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Friday, April 29 2011 - Chris Taylor: London Runner April Interview

Chris Taylor placed 10th at the April 22nd Downtown 5k road race in a personal best time of 16:34.50, dropping  over 2 full minutes from his 2010 performance (18:44). We caught up with Chris to talk about this race, his upcoming outdoor season, as well as his friend and mentor Eric Barry.

LondonRunner.ca: Last Friday you ran the Downtown 5k road race. How did the race play out, and are you happy with that performance?

Chris Taylor: Well the race played out very well: me and the guys were in a good group and we were on pace to run around 16:40 at half way. At about 1k left I made my move gaining more ground on (Ian) Turnbull. At this point it was basically a sprint to the finish and he ended up beating me but I was very pleased with my race. I was definitely not expecting that big of a jump from my previous race in February, so I am definitely happy with the race

LondonRunner.ca: Overall, how has your training gone since last summer?

Chris Taylor: Overall my training has gone pretty well. I had a few problems around Wossa XC, but since then I have trained hard and I am feeling really good about this summer. I have also been able to adjust better since January with the amount of running, which I find has helped me thought the year.

LondonRunner.ca: What are your main goals for this summer?

Chris Taylor: My major goal for this summer is to qualify for Youth Nationals in both the 800m and the 1500m. Last summer I was just a few seconds off the 800m standard and this season I feel it is a very reasonable goal to qualify. For the 1500m I need to make a big jump, but I feel that I am ready and that I will qualify. Another one of my goals is to just stay healthy and follow my training because if I didn't do that I can’t achieve the rest of my goals.

LondonRunner.ca: Over the past few years, you’ve been mentored along by school and club teammate Eric Barry. What’s it been like having someone like Eric to ‘show you the ropes?’

Chris Taylor: Having Eric around has been absolutely awesome. I remember I said to one of my buddies at Wossa track 2009 after Eric ran a 2 flat 800 "when I am in grade 11 I will run a 1:59". Now it is 2011 and this is my goal for the 800m and without Eric it would have never happened. He got me involved in the club and told me that I could make huge improvements; having Eric alongside me has been such a pleasure.

LondonRunner.ca: Do you think the student will be able to beat the master someday?

Chris Taylor: I think that I will someday beat Eric in a race but it would be an epic battle. I think that maybe in the summer we should race each other and see, but only if he is up to it...

LondonRunner.ca:  What is your favourite place to run?

Chris Taylor: My favourite place to run is without a doubt TD Waterhouse. This is because I have run all my track PBs there. Also because for some reason in the 800m I feel like stopping at about 600m, but when I race there I feel like I am unstoppable.

LondonRunner.ca:  What is your favourite workout?

Chris Taylor: Since I am a track guy I would say my favourite workout is 400m repeats at STA. Basically because I always feel really good at these workouts.

Photo: Teammates Chris Taylor, Tristan Fleming, Sameem Javeed, and Shane Roberts running together at the 2011 Downtown 5k


Tuesday, April 26 2011 - LRDC Sweep at Downtown 5k

The 19th Annual McFarland Rowlands Downtown 5k, hosted by Runners’ Choice, featured a record number of participants and a strong showing by the London Runner Distance Club. London Runner swept the men’s medals in the five kilometer event as junior Aaron Hendrikx ran away from Kyle O’Neill to take the overall win in a personal best of 15:24.00. Teammate Matt Suda completed the sweep, running 16:15.05 for 3rd place. The senior women of London Runner also had strong performances, with Leslie Sexton finishing as the second woman overall in a personal best of 17:34.55 and Bronwen Douglas taking fourth in a personal best of 18:50.00. Youngsters Ian Turnbull, Chris Taylor, Sameem Javeed, Tristan Fleming, and Shane Roberts put on a great display of pack running, all finishing under 17 minutes with big drops in their personal bests.

Full results here


Wednesday, April 13 2011 - Paul Roberts: London Runner Inteview from 2005

This is a re-posting of a 2005 interview with Paul Roberts on the previous LondonRunner.ca website. We hope you enjoy:

 

Part 1: Early running development – High School and University Days

1-Thanks for doing the interview Paul. An obvious question to start off with – how did you get started in running?

