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Khadevis Robinson — February, 2016
Khadevis ‘KD’ Robinson has represented the United States at two Olympic Games, in 2004 in Athens and in 2012 in London, at 800 meters. He also was a member of seven straight U.S. World Championships teams at 800 meters from 1999 to 2011. KD narrowly missed making two more Olympic teams as he was fourth at both the 2000 and 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials at 800 meters by 0.27 and 0.06 seconds, respectively. Khadevis won eight U.S. Championships at 800 meters – four indoors and four outdoors. His big 800 meter victories include twice each at the Prefontaine Classic, Reebok Grand Prix and Adidas Classic. KD’s biggest win over top competition was at the 2011 Diamond League Rome Golden Gala 800 meters where he beat two World Champions and an Olympic Gold Medalist. He was 1998 NCAA 800 meter champion, four-time NCAA All-American and six-time conference Gold Medalist while competing for Texas Christian University. Khadevis has coached for several years including collegiate stints at UNLV and Ohio State before taking his present position as distance coach at Louisiana State University. His personal best times include: 600m - 1:15.23; 800m - 1:43.68 and 1,500m - 3:46.74. KD was the 1998 TCU Male Athlete of the Year. He earned his undergraduate degree at TCU in Social Work and Master's degree in Public Administration from California State University, Los Angeles. Khadevis resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife, Stephanie, and their three children. He was very gracious to spend an hour and a half on the telephone in early, 2016.
GCR:Let’s start with your achievement of competing in two Olympic Games, which you did in 2004 in Athens and 2012 in London. What did it mean at the time to you the first time you became an Olympian and what does this accomplishment mean to you now that your competitive days have ended to know that you are forever a U.S. Olympian?
KDIt’s interesting because my experience was bittersweet. Staring out I thought in 2000 when I was ranked pretty highly going into the Trials that I had a very good chance of making the team. So when I made the team in 2004 it meant so much more because of how I missed out in 2000 when I was in fourth place and just missed making the team. When I made it I was super excited because those things only come around every four years. It was a goal I worked super hard for and I made a lot of sacrifices. When it came to fruition it is something that is hard to explain.
GCR:You had two narrow misses of making Olympic teams as, like you just mentioned, you finished fourth by 0.27 seconds in 2000 and then eight years later you finished fourth by 0.06 seconds in 2008. How disappointing were these close calls, what did you learn from them and how much were they ‘fuel for the fire’ that helped you to make the Olympic team the next time around in both instances?
KDThere is a great quote that says, ‘a setback is a setup for a comeback.’ For me, that is what it was. In 2008, for probably a month leading up to the Trials, I was in the best shape I had ever been in my life. I was extremely fit and, to be honest, that was part of the problem. I went to the Prefontaine Classic and ran well. I can’t remember exactly, but I was like third place in 1:44 mid or 1:44 low. I was so upset that I didn’t win and I didn’t run faster, that I went back and I over trained. When I went to the Trials I was over the hump – I had gone a little too far, so I ended up not making that team. But it was maybe one of the best things that ever happened to my running career and for me in life. The reason is I learned a lot about myself during that time. There is a quote that ‘adversity introduces a man or woman to themselves’ and that was the ultimate adversity. Not only did I not make the team, but it was at a point when I was 32 years old, I was married, and I had a son. My life had progressed, I had started to move forward, and so continuing to aim for another chance to make the team in four more years was something I had to weigh heavily in mind and heart.
GCR:You missed out that time, but if you look at the time period from 1999 to 2012, there were eleven opportunities to make an Olympic or World Championship team and you made nine of them. You represented the United States at seven outdoor World Championships and two Olympic Games from, plus indoor World Championships. How exciting was it to pull on the USA jersey and to represent your country the first time and was it always a thrill?
KDFor me it was. I wasn’t a guy who was recruited heavily in high school. I didn’t run summer youth track and AAU track. I wasn’t familiar like most runners are with those big meets. I didn’t get to a point where I thought about running in those meets until I was a senior in college. Once I ran professionally my mind set was that I needed to be all in and do everything I could because I wasn’t sure if I had the talent level of those I was competing with. For me to put that much work in and to see it worked out was always a relief. Running was always a positive thing, so I never took it lightly when I made a U.S. team.
GCR:In the World Championships and Olympics there were several times where you didn’t get out of your heat, then a few times where you made the semi-finals but didn’t advance to the final. How tough is it to make finals on the World stage and if you could have ‘do-overs,’ is there anything you could do differently that may have resulted in better outcomes?
KDTo be quite honest with you, the first round and the semi-finals are your final because if you don’t get out of them that is the final for you. The semi-finals are so tough in the men’s and women’s races because there are so many who are so tough and within a small range. A lot of times it isn’t who is the most fit, but who can put it all together on that day and not make many mistakes. What I found was happening to me was at the time I had a problem with sleeping especially when I was out of my home. I work very well with a schedule of going to sleep at the same time, eating the same food and so on. Whenever I got off schedule my sleeping wasn’t as good. Not because I wouldn’t lie down, but everything would be a bit off. So it took everything out of me just to make a team. That was at the top of my talent level and skill level. Making a team about tapped me out, so the challenge was how to peak once and then go back to prepare for another peak to get ready for the championship race.
GCR:Were you able to figure out how to do better at peaking twice?
KDI don’t think personally I did the best job of doing that. Sometimes I got off my schedule and then tried to get back on schedule. Sometimes I may not have raced enough. That’s the art of coaching and being an athlete. For me, I took so much time and energy going into the U.S. Championships to be really prepared. Then I went to Europe and usually race well. I would be in the mix and get some top three finishes and good times. Then I had to go from that to another peak and I don’t think I ever got that correctly. It was mostly my fault because I probably trained too hard over those summer months when my coach wanted me to train a bit less.
GCR:When observers evaluate athletic careers, they often look at championships and records. Eight times you have won U.S. Championships at 800 meters with four outdoors and four indoors and you went sub-1:44 for 800 meters. When you look at your talent level, training and dedication, how do you evaluate your own running career?
KDIf you would have asked anybody if they thought I would have accomplished what I did based on where I was coming out of high school, none of them, I mean literally zero, would have said I would have accomplished what I did. Probably the only person who met me during my early running career and though I had the potential to do ‘a, b and c’ is Coach John McKenzie, who recruited me out of high school. I wasn’t someone who was considered a big talent and who had a lot of schools coming after me because I only ran 1:53 in high school. Going into college it was the same. Even my senior year, when I won nationals, people still didn’t know who I was. So, my point is, what I was able to do was to maximize my talent and my skill set. Later people could look at my history, and I also believe this – that maybe I should have accomplished more. If you look after the fact, based on what I learned and how I developed my body that could be true, but originally that wasn’t the case. I do think that I got as much out of myself as I could. At the bigger races, like the Olympics and World Championships, I don’t think it was a mental or physical thing, but it was more of a planning and preparation thing. That’s the type of person I am – a planner and I prepare. None of my races or anything in life is just by default or accident. It is all by design. I have a goal and I’m going to work hard for it. I have a plan. When I was in school I did really well – but I studied. I wasn’t one of those people who couldn’t study. I didn’t cram the night before. I would study for three weeks before big exams. I think I maximized 99.5 percent of my talent.
GCR:This reminds me of one of the local cross country teams here in central Florida. About ten years ago the Lake Brantley Patriots’ cross country team shirt had the slogan, ‘Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.’ That sounds like what you did. Do you have any further comments on that?
