- September 5, 2023
Chris Douge is one of the most consistent runners that you will find running these streets. Quite simply consistency is what you would associate with him as he’s always churning out 50-to-60-mile weeks staying ready so that he doesn’t have to get ready. This month we get to chat with Chris Douge as he gives us a peek into his running journey is business and most of all his why when it comes to his running.
MSM: Let's talk about how you discovered running. I like to use the word discover because we really don't go looking for it unless we have the background from our younger years, usually it's an action that causes us to want to try it then eventually fall in love with it.
Chris: I like that you said "discover" running. I got introduced to running in high school, but I feel like I just recently discovered it. I joined the track team just looking to make friends/find a network didn't really think anything of it. I had a little sense that I was "fast" just from growing up and racing kids in the neighborhood, but I was by no means anything special when it came to that. I ran a little bit of cross country but mostly focused on the 400m and 800m (if I could go back in time, I would run the mile/3000). But this is Brooklyn in '03 there were zero black kids running the mile and only a few running the 800 so a part of me was like just run the events your friends are running instead of focusing on what I am best at.
I remember freshman year we had a group of four seniors who qualified for the Millrose games 4x800m and the coach was like very pressed to find to their replacements and came to me like "your tall and skinny we are going to train you for the 800" and I went with it because it felt good to have someone believe in you but without that encouragement I would have stayed with the 400. As I went through high school, I started to see some big improvements but retrospectively I wasn't putting in the necessary work to take it the next level and really started to plateau junior year. This was before there was a real knowledge base on rest & recovery, so I was running 5 days a week and racing 3-4 races every track meet. After high school I didn't really have any relationship with running other than an occasional warm up mile on a treadmill or charity 5k. Fast forward to 2018 I made it a goal to get back in shape and I started to think about when was I in the best shape of my life it was when I was running track and I started to satellite the running scene from there - you know the occasional one loop through Prospect Park then might sign up for a 5k race then I started to meet people who identified themselves as "runners". So that's when I would say I "discovered" running I ran in school, but it wasn't who I was or a part of my lifestyle - now running is a very big part of who I am and my lifestyle.
MSM: You seem to be a student of the game which usually means that a person is inspired by many and looks for advice from those who are accomplished and have been successful. Who are some of your inspirations and runners that have given you the drive to become a better person from both a personal and professional level?
Chris: I think it's extremely important to be a student always - there's no limit on information. I can go on my journey and probably get to where I'm going but I can probably get there quicker by learning from someone else's similar journey. Talking about runners specifically I don't really pay attention to people I don't know personally so I draw inspiration from people who are accessible to me. So, we all know in the community running scene there's a small number of black distance runners and an even smaller subset of black distance runners who are focused on high performance, so I'm always attracted to those individuals who accomplished things I want to accomplish. Mainly - Joe Shayne, Jerry Francois, they introduced me to long
distance running but also Reggie Cross, Winthrop Wellington, Valentin Emmanuel, Stanley Bazile, Herbie Medina - those are a few names who encourage me to get better or share training tips/share stories. As runners we always focus on times & accomplishments etc. which is great it deserves to be celebrated but I am always more interested in the journey of how someone got there. And being surrounded by those individuals and being able to leverage their experiences is extremely helpful to me.
MSM: Your run times are very respectful, give our readers a peek into some of those run stats and some of those races that stand out. Over the last few years, you've clearly gotten better and faster which is amazing.
Chris: Thank you. I still have a long way to go. For me it's less about the times I run and
more about the progress sometimes I get hard on myself for a "bad race" then I must remind myself I wasn't close to these times a few years ago. But there's definitely a few standout races for me like Bklyn Mile '21 which was my first time breaking 5 mins (4:53) I made that a goal during the pandemic and kept getting close but not quite hitting the mark so that was a good feeling to get it done. Chicago Marathon '22 I ran 3:00:34 which I know isn't quite as sexy as 2:59:59 but it was a major moment for my confidence to make it through a marathon finish line without limping. And I will give you a bonus one - I ran 36:09 for the 10k in Toronto for 7th place finish. It felt good to be in a big city, running with the leaders and just competing. I hung with a few local run clubs before the race, so it felt like a hometown race with the cheer squads. The times are the times, but I enjoy knowing I showed to a race with hundreds or thousands of people and was among the top 1% especially as I am getting older, I cherish those days competing with people in their teens/20s.
MSM: To run and run well as crazy as this sounds takes a certain state of calmness, without it we can fall off the rails but for you what I’ve noticed is that you almost always remain calm, smooth stride, cadence, breathing, things are just chill. Running isn't just putting miles on the pavement, it's also mental. Tell us about how you not only mentally prepare during training but also for the race.
Chris: To a fault everyone who knows me knows I never get too excited or too down about anything because it all ebbs and flows. I think what is unique about my training is that I race very often all year round and a variety of distances so there's not a ton of nerves around any one particular race - it's just racing it’s a normal part of life and when you view it that way it alleviates a lot of the stress that comes with running. So, to prepare I just keep everything the same - same breakfast, same warm up, similar routine the day before and little tweaks here and there based on trial and error but racing so often makes it easier to find the routine that works best for you. Controlling what I can control and going into the race knowing that at some point it’s going to get extremely difficult but that's what I'm expecting keeps me mentally prepared. I am gaining more knowledge about how other stresses contribute to race performance so also trying to line things up to avoid any additional stress.
