Race It: Milwaukee Running Group OMG Beer Mile

Think you’ve got what it takes to run four laps and drink four beers in less than 30 minutes?

Milwaukee Running Group OMG – for those of you not in the know, OMG stands for Original Milwaukee Group – is hosting its third annual Beer Mile this Saturday. It’s an event you won’t want to miss. Whether you’re running or spectating, it’s sure to be a great time!

Below, OMG organizer Patrick Bieser, tells us more about this year’s event.

12019847_10153321566218411_8437101920989204456_nAll photos from the the Milwaukee Running Group – OMG Facebook Page

When is this year’s Beer Mile and where will it be run?

The third annual Beer Mile OMG will be run on Saturday, August 20th starting at 5pm at the Rugby Field at the Lakefront. The event is free. We will be attempting to break the Group World Record for the Beer Mile established last year.

Who can participate and how can people register?

Anyone who can run four laps on a 400-meter track while drinking four beers can attend. In past years, a few Beer Mile pros completed the challenge in less than 7 minutes, but most people take 10-20 minutes. Registration, race details and a map to the rugby field can be found on the Milwaukee Running Group website – www.milwaukee-running-group.com.

How did the OMG Beer Mile get its start?

We first heard of the Beer Mile a few years ago from a member and knew immediately this would become our signature event. OMG has more than 600 members, and the Beer Mile is our only official race. With so many excellent local races hosted by Badgerland Striders, we didn’t see a need for more. But a race with beer as the main challenge? That was a clear and present community need, and a perfect fit for OMG.

We wanted our Beer Mile to be a group event and encourage those who have not yet developed a love for beer to participate. To accomplish this, we designed the race to be less about individual times and more about having fun and giving back. We encourage costumes and a charity donation. We allow relay teams. We throw in an after party and an outdoor movie for good measure. This will be our third year hosting the Group Beer Mile and participation has doubled each year.

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Can you explain how the event works? What rules do participants need to follow?

The official “Group Beer Mile” rules were established by OMG and were adapted from the rules for individuals posted at Beermile.com.

The Group Beer Mile consists of four beers over a 1-mile course. For smaller groups, this is done on a standard 400-meter track. One beer per lap, four laps. The records are set for the most people completing the Beer Mile in less than 30 minutes.

There is only one major rule changes for groups. The Group must raise money for a local charity with some sort of link to running.

  1. Each individual will drink four cans of beer and runs four laps on a track (Start – beer, lap, beer, lap, beer, lap, beer, lap – Finish).
  2. The group world records are established by 1) counting the number of group members who cross the finish line in under 30 minutes and 2) recording the amount of money raised for charity.
  3. Any group member can drop out at any time without penalty, but the “group” record is set based on the number of people who finish, including penalty laps.
  4. Relay teams of 2×2 and 4×1 are allowed. Times for relay teams are recorded separately.
  5. Beer must be consumed before the lap is begun.
  6. Competitors can drink canned or bottled beer and the cans/bottles should not be less than 355ml (the standard can volume) or 12oz (the imperial equivalent).
  7. No specialized cans or bottles may be used that give an advantage by allowing the beer to pour at a faster rate. i.e. “super mega mouth cans” or “wide mouth bottles” are prohibited.
  8. Beer cans must not be tampered with in any manner, i.e. no shotgunning or puncturing of the can except for opening the can by the tab at the top. The same applies with bottles – no straws or other aids are allowed in order to aid in the speed of pouring.
  9. Beer must be a minimum of 4.5% alcohol by volume (this allows for Pabst, the official OMG beer). No hard ciders and or lemonades.
  10. Each beer can must not be opened until the competitor enters the transition zone on each lap.
  11. Competitors who vomit before they finish the race must complete one penalty lap at the end of the race (immediately after the completion of their 4th lap). Note: Vomiting more than once during the race still requires only one penalty lap at the end.
  12. If attempting official records, runners should tip the empty beer can or bottle over their head at the end of a chug to verify an empty vessel.

Is this an event people can train for? And if so, what do you recommend?

Training is recommended if you’re serious about your race time. The hardest part is drinking fast and running with an overload of carbonation. One way to train is to try to finish a beer while watching a political ad on TV. The timing is right, and the alcohol blunts the messaging.