KDYes, there are other quotes like that such as ‘Piss poor preparation equals piss poor performance’ and ‘Piss poor performance equals pain.’
GCR:Before we move on to some other areas, let’s look at the Olympic experience. What is an outstanding memory from each of your two Olympic Games from the Opening or Closing Ceremonies, the cities, the people or other highlights when you were in Athens and London?
KDFor the Athens Olympics our training camp was in Crete and we stayed at a place called the Pilot Beach Resort. I absolutely loved that pace. The person that owned it was an amazing guy and it was an amazing place. Another important thing was someone else had a race before I did and I remember her saying, ‘When you get to the stadium, just take it all in, take a deep breath, look at the crowd and realize that it’s the Olympics and I’m here.’ That always stood with me. In 2004, because we were in Crete, I didn’t go to the Opening Ceremonies and that almost became one of my biggest regrets. If I hadn’t made another Olympic team I never would have gone to an Olympic Opening Ceremony as an athlete. I ended up making it in 2012 and the Opening Ceremonies were absolutely amazing. It was phenomenal. It was remarkable. I can’t say enough about it. The Olympic Games are a great event and my wife was able to attend both Games. My two sons went to London- my whole family except my daughter who is a year and a half old. I think the Olympics are an event that everybody should go to and attend if they have the opportunity to experience them.
GCR:Did you watch many other track and field events, attend other Olympic sporting competitions or hang out with any athletes from the U.S or foreign nations?
KDWe have that option and I did it some, but before my race I was trying to stay focused. You’ve got to understand that at the Olympics there is so much going on and not in just your sport. I’m a person that loves history and going to museums and going to cities and experiencing the food and the culture and the language and the religion. I would experience that and often by myself because lots of people didn’t want to do those things.
GCR:Abdi Abdirahman was on every one of the World and Olympic teams with which you competed. Did you become good friends with Abdi or any other athletes?
KDHere’s a story about Abdi and I when we were on a train in London. People started talking with us and we had a long conversation which was amazing as they were asking all sorts of questions. It was right before we got off the train and one gentleman said that if we ever wanted to go to a Boston Red Sox game that we should let him know and contact him. He gave us his business card and I believe he was the Chairman of the Boston Red Sox. We were talking to this guy for a while on the train and it was really packed full of people and you wouldn’t have known who he was. The point I’m making is that you can meet anyone.
GCR:In this age of professionalism in track and field there are many athletes who have lengthy careers and who have an opportunity to get to know each other. What friendships stand out that you developed within the sport, whether it was in your event or with athletes who competed in other events?
KDI built some really, really strong relationships, even with athletes in my event. David Krummenacker and I would go to restaurants and go out to see the cities. He’s another one of those guys that likes museums and likes culture. Gary Reed from Canada was another of those guys. In Paris we’d go out to Notre Dame, in Holland we’d go to the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank Museum. I became friends with a lot of the athletes because that is who I am. I’m a social person by nature. I’m very active and I like new experiences. I think that’s one of the reasons God put us here. Of course if we are blessed to have this opportunity, then it is up to us to use it. I always knew that I was not just a track athlete, but it was a vehicle for me to experience other things in life and to share whatever talents God gave me.
GCR:You ran for the Santa Monica Track Club for your post collegiate career, and were coached by and used former teammate Johnny Gray's hard front-running style. What were the major items that Johnny did to help you achieve your potential as a competitor?
KDBecause Johnny had been through it as an athlete, he showed me the work and the racing came hand in hand. Everybody trained hard, but sometimes you were training so hard that you knew you were either going to race lights out or not well at all. And we wanted to run lights out. I looked up to him and how he ran so well for so long. That’s why I could still run well at 36 years old. The way we train and the way we coach, you can run for a while. It’s a system and the system works. If you do our training system properly, you can race up to age 41 or 42 and still be running well. That is the biggest thing he taught me along with having the right mindset. Johnny is very competitive in the way you think when you are running, the way you think when you are leading, and the way you think when you are following - all of those little things. Wilson Kipketer said it best that he could always do well in the 800 meters because he knows how to play it, just like playing poker. If you know how to play it, you will do pretty well. From Johnny I learned how to actually run 800 meters.
GCR:You ran some good races at the 600 meters and 600 yard distances indoors and ran sub-45 relay splits in college. Do you think that if 600 meters had been official outdoor track championships distance that it possibly could have been your best distance?
KDI could run the 400 meters and 600 meters, but I focused on the 800 meters. I was kind of an in-betweener. I wasn’t necessarily as fast as many of the 800 meter guys. I could run 45 for the 400 and 3:46 something for the 1,500. I was always focusing on the event I was going to be in. I’m one of those people, if I have a goal and I don’t accomplish it, I’m going to get frustrated – I’m going to get upset. For me I wanted to accomplish my goals in the 800 meters before I thought about the 400, though I was on the 4x400 relay indoors at the World Championships in 1999. With my body type and my history, I was probably more of a 400/600 meter guy, but I never really did that type of work.
GCR:The 800 meters is a beautiful event because it is the intersection of 400/800 meter runners whose strength is more speed-oriented and 800/1,500 meter runners whose forte is more endurance-oriented. How was it strategically and tactically with such diverse opponents while knowing that all of you were aiming to use your relative strengths to still have a kick to the finish to place as highly as possible?
KDThe thing is that you had to know what your strengths and weaknesses were. You couldn’t control anybody else. You had to be ready because the thing about the 800 meters is that everybody is good and everybody has a little bit of everything. So we planned races and look at probabilities. There were times early in my career where we went out fast and pushed the pace because that was my best option of finishing well. I didn’t want to go slow and then to be in a kicker’s race with everybody. If I went quickly, it eliminated some of the runners. When I got older, it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t do that, but people had watched me do that for so many years that they were preparing for that tactic. Then I had to learn to do it from both sides and sit and kick. You have to figure out what style works best for your strength at that time. People may think we go to races and at the race come up with an idea. It isn’t by default – it is by design. We would know months or weeks ahead and we would practice it. When I would go to races and lead, I had prepared in practice. Johnny was good because when he led he had his mind focused in a way that he could use it to his advantage. When you lead you either focus on yourself and forget about the other runners for a while or you think about who is behind and where they may be. You have to have a healthy balance between your focus and what you are doing.
GCR:Though you typically raced at or near the front, at the 2012 Olympic Trials, you were in 5th at 400m as Charles Jock out sub-50 and dropped back to 7th on back stretch. With 120 meters to go, Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds were up front and you were in 6th only about three meters out of 3rd place before blazing from sixth to third in about 20 meters and catching a fading Solomon to finish in second place by 0.01 seconds. Why the change in strategy, could this have been helpful earlier in your career and did you run the perfect race that day?
KDI did. I did about everything right that day. That was one of the few times I felt there was nothing else I could have done to run better. Anyone who beat me just beat me. I started working on that race in 2008. As soon as the 2008 Olympic Trials were over I started working on that race. You’ve got to realize something – I knew that the Olympic Trials would be back in Eugene, Oregon; the guys who beat me were all young and probably would be returning. I knew I wasn’t getting any younger and they weren’t getting any slower. I knew I couldn’t go out and run the same way in 2012. The thinking that got me into this created a problem, and there isn’t a problem that I can’t solve. This means that if I used the same kind of thinking I would get the same result. So I knew I had to try something different. By the time I got to the Trials in 2012 I had practiced it. I practiced it almost the same way in every race and in every practice and I had secured almost completely. When I got to 500 meters in the race and I was next to dead last, I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t panicky, and it was where I needed to be at that exact time. The clock was there and I knew exactly what time I was going to run and low, and behold, it ended up working out for me.
