I mentioned in the intro to my last interview that the top runners in the area are usually the same year after year and that we typically don't see people come out of "no where" and win Minnesota's Runner of the Year award for their age-group. Well, similar to Kathi Madden, the women’s 55-59 winner, Steve Thomas came out of no where to win the men’s 55-59 age group in 2012. Not only did the 55 year old Delano resident put together a perfect, undefeated season for his age group, including the fastest times from 5K to 25K, but he also set state age records at ever single distance that he ran.
First off, congrats on a terrific season. While you’ve had fast races in the past, this year you were able to race a lot more. What do you attribute your successful season to?
Thank you, I never expected such an enjoyable and rewarding year. The season began with a solid Get in Gear 10k. After the race; I spoke with Bobby Paxton and Michael Bjornberg who invited me to join the Run n Fun team. That was the catalyst for the season. The support and encouragement they provided pushed me forward in 2012. I also feel fortunate to be able to race with some of the most competitive and speedy runners around.
In the process you won your first Runner of the Year award and “destroyed” some state records by large margins. Were you aware of all these things during the year?
I’ll tell you what…When I look at the list of names; all age groups, women and men…I feel very, very lucky to be a part of this group. I knew I was training diligently this summer; and I felt ready for most races. The USATF Minnesota team circuit races were my focus in 2012, as they allowed me to better focus and plan on progressing from shorter to longer racing distances.
What changes did you make to your training and how did your performances improve from previous years?
The major change was to recall my workouts from the 1980’s and adopt them into my current training program and capabilities. In past years, I simply ran distance; with the occasional track workout. This year, I re-acquainted myself with hills, fartlek, intervals and tempo runs. Additionally, a change in diet and some core training helped to improve and sustain my training and racing throughout the season. I also had the opportunity to run with my son quite a bit over the summer. He’s very quick, and willing to pull me through the miles.
With a new year right around the corner, how do you top this year’s results?
I don’t look back. New year, clean slate, just another lap…
What are your goals for 2013?
Most importantly, my wife Marie and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. She has been so supportive and understanding for the time it takes to properly train and race. In 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer; and has since made a 100% successful recovery. My goals for 2013 are simple: Cherish my family and….run fast.
Backing up, how and at what age did you get involved with running and did success come quickly for you?
I started running in High School for Eau Claire Memorial (WI) when I was 15. My Father ran cross country and track for Minneapolis Southwest back in the 40’s…and he was a great inspiration. I had some modest success in my mid-20’s, but nothing earth shattering. Success has never come quickly or easily…simply because I never consistently dedicated myself for any period of time. Sometimes 4 or 5 years would go by without running a step. Life happens fast; raising a family, establishing a career, and occupational relocations all took priority for many years. As I toppled over age 50; I realized that one needs to simply make the time for as much as you can. Running as always been a loyal companion…it was just out there waiting for me to return.
What are your PRs?
5k - 16:56
8k - 28:40
10k - 35:22
15k - 54:39
25k - 1:33+
10 Mile - 58:15
Half Marathon - 1:17+
All other prior years are foggy, sketchy, and probably not true!
What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Mental toughness in workouts and races, plus a reliable internal clock. I’m typically able to find a pace which is conducive to the type of workout of race, and maintain it throughout the run.
My weakness is most certainly a juicy lucy and a cold beer; it’s a powerful combination.
What is your fondest running memory?
There have been many memorable events over the years; but it’s the emotional and personal moments that most often come to mind:
- Leading a race, and instantly feeling that universal sensation of exhilaration and fear combined.
- Running a 24-hour relay with my father in 1976.
- Watching both my sons run and compete will always touch my heart.
Do you have a favorite local race?
In Minnesota, I would say it’s the Jon Francis 8k in Stillwater. Fantastic race organization and support, a challenging course, and all the amenities even large races sometimes miss. Plus, it benefits a wonderful organization.
In Wisconsin, the Buckshot 5 mile in Eau Claire is a favorite. Many old friends, great competition, and a challenging course…all held in an excellent running community.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to run with (well, maybe “start the race with”) some of the best and most passionate runners I could ever imagine. If however, I had to pick just one person; it would be with Dr. Alex Ratelle. His passing last year allowed me to reflect on just how phenomenal his running career was. Now that I’m in my 50’s myself; I am in awe of what he accomplished.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
Always take some time to have some fun while running. That’s why we run as kids…its exuberance; and we simply want to chase to the sun. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “Life (and running) is too important to be taken seriously”.