David O’Meara aims for 20 sub-5s ‘for the love of the mile’
You’ve heard of road-aholics who commit themselves to running a marathon a week for 52 weeks, or whatever. That’s so 1990s. Meet mile maniac David O’Meara, 45, of Sarasota, Florida. His new idea: running 20 mile races over 20 weeks under 5 minutes each, beginning May 10. Not bad for a reformed tennis bum who never ran track in high school or college. I first learned of Dave’s ambition from Canadian sprinter Jimson Lee and his speedendurance blog. Then I sent Dave some questions. He’s an upfront guy. Enjoy our chat.
Masterstrack.com: How do you afford all this travel? How much will this adventure cost?
David O’Meara: Not sure how much this adventure will exactly cost, but I sure picked the wrong five months to travel with these high fuel prices. I will be using my personal savings to pay for my extensive travel.
You indicate 4:26 as your all-time PR, and that was in 2006. Did you run any track in high school or college? If so, what were your bests?
I never ran in high school or college; too busy playing tennis and basketball. I started competitive running when I was 37 years old when I began writing my second book, “Play Better, Live Better.”
Before then, I was always training another athlete as I prepared their workouts and trained with them. I always had good speed in all my sports as I loved to run the fast break in basketball or steal bases in baseball. But 4:24.3 might have been my fastest mile (taking advantage of a little downhill in a road mile), but it was not the fastest that I had ever run.
When I was in India running the long Marina Beach with my Davis Cup players, I was way in front of all the other tennis players. All of a sudden, I look back over my left shoulder and I see a huge bull charging after me (as the beaches of India have many animals on them — but I was never chased before).
I did a few zigzags in the deep beach sand, but the bull’s horn was so close to my back that I was screaming. Finally, I realized that I could not lose this big animal and made a quick decision to sprint to the water (about 80 meters). I flew into the water.
At that point, many of the Indian fishermen came over to assist me. The bull came into the water and began snorting, and jumping up and down — visibly upset that he did not catch me. Then he charged towards the street. We called the authorities to inform them about this crazy bull, but they could not find him until the next day. They found a priest killed by a bull on the beach.
What are your own tennis achievements?
I played No. 1 singles and doubles at Bowdoin College in tennis. After graduation, I played for some time in Europe before I began coaching at a young age of 23. At 24, I went to India to coach the Junior Davis Cup Team. I had a lot of success coaching at a young age as I developed, Leander Paes, Olympic bronze medalist in 1996 and #1 in the world in doubles in 1999.
I have worked with many professional tennis players: WTA #24 Tamarine Tanasugarn (Thailand), Jocelyn Robichaud (Canada), and Nirupama Vaidyanathan (India), etc.
Many of your 20 miles are road miles. Some have the rep of being downhill. Doesn’t this make running sub-5 easier?
I hope so. I am not sure of their “reps.” It was difficult enough to find 18 “feature” one-mile road races in a row around North America. The other two: (USATF) nationals in Spokane is on the track and the other one in North Carolina has an 8K and 5K as well, but I am friends with that race director and promised her that I would include that race on the schedule.
I feel racing on the track is easier than most road miles because you always know where you are in the race and you know what you are in for when you race. I feel that if you are going to organize a one-mile road race that it should be a good, fast course — so participants feel and enjoy the quick turnover.
In Florida, I do not run much uphill or downhill, mostly flat. I am used to that rhythm and timing the most, and my legs are used to that as well. When I ran a 4:37 at the Indoor Nationals last year, it was my second indoors race of my life. The banking and tight turns were new to me and my body.
You list Spokane masters nationals as the site of one of your miles, but they run the 1500 at nationals. Will you just convert the time?
I realize that Spokane only has the 1500 meters. It will be one of my articles this summer entitled, “How metric killed the mile.” As Jimson Lee alluded to in his article, I will continue to run another 109 meters to record a mile time. It is my only track mile, but I feel it is important to participate in Spokane.
I read the 10 steps of your O’Meara process. No. 1 is Discover Aspirations. So what are yours — beyond this 20/20 gig?
My aspirations beyond the 20/20/20<5@45 this summer is to take the www.onemilerunner.com international next summer. The sister cities to my host city, Tarpon Springs, Florida, are Symi, Halki, and Kalymnos in Greece. We will be connecting the cities, bringing athletes together in an exchange of “speed.” I would like my inspiration to continue to unite people through athletics and trying to “accelerate at any age” (our tag line).
Tell me about your family. Any wife, kids, cats, dogs?
I have my beautiful wife, Sekyen, who just celebrated her 29th birthday on April 9 — the day before I turned 45 – working with me this summer as well. She is the director of operations in both my businesses. As she is traveling with me to Portugal next week for my corporate speaking engagement for The O’Meara Process side of my business and travel with me this summer for The One Mile Runner side of my business.
I have also three brothers and their families that I am close with as I will use their homes as my “home bases” in my travels. I have one brother outside Phoenix, one in Maine and one in Massachusetts. My Mom is still a big fan of whatever I am doing as she will meet me at the US Open when I am coaching tennis players or meet me at a race when I am running.
If you’re doing all this traveling to go sub-5 everywhere, who will take care of all those tennis players?
I travel a lot during the year anyway for my coaching clinics or speaking engagements, but not usually this long. I will stay in touch with them and look forward to working with them again in October.
How did you settle on 20? Why not 15 or 25?
Twenty seemed like a nice round number. Then you start to look at the amount of time it will take over 5 months; it is a lot of travel and racing. I have never raced this much before, so it will be a new experience for me. Good health and staying injury free is a must and a challenge.
I looked at races I wanted to participate in this year, beginning with The Congress Avenue Mile in Austin, TX and end with the 5th Avenue Mile in NYC — almost 20 weeks — seemed like a fit for my creative idea. Again, I cannot tell you how difficult it was to find 20 one-mile events. I hope the popularity of the mile race increases. I hope to do my part.
How and where do you train? What’s a typical midseason workout for you?
I train in the heat of Sarasota, Florida. I really enjoy the speed work as I do three speed workouts a week. My workouts change every week with Tuesdays and Saturdays being my heavy speed days.
After I finalIy broke the 16-minute barrier in the 5K in 2006, that was my last 5K workout or race. It is now all about the mile and the love (of) the mile. I will be speaking a lot about my training on my blog this summer.
I will also highlight my travels this summer in my inspirational talk as the keynote speaker for the PFA Conference (Pedorthic Footwear Association) in Nashville in November. I feel very blessed to be healthy. I do not take it for granted. So when I train, I am excited to be out there pushing my body.
David has his work cut out, even if he does mainly road miles. According to mastersrankings.com, only 15 Americans in his age group went sub-5 for the mile last season. Overall, 27 milers over 45 went sub-5.
I can barely relate. My all-time best mile of 4:56 came indoors — at age 20.
But if David has the guts to make such a public announcement of his quest, he probably has the courage to fight through lactic acid buildup with a quarter to go.
What do you think?