I met John the same way I tend to meet so many other runners—surrounded in sheer darkness.
This past May, I was in Northern California to pace and crew for my friend, Samantha, who was taking on Miwok 100k. It was around 3:00 am on a brisk Saturday morning and we were leaving our hotel for the starting line when a man hopped into our car. No, he wasn’t carjacking us, but instead was running Miwok and needed a ride.
I saw John again later that day for a ride back to the hotel—also in darkness. He shared that he had a good race as we engaged in small talk. I learned that he’s been a runner for over 50 years! Hearing this I knew that I had to hit him up for my Going the Distance blog series. And that’s just what I did.
Where do you live and train?
I live in Vancouver, WA and train and adventure run all over, especially the Columbia Gorge and wilderness trails near the Washington Pacific Crest Trail. I used to live on the Oregon coast where I put on a Fat Ass race in the Cape Perpetua area and a 5-mile race on the beach. These were unwittingly combined by Rainshadow Running to create the Oregon Coast 50K.
How long have you been running?
I’ve been running for 50 years—running ultras for 10 years. Over my 50 years of running, I have followed trails and streets in Montana, Cuba, Alaska, New Mexico, China, Hawaii, Japan, and Germany. I have run on pumice and pahoe lava rock, military tank trails, old high school cinder tracks, beach sand, and on soft pine needles. Learn more about my 50 years of running on my personal blog.
How did you get interested in running?
I started running to emulate Jim Ryun and have been influenced to run ultras by Dean Karnazes.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to running? How do you overcome it?
My biggest challenge once was cramps in my upper legs, which I overcame by taking salt tabs and chewing Tums. Now my big challenge is overcoming some burnout from running about 30 races in 2013-2014.
Best advice for someone who wants to take on a 100-mile race?
My favorite preparation for a race is other races. I like to leapfrog my way to longer distances. I try to structure my schedule to go from a 50k to a couple of 50-milers, then take on a 100k followed by a 100-miler. This is more for mental preparation than physical preparation. Cycling has helped improve my race times more than adding on miles of running—it especially helps with uphill running, as does hiking and backpacking. Unless you are very fast you should consider running at night prior to a 100-miler. Darkness can be intimidating, it can slow you down and confuse you, so get used to it. If there is a near full moon out try turning your headlamp off—running in moonlight is a gas. One hundred miles is not far, but it is hard. To succeed, exercise mind control. Various pains will occur. You must run them to death.
Have you ever DNF’d? What did you learn?
Yes and it has taught me to be gracious to others runners who DNF, have an injury, or fail to get into a race they wanted to run. The best and simplest response is something along the lines of “I’m sorry it didn’t work our for you.” Avoid saying anything like “I had issues in that race too, but I finished.” A runner who just DNF’d does not need to hear your ego. The strongest runners in the sport have DNF’d—it’s not the end of the world, there are many worse things in life.
What has running taught you?
Running has taught me I can do anything if it is important to me and if I take it one step at a time.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever run?
Indian Heaven Wilderness, Selway River, and the Lakes Trail north of St. Helens.
Who’s one person you’d like to run with?
I’ve run with many great people including my children. I would like to run with as many more people as who want to run with me.
Do you have any pre-race rituals?
I always get nervous before a race. When tennis great Roger Federer was asked after all his matches if he still gets nervous, he said, “Yes, because I still care about doing well.”
Best running moment and why?
At age 58, I won my age division and set a PR at the Newport, OR marathon. At the finish line two 30-year-old guys told me “we thought you made you move too early, we thought we could reel you in, but you ran away from us.” I took that as a high compliment.
Favorite post-run snack or beverage?
I love a milkshake or a mocha latte after a run.
What’s your take on post-run ice baths? Necessary evil?
Ice baths can be helpful, but not necessary. I also like to just do a lot of walking.
What’s one thing that would surprise us about you?
I’m just an old hippie. If I listen to music during a run it’s rock guitar like Santana, Johnny Winter, Led Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd. I like more current stuff too and my running playlist includes “When I Ruled the World” by Cold Play, “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush, and “Barefootin” by Johnny Winter.
What goes through your mind at the start of a race?
At every race I think, God, I signed up again, will I ever learn?
If you would like to be featured in Going the Distance or know someone who should, please drop me a note.