Can you tell us more about the world record aspect of the event? How many participants do you need this year to break the record?

Two years ago Milwaukee set the Group World Record for the Beer Mile at 26 people running, and last year we smashed it with 42 running. We are on track to break the record again this year. Beermile.com does not record or even mention Group World Records, but since Milwaukee is the beer capital of the world it is only proper and fitting that a local running group take up the mantle and establish the Group World Record.

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What have been the winning times for men and women? Any contenders for the win this year?

The men’s winning time last year was 6:46 set by James Burke. The women’s winning time was 9:48 set by Christina Lundberg. Local Beer Mile hero Tim Cigelske didn’t run last year, but he is signed up this year and could challenge the record. We hear that he’s been training.

Has anything crazy or unexpected happened during previous years?

Like spectators at auto races waiting for a crash, spectators at the Beer Mile wait for someone to vomit. Fingers point and bets are made and lots of loud burps can be heard, but thankfully vomiting only occurs about as often as Kanye and Taylor Swift go on a date.

Last year several people showed up in jeans and street shoes and decided to run. Several members of a bachelor party dropped by to spectate and decided to run. The energy at the event is infectious. Lots of people wearing costumes, fake mustaches, a stay puff marshmallow woman, wigs and team t-shirts.

Are spectators welcome?

Yes. It’s as much fun to watch as it is to run. Attendance is half runners and half spectators.

What are some of the other activities around the event?

After the run, our alcohol addled brains tell us it’s time to watch a classic movie. This year it’s the Blue Brothers! We took a poll and half the people asked (the millennial half) have never seen this important piece of American history. In the spirit of patriotism in this election year, we felt a movie about two men on a mission to save an orphanage, with some beer and music thrown in, was as American as we could get.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Patrick! If you’re up for giving the Beer Mile a try this weekend, learn more and register at www.milwaukee-running-group.com.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race It: Lake Michigan Marathon

The fall race season is just a few weeks away. To kick things off, the Lake Michigan Marathon (and 50k, half marathon and 20-mile training run) provides a perfect opportunity to see where you’re at going into the season while taking in some of Milwaukee’s most picturesque sights along the way.

Below, Race Director Chris Ponteri tells us more about this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday, September 4.

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An urban trail marathon is super unique – how did you get the idea for the race and how did you select the location?

One day I was running on the Oak Leaf Trail behind Warnimont Park and saw all of these dirt trails connecting to the Oak Leaf so I decided to go exploring. When I saw the vast trail system that the folks at County Parks had built back there, the light bulb went off and I decided to start a race there.

Is there anything else that sets this race apart from others in the area?

I like to call it a “boutique race” in that we intentionally keep it small so we can give our runners a high level of attention. With the hot temperature last year, that became more of a challenge since we had to make special accommodations to ensure safety.

Is there anything new or different happening at this year’s race?

No, it’s mostly the same thing as last year. We are only in our third year so we haven’t needed to freshen things up yet.

What is the course like?

The course is mostly a combination of paved and dirt trails, but there is even some road, grass, wood chips, wooden bridges, stones and concrete steps. I would not call it very technical since most areas are wide and well-marked. How much is paved vs. unpaved depends on the distance you are running, but in general about two-thirds is paved.

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Where are the major hills on the course?

There are no major hills. The course is mostly flat. The biggest hill is on the Oak Leaf Trail through Bay View Park, but it’s not much of an incline/decline.

What are the most scenic spots on the course? Any landmarks along the way that runners should watch for?

There are many locations with stunning views of Lake Michigan and downtown Milwaukee. This truly is Milwaukee’s “lakefront marathon” since the entire course is within a few hundred yards of the lake. The course goes through several of Milwaukee County’s most scenic parks including Grant, Warnimont, South Shore, Sheridan and Bay View.

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Tell us about the aid stations – what will be available and where are they located?

We have five aid stations and each will be used multiple times since the course is a combination of out-and-backs and loops. They will have water, Clif Shots and Sword, which is an up-and-coming and very effective sports drink. If it’s a warm day, we will have sponges and buckets of cold water.

