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Fear the Beard: Will Leer Excited for Season Ahead

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   May 14th 2014, 2:42pm

Middle Distance Star Is Ready to Rip It Up

By Scott Bush

With finger guns ablazing, Will Leer beat Olympic medalist Nick Willis and NCAA champion Lawi Lalang to win the NYRR Wannamaker Mile this past indoor season. Following that up, Leer placed second over 1,500m at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, then wrapping up his indoor campaign with a sixth place finish at the IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships. With a strong indoor season on his resume, Leer took on the field at the Jamaica International Invitational two weeks ago, winning the 1,500m and setting himself up for a big 2014 outdoor season ahead.

Catching up with Leer prior to the USATF High Performance Classic, where he's scheduled to run the 5,000m, we chatted about his season thus far, his consistent improvement over the past few years, his world-famous facial hair and much more.

Follow Will: Twitter

Scott Bush (SB): You had quite the busy indoor season, but have been relatively quiet outdoors thus far. How's training going these days?

Will Leer (WL): The quietness of my schedule can be explained in very simple terms: racing continuously from January through September is not really sustainable. There needs to be periodization in training and racing in order to maintain/increase fitness throughout the year as well as to avoid becoming stale.

After World Indoors I took a couple days off and then launched back in to full training. I had a very solid month of April training at altitude in Flagstaff, AZ. Only now am I feeling ready to lace up the spikes again and start ripping it on the track.

SB: Two weeks ago you traveled over to Jamaica and competed in the Jamaica International Invitational. With so much top-notch competition in one of the premier track and field countries in the world, what was it like competing there?

WL: Competing in Jamaica was pretty surreal. You really hit the nail on the head when you said it is one of the premier track and field countries. They absolutely love the sport. And while Jamaica is not quite as strong in the middle distances as they are in the sprints, the crowd really appreciated us coming down to the island to race and was super excited when we did some fan interaction (autographs, pictures, high fives, etc.). I may have even gotten a new nickname out of the experience as one spectator tweeted "White Jesus wins the 1500m!"

SB: You're schedule to race the 5,000m this coming Thursday at the USATF HP Classic? Being more of a 1,500m specialist, what are your expectations heading into the race and what type of time might you be shooting for?

WL: My intent for Thursday is to race the 5,000m. If it is as hot as the weather forecasters predict, however, I might just stick to the 1,500m. We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave in Los Angeles with the Santa Ana winds picking up this past weekend. My hope for the race is to run fast, hopefully set a new PR, and get a real idea of my fitness level.

Also to break up the monotony of simply running only 1,500m and mile races. The 5,000m poses a great mental challenge to us shorter distance athletes and is great practice for grinding out a hard, fast mile.

SB: Running 3:37 for 1,500m and 3:52 for the mile indoors had to give you a nice boost of confidence heading into outdoors, right?

WL: I was very happy with the way my indoor season unfolded. I'm not sure it really gave me any more confidence but it certainly told me that I am continuing to improve as an athlete!

SB: You've steadily progressed each year for the past few seasons. What's your secret?

WL: The boring answer: consistency. I've been quite fortunate to have nearly four years of uninterrupted training under the same brilliant coach, Ron Warhurst. Our coach-athlete relationship is something that is constantly evolving and with each passing season we are learning more and more about one another. He can tell by the tone of my voice over a phone call if I am really exhausted in training but not willing to admit it and he'll dial back the next couple of workouts accordingly. This also means that he knows how hard he can push me. We have been increasing the volume and intensity of my workouts steadily and I think the results are really beginning to show.

SB: What's your current training situation?

WL: As I just mentioned, I am coached by Ron Warhurst. But he, along with the majority of the other members of the Very Nice Track Club, resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So he coaches me via correspondence. The great thing is that I am in the Pacific Time Zone and can call to see how the boys back east did in a workout before I even start. It's like having virtual training partners. 

SB: At this point in the season, what does a typical week of workouts look like for you?

WL: A typical week now is not all that different from a typical week in November, except that my mileage is a bit lower. I do two workouts a week, usually Tuesday and Friday, with a medium long run Wednesday and a long run on Sunday. The in between days are mostly maintenance with either track or hill strides and 70-80 minutes of weights, focusing on total body strength. My mileage is between 85 and 100 depending on the week.

SB: Last time we saw you, your beard was getting mighty wild. What's it going to take to either A) shave it all off or B) bring back just the stache?

WL: What's with this anti-beard question? Why the push to get rid of it? Or is it more of a pro-mustache stance you are taking? In all honesty, there is no plan as to when the beard will be put to rest. It has been pretty good to me so far. I intend on keeping it around as long as I continue running well. 

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