Wednesday, April 4, 2012

5 Questions with Stanford commit, Thomas Graham

We have our first high school guest today on “5 Questions with”. In the Triangle, we’ve know of Thomas Graham for some time. He’ll be heading west to Stanford next year, but represents the latest of a strong resurgence in North Carolina prep running.

Thomas Graham has been making noise in North Carolina and on the national scene for the past few years, qualifying for the past two Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (finishing 9th in 2011), finishing third at the Brooks PR Invite 2 Mile in 2011 (9:04.14) and 2nd at the National Scholastic 5000 in 2011 (14:45.42). His most recent achievement was his best yet, running 14:11.66 for 5000 at the 2012 Raleigh Relays. Follow him on Twitter here.

5 Questions with Thomas Graham

1. Writing About Running: First off, congrats on running 14:11 at Raleigh Relays. You ran 14:45 at National Scholastic in June. What kind of preparation went into improving so vastly 10 months later?

Thomas Graham: Thanks! It definitely was a huge PR for me, and my coach and I consider it to be a real breakthrough. I think that such a big drop was the product of a few things. First, I think my old 5k PR wasn’t really representative of the shape I was in at the time. Basically Edward Cheserek took off and ran the first lap of that race in 63, and left the rest of us way behind. The guy that was in 2nd wasn’t running fast enough, so I moved into his position and basically ran 11 really lonely, not very fast laps. I think I probably could have run closer to 14:30 last June, but it just never really materialized running what amounted to a solo time trial. Over the summer and winter off seasons I had really good base periods where I was consistently running 80-85 miles a week, and I came out of those feeling a lot stronger and ready to run some good times.

2. Writing About Running: Friday night at the Raleigh Relays has become of night of excellent racing. How long had you been planning on running the 5000 here? Also, I noticed you ran a smart race, working your way through the pack. What kind of game plan went into your race strategy?

Thomas Graham: Before the season started my coach and I thought it would be cool to run a fast 5k, and Raleigh Relays, which is about 10 minutes from my house, seemed like the best place to do it. It had been on the calendar all season, and I’d been excited for it, but seeing how stacked the field really got my psyched for it. I didn’t really have a race strategy going in. The only plan I had was to run off the backs of the other runners, move up if I felt good, and fall back if I felt like the pace was too much. Luckily, I ended up feeling good pretty much the whole time, so whenever the lead pack started to break away from the chase group I just tagged along on the back of that group and just rode it along to a nice time.

Graham runs for Cary Academy & will attend Stanford
3. Writing About Running: I’ve seen you running at Umstead many times. What can you say about the park that has helped you in your training over the years?

Thomas Graham: I’m a huge fan of Umstead for a lot of reasons. By itself it’s probably the biggest reason that I’ve continued to improve and continued to love running. I really like being outside and Umstead has a ton of single-track trails to complement the wider main trails. There is a ton of variety possible for runs, so if you need to go 9 miles 5 days in a row, you can run a different route every day. Another great thing about Umstead is how hilly it is. Because it’s centrally located in the triangle, a lot of the runners from around the area meet there on Sundays during the offseason to do long runs, which I think have really helped me develop over time. There’s a great, really hard loop that’s 15, but you can add or take off of it by going slightly different routes to make it anywhere from 12-17. A lot of times, it’s just a slow run with friends, but sometimes it gets competitive and when it does, an hour plus of hammering hills is a really good workout.

4. Writing About Running: You’ll be joining an excellent program in Stanford this fall. What led you to this decision?

Thomas Graham: My college decision was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. The main reasons that I ended up deciding on Stanford—a team I got along really well with, a good chance to succeed long term, great places to train—I also saw in a ton of other schools. Ultimately it came down to Michigan and Stanford, and I felt that all the major elements were largely the same at each place, so smaller things like housing and weather ended up being what I based my call off of. I’m really excited to get to school, though. Being in one college race made me realize how competitive it is going to be every day, and how much better I can hopefully get when I’m pushed in all my workouts by other guys who are better than me.

Graham has run the last 2 Brooks PR Invites
5. Writing About Running: You’re running the famed Arcadia 3200 this weekend. What are your goals for this race and the rest of the outdoor season?

Thomas Graham: As of right now, the plan is still to run Arcadia. I’ve been under the weather basically since Raleigh Relays, though, so if I’m not feeling close to 100% tomorrow I might pull out. If everything goes as planned, though, I’d like to finally get under 9 minutes, which I still haven’t done. I don’t really have too many concrete goals for the rest of the season. I’m planning on running the 2 mile at outdoor nationals, and the 5k at Payton Jordan. Hopefully I can be competitive in both of those races, and if everything goes well, run some really special times.

Update: Graham went on to run 8:56.21 for 3200 at Arcadia (#6 All Time for NC)

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