From the Heart: Greg Mitchell

“Luck doesn’t get you to the Olympic games.  You can’t wish your way onto the podium. You can’t buy it or hope for it. It’s not enough to dream about it. Luck didn’t get me to London. I swam there."  ~Ryan Lochte

Not your typical birthday celebration- Greg Mitchell turns 40.

I don’t sandbag, but I do often underestimate my abilities or maybe a combination of underestimating my abilities and making excuses. I’m really good at coming up with reasons for a lackluster performance, an excuse to make it an easy run or why I should keep a race in my comfort zone. “I had a brick workout yesterday and my legs are really heavy. I wasn’t organized enough to pack lunch or snacks, so I didn’t fuel enough. I stayed up too late watching The Daily Show, so I didn’t get enough sleep.” My list is endless and I’m somewhat gifted in the excuses department, however, I’m always striving to improve and love finding role models. Greg Mitchell is a perfect example of a guy I could take a lesson from, actually I could learn a whole lot from this guy and not just because he’s a six-time Master’s National Champion. He’s gifted in a way I can’t relate to with running, but looking at his heart, determination and ability to see how deep he can dig, I can definitely take notes.

A coach at Linfield and a Portland Running Company employee, Greg Mitchell didn’t allow another birthday to be an excuse to slow down. Instead, he decided to set his sights on the Master’s Record for the 20k. He was trying to come up with a unique way to celebrate his 40th birthday, a pretty big milestone. Running is a big part of his life, but not everyone in his life shares his passion and definitely not his pace. He said he came up with the idea when he was scrolling through the USATF website and came across a list of master’s track records. His wife helped him make it more than a run, inviting people out to celebrate “40″ under the lights of the track with some cowbells, fun music and Tillamook ice cream.  Mitchell is a native Oregonian, so Tillamook ice cream makes sense.

He was already training for the Twin Cities Marathon and feeling pretty good. In order to make the record rectifiable, he had to have three finishers. He decided to invite some running buddies to help pace and push him.  Chris McIssac, an athlete in the area, was happy to help his former coach with the challenge. Brantley Lutz, a former Hood to Coast teammate came out from New Mexico and Ben Zywicki, an athlete Mitchell had coached at Rampart High School in Colorado Springs flew in from Colorado. The day before the big ‘race’ the USATF notified Mitchell that five runners needed to participate in the event for it to actually count. Fortunately, runners are amazingly supportive. Cameron Chester, a recent Linfield graduate agreed to jump in last-minute.

There isn’t just the physical fatigue to consider.  Fifty times around the track is a mental challenge as well as a physical feat. They had supporters helping them count, but it’s still fifty times around a track. I’m bored after two laps. He ran the first 10k at 32:48 and the second 10k at 31:59 and appreciated the fans hanging out along the track with signs and cowbells in hand. Mitchell said it was invigorating to see them every time he ran by, approximately every 77 seconds, an impressive time for one lap, let alone fifty.  That’s dedication. Dedication for his ‘competitors’ on the track pushing him, for his supporters cheering him on as he ran circles and especially dedication for Mitchell.

I admire this guy for not using age as an excuse to go slower, but instead as an excuse to set a new goal – to aim higher and not back down.  He’s like the rest of us in most ways.  We all have demands on us with family, work and commitments, Mitchell just decided he wasn’t going to let those get in the way. I love that this guy decided to celebrate a birthday by setting a Master’s Record in the 20k and that so many people supported him with it. I’m constantly amazed with the running community and this is just one more example of an amazing athlete doing something pretty impressive and his running family supporting him the whole way. This guy has natural ability, but that isn’t all. He is willing to work like no one else, put in the hours on the pavement, get up at crazy hours to get his run in and constantly see how ‘deep his well’ is.

Greg Mitchell at ‘Faster Than You’ Seminar

If you want to get inspired by this guy in person, check out the Portland Running Company Getting Faster Seminar.  His first session: Faster Than You taught me so much in less than an hour. Novice runners and seasoned runners alike left the seminar motivated and inspired to set goals and ways to meet them. His next seminar: Sustained Speed – Three Must-Do Workouts will be this Saturday at Portland Running Company in Beaverton (10029 SW Nimbus). This seminar will focus on running faster and farther, utilizing intensity training and getting customized running tips to help you meet your goals. The workshop is $39 and the lecture runs from 8:00AM-9:30AM. A ‘Faster Than You’ technical t-shirt is included with your registration.

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