I like knowing people.
Part of the reason I like knowing people is because I like people. People are funny. They make me laugh.
But a large part of the reason that I like knowing people is because it gets me one step closer to Kevin Bacon and, although I think he’s a pretty lousy actor (need I mention Hollow Man?), I crave fame. Vanity, vanity, all of it is vanity.
So, when I found out that I was not only in the same fraternity as the number 17 ultra-marathon runner in the nation, but also that he was my grand-big (a fraternity term that means he’s about as close in relation to you as the guy sitting next to you on the bus), I knew that I had to interview him for this blog.
In all seriousness, Tad Meyer is a wonderful brother and a stand-up athlete. He’s the kind of athlete that makes me want to be an athlete…of any kind. Plus, with a body fat ration hovering in the 1-2%, it also means he can eat anything he wants…another point of inspiration because I, too, want to be able to eat anything I want!
This interview was conducted over Facebook, with me asking the questions and Tad writing back answers (legit answers, too). Since there was no “back and forth,” I’ll be providing what I would have said after his responses in parenthesis. Perhaps he’ll read and respond to the responses…at which time I’ll include them in “My Interview with an Ultra-Marathoner Part II: The Second Mile.”
I’m a genius with titles.
Alright, here we go…
1) Tad, How long have you been running in general?
Tad: I’ve been running for about 20 years now, but I didn’t get really serious (read: didn’t start running marathons and ultramarathons) until 7 years ago.
(That is a long time. Which means, in real terms, that you’ve run farther on foot than I’ve been on plane, train, automobile, foot, and riding lawnmower combined.)
2) What led you to think that running insane distances, sometimes through extreme weather, would be fun/interesting/exciting/a good idea?
Tad: As a teenager, I always enjoyed the challenge that a run in potentially epic conditions could pose, whether those conditions involved subzero or 110 degree temps, rain, sleet, snow, ice, hail (somewhat painful), thunderstorms, tornado watches, hurricanes, or Nor’easters. It was after I ran my first marathon, however, that I fell in love with the idea of pushing myself over long distances. I remember finishing the marathon thinking, “well, that was hard, but I think I can run further.” A year later, as I crossed the finish line of my first 50-miler, I again thought to myself, “well, that was hard, but I think I can go further than that.” The running snowballed from there. I truly enjoy testing my own limits, seeing how I respond to adversity, and testing the limits of human endurance. In a word, I like to see what my body is capable of.
(The dedication that requires is definitely admirable. I want to wonder out loud what it might look like to push a body the other direction, to see what a body is capable of in slovenly conditions. Although, looking around me on the Red Line, I can see that that experiment is well underway and probably on its second and third trial.)
3) How many miles do you currently run a week?
Tad: I generally average about 80-100 miles a week, depending on how much cross-training I do and if I have an upcoming race.
(No comment. Just…no comment)
4) How do you prepare for a race? What is most important?
Tad: Training for ultramarathons (any distance longer than 26.2 miles) is truly a labor of love, as building up the endurance and ability to run such long distances takes months to years. I’ve found that the easiest way to train for long races is to run lots of shorter ones. For instance, it’s hard to do long preparatory runs for a 100-mile race that are longer than 40 miles, because it would take so long to recover from such training runs. The best thing to do is to run several 50-milers several months apart in the lead-up to the 100-miler. My current race preparation generally consists of scheduling a preparatory race about 2 months before a longer race and having my maximum weekly mileage peak about a month out. The last week before the race I try to focus on getting a few extra calories, sleeping a little more, and running less
(Interesting! It’s kind of like when I’m preparing to go to Standard India, the Indian buffet, and I skip breakfast and lunch. Overeating doesn’t help my body prepare for that food. I imagine over running is much the same. Except, well, healthier…but not as tasty.)
