Pardon is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I’ve known of Pardon for maybe 5-6 years now when he would be mauling our best guys in XC a few years back. I’ve witnessed Pardon win many races outright and lead his team to several victories as well. He served as a graduate assistant coach at Georgia Regents University (formerly Augusta State University and now Augusta University; it’s a long story) the year after I graduated. We are also now coworkers at Fleet Feet Sports, Augusta.
One specific instance I’ll never forget, that serves as a microcosm for just the kind of person Pardon is, was at XC Nationals a few years ago. GRU, which is the team I ran for in college, didn’t make the team but we had an one athlete, Jaiden Brandt, who qualified as an individual. We traveled there to watch him run. One of the days we were there, we went to a track to get a workout in. Pardon was running on the track too.
Pardon went out of his way to make sure he wasn’t taking up the first lane or interfering with our workout. Like, what!? There is no way in the world a scrub like me would ever deserve the inside lane with Pardon running on the track. That’s something really really small, in the grand scheme of things, but serves to show the humility and respect for others that Pardon brings to his running career.
I am very thankful that Pardon took the time out of his day to answer all of these questions.
How did you feel when you found out you officially made the Zimbabwe marathon team for the Rio Olympic Games?
-It was a great way to wake up on a Thursday morning when
I received the news. Zimbabwe is 6 hrs ahead of us so I got the news first thing in the morning. I couldn’t go back to sleep, I was really excited to officially know that I made the team. I was relieved because I had been waiting for the news for a while.
When did you start running?
-I started running when I was 11, serious running when I was 13.
When did you realize you had a gift for running?
-I realized I had a gift for running my freshmen year in high school at an inter-schools competition when I was beating guys that were older than me.
What were your times like in high school and college?
– The only fast time I ran in high school that I remember was a 14:40 in the 5k. I ran that my senior year during the trials to select a team that would represent Zimbabwe at the zone 6 youth games that were held in Namibia where I finished 3rd.
How did you get recruited to run at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke?
-So, the first school I wanted to go to was Penn State because I met the coach in Zimbabwe in December when she was there for a recruiting camp. I fell in love with the school but I could not get in because I wasn’t smart enough. After that I got an offer from the University of Idaho but I was not cleared to compete for them by NCAA because my grades were low for a D1 school. I shifted the focus to apply to D2 schools and a few days after sending my profile to Pembroke and other schools, Coach Aycock responded faster than the other coaches I sent my profile to.
To answer your question, the recruitment process was through the internet and it took a leap of faith from Coach Aycock to give someone who he had never met an opportunity of a lifetime to run for them and get an education.
Do you have a favorite XC moment? What about for your post-collegiate racing?
-Favourite cross country moment, I think I would say freshmen year nationals when I became an All-American.
-Post collegiate racing, so far I would say my second marathon in Duluth, MN at Grandma’s marathon. I met a guy that has become one of my very good friends, Jordan Chipangama.
What kind of injuries have you had throughout your running career? How were you able to overcome those injuries?
-I have been fortunate enough to stay healthy for the most parts of my running career. However, I have had two injuries so far, I have dealt with plantar fasciitis and IT band problems. During those periods, I spend a lot of time in the pool aqua jogging, I took some time off from running (three weeks at the most),
I was seeing the trainers everyday for rehab before and after the pool.
Do you have any specific preventative routines you use to prevent running injuries?
-Yes, I make sure that recovery runs are actually achieving the purpose they are meant to do, which is recover your body and make sure it’s ready to go when the time to go comes. I stretch, foam roll after every run. I do some core and strength exercises. I take ice baths sometimes when it’s necessary.
Without giving too many of your training secrets away:
Are you currently working or do you get to dedicate all of your time to running?
-I am currently working at Fleet Feet Sports Augusta, my schedule is pretty flexible enough to allow me to get in whatever training I need to get in.
Who is your current coach? Do you have any regular training partners?
-I am being coach by Zap Fitness Coaching. When I visit Blowing Rock where my coach is I do have training partners. In Augusta, where I leave I train mostly by myself but I do enjoy the company of Dustin and the Augusta University distance team here and there when our schedules allow us to run together.
What does a typical training week look like for you?
-I am on a 10 day cycle, so I am doing a long run every 10 days, and maybe 2 workouts within that cycle. I do a lot of doubles but I also have shorter runs for recovery. At the moment we are covering between 95 and 110 miles per week, with the potential of going higher soon.
How many miles per week are you running?
-Last week I was at 99, the previous week 107 and this week maybe 110. It fluctuates but still remains in that 95-110 range for the most part
What kind of workouts have you been doing? Do you have a favorite workout?
-I do a lot of stride work about 3 times a week post my runs. I do long tempo runs, last week I did 2 x 7 mile tempos, one at 5:25 pace and the other at 5:15 pace. This week I did 11x 1000m repeats. My long runs work as workouts as well, they come with surges and I think long runs are my favorite, because they engage my mind a lot during the run.
Do you have any specific strength work, stretches, or drills that are programmed into your routine
-Yes, I have a strength and core routine that I do 4 times a week after my runs. They mainly focus on strengthening the running muscles. Before a workout I warm up, do drills and some stride sequence.
What kind of running shoes do you use?
-I have always run in the Asics Nimbus, they seem to work for me.
How is your training different than it was in college?
-I am doing a lot of mileage than I used to do in college, well, I am training for a marathon. The workouts are longer and slower. My easy runs are very easy to allow my body to recover and I am doing double runs 5-6 times a week.
Do you have a time or place goal for Rio?
-I think it’s fair for me to say we are training to be competitive in Rio and to be in the best shape ever. That could mean running a personal best or placing higher. Both sounds great to me right now.
What have been some of your biggest challenges in training for the Olympics?
-Before I found out I made the team, I think the biggest challenge was staying focused on training without knowing what I was training for. Now that I have made the team, I am really not sure what I can say the biggest challenge is.
What are your plans after Rio?
– I am not going to hang up my shoes are Rio, I am hoping that this will be an opportunity to advance my running career either my finding sponsorship where I can dedicate most or all of my time to training, competing and getting better. I can see myself making another international Zimbabwe team in the future post Rio.
Life outside of running:
Does your family live in Zimbabwe? Do you have any siblings?
-Yes, all of my family still lives in Zimbabwe. I have a twin brother and three sisters.
Does anyone else in your family run?
-Believe it or not, my brother used to be faster than me in Middle School but that was it. He runs now but just for work.
Are you married? How did you meet your wife?
-Yes, I am married to Keara, she has been the pillar of support for my career since we met. We met at Pembroke in the summer of 2010 at a LeaderShape camp.
What are your favorite things to do outside of running?
-I like to keep myself updated with the news in the running world. I started reading books to help prepare me mentally during training and the race in Rio. I nap a lot, not a favorite thing but it’s necessary. Sometimes I just sit and visualize my race, my coach wants me to do this a lot.
Any advice for runners desiring to perform better?
– I think if you want get better in anything that you do, it’s important to have goals. Break them down into process goals, these are steps on how to achieve that big goal. Focus on the process goals, one step at a time and be patient during the process. Failure will happen but it will not be the end, be open to it. If you fail several times maybe take a step back and redefine your success.