here. It’s only a year old, but it looks so much older just because he’s sporting that red jersey.

Johnson (L) and Duncan, leading the field in Amherst. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

That was a pretty fast time for those conditions, how’s training been going?

It was an interesting day for sure. Training has been going well and I have been fortunate that this winter weather has been gentle for this young fella living at the foothills of the White Mountains. Our Coach, Mike Gauvin, drew up a plan that was focused on getting some strength in our legs for these hilly races (Amherst and New Bedford) before getting ready for the shorter faster stuff later in the spring. . . so I have just been following that. Basically, a good number of hilly tempos with some more volume.

Rumor has it you had to stop twice during the race and you still won. Is that true? How much time do you think you lost?

I did unfortunately stop twice during the race due to intestinal distress likely caused by some Moroccan food the night before. I am not sure how much time I lost, but it was probably on the order of 30 seconds or so. Not my finest hour (or 51:40 for that matter), but it was life experience gained and lessons learned.

What are you gearing up for now?

I am currently gearing up for a healthy season where I try to race often in March/April/May/June. No race in particular, but I want to throw down some faster races as I have gotten away from those over the past year. Injuries seem to be apart of the sport and those lucky enough to string together months of consistent training tend to PR. So I guess right now the goal is just the process of training.

Wolfpack came out howling on their home course. is this a sign of things to come for the rest of the year?

WMDP is gearing up for a competitive 2013 campaign and we hope that the performances Sunday will help draw the best runners from the other squads so that we can really put our team to the test. Obviously, a team like BAA is incredibly talented and it would be nice to see if we could compete with a semi-loaded BAA squad out on the GPS or in a road/track 5k/10k (clearly a full BAA squad trumps any team in the region).

As you might have surmised from that last response, the Wolfpack emerged from the fray victorious on Sunday. There’s a great write up on the WMDP team site about the race, here’s a funny excerpt from it:

“Johnson’s win was under attack by some stomach issues as he was inspired by a LetsRun thread about Hicham El Guerrouj to eat copious amounts of Moroccan food the night before the race, causing The People’s Champion to take a pit stop at 5.5 miles and again at 7 miles.  His 7th mile conference call with nature was observed by all harriers within 3 minutes, which was initially perceived as taunting.”

Check out the rest, it’s worth the read. The 2012 USATF-NE C0-Club of the Year drew first blood in 2013. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see who’s going to respond to it. Be sure to also check out the amazing race photography from both Scott Mason Photography and Krissy Kozlosky.

Courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

Courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

In the masters race, Joe Navas led the way. While he was injured and relegated to only interviewing the winners last year, this year he came out swinging. Said Joe:

“What a great day at the DH Jones 10 Miler in Amherst. Last year, I was watching this race from the sidelines with much of our Masters team. This year was a different story and a total, snowy, slushy blast! Great to see everyone out there today. Tough runners, these New Englanders.”

Okay, he doesn’t really talk like that. It was something he posted on Facebook but seemed appropriate to add to this piece.

(L-R) Anthony Walsh, Titus Mutinda, and Joe Navas battle it out in Amherst. Courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

Negative Splits: The Kevin Johnson Session

Kevin Johnson has been tearing up this season.  He’s taking a series run at the USATF-NE GPS crown and is currently in a fierce duel with Central Mass Strider Nate Jenkins.  After running his first two races in a Greater Boston Track Club singlet, Johnson turned in fire engine red for the baby blue of the newly formed Western Mass Distance Project.  In switching clubs, Johnson returns to his roots and just plain continues to run fast.  Read his breakdown of a recent workout designed for the upcoming Newton 10k, which just so happens to be the next stop on the GPS tour.

