PROFILE--Jim Sloan has been running for 43 years

On a 2013 Rim to Rim run
in the Grand Canyon
Jim Sloan grew up surfing and skiing in Southern California. He ran on the cross-country team at Santa Barbara City College and fell in love with the sport. His job in the computer technology industry in the 80s took him around the world where he ran throughout Asia and Europe. “Every wrong turn leads to an adventure,” says Sloan. “I love to see a city waking up as I run through it in the early hours.” Sloan, 61, founder and CEO of a multinational manufacturing business, is now retired and has more flexibility and time to run with his Santa Barbara Running and Racing team buddies.

When did you start running and why? In July, 1975 after I had just finished high school. A friend and I were getting ready to move away to college and he suggested we try out for the cross-country team. We started running in Los Angeles in the hills around Griffith Park.

Did you have an early inspiration or person who motivated you?  I grew up in the era of Prefontaine and although he wasn’t a hero per se, I was inspired by the whole bad boy, anti-establishment runner image he embodied. My running club visits Eugene quite often and I get goose bumps every time I run on the U of O track.  

How much did you run per week in your peak years? Now? My peak was probably in the mid-80 miles per week range when I was in my 40s and early 50s and training seriously for marathons. Now, I can’t get
above 60 miles per week without a high probability of injury.
Post Chicago Marathon, 2018,
completing the World Marathon
Majors circuit

What were some of your better/memorable races?
I really have a hard time identifying “my favorite race” when people ask me that question. Many races hold different, special memories. The Berlin Marathon was memorable because I was running in such a historic city.  London was a favorite for the crowds and being in the elite corral. The New York City Marathon was the first time I broke 3 hours in a major marathon. St. George was my fastest marathon. My first Boston because it is the most storied race in America.

And those are just the marathons. The State Street Mile in Santa Barbara because I ran it with my boys when they were little and then later it was the first race I ever led start to finish. There are many more memories for all distances, locations, weather, competitors, etc. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons why we run?

How did you train differently in your younger years? Obviously my speed and overall mileage has decreased with aging. My training really hasn’t changed that much over the years in terms of the types of workouts. I’ve been with the same coach for 15 years now and our routine hasn’t really changed all that much. I still do the same speedwork (track) and tempo runs, just at a slower pace. My normal, “non race build-up” weekly mileage hasn’t changed, but I can’t put in the big mile weeks anymore during race training. What has changed is that I’ve added yoga for flexibility and range of motion as well as core exercises to maintain strength and good posture while running.

How do you train now? Do you attend coached workouts? We do two coached workouts a week, speedwork (track) on Tuesdays and long runs with a tempo on Saturdays. Hill runs are on Thursday, and Sundays are either easy flat recovery runs or fun trail runs in the hills, but these are more informal runs with friends.  

Has your diet changed through the years?  The only changes in diet I’ve made over the years is to limit my red meat and animal fat (no cheese, butter or milk fats).  During race training I’ll shift to more carbohydrates but other than that my diet hasn’t really changed that much during my life (I was raised by a dietitian mother).

Cross Training:  Yoga and core strength workouts.  Yoga two-to-three times a week for an hour and core strength on my own several times a week (when I can remember).

How important is social running to you? If you were/are a competitive runner, can you adapt to the slower times and enjoy a social run? The social aspect of running is very important to me. It’s what gets me out of bed at 5:00am and some of my closest friends are part of my running group.  They keep me motivated and accountable. We’ve traveled around the world together to run. Fortunately I have friends at all different speeds and fitness levels so there is always someone to run with during workouts. Even though I can’t hang with the faster runners during workouts we still run together during warm ups and easy days.  

Obstacles along the way:  I tore my ACL riding my motocross motorcycle a few years ago and recovering from that was a challenge. When I am injured I still enjoy going to races and cheering for my teammates.

Santa Barbara
Triathlon, 1986
A favorite quote:  I’ve had many favorite quotes (or more accurately “sayings” as I can’t really attribute them to anyone in particular) over the years but my current favorites are:
“Some days you’re the bug and some days you’re the windshield.” This one helps explain days you’re feeling bad versus the day’s you’re feeling good. I’ve incorporated it into my philosophy of running and life in general.

Also: “Any day you can run is a good day.” This one reinforces how fortunate we are to be able to run when we’re not injured.

Running-training philosophy: As I’ve aged I’ve shifted my philosophy to more consistency and managed decline (in speed) rather than one of continuous improvement. My PR’s are behind me so now I look at training as a way to maintain a high fitness level and continuing to compete as long as I can.  Speed work is important to maintain leg turnover and long runs help with overall fitness.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running?  That to achieve your goals you need discipline and commitment. This is true in other area of life, but it’s so much simpler in running. Also, you can't control everything: There are going to be races where you’ve trained hard and the weather doesn’t cooperate or you get injured during it or the travel doesn’t go as planned.

I love the feeling of butterflies in my stomach on the starting line because it’s a choice I made. I signed up to do this and probably the worst thing that can happen is that I don’t run as fast as I wanted. Big deal! I still go home feeling like I accomplished something.

How has running helped you with the aging process? I’ve been able to feel much younger and better about myself though quality workouts and races. Not only have I avoided many of the issues with modern aging--such as weight gain, reduced mobility and the problems associated with these-- but I’ve been able to maintain the active lifestyle I’ve had my entire life.

What three tips would you give a younger runner who wants to be a lifetime runner?
1--You’re going to have ups and downs, so stick with it. If you stop running and start again, it’s going to be difficult, but don’t let that stop you.
2--There are always going to be faster runners and slower runners. Don’t get too hung up on not being the fastest. Also, always support and encourage everyone; it will come back to you many times over.
3--Easy days are just that, easy days. Don’t feel like you have to push it every day.
4--Never take your running for granted.

Guesstimate the number of lifetime miles you’ve run. I don't have complete logs, so that's a tough one. I'd guess about 40,000 miles. Anyway, it's not important. To me, the real question is, “How many more miles am I going to be able to run in my lifetime?” I'm hoping for many, many more.