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Ed Eyestone — August, 2015
Ed Eyestone is a two-time U.S. Olympian at the marathon distance, in 1988 in Seoul, Korea, and in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain after finishing in second place at both the 1988 and 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials. Ed was sixth at the World Cross Country Championships in 1984 and was a member of four U.S. medal winning teams, with two each Silver and Bronze medals. At the 1980 World X-C Championships he won the Junior Men's Bronze Medal. The 1985 graduate of Brigham Young University won four NCAA Championships in cross country (1984) at 5,000 meters (1985) and at 10,000 meters (1984/85). Ed won seven WAC Conference titles, was a ten-time All-American and won the prestigious NCAA Top Six Award given to the country's top six student athletes. At Mt. Sac in 1985 he set an American collegiate record for 10,000 meters of 27:41.1. He returned to his alma mater in 2000 as Brigham Young’s coach of men’s cross country and took over as Director of men’s and women’s track and field in 2013. Ed has coached five NCAA champions. On the roads his wins included the 1986 Bay to Breakers 12k in San Francisco, the 1990 Gate River Run 15k in Jacksonville and the 1991 Peachtree Road Race 10k in Atlanta. His top marathon finishes include fourth in the 1989 Chicago Marathon, seventh in the 1990 London Marathon and fifth at Chicago in 1990 in his personal best time of 2:10:59. He was five times the U.S. Road Racer of the Year. He graduated from Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace, Utah and was the Utah State High School State Champion in cross-country and track and field. His personal best times include: 2-mile – 8:23.1; 10k - 27:41.1; 15k – 43:59 and Marathon - 2:10:59. Eyestone has provided commentary for many televised running events, most notably NBC’s 2008 Olympic coverage. He wrote a monthly column for Runner’s World Magazine for about a decade. Ed resides in Orem, Utah with his wife Lynn. They have six daughters.
GCR:A lot of us started out running like you did as a teenager. Could you have imagined four decades in the running community as a student-athlete, professional runner, writer, broadcast commentator and coach?
EEIt’s been a fun way to go through life. When I started running back in junior high little did I know, as you said, that this crazy thing would occupy four decades of my life. It’s been great and I’ve enjoyed every step along the way. Each step led to another and it’s been kind of a natural and real fluid transition. I’ve enjoyed doing it all. I never really pigeon-holed myself as a runner. I felt like I liked to do a lot of things, and it just happened that I’ve been able to parlay whatever expertise I had in the running world to some of those other things I enjoy doing whether it be writing, broadcasting or whatever.
GCR:Another thing I find interesting from the media, fans or friends is that when they look at people who succeed – whether it is running or swimming or playing a musical instrument or something else – others tend to look at the outcome which in your case would be fast times or going to the Olympics or winning championships. But, as important as those are, how exciting was it for you to experience the whole process of becoming your best in addition to resulting in such great outcomes?
EEI think any person who is serious about their career will set lofty goals. But I think you’re exactly right that it’s not the ultimate attainment of those goals that is the important part – it’s the serendipitous process of working towards those goals that you later can look back on. It’s nice when you can accomplish some of those goals in the process, but certainly it is the day to day, in and out, consistent work towards attaining those goals that ultimately fills your day, fills your weeks, fills your years and then decades and ultimately a lifetime.
GCR:Many of us when we started running watched the Olympics and had this dream of maybe running in the Olympics. For you, as a child did you think you might one day be an Olympian and, when you did qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 1988, how exciting was it to accomplish such an amazing goal?
EEEver since my dreams were dashed of becoming a professional baseball player in seventh grade when I had to try out for that team sport – when I didn’t make that cut – it was the first time I realized that track was another sport that was going on in the spring besides baseball. From about the second week onward, I realized what a cool sport it was and that maybe rather than major league baseball, for me maybe the Olympic Games was the ultimate goal to strive towards. I was very fortunate to have amazing mentors as far as coaches and parents in my life that helped me to shape those goals. Certainly at the time in 1988 when I made that first Olympic team I had already gone through some Olympic letdown. In 1984 I was still in college, running quite well and had some Olympic dreams dashed when I failed to qualify in the 10,000 meters on the track. And so, once you experience the disappointment of not making the Olympic team and not knowing if you will still even be involved in the sport four years later, to then be able to come back and retool and make that first Olympic team it was tremendous excitement and enthusiasm and a feeling of accomplishment, but also a huge sense of relief. If I had to use one word, it was probably relief as much as anything that first time because so much work had gone toward the attainment of that goal.
GCR:As you mentioned, you were in college when you didn’t make the Olympic team in 1984. In a sport like track and field a lot of us don’t know if we are going to have a chance to compete at a high level or if we are going to end up out in the regular working world. We’re also becoming student-athletes. You were recognized as an Academic All-American and you won the prestigious NCAA Top Six Award given to the country's top six student athletes. How important was it to you to not focus too much on athletics and to be well-rounded by succeeding in the classroom?
EEMy parents are both educators. Despite the fact that I was involved in the sport for many years by that time, they made sure that education was an important part. I don’t know if my mom ever really understood this running thing even after I was involved in it twenty and thirty plus years. My parents were very good at being supportive, emphasizing the importance of education and helping with setting goals to work towards. Whether it was in the music world, where some of my sisters were involved in high school, or scholastically, or working toward a degree or this crazy thing called track and field. We knew the importance of hard work, determination and progressive goals. Those were all things that my siblings and I were blessed with. We had great parents to shape us and push us in that direction.
