Monday, June 04, 2007


If there’s one interview people have asked for the most, this is it. In high school Amy Lyons only ran to get in shape for cross country skiing. Due to lack of snow, the All-State skier began to focus on running more and more. At Bethel College, Amy flourished under the guidance of Suzanne Ray and earned All-American honors in cross country as a sophomore. After a coaching change, Amy joined the Run N Fun race team and has concentrated on road racing for the last two years. In this interview, the 21-year-old Mounds View resident sheds some light on her college career, her atypical training routine and her plans for the future. (Photo courtesy of Curt Lyons)

When did you start running? How’d you get involved?
I started out as a sprinter in 9th grade, after a friend talked me into joining the track team. Then my coaches encouraged me to run middle distance events and cross country. I also enjoyed being the anchor leg on many relay teams.

Do you cross country ski anymore?
It’s been harder to train for ski races the past few years due to lack of snow. I’ve skied the Vasaloppet four times and the City of Lakes Loppet twice. Nordic skiing was my favorite sport in high school, even though I didn’t join the team until 10th grade. I had excellent coaches that taught me how to ski and race, which led to me becoming a Conference Champ and All-State Nordic skier. Back then I was always better at skiing than running, but now I much prefer to run. There’s no waxing required!

You ran for Bethel College and went from 168th at the National D3 Cross Country meet as a freshman to 18th as a sophomore. What/who do you attribute your quick improvement to?
I think I had the potential to be All-American as a freshman, but conditions were not ideal. It was hot and humid, and there was something like an air inversion. Many runners didn’t feel well. When I went to nationals as a sophomore, I was able to sleep well the night before, and the weather was cold, which helped me run to All-American status the second time around.

After your sophomore year it appears you stopped running for Bethel. What happened?
During my first two years at Bethel, I had an exceptional coach, Suzanne Ray, who was supportive and cared about each runner’s mental and physical well being. Then there was a coaching change that resulted in 180 degree changes in coaching philosophy and the team environment. Most of the runners did not return. The past two years, I’ve enjoyed racing on the Run N Fun team. The owners, Perry and Kari Bach, and team have been extremely supportive and generous.

There was a time when you were running lots of 5K races. Now you are mixing in some 8K and 10K races. What do you consider your best distance? Any thoughts of racing longer distances?
I consider the 10K my best distance, but I plan to try some longer distances in the future. I was advised not to run a marathon until I’m closer to 30 years old. The reason I enjoy 5K’s is because there are so many good ones to pick from in Minnesota.

What are your PRs?

5K 16:39
8K 27:26
10K 33:58

These times are all from road races.

Do you tend to follow the a more “traditional” approach to training where you build a base and then add speed-work on top of that or do you try and touch upon your speed throughout the year?
I don’t really follow a traditional approach at all. I usually train on a treadmill at a decent pace, and the only speed work I do is the race itself. I run what I feel like doing for that week. If I am feeling good, I run a little more than if I’m feeling sore. I also mix in a bit of biking. Some may think it sounds like a weird way to train, but it keeps running enjoyable.

What kind of mileage do you run in and out of season?
In season I run about 45 miles per week. Off season, I ride a Schwinn Airdyne and walk on a treadmill. I’ve never run more than 50 miles a week and don’t think that doing so would help me in what I’m trying to accomplish for now.

Is there anyone you like to train with?
I’m a solitary runner, mainly because I get up in the morning and run on the treadmill, but after a race I love to do cool downs with other runners.

Are you currently being coached?
No, but I’m always open to suggestions.

Annie Bersagel just left Team USA Minnesota, has there been any talk about joining them or another training group like Brooks-Hansons, ZAP Fitness, etc.?
Last fall, Team USA Minnesota Coach Dennis Barker asked me if I wanted to run on a 4x10K team going to Japan. I was honored but did not go due to having a lot of irons in the fire at the time. I really respect Coach Barker and Team USA Minnesota, so that would probably be my first choice, if I join another team.

What are your racing plans and goals for 2007?
My goal is to improve my PRs. At the time of this interview, I am recovering from a low back injury, so I’m riding the Airdyne until I can run again.

What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
My strengths are that I train and run hard, and those are my weaknesses also. One of the reasons I train on a treadmill is to pace myself from going too fast during workouts. Sometimes I work too hard, when I should listen to my body and cut back a bit.

What is your fondest running memory?
One of them would be of our high school track and field team winning the conference title. It was a great team effort. Another would be finishing the Get in Gear 10K last year, my first 10K ever, and thinking it was easy. It was pouring out, and we got soaked, but it really felt good to accomplish my longest race yet and do well.

Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
The Victory 10K is my favorite race so far. I have done the 5K twice before, but the 10K course is very fast.

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
It would definitely be Suzanne Ray. She is a wonderful coach and friend, and I got into road racing because of her encouragement. We’ve had a lot of great conversations during cool downs after races.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish I knew to eat more protein. Runners tend to favor carbs for energy, but protein helps rebuild muscle better. This is especially important for me, since I’m a vegetarian.


Sheila said...

Inspiring! I totally agree with the low mileage/cross-training philosophy...although I'm curious about the treadmill! Did she say why she prefers it?

Chad said...

