LRC RUNNER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Feature article on Andy Williams and Gary Savage
Interviewed by Karen Dudek
Karen: How many years have you been running?
Andy: I started running races in 2008. I was technically in cross country in high school. I would cheat and hide behind the church in town when everyone else was running. I had to write letters to the coach about being “dedicated to the sport”. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good.
Gary: I started up competitive running again about a year and a half ago. I ran track and cross country in high school, and then started up training in college, but I blew out my knee playing basketball and that ended that.
Karen: Why did you start running?
Gary: Running has always been a passion, but injuries and other sports got in the way. The turning point was when my dad passed away unexpectedly. You always hear the cliché, “Life is too short”; but when life smacks you in the face you realize that statement is true. I didn’t want to go through life with regrets, so I decided to give running another go.
Andy: I really only started running as a means of exercise. When Gary’s dad passed away, I remember trying to get Gary to go out for a run with me. I thought that might take his mind off of things for awhile. He surprised me by coming along a couple of times. A few years later, he’s passing me in 5ks!
Karen: Who inspired you?
Gary: I would say my frenemy Andy Williams, who is my training partner and the second half of the running duo we are known as: Shake N’ Bake. About 4 years ago Andy went from playing Guitar Hero all the time to taking up running. He recently qualified for the Boston Marathon. The complete transformation inspires me to train that much harder.
Andy: Lots of people; anybody doing something to make themselves better. I am jealous of Gary. He hadn’t really raced since high school until last year. In between, he has had surgeries on both of his knees. At first I was glad he was going out and running, but now we’re “frenemies” on race day. Are we using that term too much? And yes, we do go by “Shake N’ Bake”. I’m Ricky Bobby, and he’s obviously the Magic Man. I’m trying to think who would be Sasha Baron Cohen’s character.
Karen: Why did you join the Lake Run Club?
Gary: To be a part of a community that also has a passion for running. I have met a lot of nice people within the club and I look forward to meeting other members.
Andy: Similar to Gary. I joined to become a little more involved in the running community. I was looking for people to run with and I’d catch up and run with groups from LRC at Often Running, Constitution Trail, and out at Lake Bloomington.
Karen: Tell me about your first race:
Andy: I think Gary and I have done the Turkey Trot at least 15 straight years, but those weren’t really “races” for us most of the time. I guess my first “official” race was the 2008 Park to Park. I weighed about 30-40 pounds more than I do now. I ran it in about 45 minutes. It was a near-death experience.
Gary: My first race since getting back into running shape was a 3-mile run at Dawson Lake. I had been training at a boxing gym so I was in decent cardio shape, but running is a different animal and my legs were sore for several days after that. The Turkey Trot has always been a fun tradition for us, but for the most part neither of us were in running shape for those races.
Karen: What makes your favorite race your favorite?
Andy: I’ve had a lot of fun at Danvers Days. Last year’s was a little short, but I like the mini “Heartbreak Hill” and the concept of pancakes afterwards!
Gary: I don’t have a favorite race per se. I like the bigger events where there are not only competitive runners, but there are usually newer runners competing in their first race. It is fun to see the joy and passion for running out there.
Karen: What race really sticks out in your mind for one reason or another?
Gary: The race that sticks in my mind is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bloomington last year. It was my best run from start to finish, and it was my first overall 5k victory. The best part was following Dan Anderson riding the pace bike as he frantically tried to move the walkers and clear a path for the runners during the final mile.
Andy: For me, it was the 2010 Indianapolis Marathon. I was sick for my first marathon that spring in Champaign (it went horribly; I lost 12 pounds during the race). At Indy, I qualified for the old Boston cut-off (3:10), but not for the new standard (3:05). Even though my time wasn’t good enough to make the cut, there was still a great feeling of accomplishment when I finished. I was screaming the whole drive home (I’m sure my wife couldn’t wait to get home).
Karen: Do you have a favorite route that you run?
Andy: It doesn’t really matter to me as long as I’m running. I love running with other people. Even if they don’t like me (Gary Savage, Rick Vincent, Frank Arnolts, Clint Wells-I’m looking in your direction).