GCR:Earlier we spoke about the process versus outcomes. When we look back, you were only the third man to claim the collegiate Triple Crown, winning NCAA championships in cross-country and the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs in the same school year. Of course Gerry Lindgren did it when the distances were three and six miles and then Suleiman Nyambui also accomplished the feat. Did you think about it much at the time and how does it feel when you look back to realize you accomplished something done by so few?
EEI don’t think at the time I really appreciated it. That reminds me of the old saying that the older I get, the better I was. I went through it taking it one race at a time and wasn’t trying to do anything historic. I was always hoping to help my team win, whether it was at the conference meet or nationals. And if I won an event it was going to help the team. Now that I look back it was cool wining NCAAs four times and wining the Triple Crown, but at the time I think it was more the sports information department putting it together in a highlight package rather than anything I was consciously doing. I just set out to do my best in every race. The thing that I took the most pride in my career is that I was a guy who could be depended on to run consistently well in every time I raced. I love running World Cross Country for that very aspect – it was a team event and I wanted to pull my weight and be one of the top guys on the team to get the U.S. ranked as high as we could. We had a chance a few times to come back with World Championship team medals. I think as long as you are trying to do that on a consistent basis that you will have a pretty good career. I may not have jacked any grand slams in terms of Olympic medals, but I felt I could always be depended upon to deliver a good performance and run consistently well.
GCR:After working so hard for so long to do your best, now you have been the cross country coach at Brigham Young University for over a decade and in the past couple of years became the director of track and field for both the men’s and women’s teams. How do you find the challenge and the satisfaction of helping others set and achieve goals versus doing it for yourself with your talent, dedication and mentors?
EEWhen you get right down to it, when you’re an athlete it’s a pretty hedonistic approach. You’re focused inward and rightly so. To be your best you kind of have to be selfish in many ways. I had a lot of support with my wife and family that helped me to achieve my very best. But it was all about me. One of the fun things I enjoy at this stage of my life is having that opportunity to work with others and to be in a position of mentorship to help others set their goals and reach their goals – whether they be All-American or national champion or Olympian. And that’s fun. That’s more invigorating than the two decades when I ran and competed at a high level.
GCR:You’ve coached five national champions — Miles Batty, Kyle Perry, Josh McAdams, Josh Rohatinsky and a distance medley relay team – when they won those NCAA championships, in some ways was it even more exciting than when you won championships yourself?
EEYes, I think it was as I was able to experience the joy of my athletes and their being surrounded with family and friends. I enjoyed it more so. It is my job and I derive a lot of satisfaction from doing that, but seeing others reach their dreams is a real thrill.
GCR:For many years you just coached cross country and then those same distance runners during track season. Since becoming director of track and field, how do you like being the CEO of the track and field program and combining your thought process with their skill sets to help the team do their best? And has this invigorated you too since you have ultimate responsibility for more than just the distance runners?
EEIt’s certainly a different experience. I realized a few days into the new position how different it was from what I was enjoying as the men’s distance coach. The best thing about it is I’ve kind of been able to in some regards choose many of my staff members who are currently doing a bang-up, phenomenal job. I enjoy working with people and am happy with the coaches to formulate goals together and work in a direction to where we want to see the program end up. I’ve always worked with distance runners and it’s fun to see our sprint group getting stronger again. In recent history there have been some areas where we haven’t been as strong. It was as big a thrill for me to see our four by 400 meter relay team in the NCAA final as it was to see my 10,000 meter guy get third or my 800 meter guy get fifth. I was tickled at the NCAA Regionals when we won our heat of the 4x400 and some coaches behind us were saying, ‘That was BYU that won that heat?!’ I’ve been fortunate to have some very talented younger coaches on staff who are enthusiastic about their opportunities and they have done a great job. One thing I really enjoy is every Tuesday at ten o’clock when we sit down as a staff and go over various needs and what we will be working on for the next week.
GCR:Now you are helping to mentor coaches and athletes. But over the years what are major points you learned from each of your coaches and mentors that helped you to be a better runner, athlete or person?
EEWith my junior high track coach, I remember talking to him when I wanted to try out for the team after I was cut from the baseball team. I asked him if there was a try out process. What I learned was that he said, ‘You come out every day and try your hardest and you can be on the team. There are no cuts.’ So I found out the importance of coming out every day and showing up. I’ll be the first to admit that in seventh, eighth and ninth grade we kept it fun. We didn’t have any real structure, but I feel that is important for kids at that age. At the high school level I had a phenomenal coach that I am grateful to have had as a mentor. His name was Neville Peterman and he had been a high school runner. I could write a book about his wisdom, but when I think of him, I think of intensity and passion. He had both and was able to take us and teach us the culture of the sport and being an elite runner. Those of us who have been involved in the sport understand that culture, but for someone like me just out of junior high school, in many ways he has helped me to bridge these thoughts and to encourage my coaches to build a culture in their specific area that is a winning culture, a family environment and one that embodies excellence because that is what Coach Peterman did. My college coach, probably more than anything helped with a design and structure to workouts and physiologically-based workouts. All of those points were important from my coaches at all of those levels and, when I successfully combine them, I have found a system that will produce results.
GCR:Due to your spiritual background, you took a break from your running routine for a two-year mission in Portugal between high school and college. How did this shape you as a person and help you to possibly be an even better runner when you returned?
