On Friday, March 20, at the 2015 USATF Masters Indoor Championships in Winston-Salem, NC, Asheville Running Collective's Frankie Adkins claimed his first national title with a 9:09 in the 3000m (video). Frankie had previously placed 3rd at both the 2014 Masters Outdoor Track Championships (5000m) and on the road at the USA Masters 12 km Championships.
Frankie entered the 3000m knowing that he had not raced a distance under 5000m in nearly 20 years. Nevertheless, he was coming off a very successful training block that netted him an all-time PR in the road 10k just two weeks earlier (32:38). With the final few speed workouts completed, Frankie stepped to the line with the goals of racing for a national title and giving 9:00 a scare. His PR from college is believed to be somewhere in the 9:0X range (remember kids, Frankie went to college in the pre-internet era), so there was potential for another all-time PR .
As the gun went off Frankie worked his way up toward the front and found his place on the shoulder of Musa Gwanzura. Musa, a strong masters athlete with an all-time mile PR of 4:04, seemed to be the man to beat. After several laps in second place, Frankie made his move to the front and continued to click off 36-second laps on his way to a 4:50 mile split. Increasingly painful blisters the ball of his foot and mounting fatigue made the middle laps a grind, but Frankie could feel that he had pulled away from Musa slightly. Heading into the final 400m, he threw down with everything he had. On the finishing straight with 20m to go, Frankie saw a blur flash past in the corner of his eye. Musa had unleashed a furious kick, and Frankie had no time to respond. Frankie crossed the finish line in 9:09.45, just over 0.5 seconds after Musa (9:08.88).
After some staggering and gasping, Frankie walked over to congratulate Musa on his win. He was greeted with a big smile and Musa explained that both would win gold medals. Frankie hadn’t realized that Musa was a citizen of Zimbabwe and would not count in the overall USATF results. Frankie would be declared the USATF Masters National Indoor 3000m champion!
What are your goals for the rest of 2015?
I'd like to see if I can touch my college 5000m and 10000m track PR's (15:26, 32:22). I may also take another crack at a 3000m to see if I can dip under 9 minutes. Another goal is to get under 26 minutes for an 8k. My goals for my racing team, ARC, are to win the Blue Ridge Relay, and get a team to Club Cross Country Nationals in San Francisco this December.
Are there any other all-time PR's that are within striking distance?
I'd really have to say that all of them are currently within striking distance - from 3000m up to the Marathon.
You've raced as long as 40 miles (up and down a mountain, no less) and just last weekend competed in a 3000m indoor track race. Can you pick a favorite distance?
Historically, I've always enjoyed the 8k / 5mile distance. Lately, I've really enjoyed the shorter distances and plan on running a few more track races this spring.
You had a breakout race just after entering the 40+ age bracket with a 15:41 at the 2014 Footlocker South 5K XC race. Did it change your goals moving forward?
That was a big breakout race for me. I had run some good races leading up to that and my training was going really well. I felt confident I could break 16 minutes, but I hadn't actually broken 16 minutes since I was in college, so it wasn't a given that I'd do it. When I saw the clock in the 15:20 range on the final straightaway, I kicked as hard as I could. I think that 15:41 was a big confidence booster and definitely made me think I could run PR's at other distances, as well.
You've been running competitively since your college days at Allegheny College (PA), yet you are still setting all-time Personal Records as 41 year old. To what do you attribute your longevity?
I'd attribute that to a few of things.
1. I've been using a coach, Peyton Hoyal, and following a training plan for the last 18 months. I don't know that I'm necessarily running more, but my training is more specific and purposeful. My training now includes a variety of core and leg strengthening that I hadn't done previously.
2. I've managed to stay injury free for two and a half years following a long layoff that had me spending four solid months in physical therapy where I worked on muscle imbalance issues, hip misalignment, and a lack of core strength. I was able to start running again from a healthy baseline and I have continued to do some of the hip, leg, and core strengthening exercises to keep the injuries at bay.
3. I didn't really start running until college, and I immediately had a setback when I broke my leg my freshman year. I had a good college running career, but I feel like I never really came close to my potential. The upside is that I now get to have the thrill of setting all-time personal bests in my 40's. Turning 40 was a big motivator, as well. It doesn't last forever, so I feel motivated to run fast while I still can!
What else motivates you in training and racing?
I gain motivation from setting goals and building a plan to get there. I also get a ton of motivation from my Asheville Running Collective teammates and the various team competitions we do every year. I'm not just running for me - I can't let my teammates down!
As a husband and father of two with a career that requires frequent travel, you must be very busy. What role does running (training and racing) play in your life? How do you balance it all?
Running has been a great outlet for my competitive energy. I've played on some soccer teams in the past, and I like to snowboard in the winter. I also do some mountain biking (usually as cross training when I have a running injury), but running is the easiest thing to fit into my busy schedule. This is one of the reasons I've stuck with it for so long. Also, running is also a big part of my social life. A lot of my closest friends are my training partners.
It's crucial that I have a training plan and spend time at the beginning of the week planning where I'm going to squeeze the runs in. Most of my runs are early in the morning or immediately after work before I get home. Once I get home, it's family time - dinner needs to be made, and homework need to get done. My wife also works full-time and is very active in her own right. She plays on a women's soccer team and an in-line hockey team. So, planning is very important for us.
I have a treadmill at my house which is helpful and allows me to get runs in while the kids are doing homework or after they are in bed, if absolutely necessary. I have one group run each week that is sacred - the Thursday Night Wedge Run. I also usually get a long run in with the guys on weekends. The rest gets squeezed in wherever possible.
You are a founding member of the Asheville Running Collective. How did the ARC come about?
ARC was formed in response to our attempt to get a competitive team of Asheville area runners together to win the Blue Ridge Relay (210 mile relay race from Southwest VA to Asheville, NC). Prior to ARC, the fastest runners were split in different factions of running store teams, and it was tough to get everyone together under one cohesive unit. Recently, we have put a lot of energy in adding some structure around ARC to turn it into a more legitimate year-round racing team that competes in several team events. We want to ensure that the team will be around for a long time.