            Steve thanks for asking me. Let me first say that I like your appreciation for running history and who and what has came before you. I believe that you can learn a lot from understanding the history of your sport.          

            My first exposure to running was in Grade 9 when they announced that the city high school x-c race would be on Thursday of that week and tryouts would be the previous day. You would get an afternoon off school if you participated in the tryouts. I had no illusions of making the team; I just wanted out of school for the afternoon and thought this would be a cool and legal way to do it. So I signed up for the tryouts and showed up for the race. It was a mass race, all ages and genders together, and they separated the boys/girls then midget/junior/senior out at results time. I think the loop was about 2K, but I’m not sure. I did it and thought well that was that and didn’t have too much problem with it (unlike a few friends who did it for the same reason).  However shortly after the event, I was informed that I was second (or third?) midget boy and would go to the city meet the next day.  Cool, another day off school!  However I was sick the next day, didn’t go to the meet and never ran again till grade 12.   I participated in basketball at a high level in high school and that was fairly intense and that kept me busy.  Plus I played hockey in the winter and Lacrosse at a competitive level in the summer, so I never gave it another thought. Running was just something you did during a sport, I never thought of it as a sport in itself. 

            My next contact with running however took hold and never let go. It started when I became interested in a girl through basketball who was at a different high school.  Not only did she play basketball for her high school, but she also swam, played volleyball and ran track. I went to one of her track meets in grade 11 to watch and saw the sprinting events and said “I couldn’t do that, but that long stuff I could do”.  She then challenged me to do cross country in the fall of grade 12.  I took the challenge and the girl seriously, and ran 4 to 5 days a week to her summer job (as a city pool change room attendant) about 2K from my house, visited with her for a couple hours, then ran home.  This continued for the whole summer before x-c that fall.  As a side note, I married that girl (now my wife Kathy) and she moved away from being a bad sprinter in high school to a good marathoner after University. Kathy completed 14 marathons, running a P.B. of 2:43:16, represented Canada at the World University Games (silver medalist), Tokyo Women’s Marathon (10th) and the World Championships in Hiroshima.

2-What was the competition like for you in high school? Were you very serious about running in those days?

            As you can tell from how they picked our x-c teams at my school in grade 9, distance running was not that advanced in my hometown of Chatham. Chatham is a small farm community with baseball and hockey being the main sports.   Thus sprinting and field events were not too bad, in fact very good, but distance running was awful.   Therefore if you showed some ability, success was not that hard to achieve in my area.  However like most things that I got involved with, I took running seriously. I joined the newly formed Chatham Legion track club, read all the new running magazines and took shoes and the accessories seriously.  The developing running boom (mid 70’s) was very interesting to me and I enjoyed it (there may be a career here). 

            In my last year of high school I broke the city senior boys 3000m (9:49) and 1500m (4:48) records and thought that this was very comparable and this would set me up for some great University running. Not really realizing or understanding that there were midget or junior girls in other parts of the province who could run that fast.  It became a very quick learning experience once I left Chatham.

3-What were your high school coach and teammates like?

            My school, Chatham Kent had the best track & field team in the area but had never had much success in cross country.  Even though I had never competed in x-c before grade 12, because I had “trained” all summer, I was far ahead of most other runners. Our coach, Mr. Wilke had a very simple way of making us run. He would pile all the kids into the back of his pickup truck, drive us out to a spot (different spots for different ages or abilities) drop us off and told us to run back to school. Easy and very effective.  Also because he taught math, he recruited new track and x-c athletes with the promise of a passing math mark if you came out. By the end of my two years, we had the most powerful cross country program in the area also.  Mr. Dennis Wilke (track & x-c) and my basketball coach, Mr. Ron Coristine were huge influences on me in my development as an athlete. Even though I had very little contact with them after high school, some of the things that I learned from them in those couple years in late high school were so powerful that they continued to guide me for years.  

4-Describe your most memorable high school athletic remembrances(s).

            The most memorable moment would be the OFSSA gold medal that we won. The only problem is the medal was for Senior Boys Basketball and not track or x-c.  However, the Chatham Kent Golden Hawks were a dominating team and the most challenging game of the journey was winning the city championship in triple overtime.  After that we didn’t win a game by less than 20 points. 

