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May 25, 2009

Peter Gilmore - World Class Runners

Written by Dena Evans

At 32, local marathoner Peter Gilmore has already compiled an enviable list of accomplishments for any professional runner, and as he heads towards Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN) on June 20, he is looking forward to the opportunity to add another outstanding accolade to his résumé.   Gilmore is a San Mateo resident and Cal graduate whose best NCAA Championships finish in college was a 91st place result at the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Meet.   He is sponsored by and advised in his training by Jack Daniels, PhD.

Post-collegiately, Gilmore has carved out a niche as one of the most reliably competitive American marathoners of his generation.   In 2005, he was the second American and tenth place finisher overall at the 2005 Boston Marathon (2:17:32), before competing on Team USA at the IAAF World Championships that August.  Returning to Boston in the spring of 2006, he broke through again with a time of 2:12:45 and a seventh place finish.  Gilmore also earned top ten finishes and fastest American honors at both the 2006 ING New York City Marathon as well as the 2007 edition of the Boston Marathon.  He is a long time fixture on the Pacific Association road racing and cross country Grand Prix circuits, and after some recent injury challenges over the past year is once again ready to toe the line at his specialty distance.

Focus-N-Fly caught up with Gilmore at the Central Coast Section Track & Field preliminary meet at Gilroy High School, where he was coaching Hillsdale High’s distance runners, a post he has held since February of this year.

At what point did you decide you wanted to try and run professionally?

The day of my last college race.   I was really frustrated, took two months off, but I knew I wanted to keep running.  I wasn’t fast enough to earn the money that would allow me to be full time runner, but after a couple of years, I was able to earn enough to go part time, then eventually full time.

What were the encouraging factors / discouraging factors?

The discouraging things were that I thought I hadn’t run as fast as I thought I could and that I had run my faster times a year or two before.  Internally, I knew I could do it, but externally, I didn’t quite have the results.   I think you have to have the spine or the backbone to know you can do it.  My parents knew I could do it, and I knew what I needed to do to get better.

In January in 2001, I went to Kenya for six weeks on my own.  It was totally eye opening.  I had certain notions that were confirmed about being a professional athlete and how to train like the best in the world.  Coming back, I was living in Berkeley, but knew I needed to train with better people, so I moved over to the Farm Team in March and started working with Vin Lananna.  We had a great group with Chris Graff, Brad and Brent Hauser, Matt Lane, etc.  I had trained with my team in college, but never had a group at that level.  And then, Jack Daniels moved to town, which really sealed the deal.   I was really fortunate to have met him at the right time.

What has been the biggest surprise for you in your years of running professionally?  What has been the least surprising thing?

One of the most surprising things was how I needed to handle successes and failures.  I was really good at the marathon, but I am not nearly as good as at any other distance.  A couple weeks ago, I ran the US. 25k Championships and finished 9th American.   All but one of those guys I have run faster than in the marathon.  I just feel like a different person when I toe the line in a marathon.  At first, that really bothered me, but now that I am a bit older I feel good about being good at what I am good at.  It is one of those things you discover and you have to deal with…. are you going to roll with it, or are you going to let it continue to bug you.

A couple of years ago when you were earning some top finishes at the big marathons, there was a lot of discussion in the press and online about your sponsorship situation or lack thereof.  Tell us about that journey.

For a long time, I was never good enough to get a shoe contract, and when I finally was, gave me a much better situation than what was available through the traditional routes.  John Elliot has been really supportive of me from the start (ING New York City Marathon in 2006).  I think it is good to have the diversity for the sport where income comes from other sources beyond the shoe companies.  I think athletes should get as many companies involved as possible.  Some of the USOC rules prevent that but as long as you are within the rules, then why not?

What are your goals for the upcoming years?

Running Grandma’s Marathon in a month.  One of my goals is to go there and win.  It is usually won in a pace that I have been able to run, so my goal is to go there and do that.

It is hard for me to think too much longer term.  I thought I had potential to make the team in the last marathon trials, but it didn’t work out (fell ill within the last two weeks prior to the race).  So, I hope to be there for the next Olympic year, but I try to focus on the next 5 or 6 months out.

How have you enjoyed coaching and how do you plan to incorporate running in your life after it ceases to be a professional pursuit?

I plan to always run more often than not.  I don’t see myself being a master’s racer, but I plan to do it for fun.  I hope to not be in a situation where I have to quit because of injury.

I like coaching at the high school level.  I think it is the most genuinely fun level of track and it is great to see the kids have fun and improve.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

Something in finance.  I have a master’s in finance and I really enjoy asset management / stock picking stuff.  I actually worked in that field for a little bit.  I think I have a knack for it, so I think I will try to get back to that when I am done.

Last modified on March 31, 2011
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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