Visualize what you want to happen in a race, and as Detroit native Mike Andersen discovered, it might just come true.
For professional runners, we know there are moments that you dream of—running in the Olympics, winning a big event like the New York marathon and, winning a race on your home turf, in front of friends and family. The latter is the victory that took Mike Andersen by surprise when he won the 37th Detroit Free Press / Talmer Bank marathon on Sunday, October 19th. “You have to plan a little bit, but you don’t really expect for it to happen,” he said of his run.
For Andersen, who won the race in a personal best of 2:24.54, it was his second time running this race (he placed third in 2011) and only his fourth time running a marathon. As a member of Newton Running Elite Andersen wasn’t confident that the race would go in his favor since his training runs have been limited in recent months. He works full time at the Running Lab in Brighton, Michigan, coaches cross country at nearby Milford High School, and he and his wife (also a Michigan native), welcomed a daughter into the world last March. Although the 27-year-old Andersen’s time still isn’t quite fast enough to reach his goal of qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016 (he’ll need to run a 2:18 or faster), Andersen says he’s on the right path of dropping time.
We caught up with him this week to hear the details of his win.
“The craziest part about the race is that I didn’t take the lead until mile 26 and I wasn’t in the lead group. From step one, I was in third place. The first two guys went out fast and I just focused on my pace, my rhythm. At mile 15, I was 2 minutes back …at mile 19, I was down to a minute and 15 seconds, and I still couldn’t see the leaders. The next mile, I cut it down another 30 seconds and I hadn’t changed pace. I just stayed consistent.
I had some friends out spectating and I kept asking about fourth place, I was worrying about that more than winning.
At Mile 22, you come off of Belle Isle and the gap was now down to 45 seconds. Here, we were running along the riverfront and there are a lot of turns between mile 22 and mile 24. So, I still couldn’t see anything.
When we finally came back to a straightaway, I could see second place and I closed that down quickly. I was 29 seconds back. I could just see first place now on straightaways. A former coach of mine was biking the course and he would pop up from a side road and get a count on first and yell out encouragement like ‘your only 20 seconds down.’
The race finishes with a right hand turn up a hill that takes you to 26, and then an immediate left hand turn for the final .2 miles. My old coach said if you’ve got a move go now, he’s tired. The last thing he said is ‘7 seconds.’ I thought in 7 seconds I can be right there. I saw him [Zachary Ornelas] at the hill and I made up my mind to pass him quickly and go for it. As I passed him, he gave me a look of ‘nice job,’ he was a defending champion and had gone through some injuries of his own.
So then my only focus was to turn left and go as hard as I could. I glanced to see how far back he was, and this crazy elation came over me for the last 100 meters. I was fist pumping and starting to cry.
I kept thinking, stay on your feet. I had 50 meters to go and I couldn’t believe I was going to win the race. Getting to break the tape, it really was overwhelming—to test your self and have it come out perfectly, it’s amazing.
My mom had my daughter (who was born in March of 2014) at home, but my wife Katie was there and my dad, too. Before anyone came into view near the finish, the announcer said, ‘the defending champion is about to make the turn. Oh wait, we’ve had a change,’ and as they said my name my wife started screaming. They ushered her up to the front to greet me at the finish line. It was one of those things where she was probably less surprised than I was. You know how you’re your own worst enemy. She said, ‘you’re going to do great. You’re fine, you did everything.’ But it’s hard to believe that for yourself.”
“This race was a huge confident boost. I have PRed every time, but I keep learning more about myself. I was definitely on top of fueling and figured a lot of things out training wise. I didn’t train as many miles or as crazy as the others. But I was more efficient with my time because I’m a dad now and working.
It’s not about the watch, but figuring out where your limits are and being able to test them. To get to an Olympic trial time, I think if there is a race where there are more people at my level they may pull me along and help me drop time. And then if I can find a 4-month chunk to train more seriously that may lead me to a faster time.
Marathons to me are still crazy, it takes a lot mentally to prepare for one. I don’t want to rush into the next one.”
We know you coach high school kids, what do you tell them?
“I am probably the more empathetic one (of the team’s three coaches), who puts things in perspective. The biggest thing I show is that it’s not just one day that makes you a good runner it’s an investment over time. Maybe someone isn’t at the front, but over a year you can move up by putting in an honest effort.
Personally, I don’t have bad races because I don’t think of races as this negative thing, I think of racing as a reward for all the hard work you do. Running in general is like that and there are so many pressures in life, running is the last place you should be stressed out. If you allow yourself to relax and enjoy it you will probably go faster than if you’re concentrating on every single step.
You also have to allow yourself to visualize success or it won’t happen. If you visualize it, it’s more likely to happen. At the Bolder Boulder, my Newton teammate Nik Schweikert was reading “A Champion’s Mind.” Three weeks ago, I texted Nik and said what’s the name of that book, I’d like to get some motivation. Nik sent me the book and that’s where I got the idea to visualize success. Even though I’m here in Michigan, the Newton team still played a big part in letting me run that well.”
And what Newtons did you wear?
“The Distance III, that’s what I reach for pretty much every day. They offer a nice compromise between weight and protection when you get to the later miles.”