            As far as my running, beyond winning some local x-c & track races, and being the first person from my school to make OFSSA X-C, the thing I remember the most was the trial and error training and the lessons I began to learn and understand. Training and hard work did pay off.  I had some talent, but I was by far not the most talented runner, but if I worked hard and trained, success was possible.  This lesson, which took hold in high school, would guide my career as a runner.  

5-What made you decide to attend the University of Windsor?

            I would like to say that there was some real strong decision making about my future and what not, but there wasn’t.  I got accepted at all three Universities that I applied to-Western, McMaster, & Windsor.  Windsor was the closest to home; only a 50 minute drive from my Chatham home, and that was the final decision.

            In retrospect that was the best decision as far as my running career went. I was seriously considering Western, however I think that decision would have hurt my running development in many ways.  Western was a very strong team at that time and if I would have come here, I wouldn’t have made the x-c team for the first 2 or 3 years and I wonder if  that would have discouraged me?  I’m not sure what would have happened.  Plus Western didn’t compete in outdoor track. That’s right Steve, back in the day (I love that saying-makes me sound so old) there was outdoor track at the University level. It ran concurrently with x-c and at that point I had just started steeplechasing and wanted to develop at it and the steeplechase was not an indoor track event.

            At Windsor at this time, if you were a warm body and could run, you made the team.  I was able to run x-c and track all four years, and was able to develop at my own rate.  This was huge for me!  I never knew coming into University that I was so far behind most other good University level runners. At Windsor that didn’t matter.  You just ran every week and did the best you could.

 

           

Part 2

1-Describe your development during your University years.

            Coming into University I had only been running for 2 years really and thought I would match up ok, however as I mentioned earlier I was way behind most good University runners.  It took me a couple meets, once I got to University, to become aware and understand the differences as to how far I and the University of Windsor were behind.  To illustrate this you only needed to look at the results from my first OUAA x-c meet in Kingston.  Windsor managed to scrape together 5 male runners to send off to the championships (the only year of my four, that Windsor sent a team), I was the first Windsor runner in 66th place.  Wow, is that bad! There were most likely 80 to 90 runners in the meet and the only people behind me were other Windsor runners; the non-scorers from the other Universities, and the guys from RMC.  

            At this point I decided that I was going to work harder and try to elevate my abilities so I could at least be more competitive at the University level.  Because we really didn’t have a distance team to speak of at Windsor I realized that I would have to find some outside help and also do a lot on my own. That winter I joined the South Windsor Knights of Columbus Track Club (SWKCTC) and met some local Windsor runners and a coach that would help me achieve my goal.  The coach was Bob Mailloux, who taught at Assumption HS (and coached at SWKCTC) which backed onto the University track area.  Bob was not a technically advanced coach, but he had a strong high school team and therefore I had kids to train with occasionally.  The two main running partners that I had over the next 4 years were Don MacKinnon, the only other consistent distance runner University of Windsor had, and a very good high school runner named Jamie Kasurak. Jamie was a bit strange as he was a good H.S. runner, but instead of competing during the high school seasons he chose to run local road races and marathons. This drove the coaches at his school nuts but it was great for me, because he was up to running 20-25k runs on the weekends and longer workouts that were above most high school runners.  So I spent a lot of time over my 4 years at University with Don & Jamie or by myself training. 

            The development was gradual with a lot of trial and error. I would read about doing double workouts, so I added those. I would hear about people doing a certain type of workout so I would try that. I would just keep working and trying what I heard or read about. I also was in Hunan Kinetics, therefore during my schooling I would learn about the different energy systems of the body and try different things that made sense from the schooling aspect. But what kept me going was that I was seeing improvement in my times and results. I was getting reinforcement that the training and hard work was paying off and I was more than willing to do it.

            To illustrate the improvement over the 4 years here is a summary of my results over those four years.  I didn’t keep my running diaries from this period but remember most of it fairly well.

