Friday, March 22, 2013


After college it seems like, one by one, my cross country and track teammates stopped running.  As the years passed, I keep looking over my shoulder waiting for them to start racing again, especially as they neared 40 years old and have established their family and career.  While that hasn’t happened with any of my teammates (yet), it is the case with Lance Elliott.  If you’re a competitive local Masters runner, you’re probably wondering where the hell he came from.  Well, he’s been around – just not running.  The 42 year old Edina resident is actually a former Big 8 standout while at Iowa State University.  After a 15 year layoff, he’s back to running – and racing – and racing fast.  This weekend he’ll be participating in the USA Masters Indoor Championships, where his 4:26 mile makes him the top seed in the 40-44 age group.

First off, I believe every Master runner in Minnesota wants to know where you came from? There aren’t any race results for you prior to turning 40 in 2011. What were you up to before that?
It may seem like I came out of nowhere, but I have been in the Twin Cities for over 17 years. There are no prior race results because I didn’t run at all, let alone race. I was preoccupied with starting and running an engineering, real estate, and construction company, raising a family, fixing up our older house in Minneapolis, or designing and building our new house in Edina.

How and at what age did you get involved with running? Where did you run in high school and college and what were some of your accolades?
I grew up in Iowa near Montezuma, between Des Moines and Iowa City. I played all the typical sports until my sophomore year in high school, when I began to focus on running. I had my breakthrough race at the Drake Relays 1600 that year placing second or third (too long ago to remember) in 4:19. I came back to win the Drake Relays 1600 my junior and senior years as well as the 3200 my senior year. In 1989, I broke the class 2A 1600 State Meet record with a time of 4:16.99, which still stands today. I also won the 800 meters at the state meet in 1:55 my senior year.

I ran track and cross country for Iowa State University from 1989-94. I placed at almost every Big 8 meet I ran (typically mile/1500), and was on the winning 4×800 relay one year. I never qualified for nationals, missing by less than .3 second one year. My best 1500 was 3:45. I ran a number of races between 3:45 and 3:47, but never had the breakthrough race of 3:42 which I was in shape to run. My best indoor mile was 4:04.

I received a number of different awards both in high school and college. I would have to dig through my boxes in storage to remember what they were.

As far as your 15 year hiatus goes, was it a conscious decision to stop running or did it just gradually fade away?
After completing my eligibility at Iowa Sate, I continued to train with the team, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was tired and frustrated with my nagging knee injury, which continued to hold me back. In December 1996, I graduated, got married, move to the Twin Cities, started a new job, and even squeezed in a 10 day honeymoon during that two week period! From that point on, my focus was on establishing myself in the Twin Cities, working, and raising a family. Running was the last thing on my mind. I felt washed up and never thought I would be able to run again.

What about when you decided to start running again, what spurred that decision?
I always had it in the back of my mind that I would love to return to the Drake Relays and run the Master’s 800 when I turned 40. But after I turned 39, I had a somber moment while playing football with my boys. I was out of shape, fat, stiff, sore, and didn’t think I would be able to run again. A few months later, my old teammate, Sean Mulheron, and I went down to Ames to watch the Big 12 Indoor Track Meet. On the way back, it dawned on me that if I am going to run at Drake Relays the following year; I had better start getting ready. So after that trip, I went out and purchased a new pair of running shoes; and on March 1st of 2010, I got off the couch and started running.

What similarities and differences have you noticed between your two running lives?
There are a lot of similarities. Looking ahead to future races, planning out the training schedule, and “fitting” the runs and workouts into each day’s other activities are very much the same. The only difference is now I am working and supporting a family compared to going to class, studying, and other student related activities.

On the other side, one of the main differences relates to today’s technology. In my previous running life, we had no cell phones, internet, facebook,, etc. We only had Runner’s World and Track and Field News. Our circle of communication was just our teammates, coaches, and a few friends. Now, the amount of information is incredible. After emerging on the Masters scene in 2011, I quickly began to have communications with other runners and media all over the country. Everyone knows what everyone else is up to.

The biggest difference personally, of being almost 20 years older, is the perspective of time. As the saying goes, “if you only knew then what you know now”. This especially goes for understanding training programs, looking at things long term, and avoiding injury. I often wonder what I could have accomplished in my previous running life if I had been able to accomplish the level of (smart) training that I have completed over the past two years.

