One of the more unique members of the Dailymile community is Thomas Neuberger. A Baltimore resident, his creativity (as evidenced by the designs he has done for various events, such as the Ragnar Del Sol “Where’s the Damn Van?” team), and his ever-more-impressive accomplishments really set him apart. On top of all that, he is a great guy. You can find Thomas on Dailymile or on Twitter as neudesigns, and he has one of the better running blogs around with Believe in the Run, where he reviews a ton of shoes and other gear as well as provides more general thoughts on training and the joy of running.
Predawn Runner: You mention starting your running at age 35 – what drew you to start? Did you have a fitness “regime” before that?
Thomas Neuberger: I signed up for a 5k during the Baltimore Running Festival. The Baltimore Running Festival has a 5k, a half marathon, a 4 person relay marathon, and a marathon. When I saw all the fit, attractive, happy people I was drawn to the energy of the event. I knew then I wanted to run more. I signed up for a marathon-training program the next month. Before I started running, I went to the gym a little bit. I did not have much of a fitness plan. I remember when I told one of my relatives that I was going to run a marathon, she pretty much laughed in my face. People doubting you can be a good motivator.
PR: What was it about running that made you want to start attacking it with the vim and vigor that you have?
TN: Running gave me confidence. It has taught me that I can do things that I thought I couldn’t. Every time I do something I thought I wouldn’t be able to do, I naturally raise the bar. I get a super high from breaking through those mental barriers.
PR: You pretty quickly stepped up to the marathon, and as visitors to your blog can see, you’ve run some pretty interesting ones. What types of training approaches have you taken?
TN: I started training with a group from my local running store. It is a great way to get started. It gives you a plan, a coach, accountability, friends to run with, and a sense of community. Now, I am fortunate to have one-on-one help from Caleb Masland. Caleb sends me a training plan and I follow it diligently. I tried another coach at one point, and it didn’t work out. The coach trainee relationship needs to have investment from both sides of the equation. Caleb is genuinely passionate about helping the people he trains succeed. I tried to be a good student, I listened and followed Caleb’s training plan and advice. A trust built up between us and we became a team.
PR: Have you seen any difference in results from various training approaches?
TN: Yes, I went from a 3:58 Marathon PR to a 3:20 Marathon PR in one year working with Caleb. We are not done yet either.
PR: You’ve also dabbled a bit in ultras – which do you enjoy more?
TN: I wouldn’t say ”dabbled.” You can’t dabble Ultras. My four Ultras over the five years I have been running have been the most memorable runs. The GORE-TEX TransRockies Run (GTTRR) ranks right up there with the new marathon PR. The GTTRR is an incredible event; it’s like doing a week of marathons over the trails of the breathtaking Rocky Mountains. It’s a journey. I have often compared the difference between the trail run ultras and the road marathon is in the personality of the events. Marathons are like U2 concerts in feel, big productions, lots of merchandise, the crowd is mainstream and the show is pretty much the same from town to town. Ultras are more like a Grateful Dead or Phish concert, the runners are mellow and all hangout together before and after the event, things are a lot less formal, the food is less GU and more what you would expect if you had the munchies. You will often find M&Ms, Coca-Cola, potato chips, chicken soup, gummy bears, peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches, and even french fries (a HAT 50k specialty.) One isn’t better than the other they are just different. I love them both.
PR: Your most recent marathon yielded a huge PR – what was different about your training this time?
TN: Caleb made it tougher with more speed work, more miles, more time goals for workouts. I also am riding my bike a lot more. Caleb also paced me at Marine Corps Marathon, that made a HUGE difference.
PR: With a busy career and family life, how do you find the time to train, especially for the ultras?
TN: First, I have the best wife in the world. She knows, for my personality, it is better if I run than if I don’t. She takes the hardest hit when it comes to my training. I wake her up early when my alarm goes of in the morning and she knows at least one day of the weekend I will be up early running for at least two hours. When I am out running she is taking care of the boys.
I like to get my runs done in the morning. If you don’t do it first thing life can get in the way. If life gets in the way you wont get your run in. I will set the alarm earlier and earlier if I have too. You can always make time. When my second son was born this summer, I took running clothes with me to the hospital. I would spend the night, help my wife, and then run home shower spend some time with our other son, pack another bag and head back to the Hospital. I did that for five days. It was a fun break in the routine.
PR: Speaking of your wife, I see that she is now planning her first marathon – do you see yourselves training together, or will running remain your “me” time?
TN: This is going to be her experience. I will do what ever she wants me to do, but I have a feeling she will want to go through this with my support, not my help running. I recommended she do the training through our local running store like I did. She seems excited to do that. As she enters her corral next October in Chicago, I will be on the support team. I will let her run this one with me as a spectator.
PR: I think that’s a great approach, as it will have to make running more special for her to be able to do it her way. What are your own near- and longer-term goals for your running?
TN: I would like to run Boston. My PR is a BQ for 2012, but 2012 is closed out. In 2013 the time for a BQ drops to 3:14:59. If I want to run Boston in 2013, I will need to drop another 5 minutes. That makes my short term goal 3:10. I plan on working with Caleb to get there. In January I am running Ragnar Keys as an Ultra team with friends from dailymile. The goal there is to have fun, shouldn’t be hard. In March I will run my third HAT 50k with a ton of dailymilers. I love that race. A sub 20 minute 5k would be cool too. Hmmm, Long term goal… Stay healthy and enjoy running and the running community.
PR: Well, best of luck, with the progress you made this season there is little doubt that meeting the new BQ requirements is in your near future.