1st year

3000m steeple chase (s/c)        first meet 9:55ish

                                                OUAA 9:48 10th

Cross country (x-c)                  OUAA  66th

2nd year

3000m s/c                                OUAA 9:30ish 6th

X-C                                          Ran a couple meets but Windsor didn’t send anyone to the                                                     OUAA’s  as we didn’t have a team and it was in Sudbury

3rd year

3000m s/c                                OUAA 9:18 2nd

X-C                                          OUAA - felt I was capable of being in the top 10 or so, but                                        DNF’ed

            Both of these races, the OU track and OU x-c have interesting stories.  At the OU track meet I felt that I had a good chance of winning as I had improved my times greatly.  I and two other runners separated ourselves from the pack quickly. It was Andy Reid (U of T) and Jeff Belanger (Queen’s) and I trading leads and surges. Coming up to the second last water jump Jeff and I took off from Andy and started our push for home. As we approached that water jump Jeff slipped and flipped over the barrier and did a beautiful 10 point dive into the water pit. As he did this, he knocked me down off the barrier and into the water pit from underneath and Andy Reid streaked by both of us on the outside. Jeff and I got up, over the barrier (somehow) and took chase. We both caught Andy on the back stretch of the bell lap and started running for the win. We got over the last water jump the normal way this time and sprinted the home stretch. Jeff won by 2 or 3 tenths of a second in a thrilling finish.  Coincidently there was a Queen’s student paper photographer at the water jump who took a picture of our great fall and it appeared in the Queen’s paper the next week. The photographer then submitted it to an international photo contest and won in the sports category.  Jeff sent me a copy of that photo and I still have it today and Jeff and I kept in contact for a few years after school.

            The DNF (did not finish) at the OU X-C meet also left me with a permanent reminder or memory of the event. The meet was at Western on the old (and great) Brescia course.  It had rained a lot that week and the morning of the event it had snowed; therefore everybody had long spikes in their shoes.  Bob Vigars (UWO coach) announced that the start was 30 seconds away and everybody got set on the line.  I thought he would count down at 10 seconds but didn’t. Thus the starting gun caught me off guard and I slipped and fell to the ground on my first step and my teammate next to me spiked my finger on my left hand. I jumped up and looked at it, and it didn’t look too bad, so I curled my fingers tight into a fist and proceeded to run.  After a couple K’s, I looked at my hand and I had a good amount of blood in my hand but kept going. Over the next couple K’s, I got blood all over my legs and singlet till I just felt I couldn’t go on. I ran over to the University Hospital to get some stitches in my finger.  To this day, I have a very odd scar on that finger and I don’t have much feeling in the finger tip.  

4th year
This was certainly my banner year and it proved to me, that the training and hard work had paid off

3000ms/c                                 OUAA 9:08 1st

5000m                                     OUAA 15:12 1st

X-C                                          OUAA 6th – qualified to the Canadians as an individual (no                                       team) – First male runner from Windsor to qualify for the                                                       CIAU’s

                                                CIAU 9th – Second team all-Canadian

I concluded my years at Windsor winning the Demarco Award at the athletic banquet. The DeMarco Award is presented to the top male and female students who best combine academic achievement with athletic prowess.  

2-What sort of training were you doing towards the end of your time at Windsor?

            As I mentioned, I didn’t save my diaries from my University days (I do have all my diaries from 1981 to present) but there are a few things that still stand out from those days of training I did. Windsor being a very flat city we always struggled to get some good hill work in. One of the most memorable workouts that we used to do was to run the Ambassador Bridge. If you think this would be easy, just check out the climb on the bridge next time you cross it.   We would run the 1 ½ miles to the US side and then turn around and run back again to the Canadian side. Half the bridge was up hill and the other half being down hill. We would run the uphill portions hard and coast the downhill portion. We would do this twice; 10K of fairly hard running with a good warm up and cool down.  Obviously there is no way they would allow you to do that now-a-days with security at the border, but no one even bothered us back then.  

            The other area that I used heavily was the “dump”.  We were so desperate in Windsor for good training areas we were forced to use a city dump.  Today the “dump” is a great park in Windsor that they use for x-c races, but back then it was a functional dump, comprising of two major hills that grew as the years went by. There was one main road up each hill and I would loop through there and do workouts on the hills. Fartlek, timed runs, intervals, sometimes long runs, anything just to get off the roads and on some hills.  Sometimes we had to fight the trucks going up the hills to dump stuff but it was a great spot.

