Team USA’s Andy Wacker excited to visit Northern Ireland for BCM:

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Monthly Feature:  NiRunning catch up with American star before BCM 2015…

In August 2014, the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) sent a four man team to the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Colorado, USA.

The race was incorporated into the famous Pikes Peak Ascent, an event which is slightly over half marathon distance (13.32 miles), with an elevation gain of 2,382 metres. The summit of ‘America’s Mountain’ stands at a massive 14,115 feet.

During their time in Colorado, the men forged a good friendship with Team USA star Andy Wacker.  Andy, a professional runner for the Boulder Running Company Adidas Team, has a strong and impressive background in short distance running.

He had gained selection for his country and was now lining up against the world’s top mountain runners.  In a fierce contest, Andy secured 3rd place in the uphill only event – with a Half Marathon personal best of 1:03:25, supported by 5k and 10k times of 13:41 and 28:52 respectively, Andy is indeed an extremely versatile athlete.

NiRunning contributor, Justin Maxwell (along with Ian Bailey, Chris Stirling and Peter Bell) was part of the Northern Ireland Team and has kept in touch with Andy.  Justin tells us ”Whilst talking to Andy about various types of running it was clear that he had a desire to compete at the highest level over marathon distance and that he wanted to test himself here, at the Deep RiverRock Belfast Marathon”.

Almost 9 months on, with Andy ready to compete in his first race over the iconic 26.2 mile distance at Northern Ireland’s premier marathon event, Justin caught up with Andy and spoke about his marathon journey as part of our latest ‘monthly feature’.

Andy, as a world class athlete, what inspired you to come to Belfast for your first attempt at 26.2 miles?  Competing internationally is the pinnacle of our sport. When I asked to run the Belfast marathon, there was no way I could turn down an offer to represent the US and travel to such a beautiful and historic place. Belfast City Marathon happens during a great time of year (May the fourth be with you, Star Wars fans) and boasts great running weather! Belfast City Marathon will be my first international race outside of the United States.

From an American perspective, What do you know about and/or how do you view running in Northern Ireland?  To be honest, I’m going to perpetuate the ignorant American Stereotype: I know very little about running in Northern Ireland. The little I do know shows that the kind, friendly, polite, and outgoing people can be competitive!

It seems the Northern Irish love all sorts of running: mountain, cross country, track and road. The UK seems to be a great place to run: 2012 London Olympics, 2015 World Mountain running Championships (Wales), 2016 World Half Marathon Champs (Cardiff)!

You have a Half Marathon PR of 1:03:25, What are your hopes and expectations for Monday’s race? Do you have a target time in mind? Being my first marathon, I’d like to keep the pressure off and my expectations vague. Instead of a specific time goal, my goal is to compete to the best of my ability, against the other world class runners. I would love to win the race, and I think if I place top three, the time will take care of itself.

Training wise, what, if anything, have you added to your work-load in preparation for the Marathon distance, in Belfast?  For the past nine months I have been training specifically for the marathon, with Jeffrey Eggleston, one of the top Americans. Along with the guidance of my coach, Mike Aish, I draw from coaches like Renta Canova who is a proponent of long marathon effort workouts. I have run several runs over 20 miles, and worked on endurance building repeats like 10 x mile and 12 x 1k. Last fall, I also ran several half marathons to build strength and gain long distance road racing experience.

Do you use any other sports as cross training? And how do you feel they improve your running?  I love being outside and being active. I don’t necessarily use other sports as cross training. I do bike, swim, ski, kayak, and more for fun. Coming off an injury, I think other sports can be a great way to keep staying fit exciting. Last year, I took up competitive road cycling and even won a few races. I think the big hill climbs on a bike made me a better running hill climber. In both types of racing, you have to know how long you can sustain a certain heart rate.

Previous competitors consider Belfast to be a hilly course, as well as some speedy outings, you took 3rd place in the World Mountain Running Championships at the Peaks Peak Ascent in 2014 and only last week you set a new course record at the 25k Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race (1:42:17).  How has your preparation for the event been and Do you feel these (mountain running) qualities will give you an advantage here in northern Ireland?  I love trail running. I think that if you want to be good at running you need to push yourself, but also be happy. High altitude trail running for hours makes you tough. It makes you patient, but it also gives you something beautiful to look at. I run fast workouts on roads to prepare for the quick pace. On easy days, I hit the trails. So I think trail running has complemented my specific marathon pace workouts and should certainly help in Belfast.