GCR:It seems that you were really prepared after the disappointment of the 2008 Olympic Trials.
KDI said earlier that adversity introduces a man or woman to themselves. Adversity also causes some to break and others to break records. That is important because at the Trials in 2008 when I dove and got out-leaned and the other guy out-dove me, that was a pivotal time because I was arguably in the best shape of my life. My wife was there with my new born son who was seven months old or so. After that race I remember coming off of the track and I saw my coach. He was in shock and was in disbelief and was saying how we were going to go over to Europe and race well. I saw my wife and she was crying. Then I saw my son and he was just raising his arms and saying, ‘Dadda.’ It was like he was communicating to me that he didn’t know what was going on and he didn’t care but he had been hearing all of these screams and I was Dadda and needed to pick him up. It’s amazing because when I was doing my interview I said, ‘If this is the worst thing that happens to me this year, then I am a blessed man.’ I think they put it in Sports Illustrated.
GCR:I’m sure you really had to do some soul searching to get on track for 2012 and to focus on your blessings.
KDThe reason I believed it even more was a short time afterward I went down to Venice Beach which was only about five minutes from where I lived. I didn’t go there often because it is so packed and touristy. But after my 2008 race I had to do some soul searching and think about my life so I just went for a walk. I wasn’t wearing any USA gear, just regular clothes and the beach was packed. It was the middle of summer. I was walking on Venice Beach, just looking at everything and I saw a guy who was selling incense. He looked at me, and even though I didn’t stand out at all, he said, ‘Khadevis Robinson! I just watched your race. It was amazing! You’re my favorite athlete. Don’t retire - I only watch track because of you. You inspire me and are so motivating.’ Everybody stopped and watched as he was just selling incense. I think they thought I was going to put on some type of show. He told me how he watched the race and was screaming at the television and he was almost crying because I didn’t make it. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness. I didn’t know people really cheered for me – people that I didn’t know. Then I would go to different events to speak and moms would come up to get me to sign something for their son or their daughter. A few times they would tell me that I had given a speech before that they heard and then when they watched my race afterward they were crying. I didn’t know this.
GCR:So even though not making the Olympic team in 2008 was disappointing at the time, did it yield some positive benefits that you never could have imagined?
KDBy losing that race it let me know that there were people whom I didn’t know, that I had never met that were cheering for me. Also, if I had made the team in 2008 they never would have felt comfortable enough to come up to me and really pour out their hearts and tell me their story. But, because I didn’t succeed, and I had an experience they could relate to, they felt comfortable coming up to me and speaking to me and talking to me. There is a quote, ‘there are two major moments in a person’s life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born.’ At that moment I realized why I was born. I realized my whole track career I’d been asking myself why I ran track. I’m not the biggest track fanatic and the biggest talent. I didn’t make a lot of money. I never had a big contract. I always worked, so why was I doing this? I realized track and field and running was another vehicle for my purpose, which is to motivate and inspire and help others by being a teacher. The thing is, you can motivate, inspire and help others by doing anything. You can motivate people by being an architect. You can motivate people by being a construction worker. You can motivate and inspire by doing all sorts of things, but my field was track and field. You can make money doing what you want, so track and field was just another classroom for me to share my knowledge with people. And I realized that after 2008 when I didn’t make the team.
GCR:How did these post-Olympic experiences change you and your approach as you prepared for the 2012 Olympics that were still several years away?
KDAfter that I became a purposed runner to say, like I mentioned, that a setback is a setup for a comeback. I was 32 years old in 2008, so why would I try for four more years, married and with a kid to go back to the same place in four years against the same people when I was 36 years old to try to make the team? It would have been easier to say, ‘Forget it. I’ve got my Master’s degree, I saved up a little money, I’m married – I’ll just go on with my life.’ But I said, ‘No. There is something to be learned by this.’ So, I started preparing in 2009 for what was going to come. In 2009 and 2010 I knew that going back to Eugene there was going to be a big roar in the crowd. I knew Nick was going to be there and Wheating and Christian and all of those guys. There was going to be stuff everywhere on TV and in the newspaper. Originally after 2008 I wouldn’t look in the camera because I realized that almost every time when they put a camera in my face they would be talking about that 2008 race when I dove. That was all they would talk about. I got to the point where I didn’t want the camera in my face because they just talked about that one race. Even though there were all of these races where I ran well, lo and behold, that was the one they chose to talk about.
GCR:We all have demons that can conquer us or that we can conquer. What did you do to deal with these demons?
KDI realized I had to get rid of that. So instead of putting my head down or turning my head around, I was staring into the camera. I was thinking, ‘Okay, this is where I’m at.’ I knew it would be in the paper and on the radio and probably up on the big screen. So, I started preparing myself for everything. Ironically enough that was exactly how it happened. I didn’t stay in the USATF hotel with the other athletes. I stayed in the Ballerina Rey which I absolutely love and I just stayed by myself. I didn’t have a roommate. I didn’t bring my wife and kids. I just started on the routine I wanted to have. Well, not only was that picture and that story in the paper and on the radio, but the actual room key that you slide in your room key slot had a picture of that event. I couldn’t escape it and that is why I had prepared myself to face my fear, to face my letdown, to face whatever else. I once read an article that said the difference between someone who is a hero or courageous and someone who is a coward isn’t what they are feeling – it is what they do. The coward and the hero feel the same thing, but the hero decides to take action. That is what I decided to do. I thought I was going to feel the same, feel the fear, feel all of this, but I still had to go and produce.
GCR:It sounds like you finally figured out how to take the adversity and harness it to overcome it.
KDBy 2012 I had trained my mind and trained my body. When I got in the race and was on the line and the camera was in my face, I don’t know what I did physically, but in my inner being I was calm and relaxed and just thought this is where we’re at, I knew this was going to happen so I took it in. I remember looking at the big screen and they were talking about the race in 2008 and I knew that was my cue to step up and make the team. So, when you said that during the race I looked relaxed and under control, that is completely right. I had played that race over in my head – everything from the warm up area to walking to the line to the commentators talking. I had played it over for the last three or four years. So it was a matter of following through. Like they say, you have to ‘plan your race and race your plan.’ That’s what I did. That’s exactly what I did.
GCR:You just mentioned how in 2008 you were at a high point of fitness. One of your strongest, most consistent years was 2006 when you won USAs both indoors and outdoors, won the Reebok Grand Prix and Adidas Track Classic, were second at Rieti in your PR of 1:43.86 and had 5th and 6th place finishes at the World Athletics Final and World Cup. In hindsight, wouldn’t his have been a perfect year for Worlds or the Olympics, but it was the one year out of four with neither?
