If you watch the leaders at Army 10 Miler on Sunday, you’re likely to see Pacers Running//GRC New Balance athlete Lucas Stalnaker sticking his nose in there with the professional runners. That Lucas is planning to run with the leaders at Army will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the Philadelphia Rock N Roll Half Marathon in September, where Lucas, who had never run a race further than 10k, went with the lead pack that included 2016 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Galen Rupp. While Rupp dropped Lucas and the rest of the pack around 5 miles, Lucas ran step for step for 9 miles with Jared Ward, who was 6th in the marathon at the Rio Olympics, and finished in an outstanding 1:05:26 on a hot day.
Lucas is not one to be afraid to compete with the best. As a senior at the US Naval Academy, he placed 5th in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, running a PR of 29:08. That’s extremely impressive for anyone, but considering that Lucas was a walk-on at Navy, it’s downright remarkable. And Lucas continues to surmount amazing odds – he is a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps who is in officer basic school at Quantico, and yet despite the considerable demands placed upon him in his military training (immediately after his half in Philly he was in the field, so he spent what should have been his recovery week sleeping on the ground and eating MREs), he is finding a way to run the miles and do the workouts necessary to allow him knock heads with Olympians.
I’ve coached many outstanding runners over the years, and the Pacers Running//GRC New Balance roster is stocked with Olympic Trials qualifiers and collegiate All-Americans. When you see an athlete of Lucas’s caliber, it’s understandable to assume that the sport comes easily to him, and that he’s successful because of his natural talent. While there is a level of natural ability that is necessary to become a national caliber athlete, in my experience, the best distance runners achieve success because they train harder and compete with more commitment than their equally or more talented competitors. Even on the highest levels of the sport, there is no substitute for hard work in training, and tenacity on race day.
The overwhelming majority of the thousands of runners who will toe the line at Army 10 do not aspire to win the race. But the same principles that apply to elite athletes like Lucas apply to runners with more modest goals. Statedsimply, training works. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort in training, the fitness to run well will come. And when the gun goes off, if you’re ready to push yourself outside of your comfort zone (on Sunday, please wait until you’re well past the half way mark to make your move–Army is a 10 miler, not a 10k), you will know that you’ve made the most of your natural talent.