Who were last year’s overall winners for the 50k, marathon and half marathon? Are any of them back to contend for the win again this year?

Last year we had a very strong field. Winners were Cory Harris and Kirsten Kolb in the Marathon, Mark Caballero and Eliza Weaver in the Half Marathon, and Michael Miller and Mary Flaws in the 50k. I am not sure if any will be back this year to defend their titles, but I hope so. I know Nick Seiske is signed up for the 50k and will be a strong favorite to win that race.

Any other comments?

We have had a nearly 40% increase in registrations so far this year. That is remarkable considering this has been another down year for most marathons and half marathons. We are excited about that!!

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Chris! There’s still time to sign up for this year’s Lake Michigan Marathon. To get in on the fun, register here: https://raceroster.com/events/2016/7926/lake-michigan-marathon

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Race For The Eats!

If you’ve still yet to experience a food-themed race, now’s your chance. MKE has two delicious races in the next two weeks. Whether you crave sweet or salty, these races have you covered!

Cream Puff 5k

When: Wednesday, July 20 @6:30pm

Where: Wisconsin State Fair Park

The Dish: Participants will receive the first Original Cream Puffs of the year as well as a post-race beverage of choice (beer, soda or water). There will also be pre-race entertainment by the Milwaukee Airwaves as well as post-race music from The Love Monkeys! In addition, participants will receive one ticket to this year’s Wisconsin State Fair, a Cream Puff 5k t-shirt and a finisher’s ribbon.

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The 5K course includes the famous Milwaukee Mile Speedway and streets within State Fair Park. The event is both kid- and stroller-friendly. There is also a 1K option for those who prefer a shorter route. Water will be available at multiple locations throughout the race.

Registration is $35 for adults up until race day, and $40 the day of the race.

Learn more at CreamPuff5k.com

Race for the Bacon

When: Thursday, July 28 @6:30pm

Where: Sheridan Park, Cudahy

The Dish: This race is all about bacon with a mid-race bacon station and post-race Bacon Bash, which includes plenty of delicious bacon treats and a free beverage from Sprecher. There will also be pre- and post-race music from Big Shoes! In addition, participants receive a race t-shirt and goody bag.

sm20140731_184618_IMG_0216Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

The fast 5k course weaves around Sheridan Park and the surrounding area. There is also a 0k distance available for those who wish to participate in all the bacon festivities without running or walking a 5k!

Registration is $40 for the 5k until race day and $45 the day of the race. The 0k is $30 until July 28 and $35 the day of the race.

Learn more at BaconRace.com

Who’s hungry for a good race? Tell us if you’re racing the Cream Puff 5k or Race for the Bacon!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

4th of July Weekend Local Race Roundup

According to Running USA, the 4th of July is the second most popular day for road racing. Below are a few local races to get in on the action over the holiday weekend!

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New Berlin National Dash

What: 5k Run/Walk; 2-mile Run/Walk

When: Saturday, July 2 @8am

Where: Malone Park, 16400 West Al Stigler Parkway

Cost: $25 for the 5k or 2-mile

Details: New course for this year’s race; Age group awards

2015 Overall Winners: Jeff Metler (15:28); Brittany Kozlowski (18:40)

http://www.newberlinjuniors.org/national-dash.html

Independence Day Run

What: 5k and 10k Run/Walk

When: Saturday, July 2 @8am

Where: Fox River Park, W264 S4500 River Road, Waukesha

Cost: $40

Details: Part of the Wisconsin Trail Assail Running Series; Overall and age group awards

Website: http://www.silvercirclesportsevents.com/independence-day-run-fox-river-park

Kenosha Firecracker Run

What: 5k and 10k Run/Walk

When: Sunday, July 3 @8:30am

Where: Kenosha Library Park  5947 7th Avenue, Kenosha

Cost: $30

Details: Overall and age group awards

2015 5k Overall Winners: Kevin Ryan (16:17); Amy Sichmeller (21:16)

2015 10k Overall Winners: Ryne Scopp (34:29); Leslie Ruffalo (39:49)