EEI think that any time you take some time away from something you love it gives you an opportunity to really gain an appreciation for what it is that you are doing. That as much as anything showed me how much I did love the sport and that I wanted to get back into it. I had another coach in college who emphasized balance in life and if you add balance then you really start getting things put into proper perspective. One of the reasons I think I was able to run at a pretty high level for a couple decades is that I felt like my life, though not perfect, had balance that kept everything in perspective. When running is your only area where you have something going on, inevitably when you have ups and downs you can get overuse injuries. Also, when you have injuries or bad races, life can get tough if all you have going on is running. When you have more balance, when a bad race comes along it depressurizes what otherwise could be a very difficult situation because you then realize there are many things going on in your life and this is just one of them. You understand that running is just one of the things that defines you as a human being and there is no reason to get worked up about a poor performance as this too shall pass and all will be okay. One thing the mission allowed was for me to get out and get perspective on things, learn a different culture and get an appreciation for working with people in other areas besides just running.
GCR:As much as this helped you to be well rounded as a person, you were also well rounded as a runner. You and other top runners over the past few decades like Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Craig Virgin, Todd Williams, and Alberto Salazar have succeeded on the track, cross country and roads over distances from the mile to the marathon. What do you think is common among these top runners, including you, which gives you the mindset and ability to do the training necessary to compete on all venues at a variety of distances?
EEThat’s just the way we did it back then here in the U.S. Some people might have been critical and thought we were spreading ourselves too thin. But that was how we worked from one season to the next. In the fall there was cross country and we did the best we could. Then there was indoor and outdoor and we just took it and ran the best we could and moved on. Cross country season for me also meant training for the World Cross Country Championships as I had a stretch of about eight or nine times I ran in them in early March. It was just another component for me as I was running indoor meets and still training for the strength of cross country. As I went from the college ranks to the professional ranks, many road races would take the place of the fall cross country season though I still ran World Cross. Then the natural progression was to the longer races on the road which was the marathon. To me it just made sense and I didn’t feel like I had to sacrifice any of those. I felt that with proper pacing and calendaring I could experience all of them and run well at them.
GCR:Let’s talk about your racing for a bit. As you mentioned, you were a member of many U.S. teams at World Cross and you helped bring home several silver and bronze team medals. How exciting was that to not only represent your country but to bring back team medals?
EEWe had some good teams back then and it seemed like many of our top distance runners competed. I think we could still be bringing back medals if all of our top guys chose to run. But the fact of the matter is that many runners are specializing and many don’t want to run it as it is such a difficult race. It seems like the trend back then was for more of your top guys to run. The guys now are running faster than we did on the track so if we put together our best team we could still bring home team medals. But that’s not the way a lot of runners think as they can probably train for other races and also have more of a financial windfall by doing it that way. I do remember that as I got into my mid-thirties I was no longer running like when I had my top finish, which I believe was sixth place, or when my places were in the low or mid-teens. I was running my guts out and placing in the twenties or thirties and realizing it was a really hard run to finish that low. So I thought that my efforts could maybe be better spent elsewhere. That was about the time that I think a lot of Americans decided that it may not be worth sacrificing so much time and effort, especially if we don’t have a top team.
GCR:What I found very interesting was when you were in college, raced at World Cross and came back three months later to win NCAA track championships. Was it such a springboard that after training for and running World Cross that the NCAA 10k on the track just wasn’t comparatively that difficult?
EEI got a huge boost from World Cross. I was barely in the top ten at the 1983 NCAAs running 10k on the track. Then the next March I was sixth at the World Cross Country Championships. Go figure. Finishing that high at Worlds gave me a big boost before I won my first NCAA 10,000 meters. It also gave me big confidence the next fall for NCAA cross country even though there were some good foreign athletes in college.
GCR:Let’s talk a bit about your NCAA championships. In 1984 you ran 28:05.3 to just beat Ibrahim Juma of New Mexico by less than a second. Was it tight the whole way with a final kick or did you move early?
EEMy memory of it is that we were at the University of Oregon and I was excited to run there as the crowd was educated about running and appreciated a good effort. I was blessed with many things in life, but real good closing speed was not one of them. So, in my races I would formulate a plan to get me to the finish line without getting outkicked hopefully. On that particular day I had to make a push from about 5k out. I wound things up and pushed as hard as I could. I had some help up front, but the last 1,200 meters I’m sure that I was the guy in the lead. I worked and got a pretty big lead. Juma kicked and closed in a bit but, fortunately, I had enough of a lead and enough finishing speed to hold him off. So that was fun. When you have an experience like that winning your first national championship at the University of Oregon it was a great feeling and fun moment for me.
GCR:That fall you won the NCAA Cross Country Championship by about fifty yards with Richard O’Flynn, Yobes Ondiecki, John Easker and Tom Ansberry in the top five and all finishing within ten seconds of you. Did you use a similar strategy?
EEThat particular race I was able to run in the pack for much of the way. There was kind of a downhill portion there on the Penn State course with a little more than a mile to go. I was able to work that section as an area where I was usually very good at competing was on downhills. I used it to open up a lead and just continued. I broke it open and was able to enjoy the last 400 meters a bit more so than in the previous track 10k win.
GCR:The next spring was when you doubled and won both the 5k and 10k at NCAAs. How hard was it to double and have another run as the 5k had a prelim?