KJ checking out Jenkins in the opening miles of Bedford 12k. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

KJ performed this workout on Saturday, May 26 at the Ludlow HS Track.
In preparation for the Newton 10k I wanted to get in a workout that would help me sharpen up for the shorter distance. I thought that a workout Western Mass Distance Project team members call the “Ludlow Drill” would be appropriate to improve my fitness. It is typically a harder effort that one would ideally run about 2-3 weeks out from a race of longer distance.
“The Ludlow Drill”
2 mile @ goal 10,000m track race pace
followed by
4 x 800m @ 5k race pace
followed by
2 x 400m @ mile race pace
a recovery jog is done between all intervals
 I would say that this type of workout suits my style of training as it gets the body fatigued before hitting some of the quicker repetitions. I performed this workout in late April hitting low 940s for the 2 mile, 2:22s for the 800s, and 67 seconds for the quarters.
Pretty impressive but let’s see how he did on more recently, last Saturday.
The hope for this workout was to increase the tempo for each of those sets that were done in April.  First off, I made the critical error of waiting until the afternoon to run this workout as it was incredibly hot and humid out and the Ludlow track offers no shield from the sun. I warmed up 4 miles to the track and did some strides/drills before.
The effort of the two mile was moderate coming through in the mile in  4:43 and cruising through the second mile to hit the two mile in 9:31. 
After a 3 minute jog around the track in an outer lane I began the 800s. The first 800 did not feel nearly as comfortable as the two mile as I came through the first repetition in 2:17. Recovery for each 800 was a 400 meter jog. It was at this point that the heat began to be a factor in how I was feeling. The next repetition felt fine coming through 400, but then again I could tell the my body was beginning to overheat finishing off in 2:18. In the past, I have had some ugly experiences with heat exhaustion in a few track 5ks that took place in the middle of hot days so at this point I wanted to be sure I didn’t get anywhere near that point. I decided to do one more 800 after pouring some water over my head and forego the final 800. Finished the third and final 800 in a comfortable 2:18.  
Moving onto the 400s I didn’t notice the heat as much as I tended to float the first 200 and then hammer the final 200 meters. Both of these reps were completed in 64 seconds with 400 meter jog recovery in between. The cool down was fairly short and I jumped in a lake near the high school to bring the body temperature down and stretch out.  
Overall, I was very pleased with this workout as my legs seemed to be much smoother during this workout than when I ran the workout in late April. I am nearing the end of my Spring training cycle and this will likely be the last time I run a workout that I would considered to be difficult. 

Johnson doing two things at once: breaking the tape and setting a course record at Bedford. Photo by Krissy Kozlosky.

Kevin works closely with his twin brother, David.  Let’s hear his analysis of his brother’s workout.
This workout is a great tune-up  for a little more than a week before a race. The reason our group likes it so much is because it prepares your body for race day. Kevin can go into Newton 10k confident that if the pace goes out quickly, his body will be able to respond well. 
Doing two miles at 4:45 pace prepares the aerobic system for the “real” part of the workout. It’s easy to rip 800m in 2:16-18 for a guy in Kevin’s shape…. if he doesn’t have any quality before those repeats. But running that 2 mile fatigues the body enough so those 800m simulate the miles 3-4 of a 10K and he has to be consciously working to nail the times.
All in all a very nice workout and a fitness gauge to tell him he is sharper than he was a month ago. Confidence he can utilize if he has to out kick an opponent at the end of a race.
This is a smart workout and the thinking behind it makes total sense.  Fatigue the body with the opening deuce and come back for the 800s, which will help simulate the middle miles of an upcoming 10k.  I think that this would be a good workout for the Level Legion to attempt (adjust your paces accordingly).
Thanks to the Brothers Johnson for their contributions to this week’s Negative Splits segment.  Kevin and the rest of the Western Mass Distance Project are certainly putting in the work to perform well at the Newton 10k.  These guys most def run on the ground and read the underground.
You can see a post race interview of Johnson after his record setting 12k performance on May 19 in Bedford by clicking here.

GBTC’s Kevin Johnson, Winner of the DH Jones Amherst 10 Miler, Talks with Level Renner

Another outstanding interview brought to you by Level Renner and more specifically Joe Navas.  Click on the “Blog” tab at the top of the page to watch the video directly.

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