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An Interview With America's Unkown 3:56.00 Miler- Steve Sherer
Posted Thursday, February 7, 2008 -
Sherer certainly isnít a house-hold name. Weíll admit to having no idea as to who he was prior to last weekend. On February 4th, running at the University of Washington, Sherer turned heads and got not only our attention but probably the attention of all American distance running fans when he broke 4 minutes in the mile for the first time by running a sparkling 3:56.00 (race results here or race video here).
Sherer was a tennis player early in high school and didnít go out for track until his junior year at Saline High School in Michigan. As a senior, he ran 1:52.21. After graduating from high school in 2000, Sherer ran collegiately at Michigan State where he enjoyed sporadic success. As a sophomore he was All-American in the indoor 3k. As a red-shirt junior, he was All-American in the mile. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in psychology before earning a masters in kinesiology in 2005. His collegiate PRs were 14:02 for 5k, 7:59 for 3k, 4:01 for the mile, 3:45.99 for the 1,500 and 1:52 for 800 (his HS pr). Done with collegiately eligibility, Sherer joined the Nike Farm Team in August 2005. Sherer struggled mightily with the volume of the strength-based Farm Team training. Indoor results included an 8:28 3k as well as a 4:15 full mile that he ran almost exactly two years before his 3:56.00. A 37th-placed 4:01.89 finish in the 1,500 at the Oregon Invitational at the April 21, 2006 told him that enough was enough. On May 1, 2006, he was done with the Farm Team and training on his own. Amazingly, within 5 weeks (on June 4th) he'd run a 3:41.21 1,500. In 2007, Sherer improved his 1,500 pr to 3:41.05 once again and also added a big 800 pr - dropping it from his HS pr of 1:52.20 to 1:47.76.
This year, being an Olympic year, Sherer moved from his native Michigan to Los Gatos, California as he has historically struggled to run in cold weather. In Los Gatos, the unsponsored Sherer works approximately 25-30 hours a week as a personal trainer at Courtside Club. He also is the high school track coach at Los Gatos High school as well as doing some additional work for Vector Marketing.
Much of an interview's feel gets lost in print as itís hard to get across tone and things are edited, so if you want to listen to or download the interview, please click here. Rojo certainly enjoyed talking to Steve so we hope you enjoy the interview below. Messageboard thread on Sherer here.
LRC: Steve, thanks for being with us. Obviously we are talking to you because you ran the 3:56 flat mile - that's
what grabbed our attention - but when I first saw the results, I was
wondering who is this guy. I was wondering, "Is he American? Maybe he's Canadian." So
let me start by asking, who is Steve Sherer?
It just all came together for that race. I felt really fresh and really good.
LRC: After I started looking around, I did realize
you were a pretty good college runner, an All-American. You did run 7:59 as a
sophomore in college but not a whole lot after that and you just said
the Farm Team wasn't great for you. It looks like up to two years ago
your 1,500 pr was 3:45. How do you explain the big break-through.
Most guys don't even try to keep going after college unless they are
top 2 to 3 in NCAAs, and it's very unusual to be doing it on your own
so how did you make it to the next level?.
I just kind of did some things that he did with me and I've studied some runners like Seb Coe, El Guerrouj and Bob Kennedy and other guys, and kind of put my own training together and started running a lot faster (laughs).
It's was pretty nice (to run 3:41 in 2006 and 2007) and that got me kind of inspired to keep on trying. This year, I (moved out to California) to do coaching and personal training and I recently added an advisor - I guess Iíd call him a coach - Willie Harmatz.. I bounce ideas off of him but I still write all of my own workouts and my own schedule, but he does come out and time me and he is a very smart guy for sure. That really has helped me to have someone to bounce ideas off of, to watch me and keep me motivated. All of those things kind of came together and then I just felt REALLY good in that mile.
Do you work out by yourself?
LRC: What would you say are the key aspects of
your training philosophy?
And one thing that I tried differently for this race was to taper the week before and then I worked really hard the week of the race so I still had a taper in but wasn't dead-legged or flat from tapering. I think that helped me out as I'd never done that before. That was a big change too.
I guess my philosophy is quality is way better than quantity - we'll say that. I don't like the whole American coach that says you need to run over 75 miles a week or that you need to have a long run even. I don't do long runs. I don't really run over an hour - ever.
Editor's Note: After the main interview, Sherer told us the specifics of his taper. If you want to learn about it, please click here as we didn't type up that part of the interview.
LRC: Your speaking blasphemy - violating all of my coaching philosophies at Cornell - maybe I should mute the rest of the interview. - I'm kind of kidding.
I know as I said, coaches hate me (laughs).
LRC: Whenever someone says to me that El Guerrouj did this or that, I say "How do you know he was clean as I'm not so convinced he was."
Well I can't do his workouts that's for sure. I just kind of steal his philosophy.
How much mileage do you do?
LRC: Going into this year, obviously it's an
Olympic year and you've had some minor breakthroughs the last few
years, but prior to the race last week, what were your goals for the
Worlds is now the goal for this season. (Outdoors) this year I'm probably going to focus on the 800 a little more but I'm not entirely too sure on that. I guess we'll see how the rest of the year plays out. I might even do both (800 and 1500). I don't really know. I guess definitely my goal would be to make it to the finals as I've never done that - I kind of always blow up in the semis. I really want to race smart and do well in the final for sure.
I mean obviously the end goal would be to make an Olympic team. I never want to go into a race thinking I am going to lose. I'm not going to go into that race thinking I'm not going to get top three.
