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University of Kansas graduate Mark Menefee, who earned All-America
honors his senior year by placing 13th in the 5,000 meters at the
NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, recently completed
a one-year stint with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, a relationship
that culminated with Menefee's fifth-place finish at July's Olympic
Trials 5,000 meters in Sacramento.
Kansas, Menefee led the first four miles of the Midwest Regional
Cross Country Championship his senior year before fading to eighth.
Only recently has Menefee begun to explore his potential in the
longer distances, turning in an impressive 28:32.7 at the Stanford
Invitational in his 10,000-meter debut in March.
recently caught up with Menefee in his native state, to which he
recently returned in order to begin pursuing goals both within and
outside the sport.
Rumor has it that you're off to law school, are helping coach at
Hutchinson Community College, or both.
Yes to both. I'm currently I'm studying for the law school exam
and preparing law school applications. I've also taken a position
as assistant cross country coach at Hutchinson under Head Coach
Terry Masterson. Things are going well in those areas.
You didn't make the Olympic Team this year, but you certainly made
your mark. Were you happy with the results of the final?
I wish I had pushed the pace sooner. The pace slacked significantly
at about the 1-1/4 mile mark and this didn't favor my race strategy.
Fifth is good, but I would like to have gotten a "B" standard
at the Trials, to at least give myself a chance [of going to the
You soloed a 13:38 at the Midwest Distance Solution meet to qualify
for the Trials, winning by almost 30 seconds. Could you summarize
this experience mental and physical preparation, execution? More
specifically, were you shooting for the "A" standard (13:32)
or the "B" (13:48)?
I was confident in my training and I simply knew when I went to
the line that I could run under 13:40; this is what we figured I
needed to do, so I just had that in my head the whole time. We had
a rabbit through the first mile and a half and then I just paid
attention to the lap splits. I guess I just knew I could do it.
It was a great night to run and I felt solid.
Looking not only at the Trials 5,000m (both your preliminary heat
and final) but also at the Midwest Regionals in both XC and track
as a senior, it seems that you're frontrunner not necessarily in
the classic take-charge-from-the-gun mold, but your heading to the
front and pushing the pace when it lags. Does that accurately describe
I try to know what my strengths are going into a race. In Michigan,
this is something I believe Keith and Kevin [Hanson] helped me to
understand better and take advantage of. So often I know going into
a race that I may have to take the lead and push the pace so others
don't get too comfortable. I've found more often than not that I
can get rid of a lot of people in the pack if I push at the right
time. Also, I like to have some control of the pace, which I feel
very comfortable with.
Presumably you had grad school plans while still at Kansas. What
made you want to pursue your running in a group setting after college?
Were you aiming specifically at the 2004 Olympic Trials?
Like a lot of people, I was a little lost as to what I wanted to
do after graduating, besides run. Hansons looked like a great opportunity
to continue with what I wanted in running at the time, and to be
honest, yeah, last year was an Olympic year and that was very much
on my mind over the past few years.
With a college PR of 13:52 you were certainly successful, but no
more so than a sizable handful of other NCAA athletes are each year.
If most of the runners in your performance range kept training and
racing seriously after college, the U.S. might soon find itself
with a lot more athletes in the Kennedy-Goucher-Broe range. Any
thoughts on this?
Unless you're financially set up to take a chance on yourself, it's
not a very logical step for many athletes who weren't standouts
in college to keep running. There is little money to go around.
I was lucky to have the Hansons footing the bill for a year, but
I certainly wasn't putting any money into a savings account working
as a shoe salesman.
Expanding on this, the fact that the top athletes in the world are
knocking off sub-12:50s and sub-27:00s means that in terms of athletic
earning potential, there's precious little difference separating
the 13:45 collegian from the 13:15 stud he might become with hard
work and a bit of luck. With that in mind, it seems fair to say
that the singular, shared driving force behind the Hansons members
is something familiar to everyone who competes: the basic passion
to see how good you can get.
I absolutely agree with that 100%. So much of my motivation comes
from seeing how good can I get. If I consistently compared myself
to sub-27:00 10K runners, I wouldn't stay motivated for very long.
I really focus on improving myself and racing to my training potential.
I believe strongly, however, that with the right environment, the
right training philosophy, and some talent, American distance runners
can compete on a world level.
Was your overall experience with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project
close to what you expected?
