Every once in awhile a Wisconsinite falls through the cracks and makes their way onto this site. While Ryan Meissen currently lives in Mukwonago, WI (about halfway between Whitewater and Milwaukee), the 29-year-old grew up across the St. Croix River in Hudson. Ryan still crosses the border once in awhile for a race. So far this year he's run 1:07:24 at the Earth Day Half Marathon, 4:37 at the Medtronic TCM 1 mile, and 1:08:42 at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. He now has his sights on the Olympic Trials Marathon, where he looks to improve upon his 21st place showing in 2004. (Photo by Alison Wade courtesy of New York Road Runners)
When and how did you get involved with running?
I began running in 7th grade after uneventful attempts at several other sports. Pretty much everyone who didn’t play baseball or softball went out for track & field in junior high. I chose distance running because I was not fast. The pool of people willing to run 2 and 4 lap races was not very large. It was in these formidable years that I began running with Jason Finch. He actually liked to run workouts and I began to see the smallest glimpse of success.
Can you tell us a little bit about your high school and college careers? Where did you run and what are some of your accolades?
I began my high school athletic career on the gridiron. Unknown to most, I barely knew all the rules and had a hard time tackling anything. Let alone an opponent bigger and faster than me. The next four years of track and three seasons in cross country showed that all the hard work Coach Krupa guided us through would prove to be the foundation for success then well into the future. I was able to garner 3 All-State showings but I knew several of my state races could have been run differently and possibly placed higher. I took this hunger to college. The instant success I desired was unfounded and it took until my junior year and my 5th National race to receive my first All America award. I will never forget that 10,000 m race in Berea, OH. Jason Finch and I ran almost four miles of that race together and he nearly won with a sensational finish. I was just glad to finish in the top 6 and hold off three fast closing WIAC runners. My college career ended with a bitter sweet 8th place finish in the 5,000 m. This was actually quite satisfactory after a terrible 10,000 m race two days earlier, but left m hunger for more competition.
I believe it’s been about 2 years since you moved from Hudson to the Milwaukee area. How is the running/racing scene there?
I actually moved to the Milwaukee area last August. The racing scene in Milwaukee is OK but not nearly as organized as the Twin Cities and USATF MN. Our current association has been attempting to organize a circuit the past few years. I believe this would help keep post collegiate interest up and also keep some top runners home to compete. Some of our neighboring states have some pretty well organized races. The circuit would consist of the core of races that are well managed and have been successful.
Who do you train with?
Currently I am training with Matt Thull (UW-Oshkosh), Tim Keller (UW-Madison), Kyle Moss (Milwaukee Firefighter) and several other Milwaukee area runners. This loosely fit group calls themselves the Hart Park Elites. I also meet up with the UW-Whitewater team members for runs on the weekends.
As a veteran of the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon, have you shared any advice with your former high school teammate, Mike Reneau, as he heads into his first Trials?
No, I do not intend to share any classified training information with Mikey.
Dan Held is a former D3 runner from Wisconsin who had some success at the Trials, finishing 13th in 1992 and 7th in 1996. Have you had any contact with him? If so, what advice has he given you?
Yes, I have met and run with Dan numerous times over the past 5 years. I actually ran my first 20 miler with Dan Held and Jeremy Burks, (a college teammate). He always is up for a Sunday long run and has stayed in pretty good fitness the past few years since returning from top competitive running days.
Mike recently joined the Brooks-Hansons racing team. Have you had any thoughts on joining them or any of the other professional organizations that are out there?
No, I have not had really thought about joining any of those ranks. It does seem to work quite well for most of the athletes who join those teams.
With the 2008 Trials less than 5 months away, how are you feeling about your current training and racing?
My training has been going well and I am looking forward to the marathon build-up for the Trials. My racing the past few years has been not quite were I would like it to be, but my two strongest races have been my 2 marathons. So I am slightly optimistic and will be ready for the Trials.
What will your training be like during that timeframe (mpw, phases, key workouts, etc)?
I am not the most talented runner and need to run plenty of miles just to be hint at being competitive in the marathon. This philosophy means that the bulk is maintained during most of the training segment. The key marathon workouts I enjoy are long runs with build-in marathon pace up to 10 miles.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
I think one of my major strengths and weaknesses is my unwillingness to change. I like to think I have a developed a system that works for me and will listen to new ideas but my core philosophy doesn’t waver much.
What are your PRs?
5,000 14:13 Hillsdale Distance Challenge 2001
10,000 29:12 Hillsdale Gina Relays 2002
5k 14:18 LaCrosse Chileda Classic 2004
10k 29:58 LifeTime Fitness 10k 2002
Half Marathon 1:04:19 Garry Bjorklund 2002
Marathon 2:18:03 Austin Marathon 2006
What is your fondest running memory?
Winning the Garry Bjorklund the first time in 1999 was a special time and every Grandma’s Marathon weekend adds to the fond memories created every year since 1994. Although, the two most memorable races I can remember are my first High School victory and my first NCAA national qualifying race. I had won a couple Junior High races but my first HS victory was at the Hudson H Meet. All the other competing schools began with the letter H. Some how Christ Household of Faith met the requirements and it was a runner from there and Hopkins I held off down the homestretch to win my first HS race. My mother cheered and yelled just as loud and was just as proud of me as when I finished last at that same race the year prior. I felt I had finally earned a small merit of respect. I just wish the seniors that graduated the year before could have witnessed the changes in placing.
My freshman year at UW – Whitewater was not the world beating adventure I had expected, even with my sub-par summer training. I still tried to race with all the fervor and strength I wished would have been mine. Through the conference meet every race had pretty large lulls in the middle when I would try and recover from starting too aggressive and saving for the big finish. The regional race went a little different. I went out quite aggressive again, even bettering my HS PR through 5k. The only difference was I had no lull and even finished with a nice kick. Our team just missed qualifying but I garnered one of the individual qualifying spots. The individual qualifiers went a little deeper that year since the 1-2-3-4-10 place national teams were in our regional. Coach Miller was jumping and trying to determine what individuals I needed to beat to qualify. He was going bananas! But the best memory I have is telling my old teammate, Jason Finch, (who finished several places ahead of me and had already began to assert himself as a conference up and coming runner), “See you next week.” He was more excited than I was.
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
My favorite race is the Garry Bjorklund half marathon. I have been a part of Grandma’s marathon weekend since 1994, when I ran my first marathon at age 15. I have progressed some since that first Grandma’s weekend but I always enjoy the whole experience. The town really opens up and embraces the event. Whether you have a spectacular race or strived fro something a little better you leave Duluth feeling special to have been a part of the event.
If you could run with any Minnesotan or Wisconsinite, past or present, who would it be?
I would like to go for a run with my grandfather, Vincent Meissen. He is the former Durand, Illinois (just across the border) 880 yard school record holder. He passed away when I was 6 years old. I still have his school record shield hanging in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house. I was honored when my father entrusted this item with me.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
It would have been nice to have learned to race with a little more zest for pace and triumphant sprinting finishes.