Frederick Runner of the Month: Billy Clem (April 2015)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This month we highlight a runner that has and continues to impact the lives of many in the Frederick running community. A runner, like many, that has experienced his own challenges when first starting in this crazy sport. A runner that truly caught “the bug” and can’t stop, or shall I say won’t stop. 

This month’s ROTM couldn’t be showcased at a more perfect time, as many Steeplechasers are ramping up their training for the Frederick Half Marathon in the weeks to come. The success of many runners training has been inspired by the guidance from the FRSC Half Training program. Which has nearly doubled in size in just one short year AND it’s no surprise to see almost 70, yes 70! runners show up for any of the training runs.

Billy Clem has volunteered so much of his time to build this program to this volume. While sharing his infectious passion for running he continues to motivate and guide Steeps in a direction that will get them one step closer to achieving their goal. We introduce to you our April Runner of the Month – Billy Clem “ Half Marathon Training Program Extraordinaire.”

Well I have to start by asking the basic question. Where are you originally from?  

I lived in Maryland when I was born but spent most of my childhood just outside of Denver.  I moved back to MD when I was 18 .  I miss the summers and the skiing in Colorado but I love the spring and fall weather in Maryland.

How long have you been running and what got you started? 

I knew I wanted to start running years ago when I was a spectator at The JFK 50 Miler but I felt intimidated to even get started.  It wasn’t until years later when I met my wife Risa that I was inspired to actually start running.  She had run Marathons and completed multiple Triathlons.  I saw the joy she got out of being healthy, spending time outdoors, training for races, and just being a part of the running community.  I still remember going to the expo for The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 2006 and I could see the excitement in Risa and all of the other runners and I knew I wanted to experience that as well.  The next day when I was watching her race I knew I wanted to start running.  At the time running felt very foreign to me and I was nervous to even get started but inside I knew how much I wanted to run.  I was 37 years old and I’ll be honest, when I started it wasn’t always easy or enjoyable.  I enjoyed some days and dreaded others.  I felt glimpses of the, “runners high” that I had heard so much about and loved being outside and exercising with Risa but most of the time I felt sore, uncomfortable, and spent after even a short run.  If it wasn’t for Risa encouraging and being patient with me as I started, I don’t know if I would have stuck with it.  I decided that I really wanted to enter a race so Risa suggested the Pikes Peek 10K in Rockville.  I had been running a little but never really ran fast during my training and had no idea what to expect.  I woke up with those nerves in my stomach but ended up having a blast and exceeding my expectations, I knew I was hooked.  

In the following months I ran a few 5ks but it was seeing the Frederick Marathon run right by my house when I decided that I wanted to run The Frederick Half the next year.  The training was frustrating as I was dealing with knee issues that led my doctor to tell me that running is bad for your knees and I should stop and take an anti-inflammatory.  In the past I would have just said okay and moved on but the runner in me asked if I could get a PT referral instead.  He reluctantly obliged.  (I only tell this part of the story because I hear so many people tell me that running is unhealthy, bad for your knees, pointless and painful and I want new runners to see that there are sometimes other answers than what your friends, family or PCP tell you)   I went to see Dr. Mark Acierno at Frederick Sport & Spine who looked at my knee, instantly diagnosed my IT Band Syndrome.  He told me rest and strengthening was the best course of action but said if I really wanted to complete my training and my race I would be uncomfortable but with some exercises and stretching I shouldn’t do any further damage to my IT band.  

During training I remember our 10 mile training run on the C&O Canal even more than I remember the Half Marathon.  It was a very painful and frustrating run but when I finished I broke down in tears at the accomplishment.  I had never run that far and ten miles seemed like a milestone that I once couldn’t have even imagined.  That awful run was amazing, not just because of how far it was but because I was sharing it with my best friend and my inspiration.  It had been a rough past few years for me personally and that moment meant so much more to me than just running.  Oh yeah, at The Frederick Half my IT locked up at mile 9 and I could hardly walk.  I stopped, stretched it out, started running again and ended up finishing the race under my goal time despite the crazy pain.  I remember getting choked up a few days later as I was thanking Dr. Mark for helping me achieve my goal.  Life is crazy sometimes and if it wasn’t for the support and love from Risa and our kids I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy running so much.

Since running what have been some your biggest accomplishments? I’m most proud of my consistency,despite some ups and downs, this will be my 8th straight Frederick Half Marathon. I also ran 4 full marathons in the past 3 years and realized just how hard it is to accomplish my time goals at that distance.  I’m also proud of how far I’ve come mentally, especially during races when my body wants to give in. I’ve figured out ways to push though discomfort to achieve PR’s on a consistent basis.  PR’s are important to me since I’ll never win a race I always feel like I’m racing myself.

What do you enjoy most about running?