EEWe did run prelims and finals. I had had a great spring as I’d run a 27:41 in the 10,000 meters and may have been ranked about 40-50 seconds ahead of Arturo Barrios who was ranked second on seed time. That was before Arturo got really fast. There were some very good people in both races – some solid people whom I really respected. I took it one race at a time as a complicating factor was the heat and humidity of Austin, Texas. I had mixed results in the heat as my freshman year I collapsed at NCAAs in the 10k and they had to carry me off of the track with a lap to go. I had that in my recent memory. Also the whole week was kind of in a cloud because we were going through a personal family tragedy as my brother was killed in a freak boating accident the week before that. I went directly from the funeral of my brother to Austin, Texas. My team had already flown down so it was kind of a fog of grief as that whole week rolled out. My family had already purchased tickets to the meet so during the day we all grieved together and during the evening I went out and ran. It actually ended up being a nice thing for the family as we were together in a couple of hotel rooms and I was glad that I was able to bring a little bit of comfort of some sort during what had been a difficult couple of weeks. It was more getting through the meet rather than celebration as I was just trying to help my family out. When it was all said and done I was grateful to have the support and it was obviously a big week.
GCR:I was unaware of those circumstances so it must have been a wave of emotions to have such highs and lows. Let’s move forward though now and discuss your transition to focusing on the marathon. What was your thought process behind moving up in distance?
EEI was a good 10,000 meter runner and a very good cross country runner, but I looked at maximizing my potential. Certainly running a 27:41 in college led to a possible argument being made that I could have stayed with that event and I may have got down to the low 27s. And that is a legitimate thought process. But one reason I did not stay at that level is I remember watching the 1983 World Championships 10,000 meters. That was a race that was more strategic with six guys together kicking and running the last lap in 53 seconds. I took a personal evaluation and didn’t know if I could run that fast if I was fresh, much less running 24 laps before that. So, my decision was one of maximizing potential. Yes, maybe I could have run low 27s, but in championships like the Olympic Games would I even stand a chance? Maybe I could have given it more of a go, worked on the strength side of things and raced to string the runners out, but I just felt like at least with the style of racing then that the 5,000 and 10,000 meters came down to big kicks. Long runs came easy to me so as far as the marathon I thought, ‘Why not?’ Frankly, in both 1988 and 1992 when I made the Olympic marathon team I still ran fast times for 10k. In fact, in 1992 I think I had the fastest time for an American at 10,000 meters. Track and Field News had left me off of the rankings as I had run a 27:52 or so up in Canada probably four weeks after the Olympic Trials marathon. So, I had the fastest qualifying time going into the Olympic Trials for track and field. In both 1988 and 1992 I had run the marathon trials as much as a hedge as a second chance of making the Olympic team. If it didn’t work out I would have given it a go at 10,000 meters, but in both cases it worked out and I made the squad.
GCR:You gave it one more attempt at making it to the Olympics in 1996, but it didn’t work out in your favor. Describe how those efforts played out.
EEIn 1996 I tried something different and went to Mexico to train with German Silva and some of the great Mexican marathoners and I went to the 1996 Olympic Trials marathon in what I thought was my best shape ever. But in hindsight I probably overcooked things a bit. But later that year I came back in the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters where Todd Williams won and I was nicely in second place with a big gap over third place late in that race. With about 400 meters to go the heat and humidity hit and the lights went out. So that prevented me from making my third Olympic team. Initially the move to the marathon was to put myself in the best position for Olympic medals and I thought that running the marathon might give me a better chance. And it did give me two opportunities to qualify for the Olympic Games.
GCR:Did you change your training much for the marathon or did you do more of what guys like Alberto Salazar and Craig Virgin did by training basically like 10k guys with a little more mileage and by lengthening their long runs?
EEThat probably describes my methodology the best. I continued doing what I was doing for the 10,000 meters and then added a longer long run. Looking back on it now when I coach people who are successful at marathons, the things I would have changed I learned from the Mexican marathoners. It would have helped if I had used some of their system earlier, but I was already 35 years old. I think I also didn’t do enough marathon pace training. I did a lot of longer 25 mile runs and tempo runs which typically were five or six milers at ten to fifteen seconds per mile faster than marathon race pace. But I didn’t do a lot of stuff right at marathon race pace.
GCR:That probably describes my methodology the best. I continued doing what I was doing for the 10,000 meters and then added a longer long run. Looking back on it now when I coach people who are successful at marathons, the things I would have changed I learned from the Mexican marathoners. It would have helped if I had used some of their system earlier, but I was already 35 years old. I think I also didn’t do enough marathon pace training. I did a lot of longer 25 mile runs and tempo runs which typically were five or six milers at ten to fifteen seconds per mile faster than marathon race pace. But I didn’t do a lot of stuff right at marathon race pace.
EEI do that now with marathon runners I coach for shorter runs in the 20 to 25 mile range, but I didn’t do that when I was running. I always ran my long runs at six minute pace, but they were also at altitude which added another element to the run. Sometimes from 15 to 18 miles I would pick it up and roll faster, but not at five minute pace. But I can see the benefit of that with my guys I coach and I add in a three mile stretch at marathon pace for them in the latter part of their long runs.
GCR:Let’s move onward to your Olympic marathon experiences. How was it the first time around in 1988 in Seoul, Korea on a hot day for running twenty-six plus miles?
EEI think in 1988 I had the mentality of ‘no guts, no glory.’ I decided to run with the lead pack as long as I could, hope that lightning would strike and I was successfully in that lead pack through about sixteen miles. Then the heat and humidity affected me, it turned into a race that wasn’t a good race for me and I struggled and finished up.
