Mile maven David O’Meara promises to do masters at 50
David O’Meara, 45, had barely returned home to Sarasota when he sent me a note thanking me for supporting his mile quest (which included his 20th sub-5 mile Sunday at Fifth Avenue). (See him in a cute NYC video here.) I replied with a set of questions, led off with the key one: So, like, when will you run masters track? He graciously replied: “I would like to compete on the masters track circuit when I am 50. I am going to continue promoting the ‘mile’ and that is why I would like to attend the indoor nationals as it is the only nationals that runs the mile event.” So there! Then he’ll get to meet some of the big boys. Of course, Hartshorne Mile organizers should contact him as well. Money is involved.
Here’s the rest of my Q&A with David:
Masterstrack.com: You must have battled some injuries, aches or strains. What were the worst, and how did you deal with them?
David O’Meara: Due to my extensive body work (training, massage, and chiropractic), it is a real testament that I only suffered one injury. I realized that all it took was one pulled hamstring and my packed racing schedule would have been finished.
My only injury occurred the day after my race in British Columbia. I was going out for a 1 hour recovery run and I simply bounded off a curve and felt pain in my lower back when I landed. I felt a little tightness, but continued on my run as I have jumped off a curve thousands of times without any difficulties.
However, after my run, my back began to tighten. I tried to train in Vancouver for three more days before flying to Texas. When I arrived in Texas, I could not even straighten my left leg. I have never had anything like this before and it really freaked me out!
I was supposed to race in 48 hours — so time was of the essence. Race director Mike Flores took me to a local chiropractor, Dr. Freeze, on Thursday, but it did not make a difference. The problem was with my right hip (IS joint). I went again on Friday, and it did feel better. I rested all day and then realized I had a chance to race.
Dr. Freeze’s adjustments really helped. I ran a 4:50 early Saturday morning. Other than that, due to my numerous massages and chiropractic appointments, I stayed injury free. As we get older, we must increase our recovery procedures. I will be writing about this on my blog this fall/winter.
Did you meet or chat with any of the other masters milers at Fifth Avenue? Any interesting exchanges?
I had so many friends and family there at the end that I did not have the opportunity to speak to many master runners after the Fifth Avenue. I did meet Neil Fitzgerald and Bill Zink after the race — they were very supportive.
Tony Young ran 4:16 this year, and he’s older than you. How tough is a 4:16 at your age?
Tony Young is incredible. The best I can run on the track is in the 4:30s. I am not even in Tony’s league. There is no comparison. It is so tough to run a 4:16 at 45+ — it just shows how great master runners like Young, Hinton, McGill and Forde really are. They are absolutely amazing!
How much faster is a road mile than a track mile — in your case. Or is track faster?
After running road miles since May, I can say it all depends on the road course. I tried to run everything during this journey: some flat, some downhill, some uphill, turns, straight, altitude, sea level, islands, peninsulas, small towns, big cities, point to point, turnarounds, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, USA and Canada.
One of the things that made racing so interesting over the 5 months were the road courses. I had no idea what the course was until I got to my destination. There were times after seeing the course that I said, “I do not think I can break 5 minutes on this course.”
So I had to dig deep and find the strength to break 5 minutes. On the track, I always know where I am and I know when I am slowing down. I love road miles, but I can float a bit out on the country road and not realize that I am slowing down. Some road miles are faster than the track, others are a lot slower. There is more rhythm on the track and more changes on the road course.
What kind of sponsorship did you have on this 20/20/5 journey? How much did you get? How much did the entire season of travel cost you personally?
I received very limited sponsorship. Most sponsors gave me product endorsements. HeadBlade was the one who gave me a check. I knew from the beginning that I had to pay for this long event. No sponsor was going to support it. Todd Greene, the owner of HeadBlade, was very supportive for a small company.
I have not added up all the receipts from this trip. Let’s just say I could have put a student through one year of college with my expenses. I just felt it was my duty as a motivational speaker to put it on the line. If I am going to ask my clients to take a risk a day, find courage and strength, and have faith — then I must be an example of that. It was money well invested in an amazing experience.
How often did your wife travel with you to road miles?
Sekyen took great care of me from recovery massages to shooting the video work for the website. She attended 17 out of the 20 races.
What have your client athletes said about your road miles? Are they eager to have their coach back?
I have just returned to Sarasota, FL. My local clients were very supportive. It is time to spend time trying to train and inspire them to the best of my ability. Also, I am recapping my 20/20/20<5@45 event at the PFA Conference in Nashville, TN on 11/8 as I am the keynote speaker at their 50th Anniversary.
I am going to be discussing how I managed to get through this 5-month journey and what older athletes must do to stay active and perform well.
Are you tired of the mile yet? How about an 800?
Not at all. The mile is and always will be my favorite event. I still remember Bannister’s thoughts about running 4 laps in under 4 minutes (when we had quarter-mile tracks) — there is something so majestic about that. I am going to be spending my time in the fitness circles trying to promote the value of the mile (you can read my blog entry on this topic under “How Metrics Killed The Mile.”) It can really make the difference to peoples’ fitness levels that they desire.
What was the hardest mile on your trip? Why?
I said at the beginning that if I did not break the 5 minute barrier in any race due to weather, sickness, poor racing, etc. that it did not count towards my goal and that I would have to make it up during the 20-week period. I never thought I would be perfect. I did not get any real bad weather until the last month.
My 20-week period runs out on 9/27, but I always wanted to have the Fifth Avenue Mile be my last event of the 20/20/20<5@45 event. I did not want to run any "fun runs," but featured road mile courses that are properly timed. So excluding the two races that Mother Nature beat me up with rain and a headwind, I have to say that the Main Street Mile in Boise, ID was one of my most difficult events.
Boise is a great city and the runners I met there are very inspirational. But I had a lot of trouble breathing the high desert air at about 2,200 feet. The course had 8 turns (as you run the city block in downtown Boise which is about 1/2 mile — twice). I passed the 800 meter mark (they marked the course in meter signs) at 2:28 — so I knew I was in trouble. So I pushed the second half a bit more to finish in 4:54, but I was coughing and wheezing for three days after that race.
The different climates around this country make running so different. I had a lot more respect for the altitude and dry heat of Boise. It is something you have to train in for a while to get accustomed to it. I know the master runners participating in next summer’s outdoor nationals will feel the Florida humidity in August.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to replicate your feat?
After traveling over 45,000 miles in 5 months by airplane, automobile, and by boat, my advice for anyone is to go for it. I wanted to bring my journey across North America and try to inspire others to use speed work to achieve their fitness goals.
Besides getting a lot of body work (massage and chiropractic), my advice is to have a burning passion for something they want to accomplish. Through all the races, training, travel, hotel rooms, etc., that internal inspiration will be THE fuel for their feat.