I found out that Bobby Curtis was running Frankfurt Marathon when I checked the elite entry sheet on Thursday, October 27. With Victah Sailer’s kind assistance, we met with Bobby just after he arrived in Frankfurt. Early in the interview, I elicted a smile from Bobby when I told him I knew Jim and Camilla Estes, two of his dear friends. One must use any useful currency when doing interviews.
Bobby Curtis is a member of the Hansons Brooks Distance Project. The Mainova Frankfurt Marathon will be his fifth marathon. A graduate of Villanova University, Bobby has run 5000 meters in 13:18 and 10,000 meters in 27:24.67 and a half marathon in 1:01:55. I was there when Bobby ran his 27:24.67 for 10,000 meters.
I watched Bobby run 25 nearly perfect laps on the cool, crisp late spring night in Palo Alto, California, in April 2011. The word was always there, Bobby was one of the ‘good ones.’
A fine high school runner, Bobby Curtis excelled at Villanova University. In 2008, Bobby Curtis achieved middle distance runner nirvana winning the NCAA Outdoor Division I title at 5000 meters.
It is a big jump from NCAA champion to elite professional runner. How does one make that journey? Bobby spent four years with accomplished coach Nic Bideau, training in Australia and Great Britian. He scored PBs from 3000 meters to the half marathon under Nic Bideau and made two World Cross Country teams.
His first marathon was on the hard streets of the Big Apple, where, in 2011, he debuted in 14th place in 2:16:44, not a bad start. Bobby ran for the Melbourne Track Club from 2008-2012, under the coaching eye of Nic Bideau. Under Nic, Bobby ran 7:43 for 3000 meters, 13:18 for 5000 meters, 27:24 for 10,000 meters and 1:01:55 for the haf marathon. During that time, he was seen training often with two colorful characters from Australian athletics, Collis Birmingham and Ben St. Lawrence. I believe that there is a video somewhere, with Collis Birmingham saying nice things about Tom Bedford, race director of the Richmond Running Festival, in that country where they often have tea, followed by London Pride’s beer. (That dear friends, was called a digression. I do that often.)
After four years training with Australian coach Nic Bideau, from 2008-2012, Bobby moved to the Hansons Brooks Distance Project in 2013, after being sponsored changing his footwear sponsor from Reebok to Brooks. The Hansons Brooks Distance Project is an old school program where runners live, work and train together, focused on improving distance race performances for American runners. The Brothers Hanson consist of Kevin and Keith Hanson. The brothers Hanson are true guys from the Midwest, love their families, love their running club, love their business and did I say, love distance running? Their high mileage, work hard, train smart, race smart philosophy is personalized with each athlete. Kevin and Keith are, well, a bit eccentric, but it is a good eccentric and they bust their butts to make Hansons Brooks Distance Project work. Note the brand name Brooks. Brooks sponsors Hansons, and without that help, from money to footwear and apparel, their dream would not have become a reality.
Bobby ran the iconic Fukuoka Marathon course in December 2013, for his second marathon experience, running 2:13:24.
In 2014, Bobby ran the Bank of America Chicago marathon, taking ninth in 2:11:20, a nice improvement. His focus in 2015 and 2016, was on the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials, which proved to be a disaster for Bobby. ” I do not know if I was too tired from the high mileage before LA, where I ran 135 miles a week, the heat, or what it really was.”
Bobby Curtis fought the good fight in Los Angeles on February 13, 2016. ” I thought that they would come back to me. After a time, they were coming back, but, I was, then, going back as well.” Bobby Curtis finished in 56th place in 2:29:04, far slower than he expected, in the hot, humid and stressful conditions of Los Angeles. He had been running the good fight until about 20 miles, when the conditions just overwhelmed him. Perhaps, Bobby, like many athletes, was a victim of the stress and pressure he put on himself.
Bobby Curtis came back and ran the 10,000 meters in the U.S Olympic Trials in Eugene. Bobby went out very slow, in absolutely terrible conditions, starting in 27th place, and moving up to tenth over the last two laps, finishing 10th in 29:01.70. It had been a frustrating spring and early summer for Bobby Curtis.
Bobby Curtis obviously put the summer and fall to good use, honing his marathon skills, building up his mileage and fitness. There is a fine line between overdoing it and being just right as a long distance runner. Bobby Curtis looks like he did it just right this time.
In meeting with Bobby Curtis just after his arrival in Frankfurt, I was taken by his level of relaxation. This is his fifth marathon. What I noticed in speaking with Bobby was the lessons he learnt from Los Angeles and traveling and racing around the world.
First, Bobby did not fly directly to Frankfurt, he went to London and stayed with former coach, Nic Bideau. “The few days in London got me over my jet lag. I tend to get jet lag coming from the east coast, ” noted a relaxed Bobby.
Second, he learnt that, sometimes cutting one’s mileage and focusing on the important workouts is better than maxing out while training. ” I cut my mileage into the 120 miles a week average, down from the 135 miles a week I ran before Los Angeles.”
Third, he is focused on a modest improvement from his 2:11:20 PB. ” I am planning on going out in 65 minutes (2:10 pace). ” He also picked a fast course and is lucky to be expecting cool weather.
Bobby Curtis has the leg speed over 5000 meters and 10,000 meters to be a fine marathoner. His cross country background also adds the extra strength that comes in handy in the final six miles. But, the marathon, as many before me have said, is a “cruel mistress.” It takes track racers time to learn to respect the distance and the race.
Bobby Curtis has survived, as author John Parker in the cult classic Once a Runner noted, the “Miles of Trials and Trials of Miles.” Bobby overcame a problem with insomnia a few years ago, and he will overcome his challenges with the marathon distance.
Bobby Curtis is destined for a fine marathon. Perhaps, just perhaps, his breakout marathon will be the 2016 Mainova Frankfurt marathon. Five years ago, Bobby Curtis ran his near perfect 25-lapper, running 27:24.67. Now it is time to run the zen marathon. You know, the one where everything goes well, and by relaxing you run faster, and faster, and faster.
With weather in the 47-50 degres Fahrenheit and little wind expected on October 30, 2016, when Bobby Curtis toes the line, and runs his fifth marathon. We hope it is that near perfect marathon. .