Website: http://kenoshaymca.org/special-events/firecracker-run/

Dennis Krzykowski 5k

What: 5k Run/Walk

When: Monday, July 4 @7:30am

Where: Cedar Creek Park, Portland Road, Cedarburg

Cost: $25

Details: Post-race awards and door prizes

2015 Overall Winners: Jack O’Neil (17:20); Taylor Miller (20:13)

Website: http://www.active.com/cedarburg-wi/running/distance-running-races/dk5k-dennis-krzykowski-5k-family-fun-run-2016?cmp=39-34-156210&ltcmp=254301&ltclickid=06_96533839_1e15eb98-6bc4-43c8-9ca4-1129a64d2c62&cmp=39-34

Badgerland Striders Firecracker Four

What: 4-mile Run/Walk + 1.7-mile Community Fun Run

When: Monday, July 4 @8am

Where: Hales Corners Park, 5675 South New Berlin Road

Cost: $25 for the 4-mile Run/Walk; $20 for the 1.7-mile Fun Run

Details: Overall and age group awards

2015 Overall Winners: Bill Prom (20:40); Priscilla Schultz (23:52)

Website: http://www.badgerlandstriders.org/home/Races/FirecrackerFour.htm

River City 4th Fest 5k

What: 5k Run/Walk

When: Monday, July 4 @8am

Where: Whitford Park, 625 N River Road, Waterford

Cost: $25

Details: Overall, masters and age group awards

2015 Overall Winners: Ryan Hopper (16:31); Jessica Monson (17:05)

Website: http://chamber.waterford-wi.org/events/details/river-city-4th-fest-5k-run-07-04-2016-670

Share time! Where are you racing this weekend?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Running With Pups 101

When properly trained, your pup can be one of the very best training partners you can find. But it’s not as simple as leading Fido out the door and hoping he’ll follow along. Just like their human companions, dogs require conditioning and build up before they can handle a running program.

Dr. Jamie Fleming, an internal medicine specialist with Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists and Performance Running Outfitters team member, provides tips for running safely with your pup so you both enjoy the miles.

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With the warmer temps, more runners are bringing their pups with them for a run. What are some things people should keep in mind before leashing up?

Remember… your dog is much like you in terms of conditioning, both for distance and for heat/humidity. Just like you wouldn’t set out to run 3 miles with no build up, your companion needs to be conditioned to run any substantial distance (really anything over a mile or so). Imagine a canine version of “Couch to 5K”. If it’s humid or above 75 degrees, make sure to have water available for your pooch, as the risk of heat exposure/heat exhaustion is a serious threat at warmer temperatures – or even cooler temperatures with high humidity.

Can all dogs go for a run? Or are there certain types/breeds that should stick with walking?

Obviously, the more sporting breeds (labs, retrievers, pointers, etc.) are better suited to running compared to some of our smaller breed friends. In general, before introducing a running plan, if your companion has never run with you before, it’s always a great idea to check with your veterinarian to ensure that there are no health concerns that might make walking a safer/healthier option. In general, breeds with a short snout (called brachycephalic breeds, like the bulldog) should exercise with caution due to their limited ability to cool effectively.

What distances are safe for dogs to run? What about paces?

Just like you, with proper conditioning, there are no absolute rules/restrictions when it comes to distance or pace. Often, our dogs are comfortable at paces much quicker than their human companions. A good rule of thumb is gradually building into any sort of distance (again, anything over ½ to 1 mile should require some build-up) to make sure your pet is able to run comfortably next to you as you increase the distance over time. If you notice your 4-legged friend is lagging behind, or taking longer to recover, this might be a sign that he/she is being pushed too hard. Again, consulting your veterinarian if you have specific questions or concerns about your dog and longer distances is always a good idea.

Are there any weather conditions that might be dangerous for pups to go for a run?

I would be cautious about running any sort of distance in humid climates and as the temperature rises over the summer months. With the warmer and more humid weather, making sure you are choosing cooler times of day, such as early morning and late evening, will help to minimize the risk of heat stroke. Dogs are significantly affected by the heat and humidity, as they do not sweat/perspire through their skin, like we do. Instead, they exchange heat/cool themselves by panting, which means they cool their entire body through a very small surface. Imagine how difficult it would be for us to cool off, if we didn’t sweat and use our skin for heat exchange!

