Is it possible to finish 3rd in the Minnesota Runner of the Year rankings any more quietly than Chris Erichsen did in 2009? The 2007 MIAC Athlete of the Year didn't win a single race, yet he was consistent at events ranging from 1-mile to the half marathon. Perhaps his best race of the season was his 1:07:33 at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. If 2009 was a solid season, then 2010 appears to be even better. At the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, FL, home of the U.S. 15K Championships, Erichsen placed 25th in 46:38. To give that time some perspective, it is 19 seconds faster than the Minnesota state record that Mike Reneau set last year. And at the Human Race 8K, the 24-year-old St. Paul resident posted a 22-second victory in 23:57. Look for him to make his marathon debut in Fargo next month. (Photo courtesy of Gene Niemi.)
Well, I think it’s safe to say that 2010 is off to a good start for you? Are you happy with how you raced at Gate River 15K and at Human Race 8K? If you had to pick one, which race were you more pleased with?
I’m definitely happy with how the season has started for me. Anytime you PR in four straight races to start a season, you know it’s going well. I was actually on the track for a few 3Ks in February, as a few of my goals for the year were a) to get back on the track and b) to race more often. I only ended up doing eight or nine races in all of 2009 and I realized that if I was going to keep running, I needed to enjoy race day a little more often.
I would say I was more pleased with Gate River. It was almost on par with my race at the TC 10 last fall, but considering the winter we had it was a bit of a surprise.
No matter what pace you race at, it’s hard to knock 10-11 seconds off per mile. Yet somehow you were able to improve that much from the 5:00 pace you ran last year. What is different about your training this year that allowed you to knock off 53 seconds off your time over 8K?
Last year I started the season with the Human Race. I wasn’t quite as far along in my training cycle as I was this year, mostly due to when my key races are on the calendar. I’ve also been able to focus on running some faster workouts to get in race shape. The weather so far this spring has been a big reason for that, but I also think that last year was sort of a test period to see how much mileage I could handle with work. Now that I know the volume I can do, I’ve been able to add back some of the tempo runs and track workouts.
What goals do you have for the rest of the year? Any long-term goals in mind that you’d like to share?
I have several goals for the rest of 2010. First, I’d like to run a pretty significant PR in the 10K. My next race is actually a 10K on the track at Hamline, so I think that will set me up really well to run fast. I’d also like to run a solid marathon at Fargo in May. Right now I’m not exactly sure what “solid” means, but if I can run a time indicative of my current fitness, I’ll be happy. Finally, I want to put myself in a position to run well during the Fall season. Over the past two years I’ve struggled a little bit putting everything together. I’ve run well here and there, but I haven’t been able to peak for a key race yet.
It looks like you got involved with running at a young age. When and how did that happen?
I started running track when I was in seventh grade because both of my older sisters had been on the track team and I wanted to stay in shape for my other sports. I started to see some success pretty early on and after just missing out on a trip to the state meet as an eighth grader, I knew it was time to give cross country a shot. I still played basketball throughout high school, but after I graduated I transitioned to year-round running.
I think I saw at least 6 all-American honors in track and I’m guessing you had a couple in cross-country too? What was your career like at St. John’s?
Six on the track, but just the one in cross country. My career at Saint John’s wasn’t extremely atypical. I started running middle distance events my freshman year, as I was primarily an 800-1600 guy coming in. I ran my first 5K on the track as a sophomore, my first steeplechase as a junior and my first 10K as a senior. The only race I ended up running all four years was the 1500.
We had some very good teams over the course of my career. We won the MIAC track meet my freshman and junior year and the cross country meet my junior and senior years. We also had some great results at the national meet, placing 5th in cross country at the ’06 meet and 4th in track in ’07. These were definitely high points from my time in school.
It looks like you weren’t afraid to run anything from the 1500m to the steeplechase to the 5000m. Did you have a favorite event?
I really enjoyed the 5K, especially at the national meets. They were never the fastest races, but there were unique aspects to every race. There is something about a race at the end of a three day meet, when you know a lot of the runners are going to be tired from other races, but there are also going to be some coming in fresh. It makes things very interesting heading into the race, since you don’t really know what to expect.
How come we don’t see more MIAC guys making the transition from college runner to road racer? What advice would you give to people that may be trying to make that transition? How did you have to adjust your schedule to fit in work and training?
I think there are quite a few MIAC runners that make the transition to road racing, but recently it seems that a lot of them aren’t in Minnesota right after they graduate. The MN road racing archives are filled with old MIAC guys, so it can certainly happen.
I don’t know if I’m in the best position to be giving advice, but I feel like if it’s important enough, you will make it work. My schedule looks a little different now than it did a few years ago. One thing I’ve had to adjust with my training is the length of my daily runs. I double quite a bit more now than I used to. It is easier to run for an hour in the morning and at night than to try to find time to fit in a 12-15 miler before or after work. Obviously, I wake up earlier now, but I’ve been on that schedule for 2 years so it’s almost old hat.
While you’ve made the transition, it looks like you took a year off and traveled to a lot of cool places. Where were some of the places you went and which was your favorite?
I actually lived in Galway for about three months after I finished school. I deferred my start date for work until September, so I was able to travel around Europe for the summer. I went to Scotland, England, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and Germany, but my favorite place was Ireland. It was a little difficult not to run too much while I was over there. I didn’t have a ton going on and running was an easy way to get around and see a lot of different things.
Are you coaching yourself now and how would you describe your training philosophy?
I guess I am coaching myself now. My training philosophy is to put the mileage in and run as many workouts as I have the mental energy for. I haven’t always been a high mileage guy, but I’ve found my body allows me to handle it, so I do it. I think getting out the door to run is the easy part.
What are your PRs?
800 – 1:53
1500 – 3:52
3000 – 8:19
SC – 9:01
5K – 14:25
10K – 30:50
15K – 46:37
10M – 49:55
½ Marathon – 66:51
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
One of my strengths is my internal clock, especially on the track. I’m usually able to find a pace and run it consistently throughout a race or workout. I also think I’ve been able to stay healthy over the long-term. Regardless of my mileage, my body has been able to hold up pretty well.
I think I could give myself more thoughtful rest periods. I struggle to shut it down at the end of a season, especially if I’ve been racing well.
What is your fondest running memory?
Fortunately there have been enough great memories that depending on when or where you ask me, my answer might be different. For now I would have to say the MIAC cross country meet my junior year. We knew that it was going to be close with Hamline, which it was. They ran well, we ran well. I think the top six guys were all from Saint John’s or Hamline. As everybody was coming in, we weren’t really sure who won. We started hearing whispers that we might have pulled it off, but when we found out for sure it was pretty special.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I’d like to run with a few of my old coaches. I would do a long run with my coach at Saint John’s, Tim Miles, and I’d do a track workout with my high school cross country coach, Brian Hoff.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
Long runs are usually a good thing; enjoy them.