I decided to interview my good friend Phil Richert. We grew up together in Andover, MN but didn’t really get to know each other till the last couple years when I started running more seriously. I was never a runner growing up and didn’t really understand it. While I was off getting into trouble in high school, Phil was putting in daily miles. So When I started running later in life, Phil was really doing amazing things. Seeing his dedication was very inspiring and gave me motivation to put in the work in hopes of being a good runner someday. Since we have become friends, Phil has always been very encouraging and supportive and was a big part of my journey to a “serious runner”. I’m grateful to know the guy and figured that others should get to know him as well.
How did you get into running?
I got into running like a lot of young kids do, I ran track in 8th grade to get in shape for basketball and football. While I was in middle school my older brother was a state champion high jumper so I remember always having to travel around the state to watch track meets, giving me some early exposure to the sport. My brother had originally joined the track team to get in shape for basketball as well, so my dad though it would be a good idea for me to try it out. I remember my first track meet ever I was supposed to run the mile, the second leg of the 4x100m relay, and throw the shot put (I was a big kid in middle school). Right before I was supposed to run the mile I remember telling my coach I was too afraid to run that far, so he put me in the 800m instead. I ran 2:43 and puked after my race…That was pretty much the main theme of my early running career until the spring of 10th grade.
Talk about your high school highlights.
In 10th grade I transferred from Anoka High school to the newly built Andover High School. I feel that developing in a new program was good for me because it gave me the chance to be one of the top runners right away greatly helping my confidence. That spring I experience my first moment of success in my eyes. I lowered my PR to 2:02.8 placing in the 800m at the NWSC championships. That was the first time I had ever medaled in a race and I have loved running ever since. I was so excited after that race that I quit basketball and decided to focus on running year round. We had a great group of guys that met every day all summer to run anywhere from 5-12 miles. By the end of my High school career I was running 40-60 mpw year round and I lowered my PR’s to 1:57, 4:26, 9:44, and 16:40.
How did you end up at Stevens Point? Talk about the first couple years there and how you stacked up.
I wasn’t fast enough to get any attention from any DI schools and all the MIAC schools were too expensive, so I decided that I was going to go to one of the WIAC schools. I had my heart set on going to UW- Lacrosse. I didn’t know much about college running, but I always looked at results and they usually won, so that was where I wanted to be. I contacted the coach to schedule a visit and he ended up kind of blowing me off. I’m sure it probably wasn’t intentional, but at the time I was pretty upset. I ended up visiting UW-Platteville, UW-Whitewater, and UW-Stevens Point. I ended up deciding on Stevens Point because Coach Witt made me feel wanted and we had a young team that was a good fit for me. My freshman year the team was pretty terrible. I think we collectively drank more beers a week, than miles run per week.
You really made a jump your sophmore track season, what was behind that? What was your training like at that point?
Fully indulging in the college lifestyle caught up with me during indoor track my freshman year. I was very anemic and got a really bad case of mono that kept me in bed with no running for 7 straight weeks. At the time I was devastated, but it ended up being one of the best things to ever happen to my running. During that time I was reminded how much I loved running and I told myself that I was done taking it for granted. I was able to start running during spring break and within 4 weeks I had already equaled my High school mile PR. For the next 3 years my training was extremely consistent. I would like to think my new training approach helped to dramatically change the approach and focus of my entire time. We went from getting 5th at conference my Freshman year in cross-country to 6th place at nationals my junior year, and conference champs and a 4th place podium finish at nationals my senior year. Not too bad for starting out a bunch of sloppy stupid freshman. My mileage was usually around 70-80 miles a week with a couple 90’s here and there. The consistency and higher mileage made all the difference, transforming me into a different runner. before the mileage jump my PR’s were a 4:23 mile, 15:50 5k, and 25:57 8k. By the time I was done with my last outdoor track season I lowered my best times to 4:17 mile, 8:35 3k, 14:42 5k, 24:44 8k and 30:47 10k. I credit the improvement entirely to appropriate progression and consistency. Here is a link to my online running log for a more detailed look at my training.
What changed in the summer of 2009?
I have always used a very long-term approach to running. I look at it in terms of months and years instead of days and weeks. I always tried to raise my weekly average about 10 miles a week per year. I didn’t start doing it intentionally until Senior year of High school, but going back even to 8th grade I followed that rule of plus 10 pretty closely. 8th grade 5-10 mpw, 9th 20ish, 10th 30ish, 11th 40ish, 12th 50ish, Freshman 60ish, Sophemore 70ish, Junior 80ish, Senior 80-90ish. My natural progression said it was time to start running 100’s. My coach always advised against running that much saying the risk wasn’t worth the reward. With that always in the back of my head I was scared to up my mileage anymore. But with the 5th year of college coming up and no cross-country season to worry about I figured I was just start running 100’s and see what happens. Even if I got hurt I would still have time to come back and run well my last indoor season and didn’t have to deal with letting the cross-country team down if an injury prevented me from performing well in the fall. Initially I was extremely tired with the mileage increase, but after about 6 straight 100 mile weeks my body started to adapt to the increased work load and I could really feel the strength gains.
Talk about your first long road race at the TC 10 mile in 2009.