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Are there any rules for pup hydration? What about diet – should people avoid feeding their dog right before going for a run?

In terms of hydration, a good rule of thumb is that if you are warm/thirsty, your dog probably is too. Whether hanging out in the heat or going for a run, anticipate your dog’s water needs by carrying a portable water bottle/drinking bowl. If your dog likes to swim, running near a clean/safe water source is always a great way to ensure they stay cool and hydrated, too. Figuring out your dog’s hydration needs is a part of the build-up and conditioning – some dogs will finish a run and dive into the water bowl and others are more gradual. You do not need to use Gatorade or other electrolyte supplements; however, if going on a lengthy hike, your dog might appreciate a dog friendly snack, just like us humans do! It is always easier to stay ahead of hydration needs than to deal with the serious consequences that our dogs can suffer when they become dehydrated and overheated.

In general, I recommend against feeding prior to a run, although research has not linked this to any significant issues. Some veterinarians do feel that running on a full stomach can increase the risk of bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus). A small snack is probably sufficient for a light to moderate run.

Why are leashes important – even if your dog is friendly?

As part of a veterinary team that deals with the daily consequences of “good dogs” being hit by cars or getting into fights with other dogs, leashing your dog is a MUST. Even if your dog is the model by which all dogs should be judged, if another dog misbehaves, the leash is also a way to pull your dog into safety and away from the aggressor.

What about dogs that haven’t gone on a run before – do you have any tips to help people get started with running with a dog?

First, start with walking. Make sure your dog is comfortable heeling next to you and not pulling you over, tripping you, or dodging in all directions. Once you and your dog are comfortable at a walk, you can try jogging – again, keep in mind conditioning and start with distances around ½ to 1 mile. Also, consider rewarding your dog’s good behavior.

Any other tips to help people run safely with their dog?

Remember, that if your dog runs too far without proper conditioning, or the ground is really hot, they can damage their footpads, resulting in significant pain and discomfort (burns, tears, etc.). Again, by heading out in the cooler times of the day and following proper conditioning, this should help to minimize the risk. If you do use booties, proper fit is vital (just like our running shoes!) and make sure to evaluate for any rubbing or damage after your run.

Booties might be indicated to help protect against abrasions on rough or hot pavement, on rocky hiking trips, and during the winter in the extreme cold and ice.

Any other comments?

With the humidity and heat – when in doubt, keep the runs short, take your dog out early or later in the cooler temperatures, and remember that you have to look out for your dog, as they will run from the heart to keep up with their human companion (and not look out for their own needs).

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Dr. Fleming! If you’re interested in learning more about running with your dog or have other general pet questions, Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists is a wonderful resource with locations in Oak Creek, Glendale and Port Washington. You can learn more here: http://www.lakeshorevetspecialists.com/

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Check It Out: Milwaukee Running Expo

Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re free on Saturday, check out the Milwaukee Running Expo at Fleet Feet Sports Brookfield!

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At the expo, you can check out the latest running shoes and accessories, sign up for local races and learn more about running-related products and services. All major shoes brands will be in attendance, along with many local race directors, business owners and running experts.

Every hour on the hour from 8am-3pm, there will be a 2-mile group run, during which you can test out any demo shoe. This is a great opportunity to try out a pair of shoes before you buy! If you can’t make one of the group runs, you can still try on any shoes you want and take them on a test run.

There will also be group workouts lead by Tori Hartmann of FitHart at 9:30am and 10:30am.

Expo vendors include:

Shoes: Asics, New Balance, Hoka, Brooks, Saucony, Adidas, Mizuno

Socks: Feetures, Balega

Compression: CEP

Injury Prevention: Trigger Point

Race Directors: Chris Ponteri (Milwaukee Running Festival), Lighthouse Events

Running Coach: Matt Thull of ThunderDome Running

Nutrition: CLIF, GU

Local Health Experts: Kyle Weber, PT of Weber Physical Therapy

If you’re interested in attending, register here: http://www.fleetfeetbrookfield.com/in-store-events/milwaukee-running-expo-2016

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … James Koceja!