LRC: Prior to the race in Washington, had you done
anything that gave you an idea of where you were? Time trials or
anything? What were you thinking you could do going into that race?
I really had no idea in all honesty due to my workouts. I mean I've had a lot better workouts honestly in the past. I really had no idea (how I was going to do) which is probably why I waited a bit longer than I should have (to kick). Looking back on my race, I probably should have gone a little earlier but I waited a bit too long as I didn't know where I was in all honesty as my workouts were in little Las Gatos meets.
LRC: Beating high schoolers isn't necessarily the
best indication that you are ready to run 3:56 (is it?).
LRC: Looking at the race video, it looks like
everyone else is almost standing still when you start to kick with
400 to go. Describe that feeling. Could you sense that you were
absolutely destroying the field or did it just feel like a normal
race? Coming down the stretch, did you realize how fast it was going
But it felt really, really good - the whole last 500 meters except for the last 100 meters when I tied up a little bit. But I felt really good and I'm excited for my next race as I have an idea of where I am and I can go in there with confidence. Hopefully - the Tyson Invite in Arkansas is my next race. We'll see.
LRC: That was what I was going to ask you about.
You are a personal trainer. Do you even have an agent, are you
sponsored, how do you make a living?
How many hours a week do you work?
What brought you out to California? Where were you before?
I decided if I wanted a good shot at the Olympics, and I really did (want that shot) that I'd have to move out here. I just kind of did it solo - no team or anything. I just knew that if I wanted to train in the winter and get a good base, I'd have to come out to Cali - someplace warm - but I have a few connections out here thanks to the Farm Team so it wasn't as stressful as it could have been.
LRC: Nick Willis, that is pretty good company.
He's one of the top milers in the world. How did he end up being your
What do you think went wrong with the Farm Team? Is it kind of a
college system where the workouts are forced on the guys - there are
like 10 guys and the two best survive? That happens with a lot of
Iím kind of a princess with my training (laughs). It has to be perfect.
I just can't be thrown into the mix- hammering the base runs, and then doing extraordinarily high volume workouts with moderate intensity on the track. It just didn't work out well for me. It worked great for some of the guys and they ran phenomenally -they had (Jonathan) Riley, (Chris) Estawanik - some really great runners - Kevin Elliott. It worked out great for them and they ran very well off that kind of training, but I just couldn't do it - train with that particularly style and run well off of it.
I was running pretty slow - like 4 minute 1500s and 9 minute 3ks. I was like "I can't do this anymore. I really like the guys. I really respect the coach (Gags), but I just can't do this kind of training anymore. He (Gags) just can't personalize as he has too many guys that want to be on that team - to personalize the training program for every runner would be impossible for a coach on a team like that so I decided I had to do it myself.
I have a lot of people who I can bounce ideas like Ed Burke - who was an 84 Olympic Hammer thrower - who has a lot of ideas about increasing your V02 max even though he didn't run that much. He was actually pretty helpful in (me developing) my training philosophy. Willie (Harmatz) too. He's got a lot of interesting workouts that I use. My personal training background and masters in kinesiology helps out too as well. All those things. I have a lot of advisors.
(Editor's Note: Ed Burke also owns Los Gatos Athletic Club which is where Steve has been working as a personal trainer. Also note that we couldn't find the 9 minute 3k that he ran online, but we did find an 8:28 3 as well as a 4:15 full mile that he ran almost exactly two years before his 3:56.00 as well the 4:01 1,500 that resulted in him leaving the Farm Team.. We also found it interesting that in every meet he ran for the Farm Team - his name was missppelled as Scherer. Clearly the training wasn't being tailored to him if they weren't spelling his name right)
LRC: Pretty interesting stuff. Did you ever think
about giving it up? 4 minute 1500 after college is pretty bad.
LRC: Do you think the fact that you are on your
own and that you made the move out California played a big role in
your breakthrough? I know with my twin brother (Weldon) the year he
quit his job, moved to Flagstaff and was on his own, the breakthrough
was unbelievable (he went from 29:50 to 28:27 in the 10k). People to
this day still ask him what was different. Looking back on it, I sort
of think that itís partially a matter of knowing ,"This is
it, I'm on my own, I have to do it so you do it."
LRC: You talked about running the 800. How fast
are you for 400? You talked about running 50 point for those races,
that doesn't seem very fast too me.
for my speed - I was always a 48 guy in high school so I have a lot
of natural speed. I haven't been doing a lot of speed recently. I
mean I always do fast stuff on the track but nothing like 23 (200s).
I think that it will come around but I haven't decided anything for
sure. I need to see who (else) is in what event - to see what my best
LRC: If you could give advice to anyone who is
struggling with their own running and wondering if it's worth it,
what would you say to them?
LRC: I agree (with focusing on your strengths) but
it's still bizarre to me that you get advice from a weight thrower.
LRC: I'm sure all the cynics on the messageboards
are going to be like, "Wait - he's got a masters in kinesiology,
associated with a weight thrower.Ē They are going to be
LRC: Well I know my brother viewed the drug
accusations as the best compliment that he could get. Anyway, it's a
great story. We're certainly drawn to the guys doing it on their own.
I mean that's why we started the website in the first place as that's
where we were. My advice is to "Have fun with it." You can
always go back and watch that race on tape. Thank god it's on video.
LRC: You should have leaned and you would been
If you want to listen
an additionally audio clip where Steve describes his taper in detail,
please click on the appropriate track below as weíre tired of typing. Click here to download the interview
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