            Certainly by the end of University I was running 10 runs a week for most weeks with mileage around 100K per week.  Also by then I had started implementing specific steeplechase workouts, hurdling drills, water jump technique and intervals over hurdles.  In the winter all our workouts were still done outside. Windsor didn’t have an indoor track yet, plus I never took indoor track too seriously.  

3-At what point did you start training with a track club?

            I joined my first club in Chatham during high school. It was a newly formed club and was fairly loosely organized with not many athletes. However the SWKCTC which I joined my first year at Windsor was well organized, financed, coached and was a great experience.  I purchased a car my first year of University and was able to come back to Windsor for training in the summer months. I would regularly drive the 50 to 60 minutes from Chatham to Windsor for workouts with the club, sometimes twice a week during peak track season. 

            Then when I graduated from Windsor and moved to London, I began to look for a new club. Once settled in London, SWKCTC become impractical (so I thought) and I didn’t like the things happening at London Western TC at the time.  However, near the end of University I met a very interesting coach named Don Mills and he coached at Track West in Toronto, so I decided to go that way. Toronto was no closer than Windsor but I felt I needed something to help me move up to another level.  Don had a reputation of being a bit of a crazy old man, and almost getting a touch senile near the end of my years there, but he knew steeplechasing and had some good athletes to train with. He formed a secondary training group based in Hamilton so I would travel to Hamilton for a lot for workouts.   It is kind of interesting that I have lived in London for 24 years and have never competed for a London track club. 

4-How did the steeplechase become your favourite event?

            Steeplechasing is a very unique event. It needs the strength of a 5K runner, with the speed of a 1500m runner and requires the finesse of a 400m hurdler. I liked the new and challenging dimension of steepling. It just wasn’t running. Not that I was bored with running, but it just gave me something else to improve on. Once I got some early feedback of success it just grew from there. I found that with my improving lactic acid tolerance and technique that I could compete with and sometimes beat much faster flat runners.  I worked hard on technique and become known as a good technical steepler.  One of my greatest examples of this was when I out kicked Doug Consiglio in a steeplechase over the last 100m. Doug had broken the Canadian record for 1500m a month or so earlier and normally I would not even be able to run with someone able to run 3:32 for 1500m, let alone have the chance to out kick them. However poor tactics and poor technique on his part helped me in this race and in many, many others during my career.  I worked hard on technique and tactics of the steeplechase and it became “my” event.

 

 

Part 3

1-So, after University you came to your senses and moved to London…what positives did you find from this change in location?

            There is a bit of a story as to how I ended up in London and this event was very significant to my running and future employment.   During my last two years of competition at the U of Windsor there was a guy from UWO named John Harper that I found myself running next to or just behind during many cross country and indoor track races.  It became apparent to me over time, that if I was with or near John at the end of any race, one, I was running well, and two, I could outkick him and that’s what I tried to do a lot of the time.  I would talk with John a few times at events but never thought much more about this relationship beyond that. 

In the summer between University and the rest of my life (which I had no idea as to what that was going to be - continue education, work?????), I ran a nationals qualifying meet in Toronto and John was there with the London Western Track Club.  I remember running the steeplechase mid-morning and getting the national standard under my belt for the year.  I had finished my warm down and was getting ready to drive back to Chatham by myself when I met up with John. He had run the 10K earlier that morning and was looking for alternatives back to London as he had come on the team bus and it was not returning till late that evening. I offered him a ride back to London and because I had nothing pressing to do, I took him right to his house. John and I struck up a friendship on the trip back. 

            When I was offered a job with The Athlete’s Foot in London a few weeks later I almost didn’t take it, however remembering that John had no roommates for the summer at his apartment I quickly tried to contact him. I finally tracked him down in the physics lab at UWO and he said he would rent me a room for the summer.  I quickly accepted the job!  I thought that I would live with him for a couple months and then come fall I would find my own place. However we became friends and great training partners and I lived with John for two more years. This two year “training camp” with John taught me more about running than any other single thing. 

