Becky Wade shows a light of promise for Americans in a marathon sport dominated by Kenyans. (Nothing against Kenyans; who doesn’t love to cheer on speedy runners, regardless of nationality?)
She put in a strong showing in her 26.2 debut, winning December’s California International Marathon and in the process logging one of the fastest U.S. women’s times for 2013.
She’s busy running upwards of 100 miles a week and working out sponsorship with Asics, but found time to talk with Marathon Training Academy. She shared her thoughts on marathon training, running role models and post-long run fueling.
Q. You just signed with Asics. What does that mean for your near term future as an athlete?
To me, my Asics sponsorship legitimizes the priority I’m giving to my running right now and will allow me to pursue it as a career. I signed with them for 3 years (through 2016) and am really excited to develop a relationship with the company and team as I pursue my own lofty running goals.
Q. Marathon Training Academy serves all levels of marathoners, but I think has a resonance with beginners. Where should a runner considering her first marathon start?
People seek very different things from marathons–fast times, completions, camaraderie, and everything in between. I recommend that a first-timer identifies exactly what he or she wants to get out of it, and choose a race based on that. If traveling somewhere neat isn’t an option, it’s always fun to run a home race with familiar landmarks and spectators!
Q. You ran a 2:30:41 at December’s California International Marathon (CIM). Can you talk a bit about tactics for improving on that time? Are there tactics that more elite athletes use in this regard that can “trickle down” to amateur runners?
I’m not going to change anything radically in order to improve on my 2:30 marathon. My coaches and I are happy with the whole training cycle and my adaptation to the load, and so will try to seek continuity with that. If I can stay healthy and consistent in my training, the workouts will become a bit more intense without the effort having to increase much, which is the whole idea of training. So I’m planning on continuing to carry a high volume (up to 115-120 miles per week with a down week every 4th week), run a hill session each week, do regular grass strides, and run my backbone
workouts (mile repeats, long tempos, 300m or 400m repeats).
Q. You spent a year traveling the world on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship program, studying running in different cultures. Describe a running culture you found that you admire or that inspires your own running. What makes it stand out?
The most unique running place I visited during my fellowship year was in Ethiopia, where the culture of running was unlike anything I’d ever encountered. In Ethiopian style, we trained in single-file lines through dense forests and eucalyptus patches, over undulating terrain, and without
watches or specific plans. The two months I spent there really refreshed my appreciation for the purity and simplicity of running, and helped me learn to be more attentive to my body.
Q. Are there races on your calendar for 2014 that you can discuss?
My plan for this year is to focus on the 10k and 3k steeplechase in the outdoor track season, with the goal of qualifying for both at USA Nationals. Beyond that, I’ll do some road racing and will definitely race a fall marathon (though I’m not sure which one yet).
Q. Do you have a mantra or inspirational phrase you recite to yourself in the depths of a race or long run?
When I start to hurt in races or workouts, it helps to repeat empowering or calming words that my coach was fed me in the past. Some examples are “mighty” and “smooth.” I also picked up a few mantras during my year abroad, and my favorite one is probably “aizoh,” which means “keep going”
and “chin up” in Amharic (one of the major languages in Ethiopia).
Q. What’s the first food you reach for after a long run? Why?
After long runs, I usually start out with a smoothie because they always taste good coming in from the Texas heat. Smoothies are also an easy and effective way to absorb nutrients and replenish calories from good sources like berries, bananas, yogurt, milk, honey, nut butter and any other add-ins that I’m feeling. After that, I often have a peanut-butter/banana/honey/cinnamon sandwich (or panini if I’m feeling patient enough), and then I continue to snack all day long.
Q. I’m guessing you don’t run with music during races, but what about personal runs? Can you talk a bit about songs or artists that help push you during workouts?
I don’t listen to music during races or workouts, but I do have a pre-race playlist that I jam to. It’s really eclectic and constantly changing, but before CIM I listened to some Daft Punk, Kid Cudi and Pretty Lights.
Q. If you could race alongside one person, who would it be and why?
If I had the opportunity to race alongside any person, I would choose Deena Kastor. First of all, she’s extremely fast, so running with her would bode well for my own race. But, more importantly, she’s an incredible ambassador for our sport and one of my greatest role models. She is dominant on the course, humble in her demeanor and passionate about the whole running lifestyle. I also love our Asics and Joe Vigil connections (he coached Kastor in Athens and is currently overseeing my training along with my Rice University coach), Jim Bevan, and I aspire to be the emerging Deena Kastor of American marathoning.
Our congratulations to Becky Wade on her debut first place finish at CIM!