KDThe reason for my good races in 2006 is kind of because there wasn’t a championship. The preparation was a little different. I wanted to win the USA Championship, but if I didn’t get in the top three, it wouldn’t have made a difference into the rest of the season. So I could take some risks in 2006 that during a championship year I might not take. If I was in Europe in another year before Worlds or before the Olympics I was always trying to do something that would help me in the upcoming big race. So I think the reason I ran so well in off years is because I was doing something different. I wasn’t preparing for a championship – I was just going all out in each race. I wasn’t being too careful, too organized or too planned. I would just go to races and go for it. That was the key for me. The thing about the 800 meters is that you can go for it and you can run fast, but the fast runners, especially the top ten in the world, are just going to go with you. In the off years I was only really concerned about running fast. That’s not naturally me, meaning I don’t really chase times. I’m one who likes to win. That year in every race I tried to win but I also went for it to run fast. In other years I wasn’t so concerned about times. Normally, I don’t care if I go to a race where I come in seventh place, but I run fast. The time may sound good, but if I just got pulled around the track it wasn’t the same as I wanted to be competitive. Whenever somebody raced me, I took pride in them knowing that if K.D. was in the race that they had a race on their hands.
GCR:That same year you helped the USA 4×800 m relay team break the 24-year-old world record and 20-year-old American record with a 7:02.82 time at the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels. How much fun was it to do this with your teammates and to go faster than had ever been achieved?
KDThat was one of the best years because of races like that. We were able to enjoy track and field a little bit more. Everybody was a bit more relaxed, they were going to different races and preparing a bit differently. When there is a championship year we usually have a schedule of certain races we want to do at certain times. But that year we wanted to try different meets and different distances. It was a fun year to go over there and to not have the stress of a championship and of making a team. It was important to make a team because I had a goal, but it was also because I had contractual obligations. Sometimes if you don’t make a team or run at a certain level your contract can get reduced or cut. You have to make teams to not get that reduction. For me, up until around 2007 when we started our family, it was less stressful and in 2006 I was just able to go out and race and have fun.
GCR:You also won some at very prestigious meets including the Prefontaine Classic, Bislett games Reebok Grand Prix and Adidas Track Classic. Do any of these stand out for beating certain tough opponents, your tactics or the historic nature of the venue?
KDThe biggest race that jumps out was in Rome, I think in 2011. It was a Diamond League race and had many great runners in it. I ran it the same way that I ran the 2012 Olympic Trials. It went out extremely fast and I went out in dead last coming through the 400 meters. Even at 500 meters I was way back and then I made my move. It was such a big race with so many good competitors. I was 35 years old and running against World Champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, rest in peace, and Abel Kiprop, who was Olympic Champion. There were so many top guys in the world and I just ran a really smart tactical race. It stood out because it was in Europe, was a Diamond League race and was super competitive. The second one was at Prefontaine as there was a Kenyan, who later passed away in a car accident, who at the time had the fastest time in the world that year. I decided I was going for it, I did and I ended up winning by over a second. That was exciting because I put everything on the line. Those wins, when no one expects you to do well, and you really put your trust and faith in God, and you put your trust and faith in yourself and the system of training, and it works out – those wins really stick out.
GCR:A few years ago I read an article that included a table of what then were the fifty fastest 800 meter races. It was interesting as the average slowdown from the first to the second lap was almost exactly two seconds. Were you conscious of this and that the perfect splits for a 1:43 flat may be 25 flat, 25.5, 26 flat and 26.5 and did you have splits that you aimed for?
KDTo be quite honest, the perfect pace is an even pace because you are distributing your energy evenly throughout the race. Obviously, as the race goes on you are more fatigued. So, in order to run an even pace you’ve got to increase your effort. By going out a bit quicker on the first lap you are taking into account that you probably are going to be more fatigued on the second lap. A runner may have an ideal pace which can maximize that runner’s potential. I’ve seen people run World Records off of a 48 first lap which is crazy fast. I think the best plan is to do it even though for each individual it depends on what they have been practicing and training their body to do.
GCR:What was an interesting point in this article was that it didn’t matter who it was, but in the top fifty fastest 800 meter races at that time only one had a negative split and that was by England’s Steve Cram, who was more known for his 1,500 meter prowess. And his negative split was only by a few tenths of a second. It was interesting that everybody slowed down and that’s why I wanted to get your perspective.
KDI think what ends up happening is that you have a lot of 400/800 guys who can go our faster because they’re not generating as much lactate at that point than somebody else who is slower. In other words, if your best 200 meter time is 21 seconds, if you go out in 24, you are going to generate a certain amount of lactate. If your best time is 22 seconds and you go out in 24, you’re going to generate a little bit more lactate. That’s kind of what it is – how your body is going to be able to handle lactate. If the lactate is there and your body is unable to flush it out and you are able to progress with it in you, then you may be able to keep your pace.
GCR:I’d like to look back at how you started out running and your collegiate career, but first let’s talk a bit about what you are currently doing, which is coaching. After working for twenty years on motivating yourself to do your best and focusing on your training, how has the transition been to working with dozens of athletes with varying degrees of talent and dedication?
KDIt’s been great. I coached a little bit when I was still competing. When I was in Santa Monica I taught and then I started a 501(c)(3) non-profit called the Youth Track and Running Club that was in Santa Monica, Malibu and Beverly Hills. After I got my Master’s degree I also started coaching open athletes and pros. I did one stint at an all-girl Catholic High School in L.A. called Louisville and I absolutely loved it. I was coaching an open athlete named Shea who was coaching at that high school and when she interviewed for a college job and left she told me she thought I would be great to coach the kids. I basically said, ‘Girl, I’m not going to coach a high school.’ But I did, I loved it and I loved working with the kids. From there the opportunity arose for me to coach at UNLV. At the time I didn’t have much interest in leaving L.A. to move to Las Vegas with my family. But the head coach was very persistent and asked me to meet with him and to see what they had to offer.
GCR:It sounds like you had to wrestle with a tough decision. How did you finally decide to join the collegiate coaching ranks?
KDI went to UNLV, spoke with several people and, though it felt weird, it felt alright. I was reading the Bible and a book called ‘Be Still and Get Going.’ In that book it talked about how in the Bible every great person had to leave where they were comfortable and go somewhere else. God had told Abraham to leave his home and his mom and dad to go to a place he would show Abraham. Whether it was Joseph or Jacob or Moses, they had to leave where they were comfortable and safe and go somewhere else. I remember thinking about that and I think it was during that trip when I went to church. I don’t go to church often – I read the Bible and I pray – I go to church a good amount, but not as much as my wife does. Randall Cunningham, the ex-football player, was the pastor. And he is one of the few pastors I like because of the way he preaches and speaks connects with me. He said something that connected with my soul and I went there to coach. I loved it, everything, the coaching, the city, the weather because I like hot weather and it was sunny all of the time. This was around 2011 and 2012 and I don’t gamble so I wasn’t going out. My wife is a homebody so it wasn’t that we liked the Vegas Strip, but we liked the weather, how close it was to Zion National Park, Mt. Charleston and all of these little things.
GCR:But like in the Bible and that book you referenced, it seems like you didn’t have a chance to be comfortable for too long.
KDThat’s right as I ended up getting an opportunity to go to Ohio State. It was a tough decision because I didn’t want to leave Las Vegas, but the head coach was an absolutely amazing person who I really loved. It was Ohio State, it was a huge school, and it was an opportunity to go somewhere cold so I could see if I could handle the cold weather. I loved it there. I didn’t love the weather, but I loved the staff, I loved working there, the kids, the whole experience. So I realized that I’m a person with the glass have full so wherever I go I’m going to like it. Then an opportunity came to go to LSU which was one of the premier programs in the nation and they’ve been successful forever so I felt I needed to go there. I wanted to figure out what do they have and what do they do that has had LSU be so successful for two or three decades. I jumped on the opportunity and I’ve been here ever since.