            We put a lot of miles in together. John was a not a gifted runner; everything he achieved he did through hard work (John ran a 30:58 10K and 2:23 marathon). Plus John was a natural marathoner and he would run upwards to 200 K’s a week.   Yes, you heard me right; 200K or 120 miles per week. I never ran that far as I would cut the long Sunday runs short or not do everything he did, but he did teach me the meaning of hard work. I was not fond of morning runs, but would do them occasionally. However John ran twice a day, every day, except on Sundays when he did his long 20 miler or so. Most mornings his alarm would ring and 2 minutes later he would be standing at the door with his shoes on. I had to start setting my alarm about 10 minutes earlier just to wake up a bit. Little by little I never began to question the morning runs, I was getting better with the increased workload and I began to like running in the morning.

            John and I were different as runners, but we each helped one another with our weaknesses. John helped me with increased mileage and strength and I helped him with his speed. He was so slow - no leg speed at all!  I remember one UWO track practice where they were doing a stride workout and all the girls on the team beat him!  However none of them could stay with him for any distance.  John would drag me around London on long runs and I would drag him around the track. Sometimes he would do flat intervals and I would do them over hurdles for steepling and we would be close at the end.   Even though I had joined Track West in Toronto, I spent most of my time training with John in London.

            I owe a lot to John. I’m not sure if I would have taken that job with The Athlete’s Foot if I didn’t have that easy immediate place to live.  John taught me a lot about hard work and dedication towards the sport of running. 

2-Speaking of location, that one house on Essex Street seems to be a hotbed for runners; do you feel as though you and John have passed on your proverbial torch to the next generation?

            Steve, you are referring to 58 Essex St., the house that John and I started our running partnership in and that you now live in.  I never really thought about it that way. Actually John and I only lived on Essex for 2 months before we moved to Walnut St. (just off Forward Ave.).  That is really where most of our training took place.  But I hope that some of the hard running that we did from that house will help to inspire you and anyone else who comes after you.

3-You were on that dynastic Tillsonburg legion squad with Dave Mills, Rob Becht, etc that won 2 CTFA x-c titles. Care to share some stories, I’m sure you have several…

            Once I got married in 1983 and John graduated from his Masters program at UWO and took a job in the States, I began to look for new training partners and a new club. Dennis Fairall, the coach of the Tillsonburg Legion at the time, asked me if I wanted to join his group and since I was looking, it was a match.  They already had a good core of runners with Dave Mills and Ron Becht.

Claus Rinne and I had started training together in around the same time and I convinced him to come out of semi-retirement to also join the group.  Claus was an excellent runner from Sudbury who graduated from a very good running dynasty at Queen’s. He was in London doing his medical residency and fellowship so he didn’t have a lot of time to train, but he did what he could and with his ability it was plenty.

To do full justice to this team I should mention each team member’s name. To list each member’s accomplishments would be another story in itself, but safe to say each guy on this team could run and had many accolades to their name. The team was Ron Becht, Dave Mills, Adrian Shorter, Claus Rinne, Rick Cornelissen, Tim Wood, Steve Conner and myself.    

We would get together in London during cross country season to do workouts together, maybe once a week. Then we would train together in smaller groups the other days. Claus and I trained together a lot.  Occasionally we would travel to Tillsonburg and meet up with Dave and Ron, as they were the only ones who actually lived in T. Burg. 

To share any of the stories that come out of this great group of friends that Dennis Fairall built would be hard. Many of the guys have respectable jobs now and to re-live the banner stealing, shopping cart rides or nude relays might embarrass them now with their respectable lives. However as they say “what happened on the road stays on the road. Safe to say we had a great time and formed some lifelong friendships.

4-I heard a rumour somewhere that in your 1,500m PB you got beat by a grade 7 kid; is it true?           

            Very true Steve.  That kid’s name was Kevin Sullivan!  He broke the Canadian Bantam or Juvenile record in the race as he ran about 3:57 and I was 3:58. I raced a few times against Kevin, mostly on the roads over 5K and managed to beat him most times, however he was still in late elementary school or early high school. You could see at that time he truly was a gifted runner.

5-What is your ‘best’ PB?           

            I would have to say the steeplechase PB. of 8:54.62. Looking at most of my other PB’s, they would not suggest that I could have run under 9 minutes for the steeplechase and for years I didn’t. But I kept working at it till I got it.  My steeplechase times consistently ranked me in the top 10 in the Canadian ranking whereas my other times didn’t. 

6-What were some other highlights of your senior years of competition?           

