A Sprinter Crosses Over – Just Another Runner’s Story

This past September, a local running club that I’m involved with (Kalamazoo Area Runners) interviewed me for their monthly newsletter that spotlights their members.  Below you’ll find the article and here is a link to the full newsletter.   KAR September Rundown Newsletter

A Sprinter Crosses Over
By Gale Fischer

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. -Emil Zatopek

Several years ago Battle Creek hosted Pulse Festival of Fitness, an event filled with a weekend of fitness activities. This event featured numerous running attractions ranging in distances from sprint events on the track to a twenty mile run featuring the linear trail. By completing selected running events you were considered an ultimate runner and graced with a stocking cap with the words “ultimate runner” stitched across the cap’s bottom. At that time I had been a distance runner for at least five years but decided I would try some of the sprint events in order to claim my prize. Although sprinting the 100 meter dash took all of fifteen seconds, the sensation of going full throttle for such a short amount of time as a distance runner felt quite awkward. Through my years as a runner I have met those experiencing running from the opposite scenario as long time sprinters turned distance runners. I have often wondered what the catalyst was for this change in distance for these individuals and what it felt like to transition from such a drastic change in pace and distance.

This month’s featured member, Scott VanLoo can relate to this notion of scaling back the pace while ramping up the miles. Scott’s tenure as a runner began back in elementary school with the shuttle run and continues today as an ultra-marathoner. ”It all began in elementary school during gym class. To be more specific, the Shuttle Run. I remember doing this little sprint test and honestly was killing it every time. From there on I was plugged into track and field throughout middle school and high school.” Even early on in his years as a high school sprinter, he had opportunities to cross over to the other side with his Portage Northern’s high school cross country coaches recruiting him to their team but Scott would not budge. “Heck, our 1 mile warm up before practice during the week was long enough. For a sprinter there is no reason to go out and run a morning run around the neighborhood.”

After high school Scott’s running career seemingly faded into the sunset that is until the middle age bulge began to shift his focus. “Now skip forward 17 years to 2007….after our second child was born, I looked at myself (all 230 lbs.) and said I need to get back in shape ASAP! I joined SWAT Fitness Club with a couple other colleagues from work as we decided to tackle a weight loss effort together. We hit the gym three days a week before work.” After a year of SWAT and other fitness classes Scott noticed the conversion from body fat to muscle tone, but was still carrying more weight than what he preferred. Marta, one of his fitness coaches suggested that he try running as a way of shedding some pounds. “After about a year of this class and a few other LesMills classes, I definitely noticed the muscle tone but not really shedding the weight that I was aiming for. Marta recommended that I start running on the treadmill before Pump class in the morning and this is where running began to plant a seed in me (year 2008). I started running/walking 1 mile on the treadmill before class. This continued to a point that I could crank out 3 miles before Pump class.”

In the spring of 2009 Scott decided to enter the Borgess 5K with a training regimen of six to eight miles a week. He was not sure what to expect having not raced any distance longer than 400 meters. ” I ran a decent race (23:47) and I think what really got me hooked was that I saw my name in the paper the next morning (was listed in the top 15 of my age group). After seeing that I made a goal for myself to try and get into the top 5 of my age group at the next race. Yup, my competitive side was re-born!” Scott continued with his new found love, running in several 5K races in 2009. That fall he started doing some weekend group runs with friends from high school. After running with them for a few months, Scott threw his name into the marathon hat and signed up for the 2010 Chicago Marathon. Scott’s marathon training consisted of running any local race of any distance. His initial goal was to run a 3:50 but a fall heat wave greeted runners in Chicago in 2010 as Scott struggled to the finish line in 4:51. The experience in Chicago was seemed to turn his stomach, get his feet wet and launch his competitive drive simultaneously. One week later he towed the line in Grand Rapids and knocked out a 3:38 marathon. It seems that he had not only met his marathon goal but his weight loss goal. Through running and fitness classes he had dropped 67 pounds in less than three years. It seems Scott has come full circle from sprinter to endurance athlete having completed 22 marathons and 11 ultra-marathons since 2008. Scott is coming off his most recent running endeavor at the Woodstock 100 miler. He finished 20th overall with a time of 22 hours and 59 minutes.

As I read through Scott’s answers to my questionnaire and his blog it was obvious to me that he shares the same passion for this sport as many of us. His passion seems to be at an even more elevated level than the average runner. With all the experiences and opportunities that running has graced Scott its simplistic nature is what he appreciates the most. “The simplistic form of running is amazing. It doesn’t require a gym membership, or the latest/most expensive gadget or the fanciest shoes. It just takes the will/motivation to get out and move. “ What he likes the least about running is that not everyone enjoys it like he does. Most of us have gotten the looks and questions from non-runners in their inability to understand why we are drawn to running. I love Scott’s response to the question from non-runners … “Why do you run?” “To me I say, stop guessing and start trying.” I couldn’t agree with Scott more. You cannot truly understand how running can transform one’s life unless you experience it yourself.

Scott lists of mentors include locals as well as those known more on a national scale. “This past year I have to say that I leaned on Zach Baker as he helped pull together some great tempo/track workouts that we’d run during our Run@Lunch runs. This workout was a key activity as it helped me finish strong at the Woodstock 100 miler this year. In regards to ultra-distance mentoring, I’ve looked for reference from many pro ultra-runners on the scene. Reading their blogs and websites have helped tremendously. Some of these are Aton Krupicka, Dean Karnazes, Max King and Marc Ott.”

As runners all of us have that potential to be an inspiration to runners and non-runners alike. Scott is able to find this inspiration in all runners. “Everyone out there running is an inspiration. If you ever ran a 100 mile event you will see an inspiration in each ultra-runner out there. Their stories, their abilities, their charities are all an inspiration. “

Behind most addicted runners is a support system at home. Scott credits his wife Susan and two young sons Sam and Ben in his accomplishments as a runner, in particular his finish at this year’s Woodstock 100. “This was truly an entire family accomplishment. The training for this race alone was its own event. Average training week mileage was round 75 miles. There were more 30/20 miles back to back weekend runs than I can honestly remember and while those were sometime grueling on my body they were definitely an ‘adventure’ for the family. In the end though we all did it! I had my pacer on the last lap call ahead to make sure Susan and the boys where in the finish chute as I wanted them to run across the finish line me.”

Scott’s story is a great reminder of what running can do for an individual’s life. Scott was a competitive runner in high school as a sprinter but lost that edge after graduation. He was reunited with running nearly two decades later as he transformed from sprinter to ultra marathoner. He ran to shed the bulge from the middle but it is obvious that running has become much more to Scott than another weight loss program. Like many of us it has become his way of life. First and foremost Scott is a husband and father but Scott is also a runner. Running has transformed his life while intertwining with his role as a family man. I am confident that his family has reaped some of the benefits of Scott’s running as well.

I encourage you to check out more of Scott’s running story online at http://vanloorunning.wordpress.com/.

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