Run with the Jim Spivey Running Club My Mouth: All of It: One Man, One Place, All Said
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Red Bandana: Get Trained by an Olympian

Read this week's Red Bandana: A Runner Dies, A Runner Wins, A Runner Runs (to End Homelessness)

Across the western suburbs, you will find many kinds of running clubs: from hardcore marathoners to "run my first 5K" clubs to pure track clubs. One club, however, is especially unique.
What would it be like to train with an Olympian? Every Thursday evening at the Wheaton College track, you will find Jim Spivey coaching adult runners looking to improve their speed. The Jim Spivey Running Club has been the home of many age group champions since 1990 and has just started the 2011 season.

This is not a marathon training club. Though many of the runners do run marathons, and a few race Iron Man triathlons and even ultramarathons (50 kilometers to 100 miles), most are looking to run quicker 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles) races. High school age to runners in their 60s stand toe-to-toe at the line to become better runners.

What does a workout look like?

Thursdays, 5:30 pm, Wheaton College Track

First, there is the warm-up. Runners meet in the Billy Graham Center parking lot on the Wheaton College campus. Find everyone at 5:30 pm on the west side of Chase where the tracks cross. Everyone runs east on the Illinois Prairie Path around a mile, turns around and heads back.

Back at the parking lot, you can grab a drink of water (it is BYOW – bring your own water), and maybe change shoes from trail-friendly to something better suited for the track. Or not. When I have run there, I wear the same ones to train on all surfaces, as well as race. Presently, I am wearing ASICS 2150 shoes.

Next, it is off the to the track. Runners congregate at the starting line, found at the northwest side of the track. Coach Spivey arrives and briefly makes an announcement or two, and explains the workout.

An April workout, a favorite of mine, might look like this:

2 miles warmup
6×100 striders
3 sets of 3×400 (a 200 meter jog between each within a set, and a 400 meter jog between each set]
600 meters warmdown

Each 400 meter interval will have a specific, yet relative pace, based on your ability and goals. Try running 400 meter intervals alone, then trying running them with others. Simply put, it is easier to push through the last 100 meters when you have someone next to you.

Coach Spivey's club slogan is "Stay healthy, have fun, run PRs." In another words, although the workouts are challenging, he keeps an eye on weather conditions, a runner's fitness level and their race goals. The fun part comes from the joy of working out side-by-side with serious runners, enjoying great camaraderie and respect for a good effort. "The social factor is a big reason people join a running club," he said, noting that most clubs get together off track as well.

After the warmdown, everyone heads out somewhere for a bite to eat or something cold to drink to celebrate friendship and a job well done.

Who Is Jim Spivey?
Coach Spivey ran the 1500 meters in 1984 and 1992 Olympics, and the 5000 meters in 1996's Olympics. While a student at Fenton High School, he was the top 880 yards runner nationally, and had the second best mile in the country when he was a senior. He has faced the toughest runners ever to lace up a pair of shoes, including legends Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram, Steve Ovett and Steve Scott.

In 1984, he won the Olympic Trials for the 1500 meters, and placed fifth in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. His time of 3:36.06 is still the fastest run by an American in the Olympic final. His best mile is a 3:49.80, and he owns the American record in the 2000 meters with a 4:52.44 run in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1987.

He went on to coach at Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago, as well as has privately trained some of the top high school athletes in the country.

Whew! Tired yet? He brings all of this experience to the track, benefiting runners of all levels. Check out his running club next week.

For more information, see

Are you running with a club I should know about? Drop me a line.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
"Bargain" by The Who
Coach Spivey is a big fan of The Who, so this week it is the hard charging love song from their classic 1971 album "Who's Next." Real love involves getting out of ourselves, and thinking more about the other person. The Who gets this point across loudly, worthy of any running playlist.
"I sit looking 'round
I look at my face in the mirror
I know I'm worth nothing without you
In life one and one don't make two
One and one make one
And I'm looking for that free ride to me
I'm looking for you

I'd gladly lose me to find you
I'd gladly give up all I got
To catch you I'm gonna run and never stop"

Writer Anthony Trendl downloaded "The Who: The Ultimate Collection" as his first online music purchase, and thinks classic rock makes the best running playlist fodder. Contact me to send your favorite tips, songs, recipes, or to promote a road race. See

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