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Interview: Rob Myers

by Kevin Beck

   

2004 Ohio State University grad Rob Myers, 25, has ranked among the best American milers since winning the USA Indoor 1,500-meter championship in March 2004, a performance that gained him entry to that winter's World Indoor Championships in Budapest. That July, Myers, the OSU record holder in both the indoor mile (3:58.64) and the 1,000 meters (2:23.65), finished third at the Olympic Trials in the 1,500, but despite breaking out later that summer with a 3:53.78 mile in London — good for eighth in the world in 2004 — Myers failed to achieve the Olympic "A" standard and was unable to compete in Athens.

Undaunted, Myers — guided, as he is today, by his college coach, Robert Gary — enjoyed a great stretch of training after his 2004 track season, and continued amassing impressive credentials in 2005. He placed second in the 1,500 to Scott McGowan at the USA Indoor Championships in February and lowered his indoor bests to 3:40.45 in the 1,500 (Birmingham, England) and 3:58.83 in the mile (Reebok Boston Indoor Games). Outdoors, Myers notched a 3:54.87 mile at the Prefontaine Classic, then placed third in the 1,500 at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Carson, California, earning a spot on his second U.S. World team.

After Nationals, Myers still needed to secure the World Championships "A" standard of 3:36.20 in order to cement his trip to Helsinki. After several star-crossed tries, Myers bashed his way under the standard with a personal-best 3:34.89 at London's Crystal Palace on July 22. At the World Championships, Myers advanced to the second round of the 1,500 by placing seventh in his heat, but finished 10th in his semi and missed qualifying for the final.

Myers lives with his wife Christina in Chesterfield, Missouri. MensRacing.com caught up with him to discuss his past season, as well as his hopes and plans for the future.

MensRacing.com: Last fall, you mentioned three goals in the 1,500 meters for 2005: repeat as USA Indoor champ, crack the top two at outdoors, and drop into the 3:33 range. Interestingly, you wound up off by one place in each race and one second time-wise.
Rob Myers:
Yeah, I'd rate my season as good but not great. The highlights were coming fairly close to reaching those goals and having a good training year, with another step up in both mileage and intensity. But I can't say it was great because I didn't fulfill my goals, being a step behind in everything. I don't think I ran tactically smart at US Outdoors, and I don't think I set my up racing in Europe as well as I could have. And I wanted to make the finals at the World Championships, but I only made it to the second round. So those are things I'd like to improve on in addition to stepping up my training even more.

MR: What will 'stepping up' your training entail? Having worked with the same coach for so long, are you effectively on a multi-year plan?
RM:
Basically, I feel Coach Gary has been very smart with me ever since I came to Ohio State. I think he knew from the start that there was a good possibility I'd end up running beyond college, so he's been patient ever since I showed up. In my first couple of years, I had some injuries but we've tried to correct that. This year, I stepped up things aerobically, with my mileage coming up a little bit, and I was able to hit longer (80- to 90-minute) runs without breaking down, which was a problem for me in the past. I was also able to step up intensity-wise on the track.

MR: As a miler by trade, do you use those 80- to 90-minute runs mainly to get some time on your feet or do you hit them pretty hard?
RM:
I'd say I do them as progression runs. By the end I'm probably hitting sub-6:00 pace, maybe closer to 5:40. Not hard but not loafing around.

MR: So last fall and early winter, were you running the highest mileage of your life — more so, even, than before or during cross country seasons in college?
RM:
Yes. My average and my high week were both around 10 miles more than ever before. A lot of that has come with my ability to stay injury-free — by being consistent, I've gotten stronger, which in turn has allowed me to train stronger and more consistently.

MR: Getting back to the specifics of this past track season, did you hope to have the World Champs 'A' standard in place before USA Outdoors so that you could focus more on the entire race and not just the time in Carson?
RM:
This year, I actually didn't expect to have it beforehand, knowing how my training was going at the time.

MR: Since you didn't have the standard heading into nationals, were you intent on making it happen there or were you resigned to possibly chasing it Europe?
RM:
I did run 3:54 at the Prefontaine Classic, so I thought that I was fit enough at [nationals] to make it, had it developed into a fast race. But I didn't expect this to happen, and it didn't. [Myers' third-place time was 3:42.27, although he set a then-personal record of 3:38.96 in the prelims.]

