Friday Interview: Jeff McGonnell

Friday Interview: Jeff McGonnell
July 25, 2014 QuickFix

We’re excited to introduce this week a new blog feature (yes, another): Friday Interview. We’re aiming to chat with people who fascinate, inspire and confuse us. Customers, partners, employees … we have no limit on who we plan to spotlight.

We’re kicking off Friday Interview with our good friend Jeff McGonnell who, among other things, runs really irrational distances. I exchanged emails with Jeff this week. The transcript is below:

You just ran across the state of Tennessee (for the second time?). Why?

JM: 1st answer I came up with  – to get to the other side.

More thoughtful answer: I read a blog about someone doing the Last Annual Vol State Run – known in the Ultra world as LAVS.  The blog talked about the distance, the scarcity of both food and water and how that increased the level of difficulty – it described running in Tennessee in July was like running on the sun.  One LAVS runner that I spoke to said he was out of food and water and so out of his head that when he finally got to a town with a motel  he was too parched to speak to even ask for water.  With 25 years of running ultras under my belt – a challenge like that couldn’t be ignored.

So most people have a line — tangible or not — that they won’t cross. This race would fall on the dark side of that for me. Does that line exist for you in running?

JM: I had a line once – I delayed for a number of years to try a 100mile while most of my training partners jumped right in.  When I finally jumped in it beat me like an old rug, I knew I needed to try it a 2nd time.  I’ve often given the advice to anyone attempting their 1st marathon – do the 1st one to see how tough it is, do the 2nd one to see how tough you are.  The advice is the same for a marathon as it is for a 100.  I guess my only line now is that if it stops being fun … go home.

What advice would you give runners looking to jump into ultra distances?

JM: Ultra runners are optimists – driving to the start of the Vol State run, on a bus with 40 people who all thought they could run 314 miles is exciting; optimism was so thick you could taste it – those are my kind of people.

My training advice to  anyone wanting to jump in to the ultra distance is to do a slow build up of longer distances on the weekends, work on core strength by doing hills and bleachers and do back to back long runs.  The more useful advice is to try one and just be patient, finishing an ultra is more mental than physical – enjoy the scenery, the camaraderie and the people along the route.  An ultra can be an adventure – it’s not an adventure if you already know what’s going to happen.

Great advice. I ran with you once around the Davidson town green for an hour, dressed in a costume of some sort. You ran for 24 hours. What was that for? Will you do it again?

JM: Loopy for a Cause – i did that event for 2 years to support Batten Disease awareness and fund raising.

I began raising money a number of years ago for Batten’s Disease Research after learning about Brandon and Jeremy Hawkins of Concord, friends of my son who were diagnosed with the rare disease in 2006. About 600 children in the U.S. are affected. It starts with minor symptoms such as slow learning and clumsiness and eventually causes mental impairment, seizures and blindness.  There’s currently no cure and the disease is fatal.

Running the event is easy – planning takes quite a bit of time and energy.  I’m hoping to do again next May.  We really appreciated the tremendous support from everyone here in Davidson.

Can’t wait to be part of it again. So rumor has it you so something other than run? What does Jeff McGonnell look like by day?

JM: I’m the loving husband to Jayne and father of 3 great kids, Mily (grad school),  Selena (college) and Ben (senior in high school).  I manage a technology team at Bank of America – it’s an international team so both early days and late nights to accommodate different time zones that we interface with.  Work keeps me very busy – so running is just something I fit in.

Good thing I have Summit coffee on hand to keep me going.

Nice product plug. How long have you been coming to Summit? What’s your morning (and/or evening) drink?

JM: When I come into the Summit several days a week I get a light roast red eye with 2 shots.  Later in the day I’ll have a cup of tea to keep me going, sometimes two.  When I brew at home I use your Summit House Blend.

When I run I run with water – no gatorade or other sports drink. (ed. note: I’ve also shared a pint or two with Jeff. He likes good beer)

Lastly: What is your favorite thing about living in Davidson?

JM: I grew up in a small town in north west Pennsylvania. Living in Davidson reminds me of all the good from the small town that I grew up in with added benefits of great weather, great trails to run on and great people.

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