Talk about starting at the top. The first time Greg Decent took a run - for himself, rather than a high school coach - it was in Leadville, elevation 10,152 feet, where he was attending college at Colorado Mountain College. Other students would run between their classes, and Decent decided to "see what all the fuss was about," he said.
"The thin Colorado air immediately took my breath away and left me feeling like I was moving at a snail's pace," he said. "Despite feeling physically awful, mentally, I felt amazing. The beautiful mountainous scenery and seemingly endless amount of trails left me feeling refreshed and yearning to go farther to see what was around the next turn or over the next hill."
For the first time in his life, running was transformed "from something a coach required me to do to pure enjoyment and something I desired," he said.
That was 15 years ago, and Decent has run nearly every day since. This month, the Eagle-Vail resident is featured in Runner's World Magazine in its "Body Issue." Decent, who works as a children's ski instructor during the winter, is the only Colorado resident included in the issue.
"My body has never felt younger, stronger or fitter, and I've been running for 15 years," Decent, age 33, is quoted as saying in the magazine.
We chatted with Decent about how his face ended up in a national magazine, why Eagle-Vail is a "runner's delight" and what he tells people who only run when chased.
Vail Daily: How did your inclusion in the Runner's World magazine come about?
Greg Decent: I was browsing the Runner's World website one night, and I noticed that the magazine was looking for normal/everyday runners to be featured in their December issue. Entrants simply had to be a runner and willing to be photographed for a "body issue." I submitted a photo of myself thinking that I would never be selected from the thousands of applicants, but how could I pass up an amazing opportunity to be featured in a magazine which promotes a sport that I love? A month went by without any news from the magazine. I received a call from Runner's World asking me if I could come to Los Angeles next week for a photo shoot for their magazine. Without any hesitation, I said "yes" and my wife and I jumped in the car a couple of days later and headed west to Los Angeles.
The photo shoot was in Pasadena, Calif. right outside of Los Angeles. The photo shoot and interview took place at a warehouse loft apartment that had been converted into a photography studio. Pasadena was beautiful.
VD: How many miles do you run a week? Where do you run?
GD: My training is very structured and goal-oriented. I typically plan out my races a year in advance to ensure that I can train properly and recover effectively between races. My mileage is determined by where I am at in my training cycle. If I am building up for a marathon, my volume of mileage will increase to prepare my body for the demands of running 26.2 miles at race pace. However, if I have just raced a marathon, then my mileage will be drastically cut back for at least a month to ensure that I properly recover mentally from the rigors of training and physically from my race. Most days, you can find me running around the neighborhood of Eagle-Vail where I live. The easy accessibility to Meadow Mountain for a trail run or the running track for speed workouts makes this neighborhood a runner's delight.
VD: Tell me what else you do, other than just running, to stay in shape.
GD: Running well requires much more than putting one foot in front of the other. Along with running, I also focus on core and strength exercises to enhance my on-road performance. This is not always the most enjoyable part of training, but it does compliment your running when you have a strong core. My exercises include sit-ups, pushups, lunges, burpees, squats, jumping rope and lifting weights. My coach, Rob Parish, has me do this body work three times a week. It's not all about working out, though. I have a very healthy and well-balanced diet. I love hummus, kale and avocados. I rarely, if ever, indulge in processed sugar products like cookies or candy.
VD: What does running do for you?
GD: Running gives me the opportunity to compete and test my level of training/fitness. Some athletes struggle with how to remain competitive after college, and running and racing still feeds my competitive spirit and makes me feel like an athlete. Everyone should try it.
VD: What do you say to people who tell you they hate to run?
GD: For everyone who says they hate to run, I invite them to give running a realistic chance by setting attainable goals and focusing on the benefits of running. I will admit that running is not always enjoyable, even for myself, but if you set yourself up for success with proper shoes and perhaps a running buddy, then maybe you will have a more enjoyable experience. You can always change up your workout routine with a quick, three-mile run that jolts your body back into calorie-burning mode.
VD: Do you run marathons or compete in other races? Do you run alone or with groups or both?
GD: I usually run two marathons a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. I also enjoy running the Vail Trail series and shorter races around Colorado as tune-ups for my marathons. Most of my training is done alone. However, I am the group leader for the Vail Strides Running Club! We meet Thursday nights during the summer and grab beers at the Chophouse afterwards. I usually invite friends to accompany me on my long runs or speed workouts.