Take one look at Paul Westendorf, and you’re pretty sure he’s a runner.
I met him while standing at 605 Running Co. one afternoon, but even if I hadn’t, I would have guessed he was an athlete. He’s tall, thin and has that sort of chiseled yet youthful look of someone who is winning the battle against aging, mile by mile.
We exchanged numbers, and then I did what any former journalist and generally nosy person does: I friended him on Facebook and then tried to figure out how many people we both know. The running community isn’t that big, after all.
It’s weird – I used to go to a race and know almost everyone, or so it felt. I don’t go to as many races as I used to, but the running community also has just grown to the point where I see so many new faces all the time in photos or galleries from races or in different social media groups.
Paul, 55, is from Wagner, S.D., but he’s lived in Sioux Falls since 1988. He’s married with two sons and works as a technology manager. He started running with his son Ryan. It was 2009, and they got into some Hershey Track and Field events, and then Ryan wanted to try a 5K. Their first race was a 5K at Family Wellness. Ryan took 2nd place, and Paul took 3rd.
Now, Paul does two to four marathons per year, and he still made the time to answer a few questions from me.
Describe your training: I’m normally training for a marathon. If I want to fit in a different mileage race as well, I’ll adjust my schedule for about two weeks and maybe include a bit more speedwork. My go-to plan in the past has been Run Less/Run Faster. It’s a good plan for speed and is easier on your body.
Other plans: I’ve switched to the Hanson plan, and the Sioux Falls Marathon in September will be my first under that plan. Both plans have the key fundamentals of a speed day, tempo day and a long run. The Hanson doesn’t have as long of a long run, but it has more weekly mileage – ranging from upper 40s to mid 60s. The method “gets you used to running on tired legs” to replicate the later stages of the marathon.
Shorter or longer races? I really like all kinds of races, and running a variety keeps it fresh. I’ve done one ultra – The Good Earth Blood Run, and I ran for six hours and completed more than 36 miles. I played 20 questions with Karen Lechtenberg on what to expect, and she’s a great help. I want to get into some trail running and maybe a 50-miler next year just to see what I can do.
Tell me about your everyday running. I used to not be able to run without music, but now I pretty much train without it but will race with it. Two years ago on a 20-mile run, my iPod got stuck after a few miles and would only play the song it was on. I like Kid Rock, but 18 miles of “All Summer Long… .” Most of my miles are on my own. I like group runs, but schedules don’t always align.
What keeps you going? I enjoy high intensity sports and am competitive with myself. I like to push myself to the edge, and then push the edge further, and running allows me to do that. Beyond that, I’m a member of LIFE Runners, and I always wear some LIFE gear. I trust in a higher power, and I believe I’ll be put in a situation where someone who needs to see it will see that message.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on a run? One warm summer evening, my nose started to bleed a little. I was unaware of it, and the blood mixed with sweat made it look worse than it was. I’m running along, being the happy runner and saying “hi” to people I see, and they are all moving clear over to the side of the bike trail and looking at me funny. Somebody did finally ask if I was OK, since I had blood running down the side of my face and neck.
What do you want other runners to know? This is a sport you can do for a long time into the future. Whatever your goals are, they are yours and no one else’s. You want to run for fitness? Do it. You want to run and push yourself to see how far or fast you can go? Do it. Know what it is that you want out of it and own it. We are all 100 percent further ahead than those sitting on the sofa.
What was the last movie you saw? I saw “Spider-Man Homecoming” with my youngest son. I like Marvel comic movies and was in the mood to see someone save the world. We had lunch at Sonic for the first time ever after that.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at email@example.com. Story ideas are encouraged.