Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BLOG INTERVIEW: Gary Allen | Runner, Public Speaker & Race Director

Gary Allen, Cranberry Isles, Maine.  To say he is dedicated to the sport of running would be an understatement.  From Race Directing the Mount Desert Island Marathon to providing insight into years gone by of the racing world.  Gary is known for his "tell it like it is" opinions on runners, trends and media.  You can often find him as a popular guest speaker at major events or running along side of fellow athletes giving them pointers to complete their goals.  Most runners dream of running the Boston Marathon at least once in their career.  Gary has a collection of his Finisher Medals that would make any athlete blush.

I am thrilled to be able to give you a glimpse into Gary Allen's world and running....

Gary's personal collection of Boston Marathon Finisher Medals

1. When did you start running and why?
I started running in 1970 at the age of 13  but I really got excited about being a runner in 1972 when I saw Frank Shorter win the Olympic Marathon in Munich. I started when I realized my goal of becoming a professional hockey player for the Boston Bruins probably wasn't going to happen simply because it takes more than one or a couple of kids to make a hockey team. Growing up on an off-shore Maine island really limited team sports simply because there often weren't enough kids. Meanwhile, as I would learn running is the ultimate solitary sport! I guess I became a runner partially due to geographic location and more as a second choice. Looking back, I think I was always probably a runner as all those laps on skates at my Aunt Adas frozen pond was perhaps an early form of running for me?

2. You have a long and successful career, are their any key moments that stand out most in your mind?

There have been so many moments it is hard to say. I remember gradually switching to running a lot a night on Great Cranberry Island because I ran so many miles there it was hard to face the same 2 mile stretch of road month after month, day after day, mile after mile. By running at night I didn't have to see where I was going. A huge moment came in 1978 when I ran 2:52:41 at the Paul Bunyan Marathon and qualified for my first Boston Marathon. Another came in 2009 when I ran 2:52:58 and 2:52:17 on back-to-back weekends at the Space Coast Marathon in FL and at the California International Marathon at the age of 52.  

In addition,  I am extremely proud of the Mount Desert Island Marathon an event I founded and direct. The inspiration came as I was standing on the starting line of the 1980 NYC Marathon. As I stood there watching the master, Fred Lebow directing his symphony that we call the New York City Marathon, I had one of those life altering moments, that I wanted to start a marathon. The cannon sounded and we were off but the vision never left me. It simmered on the back burner for 22 years until 2002 when it finally boiled over. Since then this event has earned many accolades and I couldn't be more proud.

3. You have been an staunch supporter of Lance Armstrong, when all others turned their back on him. Please explain why you believed in him so much?

 As you know I had the complete privilege of running with Lance Armstrong in the 2006 NYC Marathon, his debut. This was right after he won his 7th Tour De France. No athlete was bigger at the time. I remember standing there at the start and watching the media generally ignore the elite runners to focus on Lance. With greatness comes scrutiny. It is a sad human trait that many people like to elevate our champions and then tear them down. No athlete in the history of sport has been more tested than Lance Armstrong. He has never failed a drug test. Sure there are those so called eye-witnesses, teammates and even french spies hiding in the linen closet who have claimed to have seen Lance using performance enhancing substances but facts are facts and none was ever detected by very intricate testing.   DECEMBER 2012 EDIT "At the time of this interview many facts surrounding the Lance Armstrong situation were not known to me or to many in the athletics world. I had always said that until someone showed me conclusive proof beyond a reasonable doubt of Lance's quilt (or innocence) that my yellow wrist band would remain firmly on my wrist. Since this FAB-ulous interview we all now know that what we were led to believe and what actually happened were two very different things. My yellow band has been permanently removed."- Gary Allen

Running with Lance Armstrong at the 2006 NYC Marathon

4. Besides running, how else are you involved in the running community?
My late high school coach Howard (Howie) B. Richard instilled in me and a lot of others like me that to be good at running you need to eat running, sleep running, and drink running. The question should be, when are you not involved in running? To that I'd say, never. I am currently a race director, a coach and and all around huge supporter of running 24-7-365.

5. Over the years, trends come and go - what trends peak your interest?
Yikes, looking back I remember carbo loading when I'd eat only protein for 3 days and then hit the carbs 3 days before a major race. I'd be so hungry by the end of the protein phase I could barely run or even see straight.Current trends that peak my interest are shoes. It is funny to see this minimal shoe movement come back, running shoe companies are acting like they've invented something new, years ago we all ran in very minimal shoes. Minimal shoes are OK by me but I am not a fan of pure barefoot running.

Heartbreak Hill Boston in 2010
6. If you could pick any elite athlete to train you in the world, who would that be and why?
Past, I'd love to train with Clarence Demar. (7 time Boston Marathon winner between 1911 and 1930)
Present, Paula Radcliffe, I love the way she turns herself inside out to win. Video of her storming to the finish in her 2:15:25 world record marathon in is simply amazing and totally inspiring.

7. Running has grown in explosive popularity in recent years - how do you feel about that? Are there any dangers to the growth?
No, I agree that we are all Born to Run. Some of us get it many don't and never will. The more popular running becomes the more people will do it and that is good thing. I guess the only negative I can see is with all this demand some races feel they can charge whatever the want for entry fees.

8. What would you like to share with the running community that you wish ALL runners would know.
I wish more runners would just go run. I know we have the technology to measure every inch we run with our GPS gadgets. I hope runners never forget to just go run in a really pure sense, where all that matters is us moving thru space. In my opinion we don't need to and can't record a feeling, that's what races are for, recording stuff.

9. What is your website?
I had help setting this one up a few years ago. It is somewhat dated, I wish I was better at adding things to it and it was easier? If anyone wants to help me make a better website, please call me! www.garyallen.crowathletics.com

Gary Allen post-race (Empire State Building)

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(c) C. Ragsdale 2011-12
Run F.A.B.,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
RRCA Certified Running Coach, IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist & Public Speaker
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