Let’s Get to Know … Nick Szczech

There’s fast and then there’s FAST. And Nick Szczech definitely belongs in the FAST category. The 25-year-old Milwaukee native already has a marathon win under his belt (Lakefront Marathon 2011 – his marathon debut!) and is looking to shave a few minutes off that time to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

We recently chatted with Nick to learn more about his training, favorite workouts and goals for the next few years.

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Age: 25
Team affiliation: Performance Running Outfitters Racing Team; formerly ran for Marquette University’s Cross Country and Track Teams
Years running: 11
Favorite workout: 8-10 mile tempo runs
If you could run with anyone, who would you run with: Paula Radcliffe
Pre-race routine: I drink coffee, eat oatmeal with some peanut butter and applesauce, and read Letsrun.com
Favorite post-race treat: A double Sobelman’s burger
Favorite distance to race: 10K on the track or a 10 miler on the roads
Significant wins/placings: Won the 2011 Lakefront Marathon and 2011 Al’s Run, among others

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Why did you start running?
I was always one of the fastest on my grade school soccer team, and I decided to switch up my choice of sport at Thomas More, running cross country instead of soccer.

I definitely have a “type-A” personality, so running and training structures my day. I also love the camaraderie of races and the mental toughness you develop through the training. I also feel flat and sluggish when I am not running, so it helps me clear my head.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
While training for 10Ks and longer races, I usually run between 75-95 miles per week with a weekly long run where I attempt to negative split the second half of the run, some short hill sprints for strength and power, lots of medium-paced runs, and one workout (usually a long tempo or repeat intervals).

Do you have any key workouts that let you know you’re ready to race?
I love doing progressive tempo runs, usually 10 miles, starting at 6:00 pace and decreasing 5-10 seconds every mile until I’m running 4:50 pace for the last few miles. I then know I have both the fitness and mental toughness to race anything from a 5k up to the marathon.

Can you tell us a bit about your first marathon – Lakefront Marathon 2011. What goals did you have going into the race?
I had just finished running at Marquette, and during the spring of 2011, I ran a fairly fast 10k. I knew I had residual fitness from track training, so I wanted to utilize that to run a fast marathon. Life seems to get in the way if you wait too long to race marathons. I was very intimidated by the distance, but I usually set two goals when racing—a stretch goal and a realistic goal. My stretch goal was to run an Olympic Trials Qualifier (2:19 at the time), and the realistic one was to run somewhere in the 2:20s. The goal was to win and just get my feet wet with the distance. Looking back—I think I could have upped the mileage slightly and completed a few longer tempo runs, too. Otherwise, I was really happy with the race.

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Have you raced any marathons since your first?
I have not raced any marathons since 2011. I was in Austin, Texas for graduate school, and I have had a few minor injuries that have set back my mileage build-ups in the last two years.

You’re so close to the Olympic Trials Qualifying Time for the marathon distance. Are you looking to lower your time to meet the standard?
I am looking to lower my time. I was thinking this fall/winter would be the target, but my build-up has been slower than I thought. I am hoping to use the winter to gain more fitness, so the goal is a spring marathon. I’m thinking Grandma’s or Green Bay.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?
I hope to lower my best times in all distances from the 5k up to the marathon. My long-term goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. Additionally, I am the assistant coach at Shorewood High School for girls’ cross country and track. I hope to help the girls improve while also cultivating in them the same love of running I gained from my high school and college coaches.

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Do you have any advice for runners who want to improve their race times?
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. The body has a remarkable ability to adapt and handle stress. Push the boundaries of your training. I think long runs, long hill repeats, strides and tempo runs are the best ways to increase race fitness.

What are your favorite Milwaukee races?
Al’s Run is my favorite Milwaukee race. I just ran the Race for the Bacon 5k, which was really fun, and the Lakefront Marathon (of course).

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I love starting at South Shore Park and heading south on the Oak Leaf, and I also love the trails in the Seminary Woods in Bay View as well as anywhere in Grant Park.

In general, what makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?
There are plenty of soft surfaces. The (running) weather is great from March through November, and there are great resources for every ability level—Performance Running Outfitters, Badgerland Striders, and many, many more! The winter also makes us much tougher than runners from other regions.

Thanks for chatting with us, Nick! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to hear your story. 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!

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