Gary: Tipton Trails, which is where my running group/race team trains for our long runs. We have a great group of guys (except Andy), and there is always good banter during runs to help pass the time. We then usually hit up Flat Top Grill for a monster breakfast afterwards.
Karen: If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick and why?
Andy: I like cold and quiet. We went on a trip to Denver a few years ago and I loved it. I was able to take in the scenery and enjoy all of the changes in the landscape.
Gary: I never really thought about that. I recently achieved my goal of adding another country on my Garmin Forerunner, so that was cool.
Karen: Do you have a “You’ll never believe what happened on my run today” story?
Gary: Well, any run with the Bad Boy Andy Williams can result in a “You’ll never believe what happened on my run today.” Those stories are probably best left unsaid.
Andy: Agreed. I’m pretty sure they are unprintable.
Karen: If Chilly Chili isn’t the most unusual race you’ve run, what race is?
Andy: I can’t think of any other races with SPAM and/or chili stops on the course.
Gary: Chili during a run? No thank you! I have enough stomach issues as is. The Da Deer Run Run is the most unusual for me. There is a mixture of grass, pavement and trails to run, and of course those hurdles. The last few hurdles are tough to climb over with the quads burning and all.
Karen: What are you training for right now?
Gary: I am training for the Bix 7 in July, sprinkled with some 5ks in between.
Andy: I’m trying to recuperate from the Illinois Marathon a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking to run some 5ks-15ks for the next couple of months. I’ll be doing the Bix with Gary and the rest of our posse-that should be a blast! After that, I’ll be running my fifth marathon at the Monumental again in November.
Karen: Do you have any superstitions or rituals you go through before a big race?
Gary: On the drive to the race I have to jam to either Jay-Z or some Justin Timberlake (my friends make fun of me for that one). After a warm-up run I drink a Gatorade Prime Energy pouch, hit the Port-a-potty one last time, say a little prayer for a safe race, then I am ready to go.
Andy: It’s hard for me to get pumped riding in the car to a race with Gary. I want to listen to AC/DC or Slayer, and he wants to chill out to JT… Jay-Z is a worthwhile compromise. Otherwise, my only other main ritual involves finding me in line two or three times at the freshest portajohn.
Karen: What’s the coolest piece of running gear you own?
Andy: My red Saucony singlet, which is ironic because I’m normally shirtless for the races (much to other people’s dismay).
Gary: Most people probably recognize me for my signature knee brace. However, my favorite item is my pair of red Saucony Type A5 racing flats.
Karen: Who have you been running with lately?
Gary: Members of my run group are: Rick Vincent, Frank Arnolts III, Clint Wells, and the shirtless wonder Andy Williams. Hopefully we will get the other team members out there for the group runs pretty soon.
Andy: Ditto-Rick, Clint, and Frank are the crew. The rest of us normally have to wait for Gary to arrive because was busying coordinately his running attire at home. You can normally find us running around together being obnoxious on the trail somewhere. We have fun, talk about running ad nauseum, and where we’re going to go for breakfast afterwards. Running with these guys (and a few others) has helped push us all to keep at it and we have pretty much all seen better race times this year.
Karen: Who motivates you as a runner?
Andy: Well, Gary motivates me to try and beat him. Clint motivates me to stay at it. My wife and family have been extremely supportive and patient considering all of the stupid things that I do. Every time I go out for a race, I know I could have done better. That’s what keeps me going back out!
Gary: I would say the guys in my training group all help motivate me. We push each other to reach our goals. Mostly it is Andy though, only in that I want to beat him in races. He beat me several times early last year so I have some catching up to do!
Karen: What makes you stay with it and keep running?
Gary: The desire to continue to improve still burns inside me, and I want to continually challenge myself with different distances and courses. I won’t lie though; it is pretty cool to win medals, too.
Andy: I enjoy running (now!). It’s good for you. I get slightly annoyed when I hear people my age and younger start off a conversation with, “I’d really like to start running, but…” When I started running, I couldn’t even run a mile, was pushing 200 pounds, and my cholesterol was in the “Danger Zone”. I want to still be doing this when I’m an old fogey. My guess is Gary and I will still be racing each other.
Gary: Ha, we may need walkers, but we will still be racing.
Andy (left) and Gary (right) showing off their awards at the CCHS 5k.