So this is your first time in Asia, and before you were in Australia?
Yeah, I was in New Zealand and Australia. I was in New Zealand for ten days, then Australia for four days.
You’re a big fan of mountain running. Did you get any run-ins while you were in New Zealand?
I did, really good runs. I shouldn’t have been riding on my shin because it’s been injured for a while, but it’s hard to resist when you’re in a new part of the world with great mountains. It was really good, especially the South Island. I got up a couple of volcanoes in the North Island too. It’s a lot of fun. Right when I landed at eight in the morning in Auckland, I rented a car, drove five hours to the Taranaki volcano in Egmont National Park, went up and down that… It was very sweet.
Do you bring a camera when you run?
Yeah! Yeah, I do. Not every run, but if it’s going to be scenic – well, most runs are, but I do run the same tracks back home, so this one was an exception.
I guess if you’re running through New Zealand it’s a given you’ll be taking photos to show your friends.
Yeah, it’d be kind of a goofy blog post if I didn’t, but yeah – I always post pictures on my blog.
What do you do outside of running?
Oh, I just finished a Master’s degree at the University of Colorado and now I’m full-time doing this, so it’s good! In the summer I’ll probably be working part-time somewhere as a barista, just to get a bit of income, but New Balance support me pretty well.
Well, it’s always good to have a degree in case your leg falls off or something.
Even if your leg falls off, you won’t have to worry so much. Some people can run on one leg.
They do, I guess. But I don’t know if New Balance would want to sponsor that [laughs].
That’s true. The spike in sales for only left shoes isn’t a great business plan. So you’ve been running for…
Seventeen years now, yeah.
Have there been any moments when you’ve had an injury and you’ve really worried whether you could go back to the intensity you used to run?
Absolutely. I broke my leg last summer, last June. And the first few runs back, and that I broke it running, there are those tentative first few times on the trail, but a couple of weeks later it was totally fine. It’s just such a natural thing for me, I guess, to be running out on the trails.
What I find interesting is that when someone breaks something, they automatically assume it’s the end of the world and it’ll never be the same.
Yeah, but it was such a freak little accident, I could’ve broken it on the stairs. I tripped and fell. I was on crutches for two and a half months. When I came back after that it felt kind of weak, but eventually it got better.
You could massage the facts a little and say you broke it on the 99th kilometre.
Yeah, exactly, or off a cliff or something. [Laughs] It was a really dumb accident.
When you were changing your style to minimalistic running, did you have any issues with your knees? I hear that without the cushioning there’s no support for the knees.
People who are transitioning to minimalist footwear typically have more trouble with the Achilles, the calves. [When you use] minimalist footwear, hopefully your form is changing a little bit, to the point where there’s actually less impact going on. But what’s taking that extra impact – instead of your bone structure, which would go right up through to your knees – is the lower leg muscles. So that’s why you’ll have sore Achilles, sore calves, that sort of thing.
Do you have any issues with the thin heel when you started running barefoot-style?
No, because I run mid-foot to forefoot, so that’s where the initial impact is. As long as there’s something there, that’s enough for me. I have more issues with the forefoot. That’s why the shoes I wear, while they’re minimalistic, there’s actually protection around the forefoot when I train.
There are a lot of road marathons here in Singapore. Is minimalistic footwear unsuitable for these events, or is it even better?
I don’t know – I do most of my running on trails, so it’s harder for me to advocate. I’m usually minimalist on natural surfaces, because I do believe the human body has evolved to run while it was barefoot without a shoe, but that’s not a natural surface. The other thing is you can improve your form to the point where there’s less impact. When I run a road marathon I’m wearing a minimalist shoe made for the road.
Are there any dietary habits you tend to keep to?
No [laughs]. Just eat. People have always asked that, but I’ve just never really had that. I’d just focus on the running part.
I’ve heard that you run essentially to get away from the noise and mess of city life.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s part of my biggest motivation behind it. The space for yourself without distractions, I think it’s pretty important.
What’s going through your mind when you’re running? Are you clear-headed?
That’s exactly right. Just letting whatever pops in run through your head, but don’t be intentional about any of your thoughts. It’s meditative in that respect. It’s way different during racing, you’re very focused. But here I try to totally free-associate.
Does it help if you have any problems in your mind to run it out?
Yeah, that’s sort of the cliché about doing your best thinking when on a run. And I’ll be out on a run and come up with some pretty good ideas about certain things, but then completely forget them by the time I get back home. Which is really frustrating, and I wish had something to dictate to, but exercise definitely makes the brain work better.
Do you have to look out for certain weather conditions?
Absolutely. Lightning’s the one thing you have to respect. Everything else you can be prepared for.
You were also featured in a documentary…
I’m in the movie Unbreakable, about a race I ran in 2010. What the filmmakers did was follow the top four racers before, during and after the race. I end up finishing second. I led for 90 miles, then lost by six minutes. It was a really good day, still.
Do you keep in contact with any of the other competitors?
Actually most of them are my best friends. They mostly live in Boulder, Colorado too.
It must be a great place to run.
It’s a fun community. We don’t get go out together as much as we’d like though.
Does it ever get competitive during those runs?
Nah, not during training. We all know that we’re all pretty high, so there’s no need to challenge each other.
Have you ever considered a weekend run?
They don’t interest me as much. I’m more a one-day runner – put it all out there for 15-16 hours, and then be done. I’m always weary of injury too, so that could be pretty tough. Maybe in the future, but it’s just not as interesting to me.
And about the acupuncture?
Absolutely. I get it once or twice a week. Just with little niggles, aches and pains. I think it stops turning a lot of little injuries into big injuries.