Monday, February 08, 2010


Few local runners have been a part of the running scene for as long as Rick Kleyman has. The 70-year-old Plymouth resident has been at it for nearly 55 years. While he may only have one marathon left in him, he doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon. When I asked him his strengths, I thought for sure it say his speed was one of them, as last year he posted mile times of 6:01 and 6:05. Instead, he focused on his ability to stay healthy. I had to track Rick down in Florida for this interview where he's busy running on grass, while we slog through the snow and ice. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of Rick. If someone happens to have one, please email me and I'll include it.

I can’t think of many runners that have been around as long as you have. I hope you take that as a compliment. How and at what age did you get involved with running?
Formally, I went out for cross country my first year in high school at Minneapolis North in the fall of 1955 and have been competing every year since.

Did success come quickly?
Not really, our coach didn't know anything and either did we. One day we ran 2.5 miles nonstop and talked about that the remainder of the season. Our longest race was 1.8 miles those years.

Who were some of your major influences over the years?
We had a group from our high school that went to the U of M and at one time 5 of us ran on the U team. Our leader was John MacCaffery and we followed in his footsteps. Then Ron Daws, who was a year ahead of me at the U - fired us up to continue running after college - something that was not done back in the 50s and 60s. Buddy Edelen was also an influence on my running - he was still training with us after he graduated. Both of course made the Olympics and had books written about them. Unfortunately, both died too young.

The sport of running has obviously changed a lot over the years. What are some of the key changes you’ve observed?
When road racing started in the early 60s a big race had about 50 runners. I would finish about 25th or so. The first big race was Getting In Gear, which started at the old Prudential Building off Highway 12 (now 394). Daytons and the Minneapolis Star really promoted that race and a couple thousand came out for it. I think I finished about 25th again - the same guys beat me as always. After that race people got the bug and things grew from there.

The next biggest thing was when girls started running Track and Cross country in High School then College. Then the growth in running really grew.

One thing that stood out to me as I reviewed some MDRA newsletters from the ‘70s is that there used to be a separate “coach’s race” held in conjunction with the local road races. I believe this was to maintain your amateur status in the eyes of the AAU. Looking back, it seems like an asinine rule. How was it viewed at the time?
Unfortunately, we were the only state that viewed the rule that coaches were professionals. I wrote a letter to the editor of some of the running magazines and asked what coaches in other states did for competition. I got so many letters that said all their coaches were able to run. They said to send them my info and they would get me an AAU card from their state. Ask Paul Noreen about that rule. I ran my first Marathon -City of Lakes and could not finish in the chute - even though I paid and would have finished 8th in 1970. One person ruled the roost on this rule, until he became a competitive coach. Back then Noreen and I were the only competitive running coaches.

As a high school coach, what are some of the key lessons that you’ve tried to teach your runners over the years?
Enjoy your running every day, never exhaust yourself in races or training. Make running a part of your life always for fitness, friendship, and great health - even if you never race.

In general, what is your training philosophy?
I try to follow some of the great coach’s philosophies - Lydiard, VanAken, Cerrutty. A mixture of training is essential to keep away the boredom. I try to incorporate in my training and of my athletes each week. One hill work out a week, one tempo workout, one interval workout, one skills workout, and one long slow workout each week. Younger runners should only run 5 or 6 days per week and older runners up to 7 if they want to. Most running should be on soft surfaces. Only run as much as you feel good - sometimes running great workouts can raise your confidence. Stay injury free most of the time and you should always improve.

What are your PRs?

800 - 2:00.7
1500 - 4:23.3
Mile - 4:30.1
2 mile - 9:59.4
5k - 16:19

5k - 16:05
10K - 32:47
15K - 52:20
10 mile - 55:40
Half - 1:16.24
Marathon - 2:38:47

All the road times were after the age of 40. The last time I ran my age in the 5-minute range was when I was 53 at the Meet of Miles race at the U track when I ran 4:53.4. When I was 57 I ran the Rice St Mile in 4:58.7.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is that I have been blessed with the health to run each day. In 2009, at the age of 69, I ran 2007 miles and ran 335 of 365 days. I turned 70 on January 30th and this past week I ran 76 miles.

My basic weakness is I am afraid to run hard anymore in races – I don't want to get out of the comfort zone.

You enter 2010 in a new age group (70-74). Does that change how you approach the year? What are you goals for 2010?
Main goal is to stay injury free, which is tough when you are coaching. I try to lead the girls in some of the complex workouts and getting going too fast sometimes leads to injury.

