At Pacers Running//GRC New Balance, we race all year round, and we’re always looking for opportunities to compete, but indoor track is our lowest priority. Many of our top athletes focus on outdoor track in the spring, and to great effect–since 2014, we’ve won 4 Penn Relays Olympic Development titles (Michael Franklin in the 10,000 meters in 2014, Frances Koons in the 5000 meters in 2015, and Frances Loeb in the 5000 and Stephanie Reich in the 10,000 in 2016), and we’re looking for more great performances outdoors in 2017. As much as we embrace outdoor track, indoors has never held much appeal for us, partly because we finish our fall season very late (USATF Clubs Cross Country, which is the goal race for our non-marathoners, is in mid-December), and partly because there are not a lot of indoor meets that we can run without having to deal with difficult travel.
Given our lack of emphasis on indoors, I was surprised to find myself at the Millrose Games in New York posing for photos with the GRC women’s team after we won the Distance Medley Relay. For the uninitiated, the distance medley is a relay comprised of legs of 1200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, and 1600 meters, and the Millrose Games is known far and wide as the oldest and most prestigious indoor track meet in the world. So how did a team of distance runners known for its prowess in long races on the roads, and that typically treats indoor track as the off-season, end up winning a relay at the fabled Millrose Games, and by a comfortable margin at that? The simple answer is that as the team has developed a national reputation for competing at a very high level with athletes who have demanding careers outside of running, we’ve been able to expand our talent pool beyond our traditional core group of distance runners. Particularly on the women’s side, we’ve had an influx of outstanding middle distance athletes, and so when we were invited to enter a distance medley squad at Millrose, we thought it would be fun to give it a go. Our foursome of Alyson McGonigle in the 1200, Alex Morris in the 400, Jesse Carlin in the 800, and Stephanie Reich in the 1600 all ran superbly, and we were quite pleased to get the win.
It’s important to note that other than Jesse, who is a national-class 800 runner, the other members of our victorious relay squad ran under-distance at Millrose, meaning that their main area of focus is on longer races. That’s particularly true for Stephanie, whose goal for the spring is to run a major PR in the 10,000 meters on the track. There’s a lesson to be learned in all of this, which is that varying your training and racing yields dividends in the long run. While we did not peak for Millrose, we modified our training slightly to make sure our athletes were ready to run the shorter distances demanded of them in the DMR. Steph is never going to be a miler, and Alex’s days of focusing on the 400 are behind her, but they enjoyed doing shorter, more intense workouts for a couple of weeks, and they will be better prepared for outdoor season because they got out of their normal winter training routine.
It’s always fun to try something new during a lull in the racing season, so consider racing at a distance that is outside of your comfort zone before the spring season is upon us. You just might surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it. And even if you decide that you never want to try that again, you’ll be better prepared for your goal race by varying your program.