Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interview With Brian Baleno

In 2009, Brian Baleno decided to run fifty half marathons in all fifty states, starting in Tennessee and ended in Delaware. He ran the Manchester City Marathon for his NH race. His book, "50 Halfs: From First to Last" he describes his unique experience running and traveling over two years to accomplish his goal. I found his book fascinating because it was my original running goal. The book is inspiring, funny, and I felt like I was running along with him. I enjoyed the pictures at the end that show the wear and tear on his running shoes and his medals. I loved to see all the medal because I'm just a sucker for a medal!

Portland, ME 2011 Pilgram Pacer, MO 2010 2010 Montana Governor's Cup
Do you remember the moment you felt like a runner?
After I ran my third half marathon, I felt like an actual runner.  Running my first half marathon was very intimidating as I assumed that I was an outsider crashing a runner’s party.  I assumed all the “runners” ran cross country in high school and that I wasn’t part of their club, but after my third half marathon, I realized that runners are very accepting people and also very encouraging to fellow runners.

You ran a half marathon in all fifty states, how did you come up with this idea?
I used my first half marathon (The Scenic City Half Marathon in Chatanooga, TN) as a training run for the Snickers’s Marathon in Albany, Georgia.  A year later, in 2010, I wanted to see if I could improve upon the time of my first half, so I ran my second half marathon (Xterra Thrill in Hills in Winder, GA) and I actually ran a slower time.  I attributed the slower time to the course which was a challenging trail run so I registered for a third (Talladega 21000 Half Marathon in Talladega, AL). Not only did I improve my time, but at that point, I realized I had just run a half marathon in 3 different states so that’s where the goal started.

Do you have rituals or superstitions?
I don’t have any superstitions, but I have a regiment where I would wake up two hours before the race to have a light breakfast which was typically water and oatmeal.

Do you have a philosophy on diet and nutrition?
I try to eat a healthy diet based on higher protein foods  and I attempt to avoid processed foods.  For breakfast, I like to have either egg whites or oatmeal with some fruit and coffee.   I like to eat a lot of chicken and fish and salads for lunch and dinner.  I travel internationally for work and what you start to see is that in Europe and Asia, the foods they eat are much healthier than the food in the United States.  I think the main reason is that they don’t have all the preservatives or additives that are used in our food.

What was your most epic race?  Tell me about it.
That’s a difficult question because each race is epic in it’s own sense.  I would say the Ocean’s Run Half Marathon in Rhode Island.  I actually won the race which was completely unexpected for many reasons.  First, I had attended a wedding in Boston the night before and I didn’t get to sleep until after 2 AM so my expectations for running well were very low.  Second, on any given day, thousands of people would have beaten me and during the race, I often thought that I had missed a turn as I maintained the lead.  My dad always told us growing up, “You’re never the best, there’s always someone better.”  He wasn’t dissuading me or my siblings from doing our best.  He was trying to teach us about humility and that in reality, the sheer number of talented people in the world make it difficult if not impossible to be the best at anything.

With all the races you have done, did you ever get injured?  How did you handle it?
I was fortunate not to have any major injuries.  The most difficult pain I encountered was plantar fasciitis.  Luckily, Superfeet insoles  solved the problem.

What was the most memorable race and why?
The most memorable race for me was the Virginia Beach Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.  I was both a participant and supporter in this race.  It’s the most memorable because my wife (girlfriend at that time) was also running and she really didn’t train to run a half marathon because she was busy with graduate school.  I’d finished before she did and and I’ll never forget standing along the boardwalk watching her run to finish line.

What race was the most challenging for you?
The most challenging race was the Run the Rockies in Frisco, Colorado.  It was the most difficult because it was run at elevation where the air is thin.  The thin air decreases the amount of oxygen that your muscles get and that was really tough on my legs.

How did you balance training, the races, work, family, etc when you were racing in all fifty states?
Training was probably the easiest part because I was running 3 or 4 half marathons a month so I maintained a fitness level where I ran five miles a day during the week then took Friday off before running the half on Saturday or Sunday.  Work was a challenge because over the 27 months that I was completing the 50 states, I was traveling back and forth to China.  The benefit was that I was accruing airline and hotel points which compensated for the travel costs.  At the time I was running the 50 states, my girlfriend (now wife) was living in Boston and attending grad school so we were both very busy which afforded us with the time to take on both of our goals.

You ran the Manchester City as you NH race, tell us about it.
I loved running in all of the New England states, but I especially remember the Manchester City Half. The morning of the race was chilly where a soft breeze was sweeping across Veteran’s Park downtown.  The course itself was beautiful and challenging.  There was a tough climb on River Road but the beautiful well kept colonial homes and friendly people cheering on the runners created a very welcoming environment.  My favorite part of the Manchester City half was running through Livingston Park with all the fall colors, sounds, and smells.  Then at the end of the course, the runners were rewarded with a downhill stretch.


Medal:  Mesa Falls Half Marathon

Race:  Juneau Frank Maier Half Marathon

Running show:  Brooks Ravenna

Running store:  Big Peach Running Company

Way to relax:  Five mile run followed by breakfast with coffee

Athlete:  Dean Karnazes

Recovery Meal:  Chipotle - burrito bowl (chicken, brown rice, black beans, tomatoes)

TV Show:  Big Bang Theory

Movie:  Good Will Hunting

Book:  David Copperfield

Singer/Band:  Better than Ezra

Mantra:  From my dad and grandfather, “You’re never the best, there’s always someone better.”

Guilty pleasure:  Darrell Lea Mango liquorice

City:  San Diego

Country:  Ireland

Racing Memory:  Finishing 50th half marathon, Run for the Buds

Thanks to Brain for taking the time to do this interview, I appreciate it! You can follow Brian on Facebook and Google+. You can also order both his books on Amazon, make you you check them out!


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