Hey everyone! Sorry we’ve been a bit off the radar these past two weeks. We’ve been out running, racing and getting to know more runners in the MKE community.

One of the runners we recently met is James Koceja, a new member of Performance Running Outfitter’s Elite Team. His main focus is distances ranging from 8k to the half marathon, although he’s also raced a few marathons. But no matter the distance he is always up for putting it all out there and racing hard.

Read on to learn more about his training, Milwaukee running faves and how coaching high school cross country and track has positively influenced his own running.

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Age: 31

Years running: 17 Years; I started competing and running seriously when I was around 14.

Favorite workout: I like more “grinding” and mentally challenging workouts. One of my ultimate favorites is simply going for a 60- to 75-minute run, starting at a conservative pace and getting down to sub 6-minute pace for the last half of the run. Another all-time favorite is a cut down ladder, such as 1600-1200-1000-800-600-400. I am more of a strength runner as I arguably hate anything below 600’s. I will do them but they are usually on the bottom of the page; the way bottom. I usually tend to just go with the flow of workouts and see what the day brings.

Favorite distance to race: I really enjoy the longer races such as 8k up to the half marathon. I have only done a handful of marathons as I am fairly a rookie when it comes to the 26.2 mile distance. I always try to compete at the best of my ability, enjoying the challenges of competing against myself and others that surround me.

Pre-race routine: I drink coffee (always coffee) and eat a bowl of oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. I always warm up about 45-60 minutes before my race, do some drills, put on my racing flats and prepare myself to compete to the best of my ability.

Favorite post-race treat: Chocolate milk and a banana. Occasionally I will a have a nice adult refreshment afterwards – just depends on how the race goes.

Favorite race shoes: Nike Mayfly, Nike Lunaracer

Significant wins/placings/awards/accolades:

  • 2x Individual Champion Firecracker 10k
  • Individual Champion Talmer Turkey Trot 5k
  • 2x Junior Olympic Qualifier (Cross Country)
  • Three Top Ten Finishes at Lighthouse 10 mile Championships

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Why/How did you start running?

As a young child, running was always something I was exposed to as it was just a natural habit and part of my everyday lifestyle. My father, Richard Koceja, was a highly competitive runner who competed for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and later was selected to run for the Wisconsin Runner racing team earning significant wins and accolades at various race distances and major events. He was also a well-respected coach at Burlington High School, coaching both boys and girls in cross-country and track. From this exposure, I just fell in love with the sport.

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Is there a quote or philosophy that inspires your running and racing?

I have a couple quotes and philosophies that continue to inspire me. One is the wisdom that my father always brings; he is the biggest inspiration that I have and always speaks with so much enthusiasm and positivity. The best advice I have ever gotten from him is to have strong beliefs in my gifts, talents and abilities. If you have strong beliefs in yourself as a competitor then the results remain endless. There is nothing more terrible than the habit of doubt. Doubt weakens and divides your talents and abilities. Once doubt comes into play, it’s over and hard to overcome. “Be tough, think big and get the job done.”

What does a typical training week look like for you?

While training for longer races, I usually run between 50-60 miles a week, doing one or two long runs of 60-75 minutes during the week. I always tell others that there is a huge difference between being in “shape” and being in “race shape”. During the race season I will always try to include some sharpening workouts like intervals, tempos and fartleks. During the school year, it gets a little hard with coaching, and I try to get in early runs to satisfy my mileage. On occasion I will run a workout with the athletes I coach, but I run with them as it’s their workout.

Can you tell us about a workout you do that lets you know you’re ready to race?

I can’t list one specific workout as they are ever changing. I am very laid back when it comes to workouts and intensity. During the week, I will try to do a solid workout on Wednesday, giving me a couple days to recover before a race. An example of this would be a threshold run where I am consistently hitting splits within five seconds of each other. Once I am hitting mile splits around the 5:30 mark, I’m good. I always try to gauge myself on effort and feel. If I feel I am struggling during a planned workout, I will adjust. My best advice is to listen to your body. Pushing your body too much or beyond its capability will sometimes do more damage than good.

Along with your own training and racing, you also coach high school track and cross country. Why did you decide to start coaching? Can you tell us how your own experience helps you help your teams?

