Interview #1 - Tim Hain

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Tim Hain interview by Steve Weiler, Sunday April 5th, 2020

Steve Weiler: Hey Tim, tell me something nice!

Tim Hain: Hey Steve! Something nice I've been enjoying is the breeding pair of Great Horned Owls at Gibbons Park in London. I first came across them on a run three or four years ago, and I always look for them at this time of year. I make their tree a destination for my runs. This week I discovered that the eggs have hatched, and they have two fluffy owlets. I like how these owls combine two of my interests - running and biology.

SW: That's awesome! I expect many London runners are familiar with that pair, as Gibbons is a great park for running. How did you first get into competitive running?

TH: I first got into competitive running in high school. I played basketball throughout elementary school, and I was on the high school basketball team in grade 9. One day in grade 10, the cross country teacher found me after math class and said: "Your basketball coach thinks you should try running." I said: "Okay." I joined them for their workout that night. It was hills. I struggled, but I came back the next day for an 'easy' run. Again, I struggled, but I just kept going back. I had done cross country in elementary school, so running wasn't completely foreign to me. I didn't start running year-round until grade 11. I stopped playing competitive basketball after the grade 11 season because I enjoyed running too much.

SW: Your intro to running sounds similar to your progression to varsity level running, struggling (being cut) but continuing to come back. Do you want to speak to that a little bit?

TH: Sure, yeah! In high school, I was a decent runner. I loved it, and my coach was positive, ran with us, and made many of us want to stick with it. But I wasn't a terrific talent. I never qualified for OFSAA, and no one in western Ontario, where I went to university would have known my name.

I tried out for the track team in my first year. I trained with the middle-distance group for a couple of months before we had our team try-out. The team had some standards that we had to make to be on the team. I tried to meet the 1000m standard, which was 2:35. I didn't make it, and I wasn't close.

The events-group coach told me that he couldn't keep me around. My friend Steve Weiler (hey, that's you!) was in a similar position. He joined a local track club and suggested that I did, too. So we trained with them for the rest of the school year. Steve made the track team in the following year, but I still didn't feel ready to make the standard. I trained for another full year before trying out for the cross country team.

Their tryout was only two weeks into the season. The standard was 20:24 for a 6km cross country course. By that point, my personal best over 5km was 16:56. Making standard would have meant running my PB, then continuing on at the same pace for another kilometre. By that point, I was high motivated, and I finally had the strength to push towards that goal - both in training and in the race. I ran 19:58.

I ran with the team for three years. Most of my friends at Western were through running. I was hooked.

SW: Back in our varsity running days, you were perhaps the first competitive runner to highlight to me the importance of enjoying your running. I recall you stepped away from racing – didn’t use up your collegiate eligibility – and elected to run about an hour a day with fellow grad student and close friend Chris Smith for some time. Can you speak a bit further to the purpose of running for you throughout your time as a grad student, as well as currently?

TH: Hmm, you know, that's really interesting, and the way you've phrased that question is making me think about my running in a different way from how I am used to thinking about it. I stepped away from collegiate racing because I felt too much guilt about leaving my grad student office every day to meet the team to train. And I didn't want to feel guilty about something that brought me a lot of happiness. Chris was a great running partner - we got together every day, and we kept ourselves accountable. Running gave me a competitive outlet at a time when it would have been so easy to stop exercising altogether.

I like that running brings structure to my day. There was a time that I couldn't really run at the level I wanted to run. First I tore my hamstring, then I had a chronic illness (ulcerative colitis) that kept me from running the distance that I needed to run to be a competitive runner. I continued to run because I felt is was something that defined me, but I also wanted to be fit enough that I could transition back to racing once my health permitted. I feel the same way now, as all the competitive races have been suspended or cancelled. I'll be ready to race again once conditions permit it. One of the reasons I stopped playing competitive basketball was because I couldn't rely on my teammates to practise seriously. I love that running gives me a competitive outlet for my running, without needing teammates. Running partners are just gravy.

SW: What running accomplishment are you most proud of?

TH: Oh boy... I am proud of a lot of things I've done with my running, but the accomplishment that gives me the most joy is breaking 2 minutes in the 800m because of how long it took me to do it. I first made that a goal of mine when I was 17. I didn't do it until I was 29. I did it only once, but doing it is one of the happiest moments of my life.

