I admire Mike because running is a priority to him despite his tough schedule. He is extremely humble and laid back, but I’ve covered enough elite athletes to know that the dude is serious on race day.
Mike is the editor for WCPO.com (He probably proofread this story). His job is full of dead lines in a 24-hour news cycle. He is not only a father and an editor; he is just a few minutes from elite status as a marathoner. Our family lives and schedules are similar, but I cannot run one mile at the pace he just hammered out 26, and I’m training.
Here is our transcript from when he came back to work after Monday’s Boston Marathon.
1. How did the race go? Did you intend to PR?
I’m very pleased with my race. I’ve been training hard for the last several years, and last fall I struggled with dehydration issues in my two attempts to PR. I knew that my fitness was strong enough to PR on Monday, but the weather at Boston can be a huge variable. So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I went into the weekend with the goal of still aiming for a PR. As the forecast temperatures inched up with each forecast, I wondered if my hydration strategy would work and if I could stay strong. I decided (thanks to the urging and support from my two training partners, Brian Korody and Charlie Lambrix) to stick to my plan and aim for a 2:45. I had a plan for each mile that took into account the hills of each mile. I also had a hydration plan thanks to my hydration consultant.
As I began to run, I stuck to the plan. I kept waiting for the wheels to fall off. Through mile 20 I was exactly where I wanted to be. Mile 21 — with famous Heartbreak Hill — I was a little slower than I had hoped to be. I expected to cross Heartbreak Hill and cruise the last 5 miles to the finish. It is mostly downhill and it had a true tailwind based on the wind direction. As I started down Heartbreak, I realized my plan of 6:10 miles wasn’t realistic. Now, I was in a fight with myself and my body for that PR. I walked through the last five water stops taking cups of Gatorade and water from every volunteer, drinking some and dumping some water on my head. I didn’t think I would PR after mile 25. But I kept battling. As I came up on the 26-mile mark, I saw the clock and thought it said 2:46:3. With 2 tenths of a mile left if that were the case there was no way to PR. But as I got to the clock I saw it said 2:45:30. I kicked it in gear and ran as hard as I could. I saw the course clock hitting 2:47:06 (my PR time) as I crossed. I knew I was a few seconds faster than that because I didn’t get to the start line for 15-20 seconds. That was literally the first moment I felt like a PR was happening.
This was my third Boston Marathon. I ran Boston in 2013 and 2014. I ran OK in 2013 (2:53:38, about three minutes slower than my PR at the time) and poorly in 2014 (just under 3:10). I knew I wanted to come back to Boston at some point. I chose 2017 because one of my former training partners from Florida qualified to head to Boston for the first time. I went to experience Boston with him.
I qualified for Boston at the Houston Marathon in January 2016. That was where my previous PR was set, 2:47:06.
2. What makes the Boston Marathon special for you?
I could write a novel about what makes the Boston Marathon special.
First, you have to qualify for it, so that instantly made it something I wanted to do. I first got the Boston bug in 2010. I had a running blog that I did for the newspaper I worked at in Florida. On Marathon Monday I had spent the day talking to ecstatic Boston Marathon runners. And I finally told one veteran runner, “I want to do Boston some day.” He encouraged me. It took me a few years to qualify, but I did in 2012.
The crowd support at Boston is incredible. There are very few spots on the course that aren’t lined with people. And there are a few spots that are deafeningly loud. Especially Wellesley College near the halfway point. You can hear the girls there screaming for what seems like a mile before you get there.
There’s something really cool about the logo and the history and the fact that so many elites run there.
There is nothing I have ever experienced that compares to the final stretch down Boylston Street. The crowd is incredibly loud. What a spectacle. Running that stretch in 2013 for the first time is right behind the birth of my kids and my wedding on the list of the best moments of my life.
Then there are the people. New Englanders generally have a reputation as being a little rude. I’ve never encountered that in any way during my trips to Boston for the marathon. Both from the Bostonians and the fellow runners there is an absolutely incredible showing of camaraderie and support.
