1) How did you get your start in distance running?
My mom, Kelly Lawson, was the catalyst of my running career. For as long as I can remember I had been dragged along to local club meets by her and my dad, both of them long time trail runners in Marin. In seventh grade I started running cross country at White Hill Middle School and after I started experiencing some minor success from there I couldn’t stop. I signed up for both XC and track in my 8th grade year.
2) What other sports have you played besides XC and track and field?
I played recreational baseball and soccer until high school. I even played ice hockey for several years in San Francisco. I stopped playing basketball after just one year in 7th grade when I scored a basket for the wrong team…
3) What was the first success that you remember in cross country and track and field respectively?
It wasn’t until my 8th grade year that I started to really feel some success in running. In XC I won most of the season’s meets outright yet still got my butt whooped in the county meet. I was hungry to finally win in track but I was disappointed to find that they don’t have any races longer than 1200m in middle school track in field. I was already too excited to run some eight lap races; three just seemed ridiculous to me at the time.
4) Tell us a little about your coaches and how they have helped you become the runner you are today.
Coach Rod Berry stepped into the Varsity boys program at Sir Francis Drake my freshman year under Head Coach Bill Taylor. Since then Rod has been the main reason for any success I might have had (he himself being a high school standout and XC captain at Stanford back in the day). He has built our boys team up from very novice young runners. His training formula has proven successful for me, especially in these past two years.
5) Who are the runners that you have looked up to during your time in high school (on your own team or other teams)?
I’ve always envied the superior finishing kicks of my former teammate and 800m runner Carroll Oliver. Also there have been so many guys on our team that have graduated that are still some of my best friends, whether they have continued their running careers of not. Other runners I’ve looked up to? Elias Geydon was always fun to watch because he always looked so incredibly fly finishing his races. Pre can just go without saying…
6) You have participated in the Dipsea race in the past. For those that are not familiar with the race, can you tell us a bit about the race and how you have done in the race.
The notorious Annual Dipsea race is one of the oldest races in the US today. Every June, about 1500 runners of all ages start at their respective handicap times and race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach over some pretty brutal terrain climbing over 1400 ft in elevation. I’ve run the Dipsea since I was in 6th grade and I’ve enjoyed it more and more every year. In the 2010 and 2011 races I was the first high school finisher so maybe I can repeat that this year if I continue to run it.
7) Favorite xc course? Favorite xc race? Favorite xc workout?
One of my favorite cross country races is the Artichoke Invitational, a race down in Half Moon Bay that I’ve been running since my freshmen year. It’s a pretty interesting race because it’s only just over 2 miles long and it’s known for this ridiculously steep hill in the middle of the race. It’s got European hay bales and you finish on the track, which are all the best things about a cross country course. This year I’ve learned to love mile repeats. They make you feel fast and it’s easy to track your improvement in these workouts.
8) What was your plan going into the STATE meet this past Saturday and how did the race unfold for you?
I just hoped to run patiently and intelligently. There was a group of experienced runners that were expected to be up with the lead pack. I just made sure not to make my move too early and burn myself out on the first mile. The course is fast and people go out at a crazy pace consistently every year so I was conservative on the first mile to hit just above my goal split of 4:50. The rest of the race was a wild card so instead of surging I waited behind the leaders (Kyle Bueckert, Will Wilde-Botta, and Daniel De La Torre) and started to break away around the second mile. It was a very tight pack up there for most of the race. Everyone ran smart races; it was a real pleasure to race such a good group of guys.
9) What is your advice for a young runner who has goals of being one of the best in state?
I’m still trying to figure that out for myself. All you can do is trust your coach, train smart and diligently, and race hard. Everything else is beyond your control. Races are my favorite part of this sport. Try to have fun with them and don’t be afraid to sometimes take risks.
10) Anything else you would like to add.
I am really thankful for my family, my coaches and god.
Thank you very much for your time John! AJC