Name: Justin Simard
Hometown: Appleton, WI
High School: Appleton North
College: Rice University
Occupation: Graduate Student in American Legal History at University of Pennsylvania
Personal Bests: 5k: 15:59; 10k: 32:57; 10 mile: 53:27; Marathon: 2:30.09
Career Highlights: 2014 Philadelphia Marathon – 20th Place; 2011-2014 Winner of Seaside Heights Half Marathon; Helping revitalize PRTC!
Running Goals: Marathon – sub 2:30; Half Marathon – 70:00; Continue watching PRTC grow in numbers and speed
By: Kevin Brandon
This week’s spotlight features PRTC’s favorite satellite member, Justin Simard. Justin, thanks for interviewing with us all the way from Buffalo, NY.
I know you just completed the Boston Marathon. How was your race day experience? Are you enjoying some down time now?
You’re starting off with the toughest question: Boston was a disaster, especially after how well my training had gone. I knew it was going to feel hot, but I didn’t know I’d completely fall apart. The race broke my official string of running a PR in every marathon I’ve done. I guess that was bound to happen, so it was probably good to have it end with a bang. After a few days, I’m finally finished licking my wounds and am scouting my next race. (I think my dream last night, in which I ran a PR in an indoor 10 mile race, is probably a sign that I’m finally back mentally.) I took a week off, but I think I may start some easy running tomorrow. That said, it was fun to see a lot of PRTC friends and to meet/talk to Bill Rodgers, Greg Meyer, Neely Spence, and Des Linden the day before the race.
Tell us the path you took to becoming a runner. How did you find your way to PRTC?
My path is unusual. I ran one year of middle school cross country and was one of the slowest guys on my team. I started running a little in college but then had a few injuries. My girlfriend talked me into running the Distance Run, before it became the Rock ‘n Roll Half. My (what I thought was ambitious) goal was to run 1:37. I ran 1:30 and got hooked. Like a lot of people who never have run before, I moved up to the marathon quickly. I passed out in my first one and had to walk in my second to avoid passing out. Once I understood the concept of carb-loading I started to race a lot better. Looking for training partners, I called up the store and started running with the group.
You progressed fairly rapidly once you joined the club. To what do you credit this success? Any advice to those aspiring to make similar leaps?
I think a lot of it was feeling like I belonged. I remember telling my friends–in awe–about how I was running with people who ran for their college teams. Once I got over that, I started to work hard, hang off the back of runs, and became a lot faster. It was also nice to be surrounded by people who didn’t think I was crazy. Other keys: Mileage and having Nate and Geraint convince me to start doing track workouts with them.
Your Buffalo residency is a relatively new life development. What brought you to Buffalo and how are you liking it? How is the running in NY?
So technically I live in the Village of Akron. It’s great out here, especially since we had a mild winter. I mostly run on deserted rural roads, unless I’m meeting up with the UB team for trail runs on the weekends. I also do a decent amount of running near campus. I’m here for at least 16 more months as a Fellow at the Baldy Center for Social Policy, which is affiliated with the SUNY Buffalo Law School. There’s a fun race scene here: cheap, friendly, and good food. I miss the competition, though, and there’s no club that has runners the caliber of PRTC. Anyone is welcome if they want to come up for a race or to stay in my guest room in my cabin in the woods!
You’re something of a recruiting legend within the ranks of PRTC. I’ve been running with the club for more than a year and it seems like just about everyone has a Justin story. In other words, how you introduced them to the club. Any idea how many people you’ve brought into the fold? Do you have a favorite recruitment story?
Hahaha. I think the secret to recruiting is to have absolutely no shame. I have no idea how many times I’ve awkwardly said “hi” to a runner on the trail or after a race. I’ve brought a lot of people into the club, but my success rate is pretty low. I guess I’m just not afraid of rejection. I don’t want to single anyone out, but I will say that there have been some runners who I had to work on for a long time before they started showing up for club stuff. And there are some–who I’m pretty sure are on this list–who I’m still working on! I think part of the reason I’m such a proselytizer is that my experience running with the club has been so positive. It’s much easier to train hard in a group.
Speaking of PRTC, you have a longer tenure with the club than most members. Are you able to share a memorable club experience?
The funniest was probably the legendary run, in which Geraint poked the bear by encouraging us all to run on the completely ice covered trail. This resulted in a ridiculous hammer instituted by an angry runner. There’s also been some memorable runs in less-than-ideal conditions. The post-blizzard run this January was a good one.
Aside from enjoying running personally, you’re a pretty big fan of the sport. Who is your favorite professional runner and why?
This is too hard to answer. If I had to pick one, probably Frank Shorter. An American pioneer and his performance at the 1972 Olympics is one of my favorite races. Joan Benoit Samuelson is up there for similar reasons, especially her 1984 Olympic performance, which is probably the gutsiest running I’ve ever seen. It’s great that they’re both still running. I’m also a big fan of Abebe Bikila, Dave Wottle, Billy Mills, Bill Rodgers, Galen Rupp (Deal with it, Letsrun posters!), and Des Linden (so tough).
On a related note, I know you’re well-read on the subject of running. Do you have a favorite biography or training text to recommend to the group?
Fiction: Life at These Speeds (Beautifully written. Apparently they’re turning it into a move.)
Non-fiction: Running with the Buffaloes (An amazing story)
Training: Run Faster by Brad Hudson (Gave me confidence to write my own training plans)
Going forward, what goals do you have for your own running career? Is there a race you’d really like to check off your bucket list? How about a time to beat in a certain distance?
I’m going to get that sub-2:30 marathon some day! I’d also like to run some of the classic road races like Falmouth, Beach to Beacon, Bloomsday, Bay to Breakers, etc. I think it would be fun to plan PRTC excursions to some of those.
Lastly, you’ve been an impactful leader for PRTC over the last few years. In what ways would you like to see the club grow?
Thanks! It’s been rewarding to see the club get organized thanks to the work of a lot of people. I’d love to see us develop into a fixture of the running scene here. (Think Greater Boston Track Club or Georgetown Running Club) and I think we’re getting there, but I’d also like us to keep the open and positive vibe we’ve had for a while now.