Thursday, March 18, 2010 exclusive interview: Nate Pennington

3 Days to go and Wintersville (Ohio) native Nate Pennington will race Sunday's 21st edition of the Los Angeles Marathon. The 33 year old Army officer will fight his own battle for a new PR over the classic distance. Living and training in Colorado Springs with his wife Laura, he found time to answer a bunch of questions for Hardfacts - The PBs
Nate Pennington:
10 miles-50:01
Marathon-2:19:35 You are running for the US Army. Tell us the story behind it. Are you working fulltime? How do they support you? How do you sneak in the training?

Nate Pennington: I enlisted into the Army on 6 Feb 2002, ran and worked my first 5 years in the service and deployed to Kuwait in 2003 when the war began. I competed in All-Army competitions trying to improve my times. I applied to the army world class athlete program and was conditionally brought into the unit in Feb of 2007 as a marathoner. I did not have a national ranking or an olympic trials standard so they gave me 1 year to train full time and I broke the old USATF 2008 Olympic Trials "A" standard time of 2:20:00 at the 2007 California International Marathon taking 4th and top american honors in 2:19:35 9 months after arriving. The Army WCAP program gives Soldiers full time training to train to make the Olympic Trials and ultimately the Olympic Games, while maintaining a military career. What is your running background? College, University...

Nate Pennington: I ran for Coach Jack Hazen at Malone College (now University), a small NAIA school in Canton, Ohio. What do you think about the course? Did you have the chance to run parts of it already?

Nate Pennington: I think the new LA course is going to be very fast. I have not been able to run the course but have viewed it several times online. What is the tactic for the race? How do you approach it?

Nate Pennington: I was away from the sport of running for 18 months as I departed for Officer Candidate School and didnt finish until September of 2009. I reported back to the Army WCAP program on 1 October 2009. It has taken me a long time to get back into what I would call descent shape. My goal is to break 2:19:00 and qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials. Obviously, we cannot change weather conditions. I would prefer it to be a little cooler but running an even paced race is the goal. Get through the half around 1:08:45-1:09:00 and than really start to race. When I ran 2:19:35 at CIM I went out in 1:07:09 and could only manage 1:12:26 on the second half so want to be smarter this time. There is a point in the tapering phase, such as this week being the marathon week, where you question have you done everything humanely possible to be as prepared as you can. I feel as though I have. I spent the past 8 to 9 weeks over 100 miles a week with two weeks up at 123 miles. I train at over 6000ft here in Colorado Springs and live at 6,550ft so going down to sea level more rested I hope will make the difference. What races have you planed after LA?

Nate Pennington: The Garry Bkjurlund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN in June and a fall marathon possibly Scotiabank Toronto Marathon. Who is your coach? Do you have a training group?

Nate Pennington: My coach is Lisa Larsen Rainsberger (1985 Boston Marathon Champion). I do not really have a training group here. I train with 2:22:56 marathoner, Troy Harrison, a couple of times a week but the majority of my training is alone. We have a great group of mid distance guys including Robert Cheseret who just arrived to the unit but they train separately and are all coached by Garry Stainds. When the going gets tough in a race, what do you do to keep yourself on track and focused?

Nate Pennington: I usually just try to take one mile at a time and think about the training I have done prior to the race. I will only be thinking about hitting each mile at 5:18 or slightly faster in LA, not how many miles I have to go. Dr. Joe Vigil once told me, "Nate, you can run way below your dreams"-I believe in that philosophy but sub 2:19 is an agressive enough time and I want to run a smart race. Faster times are obvious motivations in the future and breaking 2:15 is my ultimate goal but breaking 2:19 is what must be done at this point. What is your favourite workout and why?

Nate Pennington: My favorite workout is my long run. I think this is the bread and butter workout in how I train. My last long run was 2 weeks ago and was a 20 miler in 1:53:37 at 6038ft. Lisa has me run them at a heart rate of 160BPM so at about 65-75% effort so they are not pleasent runs but usually when I run at that pace at altitude is gives me an indication of my fitness. How do you gain from the US running boom?

Nate Pennington: It is a huge motivating factor seeing so many Americans running so fast now from the mid distances all the way to the marathon. I think our marathon strength has certainly grown in the past few years and I think alot of that is coming from the motivation of seeing others run fast. I am a firm believer that it isn't just the Hall's, Meb's etc who are out training. I do not care to be in the limelight. Obviously 2:19 isn't that special to many people but the athletes aspiring to run 2:19:00 or better are really dangerous cause you never know what to expect from them. All the attention is going to the top runners, which is warranted, but at the same time, there are many men and women training and are just as hungry and I think many people seems to forget that. Any race in the world that you would like to run?

Nate Pennington: I still would love to run the Boston Marathon. I was able to go in 2008 to watch my wife run it (she ran 3:23:11) and the Berlin Marathon. The greatest (running related) tip you ever received from a coach, friend, team mate...

Nate Pennington: My collegiate coach, Jack Hazen, told a newspaper reporter when I signed on with Malone University back in 1995, "I will place no limits on Nate as he places no limits on himself". I have tried to live my life in that manner and not just running. I may not produce fast times all the time but I take a lot of pride in what I do. I had many trials before I ran 2:19. Had I quit, I would have never reached such a time and that is important in this have to want it! I wear an Army singlet representing our men and women in uniform. It may take me months to produce a terrific time but I am doing the best I can and truly want to represent our armed forces in the olympic trials. My high schools coaches, Jack Hazen, Dr.Joe Vigil and Lisa Rainsberger are all mentors I have had who have told me I could reach the elite level. I may not be there yet but I am going to try. I do not want to look back at my life and wonder if I did everything I could have done. I am extremely fortunate to having a very supportive wife, coach and the backing of the army wcap program. This is a blessed opportunity and I am trying my best to give back.

mzungo thanks Nate for taking the time to answer all questions and is looking forward to cheer him on at Sunday's race!

Keep it coming Nate!