Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Exclusive "Interview" with last American Boston Champ: Greg Meyer

When Greg Meyer's son was in elementary school he once told a friend that his father had won the Boston Marathon. "Your dad's Kenyan?!" came the response. No, Greg Meyer isn't Kenyan - he's from that other great hotspot of distance running - the American Midwest. Specifically from Grand Rapids, MI - the same area as the current star Dathan Ritzenhein. From Grand Rapids he went to the University of Michigan in my hometown of Ann Arbor. After several All-American seasons at Michigan he moved to Boston to work and train with the likes of Bill Rodgers and Bob Hodge.

Greg worked his way into the distance ranks - when he first moved to Boston he was a clerk for Bill Rodgers' running store - before finally being sponsored by Brooks. Greg had many strong performances through the years - but, it can be argued that no American runner has had a better 8 months as Greg did between the end of August 1982 and the end of April 1983. I suggest everyone read his training log during that period. He broke the American 20k record, won the Chicago marathon, the American 15k record, won the 30k OHME race in Tokyo, won Cherry Blossom 10 miler, won Boston in 2:09:00 - only six seconds off the record, and apparently went to good enough Willie Nelson concert that he included it in his log.

I met Greg when he worked with my mother in development at the University of Michigan. I recently told him about my blog and asked if he might grant me an "interview". Luckily he said yes. I sent him some questions and he responded.

BI: When did you first set your sights on winning Boston? Was it something you thought about as a kid? Or was it not really on your radar until after college?

GM: First set my sites on Boston only after moving there in '78. What pissed me off enough to run a marathon was my friend Tommy Leonard...of Elliot Lounge fame...telling me someday I could be as good as Vinny Flemming (Vinny..also a friend and teammate on the Greater Boston Track Club was a 2:14 guy at Boston). Getting my ass kicked by Seko and others in '81 was motivation for '83.

Note: For some more details around his motivation and how he won Boston read his first person account he wrote for Runners World a few years ago.

BI: What do you think was/were the most important aspect(s) of your training for the marathon?

GM: Most important aspect of my training was running on the course multiple times a week. Coach Squires' fartlek 20 miles on the course were great as well. That and 7 years of averaging over 100 MPW.

BI: What was your training group like in Boston? Were the guys loose with each other? Competitive? And how did that group help/hinder your development?

GM: Training group was amazing...Bill Rogers (2:09), Randy Thomas (2:11), Bob Hodge (2:10), Tim Donovan (2:16)..who thankfully was my whipping boy on some runs...but a great partner...those and others!

BI: What was your strategy going into the 1983 Boston race?

GM: Strategy was only to win...don't charge the up hill or down hill...but throw little surges to keep the pace fast. Benji changed that...took the pace...I only had to do one real surge before Heartbreak.

BI: What is the coolest thing that's happened to you as a result of winning Boston?

GM: Coolest thing since Boston...people still ask me about running...and it gives me instant credibility with the kids I coach...oh, and throwing out a first pitch at Fenway was VERY COOL. Even my grown kids thought so!

Thanks Greg! He even gave me some details on that 20 mile fartlek - whadya say guys? Time for a road trip?


Rebs said...

Ben siting- on Charles St near Penn Station @ approx. 9AM. Doing your 9 miles I presume? What do you mean by 10x100 on your workout schedule? Is that 10x 100m pick-ups?

Ben said...

yea - i ran the pickups on 21st street between charles and maryland st. i'm not sure it was a full 100m - but, at least it wasn't too icy.

RM said...

Ben, great interview. I would imagine the Randy Thomas he spoke of is the same that (used to) coached Boston College while my friends were there. Pretty neat.

As far as a trip, I'd be cool with going but don't know when I could go. Also, with the funding situation I don't know if I can rationalize going up more than the race itself...