GCR:Since you haven’t been at one program for a lengthy time, do you think it has been helpful to you to be exposed to multiple head coaches, mentors and leaders as you try to develop your own coaching style in the years going forward?
KDYes, I think what is important is this – I’m a person who is very goal oriented. I’m super competitive. I was raised extremely poor and I’ve always thought that in order to be successful, in order to get what you want, you have to work extremely hard. I was taught that you had to work twice as hard to have half as much, so hard work is never an issue with me. Whenever I would go somewhere, I wanted to feel that passion and willingness to put in the work and the time and whatever it took to do as well as I could do to get in that particular place. I think what has happened and what happens for all of us is that if we are passionate and God gives us the talent, you know how it goes. If God gives you a talent and you multiply it, he gives you more. It’s like in the parable of the talents. If you get a talent, bury it in a hole and don’t use it, then God will take even that talent and give it to someone else who is multiplying. I think what has happened is that when I have gone places, even if I didn’t have the best facilities, the best budget, the best athletes, the best salary, I still was doing my best to multiply the talents there. By doing that, efforts are seen and God shines a light on you for being persistent and multiplying those talents. He gives you other opportunities. I always say that if you aren’t able to move forward with a small amount, then how can life and God give you more? If I give me son two dollars and he goes out and spends it all on chewing gum the first day, it’s probably not a good idea to give the kid twenty bucks because he’s going to go and blow it also. We have to show that we can be faithful, work hard and multiply the talents that God has given us no matter what situation we’re in. I think that is one of the reasons I haven’t been in one particular place for a long time – not because I wanted to leave, but opportunities arose because I loved and worked hard everywhere I’ve been.
GCR:It’s interesting because when I spoke with Chris Fox, who is now at Syracuse, he talked about starting at North Carolina and then his alma mater, Auburn, before going to Syracuse where there wasn’t a great distance running tradition, but he went about working hard and building the program. It took him about four years to win their conference, but within nine or ten years they were NCAA cross country champions. Just like Chris did, what can you do to change the perception to bring more distance runners to LSU and to get more top high school athletes in many events to strongly consider LSU?
KDYou do have to realize that though Chris has done a great job, he is the head coach and so he is in charge of all of the scholarships. Obviously he can put as much emphasis as he would like on the distance running part of their program. I’ve already started getting more individuals interested in LSU, but recruiting is about relationships. I’ve been fortunate to be able to build some good relationships over the years. It isn’t just getting the kids interested though – you’ve got to be able to give them the scholarship money. Let’s say that there is a high school kid running 14:10 for 5k, which is fast – he’s going to need a full scholarship. Other schools will be offering him that. Because we haven’t built up our tradition as a distance school, it is even more so for us. If another school has a distance program that is going to go to nationals, they can offer a 50 percent or 60 percent scholarship and we’re going to have to offer more. The dynamics are more challenging than people understand. They may think a coach can’t recruit, but they don’t know all the factors that go into it. What I’ve been doing is slowly building the distance program. We’re probably never going to be a distance school because we’ve been a sprint school and that’s our history and our tradition. What I can do is I had a guy last year that scored at SECs that was a walk on. I can give some kids a book stipend or something small and some of them may grow and end up winning conference. That is really all I can do as kids are on the internet, they’re smart and they’re savvy. They want to be able to go somewhere where they are able to have a team that goes to nationals. Making it to nationals is so competitive that going and then being able to compete means you have to have four or five studs. To get five distance studs will take at least three scholarships, if not more. That’s part of the game. But his year our women’s distance medley relay broke the school record many times and we qualified for nationals. We were in the top twelve. Even though we weren’t known for distance running we were one of twelve teams in the nation to make it. We had to have four solid legs. I think we are on the right track because I’m certain there are a lot of schools that have a lot of scholarships in those areas. We may not be able to beat them like that by putting a lot of aid there, so I have to get them to buy in to our program and I have to do a really good job of coaching them.
GCR:Athletes come to college from high school programs with different variables of emphasis and with certain strengths and weaknesses. What are some of the major areas upon which you focus to train your athletes similarly, but to take into account subtle variations in training between athletes?
KDI have a system that works. What I do is kind of hard to explain. It is still individualized because I don’t time everything. When you don’t time everything and you assign effort, then that is individualized. If I have someone run repeat 200 meters and want them at 80 percent effort, then the pace will be different for runners of varying abilities. If I have them run a long tempo run, for instance, 45 minutes at their tempo pace, then each runner will run the proper amount of distance to get in the workout at the proper effort. It is individualized within the system. I let the kids know that the system will lead to their success while I help by motivating them. I’m smart enough to know that I’m smart enough, but none of us are as smart as all of us. I get runners who have been coached by others and I listen to my athletes, but my job is to give them the best chance to be successful in the system I use which has been doing really well. People may not think that’s true with my distance runners, but at UNLV and Ohio State, I had girls who were pretty quick in the 5k. You have to look at where the kids came from. I had one boy who ran 17 minutes for 5k in high school and he ran a 30 minute 10k for me. Some people may not think 30 minutes is a big deal in the big scheme of things, but this was a kid that most schools wouldn’t even let be a walk-on in their program, and by his senior year he was scoring in the Southeastern Conference. That is a big accomplishment and is what I’ve been doing. At UNLV, Ohio State and LSU we haven’t been considered distance schools, so I’ve had to develop kids and work with kids who weren’t considered the top distance kids.
GCR:That effort based system has been used by several outstanding runners I have interviewed including Laszlo Tabori, who was the third man to break the four minute mile running for Hungary in 1955; Bob Schul, who got the Olympic Gold medal at 5,000 meters in 1964 and Jim Beatty, who in 1962 was the first to run the indoor mile under four minutes. All of them used the Mihaly Igloi system out of Hungary that was very much effort based. It seems like it is a great method that really helps a lot of athletes to achieve their best while having several groups of runners doing the same workouts, but not all at the same pace due to the focus on effort. It sure has proven results over the decades.
KDI am doing the exact same thing with my coaching. I know Laszlo personally. He was out coaching at USC when I was out in California. I ran for Joe Douglas at the Santa Monica Track Club and that is the method he used. Johnny Gray used the Igloi method and that is what I used – the Igloi method that is effort based with terms like fresh, good swing, good swing and good pace. That’s what we use. Bob Schul explains it I his book – I’ve got an autographed copy. Schul and Beatty and all of those guys who ran for the Los Angeles Track Club and broke all of those records did well and that is the system I use. It works at every distance from 400 meters up to the marathon. I’m 100 percent certain of that. I’ve added a little to it and taken away some of it because of the kids today. They have to be tough because you’re still putting in a lot of distance. You may not be running a typical workout these days like ten repeat 800s, but if you add up what you run, it will be a good amount of work. The Igloi method is what I use and I tell athletes that if they accept it and follow it they will be successful and that is a fact.
GCR:Let’s take a look at when you started running as a teenager. You started much later than most top runners. I know that you played football and some other sports, so how did you get started running and what were some highlights of your early training and racing?
