In this blog series, we’ll get to know some of our new and veteran Distance Challenge (DC) participants. If you have a story you’d like to share, let us know! Interviews by DC Coordinator, Hannah Kanne email@example.com.
I was born and raised in Chicago (North Side, so I’m a Cubs fan), came to Austin for graduate school in electrical engineering and fell in love with the city. After law school, more time in Chicago, and the second worst blizzard in Chicago’s history, I decided that Austin was looking better and better, so I came back.
In high school, I was fairly sedentary — I spent most of my time reading and going to movies with friends. I also have terrible hand-eye coordination, so anything involving throwing or hitting or catching with accuracy was out! During my senior year, I decided I was tired of sweating and breathing heavy from going up a flight of stairs, so I started running and lifting weights and tried to get in shape. Through college and grad school, I added biking and swimming, and by my mid-twenties I was doing marathons and Olympic-distance triathlons.
In my late-thirties, I found managing the day job and all that real life stuff hard to juggle with seriously working out, so I didn’t do anything serious again from my mid-thirties to mid-forties. My last marathon had been the 2000 Austin Marathon. Periodically, I thought about doing one again and, in fact, signed up for one or two, but never found time to do the training. I had gained weight and running the longer distances was hard on my knees.
About five years ago, I discovered I was tired of sweating and having to breathe hard merely from walking up the hill to my house. Also around that time, I needed to buy some new jeans and was aggrieved to discover that I was going to have to go up to a size I’d never worn before.
I decided this time I would actually run the Austin Marathon again and began training in earnest. I ran the 2013 marathon and finished with a personal worst. But, I’d lost 35 pounds along the way and no longer qualified for the Clydesdale division so I didn’t care. Much.
I sort of fell off the wagon the following year but decided that I should take advantage of the stuff that had attracted me to Austin in the first place: the active outdoors community and, yes, the weirdness. I decided that just one race a year was not the right approach. I’d done the 3M Half Marathon and the Decker Challenge back in the 90’s so I looked them up and discovered they were now part of this thing called the Austin Distance Challenge, which culminated in the Austin Marathon. So, I signed up…
What are your running goals? At the moment, my goal is to run a PB in a marathon. My best of the century (2015) is just under 4 hours but I’d like to bring that down. My PB of all time is around 3:45 but that was all downhill (and twenty years ago!). I would love to qualify for Boston but haven’t yet decided if it would be more efficient to try to improve my running times or simply live long and gracefully enough to let qualifying times catch up with me…
What do you do outside of running? Well, along with the running, I’ve taken up triathlons again and recently completed the Capital of Texas Tri and Jack’s Generic Tri. I’m more comfortable on the swim than I used to be but the running leg is more painful than I remember it. I have signed up for the Austin Ironman 70.3 and I’ve never done that distance before. The training is taking up a lot of time!
I enjoy cooking, largely because I enjoy eating — everything from sushi to pizza to steak to stir fry to chili to goulash. I also still spend plenty of time reading. I’m a recovering lawyer and a full-time children’s book author these days. I write mostly comedic and/or science fiction novels for middle grade readers, although my agent is shopping a couple picture books and nonfiction works as well.
I also teach workshops and do school visits, encouraging literacy and reading. You can find out about my books at my web site http://www.gregleitichsmith.com
Have you participated in a Distance Challenge before? This will be my third consecutive Distance Challenge. I like the DC as a build-up to the Austin Marathon, and the other races are fun as well. The 80’s 8K isn’t the most picturesque but the music at start and finish is a riot. The Run for the Water has a great downtown route and the Decker Challenge and 3M Half Marathons are just iconic Austin races.
This year, my goal is to beat all of my last year’s times…except maybe the 3M because the 2017 version featured a near-hurricane-level tailwind (it’s entirely possible I went airborne running past Darrell K. Royall-Memorial Stadium!).
Favorite type of food? Periodically I spend a couple weeks and do a Pizza-a-fay diet where I have a pizza from a different place each day. My favorite is the Chicago-style pizza with the cracker-thin crust and a tavern cut. Unfortunately, you can’t get it in Austin so I have to make my own. On event days, the banana is the perfect food.
Do you like to listen to music while you run? I do not. I sweat more than most human beings and don’t like the sensation of ear buds floating in my ears. Also, I tend to zone out a bit when I run as it is, so I don’t want to risk missing car horns, the screech of tires, sirens, and the like. I also find that long runs are good for working out plot points in my novels-in-progress.
Thanks for sharing your story, Greg! We can’t wait to follow along as you #darethedistance and get that personal best this season.