GCR:How was it different the second time around in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain?
EEI went in with the mentality that it was going to be hot and humid again and so I wanted to run more of a controlled effort. The three Americans – Spence, Kempainen and me – were all fairly close together in the same pack. We all had the same strategy and we kind of drew strength for one another as a result. But as much as anything it was one of those events where I was moving up and moving up and moving up until late in the race I was passing some of the favorites around 17 or 18 miles like Ibrahim Hussein, Steve Moneghetti and maybe Rob DeCastella. I felt like things were really coming together and then when we made a turn around 21 or 22 miles someone said, ‘You’re doing great - you’re in 19th place.’ I thought, ‘What? I thought at that point I was in the top ten. The last five miles I ran as well as I could as we ran up the hill and into the Olympic Stadium. I passed some more runners and Spence, Kempainen and I were all on the track together. Steve was 12th, I was 13th and Bob was 17th. As a team, if they were scoring it, I think we would have been second behind the Japanese. Overall it was an outstanding effort, but we came up a little bit short. It would have been helpful to know where I was in the race which is one of the more difficult aspects of the marathon. But I thought that was much more indicative of my fitness and running level. I certainly would have loved to have been in the top ten, and Steve and I were only maybe a minute and twenty seconds out of the Bronze medal. There were a lot of good guys packed in together in a very short distance.
GCR:I think Steve was telling me that one of the runners who ended up placing in the medals made a move and he thought it was too early, but it ended up working for him.
EEIt was definitely one of those cases where if we had been a little more aggressive earlier I don’t think it would have been outside of the realm of possibility that we could have finished in the medals as we weren’t that far out of the medals based on time. Usually there wasn’t such a compression of runners from the medals back ten more places, but part of it was because we chose to run more conservatively and we did have some run left in us in the end.
GCR:At both the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, in addition to your racing, did you enjoy the Olympic experience, participate in Opening or Closing Ceremonies or watch other sports?
EEI took the opportunity at both Games to go to the Opening Ceremonies. Since the men’s marathon isn’t until the last day of the Olympics I didn’t see any problem with just enjoying it. It was part of the process of the overall experience and I would definitely recommend it to any Olympians out there in the future. It’s one thing to be an Olympic tourist, screw around and end up sacrificing your best performance. But with good management you can still enjoy some of the keystone events. The Opening Ceremonies is one of them, particularly with the marathon two and a half weeks later, so you aren’t going to feel any aftereffects in your legs.
GCR:Your other outstanding marathon finishes included placing fourth in the 1989 Chicago Marathon, seventh in the 1990 London Marathon in 2:12:00 and fifth that same year in Chicago in 2:10:59. So while you were in that 2:10 to 2:12 range did you think you could drop to that 2:07 to 2:08 level or did it seem like you were maxing out where you were?
EEI felt like those times were a possibility given my PRs at the shorter distances. Given my track chops I felt like there was a 2:08 there if I found the right way to approach it and unfortunately that didn’t ever come. If I look back now and do a true analysis of my form, I wasn’t the most efficient runner in the world. I had a lot of back kick and probably more bounce than many true marathoners. Also, if push comes to shove, if you compare my 10,000 meter time I ran as a twenty-three year old with my best time in the marathon that would indicate I was a better 10,000 meter runner even though it was in the marathon that I made two Olympic teams. I never did find the right package to medal and I don’t have any regrets, but maybe I wasn’t as efficient as a marathon runner as I needed to be. Since then I’ve found some things that may have helped me to run faster, like with athletes I’m working with now who are competitive and consistent. So as a coach it’s fun to experiment with some things that I think would have been nice for me, but not now with me as a 54 year old.
GCR:Some runners continue on racing as a Masters athlete and you could have done so as you were racing well in your late thirties. Did you give much thought to master’s racing?
EEOnce I was close to forty years old I wasn’t somebody who seriously entertained the notion of competing as a Master runner because I was still competing as an elite runner until I was 38 of 39. Once my times started slowing down, the thought of running even slower as a Master was not appealing.
GCR:While you were focusing on the marathon for the Olympics, you also won some big road races at shorter distances including the 1986 Bay to Breakers 12k, 1990 Gate River Run 15k in Jacksonville, Florida and Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race 10k in 1991. Did anything stand out from those three races, which from me looking as a fan of the sport, were three pretty big races to win?
EEI took pride in being a road warrior. From 1988 to 1992 I was named American Road Runner of the Year five times. I felt like I was the American out there who was the guy people were looking at on a consistent basis. If I wasn’t winning a race, I was usually the top American. There were some races over the years where I was the last American to have won it, whether it was Peachtree, Bay to Breakers or Bloomsday. At Falmouth I came close and was second a couple of times. Some of the big, well known established races in the U.S. and around the world gave me a chance to travel, do well, have fun and I took some pride in the fact that I was going to be the top American in most races in which I ran.
GCR:You raced at a high level at 5000m, 10000m, 15k and the marathon. What is your favorite racing distance?
EETo tell you the truth I loved cross country and I loved World Cross. There was something about cross country that for me was a good fit. Maybe it was the footing on the grass. Maybe it was the undulations of the terrain. Maybe it was the fact that at World Cross Country level it was run at just a breakneck speed to begin with and was a matter of holding on for all you’re worth. Maybe it was the fact that World Cross wasn’t generally coming down to a kick but to who was the toughest, gutsiest guy out there who could stick his head in it and not be intimidated by having to start fast and go elbow-to-elbow with a real strong international field. If you look at World Rankings and placings and being consistently on U.S. teams, then I would have to say that cross country was one of my better events for sure.