KDTo be honest with you, I was more of a football player. I ran a little in middle school for one year. I remember I was running the 800 meters and there was someone on the sidelines yelling, ‘Run faster!’ I looked at them and was thinking, ‘What do you think I’m doing? I’m running as fast as I can and I’m hurting here.’ In high school I didn’t run my freshman year. My sophomore year I only ran because I wanted to get a letter jacket or something like that – I can’t even remember. My junior year there were two reasons I ran: First, I broke my wrist playing football so I o play a sport and my football coach made us run track. Second, there were a lot of girls out there and it was a good combination. My junior year there were a couple friends on my team who were real good –Grady Wilkens and Michael McKinney – and they knew their entire lives that they wanted to go to college and they wanted to run track. They knew everything about running. I didn’t have a clue. I couldn’t tell you what was a good time or anything. At the start of my senior year they didn’t play any other sports. I was still playing football and one of them told me that if I ran a 1:55 I could get a scholarship to some school and run in college. I remember looking at them and thinking that would be cool. I didn’t really believe I could do it, but what was I going to say. I told them that sounded cool, but I didn’t know.
GCR:So your senior year was when you basically quit toying with track and field and made it more of a priority?
KDAlso during that senior year in January my stepfather died and it was like a wake-up call. Life just got real. I was wondering what to do with my life. We were already poor and my stepdad has just passed and I was going to graduate in four or five months. So I started focusing a little more. I ran more and had no clue what I was doing but I went to practice. I was playing around and making up stuff to do in workouts. Our track coach was mainly a football coach and God works in mysterious ways. The reason I say that is the football coaches don’t get paid much. The guy that volunteered to be our track coach was a guy by the name of Russ West. He was only in Fort Worth because he was a professional coach and a lineman for Denver and Russ, his wife and kids lived in Tyler. His son was playing for TCU so he moved to Fort Worth to be close to his son while his wife stayed back home. He was in a little apartment and had a lot of free time so he coached track. He had no idea about track, he knew nothing about it whatsoever, but was one of the greatest persons I have known in my life – an absolutely amazing guy and a Godsend. He just helped us out, was as supportive as could be and we were all motivated. We had a good team my senior year, but we had so many obstacles in that area and that neighborhood. I had to work at one or two jobs. All of these things were going against me and my stepdad had died and without Coach West I don’t know what would have happened. He was important, not just for me, but for the whole team. That is what helped out.
GCR:How did you end up being recruited by Texas Christian’s Coach John McKenzie?
KDI remember like yesterday being at our practice facility, now not our track, because our track was a dirt track. We would run or drive to this real track and one day there was this older white gentleman who was in the stands watching us. We didn’t know why he was watching us or what was going on. By the time we finished practice he came by and walked up. He said, ‘I’m Coach John McKenzie from TCU.’ He had been checking me out and asked if I would like to come to TCU for a visit. I hadn’t been on any visits and the school was right here in town, my stepdad had just died, so I thought maybe it would be good to stay close to home. The ironic part of meeting him was my training. If someone said twenty 400s was good, then I would do twenty 400s. I wasn’t afraid to work hard – I just didn’t know what I was doing. The day he came to watch I was playing around with the sprinters and the underclassmen and I were doing odd stuff like racing 100s and 150s. I think in his mind he must have been thinking that if I was doing this kind of work, and at the time I had run 1:53 or 1:54, then what could I do with a real system? If he had come on a day when I was doing fifteen 400s or twenty 200s, he may have thought that since I ran that hard and was only at 1:53 or 1:54 I may not have been worth recruiting.
GCR:At a pivotal time in your life, why did you decide that Texas Christian and Coach McKenzie seemed to be the right choice for you to further your education and running?
KDI really hit it off with him. I didn’t get a full scholarship and had to take out some loans. But there was something about Coach McKenzie that I thought,’ Here’s a guy that I think if I go there, give it all I have and don’t do well, I will be fine.’ This was important to me as an athlete. He just seemed genuine and that our relationship would be more than coach and athlete. I could feel it. I could sense it. That was the main reason I went to TCU. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I met my wife there.
GCR:When you went to Texas Christian, what did Coach McKenzie do to streamline your training and to move you toward reaching your potential?
KDWe started doing more base work which I didn’t doing high school. We also trained all year around. In high school I played football. He taught me more of the basics of how to run properly. I ran too much with my upper body and he taught me good form. If I had to do a long run of six miles, I hated it with a passion. But Coach got me to realize it was something that I needed. He taught me to run races because I would go out with no race plan, no structure. I learned how to run the 800 meters in a way that I would be competitive on the college level.
GCR:You made the 800 meter final at the 1996 and 1997 NCAA Outdoor Championships, before winning in 1998. How did those first two times prepare you as a goal oriented person to aim for the top three or to win?
KDMy freshman year I ended the season so tired that I didn’t even want to go to the NCAA Championships. I just wanted the season to be over. I made the qualifying time, but didn’t make it as there were a maximum number of competitors and I was the first man out. My sophomore year I made it and, I don’t take losing easy, which is one of my strengths. I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t make the finals. I was still All-American because you just had to be one of the top eight Americans. I remember being in the stands, and after Einars Tupuritis won he was doing an interview with on the field with Louis Johnson. I was thinking, ‘Man, I’ve got to win one of these because I want to do an interview with Louis Johnson on the field.’ That isn’t even me, or something that is in my personality. But I remember sitting there and thinking that. I didn’t have much knowledge of track and field and the rankings, but my junior year a friend and I were at a gathering and there was a Track and Field News Magazine. He came up to me and said, ‘KD, you’re ranked in the top five.’ I thought then that if I was getting ranked, then maybe I was good enough to do that. It confirmed that I had what it took to do well. I went to nationals and in the first round I was in the same heat as Andrew Krummenacker, who had won the 800 meters at NCAA indoors. We ran, I stayed with him, I outkicked him and I won that heat. I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness – everything’s falling into place.’ In the finals David and I went out in 54 seconds and Brian Woodward ended up kicking past us. I faded back and ended up like in seventh place. That sparked me a little bit.
GCR:With three years of collegiate experience under your belt, what did you do differently to step it up a notch for your senior season?
KDThat summer I trained and came back my senior year in shape. Instead of taking the first month or two to get in shape, I was already in shape and fit. I bought in I lifted weights, I watched film, I started reading more about running and became a student of the game. When I watched TV, I would do sit ups when there was a commercial. I did better and better and won a lot of races. So that’s kind of how it happened. It took a lot of work. I worked on my eating and had the same meals on the same day each week. I watched every track meet I could. I was consumed. Lots of people just think I was talented, but I had to do all of those things. I was prepared and when nationals came I was fast as I was running 44 splits on the four by 400 meter relay and anchored us to second at nationals.
GCR:How exciting was it to cross that line and to become and NCAA Champion at 800 meters? And did Louis Johnson interview you?
KDThat’s the thing – he didn’t interview me because I had the four by 400 relay afterward. So when I finished, I had to get cooled down and get ready for my next race. I think it was the next day, but I didn’t get interviewed by Louis Johnson. But it felt good. Winning is a byproduct of working hard. I was happy, but the losses are way more tough and feel much worse than the good I feel when I win, I that makes sense. I like winning, but my dislike of losing is stronger than my like of winning. When I won, it wasn’t like I pumped my fists. I thought I could win and it wasn’t a surprise. I hadn’t lost all year.
GCR:That’s interesting as here in Orlando the head coach of the NBA Orlando Magic is Scott Skiles and, when he was first hired, he said, ‘I want to change the culture from where losing is acceptable and winning is exciting to when we lose we are upset and when we win it is expected.’ Is that basically what you are saying?
KDYes it is. I remember my senior year in high school when we had a good mile relay team and were expected to win at a meet. Before we raced, Coach told us to act like we had won before and we knew what it was to win. We stopped and looked at him and understood. That is what it is for me. When I was running there were only a couple of races where it was very exciting to win and that’s because of what I had to go through. Sometimes we don’t have the big names at LSU and here they are running well. I get super excited because your test becomes your testimony and your testimony becomes your message.