It was June 2009 and January 2010 seemed too far off to even think about so I needed to have a goal race to break it up. My time on the XC team was done, so I didn’t want to be the guy just hanging out. I figured doing a longer road race would allow me to do my own thing and take advantage of the increased mileage. I loved being able to follow my own schedule and make up my own workouts. I’ve always been fairly difficult with coaches so I loved being able to coach myself. I was definitely nervous about racing that far, but I ended up running 51:21 which I was extremely pleased with. It gave my a lot of confidence knowing that I could coach myself properly to a peak for my goal race.
After the TC 10 you started training for track, talk about that process a bit and your first few indoor races.
I didn’t take any down time after the TC 10. I figured I had a good thing going and didn’t want to lose it. By the time Indoor started in January and I had been running close to 100 mpw for 7 straight months. The year before Galen Rupp had an amazing senior year winning 6 national championships. During interviews he would talk about how he was really concentrating on his speed after years of focusing on strength. He was always a great runner, but didn’t have the kick to win the championship races. Obviously what he was doing worked because he could all of a sudden out kick everyone. Obviously I’m not Galen Rupp, but I figured the same principles that worked for him could work for me on the DIII level. I always had a big kick in High school, but at the college level I always found myself getting out kicked because I didn’t really work on my speed for 3 straight years. I was extremely fortunate for my teammates David Litsheim and Adam Lang. They were both multiple time All American mid distance runners with amazing foot speed. I started doing almost all the mid distance workouts with them as soon as the season started. It was definitely ugly at first, but as the season progressed my speed really started to come around! I knew I was at another level when I sat on those guys and ran a 54 second 400m in practice completely relaxed.
What was your final collegiate season like?
My final collegiate season was definitely a dream season. Everything just clicked. In a 4 week stretch I ran a solo 8:24 3k, 14:35 5k, 4:12.7 mile, and anchored the DMR to a new school record and the fastest time in the county in DIII in 9:56.
Can you speak some about your experiences at nationals and how you did individually and as a team?
The entire team really came together that season. At one point we were the #1 ranked team in the country and ended up placing 2nd at nationals, which was the highest finish in school history. It was such an amazing experience to enjoy that success with my teammates. Individually it was an amazing weekend for me. We came into the meet with the top time in the DMR, but our lead off 1200m leg was the fastest 800m runner in the country, so in an attempt to maximize our team points he ran the open 800m instead of the relay. Despite the top speed, we now had our lead off leg running the 1200m and for the first time ever a freshman running the 800m. I knew we would still do well, but we had our doubts about winning. The first 3 legs ended up running really well and I quickly moved into second place. Unfortunately the leader had a large lead and was pulling away. I settled in at the front of the chase pack has his lead grew to 7 seconds. With 400m to go the lead was still at 7 seconds when I started to move in an attempt to get away from the chase pack. Winning didn’t cross my mind until 100m to go when the leader appeared in front of me. I have never been more focused on anything in my life. I was able to catch in right at the line for the national championship by .03 seconds. The next day I was able to double back and get All American in the 5k. I may never have a more exciting race weekend!
What did you end up doing after track season was over?
After track was over I got my weekly mileage back into the 100’s and was looking ahead to the TC marathon in the fall.
You ended up going to Maine is May 2010, talk about your summer there while training for the Twin Cities Marathon.
After I graduated college I didn’t really know what to do next. I had a friend who was working out in Maine at Acadia National Park and said they were hiring. I always like a good adventure so I packed up my car and lived in Maine for 6 months. Words can’t describe it, so I wont even try, but Acadia National Park is an absolute running paradise. While I was living there I got my weekly mileage up into the 120’s, ran hilly 20+ mile long runs at 6 min pace, long tempos and intervals every week, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. It was an amazing experience free of stress and distractions.
Twin Cities Marathon 2011. Talk about it!
Going into the TCM my goal was to break 2:19 and get the Olympic Trials qualifier. It was definitely an ambitious goal, but I prefer to shoot for big goals even if I fall short. The race day experience was amazing. Perfect weather, great support group, and a beautiful course. Since it was my debut I didn’t really know what to expect so I figured I would just get after it and see what happens. You can’t be afraid to fail if you are going to succeed. I found myself with a great group and long time friend and training partner Dan Greeno right on pace in the early stages. We came through the half in 1:09:10 and I was feeling great. Unfortunately that didn’t last long. By mile 17 I was hurting pretty bad and starting to doubt my early pace. I hit 20 miles in 1:46:45, still on 2:19 pace but I was fading. The last 10k up Summit Ave was character building for me to say the least. I was over 6 minutes for mile 22 and 23 and feeling sorry for myself. Once I got to the top of the hill I talked myself into just trying to break 6 min pace which helped a lot instead of focusing on the fact that I wasn’t hitting sub 5:20’s. After a 6:20 and 6:07 mile I was able to finish up the race in 5:55, 5:50, 5:36 the last 3 miles to run 2:23:42 for my marathon debut. Even though I was well off the sub 2:19 I was extremely happy with my race. I felt a great sense of accomplishment.
Where are you at now? What are you doing as far as training goes, and where do you want to go from here?
Following the marathon I felt pretty good after only a couple of days and started running again after 4 days off, hitting 70 miles in my first full week back. After 10 days of running I developed patellar tendonitis that crippled my running for 4 months. This was my first running injury ever which hit me very hard. Looking back I was greedy and didn’t want to lose my fitness which ended up costing me a lot. In the long run it was a great learning experience and a mistake that I wont make again. As for right now I am returning to form and got the mileage back into the 100’s and feeling great. The goal is still to break 2:19 and the 2011 TCM!