            Certainly all the great friends I made and people that I got to meet.  I got to see Canada from coast to coast, and run in almost every province, plus many parts of the US. Those things wouldn’t have been possible without my running. 

            Personal highlights would have to be that I qualified for and competed in 11 Senior National Track Championships in a row (from 1979-1989), won a number of Ontario Steeplechase Gold medals, won the National Cross Country team title twice and was a member of “the little team that could”, the Tillsonburg Legion Track Club.  Nobody gave us the credit or respect that we deserved. Even when we beat them they still thought we were a bunch of hicks.  It was interesting to have seen Dennis Fairall build that team and then leave us and have him do the same thing year after year down at my old Alma Mata, the University of Windsor. He is a great assembler and builder of talent.  

7-How actively have you pursued Masters competition?

            I love competition and will never retire from competition. I love to challenge myself. I know that I will never run as fast as I did 20 some years ago but I always try to do the best that I can - TODAY.  I have been active in Masters Competitions over the last few years but have not been as consistent as I would like.

            The most memorable thing I did as a Master was in the summer of 2000.  The family and I went to Portland Oregon, where John Harper now lives, and stayed with him for 3 weeks.  During that time I went down to Eugene and ran the US Masters Track Championships and finished second in the steeplechase. Then we drove up to Kamloops BC and won the Canadian & America’s steeplechase championship. Then finally we returned to Portland and ran with John on a Master’s Hood to Coast relay team and won the Masters division. What a great 3 weeks of running, plus Kathy and the kids got to see some great sights.

            That is really how I see Masters running developing for me over the next few years. As a means to travel to different parts of the world and to expose my kids to these areas and to teach them that running is for anyone, any age. I remember meeting a father and daughter in Eugene at the poolside one day. They told us that they meet at the US Masters Track Championships each year. She came from the northeast and was in her late forties and did field events and the father was from south central US and did walking events and was around 80. It was great to see running bring this family together and I remember my son thinking that was cool. It was!   

 

Part 4

1-Let’s move on to the Race Directorship stuff; how did you come to take over the Springbank road races?

            Just so people know, as there will be many who will not be aware that The Springbank Road Races were once one of the premier road races in North America back in the 60’s and 70’s. To illustrate this point as to how big they were, back in the fall of 1972 after the Munich Olympics, both the gold and bronze medalists from the men’s Marathon were here running in Springbank Park. To achieve that nowadays, it would take a budget bigger than I work with for all 6 of our events, plus my salary for many, many years. 

            During the summer of 1987 (I think this year is right, give or take a year) the original race committee that had made it an international success decided not to continue with the event because they weren’t happy about not being able to produce the quality of event they wanted.  With increased competition from big money races springing up in the States it really became impossible to compete.  A local runner and friend Dennis Kalichuck resurrected the event with only 6 weeks lead time and pulled together a successful local event.  Around 1990, he suggested that he was not going to do it anymore and was hoping I and Runners’ Choice would continue the tradition and keep the event alive.  I did and have been race director for the last 15 years or so.  Today our goal is to just produce a good quality regional race, and I think we do a good job with that.

2-Do you think Springbank could ever return to the international event it once was?

            The quick answer is NO!  However, if there was someone who dedicated a lot of time (which I’m not able to) and spend huge sums of sponsor’s money (which Runners’ Choice doesn’t have) it could be elevated back to an international event again. When I say money, I mean lots of money.  To attract the fields that they did back in the 70’s you would need a budget of well over a few million dollars.  Because London Ontario is not that large of a market (compared to Toronto and many larger US centres), I couldn’t see any corporation putting that amount of money into an event here.  Thus the best that we could hope for would be a top quality Canadian event with some good North American talent.

            But you know Steve; running has changed so much over the last few years, I’m not sure how important that idea is anymore.  We could buy the talent, but could we attract the masses that the sponsors would want. I don’t think so.

3-How did you end up taking over the Forest City Road Races for 98-99?

            The current race director at the time Cheryl Easter had done an excellent job and moved this event forward over her last few years as race director. But Cheryl was looking for a change and wanted to leave the event in good hands. She felt like it was her baby and didn’t want to pass it on to just anyone. She had been recruiting (or bugging) me for years to take it over. I finally did in 1998 and committed for 2 years until someone else could be found to take it over permanently. I just didn’t have the time to devote to such a large single project. With our race series developing, a young family at home and a marriage I didn’t want to jeopardize, plus a business to run, I was stretched for those couple years.

