Friday, April 12, 2013

Getting To Know the TARC - Michael Robertson

I’m a blogger and enjoy reading blogs. Thanks to TARC, I’ve found a new blog to check out called Once A Runner, Always A Runner by Michael Robertson. He tackles the Boston Marathon, has gear review and giveaways and explains his training for his first ultra marathon at the TARC Spring Classic. Sit back and enjoy the next installment of “Getting to Know the TARC” with Michael Robertson.

Michael, tell us a little about your running experience. From your blog, I know that you ran in high school and in summer camps up in VT. What have you been up to since then?

I graduated high school in 2000 and tried my hand at joining the cross country team at Tufts University, which lasted for a couple weeks before I determined that collegiate varsity sports just didn’t match up with the rest of my interests.  In college, I played club ultimate frisbee with the Tufts E-Men but probably went on a total of 3 runs in 4 years.  Law school was even worse.  I ran a grand total of once in 3 years, though I did succeed in putting on a lot of weight., so there was that.  It wasn’t until 2008, essentially an 8 year layoff from running, that I knew I had to make a life change for my health and start running again, setting the 2009 Boston Marathon as my ultimate goal.  I haven’t looked back to those dark days of inactivity since then!

What does your average week look like training-wise?

Before I started training under my coach, ultrarunner and former Hansons-Brooks team member Sage Canaday, my average week looked like “get to the gym on the days I can/feel like it, decide what I want to run then, and run.”  Typically I’d try to do some kind of speed work on Tuesdays, “tempo” on Thursdays, and long run on Sunday.  This was literally the extent of the structure of my training, with no rhyme or reason to the distances or intervals I’d pick on a given day.  Now though, Sage has me doing much more focused training.  With the TARC Spring Classic approaching, as well as the BAA 5K, I’ve been doing longer distance intervals, 1 to 2 miles, and building up my tempo runs from 6 to 10 miles.  In addition to a weekend long run, I now add in shorter days at a recovery pace, usually 4-6 miles, something I never did before.  Instead of trying to gun every workout, I focus on running the hard workouts hard and the easy workouts easy.  It has made a big difference in my training!

You are running the 50K at the TARC Spring Classic this month. Do you have any goals for this race?

This being my maiden voyage at the ultra-distance, my one goal for this race is to finish the race with a smile on my face.  Every other distance  I’ve raced, I’ve thought long and hard about goal times, paces, etc.  For this race, I haven’t even committed to memory how many miles 50k is, nor started to think about a pace.  I want to have as much fun as you can have running 50 kilometers and I figure everything else will take care of itself!

What is your greatest running accomplishment to date?

I hope that my greatest running accomplishment has been inspiring others to lace up for the first time, or try a new race distance, or go for a PR.  On a less emotional level, I’m most proud of my race at the 2013 Black Cat 20 Miler in Salem, MA, where I PR’ed with a time of 2:57:34, taking 4:18 off my previous best 20 mile time.  As thrilled as I was with the time, I was even happier with my execution of a race strategy of negative splitting the race and finishing strong.

You favorite training route/trail system would be?

I get most nostalgic running a trail/groomed path in a West Hartford reservoir, where I grew up (the town, I didn’t grow up in the reservoir).  It’s just a 3.7 mile loop, with a good part on a sun-baked stretch of pavement, but we used to run it in high school and do time trials on it for cross country, so it has some great memories.  These days though, I love a nice run around the Charles River in Boston, especially those times of the evening where the sun is setting and the Boston skyline is just awe-inspiring.   

What is on your bucket list for destination races?

I’m not much of a destination race guy, mostly because anywhere I’d like to go to, I’d rather just enjoy the city and not add the stress of a race.  That said, I’d love to do something like a 5K or 10K in Paris and Barcelona. 

What type of shoes do you run in and why?

I’m a Brooks guy, through and through.  My main road trainer is the Adrenaline and I use the PureCadence 2 for my uptempo training.  For 5Ks, I’ll use the PureConnect.  When it comes to trail running, I use the Cascadia and PureGrit2.  Brooks shoes fit my feet well and are of a high quality.  I absolutely love the new Pure line, Brooks’ minimalist line, because they combine a minimalist feel with adequate cushioning so you aren’t beating your legs up too much.  As a novice trail runner, the Cascadias give me confidence on technical terrain with their grip and stability and I can’t wait to break out the Grits for shorter trail races. 

 What is some music (or Podcasts!) that you enjoy on the run?

Rock and roll!  Music like Led Zeppelin, Guns N Roses, and Slash’s solo album really get me going, though I usually save music for long runs.  When I do long runs on the treadmill (a sin for many readers of this, I know), I time my runs so that I have a Patriots/Red Sox/Bruins game to watch for the majority of the run.  I have to give a shout-out to the Joy The Baker podcast, which got powered me through my PR at the Black Cat 20 Miler and a great race at the Jones Realty 10 Miler in Amherst, MA.  It’s not conventional, but it worked well for me.  I’m also a fan of the Run, Run Live podcast by Chris Russell. 

You’ve read Born to Run, as did I, what about that story got you thinking about ultra marathons?

The whole idea of pushing one’s own limits and the descriptions of running in nature really spoke to me.  By no means would I call myself an experienced marathoner, but I’ve done 2 now and would be focusing more on improving time at this point than the experience of a marathon.  Born To Run made me really start thinking about what other running experiences were out there.   I also recently finished Scott Jurek’s book, Eat And Run, which only inspired me more to make the most of my first ultra marathon. 

10 in 60 (10 questions in 60 seconds. One or two word answers will suffice or the first thing that comes to mind)

1 1AM or PM runs? PM, unless I’m on the road for work, in which case it’s early morning.
2 2Favorite running fuel? Sport Beans, Gu Brew, and Accel Gel.
   3Water or Gatorade? For long races, watered down Gatorade.  Chocolate milk, beer and pickle juice after long runs.
44. Favorite running sock? Brooks Versatile Low socks, Zoot Ultra compression socks.
55. Tempo or LSD? Tempo.  As Maverick said, “I feel the need, the need for speed.”
66. Gadgets/Gear or Plain and simple? Garmin or Runkeeper/Strava.
77. Favorite running t-shirt (we all have one!) Brooks Rev  Sleeveless II
88. Boston Marathon 2009 and 2012
99. Post-race beer. Yea or Nay? And what type if yea? YEA. Whatever is cold!
  10. Most inspirational running quote? (can be more than one or two words obviously!). “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine


  1. Justin I keep saying it, but this is AWESOME! Can't wait to meet Michael at the Spring Classic, and Michael, sounds like we should get you out to volunteer at the TARC 100 - I think you would keep those poor souls moving with some great inspiration!

  2. Oh yeah and Justin - can't wait to hear about BRR!

  3. Thanks Josh! I'm having a blast doing the email interviews and getting to know the club. BRR went great!!!