Welcome to the second interview in the Spark Series – a chance for you to gain a flash of insight from people who are active members of the running community – and this week we hear from Bill Turner. Introducing Bill Turner is a great pleasure because he was one of the first people I met in the Hawaii running community – years ago – when I was ‘fresh off the plane’ and didn’t know anyone! A quick and experienced, yet very humble marathon runner, Bill bounds along in training and competes regularly. Bill is a friendly face with lots of time, energy and Aloha for everyone and it’s always exciting to see what he’s up to next!
LRY: Hi Bill! Thanks for taking the time to chat with longrunergy!
BT: Mahalo Susie for asking me to chat! I enjoy following your longrunergy website. It is a great forum for the local running and yoga ohana.
LRY: Congratulations on your run in the Tokyo marathon earlier this spring! Can you tell us more about your experience in Japan? How does the marathon in Tokyo compare to other marathons you have competed in?
BT: Thanks! The trip to Japan exceeded expectations. My wife and I had wanted to visit from the time we were married (nearing nineteen years ago). Kim had spent time in Japan as a student. I was a newbie – never visited.
From the time our plane landed, I could not wait to experience the culture, sites, food (lots of food), and practice the little conversational Japanese I managed to learn. We traveled with a group of friends from Hawaii, including Emmie Saigusa, whom you interviewed earlier this year.
On race day, we gathered at a hotel room close to the start of the marathon (much in the spirit of the Hawaii House in Boston). Having a place to relax, talk story, keep hydrated and fuelled, as well as having a private bathroom, prior to the race was a luxury (mahalo again Mr. Jeff Nakasone!).
Compared to the Honolulu Marathon, the weather conditions were cooler and less humid (February race). If I recall correctly, the temperature was in the forties at the start.
Once the race began, I warmed up quickly and was thankful I left the beanie cap and arm warmers, which I originally planned to wear, at the hotel. In general, I prefer to keep the running gear I wear and the nutrition I carry as simple as possible.
Much like Honolulu, the Tokyo Marathon was well-organized and the support excellent. The Aloha among the runners, volunteers, and those who came out to cheer was strong. Similar to Boston, the crowds extended from the start to finish, which we all know, makes a big difference during those tough stretches of a race.
As with other destination marathons, the course included many of the sites and different districts of Tokyo. Overall, it is a wonderful way to visit the city!
LRY: Looking back to when you first started running, what intrigued you most about the marathon distance and when did you run your first marathon?
BT: I credit Rick Varley, a good friend who also moved from Pennsylvania to Hawaii, with sparking my interest in running a marathon (Honolulu 1999). Although, if you were to ask me the same question during a rough stretch of a race or training run, I may reply, ‘I blame Rick… – LOL.’
All kidding aside, Rick’s encouragement to sign up for that first marathon has had an incredible positive impact on my life. The friends made, travels, life experiences, as well as health benefits have been beyond measure.
LRY: What would you say is different about the marathon to all other running events?
BT: In general, particularly big city marathons, they have a larger number of runners. I believe 20,000 + runners are common for the major marathons.
One of the cool aspects of having a large number of participants is they often include a contingent of elite international runners. It provides the opportunity to run in a race with professional athletes from around the world.
For example, during the Honolulu Marathon, it is always awe-inspiring to see the elites on their way back to Kapiolani Park as the rest of the runners are still heading out to Hawaii Kai. With their efficient form and poised strides, you would never know they are running at mind-boggling paces.
LRY: When it comes to training for a marathon do you simply run or do you mix in other types of fitness workouts? How about strength training? Any yoga?
BT: Definitely a mix that includes strength training, walking, occasional biking, and should include more stretching.
Strength Training – Do my best to include one or two workouts a week. I focus on upper body (dumbbells), a few leg exercises (lunges and step-ups), and core movements (exercise ball and planks).
Walking – I enjoy walking to and from work each day (early morning start keeps temps cool). Cannot say enough about walking’s positive impact on the body and mind. Makes for an easier start to the workday and a great warm-up for evening runs\workouts. If it is a viable option, I recommend walking to everyone as the go to mode of transportation.
Biking – Don’t bike as much as I did in the past but I enjoy going out for an occasional long ride (7-Eleven stops – very important for long rides). One or two laps around Tantalus is also always a fun workout.
Stretching – I have the flexibility of a stone. Lots of room for improvement in this department. I incorporate a few movements prior to and after runs but need to do more. I’ve enjoyed taking yoga classes in the past and it is my goal to start again.
LRY: You’ve been a consistent and significant member of the Oahu running community for many years – what is your key to staying in the game long-term?
BT: Thanks! A few things come to mind:
Keep it Safe – My first rule for training and races. In general, listen to your body. Recognize the difference between discomfort due to an extended effort (a healthy hurt) and an unusual or unfamiliar discomfort (sharp pain – a ‘your body is trying to tell you something hurt’).
Know when to cancel an ‘A’ race game plan, or, as painful as it is to do so, call off a race. It may make the difference between containing an injury to a relatively minor setback and causing a much bigger issue. We are blessed with many races in Hawaii – plenty of opportunities to come back and complete another day.
Keep It Fun – Training with friends, talking story after races, experiencing new places are what makes racing a joy for me. A healthy and rewarding stress release. I don’t plan on ever losing sight of that fact.
Friendly Competition is a Good Thing – I believe competition makes us all faster. Whether it is during a workout or race, friendly competition is healthy. Push a training buddy or another race competitor to the limit, cross the finish line, shake hands or do the knuckles tap and know you gave it your best – and likely finished with faster times by the push.
