If setting a Minnesota age record is one of the criteria you use to determine who’s running well, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who had a better 2008 than Dan Morse. The 55-year-old Minneapolis resident set age records in every distance from 1 mile to 25K. Normally I hate to put too many numbers in the introduction, but this time I’m going to make an exception. Here are the records Dan set for 55-year-olds this year;
1 Mile – 5:03
1 Mile – 4:52
5K – 17:01
5 Mile – 29:00
10K - 35:54
15K – 55:26
10 Mile – 1:00:55
Half Marathon – 1:20:22
25K – 1:36:42
And after all those race, he jumped in TCM and ended up placing 2nd in his age group with a 2:56:43. With all those performances, it’s no surprise that he’s leading the 55-59 Runner of the Year rankings with a perfect score. (Photo by Bruce Adelsman at Skinnyski.com.)
I think it’s safe to say you’ve had a very good 2008. What do you attribute your success this year to?
My success this year is mostly due to consistent training. I’ve had no injuries since an Achilles issue that ended in March 2007.
Did moving into a new age-group help motivate you?
Not the new age-group, per-se. Bigger motivators were the single age records (and some 5 year age records) that were within reach. Either there weren’t many certified courses when Alex Ratelle was 55 or he wasn’t racing that year. It gets harder to get records as I move through the age group. It will be possible for me to have even better years in the future and not get any records. It also helps that the long list of guys (Michael Seaman, Doug Suker, Rob Whetham, etc) who used to beat me didn’t race much at age 55. I also use age-graded results to motivate me. I’m not quite sure what to make of them. I’m running higher percentage age-graded results then I ever have. I think it just means that I have slowed down less than average.
While you tend to focus on the shorter distances, this year you “snuck” into TCM. What was your reasoning for breaking from your normal routine?
1 - My wife was having some friends over to watch the marathon (we live at mile 17) and it provided them with another person to specifically cheer for. They wouldn’t have seen me in the 10-mile.
2 - I thought I could run fast enough to place in my age group based on the results from recent years.
3 - It helped my Run ‘n Fun teammate, Jerry Beutel, break the tie between him and Denny Jordan in the Runner of the Year rankings.
4 - My competitors would react in bewilderment when they heard about my switch to the marathon.
Sometimes people - runners and non-runners - get so caught up in the Marathon that results in other events seem to carry less weight – no matter how spectacular those results are. Did that have something to do with your decision to run the marathon this year?
No, not at all. If people think I’m not a real runner because I don’t (or didn’t) do marathons, that’s just fine. I’m ok with concentrating on shorter races. That’s what I’m better at and that’s what I like better.
In general, what is your training philosophy when you’re training for shorter races? How did that change for the marathon?
Each week I do a longish run (10-14 miles), hit the track for something quick and do a lactate threshold run. I stretched the long run a bit for the City of Lakes 25K and did a 17-mile run a few weeks before it. Then, COL was another 17-mile run 4 weeks before the marathon. I didn’t have time to change anything for the marathon. I got the crazy idea to run the marathon the Friday before the race. The beauty of signing up 2 days before the race was that I didn’t breakdown from over-training. Also, since I didn’t invest any time or mental energy in training for the marathon I was very relaxed about the race and didn’t worry about the weather. I heard it rained that day. Is that right?
How did the race go, off of that training?
Based on my 25K, the McMillan calculator predicted around 2:50. Since I didn’t train for the marathon distance my plan was to try to break 3:00. That was probably a good plan. The race went very well and I was able to run negative (1:29:10/1:27:30) splits. I never hit the wall and I even felt like I could have even run a cool-down. Do marathoners do that?
At the end of February of this year you teamed up with Dave Tappe, Bobby Paxton, and Brad Givot to set a world age group record for the 4 x 1 mile relay for 50-54 year olds. With the number of strong Masters and Grand Masters in the area has there been any talk of building on what you guys started? [To read more about this event, check out this Down the Backstretch post.]
I’ve been approached by several new 50 year olds, like Doug Keller and Bill Magdalene, who are interested in being on a relay. Relays are a lot of fun. Unfortunately, for me there are more than three 50+ guys who are faster than I am. I guess I will have to be the captain so I can be sure to be on the team. I’m not sure how we will choose the team or if St. Olaf is willing to add the relay to one of their meets. It sure would be nice to get the record under 20 minutes.
What do you have planned for 2009?
Try to stay healthy and not slow down too much. Perhaps run an age-graded percentage personal best. As far as racing goes, my race schedule centers around races in the USATF-MN team series. I add a few more special races to that. I plan to do TCM next year, but won’t do anything differently, training-wise, from this year.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
Strengths – I close well in races. I can go deep into the well, on occasion, and will finish horizontally. I don’t do that as often as Mike Seaman did. It seems like he did that every race. I combine ambition with realism. I think I show-up when it counts, and will give my team the best I’ve got on the day. I race well tactically. I’ve found a brownie recipe that tastes right for me – that’ a Dennis Barker analogy about many recipes being tasty but you have to have the basic ingredients, although the ratios can change.
Weaknesses – I sweat too much and weigh too much to be good at longer races.
What are your PRs?
800 - 2:02
Mile - 4:23
5K - 15:23
8K - 25:40
10K - 32:22
½ Mar - 1:13 (in a 25K)
25K - 1:26:52
Marathon - 2:37:32
How did you first get involved with running?
I started running in December of 1977 to lose weight and get in shape for basketball. It turned out I was better at running than at basketball.
What is your fondest running memory?
I have had so many, it’s really hard to choose. Group runs are great. Coaching was a wonderful experience, particularly coaching my sons and also being my son’s assistant at Roseville. From a running accomplishment standpoint, it would have to be in 1990 when the 3M Team of Brad Givot, Don Landin, Rob Whetham, Mike Gebeke and I took 2nd in the International Championship of the Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge.
You do some “volunteer running” early Saturday mornings. Can you tell us a little bit about that program and how you got involved?
I run with some guys from Minnesota Teen Challenge on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. It’s a faith-based residential drug and alcohol treatment program. The students aren’t allowed to leave the facility unsupervised, so they need an approved volunteer to take them. My wife answered the call a couple years ago to work with students on the contracts they must fulfill during their 13 months in the program. The contracts are written to help the students deal specifically with the issues that contribute to their drug use. She encouraged me to also volunteer. In January I started spending an evening a week at their Steven’s House facility encouraging them, speaking into their lives, and basically sharing the love of Christ. In May when I went directly from the TCM Mile to MNTC to volunteer and the guys found out that I was a runner. They started working on their Dean to allow me to take them running a couple times a week. I started taking them running in June.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I would like to run with Van Nelson. If I ran with him that would mean his career wouldn’t have ended early due to a freak accident.
I would also like to still be running with my sons. You can’t get better quality time than to have their undivided attention during a long run.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
That depends on the definition of “started running”. I ran a couple weeks as a sophomore for high school track. I wish I knew that I wasn’t a 100-meter runner and that a 4:40 mile in gym class was fast.
When I restarted in 1977, I wish I knew that my football coach was right. You need salt tablets if you’re going to sweat a lot.