This is the fifth in an ongoing series of short profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: Ultrarunner JONATHAN SAVAGE, a software architect who was born in England, has been in Charlotte for 10 years, and became a U.S. citizen last September.
Full disclosure: Jonathan belongs to the same running group as me -- the University City Road Runners. But although we're in the same club, we're not in the same league. (Sometimes I wonder if we're even playing the same SPORT.)
For an idea of how big a "Runnin' Fool" he is, consider this: Jonathan celebrated his 43rd birthday last Saturday by running 43 miles beginning Friday night and ending on Saturday morning.
When and why did you start running: I started in 1996, when I was overweight (205 pounds) and sedentary. While on vacation, I had a serious migraine that affected my speech and vision; the symptoms were similar to those of a stroke. It was really scary, and even after it was diagnosed as a migraine not a stroke, it acted as a wake-up call. Not being able to speak or read was horrific, a feeling of being trapped inside a mind that does not work. [Today, Jonathan weighs 130 pounds.]
What makes you a good runner? I enjoy the spiritual side of running. To go out before dawn, and run as the sun comes up; letting the mind wander freely, while the body settles into a gentle rhythm, is wonderful. I do all of my best thinking when I run -- planning, musing, creating, evaluating. It can also be a time of mental quiet and respite.
What would make you a better runner? More hills! There are few good hills in the University area, and some of my races have long, hard descents. (Going up is easy, going down is hard.)
Current running shoes: Nike Free 3.0 and Vibram FiveFingers. I believe that we are designed to run barefoot, and many of our running problems start with shoes that interfere with our biomechanics.
Do you have a standard running route in Charlotte? I mostly run on Mallard Creek Greenway. I love the greenways and hate being near cars.
What is your typical training week? I run four times a week. I do three hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then four-plus hours on Saturday. Wednesday is also hill training day. I often run on Tuesday and Thursday, but normally just enough to warm-up.
Favorite annual N.C. race: Mount Mitchell Challenge.
Favorite distance: I love 50 miles, but 100 is as seductive as it is brutal.
PR for that distance: With ultra-marathons, the concept of PR does not really apply. Different courses have huge differences. I've done a 50K in 4:15 and felt I should have done better, and done the same distance in 5:40 and felt I did great. Weather can make a lot of difference on the same course -- I’ve had races where you can get heat stroke and hypothermia on the same day.
Running moment you'll never forget: Doing a double crossing of the Grand Canyon (south rim to north rim and back). It's not far (less than 50 miles), but you are on your own. That makes for great solitude but also a sense of vulnerability.
Running moment you'd like to forget: Finding blisters at mile 25 of the Massanutten 100. That was a bad sign, though I did not realize at the time just how bad.
What's the longest run you've ever gone on? 100 miles, which I've done three times. I'm hoping to go further at the Hinson Lake 24 hour race in September.
Do you listen to music while you run? Yes; at times it motivates me; at times it helps me meditate.
If you could pass on just one piece of advice to novice runners, what would it be? It would be to focus on their cadence (how often their feet touch the ground). You need to have a turnover of 180 steps/minute. Jack Daniels (the coach) found that the slower the turnover, the longer you are in the air and the harder you land. Slow turn over means more impact, which causes more injury. (More info here.)
What's next on your race calendar? The next big race will be Hinson Lake 24 hour, though I have Laurel Valley 35 and Triple Lakes 40 before, but they are not the focus of my training. My rather ambitious goal for Hinson Lake is to do 111 miles.
What is your running ambition? I would love to complete Western States 100 or Hardrock 100. These are difficult to train for when you live in Charlotte as they are both at altitude.
Know of another running fool? Tell me about him or her in an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.