I think this is the first time we have gone out of the US for a Predawn Profile (though the contingent from Alabama might count). And we’re not straying that far from our roots (oops, almost wrote that as “routes” – occupational hazard, I guess) – Tim Meier is an American in Paris. If you think that sounds like a movie waiting to be written, just wait until you see the type of runner he is. And if what you see entices you, feel free to follow Tim’s training on dailymile or Twitter, or keep up with his blog, i Run Paris. Tim and Brian Vinson are the only profilees I have actually met, having had the pleasure of running 12 miles with them on the Towpath in Cleveland back in May.
Predawn Runner: Where are you from originally?
Tim Meier: I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio, much like a certain Predawn Runner (PR Response: Fortunately, you are a bit younger than I, so I never had to compete against you). I did my undergrad in Indiana and then my Masters in New York where I lived and worked for 5 years.
PR: How did you ultimately end up moving to Paris?
TM: In 2005 I was in the middle of my master’s program and we had a leadership module class in Germany. While there, as a Protestant Pastor, I saw tons of opportunities to work in Europe and begin to explore my options to serve and work here. When I got back to the States I found out that a guy in France had designed a project with me in mind so we started down that road and eventually moved to France in 2008. We did a year of French studies in the Alps then made our way to Paris to work with an International Church and refurbished jazz club turned activity center called Genesis.
PR: Where did you get your start in running?
TM: I always loved to run as a kid and since I was small I could usually outrun the bigger kids. After a very mediocre and short lived career as a soccer player, being cut from the basketball team, and striking out (literally and figuratively) on the baseball diamond, I signed up for track in 8th grade. That year I broke the school record in the 400 and I’ve been running ever since.
PR: I understand you competed in track in college – can you tell us a bit about the lifestyle and your accomplishments?
TM: My high school career ended well with a 4th place state finish in Ohio in the 3200. That race earned me some scholarship money and a spot on a good team. College was a great experience for me in terms of running but was pretty intense. I was average on the team running a 26:25 8k in XC, 15:35 5000 in track, 1:56 800, and 4:05 1500. Everything went well until I got injured in the middle of my junior year (2001/2002) and never really recovered. I had multiple stress fractures in both legs that I had run through for at least 6 months. But, my running life was way out of my balance at that point. In fact, when I look back I realize that running was my life. Everything else was secondary including my studies, my girlfriend, and my faith. I only ran 2 more races between 2003 and 2010 and they were 5k’s (18:30 and18:45 finishes I think)
PR: How did you come to rediscover competitive running in France?
TM: At the beginning of 2010 I looked in the mirror and finally had enough. I told my wife that I was going to get back in shape so I started running about 3-4 miles at a time and worked up to about 25 miles a week. I read “Born to Run” and “Once a Runner”, got some new running shoes, and a very kind supporter from the U.S. bought me a GPS watch. I trained on my own for about 6 months, joined Daily Mile in June of 2010 and then raced a half-marathon in September of that year. It was my first real race in over 8 years. After that I decided to join a running club (very common in France) to meet more people and runners. Providentially I arrived at a great club with a super coach and have stayed there ever since.
PR: What is your approach to training?
TM: I could talk about this for a long time. I guess if I had to sum it up it would be: train hard and be consistent. I really love to run, especially now that I’ve lost some weight and gotten back in shape and I rarely miss a planned workout. Most weeks include hill work OR long intervals, tempo OR speedier track stuff (like 300’s, your favorite distance (PR Response: I prefer to call those “3/16-mile intervals”.)), and a long run. The rest of the runs are easier stuff and I’m trying to be more disciplined in running easy while building my mileage base. I have some decent leg speed so I really like to run fast but I’m learning to be more moderate in my approach; it’s taking some time though…
PR: You have had some pretty impressive accomplishments since you re-started. Can you share some of the highlights?
TM: That first half marathon was about 1:21 I think and I’m pretty amazed now thinking about it that I didn’t die after pretty shoddy training. Since then I’ve run two more half marathons, two marathons, and a couple of little races. I recently ran a 5k in 16:50 and a hilly 8k in 27:40 but my best race was a half marathon in September that I ran in 1:16 in a relatively slow course. I also ran a marathon relay with my club where we finished 9th in France about a month ago.
PR: What has been your experience with the marathon to date?
TM: Bad. No, it’s not been all disappointment. Actually, the experience has been a very humbling and learning one for me. The training has gone well but I’ve yet to execute a good one on race day. My first marathon I ran on very low mileage and had a disastrous experience. The second one was probably worse because I was in way better shape. I went out in 1:21 for the first half feeling great and then hit a wall because of wind and other factors and mentally lost it finishing in 3:00:20. It’s been difficult to realize that the marathon is such a long process to learn, at least for me.
PR: What have you learned about running the marathon, and how will that impact your future training plans?
TM: I’ve basically learned that the marathon is different from everything else. It’s not really about speed, it’s about strength, and I’m not sure I was prepared correctly in my mind for either race. Going forward I’m boosting my mileage, hoping to hit 300 per month during this next cycle and will hope to run slower distance runs. I also think I was training too hard on the track and will back that off so that I can up my doubles during the week. The marathon really is won in the late stages and physically my legs have cramped because of too low mileage and too fast starts. All the “race calculators” tell me I can run at least a 2:41 but I’ve yet to be even close. Much more to learn…But at 31 I know that I have a lot of good marathoning years left in me God willing.
PR: You’ve recently become more of a predawn runner. Why is that, and what can you tell us about your experience thus far?
TM: For the “why”, I have to give you a lot of credit. You’re a persuasive man, Greg Strosaker. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I realize that if I want to train with big miles I have to do them while my two boys and wife are asleep. I can’t let my running take over my life. Plus, I’ve really enjoyed running on an empty stomach and hopefully training my body to run on lower fuel. The experience has been pretty great so far except there are habits that I’m still learning like: what to lay out the night before, what not to eat right before bed, how to survive without coffee pre-run, and most importantly: the necessity of doing the Standard Warm-Up à-la Fitz as soon as I wake up.
PR: What are your goals now, both short- and long-term?
TM: In the short term, I’m going to be running some fun team cross-country races in January and February that will just supplement my marathon training. I haven’t raced cross in a long time so it’ll be interesting but there is a great culture for it here, and the courses are extremely challenging so it’s fantastic for strength and fitness. Then, I’ll be giving the Paris marathon another shot in April hoping to get close to 2:45 I think but I’d be happy with anything that doesn’t end in my crawling on the ground swearing. Long term I would love to run all 5 of the major marathons and eventually see the 2:30’s. I would also enjoy pushing the half marathon time down to see where the maximum potential is. Since I live in Europe, but also in the U.S. every four years, I have a unique opportunity to run a ton of different races and experience running in many different cultural contexts, which is a true joy.
PR: Best of luck Tim, I look forward to continuing to follow your journey, even though I recognize that my better marathon time of 2:55:41 is not long for this world.