Running Isn't Just a Pastime, It's a Job
By JEN MURPHY
David Willey has a hard time convincing friends to join him for a run. "People are scared to run with me. They think I'm some Olympic runner," he says.
Though he's been running for 25 years, Mr. Willey, the editor in chief of Runner's World magazine, says he's far from an elite athlete. "I'm still chasing my 3:20 Boston [marathon] qualifying time. It's eluded me four marathons in a row," he says.
Ryan Collerd for The Wall Street Journal
David Willey, center, editor in chief of Runner's World, joins a group of co-workers in a lunchtime run from the magazine's offices in Emmaus, Pa., about once a week.
The 43-year-old father of three has completed five marathons to date. He recently started a 16-week training program leading up to the hilly Big Sur Marathon in California on May 1.
When preparing for a race, Mr. Willey runs up to 50 miles a week. Luckily, the atmosphere at Runner's World, located in Emmaus, Pa., at the Rodale Publishing headquarters, is very fitness conscious. "There's an athlete culture here, so instead of going out to lunch, like you might in New York City, you take an hour bike ride, and then grab lunch at your desk and get back to work," says Mr. Willey, who took on the editor-in-chief role in 2003. "It makes it easy to fit exercise into a normal day."
The company gym has cardio and strength equipment, plus free daily fitness classes in everything from Ashtanga-style yoga to Pilates. "We've got running trails outside of our door," he says. "Look out the back door of the office buildings each day at noon and there's always a group of runners or cyclists meeting for a lunch run or ride."
Get a glimpse of David Willey's lunchtime workout with his colleagues at Runner's World magazine. The editor-in-chief also gives training and fitness tips for both new and longtime runners.
Mr. Willey, who is also a senior vice president of Rodale, says running is key to helping him perform his job well. "I have less and less time in my life right now. I have a big job, three young kids," he says, "I'm pretty protective about keeping an hour in the day for myself and I use it to run but also to get some head space to think. If I can't figure out a story, I'll go for a run."
Mr. Willey has ambitious goals for 2011. Over the summer, he plans to switch to triathlon training and do a couple shorter races, as well as attempt his first-ever half-Ironman. He also plans to compete this year in all three Runner's World Challenge Races: the Big Sur Marathon, the Chicago half-marathon on Sep. 11, and the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 20. He's hoping to finally break 3 hours and 20 minutes, the qualifying time for men his age for the Boston marathon, on the flat, speedy Philadelphia course.
Now that he's in marathon-training mode, Mr. Willey runs four to five days a week, logging 35 to 50 miles. He includes one 20-mile run and one 22-mile run mixed into his 16-week program. When he isn't training, he's usually running two to three days a week.
One day a week, he might join a group of co-workers going out for a lunchtime run from the offices. Mr. Willey's colleague, Budd Coates, leads a speed workout session on Wednesday afternoons after lunch on the gravel path behind the offices. The interval workouts range from a quarter-mile to a mile.
"I love training with colleagues who are also preparing for races," says Mr. Willey. "You end up pushing yourself harder than you might otherwise on your own."
Mr. Willey believes cross-training is equally as important as running. In the summer, he may do up to 50 miles of cycling per week. Two Mondays a month he takes a yoga class at the office. On the other Mondays, he does a circuit-training strength session at the gym, focusing on his problem areas like hamstrings and shoulders. He usually gets in one swim session per week and will alternate swimming intervals and distance. Sundays are always long run days, or if he's training for a triathlon, he uses Sundays to do what triathletes call a brick: a training session of cycling followed by running.
Mr. Willey got hooked on triathlons last summer after he competed in one."I've never felt better physically in the past decade [than now], even with all of my cross-training," he says. "Triathlon training is quite a bit different."
While the amount of workout time doesn't change, Mr. Willey says he has to slice and dice the workouts differently to adequately prepare for each discipline of a triathlon—running, cycling and swimming. He has to do a lot of double workouts in one day (swim in the morning, bike in the afternoon), which he says are mentally, physically and logistically challenging. "Swimming and biking require more advance planning."
On weekends, he'll try to include the kids in workouts. "On Sundays, they'll be waiting for me on their bikes when I finish my ride, and they'll bike alongside me while I run," he says. "It's great because the pacing is perfect, and it allows me to spend extra time with them."
Mr. Willey says his wife calls him "annoyingly healthy." If she makes a salad, he'll add broccoli to make it healthier.
Mr. Willey wakes by 6:30 a.m. every day, has coffee and makes smoothies for his kids' breakfast. He usually drinks some of the extra smoothie and eats a whole-grain bagel or toast topped with peanut butter, or yogurt or kefir (a fermented milk drink) and fruit. He snacks every few hours on fruit and almonds at the office.
He eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a snack every day of the week, usually eating half pre-run and the rest post-run. Most days he has lunch at Rodale's cafeteria, which serves mostly organic, made-to-order meals.
He says he has found it easier to eat healthier now that he has kids and his work isn't based in New York City (fewer meetings at restaurants). "My wife and I rarely eat out anymore. She's become a great cook," he says.
Dinner at home is a mix of protein, carbs and "good fats." Salmon is usually on the table once a week, and whole grains and greens are staples.
But Mr. Willey says one reason he runs is because he likes to feel like he can eat whatever he wants, without feeling guilty. "Healthy eating can be fun and pleasurable and include things like burgers, beer and Reubens," he says.
Runner's World puts out four sneaker guides per year and about 300 wear testers, including Mr. Willey, are enlisted. As a wear tester, Mr. Willey is constantly sampling new makes and models.
"I almost never wear dress shoes. I'm almost always in running shoes at the office," he says.
Other than a Garmin GPS watch that he wears, he isn't much of a techie. He is more concerned with socks than tech gadgets.
"Running socks are on the short list of things I always recommend to new runners," he says. "Once you wear actual running socks you can't go back. I wince when I see someone wearing cotton socks." His favorites: Asics Kayano socks.
Mr. Willey believes that perhaps the most important ingredient to a successful training program is rest.
"I think of my rest day as part of a training plan. Many think of it as the antithesis of their training. But rest and sleep are key. Our bodies absorb and adapt our training when we are resting."
"I never go anywhere without my bag of running shoes and clothes. I've become really good at squeezing in a run in between meetings. Even if I have an hour, I'll pull a Clark Kent and change real fast, run, then shower quickly at the Rodale office. I have no problem going into a meeting with wet hair."
On long runs, Mr. Willey will listen to podcasts of the public radio program "This American Life." He has also created a running playlist that includes everything from Steve Earle to Eminem to Arcade Fire.
One of the surprises on his playlist isn't music at all. "I have Jesse Jackson's eulogy of Jackie Robinson on there. I've listened to that hundreds of times, and every time the hair stands up on the back of my neck."
Write to Jen Murphy at email@example.com