I would like to do something different from time to time, and so I am going to feature different individuals who are runners and have a story to tell, or are just plain interesting!
Let me introduce you to Peter Larson, UltraMarathon Runner
and the brain, heart and soul (sole) behind RUNBLOGGER and RUNRADAR on Facebook .
Pete, when did you start running and why?
I’ve been a runner off and on throughout my life. I played sports in high school and running was nothing more than a form of conditioning work, and in college and grad school I’d run whenever I felt fat and got sick of feeling unhealthy. I moved to New Hampshire to start a job as a college professor in 2003. My first son was born a few months into my first semester of teaching, and life got incredibly busy. My daughter arrived in 2005, and I had pretty much stopped exercising at that point. By 2007 I was pushing 190 pounds, which was the heaviest I had ever been in my life. I remember looking at a photo of myself from my college’s graduation ceremony that Spring and being ashamed. Something had to change, so my wife and I signed up for a 4-mile race in Maine that summer and I started to run. I’ve been an addicted runner ever since – I dropped over 20 pounds, and am now about to run my ninth marathon!
What inspires your running?
I run mostly for myself. It’s an escape from a hectic daily life, and a chance for me to feel strong and healthy. Running relaxes me and gives me time to think without distraction. I also run for health. As a parent, I want to set an example for my kids, and I want to have the energy and strength to keep up with them.
What type of races have you done so far and what are your plans for the racing season this year?
I’ve run many 5K’s, several half marathons, one 50K, and I’ll be running my ninth marathon this weekend in Burlington, Vermont. I’m currently debating whether or not to try another ultra this Fall – some friends have been trying to get me to do the Vermont 50K in September and I’m really tempted.
What made you get into the running shoe reviewing? How long have you been with RunBlogger?
I started blogging back in early 2009 on a whim. I was pretty wary of the on-line world at the time – I hadn’t gotten into Facebook or Twitter, and I wasn’t all that knowledgeable about blogging. I found the very open and public nature of it all a bit scary. I did a ton of research though, and learned the ins and outs of the business pretty quick. My blog actually wasn’t initially called Runblogger - it was mainly a place for me to write random posts about life. As time went on I found myself writing more and more often about running, and those posts seemed to be popular, so I turned the site into a full-on running blog that summer.
As a biologist, I was really interested in the science and evolution of running. I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall within weeks after it came out, and got really interested in the science behind running shoes, particularly more minimal footwear. I started experimenting on myself with different shoes and wrote about my experiences. The rest, as they say, is history!
If you had the ability to make the absolute “perfect shoe” for your running, what would it be like?
I don’t believe that a single perfect shoe exists for me. I believe that different running situations call for different tools (e.g., trails, speed, long distance, etc.), and sometimes my preferences change over time. Generally I like shoes that are simple, lightweight, and low drop (0-6mm) with a bit of cushion.
Describe your favorite aspect of running.
There is no better feeling than a run where everything clicks and you feel like you could accomplish anything. They are rare, but incredibly fulfilling.
Describe your "perfect race" scenario:
One where I accomplish my goal without feeling completely miserable in the process. The 2010 Disney Marathon, 2012 Smuttynose Marathon, and 2012 Smuttynose Half Marathon were all races where almost everything went right. Cool weather, adequate preparation, and good pacing make for a good race for me!
Recently you have started co-coaching a beginner 5K program. What is it about coaching that is so rewarding?
I absolutely love coaching! My friend Erin Girzone is a personal trainer and we met last summer at a running workshop that I co-taught with my friend Brett. We had talked a bit about co-coaching a 5K program last Fall, but couldn’t get it off the ground in time, so we delayed it until Spring (Erin had done it the previous Spring so she had the program set up). We had 23 people sign up, which is apparently a huge number for an adult program through our town recreation department! (you can view the 5K Yes I Can! program overview here).
I really enjoy working with beginners. It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch people who have never been runners increase time and distance run each week. Every new distance PR is an accomplishment, a source of pride, and a confidence boost. Our target race is in just a few weeks, I can’t wait to watch them cross the finish line! We’re expanding the program in the Fall to include an intermediate 5K group for those who want to continue on, and our hope is to add in a half-marathon and maybe even a marathon group down the road.
I’ve also learned a ton through coaching. It’s really made me recognize how each individual faces slightly different challenges as a runner. I’ve spent a lot of time helping people work through aches and pains without getting discouraged. We’ve held workshops and have talked a lot with them about shoes, form, strengthening work, nutrition, foam-rolling – it’s been pretty comprehensive and I think it’s worked out very well. The group is incredibly positive and eager to learn, and that has been a lot of fun.
I could definitely see myself getting more involved in coaching going forward. For example, I was invited to join the coaching team at the Craftsbury (VT) Marathon Camps this summer – I’m really looking forward to that!
Ever been injured? How do you deal with injuries?
I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had lots of minor aches and pains since becoming a runner, but nothing serious that has interfered with my ability to run regularly. I think I have a body that tends to build tissue quickly, whether it be fat or muscle. I can put on weight quickly if I’m not careful with my diet, and if I lift I tend to gain muscle mass quickly as well. I think my ability to build tissue fast may help me repair damage quickly as well, which is a benefit as I tend not to be prone to overuse injuries (knock on wood!).
I personally find that mixing things up seems to help – if something starts to hurt, often switching to a different type of shoe for a bit seems to be enough to resolve the problem. I tend to think when we runners hammer ourselves in exactly the same way every day we run a greater risk of getting hurt. Vary footwear, speed, surfaces, etc.
Hopes/Goals for the future?
My main goal right now is to make a go of working on my own. I recently resigned from my job as a tenured college professor (scary!) to pursue writing, coaching, and working with runners full-time. I love being my own boss, and I love helping people to get active and stay active. Helping people live healthy lives is what motivates me to do what I do, and I hope I can be successful in making a career out of it.
Number one tip you would give new runners?
Practice patience in all things running. With any change, whether it be starting running, increasing speed/distance, or trying out a new style of shoe, runners need to take things gradually or risk getting hurt. Patience is also critical in races – one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to respect the distance, particularly in marathons. If you go out too fast or overestimate your capabilities, you will suffer. If you are patient and hold back at the start, you will pick people off at the end of the race and have a much more enjoyable experience.
How does someone contact you if they have a shoe question?
I have a contact page on my blog where you can find my email, Twitter, and Facebook info. All are good ways to reach me!