            It is rather interesting, that the person who took it over from me was none other than Dennis Kalichuk, the guy who I replaced as Springbank race director. It has since been passed over to Steve Cochrane, who has been doing a great job so far and I think we can look forward to a very exciting event this year.

4-What do you think needs to happen for Forest City to become a bigger event?

            I think that some of the changes that are being implemented into this year’s event are huge steps forward. A downtown start, with more sponsors, a bigger expo and the most important aspect is a new improved course. This new course will allow the event to grow. Before we were limited by the bike paths and the doubling back that just made it too congested on the paths. The old course couldn’t accommodate more than 800 people or so in both the half and full marathon comfortably. The new course uses the bike path less and there are no doubling back portions on the course and this allows for growth in the key ½ marathon event. 

            Being on the race committee I think that if we could build this event up to the 3000 participant level over the next few years that would be one major goal achieved. However as long as we continue to donate a large sum of money back to the Thames Valley Children’s Centre the event will be a success.

5-Describe your current relationship with New Balance.

            My relationship began as a sponsored athlete in the 1980’s. But since then it has grown into a great business relationship and I also have formed some great personal relationships with some people who work at the brand. On the business side, Runners’ Choice has continued to grow our relationship with New Balance over our 15 years in retail. Plus I have been in the industry for 25 years and during that time I have formed some strong business and friendship ties.

            A couple of years ago, I was asked to be a representative on an Elite Worldwide Retail Advisory Board. This retail board is made up of 5 Americans, 1 Asian, 1 Australian, 1 European and 2 Canadian retailers. We meet twice a year in Boston to provide New Balance with a worldwide perspective from the retailer’s vantage point. It has been a very enjoyable experience and I have learned a great deal from the opportunity.  I have formed some great business and personal relationships within this industry, however the New Balance connection runs deep and is a special one.

6-What was it like getting to travel to Athens for the Olympics last year?

            The short of it, they were AWESOME!!  Kathy and I had never been to Europe and after the Olympics we took the opportunity to also travel to Italy and the French Riviera. What a great experience! 

            A couple of weeks ago I heard one bone head sports reporter on the radio commenting on the Olympics in Athens,  stating how much of   “a bore” they were because there wasn’t one central marquee event. This guy has obviously been blinded by things like the Super Bowl and such, because there is no experience like the Olympics.  Who cares about professional marquee events when you have fantastic track & field, gymnastics, swimming and basketball, just to name a few, going on everyday. This radio reporter must not have learned the transportation system very well, because this was a total blast!

            This was our second Olympics (we also went to Atlanta) and we give Athens full marks for organization, presentation and a job well done. Kathy and I had the pleasure of catching many memorable track and field finals, especially the women’s 100m hurdle final (we all know what happened there), but nothing beats the experience of  wrapping this up in the Greek history, culture and hospitality. 

7-Thank you very much for patiently going through this set of interview questions Paul. Please include any closing comments that you wish to include.

            Thanks Steve. I consider it an honor to be able to re-live some of these great moments in my life.  I hope that it can only serve as a motivator for some young athletes as they are trying to be the best that they can be.

 


Tuesday, April 12 2011 - Records Going Down at Downtown 5k?

On Friday April 22nd, Runners' Choice will host the 19th Annual McFarlan Rowlands Downtown 5k road race. The event also features a 2.5k fun run/walk, Kiddie Trot, and CEO 1k. A key race in the London Honda Race Series, this event has steadily grown in overall numbers as well as depth of competition, with the 2010 event boasting 549 finishers in the 5k.

Wanting to give top local runners extra incentive to run fast, Runners' Choice has teamed up with London Runner to offer a course record bonus of $150 to the top male or female member of the London Runner Distance Club who breaks their Senior Club record. The prize money is available to Junior athletes as well, but they'll have the daunting task of running under 14:57 (male) or 17:03 (female) in order to collect the bonus.

With almost 500 runners already signed up for this event, it's possible that we'll see a record number of participants taking part on April 22nd at Victoria Park. Let's hope great weather and friendly competition helps athletes to break some other records as well!


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