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ONE-ON-ONE WITH CHRIS LEAR
LetsRun.com recently spoke with one of the top high school runners in the country from the early 1990s, Chris Lear, about his high school career. As a senior at Pingry High School in Martinsville, NJ in 1992, Chris put the #5 time in the nation in the mile with a 4:09 clocking at the prestigious Golden West Invitational. That same year he also captured the New Jersey state title in the 1600 meters by running 4:11.17, a time that still stands as the state meet record.
Chris ran collegiately for Princeton University where he twice earned All-American honors before he was sidelined for almost two full years with multiple stress fractures in his feet.
Lear, 25, currently lives, writes and runs in Boulder, CO under the guidance of Colorado's famed coach, Mark Wetmore. He recently has been sidelined by a tear of his plantar fascia, but he is hoping things heal in time for him to be able to qualify for the 2000 US Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters.
Outside of running, Chris just recently completed writing a book, Running with The Buffaloes, that chronicles the 1998 Men's Cross Country Season at Colorado which culminated with Adam Goucher winning the NCAA individual cross country title.
When did you start to make a mark on the national scene in high school and what do you think the keys to your success were?
I really started to run well during my junior year when I ran 4:19 for 1600 meters. However, my big breakthrough came during my senior year when I ran 4:09 for the full mile. The breakthrough was attributable to my coaches (Meg Waldron and Ed Scott) having a plan for me and me believing in it. Secondly, I ran in the summer for the first time going into my senior year and was just a whole lot stronger as a result. I made a huge jump in cross country (during my senior year) and then continued to build off that by running in the winter and doing a few low key indoor meets for the for the first time.
I also had the benefit of always training at a high level because my twin brother Tim also ran. He was second at the meet New Jersey Meet of Champions in the 3200 meters our senior year despite trying to find a solution to exercise induced asthma. He routinely kicked my butt until my senior year. He still would have, had he not had to battle asthma. I mention this only because most good runners train alone. I think this is a mistake because it allows you to delude yourself into thinking that you are working harder than you really are.
As the No. 5 miler in the country, did you feel any pressure to try to go under four minutes? It seems to us that too often unrealistic expectations are put on the top prep athletes.
No, I did not feel any pressure to go under 4. It wasn't a realistic goal as I'd only run 4:19 as a junior. All along our plan was to go under 4:10. That was our goal based on what I had done the year before. I believed fully in the plan and my coaches. Without them I would not have run what I did. It's essential that one has a coach and plan that they believe in. If I was a year older (I was 17 as a senior) and had another year of high school, sub 4 would have been my goal.
Do you think it's realistic for a few high school runners to shoot for a sub-four minute mile each year?
There is no reason for kids not to be going under 4 in the US. They are doing it everywhere else in the world. Our high schoolers need to start following programs by top coaches like JK (John Kellogg) and Mark (Wetmore) and maybe we will catch up. Both JK and Mark know what they're doing and their training approaches are very similar. The key is consistency and upping the mileage and intensity from year to year. If you are not progressing, you are regressing. Nothing stays static.
What are your impressions of Alan Webb? Do you think he can go sub-four this year?
He sounds like a monster. It is good to see him running well. I think he will raise the standard of excellence around the country to what it should be by running under four minutes in high school.
I also think that the internet has helped people think more globally than before. When I was in high school, I never knew who was running well across the country until Track and Field News' rankings came out. Now, it's a little harder for Joe Blow to con his girl(friend) into thinking he is the bomb after running a 4:30 mile when she can go to dyestat.rivals.com and see that ranks him number 1,203 in the U.S. Now, only if coaches would share information as much as kids are checking results, then we'd be getting somewhere.
We've heard a lot of great things about the book you've been written, Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Adam Goucher, Mark Wetmore and the CU Men's Cross Country Team. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
The book chronicles the 1998 Cross Country season at the University of Colorado. It covers everything from the highs to the lows both on and off the track. I was there for every practice, every meet and hung out with the guys virtually the entire Fall. Anyone who has ever run on a cross country team knows that there's bound to be a ton of classic stories in the book. Additionally, I feel the book is special as it enables one to see how methodically and hard Adam Goucher trains to be a champion. The book chronicles him right when his career began to take off, as he captured the NCAA cross country championship that year.
When can we expect to see the book in print?
The book's finished. I just have to sort through the various publishing options that are available. Hopefully, it will be out later this summer, definitely before the start of the cross country season next Fall. Portions of the book will be available soon at www.runwiththebuffs.com. Check it out.
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