GCR:After you finished up at TCU did you stay close with Coach McKenzie?
KDI just saw Coach McKenzie a week ago and we are extremely, extremely close. I don’t make any major decisions without giving him a call. It’s funny because Coach McKenzie was only at TCU for two years and then he left to be a financial planner with Merrill Lynch. Obviously, he is my financial planner because I trust him that much. Also, he is the person who suggested that I run for the Santa Monica Track Club. Here’s the back story. Coach McKenzie went to TCU and one of his teammates was no other than Joe Douglas with the Santa Monica Track Club. Coach McKenzie suggested that I go to Santa Monica and run for Joe. I took him up on that, went out there and the rest is history.
GCR:Let’s get your opinion on some training elements. You are a student of the Igloi method. What are some of your favorite sessions where you work on strength, speed or a combination of the two?
KDWhen we are on the track we are doing both. It’s kind of how the system was set up. We did strength work throughout the year. We would do up to 14-mile runs for our long runs. It could be broken up into many different parts of the workout. It is hard to put into words for someone to understand. You have to understand the method to get it.
GCR:I know what you mean, because when I spoke with Jacqueline Hansen, a long distance runner and 1973 Boston Marathon Champion that Laszlo Tabori coached, she said that when she added up some of her workouts on the track she had done as much as 17 miles and she was on the track the entire time. So, is that what you are talking about?
KDYes – that’s the method. You’re really doing both speed and strength when you are on the track. My favorites that I have the kids do here at LSU are variations. Kids nowadays want to run miles and they want to know how far they are running. We don’t do that. But I have to assign workouts that their minds can understand. We don’t do the same repetitions over and over again. My favorite workouts that are sort of normal may have something like this in them - three 200s with a fifty meter jog in between at race pace. As soon as you finish your momentum keeps you going so you only really get a 20 meter jog. We do a lot of stuff that isn’t timed and we don’t time miles.
GCR:When I spoke with Jim Beatty and Laszlo Tabori and Bob Schul they each talked of how under Igloi’s method they would have a set of some type of repeats, then eight 100s at a fresh pace, then another set, then eight more 100s and so on so that there were many sets with the eight 100s in between. Do you do that type of workout?
KDI do exactly that Igloi method like all of them are telling you. Just like Bob Schul talks about in his book and Jim Beatty and all of those guys. We do it the same, depending on the athlete. For an 800 meter runner, we don’t do as much and may do more at ‘good speed’ pace and less at ‘good’ and ‘fresh’ pace. For a 10k guy, we will do less speed and more volume. The only difference is the guys back then could do the whole workout in spikes and kids nowadays can’t handle that. Also, with lot of the kids, I can’t load them up because they can’t process the workouts mentally. Here’s the reason – with Igloi and Tabori as coaches back in those days athletes didn’t question what they were doing. If Igloi or Laszlo said to do something, we just did it. Now it takes a lot of energy to explain as kids have so much different information. The runners need to understand and be in this system so they not only know what ‘good swing’ or ‘fresh’ or ‘good speed’ means, but also understand how to physically do it properly. It will take months to learn how to do it. So I adjust to them somewhat. The runners who get it and buy it and really practice are the ones who run lights out. So, I use the Igloi method, but not quite as much volume because the college kids’ bodies today can’t handle it. Their bodies don’t recover enough to get the full benefit of the method.
GCR:What is your current fitness regimen and what are your future goals in terms of your health and fitness, coaching or other aspects of life?
KDI work out every day. My goal is to still be able to go out and run. I’ve put on some muscle, so I’m at about 187 pounds of pure muscle. I think that we dress not for the job we have, but for the job we want and we have to look the part. When I walk up to someone and tell them I’m a track coach, I want them to say, ‘I can tell.’ Secondly, what I enjoy is when I go somewhere and see one of my former competitors and they say, ‘Are you still running?’ As opposed to ‘You’re not running anymore, are you?’ I want to be in shape enough that I still look fit. I like when I’m somewhere with my athletes and somebody asks me what event I run and I tell them I’m the coach to surprised looks. I stay active and fit, but I’m not on the track doing two sets of eight times 200 meters, one at good swing and one at good speed pace. But I do enough running and I lift pretty hard.
GCR:When you are called on to give talks to high school and middle school kids, what advice do you have for these younger runners to improve consistency, minimize injuries and keep it fun as they try to reach their potential and possibly build toward running in college?
KDFirst is to listen to your coach. That is super important because every great person has a mentor or a coach. Muhammed Ali, Peyton Manning, even Bill Gates – no matter what the field – they all had a mentor or a coach. Success leaves clues. Since all of the greats have a mentor or a coach, why have one and not listen to him? Secondly, if you’re serious, you’ve got to put the work in. That’s the way God made his universe. You reap what you sow. If you do the work, that is how you get the benefits. We didn’t make it this way, God did, and that’s just the way it is. Thirdly, if you are serious and you really want to run well, you’ve got to be all in. The reason is that if you aren’t all in and someone else is, they are going to beat you. And also what happens is, if you know you’re not all in, then you have an excuse. So you have to eliminate your excuses. The challenge for most high school kids now is the internet because you can go on there and read a thousand different things.
GCR:There is a lot of information out there, so what is most important for these young runners to filter out and upon which to focus?
KDWhat they have to be able to do is to have trust in their coach and trust in their system because the reality is I have a system that works, but other coaches have a system that works and we’re all not using the same system. If a coach is incompetent and doesn’t have an eye for athletics that is a whole different thing. But, for the most part, many systems can work if the coach is willing to tinker with it and adjust it for his athletes. So I tell the athletes to trust their coach and to follow the program. It like how your mom may make a great German Chocolate cake. Then you leave the house and are somewhere and call up your mom saying, ‘Mom, you make this great German Chocolate cake and I want to learn how to make it.’ So she gives you the recipe and ingredients and you make it. Then you call your mom and tell her it didn’t taste the same. She says, ‘did you put in two cubes of sugar?’ and you say, ‘yes.’ Then she asks, ‘did you put in one spoon of butter?’ And you say, ‘No I put in two because I wanted it to taste more buttery.’ Then she asks if you put in vanilla and you didn’t. The point is that is how coaching and running is. We build a formula and when people tinker with it and change things it’s not going to be the same and you won’t get the same results. So I tell athletes when you’re working with a coach and his system, he will give you information on what to do to produce certain results. So if you’re out running extra miles or if you’re supposed to do some running on your own and you don’t, you’re only holding yourself back.
GCR:Even if these young athletes are following a good coach and training program, how important is for them to have confidence in themselves as they train to reach their potential?
KDThe biggest thing about anything in life is that you have to believe in yourself. I always tell my student athletes and those I mentor to borrow my belief in you until your belief kicks in. If you don’t believe it is hard to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish because the mind is very funny. It’s like saying a prayer that you want to do certain things financially so you have enough money to buy a black Escalade. Then went you are out, suddenly you will see a lot of black Escalades. You’re seeing them everywhere. It’s the same thing when you pray and your mind and eyes are opened for possibilities. That’s what believing is. If I close my mind and believe I can run a 1:43 for 800 meters, then my mind is searching for what I need. Once you start believing, your subconscious mind starts looking for things to confirm what your mind is saying it can do. That’s why prayer and meditation work. I don’t think it’s because you pray, ‘God, let me win this race,’ and then God slows down everyone else and here you are winning. It’s more like when you pray, ‘God, I’ve put in all of this work, I’ve tried hard, I want it, I believe – please let me do my best in this race.’ And then when you’re running it confirms this – you feel good, you’re loose and that is how belief works. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t work just for running, but for everything in life. If you don’t believe you are going to confirm that too. If you think you aren’t fast enough to run a certain time, you will be off pace the first 200 meters and confirm that. Belief is the absolute key.
