It's the eve of the 2008 Twin Cities Marathon and there's really no way to avoid thinking about the race. Hopefully posting this interview with Paul Brown will be enough to inspire us all - whether we're running tomorrow or not. The 51-year old Waconia resident is having a great year - especially at the longer distances where he's set two state age records and won his age-group at Grandma's Marathon in 2:50:48. As he laces up his shoes tomorrow, he'll have thoughts of another age-group win at TCM on his mind. (Photo by Curt Lyons)
When and how did you first get involved with running? Did you run in high school or college? What other sports did you play as a kid?
I started running competitively in 8th grade and lettered for 4 years at Halstad High School, which is now called Norman County West in northwest Minnesota. I ran the 880 in the 1975 and 1976 Minnesota State meets with a PR of 2:01.3. I ran middle distance and lettered for 4 years at Concordia College in Moorhead. I played varsity football, basketball and baseball in high school. I liked football so much that I never ran cross-country in college but opted for flag football.
Would you say you experienced success in running right away or did it take awhile?
In my first race as an 8th grader I finished 2nd in the conference indoor mile which probably says more about the competition than my ability. I did not work at it very hard until my junior year when I started to have more success. I dabbled in road racing during medical school but got injured training for the first TCM in 1983 and did not run much for several years. Similarly, after I got married and had 2 children I would run maybe 20 miles per week before I got the running bug again in 1998 when I ran my first marathon at age 41. My mileage increased and my times dropped and I set most of my PRs at age 46.
Doug Keller just turned 50 and is having a great year. However, with the help of two state age records, as well as an age group win at Grandma’s Marathon, you’re only trailing him by 1 point in the ROY rankings for 50-54 year olds. Are you happy with how your season has gone? What’s your goal for TCM?
I am very happy with success I have had this year in my age group, although my times have slipped a bit. I have had only 1 minor injury and have been running faster as the dew point drops. Winning my age group at Grandma's was a great thrill and the state records are motivation to train harder. I hope to run sub 2:50 and be a top 3 in my age group at the TCM. Since it is the USATF Master's Championship you never know who will show up, but I think I have a chance at winning since I was 2nd last year.
You mentioned to me that 70 mpw is a big week for you. Relatively speaking, that’s not a lot of miles, so I find it interesting that you seem to excel at the longer races. What do you consider your favorite/best distance? And what’s your secret; do you substitute your mileage with any cross training, run lots of speedwork, avoid injuries, etc.?
My best distances are the half, 25K and 30K. I am not sure why, as a former half-miler who ran a 4:50 mile this year, I cannot run a bit faster 10K. I have no great secrets but I race myself into shape (27 races this year) and typically do some fartlek training once per week. I lift weights twice per week using a routine I learned from Luke Carlson at Discover Strength who is an evidenced-based weight lifting coach. Everyone starts to lose muscle mass around age 40 and weight lifting can at least slow the process and I think it helps reduce injuries. For example, doing heel raisers on a step is scientifically proven to heal achilles tendonitis, so doing that exercise will also prevent the injury. Similarly you can resolve a lot of cases of IT band syndrome by strengthening the hip abductor muscles so those same exercises may prevent IT band syndrome.
In general, what is your training philosophy and how does your training change once the season ends?
My training philosophy is to run a lot of races from March until October and lift weights year round. I only run 20-30 miles/week from December until March because I think running a lot of miles in the off season wears you down physically and psychologically and does not serve much purpose if you are not racing - especially as you get older. You can get all the health benefits from running much lower mileage. My running cycle is to run 3 weeks of 60-70 miles/week and then 1 week of 40 miles/week. I like to run a lot of half marathon length races. I aim to peak for Grandma's then take a week off by going on a fishing trip to a resort in Canada where there are no roads and then start over aiming for TCM.
Have you thought about 2009 yet? If so, what are your goals and how do you top this year?
I have basically followed the same training routine for 4 years and have only had 1 injury that kept me from racing for any length of time so I will follow that template. I probably will lose some speed next year but I think I can be competitive in my age group for most races. I hope to challenge a few records or top-10 times.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
My strengths are a motivation to work hard and endure a lot of discomfort if I have an attainable goal. My weaknesses are difficulty running well in high humidity and a dislike for running in the cold dark months.
What are your PRs (all-time and Masters)?
I do not recall any of my race times under age 40 except my college 800 PR of 1:56
5K 16:46 - age 46
5 mile 27:20 - age 46
10K 34:39 - age 46
1/2 marathon 1:16:43 - age 46
25K 1:32:19 -age 49
Marathon 2:45:15 - age 47
What is your fondest running memory?
Qualifying for the State track meet as a junior is hard to beat but becoming part of the Twin Cities running community later in my running career has added much to my life. Runners are some of the most friendly and uplifting people there are.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Since I live a ways out, I train by myself all the time. I would like to train with any top masters runner. I met Alex Ratelle in medical school and it would have been a thrilled to (attempt) to train with him.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish I had been smarter about training and how to avoid injuries when I started running.