MSM: TeamWRK makes the dream work" If you run in the NYC area you know this run crew puts in the work and represents when the time comes for it. How has TeamWRK helped you to dig deep down and reach that untouched potential?
Chris: I am a big fan of running together in pace groups and bringing people up to a level they didn't know they had. TeamWRK is all about that performance through community encouraging us to get a little uncomfortable to unlock our potential. Most importantly I think the team provides me with a good, disciplined structure of running because without a system of consistency it’s hard to improve. I think most of us runners have a ton of potential but having a team that's dedicated to bringing out that potential is key and been a major part of my progress. I remember my first practice with the team we were breaking up in groups by pace and I am out of shape don't really know much about anything related to distance running but I was already just thinking okay how do I get to that first group - what do I have to do to get faster and it didn't happen overnight it's not days & weeks it's months and years really.
MSM: Finding that running family can change so many things and open so many doors for us, especially those in the diverse community. What was it like for you when you found TeamWRK and that community?
Chris: It's so powerful. I bounced around a little bit seeing different running groups, but TeamWRK was immediately home for me because I had people care whether or not I was there and that was the reason I stayed around because those connections. Joe & Jenn build a good home for runners of color to really do whatever they want to do in running - get in shape, run your first marathon, hit a goal time, or just network with people. Running is running but you need other reasons to stay motivated so knowing that people care if I miss a run and held me accountable was great. Especially for black runners - we go to the races there's not many of us, we go to the events there's not many of us so to have a network to share our unique experiences helps me stay consistent.
MSM: Let's chat about your marathons, you've run three marathons to date and I'm sure
each one has a story of evolving. What were all three like for you, what future one that you are looking forward to running and are you currently chasing that six star?
Chris: it's funny because on paper the times are linear, but the journey is not at all. It's been an up and down road. I was completely terrified of the marathon distance when I started running just because it was such an unknown to me. My first marathon was NYC Marathon '21 being born and raised in Brooklyn I was super excited to be a part of the 50th anniversary of what felt like the comeback party for NYC after lockdown. During that build I had a stress injury in my tibia from doing too much too soon so I wasn't running from late August to early October, but I didn't want to miss the race, so I pushed myself to get back some fitness before NYC. I heard all the stories about hitting the wall, but I guess you don't know until you know for yourself so felt like I ran a solid race (1:31 at the half) but started to slip around 17 dealt with hamstring cramps ended up walking most of later miles for a 3:29 finish. I remember vividly all of NYC passing me in Central Park. So, it wasn't the most pleasant experience but shaped me into a more strategic runner. I have no regrets my daughter was born two weeks before the race so her and my wife were there at mile 8 that was a great moment + my mom was at mile 5 and told she cried knowing I finished so those are moments that outweighed missing my goal time.
I quickly signed up for Brooklyn Marathon (April '22) really just as a do over & it was the first time I felt I was really marathon fit and confident I can do this race - I was PR’ing in the half, I was doing 20 milers etc. but maybe 2 weeks before the race I started to get some sharp pain in my hip but it was time to taper so I fought through it but I knew it was going to be a problem on race day. It would have been smart to sit out but ran the race vibed out through Brooklyn s/o Alex from 718run and Jesse from Harlem Run we ran about 16 miles together before I looked at them like I'm done I'm probably going to DNF this race the pain was just too much but I kept moving for a few miles - run/ walk and I realized I can still get a PR if I hold it together for a few more miles so ended up running 3:18.
I went to get an MRI soon after and found out I had hip bursitis and a torn labrum probably made significantly worse by running 26.2 miles on it. So, at that point I really started to associate the marathon with injury/pain and not love it as much as everyone else did around me but I knew I wanted to do it again but do it right. I think my issues were all related to strength I know a few people were like just cut back on this or don't train so hard but I enjoy training hard so it was more how do I build a body that can sustain this level of training rather than scale back. So that's when I introduced a real strength plan into my running with Dr. Bernard at StylexStrength and he's really helped me up my running fitness. I still struggle with durability and little injuries but now the focus is catching it early and working with him to make sure it doesn't become something I can't manage on race day. So, months and months of rest and recovery mixed with strength I turned my focus on Chicago Marathon '22 with the goal of breaking 3 hours which to me wasn't this pie in the sky goal it was just looking at my other races looking at my training and being like yeah this time is in line with my current fitness. I believe I ran a smart race and proved to myself I can excel at the marathon distance unfortunately came up 34 seconds short of breaking 3 hours but at the end of the day I'm happy I ran in line with my fitness at the time but yes I would have much rather went home with a 2:59:59 finish. I am going back to Chicago again this year with some slightly bigger goals - I might miss but I might not. As far as six stars it's not something I am chasing I think it might happen organically over time, but it would be nice to drop that in the bio one day.
MSM: When did you know that the marathon was something you wanted to tackle. I feel like there's always that race or moment that we have that tends to push us off the cliff when it comes to wanting to run a marathon.
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