This is tricky because it keeps evolving over time.  At first it was getting physically and mentally fit and sharing something with Risa that we both enjoyed.  Then I added the peace and relaxation that I found from just getting outside and moving. Next it was the friends I’ve made though The Frederick Steeplechaser’s Running Club and more specifically the marathon training program.  My “running peeps” that I made though the Steeps first ever marathon training program have become great friends and people I still communicate with almost every day.  Jo Hawelka, Tim Thompson, Pam Geernaert, Jan Harris, and Lorraine Sullivan (or “Team Asics” as our pace group was named) have meant so much to my running and personal life. Kelly, Kenneth, Sheryl, & Alex have joined in since then and I’ve learned so much from each one of them.  The whole running community has not only made running more enjoyable but has been a big part of those accomplishments I listed above.  RIsa inspired me to start running, to love running and how to, “trust your training.”  Tim taught me to how to push my pace on tempo runs and has been a model on how to balance family life and running.  Jo taught me mental calmness and positivity.  Pam taught me how to push beyond my limits and that someone out there talks as much as I do.  Jan taught me how to be hard core and loose at the same time not to mention the art of the perfect snot rocket. Lorraine helped me enjoy the moment while we’re all out running together. 

What is your favorite distance/race to run and why?  

Although it may be my least successful distance because I haven’t quite figured out the formula of nutrition and sustaining energy for that long yet, it’s the Marathon.  I think it’s because it is not just about race day but it’s the whole journey getting there.  The 16 mile runs with my friends, the Chipotle burritos after those runs, sharing the experience with Risa, seeing the beautiful Frederick countryside in a way I hadn’t before, and just the excitement leading up to and finishing a difficult goal.

The success of the FSRC Training Program has been huge over the past year. Your dedication in this program has shown a huge success , why? 

I’ll start by saying that I’ve been a part of the success but it’s been a team effort.  Last year when I  realized that Chad Ahalt would no longer be heading up the Marathon training I really wanted to help but knew I couldn’t do it alone.  I asked Jan if she would like to lead the group with me and she enthusiastically agreed.  Jan was definitely the one who helped get the ball rolling to get the next program up and running.  Pam, Chad, Lou King, and Harriet Langlois helped us organize the group and worked on the technical part of getting everybody signed up.  Luanne Houck helped us promote it and then Jan and I just needed to decide how we wanted to lead the program going forward.  Neither one of us had any experience at coaching and our running experience wasn’t super extensive either.  What we did have is a drive to share our love for running to help others achieve their goals.  We both had the exact same philosophy on adding a beginner component to the training program because we felt it would open it up to more runners.  We had seen how Pam pushed inclusivity as one of her priorities while she was President of The Steeplechaser’s and the success Luanne had with the Women’s Distance Festival training and we wanted to translate that to the Marathon training.  It ended up taking even more time and effort then we had expected but we got so much out of it and picked the brains of all our participants to learn how to improve going forward.  Jan and I were really on the same page during the entire training and really supported each other along the way which helped make it both successful and fun.

Luanne, Pam, Harriet, Lou, and Chad continued to help us out every time we asked.  So I guess I attribute the success to all of the support I received from all the Steeps, my wife and the commitment Jan made to lead that group with me last year.  I took that knowledge, dedication and hard work and rolled it into this Spring’s Half Program while Jan (despite not being able to run) rolled it into this Spring’s Full program.  It took a lot of time and hard work at first but I really took advantage of The Steep’s Facebook Page, website, and newsletter to spread the word about the program.  I attribute the 117 members to the fact that The Frederick Half Marathon is the biggest race of the year so we had such a big pool of runners looking for people to train with.  The size of the group made it difficult to get rolling but has made it much easier to maintain because of the fact that everybody always has someone to run with.  This year’s Half group has been such a success because of the enthusiasm and support the current participants are showing for one another along with the structure and support that the club and it’s board members have helped us set up.  I have also asked many of our members to help out individually within an area of expertise that they may possess.  Roseann Abdu set up an excellent pace description and chart to help our members maximize their workouts by understanding the reasoning behind each type of run and how to gauge each pace. Nicole Davis has helped answer questions about stretching and warm-ups and demonstrated techniques for our participants.  Lori Cooper has helped me understand the importance of speed work and has helped answer participants questions that are over my head.  Amy Goldsmith has helped by offering members nutrition advice by teaching one of our”education nights.”   So I may be leading this current Half group but it has taken a village to get where we are today.

What do you enjoy most about seeing this program grow and being a part of helping so many people achieve there goals? 

The best part for me is watching this group support one another so enthusiastically.  Jan and I both wanted the programs to be a combination of helping people achieve their goals while truly enjoying the journey on their way there.  It is great seeing so many runners progress while simultaneously making great friends along the way (just like Team Asics did).  I hope that our program will culminate in people achieving what ever goals they’ve set for themselves and find an even deeper love for running than they had before.

Do you have any ideas or future goals you would like to implement into this the training program? 

Luanne, Roseann, Jan and I will have all completed the RRCA coaching class by the time the summer/fall training programs kick off so we should be able to bring more knowledge to our participants.  We will also keep listening to our participants feedback because they provide the best perspective on ways we can improve.  So yes we want to constantly improve but how we improve will ultimately be decided by the participants and the club.

What are your personal running goals for 2015?  To achieve 10mile, Half Marathon, and Marathon PRs, to complete two marathons this fall, and to possibly run my first 50K.

If you could choose to participate in one race anywhere in the world, what would be?  Risa and I always love watching the Tour de France and I think running a race in some European countryside town with her would be amazing.  

What is your favorite shoe to run in?

I’ve been very happy with my Brooks Pure Flow’s over the past 4 years.

And lastly we must know what your go-to post race food/ meal?

Usually something basic like pizza, a Chipotle burrito, or an egg sandwich on an everything bagel.  …and I love a Coke after a race too.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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