John Trautmann was one of the reasons I gravitated towards racewalking and away from running in high school. In my junior and senior years there was a bumper crop of nearly a dozen sub-4:15 milers racing in New York. It was bad enough getting beaten by seniors, but when freshmen like Mike Rogan and Trautmann began beating me, it was really frustrating. It was small consolation that they were among the top runners in the state as freshman. Rogan — the Best Man at my wedding, incidentally — eventually ran sub-4:00 at Notre Dame, while Trautmann went on to Georgetown where he won the 1992 Olympic Trials at 5,000 meters. A series of foot injuries ended John’s career prematurely. After competing at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, he was unable to toe the line four years later at the ’96 Trials in Atlanta. He went to work on Wall Street, and gained over 70 lbs.
Fast forward to 2009… After turning 40, Trautmann decided to start running again — first for his health, and eventually to get a taste of racing again. He progressed slowly at first, but steadily. By last winter he had lost 50 lbs. and came tantalizingly close to a 45-49 year-old age-group World Record at the mile. Last week he shattered the record, running 4:12.33 in Boston.
I meet people all the time at my clinics who have lost 50, 60, 70, even 80 or 100 lbs. Quite often the have beautiful, explosive technique. I tell them that carrying the extra weight for years was like living at altitude, and now they are at sea level. The added weight built strong legs to carry it, made their hearts work extra hard, and prompted the growth of an amazing circulatory system. Although it’s not the healthiest way to build this strength, carrying a lot of weight for a lot of years, and then losing it, often results in a surprisingly strong athlete.
I’m not morbidly over my racing weight, but over the course of the past six years and three babies, I’ve put on about 20 lbs. of pregnancy “sympathy weight”. Inspired by John’s weight loss and subsequent success on the track, I just may take the dieting end of the “diet and exercise” equation a little more seriously. (John didn’t do anything dramatic to lose the weight; he “just” trained 80 – 90 miles per week and cut all junk food out of his diet. As a long-time “nutritional atheist” cutting out junk food is against my religion, but I’m willing to give anything a try!)
I’ve gotten in a lot of base “weight-training” over the past few years, but with my first serious attempt at qualifying for the 2016 Trials just nine months away, it’s time to get serious. So John, thanks (again!) for the inspiration, “kid”!