GCR:We’ve talking about a lot of racing, so let’s talk some about the training which helped you to race so well. What were some of your favorite stamina and speed workouts in college and afterward when you transitioned to the roads?
EEMy bread and butter was long intervals on Tuesday, a tempo run on Thursday and a long run on Saturday. A runner can do a lot worse with having anything different than that. I didn’t do that every week, but there was a variation of a long interval like mile repeats early in the week. The tempo runs were generally a five or six mile run that was at a pretty intense lactate threshold level. They weren’t at marathon pace, but usually ten to fifteen seconds a mile faster than marathon pace. The long runs were 20 to 25 miles on the weekend. That week in and week out, consistently done, is going to lead to some good results. I would do other things like cruise intervals in lieu of a tempo run. For example, I would do ten to twelve 1,000 meter repeats with a 30 second recovery. That was a great workout. I would sometimes do three or four repeats of 3k or two miles with about a five minute recovery. Those were solid workouts.
GCR:Did you ever do any of the in and out 200s alternating 30 and 40 seconds or something similar?
EEI would do those, but I would do maybe two miles worth. I certainly could have done more. I liked doing that where I varied the pace. I have the guys I coach do that on occasion. They run ‘thirty forties’ until they can no longer hit those times. It wasn’t a workout I would do until I could no longer continue. And again, any workout I was doing was done at 5,000 or 6,000 feet of altitude which adds a degree of difficulty.
GCR:Let’s go back a bit to where you started and to your high school running. What spurred you on toward becoming a top competitor before you went to college?
EEI had a successful high school career, but it was injury-plagued. Given how injury free I was from college on, it’s amazing that in high school I had a stress fracture in both my junior and senior years. I was doing something wrong for my body at that time. Winning the state meet my senior year in cross country by over a minute was kind of good. In track season my senior year I ended up with a stress fracture right before the state meet which kept me out. I really was kind of under the radar. Had there been a national cross country meet it would have helped. The Kinney meet, which is now the Footlocker meet, started in the fall of 1979 and I had graduated in the spring, so I missed out on that. It would have been interesting to see how I matched up against the better runners from that era. Ultimately I ended up beating all of them, but it would have been fun in high school to mix it up with those guys. I knew particularly my junior and senior year that I was under the radar as I hadn’t posted any knockout times. I think I ran a 9:16 two-mile indoors at the Simplot games in 1979. That was a good time because it was at altitude, but nothing amazing. If you converted for the altitude it would have dropped it down to about a 9:05. It was a true two-mile and a solid time, but nothing necessarily earth-shattering.
GCR:How strongly did colleges recruit you for their distance programs?
EEI was recruited by local schools, but not a lot. There was a smattering of schools across the country looking at me. I got something from military academies. My mom ironically in the summers was going back to Penn State to work on her doctorate. She was an educator in high school, but the summers before my sophomore, junior and senior year she was studying at Penn State. Like any good mom, she had visits with the track coach at the time who was Harry Groves. Harry has a great story that he told to me years later: I’ve got this little old mom coming into my office and she tells me, ‘my son is such a good young man,’ and ‘he is the best runner in Utah.’ And Harry said he’s thinking,’ Yeah, right lady.’ I had so many moms in here telling me the same story. I was always very nice to your mother as she was a wonderful lady when she came in to talk. But I didn’t know anything of her son. I was always cordial and didn’t think much of it. And it just so happened that your senior year in cross country we were hosting the NCAA Cross Country Championships at Penn State and I was working the chute when you came in first place. Your mom was there in the chute and gave you a big hug. Then she caught my eye and said, ‘Harry, I told you he was a good runner!’ That’s one of my favorite mom stories and it’s a totally true story.
GCR:When I spoke with Steve Spence he mentioned wanting to go to Penn State as did Bill Reifsnyder. But Harry Groves turned down all three of you. If he would have brought the three of you in to Penn State he would have had a great team.
EEWe would have all been around the same era. We would have won NCAAs in cross country for sure.
GCR:I went to Appalachian State and am still ranked something like number five on the all-time ASU 10,000 meter list, so I was excited to hear about the ladder tradition at Brigham Young. Could you explain a bit about it?
EEYou may even be able to find a video example of it on the BYU athletics website in the track and field section. We have a top ten board in all of the events for both indoor and outdoor track and field. I think that part of building a culture and a tradition are making sure you have celebrations and traditions when people do good things. Track and field is a hard enough sport with little recognition, so you really need to take the opportunity when athletes do well. One thing we’ve instituted at a team level, and it has enthusiastic response from members of the team, is when somebody cracks the top ten board we have the ladder ceremony. When somebody makes the top ten it means that someone else was bumped, so the event coach will get up and talk about the person who was bumped. The coach may know them personally or they may have been teammates or the coach finds out something to tip the hat to them. The coach also may find out what they are doing now in addition to their success as an athlete to immortalize them in some regard. After that takes place the coach tells about what the athlete did to move into the top ten and the circumstances. Then the athlete comes up and the teams chants, ‘ladder, ladder, ladder’ while the person climbs the ladder to take off the athletic tape uncovering their name to thunderous applause. The athlete then has the opportunity to say a few remarks. During the course of our indoor and outdoor seasons, if it’s been a successful weekend, we may have one or two athletes make the board. So after our weekly team meeting and laps run together we have a team meeting and culminate the day with the ladder ceremony. It’s been well received and a good part of the team culture. It’s also a nice part of setting goals. With any recruit who comes in I take them by the top ten board and let them know our expectations are that before they leave BYU they will be on the board. The times are getting seriously fast in some events. In the men’s 5,000 meters indoors I think it takes around 13:47 to make the top ten. That’s a big goal. It sets a degree of expectation in the minds of our athletes and gives them goals to work towards.
