This month’s NOVA Featured Runner is Craig Shearer! Craig has become a fixture on the NOVA team and a fantastic addition to a strong men’s team. If you don’t know Craig, his answers below will help to get to know him better, but first, we have some words from Coach Jerry:
Craig is one of the hardest working runners I’ve ever coached. During the time I’ve been working with him, he’s endured a series of injuries that would have caused just about anyone else to have quit the sport, but Craig has fought through those injuries with an incredible sense of purpose. Craig’s cross training was borderline maniacal, and all of that hard work has made it possible for him to return to action in excellent shape, and I expect him to PR at every distance this fall. While I have my hands full coaching GRC, I’m always going to make time to pay attention a guy like Craig, whose dedication to the sport is inspiring.
1) What are your PRs?
5K – 16:38
8K – 27:15
10K – 35:28
2) Goal race(s) for this year? Other races planned?
I plan to peak for the Veterans Day 10K. I’ll be running several 5Ks and a couple 8Ks and 10Ks leading up to the race, including the Kentlands/Lakelands 5K and the Navy 5-Miler. If things are going well, I may extend my racing season to Thanksgiving and jump in a few more races after Veterans Day.
3) What do you consider your best race performance to date?
Up until the spring of this year, I’d spent the majority of my training time as a NOVA runner in the pool while on injured reserve. I suffered four pelvic stress fractures in a two-year period, and I didn’t race for close to three years. To call that time period frustrating would be an understatement.
Fortunately, with Coach Jerry’s guidance, I was able to get my injury issues corrected while maintaining a decent level of fitness through deep water running. I returned to the track in May, and my first race back was Colleen’s BA 5K on June 6, where I finished 3rd. It was a good start.
However, my best races as a NOVA runner are still ahead of me.
4) How did you find NOVA, and what do you like best about the team?
I first contacted Coach Jerry in July of 2013 after dealing with several months of hard training that yielded little results. I’d been self-coached for almost a decade. I’d also done the vast majority of my training by myself. I realized that a coach was the solution to my stagnation, so I reached out to the best.
I didn’t know about NOVA at the time. I only knew that Jerry coached Georgetown Running Club, so I emailed him and asked if he coached non-elite runners. I honestly expected him to respond with something along the lines of “get lost” or not respond at all. To my surprise, not only did Coach Jerry reply within six minutes, but he also informed me that he coaches NOVA as well. After a lengthy email conversation regarding my running background, Coach Jerry told me that NOVA would be a perfect fit and invited me to join the team.
What I like best about NOVA is having the opportunity to train with dedicated and positive runners every week. After running alone for so many years, I forgot how much more enjoyable it is to tackle a difficult workout with teammates instead of on my own. I also find it helpful, as well as inspirational, to train with the NOVA runners (and GRC athletes who attend NOVA practices) who are much more talented than I am.
5) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from Coach Jerry?
“Not to put too fine a point on it, but I basically want you to completely change your approach to the sport.”
During our initial correspondence, Coach Jerry asked to see my training log. He immediately pointed out that I was overtraining. As he put it, I was “training to train, not training to race.” I was running three hard workouts a week, doing doubles almost every day, and hammering my long runs each weekend. Racing was essentially an afterthought following a short taper at the end of my training cycles. I would later discover that this overtraining was one of the contributing factors to my aforementioned injuries.
The first coaching instructions Jerry assigned me was to take 10 days completely off before coming to my first NOVA practice. That’s still the most difficult task he’s ever given me. But he knew right away that I needed to start incorporating recovery into my training. Now that I’m getting back to form and following his approach, I’m already seeing improvement.
I’m grateful and honored to have Jerry as a coach.
6) What kept you motivated to get back into hard training and racing throughout your two years of injuries?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Thanks to my parents, I’ve never had any trouble cultivating motivation. My brother and I were raised hard, but that helped us develop the type of automatic consistency that makes motivation a non-issue.
When I was injured, it was simply a given that I was going to see every specialist I could, deep water run as much as possible, and then return to racing, no matter how long it took. I never felt sorry for myself or thought about quitting. My parents are 100% responsible for this.
So, thanks Mom and Dad for raising us right!
7) What other non-running activities do you enjoy?
I shoot fine art and business website photography. Some of my work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions in the D.C. area. I’m an avid hunter and angler. I make the trip up to my family’s 186-acre property back home in Southwestern Pennsylvania as often as possible in order to hunt and fish with my Dad and brother, Keith. I enjoy spending the majority of my free time with my wife, Jennifer, and our dog, Shadow. Jen is an awesome wife who is unwaveringly supportive of my running, and we live a very simple and fun life in North Bethesda.