PROFILE--Michael Anderson has been running for 44 years

USATF 10K Masters Championships,
April 2018. Photo by Michael Scott.
Michael Anderson has been running for 44 years and 131,000 miles as of December, 2018, and has all his logs to prove it. The son of a career Army officer, Mike Anderson moved around a lot as a kid and learned not to get attached to anything. But he also learned to make friends fast and build relationships. He swore that as an adult he would live in one place, and that’s become Atlanta Georgia. 

He ran his first marathon in 1978 and continues to be excited by competition in the USATF Masters LDR Grand Prix. “It is motivating and humbling at the same time to compete against the best masters runners in the country,” says Anderson. “I feel fortunate I am still healthy enough to do it, and looking forward to competing as long as I can.”  He is currently Director of Human Resources for the global logistics provider company DHL.

When did you start running and why? I started in September 1975 as a high schooler trying to stay in shape for football. We had to complete a 12-minute run for conditioning and I was the only guy on the team who
could make it past two miles. I also ran with the cross-country team, but it never dawned on me I was in the wrong sport!

I got serious about running in college after I quit the baseball team at Lehigh University and put on a lot of weight (210 lbs.). Two years later (after transferring to Ohio University), I was down to 140 lbs. due to running. That's when I ran my first marathon at age 20 in 2:50:05 at the New York City Marathon. I was hooked!

Did you have an early inspiration or person who motivated you?  One of my first inspirations was Bill Haviland, a legend in Athens, Ohio when I was an undergraduate at Ohio University. He was a sub 2:20 marathoner and 3-time winner of the Charleston Distance Run. I ran with a group of runners with him and his brother, and he would share tips/workouts/advice.  We were in awe of him. He was a humble, unassuming guy.  
NYC Marathon, 1978

How much did you run per week in your peak years? Now? In my prime years, I was trying to run 100+ mile weeks, as it was the philosophy at the time for many marathoners. The most I ever ran in a week was 142 miles in 1981; the most in a 3-month stretch was an average of 120 miles/week when I was training to break 2:30 for the first time in the 1980 Montreal Marathon. Now I stick to 50-60 miles per week maximum with lots of easy days thrown in.

What were some of your better/memorable races?
*** 10/22/78: New York City Marathon – 2:50:05. My first marathon, and I had no clue what I would do.
*** 9/7/80: Montreal Marathon – 2:28:27, third overall. Great to hear all the cheers in French the whole way. I still have the trophy.
*** 10/25/81: New York City Marathon – 2:25:02. My best time in NYC. I was living there and trained under a great coach for the Central Park Track Club (George Wiznewski).  That’s when I realized how much work was needed to be competitive in the marathon!
*** 3/8/81: Maui Marathon – 2:39:11, first place. My first win, achieved in brutally hot conditions.
*** 2002: Hood To Coast Relay – First Masters Team, tenth overall. We had some real talent on this relay team for the Atlanta Track Club including Olympian (and one time indoor mile record holder) Dick Buerkle and Olympic Trials marathon qualifier John Barbour. Really proud of this one!

How did you train differently in your younger years? I ran quite a bit more miles for sure. 

How do you train now? Do you attend coached workouts? I have been fortunate to be part of the Atlanta Track Club since 1983. On weekends we frequently get together for workouts/runs together. Most of my training partners are younger/faster, which also helps me. There are several coaches available to provide advice including 2008 Olympian Amy Begley and her husband Andrew Begley who ran at the University of Arkansas.

When I tried to be competitive again 5-6 years ago, I had trouble finding the right routine. I kept trying to train as I had when younger, but all it got me was injuries. Now I minimize the risk by not running more than 60-65 miles a week and doing only two hard runs per week. Recovery is essential. I also get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, which is so important.

Cross Training: Absolutely. I started cycling to get through injuries and now have a mountain bike and road bike I love to jump on periodically. I don’t like to take days off from running, but definitely try to fit this in, and it seems to help my legs feel better.

Montreal Marathon, 1980
How important is social running to you? It was a big part of my running in New York City with the West Side YMCA and Central Park Track Club, and has also been an important part of my running journey with the Atlanta Track Club. Particularly on weekends, I look forward to the engagement with my teammates and running friends. We frequently get together for social events.

Obstacles along the way: I’ve been fortunate not to have many serious injuries over the years, except for a meniscus tear in my 40s that required surgery. It probably helped that for nearly a decade (age 45-54), I was more of a jogger and didn’t race much. That gave my legs some energy for my late 50s/60s. I also have pretty much gave up on marathons for some time, although I ran one in December so I could qualify for one more Boston!

A favorite quote:  “Run hard, be strong, think big!” and, “Hard things take time to do, impossible things take longer.”…..both by Percy Cerutty

Running-training philosophy: Try never to think too much about how hard something may be. Just get out and start working at it. As the saying goes, a big part of life is showing up.   Also view it as a life long endeavor/vocation.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? It doesn’t define me but has been a big part of my life, and has helped me take on so many other challenges.  The discipline, organization, determination and motivation I have found from running carries over to so many other things.

How has running helped you with the aging process? It has helped me realize that age is whatever you think it is; you are only as old as you think you are. You aren’t old until age becomes your excuse (Joe Friel).  Running is helping me deal with the calendar!

What three tips would you give a younger runner who wants to be a lifetime runner? 
1--To view it as a long journey with many steps along the way.
2--To join a club, get running/training mates, and use them for inspiration. 
3--Always have goals. 
4 (bonus!)--Find a life partner who understands your passion for running. (My wife Molly was a 3:15 marathoner in her prime and now is a marathon swimmer).