With all the great local runners, it can be difficult to keep track of who’s running great. After hearing Doug Keller’s name mentioned two or three times during a recent group run, it was pretty obvious that his peers know that the freshly minted 50 year old is having a great summer on the roads. And all those rumbling came before Doug rattled off a 4:41 mile, 16:17 5K and 52:09 15K – the latter time bested Michael Seaman’s state record for 50 year olds by 26 seconds. (Photo by Curt Lyons)
When and how did you get involved with running? Did you run in high school and college?
I started running track as a 7th grader and added cross country when I was in 10th grade. It took a while for me to figure it out, but even small schools don’t have much demand for 100 pound football linemen. After being a respectable high school runner but never qualifying for a state meet, I walked on at Mankato State and found out what running was all about. Coming from a small school, I thought I was ready to run cross country at Mankato after having my highest mileage summer ever of around 200 miles. After running between 20 to 25 miles a day for the first three days of practice, I gained a new appreciation of what it meant to be a runner in the late 1970s.
What thoughts come to mind when you think about this photo that accompanied this article?
Wow, what a bunch of youngsters! The men’s Olympic Trials qualifying standard was 2:19:04 in 1984 but it was in the middle of the running boom so there were quite a few qualifiers from Minnesota that year. I ran a few PRs that year but still had at least a handful of guys ahead of me in every race.
Can you describe your 1984 Olympic Trials experience?
I wish I could say it was great but things didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. Qualifying for the trials was always a dream of mine. After qualifying, a couple of other guys and I started working with a coach who introduced a number of new quickness drills and we picked up our training intensity. Early in the year, my 10K times were dropping and I was feeling great but I developed a glute strain. Instead of backing off and letting it heal, I was a little too obsessed with doing well at the trials and tried to train through it. Not one of my better ideas. I ended up tearing the glute during the trials and dropping out of the race. Major pain in the butt! It’s the only race I’ve not ever finished. Other than that, it was a great experience.
Not many people in that photo are still running competitively. What is your secret for staying motivated all these years?
I actually didn’t stay motivated. After the trials, I struggled through three years of not being able to train over 50 miles a week because of the injury. After running my worst marathon ever at Twin Cities in 1987, I dropped out of the racing scene until the Ford guys talked me into running a few races in 2001 because they needed another Masters runner. I kept running very low mileage during that 14 year hiatus, but the time off gave my body time to rest and I was able to start fresh as a masters runner without having to experience the demotivation of knowing I was past my prime. The break made it easier for me to keep things in perspective and concentrate on improving my masters PR’s and shift my focus to more age appropriate goals as I slide into a new age group.
The USATF team series is also great for keeping things interesting. I look forward to the races and the rivalries that have developed over the years. Go TC Running!
This year, in particular, has turning 50 years old been a motivating force? If yes, how so? Did you put in more miles, more speedwork, etc.? What has allowed you to run times you were running 5 years ago?
Definitely! You only get to be the youngster in your age group once every five years. One thing I did do was spend a little time with a Physical Therapist. My knees were bothering me the last two years and I found my non-running muscles were about as strong as wet noodles. I worked with a Physical Therapist over the winter to strengthen my hips and core. I also started biking once or twice a week to bring a little balance back to my muscle structure. Other than that, I’m still a pretty unsophisticated runner. I run harder or longer once or twice a week, take one day a week off and try to go easy the rest of the time. My mileage is usually between 40 and 50 miles per week. Any speedwork I get in is usually from racing. A quick prayer at the starting line doesn’t hurt anything either!
A few people mentioned to me how well you’ve been racing this year. And that was before your 4:41 Rice Street Mile and 16:17 5K at Hennepin Lake Classic. I’m guessing you were pleased with those efforts? Is that 5K time a state age record?
I’ve been pleased as well as surprised at how well I’ve been racing since I turned 50. I think the 16:17 5K was a 50-54 state age group record but haven’t seen any official confirmation yet. This is probably the best I’ve ever raced on an age weighted basis with state single age records at four distances since I turned 50 in June.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
Stay healthy! I’d like to run well at Victory 10K and the TC 10 and shave a little time off my Master’s PRs at those distances.
Have you retired from the marathon? When was your last one?
It’s tough to run a good marathon on my low training mileage. I’m a little too delicate to race that distance anymore. The last one I ran was Twin Cities in 1987.
What are your PRs?
I only know a few of my PRs from my younger days as I didn’t take advantage of many race distance options in the 1980s.
5K on the track 14:24
10K – 29:50
Marathon – 2:18:47
What is your training philosophy? Has it changed over time?
Back in the 1980s, training was all about mileage. Even then I was fairly clueless about training. Every run, whether it was 5 miles or 20 miles, was usually around 6 minute pace. Now, I’m still fairly clueless about what I really need to do to improve but I make sure I have a balance between my hard days and my easy days. I also realize that if something doesn’t feel right, I need to back off or even take a day off. My body definitely doesn’t recover from hard workouts, races or injuries like it used to.
What do you consider your strengths?
I’ve always been relatively versatile and able to be competitive at most reasonable distances.
My lack of cross training has made me more injury prone than I used to be so I’m working at becoming more balanced by strengthening those non-running muscles.
What is your fondest running memory?
Qualifying for the Olympic trials at the Houston Marathon in 1984 has to rank near the top. After a couple near misses at Grandma’s and Twin Cities in 1983, it was a great feeling to slip under the standard. Other than that, my brain craves the pleasure of that “in the zone” feeling that occurs on occasion as I run or race. I think Shalane Flanagan calls it her “Happy Place.” It’s too bad we can’t feel that way on every run!
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
I’ve haven’t run many races out of the state so all my favorites are local. Back when I could hold together for a marathon, Grandma’s was always fast and fun but my favorite race would have to be the Victory 10K. What’s not to like about flat and fast with only one turn?
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I’ve raced and trained with many state runners of all abilities over the years including a few of the good ones and enjoyed hearing their stories and learning from them. I don’t think I would trade that for a run with one of the greats. What I’d really like to do is to be able to run with my daughters 30 years from now.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
When your body talks, listen!