Becoming a Competitive Runner While Juggling Life’s Many Roles

Greg Strosaker, a runner, a blogger and a family man, somehow manages to add hours into his day that the rest of us wish we had but cannot seem to find. He gets up very early everyday to run during the predawn hours. His routine is complete by 5:30am when some people are just thinking about waking up, and others are still dreaming. He then goes to work like most people and maintains an active blog, predawnrunner.com.

A running machine, Greg has participated in nine marathons since 2001. In 2010 and 2011, he ran two half marathons. In June 2012, he ran a 10-miler and placed 3rd overall out of ~500 runners. Other successes include: placing third in his age group in the Akron Marathon, placing first in his age group in the Cleveland Fall Classic Half Marathon, placing 2nd in his age group in the River Run Half Marathon, and most recently placing 1st overall in the 2011 Towpath Marathon.. Read on to learn how he does it!

1. hey Greg. You started a blog about all aspects of running. What motivated you to start sharing information and your running story on the Internet?

I originally had my Constant Cogitation blog, which was more of a personal branding effort. The topic that I enjoyed writing about the most was running, and the posts seemed to resonate with an online community that I was building. I therefore decided to start a blog dedicated to running and ramp down my efforts on the “general” blog.

2.Your blog is very active. Where do you get inspiration for your blog topics?

Predawn Runner is written for the competitive runner who also has “typical” commitments to family and their career and therefore can’t afford the time to pursue the dedicated training that true elite runners can. So not only do I cover typical topics like training approaches, race reports, injury prevention and recovery, gear, and the like, but also maintaining your motivation and helpful productivity practices to gain more time to train. I often find topics for articles from such sources as Harvard Business Review and Stepcase Lifehack.

3.You run every morning, work as a product management professional, and also raise three boys. Where do you find the time to blog?

I like to find time in the “margins” of life. For example, I’ll knock out a mind map for a post idea while waiting for a haircut, or draft a post while waiting for my son at his therapy session (my oldest son is autistic). I truly believe you can find the time to pursue your passions if you are willing to look hard enough and give up on non-necessities like television.

4.As a father of three boys, you have figured out a way to get your running in before they would even wake up. What is the best thing about being a “predawn” runner?

There are a lot of benefits to running early in the morning, but to me the best part is getting it done early, when there is little chance for any conflict with work or family commitments to arise. It also feels great to have a major accomplishment done before 6:00 AM.

5.How did you figure out that running was “essential to [your] happiness and sense-of-self”?

I spent a long period of time when our sons were being born not running. I found out pretty quickly how important it was to me when I put on 30 pounds and often found myself to be cranky or feel low on energy. Ever since I’ve started running again, I’ve had a much more positive outlook on life.

6.On your website, you say that running is your “thing”. What do you mean by that?

I think everyone is entitled to their one passion outside of work and family, that is their activity to pursue in their own time. Running is that passion for me, and it governs not only how I exercise but also what I read and, obviously, what I write about on my blog. Thus it becomes a pretty encompassing hobby.

7.What part of the run motivates you the most to get out of bed so early every morning?

While I enjoy the peace of being out early when there are few if any other runners and very little traffic, many days just getting it done and knowing that I’m continuing to build my fitness level and improve my health is the biggest motivator of all. I don’t like the feeling of laziness that I get on rest days, especially if I give into temptation and skip a planned run.

8.How far, on average, do you run each day? Do you run the same route every single day?

My daily mileage varies widely but I rarely run less than 50 minutes (over 6-1/2 miles), and will often run in the 8-15 mile range. With marathon training, the long weekend runs range between 18 and 24 miles. I rarely run the same route – in fact, for a period of six months last year, I successfully avoiding ever running the same route twice. I hate repetition and enjoy the challenge of exploring every nook and cranny of the community in which I live.

9.You started to run in marathons back in 2001. Of all the marathons you’ve run in, which one was the most challenging? Most memorable? Why?