Keith and Kevin Hanson are, bottom line, two of the most knowledgeable
and effective coaches out there. If someone enters their program
with a desire to get better, they will get better. I was very determined
when I arrived in Michigan, and given what the Hansons explained
to me about their training methods, I got all I expected.
How many hours a week were you racking up in the store(s)?
Generally, 25 hours a week, which is about the maximum Keith and
Kevin would want us to work.
Is the Hansons clientele primarily drawn from your typical running
crowd or did a lot of people come in just for the opportunity to
talk with some of America's top up-and-coming runners?
I would say that in Michigan, and especially in the Detroit metro
area, the Hansons have developed quite a following among both average
runners and devotees of the sport. Because of this notoriety, we
would often get customers looking not only for product, but also
for running advice (on injuries, training, racing, etc.). When everyone
working in the store was a professional runner, this worked out
well both for customers and for Keith's and Kevin's business.
A lot of people know what the Hansons marathon "specialists"
are up to, but not so much so in terms of the track guys. It may
be difficult to generalize with regard to your training over the
course of a year, but if there were such a thing as a representative
week in terms of mileage, double days and workouts, how would it
of the marathon guys average anywhere from 120 to 140 miles a week
during their heaviest training periods. I'd say about 25% of the
guys on the team have more of a track focus and are jokingly referred
to as the "middle distance squad." During our training
periods, we'd average between 90 and 110 miles a week, and I was
on the low end of that. My highest mileage week ever was, I believe,
105 miles. I rarely ran under 90, though. Only in the final two
or three weeks before the Olympic Trials did my mileage really dip.
far as workouts, almost everything was focused on improving long-distance
strength. We had four or five harder efforts every two weeks, with
a focus on long tempo runs or long interval workouts. Almost everything
is given in very specific times we were required to hit (e.g., six
miles at 4:50 pace is just that, not 4:48 or 4:52), which is good
because it teaches pace. Track workouts were also very race-specific,
almost always designed to be run right at, or just slower than,
In your 10,000m debut in April, you ran 28:32, arguably as good
a performance as anything you've run over 5,000m. Has this led to
any thoughts of moving up to the 10K or beyond? Overstated as the
point may often be, you have a marathoner's build.
I was very burned out at the end of the season this year, both mentally
and physically. Until recently, I thought I was about ready to hang
it up, but you know [it's an] addiction, I guess. I've started training
seriously and things are going well so far. Yeah, the 10K is definitely
on my mind as far as the  track season goes. I think my training
will reflect more of a 10K theme through this next training period,
but I don't think I'm done with the 5K. A sub-13:25 would be nice.
The thought of it is exciting, but so is the thought of a sub-28:00
10K. The marathon is a different animal and it would take at least
another two years for my mileage to reflect serious marathon training,
so with law school coming up, I think it would be a difficult event
to train for.
Have you communicated at all with top-flight runners who have balanced
law school with running, or will you burn that bridge when you get
I have not, but maybe I should.
Given that you're on your own again and with the Trials behind
you and law school ahead may be dealing with some uncertainty,
how has your training changed, if at all, since returning to Kansas?
My training has hardly changed since I arrived home. I think that
at this point in the year, there's really very little reason to
change what I'd been doing in Michigan, because regardless of what
I choose to focus on next season, this [training] provides the absolute
best base for a track season. When I start law school, especially
during the first year, I would plan to back off of the mileage and
intensity for a while so I'm not tired 100% of the time, like I
The 5,000 and 10,000 aren't events in which the US typically sends
male runners only a year out of college to the Games. Are you hoping
to be at your best in 2008?
I don't know. I'm going to have law school squeezed in between now
and then, and that is the priority, so we'll have to see. I also
have to have the drive to keep training consistently, which I don't
know if I can guarantee over the next four years. I have a lot of
things I'd like to do outside of running as well.
How are you enjoying coaching? Is it a good break from putting competitive
pressure on yourself or, like a Steve Plasencia or a Robert Gary,
do you find it personally motivating?
I actually went to HCC for a year before transferring up to KU to
complete my eligibility, so I know the coaching staff from that
time and I enjoy working with Coach Masterson. I've never coached
before, and I'm excited about the kids we have out this season.
It's nice to be in a position of experience, because I know I'm
able to help the athletes out a lot and I like that. I'm excited
for our next cross country meet and for the rest of the season.
conducted 10/2/2004, and posted 10/6/2004.)
Menefee pushes the pace in the 5,000m prelims at the 2004
US Olympic Track & Field Trials.
(Photo: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
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