Thursday, May 10, 2007


It’s hard for me to call this a legitimate site on Running in Minnesota without an interview of Gloria Jansen. I first became aware of Gloria 10 years ago at Grandma’s Marathon. I was 28 years old at the time and about mid-way through the race, Gloria caught up to me and soon left me in the dust. I know it was Gloria, because everyone alongside the road kept cheering, “Way to go Gloria!” or “Looking good Gloria.” All I could think was "Who the heck is this Gloria gal?" Well, it didn't take long to figure out.

In addition to being a familiar face at road races, the soon-to-be 60-year old White Bear Lake resident, donates much of her free time to the MDRA in various leadership roles, coaches beginning women and serves on the Team USA Minnesota Board of Directors, etc. For me, Gloria is like the Kevin Bacon of Minnesota running. If I can’t find the contact info for someone, I just turn to Gloria because I know she’ll be able to help me out. Read on to find out what one of the best age-groupers in the country has planned for 2007.
(Photo courtesy of Wayne Kruduba)

How and at what age did you get involved with running?
My introduction to running began in Eugene, Oregon during the mid-70s. The “jogging boom” began around that time; my neighbor and I decided to join the fun by running/walking together. We would generally run a lap then walk a lap around the Eugene High School track for 1-2 miles. I was probably around 30 at the time. After moving to Minnesota in 1978, I didn’t start running again until 1986 when a friend of mine and I decided to run after work a few days a week. My first race was the St Patrick’s Day 5 Mile race in 1987. I finished in 56:24 and my time was listed on the last page of the results book. A few months later I ran the Bonne Bell 10K in 55:07. Six years later at the 1993 Bruegger’s 10K race (new race name, same course), I finished in 39:04, my first sub-40 10K.

Did success come quickly?
I was a very average runner until 1992. Each year I would see modest improvements. However, after really struggling through a few training runs at the beginning of 1992, I went to my doctor and found out I was anemic. After a couple months of iron therapy I was amazed at how much easier running was for me. Along with the accumulation of miles and training several times a week with Club Run friends, I started to PR at races of all distances improving my times by minutes instead of seconds. My times steadily improved from 1992 until 1996 when I had my first overuse injury – piriformis syndrome. I had been training hard and racing frequently. After running three sub-3 hour marathons from October 1995 through June 1996, I continued to train hard. Within a few weeks after my marathon PR at Grandma’s, I needed to really back off. After a month of physical therapy, I was able to continue training but not at the same level. It took over a year before I had the confidence to train hard again. I still was racing at a pretty decent level but I was also a few years older.

What are some of your accolades?
During the years of the Indy Life Master Circuit, I started to get more visibility through racing at master’s championship events around the country. Besides winning a little prize money, in 1999 and 2000, I was designated as the USATF National Age Group Runner of the Year for the 50-54 age group. I received the same award in 2003, 2004, and 2005 for the 55-59 age group. It was also fun to be interviewed by Mike Tymn for the Running Times Age Group Ace column in 1998 and again in 2006.

In 2005, in the last Minnesota Runner’s Yearbook, Jack Moran recognized me as the best 55-59 Minnesota runner of the past 20 years – at the time I held over 70 age group and single age records in Minnesota. Each year a few of those records are rewritten by others moving into the various age groups. However, each time I move into a new age group, I have been able to set some new records.

What are your PRs?
5K 18:46 (1994)
8K 31:04 (1996)
10K 38:21 (1993)
15K 59:38 (1995)
20K 1:21:40 (1996)
Half Marathon 1:24:34 (1996)
25K 1:42:02 (1995)
Marathon 2:58:19 (1996)

What motivates you year-in and year-out? Are age records, national rankings, age-graded times in the 90th percentile, motivation enough?
As I get older, it generally takes a little longer each spring to get motivated to start training instead of just running. I used to have a goal of trying to set a PR every time I raced. Now age records, national rankings, and age-graded times definitely help since it isn’t too likely that I’ll PR at anything anymore unless it is a distance that I haven’t run yet. Last year I was able to run some of my fastest times since 2002 for both 10K and 10-mile races. Early in the racing season my times usually aren’t all that great. Even though I don’t think of myself as old, I know that I can’t train at a high level year round anymore. By the time the weather starts to cool down in late August or September, I’m generally ready to run my best races of the year.