And then Tad continued…
Tad: On a related note, I should mention that proper nutrition is also essential in preparing for a race. Running long distances allows you to eat whatever you want, but you’ve got to eat good calories or else you won’t run or train well at all. And while you’ve obviously got to train your legs to run long distances, for me it was actually harder to train my endocrine system to deal with digesting fluids and foods during long training runs and races.
(Disregard the above answer to your first paragraph. I don’t eat at Indian buffets. At least not when I’m confronted with 1-2% body fat…)
5) As number 17 in the nation of extreme long-distance running, what is one tip that you would give to an amateur runner who may want to take their runs to the next level?
Tad: Stick with it. Stick with it. Stick with it. Every beginning runner goes through the this-really-sucks stage, and it lasts longer for some than it does for others, but the key is to just.keep.running. At some point, it WILL get easier, and at another point, it will actually become ENJOYABLE. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Many runners experience setbacks early on, whether it be from injury or something else, but you should always remind yourself that you’re strong enough to do it. Finally, take it EASY. Most runners think they need to run fast all the time, when in reality they should be doing the bulk of their mileage (upwards of 80%) at a pace that is comfortable enough to converse at. As you become a stronger, better runner, you’ll be able to do harder, longer, faster runs, but take it easy early on.
(I am hoping that running will become enjoyable one day. Until then, I suffer. And suffer.)
6)Are you secretly an agent who does ultra-marathons to train for withstanding torture?
Tad: I can honestly say that a 3000 foot descent at mile 90 of a 100-mile race is far more torturous than waterboarding ever would be.
(You never answered whether or not you’re a secret agent…)
7)As a Pastor’s Kid and Christian, what is the connection that you see (if any) between spirituality and physical health?
Tad: I think there’s a strong relationship between our spiritual and physical health. Just as you cannot expect to become a better runner without, well, running, you can’t expect to nourish your faith without the right kind of spiritual training, i.e. hearing and studying the Word of God and receiving His means of grace. Moreover, in the same way that one might experience physical ups and downs on a run or a period of training (or a lot of ups and downs on a REALLY long run), one can expect to experience spiritual ups and downs throughout life. Just as it’s important, however, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and just keep moving forward, it’s important to remember that God will always be with us as we move forward in life; He will never forsake us through all life’s successes and challenges. (On a related note, I think running can be used as a metaphor for many situations in our lives, and my wife likely sickens when she hears me start off a sentence with, “You know, it’s kind of like running an ultramarathon…”)
(Couldn’t agree more! And my wife also sickens when she hears me…say anything.)
8)What has been your most memorable long run experience?
I’ve had a lot of great long run experiences, but the most memorable one I’ve had was at the turnaround point of the last 100-miler I ran. As I crested the top of the mountain early in the morning (the race started at 6pm the evening before), the sun had just begun to break the horizon, with sunlight piercing the clouds. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I paused for just a minute to take in the beauty of God’s creation. It also prompted me to scream out to an oncoming runner, “Isn’t this just a great day for a run?!?”
(And had that oncoming runner been me, I would have screamed back. Nothing in particular, just screamed.)
9)Ultra-runner Dean Karnazes occasionally orders a pizza during a race, and will give the driver GPS coordinates. Comment?
There are times in a race when I can barely stomach a few orange slices and a banana, so it never ceases to amaze me that some people can eat complete junk and keep running. Dean is truly a machine.
(You and I share a similar penchant for puking. Ah, bonding over bodily fluids…)
10) What would the title of Tad Meyer’s ultra-marathon book be?
It would be “I Just Like Running”. I want the epitaph on my tombstone to read, “He ran the good race of faith…and a lot of other ultras.”
(As a pastor I can probably make that arrangement…)
Thanks to Tad Meyer for providing the responses! You’re truly a stellar athlete and inspiration for runners (and fast walkers like me) everywhere.
For a nice news story mentioning Tad and his father, Indiana pastor Philip Meyer (props to Terre Haut), check out the Tri-Star reporting on ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes by clicking here.
Keep running, ladies and germs!