GCR:We have another avocation in common as we are both guitar players and I read that you tend to use your musical ability to have some fun with the team.
EEI get pretty close with my student athletes and there is a lot of minutia, a lot of stupid stuff that happens like forgetting a driver’s license when we take a trip by plane or having an amazing race or falling in a race. At the end of each cross country season I take an opportunity to lampoon the team and have some fun by coming up with a song that encapsulates some of the silly stuff that transpires during the year. Sometimes the songs are inspiring, but most of the time they just poke fun at the goofiness of being a collegiate cross country runner and some of the stupid stuff that happens. It’s another fun tradition that we do and my daughters always enjoy it. The athletes understand that when we go the extra mile that we care. They often will come up with their own renditions as well depending on the talent pool and desire of the athletes. We do that during cross country season, but maybe in the future we’ll do it with the track team as well.
GCR:What is your current health and fitness regimen?
EEI try to run every day – six days a week with Sunday off. I usually try to get in about five miles a day. On the weekend if I’m feeling good I’ll run about an hour or longer. I feel pretty good at six feet two and with my weight vacillating between 165 and 170 pounds. I’m doing pretty good there though that is still up maybe thirty pounds from my racing days. I think that as much as anything is what slows me down. I do feel pretty healthy. I’ve got a couple of sore Achilles tendons. I have Haglund’s deformity which is a bump on both of my Achilles tendons. It makes the beginning of every run a little sensitive and if I run a little hard I can tell the next morning. But I can maintain by massage, rolling them out and not overdoing it. There are some medical procedures you can go through but they don’t sound like fun so I’ll probably be content to have sore Achilles tendons for the foreseeable future.
GCR:When you are asked to sum up in a minute or two the major lessons you have learned during your life from the discipline of running, being a part of the running community, your faith and family, and helping others, what you would like to share with my readers that will help them on the pathway to reaching their potential athletically and as a person?
EEI don’t plan to be any great dispenser of wisdom, but when I hold track camps for a couple of weeks every summer, the runners are always asking for the magic workout. There are really no magic bullet workouts out there. The magic is really in the consistency. The number one thing a runner has to do to go from good to great or to move from great to excellent, superior and World Class is consistency. The day in day out work and staying healthy are important. If you’re running every day and not staying healthy, then maybe it’s your fault. Or maybe it‘s not your fault and you need to change your workouts. I’ve met with a lot of different coaches and seen a lot of different styles out there, but the number one key is to be consistent with your mileage, consistent with your workouts and consistent with your health. If you’re consistent the same advice applies in your career or in anything that you choose to do. I came up with an equation when I was talking about a colleague of mine and I had said she was very competent. Someone was surprised that the best I could say about her was that she was competent. I said, ‘If you are consistently competent, then you will be eventually excellent.’ That’s when I came up with the equation that ‘C squared equals E squared.’ Consistent competence equals eventual excellence. I don’t have that on vinyl stickers on my wall, but I believe in that.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsI still enjoy pulling out my guitar now and then. All hobby guitarists can go several weeks without playing, but if I hear something on the radio that sounds cool then I might pick up my guitar, get on the internet and find out how to play it. I play acoustic guitar in all types of genre that have good acoustics to the songs. Tablature music is great for finger style guitar pieces and I enjoy it
NicknamesNot really, except that Ed is a nickname. I am occasionally called ‘Fast Eddie.’ My team calls me ‘Easy E’ maybe because there was a rapper with that name. I don’t think that’s the reason though I have rapped for them before. It’s more just my general overall nature. I’m not a dictatorial tyrant as a coach, though I am demanding. They do know that ultimately I’m pretty easy-going. They’ve made up a couple of t-shirts with old pictures of me with ‘Easy E’ underneath
Favorite moviesI love pop culture and I love movies. I don’t know if I really have any favorite genre. There are lots of sports movies I like. I also like historic movies, biographic movies and those that are inspirational and show men or women overcoming obstacles. I enjoy watching the Oscars
Favorite TV showsWhen we were visiting Yellowstone recently and it was raining we watched quite a bit of ‘Modern Family.’ Maybe I shouldn’t admit that
Favorite musicEric Clapton ‘Unplugged’ I listen to over and over and over again. It was out toward the end of my running career. I like the music of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. I like the guitar work and finger picking styles in his solo work as it’s really cool
Favorite booksI enjoy historic biographies and memoirs. Right now I’m reading the rowing book, about the 1936 Olympic team. I just finished reading ‘Running with the Buffaloes’ for the first time. It was good – in fact, we assigned it to our team to read. As I read it I nodded my head as I had experienced much of the same type of story. But it was fun to read someone else’s experience of a similar thing. ‘Unbroken’ was very good. Books don’t necessarily have to focus on running or the Olympics to be good for me, but it doesn’t hurt either. One of my guilty pleasures was ‘Lonesome Dove’ which I loved both as a book and television mini-series years ago
First carI was one of these guys who went through college without a vehicle. I was so focused on running. So my first car was a little Toyota MR2 that I won in a race back in New Jersey. So it was nice, but it was also that I was 24 years old so had done a lot of walking around up to that point. Our family car was a Dodge Dart