I often wonder if runners who start later in life ever wonder what they would have been like in their prime. Any regrets?
No regrets. If I had started to race 10 years earlier than I did, the competition would have been pretty stiff. As it is, many of the national age group and single age records are way out of my range but I will review the records again just in case something looks achievable in the new age group. I think a lot of my success has come from starting late and outlasting those who started competing when they were younger.

A couple of years ago, Oprah declared that 50-years old was the new 30. Does that mean 60 is the new 40?
It is hard to argue with Oprah. For older runners and physically active people, I can’t help but think that we are more fit than inactive 30 or 40 year olds. I know I don’t feel old; I just can’t run as fast as I used to.

What are your goals for the year as you enter a new age group next month?
My first race as a 60 year old is Grandma’s Marathon. The 60-64 course record is on my radar screen. If the weather is better than last year, it is a reasonable goal as long as my training goes well over the next 4-5 weeks. My main goal for the new age group is to try to run all distances this year as fast or faster than I ran them in 2006. To achieve that, I have a lot of work to do.

You weren’t pleased with your performance at the Winter Carnival Half Marathon. Have you been happy with how your spring racing has been so far?
Most of my race times this year have been somewhat disappointing, but not unexpectedly so. Things are beginning to turn around with more consistent training. As I mentioned earlier, I really cut back on my training during the winter, and I’m just starting to get the cobwebs out. It seems to take a little longer each year to convince myself to get out of the comfort zone in a race but I started to see a little progress this past week.

In general, what is your training philosophy? Do you tend to follow a certain plan?
I don’t really follow any plan in particular but I take pieces of many plans for my own training. I probably follow Pete Pfitzinger’s training schedules more than others. I used to go to the track regularly several years ago; I’m going to try to put that element back into my training on a weekly basis if possible. Right now I have many conflicts in the evening from coaching beginning running classes and attending meetings for various running organizations that I haven’t been able to fit in the speed work sessions. Instead I try to race as many 5Ks as possible in the spring with the goal of running each one a little faster than the previous one.

Do you have a key benchmark workout that you like to do before key races?
Each year certain races are important for me. I don’t really have a benchmark workout but I do run a race or two as time trials before a key race. It helps me to determine how fast I should start and the pace I feel I can maintain. I used to run 3 x 1 mile at the track to determine my pace for a race but I haven’t done that for a few years.

What is your fondest running memory?
One of my fondest memories is from 1993 when I ran 2:59:30 at Grandma’s Marathon. It was my first sub-3 marathon and my noon hour training partners all ran great races, too. I think the three of us levitated over the stretching mats at the Arena Club for several weeks after that race.

In 1996 and in 2000, I was on two very different but very memorable Hood to Coast teams. The 1996 team was called Team Minnesota and we traveled to Oregon with the goal of winning the 40-49 age group and setting a course record. We achieved both goals. In 2000, I was recruited to run on a Portland based team. The team captain was very serious about Hood to Coast and he even wrote a book about it called “What has 36 Legs and 24 Feet”. We ended up winning the 50-59 team competition - our 12-person team included Priscilla Welch, John Campbell, Judith Hine, Joan Ottaway, John Naslund and Mike Heffernan.

Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
One of my favorite local races, the Easy Does It 5 miler, ended last year. Grandma’s and Twin Cities Marathons are also favorites of mine. Nationally, Freihofer’s 5K, the Indy Life Mini-Marathon, and the Tulsa Run 15K are among my favorites. The race organizers for all of the races mentioned do a great job. I haven’t traveled to as many national races for the past couple years since we have so many great races right here in Minnesota.

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
One runner I would have liked meeting and running with is Rocky Racette. I never knew Rocky; I’ve only read about her accomplishments. I’m glad that she continues to be remembered by the running community through the Rocky’s Run Cross Country meet and a U of M scholarship fund.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
When I first started running, I never even considered the mental aspect of competing. I always wanted to try to run faster but my training was limited to physical workouts. After coming back from some setbacks in 1998, I read the book Running Within. Some of the visualization techniques, affirmations, and mantras were extremely helpful. If I had included this type of training a few years earlier, I think all of my PR’s would have been noticeably faster.

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