That Age Thing…Embrace It! – Now that I am within a few years of the big 5-0, I’ve embraced the aging process. I’m a firm believe in the cliché that ‘age is just a number.’
Nutrition, cross training, as well as recovery are important regardless of your age. As a runner with an increasing gray hair count (got a ‘Good job uncle!’ shout-out during my last race), I’ve learned these aspects of a training carry more weight as we age.
A statement of the obvious but I believe eating healthier; cross training; keeping the mind active (ex. learning a new language), rest (still working on that earlier bedtime), forcing the body and mind to adapt in general, are all paths to the fountain of youth.
LRY: I understand you have recently become interested in the role of nutrition and diet as part of your life as a runner? Can you expand on that and describe what you have changed about your diet, and how you feel it has made a difference?
BT: Yes, as a runner, my interest in nutrition and diet has certainly increased in the past year or two.
With regards to nutrition / diet, the core principle I follow is a quote from Michael Pollan’s book ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
I recall first hearing the quote during a radio interview with Michael Pollan. Interviewer asked Mr. Pollan to sum up his book, he read the quote.
There was a second or two of silence, the interviewer asked a follow-up question that was something to effect of: ‘That about sums it up then?’ Mr. Pollan’s reply was along the lines of: ‘Yep, that pretty much sums it up…’ Another second or two of silence, the interviewer and Mr. Pollan chuckled, and I had an epiphany.
That being said, it’s challenging. There are many convenient, inexpensive, high calorie, nutrient deprived foods out there, and, let’s face it – they’re, well… delicious.
In broad terms, I do my best to follow the quote by:
Eating mostly whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables daily. I eat eggs, fish and shellfish throughout the week. Chicken and turkey approximately once or twice a month. Red meat about once or twice a year. Lastly, I make sure to enjoy a few goodies – dark chocolate chips and a bowl of ice cream are favorites.
Along with the focusing on the ‘Eat food not too much…’ mantra, I track my daily calories with the ‘MyFitnessPal’ phone app. This was upon the recommendation of a personal trainer I worked with about year and a half ago (Curtis Siangco at UFC Gym).
Originally I planned to use the app for about a month or two but never stopped. It’s convenient, always have my smart phone on hand, and there are many pre-entered foods (plus a handy bar code reader). Much like a budget, knowing your calorie flow (money in / money out – calories in / calories out) is invaluable in keeping on top of a healthier diet. Thanks again for the recommendation Curtis!
By following Michael Pollan’s nutrition/diet plan and keeping track of daily calorie flow (an estimate – no process is perfect), I’ve been able to stay on the high-end of my race weight goals. Next year I hope to bring it up a notch.
LRY: If you were going to invite someone to go for a run, past or present who you would like to share a few miles with?
BT: Cool question! I’d invite my older brother Dan who lives in North Carolina.
Modern communication, smart phones, FaceTime, Skype, etc. provide us all with a great ways to stay in contact but nothing beats spending time with family and friends in person.
Maunawili trail on Oahu, a trail in Blue Ridge Parkway National Park, North Carolina, or perhaps a run on Long Beach Island (LBI – New Jersey) to the Barnegat Lighthouse would be great venues.
Ending the run with a potluck with family and friends would be icing on the cake.
LRY: In turn, which runner or runners, past or present inspire you the most?
BT: The 70+ age group in races of all sizes and distances. Thirty, forty years from now – that is where I strive to be.
LRY: What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve received from a runner who you admire?
BT: Cannot recall who first said it, so I’ll contribute the advice to the race community as a whole:
“Enjoy the journey.”
Sums up my outlook on running. Enjoy the time with family, friends, setting and achieving goals, the company of running buddies on long runs, or the quiet, reflective time of a solo run. Enjoy being out there!
LRY: Do you have a few pieces of advice for someone who has signed up for their first Honolulu marathon this December?
BT: Sure! A few pieces of advice, I’d offer:
In the Safety First Department – If you have not already, schedule a health check with your physician or medical care advisor. Let them know you plan to run a marathon. As with all new physical endeavors, especially an endurance event, it’s always best to check with the doctor first.
Join a Training Group – There are many running clubs lead with knowledgeable coaches on Oahu. The coaches will provide a training program that will set you on the right path to completing your first marathon. The clubs also provide a great way to make new friends who will provide invaluable support and encouragement.
I train with Jonathan Lyau’s Personal Best Training (PBT) group. The workouts are challenging but always fun. We often talk story afterwards and, it being Hawaii, enjoy the occasional potluck.
Again, there many clubs out there, ‘Hawaii Sport Magazine’ is a good source to find a club as well as Mr. Google.
Set a Race Goal of Having Fun First – For my first marathon, I recall someone suggested to focus on enjoying the event rather than the finish time . It was a good advice.
I set a ballpark goal time but focused more on absorbing all the sights and sounds of my first marathon. I had a blast!
LRY: Finally, what’s next for you in terms of running? Which races are on your personal bucket list?
BT: Coming up next – Mango Madness trail run. It’s always great to get out on the trails!
A little further down the road, the Honolulu Marathon Readiness series as well as the marathon itself.
On the bucket list, New York Marathon for two reasons. One – never ran it. Two – Kim has been to New York but never during the Holiday Season. It be very cool to check off both from the list!
Thanks Bill! Wow – some great reminders about all the small, simple things we can do on a daily basis to create a lifestyle that allows us to run, stay happy and healthy: what longrunergy is all about.