After my first year of undergrad in 2001, I did a summer twilight meet at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. I ran 2:01.73. That was a PB by 1.8 seconds. I was still pretty far off from breaking 2 minutes, and I didn't get close again for eight years. I ran longer distances with Western. I was reasonably competitive in the 1500m and 3000m. I won a couple of small races in the 1500, but I was going to be far behind anyone in an 800, so I just didn't race them. When I stepped away from collegiate running, I moved up in distance. I wasn't sure how long I'd be in good running shape, and I wanted to do a marathon while I still had time to train. I did a couple in 2005, with my best time of 2:43:29. In 2006, I lived in Trinidad from April to December. It was so hot and I felt unsafe in an unfamiliar country, so my runs were short. I was in 'maintenance mode'. In 2007, I came back and resumed training with Steve's (London Runner) group in London. I quickly got back in shape for the 5k. But Steve's 1500m night was so alluring that I thought about doing shorter distances again. 2009 was my first real attempt at breaking 2 minutes. I was in great shape, and at the Athletics Ontario meet, I had my best shot of breaking it. I got to 600m in 1:27, and felt confident. In the last 60m I felt my legs tying up and as I tried to dig deep to push to the finish, my head went down and just kept going. I fell. No one was near me. I got up and finished, but it was a mess. My spikes were stolen while I was cooling down, so all-in-all, a bad day. But I ran the 1500m the next day in a pair of flats that I borrowed from Brandon Laan and ran a PB!

In my last race of the season, I thought that I had done it. I crossed the finish line with the clock reading 1:59. When the official time was posted, I realized I had missed it by a tiny margin: 2:00.23. I'd have to stay in shape for another year.

So the following year, I went to a race at York. It was still early in the season, so I didn't seriously think I could break 2-minutes, but I got in a good section, raced well, and I came really close. A few minutes later, two of my clubmates came up to me with huge grins on their faces. They were coming from the results board. "1:59.97" they said, emphasizing the 97. I couldn't have been happier.

SW: Those are great stories, I'm happy to hear them once again. Moving away from racing for a second for your expert input on an important question: what is the correct order to re-watch the Star Wars movies? Do you skip any?

TH: Hahaha... I think it's correct to watch them in the order in which they were released. The advantage of that order is that (for a naive viewer) there are still some surprises. The reveal of Luke's father or sibling, or who Yoda is, might actually have some impact. I think this also rewards the true fan when they get to Rogue One. There are a lot of things explained. Rogue One should probably be watched multiple times. I don't skip any movies, but I don't think Solo fits into the release-order strategy of viewing, so I'd watch it after Rise of Skywalker.

SW: Do you have any favourite or classic 'conversations on the run' you’d like to share?

TH: You know, I can't remember any favourite conversations where I'm a participant, but I do love the conversation/argument between Chris Smith and Guy Schultz (current Western XC head coach) about the direction one has to travel to leave Timmins.

Guy said that you would have to drive north, and Chris said no, look at a map, it's south. But the funny thing is that neither were wrong - the road that you'd take does first go north before you can travel south. That argument spanned years.

SW: Yeah, their ongoing conversations on the run about directions, atheism, and running for time duration were definitely highlights of my varsity years. Okay, time for the Finishing Kick - get ready for some quick questions requiring fast answers! What is your favourite running route in London?

TH: I love the Medway trails behind Brescia. Not built for speed, but very pleasant.

SW: Choosing from anyone alive, who would you like to go for a run with right now and what would you talk about?

TH: Probably a group run with Steve Weiler and Chris Smith. We'd talk about the glory days of how fast we used to be.

SW: Physi-Kult will host the next two Ontario Cross Country Championships on the historic Fort Henry course in Kingston; are you game to race?

TH: Sure! I've actually never raced on the Fort Henry course. In 2021, I'll be in my first year as a Master's runner. I'll want to be fit for that.

SW: Look out Ontario Masters! You just finished a tough workout and you’re really happy with how it went; how do you celebrate?

TH: I think I mix up some Gatorade and order a pizza from Domino's. Maybe watch some TV, but not a movie - I'd probably fall asleep from exhaustion.

SW: Final question, what is the most valuable kind of ship?

TH: Oh, a friendship, obviously. And I'm a fisher, so I know the value of a good ship.

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