Welcome to the first installment of For Real Runner! We’ll be featuring local runners in the Chambana community on the blog. I’ve found that running is actually a very social sport despite being a seemingly solitary activity. With For Real Runner!, runners can get to know each other and share their hard-earned wisdom from over the years and miles.
Our first interview comes Thad Sweet who responded to my call on our Facebook page.
Thad at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k 2011
When you’re not running, what do you do?
I serve as a Small Group Pastor at my church, The Vineyard in Urbana. I’m also a husband and father of 2 girls (7 and almost 5) so that all keeps me very busy.
When did you start running and why?
In 2003, the place I worked decided all the staff would participate in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon as a fundraiser. At the time I weighed 280 pounds, and started my training by walking 1/2 mile a day. Eventually I got up to 3 miles before running the race. I finished in just under 3 hours, and then went to the medical tent with heat exhaustion and a wonderful iv set up.
What is your proudest running achievement?
By far, my proudest running achievement was running the 2010 Comrades Marathon in South Africa, a 56 ultra marathon dubbed “The Ultimate Human Race”. With a 12 hour time limit, it was my proudest running moment to finish in just over 11:44. This was by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I went with a group of 20 from the States and Team World Vision to raise support and awareness for World Vision projects in South Africa. I even got to meet one of the girls that my family sponsors in a rural community in South Africa. We spent a few days with her and her family, and was by far one of the most memorable moments of my life. My dream is to one day bring the rest of my family there to meet her.
What advice do you have for running newbies?
The biggest piece of advice I have is to start off slow. Be very patient in regards to seeing progress and achieving goals. I think the main goal of every runner should be to enjoy themselves. I would also suggest choosing a race to participate in, and then telling everyone about it. This will give you a specific goal to work towards, and the accountability when times get tough and you don’t want to continue training.
Where is your favorite place to run in Champaign-Urbana?
Actually, my favorite place is nearby at Kickapoo State Park near Danville. I love trail running and get out there as often as I can. I also enjoy the trails out at Homer Lake. Most of the time I’m either running near my home in Ogden, or with some friends in Urbana. My church also has a running club that we do in the springtime.
Do you have plans to participate in the Illinois Marathon race weekend?
Yes, this year I’ll be joining my step-brother in the half marathon. He just picked up running last fall, has lost a TON of weight, and is really kicking some teeth (a little phrase I like to use) right now. He’s going to do amazing at the half, and I’m so excited to be a part of it with him!
Thad and friend Tom Roth at the Illinois Marathon 2012
Do you like to run solo or with a group?
I have certainly come to enjoy running with a group, but there’s nothing I love more than to go for a good long trail run alone. I love being alone in nature, taking my time on the trails, and just taking in all of God’s beautiful creation.
What pre-race rituals do you have?
Well, I really love showing up early to races and just watching all the people. About the only thing I do that’s the same every time is how I get dressed. Always in this order, compression shorts, shorts, undershirt, race day shirt, socks, shoes, hat, watch, and then other accessories depending on the race. For 1/2 marathons and shorter I don’t need anything else, but for trail ultras I take a race vest, and a handheld bottle or my Simply Hydration bottle. Also maybe a headlamp, trail gaiters, etc. In regards to food, I usually don’t eat before training runs. I just wake up and go. For races, I’ll usually have something light like a bagel and peanut butter, or a banana, and some coffee.
What are the best and worst runs you’ve ever had?
I think by far, Comrades was my best run. I’ve never run that distance before or since, and the terrain was pretty grueling. The worst is probably one of many training runs I’ve had where I’ve gotten an asthma attack within the first 1/4 mile, and had to walk back home.
Comrades Marathon 2010 in South Africa
Who is your running idol?
Anyone who is just starting out running, trying to turn their life around by getting in better shape. I love seeing new people running! It just inspires me so much to see their efforts and progression. On a professional level, there are many ultra runners I follow (Kilian Jornet, Anton Krupicka, Hal Koerner, Timothy Olson)
Complete the sentence: I’d rather give up ______ than running.
I’d rather give up sleep.
Thad & friend Scott Olthoff at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k near Madison, WI (Sept, 2012)
Thanks for the answers and pictures, Thad! I’m so impressed by how far your running has taken you, both literally and figuratively. Your journey is really an inspiration!
Readers, if you see this well-traveled travel out on the streets, make sure to say “hi” loudly…or, you know, do the classy runner “I acknowledge your journey” nod.
Got a good story or piece of advice? Just want to be featured on the Body N’ Sole blog? Leave a comment below or send me an e-mail at mllemica [at gmail dot com].