This is an interview of Will Leer, miler, from the NYRR MIllrose Games presser, February 12, 2015.
Will Leer winning the 2013 USA title, photo by PhotoRun.net
But, now the story I have been trying to write on Will Leer and my admiration of him.
In my running years, there were three books that changed my life. The first was the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a novella by Alan Sillitoe. The second was the Self Made Olympian, by Ron Daws, which helped me hone my training, and the third was Once a Runner, by John Parker.
Quentin Cassidy was the miler, and main character in Once A Runner, searching for perfection. Mentored by a character who seemed quite similar to a certain 1972 Olympic gold medalist at the marathon we know, Cassidy had a workout that literally would put him into a fetal position after the workout. Every runner at that time had such a workout. Miles were counted, races chronicled, and “Miles of Trials and Trials of Miles” (the term coined by John Parker, the author of Once a Runner) were badges of honor.
My workout was called the Killer Diller. It was always on a Sunday. I would, every three weeks, run a 22 miler (I would vary 18-20-22), just over six minute pace, in the hills of Santa Cruz Mountains. My college coach, Dan Durante would put us through the paces on near his mountain top home on the weekends and Tuesday nights. The long run went downward through abandoned towns in the Santa Cruz mountains. That first half was conversation on philosophy, engineering, Russian history, whatever the topics of the day. Coach Durante would join us for the first ten or twelve.
Dan’s politics were pretty center to conservative. I was a raving lefty and as the conversation would always reach something on then President Reagan, my training partner, Paul and I would gently pick up the pace. Dan would cut off to one of his myriad trails and meet us at the house.
Then, the running began, just as our coach had planned it…
At the half-way point, we turned around and started the long grind home. The last fifteen to twenty minutes were truly hellacious and my grunts, groans and sporadic creative blurting of four letter words, much like an outbreak of Tourette’s syndrome, broke the cool, crisp morning air. Paul and I, running by ourselves, would pump our arms, lift our knees and try to breathe. Paul just smiled as I would blurt out a cornacopia of expletives. Knowing that I could curse, running uphill, was a badge of honor. Paul knew, as I did, if I could curse, I could handle the hills, and he just concentrated on the effort.
Afterwards, a nice cool hose washing of our legs was the response from a coach who had closely watched horse racing.
That night, I would warm up and run 8k FCR (fast controlled run), trying to see how hard I could push the second session of the day. Returning home, I would shower, and crawl into bed, in near fetal position. I remember smiling as I fell asleep, knowing I ” could take it.” During the summer, as I worked on my mileage, I would extend that second run to ten miles.
After this workout, I would remind myself at the end of races, when I was feeling poorly, that I could handle it. Thanks John Parker! I remember having someone with me on our home course, a god awful, mountainous course in the Santa Cruz mountains that teams refused to run after the first time. With 300 meters to go after six miles, we ran uphill straight to the finish. I smiled. I had run 20 times this hill for twelve weeks in the spring (my coach was total Lydiard & Squires). I caught the guy who had defeated me the year before by one minute and took control with 100 meters to go. I just wanted to grind him. My training partner had just finished and saw we were going 1,2 and he just smiled. “The Trials of Miles and the Miles of Trials.” It was a great moment to share.
So, I have digressed. What is new?
Will Leer is a real runner, a real miler, an elite distance runner. He enjoys his world, and his journey, as he searches for his perfect race. Will Leer knows what “The Trials of Miles and Miles of Trials” means, as he lives it every day.
I admire Will Leer for many reasons. His honesty, his sense of humor, the twinkle in his eyes because he takes time to enjoy his journey. Leer also lives the Quentin Cassidy character for Once a Runner. Like his friend and training partner, Nick Willis, Will is coached by Ron Warhurst, the maker of milers.
Will Leer reminds me of an ee cummings poem. Honest, tough, a good heart.
I have wanted to interview Will for several years. Then, it finally happened. David Monti of Race Results Weekly and the NYRR, had a press morning at the NYRR offices. Will Leer and I chatted for fifteen minutes.
Listen to this, pass it around. Lots of great stuff. More than the running stuff, Will Leer talks about living an honest life, no excuses, and lots of learning. And his affection for his coach, Ron Warhurst, and his friends and supporters is clear.
Watch Will Leer this spring, and summer.
This was a Pre NYRR Millrose Games interview, my mistake, like a week before, February 12!