The 2004 Boston Marathon was easily the most challenging. Like this year’s edition, it was hot, with the temperature reaching 85 degrees, and I wasn’t used to running later in the day and in that heat given that it was April. It was by far my worst time in a marathon. I haven’t yet decided to return to Boston, but when I do I will have a goal of running it an hour faster than I did in 2004.
My most memorable marathon was last year’s Towpath Marathon (near Cleveland, Ohio), as it was my first time breaking the 3:00 barrier and it yielded a surprising result that was, to put it mildly, a game-changer.

10.How do you prepare yourself to run in a marathon?

I build my training plan to ramp up the mileage and refine the other key physiological attributes necessary for a successful marathon (aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, glycogen efficiency, etc.). The plan usually lasts 18 weeks and my weekly mileage peaks between 75 and 90 miles per week.

11.What is usually going through your mind when you’re running?
I try to be a mindful runner and focus on my form and effort level to make sure I get the most out of every workout. I don’t listen to music when I run as I like to listen to my breathing and foot strikes. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my mind wanders now and then, in which case I often think of a challenge at work that needs solved or my next blog post.

12.You maintain the Running Manifesto on your website and have also created a Zazzle store for it. What inspired you to start a manifesto and how did you come up with the thoughts?

I once read that a good way to kick-start your blog is to write a manifesto, and my passion for running made it seem an obvious topic on which to write one. I originally wrote it while managing the Constant Cogitation blog, and its popularity indicated that perhaps a running-dedicated blog would be more suitable for my interests.
And this is something that I definitely came up with while running. I can distinctly remember a few locations where the thoughts occurred, and I’d quickly jot them down when I got home. After I published the manifesto, I had several requests for posters or shirts, and that’s why I created the Zazzle and Cafepress stores. I’m working on updating some of the merchandise right now to incorporate a new version of the manifesto.

13.You wrote the book Running Ahead of the Sun. Tell us a little bit about the book.

I got so many questions from friends about training approaches and other topics after my Towpath Marathon last year that I decided to write a book about it. There are books written by or about elite runners, and those written for beginner runners, but there is a wide-open middle space of “competitive age group runners” that is underserved.
The book combines my training journal with comments from friends on the dailymile site with weekly themes based on blog posts, emphasizing such topics as running while you travel, maintaining the support of your family, dealing with schedule disruptions, and other challenges that we typically face in our training. It has been pretty well received and I’ve gotten a lot of favorable reviews thus far, plus it’s been fun doing a book signing in conjunction with a race put on by the organizers of the Towpath Marathon.

14.You mentioned that you run for health reasons in addition to running being your “thing”. Do you eat a restricted diet? If so, why? If not, why not?

I’m honestly not that particular about my diet, other than following general principles like minimizing sweets, watching my portion size, etc. As a runner, I try to make sure to get the right balance of protein and carbohydrates, but I don’t track it with much detail. I guess I’ve just developed a since of the daily amount and types of food that help provide the energy I need to train while keeping weight off. I specifically avoid trends in training or diet approaches, as I believe in keeping things simple and direct – a lot of miles in training, and just thinking about calories in eating.

15. Where do you see yourself five years from now? Will you continue to be a predawn runner and run in marathons each year?

I hope that I will, as I think that, approaching the age of 40, I have about five years of potential improvement in my marathon performance before age starts to catch up with me. At that time, I think it will be a challenge to maintain motivation, so I may seek new goals like ultra marathons or maybe a focus on shorter races for a while. I’d like to set an example for my sons; my 7-year-old son has already raced in a fun run and asks to “practice” his running with me on weekends. I think that developing an interest in physical activity in our youth is the key to providing them lifelong healthy habits.

Thank you

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Greg Strosaker is a runner and blogger . Greg has written a book called Running Ahead of the Sun, which chronicles a runner’s journey from “injury to marathon glory”. He believes in chasing after and fulfilling dreams while living a full, busy life. Visit him at www.predawnrunner.com

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