"One of the reasons I train on a treadmill is to pace myself from going too fast during workouts."

She also said it "keeps running enjoyable" for her.

Anonymous said...

hi... just wanted to touch on one question that was asked... I'm an Assistant Coach (jumps for men and women) on the Bethel University Track team... and having worked for both Suzanne Ray and Jim Timp I'm comfortable stating that they are both talented distance coaches. I also respect Amy as a runner, but the answer she gave to the question of why she left Bethel needs a little context... After Suzanne left, coach Timp asked Amy to commit to practicing with the other girls and to be a leader on the team. However, she and her family chose to take her running career in another direction, as they didn't think that would 'best suit' her talents.

Before coach Timp arrived the Womens team had not finished higher than 7th in the miac... ever... In two short years they improved to runner up in the indoor season and third outdoors... Not only that, but to a woman, every girl on the team would say that they love coach timp as a coach, friend, and leader...

Kyle Leaf BU Jumps

Anonymous said...

No matter who you are or what you do (individual or team sports) you will also find personality issues between athletes and coaches. Some just mesh better than others, and some people have more personality issues than others. For a serious runner like Amy to give up collegiate athletics is a big step, one I'm sure she did not take lightly, and has most likely kept her happy rather than running for a coach and with a team with whom she does not share the same attitudes, goal and philosophies.

Anonymous said...

To say that Amy "left" collegiate cross country and track would imply that she was ever a part of collegiate cross country and track. I was a part of the team when she was there and she didn't even practice at practice time/with the team once a week. She trained by herself on her own schedule and did not participate in the team except on meet days. When Amy was on the track team she didn't even show up. Suzanne decided, with the help of the team captains, that the fact that she was training herself and running completely alone basically removed her from the team.

Jim Timp is an amazing coach who has turned the Bethel team around from the bottom of the MIAC to one of the contenders for the conference title (CC, Indoor and Outdoor) over the past few years.

It is true that the team has made a 180 degree turn but it is most definitely for the better! He has produced several All-Americans and last year Bethel's lead runner was the national indoor champion in the mile run. I think it needs to be said that he is a far superior coach to Suzanne Ray. She was a very nice woman and a good friend but not much more.

A Timp supporter who has seen this from the inside

Anonymous said...

I ran for Jim Timp and thought he was a manipulator and weasel. Everywhere he has coached, he has driven a wedge between the athletes, coaches and administration. He does what’s best to promote his own career at the expense of the athlete’s health and sanity. He drives athletes by getting them to hate people from other teams. This is not good sportsmanship, let alone sound Christian doctrine and is not what athletics should teach people.

Anonymous said...

This is sad to me that a nice article about Amy has turned into an issue of why she left Bethel and who is a better coach.
After reading the comments below it is obvious to me why Amy decided not to run anymore at Bethel college. If the negative people below are the type of "team mates - if you can even call them that" she had then I would have left also.
I do have to comment on the rude statement made about Suzanne Ray.
Suzanne Ray is an amazing coach and person in all aspects of life. She has put her heart and soul into running and coaching and gives of her time, energy, heart, and experience to each and ever person she has ever coached.
She is currently helping coach a group of Run N Fun women who enjoy her input and are all improving.

Let's stop the negative comments with anonymous names - if you have something harsh to say about someone at least be a big enough person to leave you name.
Amy Lyons is an amazing runner with a wonderful personality. Her decision to leave Bethel running and focus on road racing was a smart decision and has paid off for her with several great PR's and being one of the top women runners in the state.
Kudos to you Amy and to Suzanne Ray for helping you get started on the path you are on today.

Anonymous said...

Typical timp ploy, get his groupies to discredit those who he could not subjugate to his worldly view. In my experience, I found him to be a chauvinist pig.

Anonymous said...

The statement, "to a woman, every girl on the team would say that they love coach timp as a coach, friend, and leader..." may be true for those who remained on the team, but is misleading.

If the Bethel website CC rosters are accurate, there were 27 non-graduating runners on the 2004 CC team that ran for Suzanne. Only 7 of these ladies are included on Timps' 2005 roster.

Universally loved coaches do not experience a 26% retention rate from one season to the next...

Andy Peterson said...

Dear Anonymous or Kyle Leaf,

You actually have the nerve to come on here and bash AMY LYONS? You seem to know (or THINK YOU KNOW) every little detail about her college days and what transpired there. With as much information as you claim to know, I think it's safe to assume that you're not only a BITTER individual- but rather a 'stalker'.

Whether your statements have any accuracy to them or not, you look like a FOOL trying to discredit Amy. Maybe she DID practice on her own and maybe she NEVER showed up at practice, but one thing can't be denied- Amy has proven to be one of the best, if not THE BEST, female runner in all of Minnesota in her age division- and Bethel sure as hell hasn't achieved anything worth mentioning!

Not to mention, I hear Coach Timp is an absolute JOKE.

Keep sitting behind the safety of your computer and criticizing, buddy. Next time, worry a little more about yourself and NOT Amy. I'm pretty damn sure that Amy's running career is going JUST FINE.

Anonymous said...

Discussion over, Jim Timp got "FIRED" at Bethel!!!

Anonymous said...

What goes around comes around

Anonymous said...

fired for misconduct of nature