GCR:What are the major lessons you have learned during your life from your youth in a lower income neighborhood, the discipline of running, coaching and any adversity you have faced that encompasses the philosophy of Khadevis Robinson that you would like to share with my readers?
KDRunning is a parallel to life. In life you can learn from reading and running. Reading - because any problems that have occurred in life have been written about including how to overcome it. Running because, when you go for a run, whether it is even on a treadmill, only to things happen as we joke about - either you’re going to get off or you’re going to die. But running, I you run long enough or fast enough, a voice pops in your head like, ‘Why are you running?’ or ‘You’re getting tired,’ or ‘It’s too heat or too cold or you’re aching or your sore.’ That voice in your head tries to tell you why you should slow down or stop running. If you can defeat that voice you’ve got it made because the voice that tells you to slow down or to not run or go slower is the same voice that tells you what you can’t accomplish in other areas of your life. The voice never goes away. It’s always there and it’s always going to say those types of things. So the key is how can you ignore it because it’s not going away? Being able to ignore that voice and to conquer that voice is the key and you learn it by running.
GCR:It is interesting how you mention these competing voices as I still grapple with them on a daily basis, especially when encountering difficult tasks. Have you found that the voices go away, or are they just minimized by conscious effort?
KDI’m reminded of the movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind.’ The main character, played by Russell Crowe, has had these issues with mental instability. He goes through it and comes out on the other side as a professor and seems to be doing well. But at the end of the movie his friends are happy that he is back after going through some terrible times. And he is asked how he is doing and responds, ‘I’m doing all right.’ Then when he is asked, ‘Do you still hear those voices and see those people?’ Russell Crowe looks off to the side and sees the same man and little girl he had been seeing and he says, ‘Yes, I still see them.’ The guy looks around and says, ‘Are they here right now?’ And he says, ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, what are you doing?’ he is asked. And he responds, ‘I just ignore them.’ And that’s the key. The key is that voice that comes in your head when I tell you to do another set of fast running, the voice that says you can’t beat a certain person because they have a faster time than you, the voice that says you can’t quit your job and start your own business, the voice that says you can’t raise five kids – that voice is never going to go away so you’ve got to face it. It’s not going to disappear. Great athletes hear that voice and they learn to ignore it. Nobody can run it for you. Individuals win games and teams win championships, but in track you are an individual and you’re going to have to do it. No matter how good you think you are – if I want to go out now and run a marathon I’m not going to do well because I’m not prepared. Track and field teaches you the parallels from running to life. That is the beauty of it. I learned a lot about myself. That clock is not going to lie. Track and field is the most individualized of individual sports. You’ve got tennis, golf, boxing. Boxing and tennis both involve one person against one person and in track you’ve got more than one opponent. Golf you go against other people but at different times. You have to have a certain skill set to not only focus on yourself, but everybody you’re competing with – seven in lanes and ten, twelve or fifteen in distance races. You have to really conquer certain demons and face certain fears.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsI love chess. I’ve had to slow down with playing it because I’m one of those people who can become consumed with it. Chess takes a while to get extremely good so I found myself spending too much time there. I do like reading, writing and I love speaking. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking engagements. I love coaching. My goal is to inspire, motivate and help others. I constantly read and post on Facebook, Twitter and my website, I believe in fitness and health and nutrition so I’m really promoting that. I do believe in this day and age where many people have diabetes and we have kids who can’t run a mile that it is important. That’s my passion. I love this – our conversation talking about these topics I’m passionate about
Nicknames‘KD’ is pretty much it. Some would just call me ‘D’
Favorite movies‘Book of Eli,’ ‘Training Day’ and the first ‘Matrix’ movie. Those movies are like philosophy. If you really watch and listen, there are certain things said that most people don’t catch, but that tell us important things about life
Favorite TV showsI have a TV, but I don’t have Netflix and Amazon. I really don’t watch much TV. My favorite show is ‘The Wire.’ It is an amazing show
Favorite musicI like motivational music. I like all types of music as long as it is positive
Favorite booksOf course, ‘The Bible.’ My favorite besides that is ‘Ishmael,’ and I named my son after that name
First carA 1990 Mercury Lynx
Current carA 2007 Dodge Charger
First JobsI sold candy door-to-door. I washed cars. I cut grass. I sold candy at school. I worked in a restaurant as a busboy and then as a dish boy. I did construction. I was always working
FamilyI’ve been blessed. My mom was supportive – we had our challenges, but she was there. I couldn’t have been any luckier than I was as my stepdad was there and was one of the most amazing men to this day that I’ve ever met in my life. That’s saying a lot because my dad is pretty amazing also and is supportive. So, I had two extremely well-rounded, supportive men in my life. My stepdad is an angel, literally. He was the nicest guy – just soft, nice, funny and loving. And my dad’s a man’s man. So, I had both sides as examples which I think are great. My wife is Stephanie and we started dating in 1996. We’ve been together about twenty years. My oldest son is Zion. It’s really Khadevis Zion Robinson, but in the family we call him Zion. My middle child is my son, Ishmael. My daughter is Kioni
PetsWe don’t have any pets now. When I was a kid, I had cats, dogs – you name it, we had it
Favorite breakfastI like good, old-fashioned cereal
Favorite mealI love Jamaican Jerk Chicken with peas, rice and plantains. I could eat that every day
Favorite beveragesI love Coca-Cola though I try to not drink it too much
First running memoryThat time in middle school when I was running and some kid was saying, ‘Go faster Khadevis’ and I was going as fast as I could go
Running heroesJohnny Gray, Wilson Kipketer, Sebastian Coe and Alberto Juantorena. I’ve met all of those guys
Greatest running momentsThe NCAA Championship, my first USA Championship and that Rome Diamond League race in 2011 against World Champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Olympic Champion Abel Kiprop
Worst running momentThe Olympic Trials in 2000 when I just missed making the team
Childhood dreamsPlaying professional football
Funny memories(related from his wife, Stephanie) This is a story of how we met. My freshman year at TCU a friend and I were walking through the student center and there KD was on top of a table singing and dancing. We were saying things like, ‘Why is he on the table singing and dancing?’ as we were laughing and just kept walking. Fast forward a year and another friend of mine came up to me and said, ‘I know this guy that likes you.’ I asked, ‘Who?’ She told me it was KD. I knew he was the guy who was dancing and singing on the table, but I had gotten to know him and knew he was a good guy. So I went out with him and that’s it – we’ve been married for eleven years
Favorite places to travelI really like Las Vegas, and I don’t even gamble. I like watching UFC/MMA events there. I like the fact that you can find any type of food you want. I like the odds that the weather will be good, sunny, not raining and definitely not snowing. I like that you can go to Hoover Dam, Zion, the mountains or you can run. There are athletic people there from UFC to boxers, cyclists and runners. I like the nice hotels. Internationally, Monaco is nice, but Brussels is one of my favorites. I went to Capetown, South Africa once and loved it