Ken Popejoy was one of the fine milers who competed in the 1970s. He took out many of the top athletes of his day. What fascinates me about Ken Popejoy was how he connects two generations of athletes. In high school, Ken ran 4:09.3 against a young Prefontaine. 22 years later, he ran 4:08.1 and 1:52.5!
At his prime, Ken competed and qualified in both the 800m and 1,500m in the 1972 Trials and was a finalist at 1,500m in the 1976 Trials. Ken Popejoy also coached with the iconic Al Carius, and then, worked with Mike Durkin to coach and advise Jim Spivey, an Olympic finalist and 4 time WC athlete.
Jeff Benjamin reached out to Ken Popejoy to discuss how to look at the current time, in terms of motivation and training.
Awaiting The Baton In The Relay Exchange Zone – Profiles Of Athletes, Coaches & Legends During The War Against Corona
Profile # 32
Former High School, NCAA & World Class-Miler Ken Popejoy
By Jeff Benjamin
What advice can you give to runners, -especially youth, high school, collegiate- who are challenged during this time as well?
“These trying times are confusing and difficult to maneuver for an athlete in the prime of their development and career. It has also developed into a completely unique experience, unlike the cancellation of the 1980 Olympics. Those athletes still had a great number of competitions leading up to the cancellation and after to still fuel the competitive fires and provide a bench mark for where they stood against fellow competitors. Today there is a complete absence of those outlets and therefore no ability to prove yourself.. So therefore we must look within our hearts and our minds and utilize our motivations in a much different way.
Once upon a time, we ALL started out in this sport. Think back to those times….We were raw and undeveloped both physically and mentally. Did we have a future in the sport? Did we have a long term plan laid out for the season, the year or beyond? Did we really have any idea how good we could potentially become? What we DID know is that it felt good to run…..the wind in our faces, the effort, the satisfaction of finishing those early workouts, the exhilaration felt at the finish of a race, the satisfaction of seeing the workouts resulted in a new PR! Our mind and heart was filled with the simplest of satisfactions from those short term “successes”.
As North Central College”s legendary coach Al Carius’ always says “RUN FOR FUN AND PERSONAL BESTS”. Therefore let’s get back to the simplest of values in and benefits from our running….let’s run for fun! Sure, the intense disappointment is with us in the short term, but in the world of scholarships, shoe contracts and the like, we can sometimes push to the background the purest and simplest values that we all had at the start of our running careers. Take stock of those basic underlying values that was the seed that we planted way back then. Recall and reflect on the germination and sprouting of that seedling. Revisit how it was nurtured, pruned and blossomed. Take pride in the proud result of that mature planting. Get excited of the fruit that it now bears.
As with anything in the natural world, there WILL be a next season, the crop will return, a harvest will occur each and every year and you WILL reap the rewards of that properly cared for and nurtured planting!
SO, get out and train for those tomorrows…that’s what we actually do every day regardless of what is surrounding us. Keep the faith in the integrity of your training program. Compete in your mind and heart on a daily basis…we are ALL our best competitors. Finally keep dreaming….put yourself mentally into the next meet, the next big championship, at any level, and run that race in every workout and in every mindset that you put yourself into. Those actual meets and competitions WILL return and you WILL shine.
Ken Popejoy’s C.V.