My European season would have been much different had I achieved the standard before going over there. Because I was chasing the standard and didn't get it on the first try, I had to come back for my brother's wedding, then entered everything that was left and was running a race what seemed like every three days. I did end up getting the 'A' standard early [Myers ran 3:34.89 at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix on July 22], but had already signed up for the other meets and thought I should follow through. That might have hurt me in the end, as I didn't really recover from this stretch of racing before the World Champs.

MR: As I remember, you caught a tough break in Lausanne, Switzerland, one of your early attempts to get the 'A' standard (3:36.20).
RM:
After missing out in Ireland, I more or less planned to make it happen in Lausanne. But I ended up hitting the rabbit when he pulled off with 300 to go and lost all of my momentum. It wasn't necessarily his fault — next time I may run with my head up [laughs] — but I really think if I hadn't run up on him, I would have made the standard — I missed by 0.35 seconds — and that would have changed the way my entire season played out.

MR: You went into Helsinki with one World Championships experience already under your belt. Did you actively put into play anything you learned the first time?
RM:
Sure. Not only from [the World Indoor Track & Field Championships] but the other races I've run in Europe. They're a little more aggressive overall. You just learn that everyone is extremely talented and that you have to get in there, run with confidence, and not judge what any one other guy can do. You just have to compete.

MR: At the Fifth Avenue Mile a couple of weeks ago, you looked, in a word, flat.
RM:
I had already had my post-season break, so it would have been a surprise to run fast at Fifth Avenue. But I gave it a shot. The most important thing to me was to help promote the race. It's rare, and great for the sport in terms of visibility, to have so many top track and field athletes in the biggest city in America.

MR: Before that, when was the last time you ran a road race?
RM:
Probably in high school.

MR: The inevitable question posed to dedicated, successful milers: Have you given any thought to eventually moving up, or maybe to running cross country?
RM:
I've talked to Coach a little bit about this. I might run a 3K or a 5K, depending on where such a race would fit in my sequence of training for the mile. I really feel that until I am sure I've reached my potential in the mile, I don't want to focus elsewhere, although I'll race anything else I do enter as hard as I can.

MR: What about shorter races? You showed some jets in the 800 in high school.
RM:
I ran a 1:47 800 last year [1:47.72 at the USATF Club Nationals, shortly before the full-fledged national championships]. I also ran the 1,000 meters in at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York this year and I don't actually remember my time [Myers was sixth in 2:19.36]. The idea behind these was basically to include a couple of 'blowouts' before big mile or 1,500-meter races.

MR: What would an ideal 2006 look like?
RM:
Like last year, I'd like to come back win US Indoors and make the World Indoor team, and again want to finish in the top two at outdoor nationals. Coach and I are having a meeting next week to finalize my upcoming training, with the main questions being, how much can I step it up again this year and what can I do to get better? I think for me that in terms of the training it's going to be a building process almost every year.

MR: Having not quite reached the 3:33 you wanted in '05, do you have a revised time goal for '06 or are we talking status quo?
RM:
Well, I don't really come up with time goals on my own — Coach and I discuss that and come up with a goal together, so — but I think 3:32 is something I'm ready to shoot for.

MR: Do you still get away to OSU much to train with that crew?
RM:
Every now and then for a week or so, but mostly I train in Missouri all on my own — the long easy stuff, the short fast stuff. But I will be going back more often this year and I will be moving back permanently around August to train and help out.

MR: Have any of the up-and-coming American milers particularly impressed you over the past year?
RM:
Every year you have a bit of a surprise, and I think Chris Lukezic and Jon Rankin were the biggest two this year, both of them racing well despite coming off NCAA seasons. But I keep my eye on a lot of guys, and I never count anyone out. I think the trend right now is that you need to be faster and faster in order to win a race here, and that's a good thing.

(Interview conducted 9/29/2005, posted 10/4/2005.)

 
Rob Myers races at the 2005 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
(Both photos Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
Myers represents Ohio State at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
     
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