Current carA silver Toyota FJ Cruiser that works really great because I can throw the PowerAde in the back, it can slosh around and I don’t have to worry about it
First JobIn high school I worked at a place where you hand-rolled your own pizzas called, ‘Mama Mia’s.’ I also worked at a cement mixing place where I learned how to operate a front end loader. It was called ‘Bob’s U-Cart Cement’ and we’d mix up concrete by the yard. We would put it in trailers and people could take the trailers and do their driveway or whatever else they were working on
FamilyHaving a family keeps it real. They are focused on if you’ve made an Olympic team. They have a need and want for attention and they deserve it. My kids just want a dad and I highly recommend it. I do have six daughters and don’t know anything different. We took them one at a time and are grateful that we had so many. My oldest daughter is twenty-seven and just got married. Now with other daughters off to college we are down to two in the house. My youngest two are 16 and 13 years old and we are trying to enjoy the time we still have with them
PetsCurrently we have no pets. But one daughter has made a contract with my wife who is the ultimate gatekeeper because she is home when I am on the road and would have to spend time helping taking care of a pet. My daughter’s contract is that if she can keep up piano practicing and keep her room clean for a year, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a puppy. I think we’re soon to be a dog family. We’ve had a dog in the past and we are soon going to have one again. The one we had was actually a little Yorkie Terrier and he used to go on runs with me. This was in my coaching and slow running days, but Yorkies can run if you get the right one. He would go on three or four mile runs with me. It was kind of nice
Favorite breakfastI’m pretty simple. I’m fine with a bowl of frosted mini-wheats and a banana. That’s probably more typical than favorite
Favorite mealMeat and potatoes. I’m old school that way. My wife can cook a real good Sunday roast with mashed potatoes and gravy
Favorite beveragesWater is good, but it’s boring. If I’m going to get a soft drink it will usually be a Cherry Coke
First running memoryI can remember my dad going down to the local YMCA in the winter and running some laps on one of these circuits that was probably about fifteen laps to the mile sort of tracks. When I was maybe six or seven years old I ran some laps with him when he did longer running
Running heroesI was eleven years old during the 1972 Olympics and remember Dave Wottle and watching that 800 meter race live. I was pretty pumped about his win
Greatest running momentsMaking that first Olympic team and both of those Olympic Trials marathons in 1988 and 1992 because there is so much pressure. For those who have gone through it they can appreciate it. Not that it’s everything, but people can understand to a certain point if you are an Olympian. It can define you to some extent. So making that first team and then coming through the next time when the pressure was on were big moments. All of my NCAA titles were big as well because I was running for my school as well as myself
Worst running momentThe 1996 Olympic Trials 10,000 meters was tough because I had battled back from being overcooked at the marathon. I was thinking I’d go back to my roots at 10,000 meters and the fact that I ran the prelims there in Atlanta and advanced, and then was in second place in the finals late, late, late in the race with a big lead on third place and then just crumbled in the heat with a lap and a half or two laps to go when all I really had to do was to just keep one foot in front of the other and I would have been fine – that was probably my low point. I was very disappointed. I was also 36 years old and realized this was it. At the same time it was short-lived, I was able to come back and be realistic and I had a lot of supporters to get me through
Childhood dreamsMajor league baseball. In our generation baseball was bigger than basketball and even football to some extent and I enjoyed the game
Funny memoriesEvery season something stupid or embarrassing happens. The story I tell the most is from my freshman year in college when I think I was the only true freshman who had qualified for the NCAA 10,000 meters. I was running in the final and back then All-Americans only went six places deep. I was running in sixth place late in the race and I had a similar experience to what I had in the 1996 Olympic Trials in the heat. I started to weave and was escorted off the track. I went unconscious for a time. When I came to one of my coaches said, ‘Ed that was amazing. I want to let you know that today you ran like a horse.’ And this was a guy who had a farm background which I did not. I wasn’t really appreciating the significance or compliment he was paying me. So then he said, ‘You know what? You can take a mule and you can work him until it gets tired and it will stop. You can push it or pull it or try to motivate it but it’s not going to do anything. But if you have a good horse you can run that horse until it drops over completely exhausted or completely dead. Today you ran like a horse.’ So that made me feel a little bit better to know that he could feel I had given it that kind of effort. I use that story to emphasize the importance of not giving up, doing your very best, working hard and enjoying the experience along the way. Even though I wasn’t an All-American my freshman year I learned a lot and it gave me strength to come back and get it done at a later date
Favorite places to travelI enjoy the mountains. I enjoy getting up and running when I can in the mountains. Probably my favorite getaway is what I call my shrine. It’s on the Wasatch Mountains Bonneville short line. If I have time on Saturday morning and want to get out on a longer run I’ll go out on it and I enjoy being there. In terms of vacations – give me a warm place with a sandy beach and that works out well too. We went on a cruise out of Port Canaveral recently on the Royal Caribbean line. It was my first cruise and was kind of fun. This trip we just took to Yellowstone was great this time. We saw a couple grizzlies and then some wolves that were fighting over an elk carcass which was kind of cool. Then we saw a mother bear and her two cubs up in a tree and there were also plenty of bison. In terms of wildlife this was our most successful trip to Yellowstone which was fun