Finally, after being in Boston for the 2013 bombing, Boston will always hold a place close to my heart. That’s why I went back in 2014. I hadn’t planned on returning in 2014, but I felt like I owed the city that show of support. I owed the families of the victims of the bombing something. It’s small, and perhaps silly, but I felt like that was my part. And I feel like supporting Boston is something I will always be called to do. Even if I don’t run the marathon every year.
3. When did you start running?
I started running my junior year of high school. I’d always hated running. But I wanted to get in better shape for baseball. I joined the cross country team my senior year — again with the goal of making me a better baseball player. I found that I loved running and that I was a far better runner than baseball player, so when track rolled around that spring I did track instead of baseball.
I ran my first marathon in 2007 while my wife was 8 months pregnant with our oldest son. It was an epic disaster. I finished in 5:35. My wife thought she might end up a widow before my son was even born. My first response after the race was: “Well, I’m never doing that again.” A few hours later, I was talking about doing one at some point. I ran my next marathon in 2010 and cut more than 2 hours and 20 minutes off that first one.
In Houston, I achieved my ultimate goal — I cut my first marathon time in half.
4. Is the marathon your favorite event? If not, what is.
The marathon is my favorite event, but it takes such a toll on the body. I also really like the half marathon and plan to run more of those in the next few years. They’re challenging and fun and something that requires hard training and planning. But they don’t leave my body wrecked. I won’t be up to full strength for about 10 weeks after a marathon.
5. How many Flying Pigs have you completed?
Only one full at the Pig. That was 2015. My second slowest marathon. That’s one tough course. And it was really humid that day. Last year, I did the Skyline Chili Three-Way Challenge. That’s the 10K and 5K on Saturday and then the half marathon on Sunday. I finished second by 18 seconds. But the guy who beat me actually did the Three-Way Challenge with Extra Cheese (that adds the Little Kings Mile on Friday night). So my plaque says first place.
6. I know you are running the 5k this year with your son - What does it mean to you to share something you love with your son?
First, I hope to always be able to do something at The Pig each year. This year, I knew my body would be too wrecked from Boston to really race anything. I thought about being a pace group leader, but I didn’t think I could commit to being strong enough by then. So I’ll do the 5K and then spectate on Sunday to cheer on my training partners and others.
It’s fantastic to run with my youngest son, Wes. We chat our way through the runs. His older brother no longer has interest in running. So this is our thing together. Last year, he did the Kids Marathon where kids have a chart they fill out to track their mileage (and other healthy habits). The goal is to run 25 miles and then on the Saturday of pig weekend the kids run their 26th mile. It’s really cool. At the expo, you could bring your chart and if you did all of the miles the kids received two Reds tickets. My son was 6 then. He proudly presented his chart to the lady who was surprised that a 6-year-old had completed all of the miles. I had to coach my older son’s baseball team the night of the Reds game, so my younger son took his mom to the game as his date — with tickets he earned. He was so proud.
He’s begging me to let him do the 10K at the Pig, but we’re going to stick with the 5K for this year.
7. I know you typically train in very early the morning? You have a family and an important job - how do you juggle intense training with it all?
Sleep is overrated? In all seriousness, sleep tends to be what goes. I get 6 hours per night usually. I’m usually up between 4 and 5 a.m. And I’m normally done running before most of my family is out of bed. For me, it’s about prioritizing. There are lots of other things I used to do or that others do that I skip. I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies. I don’t hit the bars too much. I haven’t played softball or pickup basketball in years. If I keep the three most important things in my life — family, running and work — in balance, my life goes really smoothly and I am a happy, well-adjusted person. If the scales tip too far in any of those directions, I tend to get a little crazy.
Mike, congrats and thank you for sharing your running story. Job well done.
Contact Chris Riva on Twitter, @RivaWCPO, on Facebook or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell your running story.