You definitely excel at the shorter distances, having run 4:26.29 for the Masters 1 Mile at the New Balance Boston Indoor Games just last month, which was good enough for third place. What were your goals for that meet and were you happy with the results?
I was second in the same race in 2011, with a time of 4:23. I hoped to win it this year, but I knew it would be tough since a number of new guys have entered the scene. I got boxed in early and was slow through 800. I then ran a big negative split and almost caught the leaders at the end. I was disappointed after the race, but later content, as they are two of the best Masters milers in the world. In fact, the winner went on to break the world record for the 45-49 age group a couple weeks later.

Last year you stuck to the track and 1 mile road races. Do you plan on running any longer races in 2013 and what are your goals for the year?
My main goal is to repeat winning the Drake Relays Master’s 800. The other bonus this year is that there is a Master’s 800 at the USA Championships held on the same track in June.

I still plan on running the TC 1 Mile, Rice Street Mile, Minnesota Mile in Duluth, 5th Ave Mile in NYC, as well as other track races. But I do plan on running some longer road races this year. First on my list is to run a decent 5k, and then move up from there. Who knows, I may even sneak in a fall marathon.

What are your pre- and post-Masters PRs?

High School
800 1:55
1600 4:16
3200 9:18

1500 3:45
Mile 4:04
3000 8:24
5k 15:21
10k 32:18

800 2:01
1500 4:02
Mile 4:22
3,000 8:57
5,000 16:13
10,000 33:48

What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Us guys never like to admit to weaknesses, so let’s start with strengths. My training partners will vouch for me that my strengths are focus and ability to complete incredible interval workouts and races. Whether it is 20 x hill, 6 x 1000, or negative split race, I can typically push way beyond what I really should be able to do. As for weaknesses, I struggle with longer threshold or tempo runs and longer races. I am inherently lazy and would rather work super hard for a shorter period of time rather than half as hard for a longer period of time. I have been working on this and hope to improve my longer races in the near future.

What is your fondest running memory?
Getting 2nd place in the Drake Relays 1600m as a sophomore in high school. I was the last runner to qualify for the event after running 4:32 a few weeks earlier. There was no room for me in the lanes, so I had to line up behind everyone behind the starting line. I ran a 13 second PR and finished with a time of 4:19.99. That is when I became a miler.

As a Master runner, I have two that stand out. The first was getting second place in the 1500 which was held on the final day of the 2011 US Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. My time was a new all-time Minnesota state record and was ranked 8th in the world for 40 and over in 2011.

The second, one of my fondest ever, was winning the Drake Relays Master 800 last year. Crossing the finish line in first place and jogging a victory lap in front of my “home crowd” 23 years after last doing it as a senior in high school was an incredible experience.

Do you have a favorite local or national race?
Drake Relays will always be my favorite running event. Below is a list of other races I enjoy. I hope to run more local road races in the future so I can add to my list.

Local: TC 1 mile, Minnesota Mile in Duluth, Rice Street Mile, Brian Kraft 5k, Victory 10k

National: New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, 5th Ave. Mile in NYC, and all USATF national meets

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
As for present, over the past couple years, I have already had the privilege to run with many outstanding runners. One of my biggest highlights was helping Heather Kampf by running with her during her workouts last year leading up to the Olympic Trials. She ran very well, making it to the finals in the 800, only to come up a bit short qualifying for the Olympics. She then went on to win a record number of road mile championships. More recently, I have helped with other Team USA Minnesota members with workouts, races, and accepted an invitation to be on the Board of Directors.

As for past, I would have to say Steve Plasencia. Most people don’t realize what Steve accomplished as a Master’s runner. He broke the American Records for 40-44 in the half marathon, 25k, 15k, 5k and indoor 3,000. Steve has also done a great job coaching the U of M team.

Finally, what advice do you have for other runners who may be starting to run as a Master?
My advice to Masters runners is the same advice I give for almost anything that anyone does, and that is to have fun. If it is not fun, it is not worth doing. The next thing is to find out what motivates you. Pick a race that you would really like to do well. Don't be afraid to train harder than you think you can on the hard days, and be sure to go easier than you feel you should on the easy days. Set your sights on that race and you may surprise yourself. I see too many Masters runners that just run the same pace every day and run the same times at every race and never improve. Unless you happen to be at the top of your game at the current time, you can always improve regardless of your age.

1 comment:

Imogen said...

This is cool!