By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
As you read this column, Cicero's Kevin Collins is probably riding a van on the roads of Utah. Kevin has been selected to take part in a four-week elite training camp to test the effects of altitude on performance. The experiment is known as "live high and train low", where the athletes live and sleep at high elevation, but train several thousand feet lower.
Kevin was selected for the training camp at Park City because of his recent performances in the marathon and his potential to improve. In June 1995, Kevin ran his first marathon at Grandma's Marathon. He finished third overall with a time of 2:17:37, and qualified for the US Olympic Trials. He ran 2:17:51 in the trials in February 1996. Two months later, he was the first American finisher in the 100th running of the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:18:54.
Before Kevin's departure to Utah, I ran with him at Onondaga Lake Park, and we talked about running. It was a sunny afternoon, and the park was alive with runners, bikers and skaters. We started our run at the Yacht Club, as Kevin recalled his youth.
Kevin was born in Syracuse twenty-six years ago, the second of three boys, and grew up in Cicero. His parents, Tim and Kathy, are competitive runners, so it was no surprise when Kevin started running in seventh grade. He ran well in high school, and made his parents proud. However, he recalled the State Cross Country Qualifiers of his junior year as the turning point in his running.
The Cicero-North Syracuse runners had set their sights on winning the State Championship. They trained all season and were ready for the qualifiers. On that day, Kevin had a bad run, and failed to qualify, taking the team's hopes down with him. The pressure had taken its toll. Kevin remembered that day as the worst day of his life.
Kevin returned home determined to change. Until that day, he had run for his family and for his team. From that day on, he started running for himself. By removing the pressure to perform, his race times improved dramatically, and the following season, C-NS won the State Championship.
As Kevin recounted the change in his running, a young biker distracted us. He was demonstrating his athletic prowess by riding a bike on one wheel. "That's my brother!" an amused Kevin commented. We ran along, as the younger Collins returned to earth, surprised to see us. Several runners recognized Kevin and greeted him.
After high school, Kevin joined Rochester Institute of Technology to study medical illustration. Academic and running demands clashed, and both suffered. Kevin withdrew into the loneliness of the long distance runner, trained twice each day, and ran over 120 miles each week. This consistency in training paid off with a string of national performances. In turn, academics improved, and Kevin returned to complete his degree.
Near the boat house, my shoe lace got untied, giving me a badly-needed stop to catch my breath. Kevin ran ahead, then returned for me. We talked about the future.
"I am completely focused on my training for the 2000 Olympics. I know I can run 2:10 or 2:11 in three years." I saw faith in his eyes.
Kevin is a self-coached athlete. His training program follows a six-day cycle. On odd days, he runs 90 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes in the afternoon followed by 90 minutes of weight training. On even days, Kevin runs one hour in the morning, and an intense speed session in the afternoon. A speed workout may include three 5K runs in 15:30 each, with a short recovery between them. Kevin also pays particular attention to the variety in his diet and nine hours of sleep each night.
As Kevin endures the rigors of living high and training low, his mind remains focused on his goal. An early test of his fitness comes next August, when he competes in the USATF National Half-Marathon Championship in Parkersburg, VA. We will be cheering for you, Kevin!
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.