Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Smoking Jason Smoker...
Recently I sat down to virtually interview a local athlete who has worked himself into one of the better marathon runners in the Northeast Indiana region. Luckily enough between all his training, caring for twins, and working a full time job he was able to budget his time to answer my questions. Hopefully you enjoy learning
about the legend that is Jason Smoker.
Gillette Running: Every runner has a story as to why they started training and eventually competing. How did the idea of becoming a runner come about for you?
Jason: My running days begin in high school where I started to dabble around with distances between two to five miles. I tried to make it a point each year to train for and run in the Red Rose Run, a five mile run through the city of Lancaster, however, this only required a month of semi-serious training (three miles every other day). I didn’t run much in college but after graduating I was fortunate enough to be included in a small group of runners who met three mornings a week to run about five miles. The main reasons for running at this point were camaraderie and to help keep off a few pounds. One of the runners in that group was already a marathon runner and for the other it was simply a matter of time before he would give it a try. I also had a couple older uncles from Pennsylvania that were beginning their running journeys and probably pushed me the most to try out a marathon. Even with having a somewhat consistent schedule, I wouldn’t really have called myself a serious distance runner until the summer of 2006 when I began training for the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA. Except for a couple very brief periods, I have been in “marathon-ready” shape ever since that race.
Gillette Running: Do you tend to focus your training on racing a particular distance? Or are you like a good Fireman, ready for anything anytime?
Jason: Most of my running reflects a mentality of being ready for anything anytime; however, the five weeks prior to a marathon is usually very disciplined with specific distance goals leading up to the race. Naturally, if I am running a marathon for time or for a PR, I will focus on distances even further ahead of the race.
Gillette Running: Currently we are in another “Running Boom” which is increasing the number of marathon finishers, but overall a small part of the population has completed a marathon. With the bad economic situation the country, it seems that it is easy to know someone who has lost their job. You have a full time job and have finished many marathons…do you feel like a minority or just lucky?
Jason: In my mind it all comes down to priorities and choices. I think anyone with even below average health can choose to exercise and run as much as I do. A big pet peeve of mine is when people say they are so busy and don’t have time for things like running. There is always time and if something is important enough to us, we make time for it. As far as spending money goes, the same rule applies. I would probably spend the same amount of money on running and apparel regardless of earnings because of the benefits I receive in return. The value I experience in running includes: health, time for reflection and meditation, stress relief, therapy, the thrill of competition, accomplishing goals, success, companionship, seeing new places, and being able to eat as much as I want. Of course this may be easier for me to say because I already don’t have much of a running budget and I try to stretch the money invested as far as I can. For example, I definitely get my money’s worth in a pair of
shoes since I don’t retire them until they’ve reached at least six to seven hundred miles or more.
Gillette Running: Up until this point what would you say is the highlight of your running career? What are your PR’s? Best race experience?
Jason: I’ve had a lot of highlights and am probably forgetting some, but one that would rank up at the top is running rim-to-rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon this past May. As far as PR’s go, my current PR in a marathon came in 2009 at Sunburst in South Bend, IN where I finished at 3:08:25. The best part about that race was the way I felt at the end of the race. I didn’t feel completely trashed as usual and instead for some reason had a lot of energy left. I hope to someday figure out what that reason was!
Gillette Running: An old saying says, “It is not the destination but the journey” Using this logic what is more thrilling qualifying for the Boston Marathon or running the Boston Marathon?
Jason: I would like to be able to say that the journey that came before Boston was great. After a little more than two years of training and somewhere around ten character-building marathons, I learned much about myself. However, the Boston running experience was one of the most thrilling things I have ever been through. My advice to those who are able to qualify and go to Boston is to slow down when you’re there and take the time to enjoy the whole experience instead of run through as hard and fast as they can.
Gillette Running: How has your training and racing changed when your family expanded with the twins being born? What is a typical daily schedule?
Jason: In all honesty, training hasn’t changed very drastically. Around ninety-five percent of my training happens early in the morning and is over before seven o’clock. The first eight weeks at home were a bit rough since the twins were on a three hour eating schedule. I had to keep myself (and my running partners) to a very strict schedule and didn’t have the luxury of standing around and chatting after a good run.
Gillette Running: You just finished the Drake Well Marathon pushing your twins and running with other family members. Did the twins earn a finisher medal too? Was it hard to find a marathon that allowed strollers? Did you train long runs pushing them too?
Jason: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to push the kids through the entire marathon. The night before the marathon was full of strong storms with lightning. At four in the morning I checked the radar and, after seeing what was on its way, began to prepare myself mentally for a big let-down that day. I figured we’d be fortunate if the entire marathon wasn’t cancelled. Nevertheless, at 6:40 we found ourselves at the starting line with overcast skies, no rain, and kids in stroller. This weather lasted for about six miles before a sudden downpour forced me to hand the kids off to their mother, who was waiting anxiously amidst rain and thunder for the twins to arrive.
The twins were waiting at mile twenty-five when we came back into view and were able to finish that last mile with me. I’m sure they didn’t get their medals because they hadn’t gone the entire 26.2 miles. As far as finding a marathon that allowed strollers, we pretty well lucked out at the Drake Well. On their web site the guidelines specify that no strollers are allowed. Before we registered we inquired anyway and Jaime, the race director, said that she would allow it as long as we respected the other runners and their space. This wasn’t a problem for us and we started at the back of the pack. In training for the race I found it difficult to find time during the mid-day hours to go on long runs, with all the activities and things that needed to get done during the day. I was only able to get in three long runs with the twins, the longest being thirteen miles.
Gillette Running: Truthfully, here is your chance to come clean; did the stroller have a motor on it during the race? Did you sit in it going down hills?
Jason: No motor was present in the stroller, although some of the other runners did at least ask to make certain. Justin Gillette had to check “under the hood,” probably because he felt that his attempt at a course record would be threatened.
Gillette Running: What are your goals for the rest of 2011 and beyond with your running?
Jason: My long-term goals are to continue to run marathons on a fairly regular basis (maybe two to three a year)and to use marathon running as an excuse to travel to new places. Although at times it feels good to be competitive, I think overall maintaining physical fitness is important to me. I enjoy pushing the limits of my body, mentally and physically. With that in mind I have found myself the past several years to be somewhat intrigued by ultra distances. In September I am registered in and will run the Vermont 50 miler with two of my uncles. I would like to think that someday I may get to the 100 mile mark. For the rest of 2011 I plan to run a marathon in Wichita, KS in October and then in Columbia City, IN in
Gillette Running: Have you ever out sprinted someone to a finish line, then turned to yell, “You just got Smoked by Smoker!!”
Jason: I’ve never done that, although I can probably think of a couple of people that I might do that to.