To tell you the truth, all my high school runners inspire me.

Hello Coach Huggins – thank you for allowing me to interview you for my new blog segment – ‘Running Interviews’.

1) Tell me about yourself? I was born in Okinawa Japan since my father was stationed there while he was in the Air Force. I was only there for about two weeks so I don’t remember anything about Japan. I grew up just outside of Atlanta GA in a medium size town called Decatur. It’s was a lot like Durham when I was a kid. I went to college in Greensboro NC at Guilford College (Go Quakers!). After I graduated college I moved to Boston MA where I lived for about 10 years. While in Boston I became a school teacher, met my future wife, and eventually decided that it was too expensive and too cold to live up north any more so about 8 years ago my wife and I decided to move back down south and we chose Durham. I had taught in a fairly rough district in Boston and had decided that I was never going to teach again. Maybe I would open a bike shop or something. Randomly I met someone that knew Mr. Hawks at DSA and I was asked to apply for a job. I told Mr. Hawks that I didn’t really want the job and that I was thinking of opening a bike shop. He said maybe I should think about being a teacher again. I said ok. A week after accepting my new job as the 7th grade science teacher at Durham School of the Arts I was out doing a track workout on the Duke Track when I saw two runners wearing DSA shirts. I went over and talked to the Coach. I introduced myself. The coach was named Dow Needham and he said that he was the coach of the DSA cross country team. Then he asked me if I’d like to come and help out with the team. I said no. I was going to be too busy opening my bike shop. Later that year I decided to help Dow out a little bit. By the end of that first season Dow let me know that I was going to be the new head cross country coach and the rest is history. I’m still waiting to open up that bike shop. 

2) I ran for fun all through my childhood but never competitively. I could usually beat most of the kids in my neighborhood but by the time I got to high school I was far too cool for running seriously. I started to get back into running my junior year of college and starting running a few 5ks. I placed pretty well and thought that maybe I could get good at this if I focused on it for a while. After I moved to Boston I started taking running much more seriously and started entering larger and more competitive races. Most of my years in Boston were spent running seriously. 

3) My favorite workout is Yazo 800’s. This is basically running 10-12 800’s at the same minute pace that you would run your marathon at. So if you want to run a 3 hour 20 min. marathon then you run 10-12 3:20 800’s. When you are in shape this workout is just a great confidence booster. You can just settle into each 800 and if you do it right by the last one’s you feel your best and you’re running your fastest. My least favorite workouts are sprint intervals. Anything shorter than a 200 meter and I just feel like my legs won’t go any faster. I’ve never been a sprinter and I’m reminded why each time I try to run a fast 200 meters. 

4) I mostly played baseball growing up until high school but I’ve tried just about everything. Tennis, golf, cycling, swimming, karate. I even tried fencing for a while. Oh yeah and there’s that whole skater phase if you count that as a sport. These days I mostly just run. Last year I tried to become a cyclocross bike racer but that didn’t pan out too well so I came back to running. 

5) How do I fuel my body before a race. My diet has always been pretty good. I’ve never had to change my diet too much since I began running seriously. One thing that I do always do is eat a bowl of oatmeal before a morning race. Good fuel for long runs as well. 

6) Do I have a favorite person to run with? Sure, I’ve had a few groups of runners that I’ve really enjoyed. Right now I’m running with two local guys. Pat Morris and James Umbanhowar. They are both ex cross country and track guys and though we are all beyond our days of true speedy running we are each competitive in our own respects and enjoy the occaisional race. We’ve won a couple races as a team and really enjoy making fun of each other and not getting too serious about our speed. James recently ran 400 days in a row. He is out of his mind. 

7) What’s my favorite thing about running. Freedom. I love the feeling of just being out in the world and moving around my city by my own power. When I’m in good shape and I can just run forever it’s possibly the best feeling in the world to just go out for an easy 8 mile run and do some running on the roads and trails of Durham. I love exploring when I run. I always try to keep my head up and look around when I run so I can see everything around me. 

8) My favorite running distance? Hmmmmmm. My go to distance for regular runs is 6 miles. Just enough to feel like I did something but not so long that I’m out there for too long. In terms of racing I’d say my favorite distance is the 10k or half marathon. Both of those races allow you enough time to settle into your pace and really feel your fitness. 5ks are for kids who can run fast. I’ve run 3 marathons and though I enjoyed them all they took so much work and so much recovery time that I’m not sure I’ll be doing another marathon any time soon. 

9) Favorite running outfit/clothing I’ve always run in Mizuno shoes, specifically the wave rider. I love that shoe and it’s always performed really well for me. Other than that I’ve never really had a piece of clothing that was my favorite. Most of my running gear gets destroyed pretty quickly so I don’t have it around long enough to get too attached. 

10) How do I fit running in with my family? That’s a tough one. Ever since my wife and I had our two boys (Grady and Brendan now 7 and 5) running has been hard to fit in like I used to. When I was at my peak I was running 50-60 miles a week with workouts 2 times a week and long runs of nearly two hours every weekend. Talk about being fit. Now it’s hard to fit in 3 runs a week and get in a long run of an hour on the weekend. What I try to do these days is run when I have an off period during the school day. The problem with that is that I have to come back to school, dry off, and teach again. Not optimal but I’ve got to fit it in where I can. Up until this year, I ran everyday with the cross country team and that definitely helped to keep me fit but since we’ve changed cross country practice to the mornings it’s just been too hard to run and be ready for teaching. I’m still working on my running plan. Once you have a family, they come first. Running comes second or third…. fourth??

11) Do I have a running bucket list? One of my big goals was to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I did that in 2007. Check. Another one was to outright win a race longer than a 10k. 3 years ago I won the Mountains to Sea 12 mile trail race. Check. I also wanted to break 18 in the 5k again but I don’t think that one is going to ever happen again. I had a goal of breaking 3 hours in the marathon. I did that 2 years ago at the 3 Bridges Marathon in Virginia running 2:59:53 (just barely made it). I’ve thought about maybe doing an Ironman someday but I’m a terrible swimmer. I’d like to do the Western States 100 Ultra Marathon but that will have to happen once my boys are much older and I can waste TONS of time running without my wife wanting to kill me. 

12) What does my team mean to me? Well, there’s MY team which is the Hello Kitty Athletic Club. I’ve been running with those guys for 15 years and we’ve got a great bunch of great guys to race with but they are mostly based in New England so I don’t get to race with them too often. Then there is DSA Cross Country. This team is my life. I can’t tell you how much the cross country team means to me except to say that I hope to be this team’s coach for many many years to come. Helping to coach such an amazing group of young people has really made my job a wonderful place to be. Every year I look forward to cross country season. It’s a highlight of my whole year. 

13) Who Inspires me? To tell you the truth all my high school runners inspire me. Seeing young people work so hard together as a team and overcome obstacles is the most inspiring thing I can think of. I’m never more excited than I am at an XC race where my runners are working hard and trying their best. 

 Coach Huggins

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