Great Question! I decided to get into coaching for a number of reasons; a major reason of which is to help contribute to a sport that has done so much for me, and I figured that I could give back and offer developing athletes a chance to find their own success in the sport. Through watching my father coach and watching other coaches’’ styles and philosophies, I felt that I always had the appropriate tools and mindset to help others. Some of my greatest coaching influences are my father Richard Koceja, Jeff Miller at UW-Whitewater, Matt Dollins, Michael J. Sliwa, Paul Hiegel, Pete Henkes, Richard Dodd, Mike Dewitt, Mike Mulrooney, Tom Scheller, Bill Grieten, Michael Butcher and Wally Bradford. All of these men have very dynamic personalities and philosophies. From an experience standpoint, I always try to develop an appropriate relationship with the student athlete and use my own dynamic personality to help them succeed. I always tell them to not sweat the little stuff and to just focus on their own goals and performance instead of being overwhelmed by the performances of others. I tell them to compete with a one-track mind and avoid a world of stress and confusion. I sometimes have to pull out a past story involving my own running career that may help their situation. I have a whole book of stories as does everyone – some good, some bad.

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What have you learned through coaching? Has it benefitted your own running?

I’ve learned so much! I have been coaching for about 10 years at the high school level and I can honestly tell you that every day I keep learning something new. I feel that at the high school level, athletes seem to stress out about such little things; it’s quite entertaining at times. Sometimes I can’t help but to scratch my head and laugh. At times, I have to reset my mindset and acknowledge that a long time ago I was once a high school athlete, too, and that I do understand (even at times when I really don’t). It’s the little things, like having a down-to-earth conversation, that allow the athlete to become more comfortable and adaptive to your coaching style. Just being around these athletes makes me more aware of the special gift and talents I have in the coaching world and make me that much more grateful for the opportunity to work with so many great athletes. Coaching high school athletes has definitely helped improve my own running, inspiring me to compete at a higher level. If anything, coaching also gives me a great background in sports psychology🙂

You’re a newer member of Performance Running Outfitter’s Elite Team – how does running as part of a team enhance your running?

I am so grateful that Jessica and Trae Hoepner offered me this opportunity to compete on the PRO Elite Team this year. I believe that running as part of a team is a huge component that can automatically enhance your own abilities and performances. I feel that teammates are very crucial and can help propel you further. Through positive feedback, I have heard many great things about Performance Running Outfitters and I am very fortunate and grateful to have the opportunity to promote this outstanding organization. Big shout outs to my new teammates, including Jessica Hoepner, Trae Hoepner, Jackie Giacalone, Andy Ruffalo, Matt Barcus, Kyle Fraser, Richard Dodd, James Daul, Angie Kaiser, Cameron Ausen, Ben Garbe, Nathan Lanser and Mac Laksa.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?

I would just like to continue to use my gifts and talents to the best of their abilities and continue to contribute to a sport that has done so much for me. To put it bluntly, my goal is to kick some butt in whatever races I decide to run.

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What are your favorite Milwaukee races?

I really enjoyed competing at Al’s Run. I’ve only participated in the event once. From my experience, I was overwhelmed at the amount of support and encouragement that the city of Milwaukee brought to this meaningful event. I remember jogging to that starting line on Wisconsin Avenue thinking “This is freaking amazing.” I also really enjoyed competing at the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival as race director Chris Ponteri did a truly outstanding job managing the event.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?

I often enjoy the scenic views of Grant Park in South Milwaukee or Eastown Tosa. My girlfriend resides in Oak Creek, so I am always extremely eager to venture off and discover new areas to run. Be back in half an hour? Yeah … right.

What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?

Milwaukee is truly a great community. Everyone is so welcoming. I have been very flattered and humbled by the amount of support and positive encouragement throughout this community. You can meet so many outstanding people and interact with a community of runners that seek enjoyment in fulfilling their passion for the sport of running.

Any other comments?

Thank you for the interview. I am truly grateful to have this opportunity. A very special thanks to Jessica and Trae Hoepner for allowing me to contribute to PRO Elite by becoming a new member.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, James! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!