Profiles in Running: Mark Biek

Mark is a friend and web developer (these guys seem to be runners, no?) who just completed his first Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon – in a time of 1:52:19, no less. Mark is happily married with three children, whom he adoringly calls “the Bieklings.” The very first training run we ran together this year, I slogged through three miles. Mark ran 11.

Mark running the 2012 Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

How long have you been running?  
I ran track in high school. I was never fast but I did pretty well at longer distances so I was always the only one at our school to run the 220 yard low-hurdles and the 2 mi. Slow and steady seems to be my gig.

After that I didn’t run for a long time. I attempted a Couch to 5K in 2006 but it was miserable. My back always hurt when I’d run and I gave up about halfway through after wrecking my knee.

I didn’t start running regularly again until about 2 years ago.

Why did you start running?
My restart into regular running came when we were on vacation in Maine in 2010 and I didn’t have access to a bike. I decided I really needed to do something. I attempted to run with my wife (who was the first in our family to get the fitness bug), but that didn’t really work out.

After completely losing sight of her on a run, my feet were hurting so badly that I took my shoes off for the last mile of the run. I was shocked because, aside from some minor scrapes on my feet, nothing hurt while I was running.

Then I started doing some 1-1.5 mile barefoot trail runs and have been upping the mileage ever since.

On average, how many miles do you put in each week?
It varies a bit, but it’s usually between 20 – 25. I go through phases where I’m in love with my bike so I don’t run as much on those weeks. But then I get tired of the bike and go back to running. Leading up to the Derby Festival mini, I also tried to get as many 10-15 mi runs in as possible.

You run in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, which fascinate me. Why did you start running in these? Have you tried running in traditional shoes?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved being barefoot and I take my shoes off as often as possible. After experimenting with straight-up barefoot running on vacation, I decided I needed something to protect my feet a little bit and I’d heard about Five Fingers from some friends and the book Born to Run. I was lucky enough to get my first pair of Five Fingers for my birthday that year. I’m on my second pair (which is almost worn out) and I haven’t run in anything else since.

I always had a lot of knee/back problems running in regular shoes. My theory is that I’m not coordinated enough to have decent running form in traditional shoes. The Five Fingers force me to have good posture and a nice forefoot strike.

They’ve been great for me, but they’re not for everyone. My wife and few close friends have tried them and hated them. It was definitely something that I had to ease into. I only ran trails for a long time before I got up the nerve to try them on the road.

Speaking of those Five Fingers, do you think they’ve prepared you better or worse for the impending zombie apocalypse? Specifically, if you’re still alive after all of our shoes have fallen apart, do you think you’re better equipped to run barefoot than the rest of us?
I’m absolutely better equipped. While the rest of you shoe-wearers are dodging zombie hoards while scavenging burnt-out Dick’s Sporting Goods for sneaks, I’ll be off in the woods enjoying a squirrel burger with my feet wrapped in animal skins.

You bike a ton. How many miles a week would you estimate that you ride each week?
I have a tendency to jump around between types of exercise because I get bored easily. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

That said, when I’m in bike-mode (and especially when I’m biking to work), I’ll usually do 100-150 mi/week.

Do you think the cross training effect of cycling has improved your running speeds?
Cycling is so different from running that I think a lot of it doesn’t carry over. But really, anything that gets your heart rate up is going to serve you well in the long run, no matter what exercise you’re doing.

I’ve been doing bootcamp 3-4 times a week for almost a year and I think that’s had a greater effect on my overall fitness (and, by extension, my running) than anything. There can be a lot of running in those classes, many times carrying extra weight. Nothing will kick your butt faster than running up a set of stairs with a 12-lb. sandbell.

Mark celebrating his finish (and fast time) at the mini

What’s your favorite running/race memory?
It’s a tough call to pick one so I’ll have to pick three:

The oldest, best memory, is the first time I ran the 2 mi at a track meet in high school. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and everyone thought I was crazy. It was exhilarating to finish it.

As my first official race, the Derby Festival mini was a really amazing experience for me.

But that first training run where I ran 11 miles with our other buddy, Lindsay Seidel, really stands out too. At the time, it was the furthest I’d ever run and it was exciting to realize that I was capable of running a distance like that. It gave me a ton of confidence going forward.

Any upcoming races you’re looking forward to?
I don’t have any official races planned at the moment. I’m kind of a cheapskate and those registration fees add up fast.

I do have a personal goal for sometime in the next couple of months. One of my favorite bike rides is from the Highlands out to Iroquois Park (~20mi) and I’d really like to try running that route.

Profiles in Running is a biweekly effort (published every other Wednesday) to showcase other runners on this blog, regardless of his/her skill level or experience. Know someone who should be featured? Drop me a line.

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One response to “Profiles in Running: Mark Biek

  1. Pingback: Sitting still is driving me mad « See Glenn Run·

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