My next race is February 13th. I’m running a 5k cross country race here in Florida. Then March 6th I’m running a 5K road race also in Florida. We come home to Minnesota on March 14th. I will be coaching again at Armstrong as an Assistant. I was a head coach there for 33 years and the past 7 as an assistant at Wayzata with the girls program. March 26-28th I am registered for the national Masters indoor track meet in Boston; 3000m Friday, mile Saturday, and 800m Sunday. Except for track races, I try to run only one road race per month. In June, July, and August I don’t race longer than a mile. When I hold on to that schedule, I usually do okay. If I run the marathon (Twin Cities) again this year, it will be my last one. Half marathons are a lot easier on my body.

What does it take for you to stay motivated every year?
Not much - I just like to run fast and see what I can do and see if I can run as fast as the previous year.

What is your fondest running memory?
Running 2:38 at the Twin Cities Marathon at the age of 42. I never thought I could run that fast. I ran 1:21 - 1:17 splits.

Do you have a favorite local race?
Anoka Gray Ghost 5k

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Jim Day. I wish he could get healthy again to be able to run. We were College teammates and are still great friends. He was running well again until 2 years ago and I think he needs a new hip.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
If any of us in the 1950s knew what mileage meant, we would have run so much faster.


Julie said...

Excellent!! Thank you Chad:) Rick lives in Plymouth...that is just down the road from me:) Awesome interview and I loved what Rick has to say!! Have a great day Chad!

Anonymous said...

Rick is intense but has a heart of gold. He's only too happy to give good advice. When I started coaching in the early 90s, I went to Rick for advice. I got great advice and the use of his library. He has a lot to do with the success I had at coaching.

Kurt said...

I had the pleasure of running for Coach Kleyman from 1988-90. It changed my life and I will always be happy I came out for the team. I am glad to see he will be back at Armstrong this year !! Thanks for posting this.

Unknown said...

Rick was my coach for 2 years. It is so much fun just to run with him because he does all the talking and all you have to do is listen and keep up with him. He is one of the most caring and friendly people I have every met.

Unknown said...

Rick, known as Harvey back when he was my coach at Armstrong in the early 70s, inspired me with his motto, RUN FOR FUN. I have taken this as my own motto and share it throughout the country as I travel for our business and run, run, run.

Kleyman was encouragement in person. His runners often became his friends. You couldn't find a humbler, kinder, and more intelligent man. As a math teacher, he used that skill as well to help develop individual running programs and goals. He never wanted anyone to burn out, for he wanted his runners to run a lifetime.

Our team went to State with a motivation of "we love to run" rather than a "have to perform" attitude. We might have won state every year if Harvey hadn't cautioned us about the harm you can do if you push a growing body; that winning wasn't worth the wear and tear.

He didn't want the joy of running to leave, and my aging body feels the wisdom of his words 40 years later!

I still enjoy running and racing. One of my best races was the one I ran on Christmas Day last year with my son, who is in the Navy. His gift to me was running slowly (for him) so we could run together!

When I run I choose soft courses and beautiful settings and vary it as I continue to live out a legacy that Harvey began for me back in 1970 at Armstrong High School. Thanks Harvey!

Gary Bloom, Armstrong 1973

Anonymous said...

Harvey Rick Kleyman was my coach from 1975-78. He was the best. Even though I quit racing long ago because it really wasn't fun anymore, I have taken his run for fun philosophy to heart and still run as close to every day as I can. I also bike for fun as well, still owing to his other philosophy that was if you can't run every day then at least do something for your body every day. I remember every Saturday we would road trip someplace fun to run. My favorite was Carver Park. Harv would usually buy a comatose van to haul kids with and then get rid of it at the end of the season. Once or twice I think our work out may have included us pushing that van. :-) It is great to see that Rick Kleyman is still doing well.

Dave Schink, class of '78

Unknown said...

I love this post and reread it often for inspiration! Coach Kleyman rules!

rusty said...

I guess this is kind of an old thread now, but I was talking with my Dad about coach Kleyman and I found this on the internet- all I can say is that I'm still running thanks to "Harv". Surely it was one of the best things I learned how to do in high school (75-78). Still keeping the trails warm here in the Finger Lakes, NY.

Jim Rustad, class of 1978.

Liz said...

I don't think I realized at the time how lucky I was to have Coach Kleyman as my coach. I never broke 7:00 in the mile, but I always felt encouraged by him. Now I've taken the lessons he taught and turned them into a lifetime love of running!

From an Armstrong distance track alum (1993-95) and two-time marathoner, working on a third!