RunblogRun Interview: Renee Metivier Baillee, top American women marathoner at 2012 B of A Chicago Marathon, by Larry Eder

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Renee and the author, Friday, October 5, 2012, Chicago Hilton, 
photo by Ron Wayne/Mizuno

Ron Wayne came up to me during the days before the Chicago marathon and introduced me to several of his athletes: Patrick Rizzo, Craig Leon and Renee Metivier Baillee. 

Ron Wayne is a pretty calm character. The longest tenured employee for Mizuno in the US ( thirty-one years, I believe), Wayne is one of the top US marathoners from the 1970s. His debut marathon was a 2:27.03 at Boston in 1972. In 1974, he battled down to the final lap on the track for the US marathon championships. Wayne was also 4th in the 1974 Boston Marathon, being the first American finisher. Ron has seen a few marathons. Ron has also seen a few marathoners. He was excited about Renee. 

Ron told me, " Renee can run 2:27 or better. She has progressed well, and she is in fantastic shape, make sure you watch her." 

Duly noted, I intereviewed Renee. Renee was relaxed, confident in her fitness, and a bit cautious. I liked that. . I put a note on my tablet, under her name, "Watch her."

Renee Metivier Baillee's debut marathon of 2:27.17 was the third best debut by a US women marathoner ever. 

RBR sent these questions to Renee in late October and she responded in early November. 

A special thanks to Renee Metivier Baillee for her time and Ron Wayne for his photos and suggestion. 

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Renee Metivier Baillee, photo courtesy of Ron Wayne, Mizuno


Runblogrun, #1: How did you get started in running? 


Renee: I was a actually a gymnast until I dislocated my elbow twice during middle school which took me out of that sport.  I was heartbroken at the time, but then I discovered what athletic pursuit I was really suited for...running.  I loved the purity of the sport immediately.  The sheer cut-and-dried aspect of the races appealed to my intensely competitive nature.  


Runblogrun, #2: Tell us about running in high school? 


Renee: I had no inkling in the beginning of the notion of measuring yourself against time.  In my first middle school track race, I found myself so far ahead in the 800m that I slowed and started waving at the crowd.  I was such a cocky little brat!  


Luckily, I had an amazing high school coach (Steve Telaneus) and summer track coach (Jerry Ennis) who helped guide me towards becoming a more tempered and focused athlete, although I know I gave them a few gray hairs along the way!  


I did have my share of setbacks in high school, however.  After a successful freshman year, I contracted mono as a sophomore, which took a long time to diagnose and recover from, and then I experienced my first running injury during my comeback.  These obstacles combined with a maturing body essentially stagnated my running progression until my senior year. 


 Fortunately, just as I started high school running strong, I was able to end strong as well.  I won our State Championship in cross country and in the 1600m during track.  I learned valuable lessons from these early setbacks and my subsequent resurgence, which has helped me through the obstacles I have encountered in my collegiate and now professional career. 


Runblogrun, #3: Tell us about your injury problems and subsequent recovery? 


Renee: Compartment Syndrome surgery after my sophomore year of college, transferring colleges, and my chronic Achilles injury have brought me down, but I have clawed my way back to the top.  Coach Wetmore once told me that "talent never leaves."  I truly believe in that, and if you are patient (and a little stubborn), you will become a stronger runner and person as a result.


First and foremost, eliminating my biggest weakness, my Achilles, has been integral to my successful comeback.  I have had this injury plaguing me and interrupting my growth as an athlete my entire professional career.  And it simply made running less enjoyable.  Now that my surgery last year was successful, I have been able to train unhindered with full functionality.  


The joy I feel when I run has come back even stronger.  But I still can't neglect it; I have to remain very diligent with things like daily massage, stretching, ankle-band exercises, balance work, and eccentric heel drops to ensure it doesn't rear it's ugly head again.  


Also, the type of footwear I run in has become very important, and I found that the Mizuno Wave technology provides the ideal amount of lightweight support and cushioning that my legs need during hard training.  


Initially, I erroneously thought after my surgery and rehab that I was done dealing with my Achilles, but I quickly learned that building back that strength takes time and consistency.  When your injury starts feeling good, don't stop your maintenance or rehab regimen.  It may be at a turning point, and if you stop your routine, you could very easily have another setback.


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Renee Metivier Baillee en route, 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 

photo courtesy of Renee Metivier Baillee


Runblogrun, #4: Tell us about the Chicago Marathon and your recovery?


Renee: This marathon blew my expectations away!  I was still a little apprehensive and worried about what I had gotten myself into, but the training and the race went smoother than anticipated.  Once we made the decision 8 weeks before Chicago, my training changed directions.  It sounds like a hasty decision, but my body was pushing me in that direction.  I just finally listened.  


Everyone has always been telling me that I should be racing farther since high school, but I stubbornly thought my best events were of the 3000m to 5000m variety.  And frankly, I was a little intimidated by the longer distances.  


In Chicago, I felt surprisingly good through about 22 miles, but my calves began to cramp up and the pack I was running with broke apart around that point as well.  My body was forced to slow down, and I think I lost about 90 seconds in those final miles.  I think the cramping was due to the fact that I struggled getting my fuel.  I do feel very lucky that it wasn't warmer out!  


Even with the suffering over the last few miles, I felt that my body handled the distance well.  I am recovering faster than expected...I thought going into the race that I would be unable to walk properly afterwards!  I still took two weeks off to make sure I fully recovered and absorbed all the work put into Chicago.  Mentally and physically, a runner needs these breaks once or twice per year to recharge for the next training cycle.  And I am now revved up for the next one and feeling great!


I have resumed training and and setting my sights on a spring marathon.  I am definitely a marathoner now, and I can't wait to run another one.  I totally get why people are so passionate about the marathon now!  I am definitely hooked. 


Runblogrun, #5: What are your plans, have you set anything up yet for 2013?


Renee: We are planning to race my second marathon sometime in April, but we just haven't decided which one yet.  We are thinking of sticking to a fast course like Rotterdam or London to see what I can do now that I am more familiar with the distance, but we are still in the early phases of making that decision.  However, the lure of Boston is also very tempting... 


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Austin Baillee, Renee Metivier Bailee, Patrick Rizzo, Craig Leon, Ron Wayne, 

photo courtesy of Ron Wayne/Mizuno


6.Runblogrun, #6: Tell us about working with Ron Wayne, and "THE BET"? 


Renee: I am excited about my relationship with my new sponsor, Mizuno. They believed in me before I ran Chicago and had high expectations for my first marathon.  Ron Wayne, Mizuno's elite athlete coordinator and former stud marathoner, even made a bet with me.  He wagered that if I beat his debut marathon time of 2:27:03, he would buy me an ice cream cone.  Unfortunately, I lost this bet by 14 seconds so I owe him the ice cream!  Many people were surprised by my time, but Ron had been watching my progression and performances leading up to Chicago and knew what I could be capable of on that day.  That kind of support is hard to find in this business, and I am thankful Mizuno believes in me.




Editor's note: Ten minutes after Renee sent us the interview, she excitedly texted that she was going to run the 2013 Virgin London Marathon on April 21, 2013. 



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