(16-Jun) -- After Colin Mickow's NCAA track career with the University of Illinois ended unceremoniously with a 20th place finish in the West Region Preliminary Round in 2012, the then 22 year-old hung up his spikes. He had hit modest personal best times of 14:08.86 for 5000m and 29:10.74 for 10,000m during his collegiate career, and it was time for him to move on to the working world. Track was over.
VIDEO STILL: Colin Mickow spoke to reporters via video conference on June 15
"I just wanted to focus on my career," Mickow told reporters yesterday on a video conference. "I didn't have stellar times or anything out of college. I kind of thought the road ended there."
Now 32, Mickow's running career is anything but over. Next month the full-time financial analyst for an organic and natural foods distributor will wear the USA national uniform and compete in the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore. He was selected for that honor after USA Track & Field implemented an unusual team selection procedure which guaranteed the top American finisher at the Tokyo Olympic Marathon a berth (Galen Rupp, 8th place), then the top USA finishers in rank order from Abbott World Marathon Majors events beginning November, 30, 2020. Mickow was the top American at the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon last October (6th place, 2:13:31) and made the cut.
Mickow, who is married and a father to a baby boy named Finn, returned to running after a six-year hiatus. When he did, he had no real competitive goals.
"I still ran a little bit (and) got into lifting," he explained. "Then, I came back. I thought I was just going to have some fun and win some local races. I did not expect to be here or get serious about it again."
Living in the Chicago area, Mickow entered the 2019 Rock 'N' Roll Chicago Half-Marathon in July. In hot and humid conditions, he finished second to three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein in a respectable 1:05:22. He ran much of that race alone; the third place man finished nearly six minutes behind him.
He decided to enter the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and after running a 1:04:47 half-marathon personal best in a tune-up race, he finished 26th in the marathon itself in 2:14:55 for his debut. Three months later he ran a world class 1:01:47 for the half-marathon in Houston, setting the stage for his 15th place finish at the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon in 2:13:45 just before the pandemic shutdown. He lowered his PB to 2:11:22 at The Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona, in December, 2020, which put him solidly into the national ranks.
"Things progressed, and here I am," Mickow said.
To get ready for Eugene, Mickow employs an unusual, high mileage training routine. He works full-time, but still manages to run 140 to 150 miles (225 to 242 kilometers) per week by getting up very early each day and doing a full 42.195-kilometer long run every weekend.
"I do my longer runs in the morning," Mickow explained. "Weekdays I wake up around 4:00, 4:15 and I'll do 12 (miles) in the morning on an easy day; medium-long would be about 18. After work I'll run six miles on an easy day. Weekends are pretty heavy. Weekends my long run's a marathon, and Sunday's I usually do 20 in one run." He added: "I try to go to bed at 9:30."
Remarkably Mickow will have run ten or so marathons in training before lining up in Eugene on Sunday, July 17, at 6:15 a.m., when his race is held. He said it builds his confidence to take on the marathon distance regularly.
"It's been basically since I've been doing marathons," Mickow said when asked how long he has been using a full marathon as his long run in marathon training. "I've done four. I've only been back running for about three years, and that's kind of been my go-to. I want to run the amount I'm going to race."
He did eight training marathons before Chicago last October, he said.
The three-loop World Athletics Championships marathon course only varies by about seven meters between its high and low points and --by summer championships standards-- the weather is likely to be cool. That gives Mickow --who has been training through warm and very humid conditions near his home in Oswego, Illinois-- a chance to run fast at a major championships in addition to trying for a high place. At the last World Athletics Championships in Doha, the men's marathon had to be held at midnight and the start time temperature was 29C/84F with 51% humidity. The top American was Ahmed Osman who finished 23rd in 2:16:22.
"I haven't run the course; I've heard it's flat," Mickow said. "I will run it. I'm going to be there in a week (during the USATF Championships) for team processing (and) going to run it. Hopefully, it's 60's (Fahrenheit) like you said. I'm preparing for some humidity which, for this week in Illinois, our real-feel is 100 degrees (38C), like 90% humidity. So, if it's humid I'll get ready for that."
Although he demurred when asked about potential finish times for Eugene, Mickow said he clearly had the potential to run a lot faster than his present personal best. His half-marathon personal best of 1:01:41 is equivalent to 2:09:30 marathon according to one popular conversion formula.
"I think I have a lot more potential than 2:11," he said. "Like I said, I've only run four marathons. First one I just wanted to hit the 'A' standard for the Trials. Then Olympic Trials, that wasn't the fastest course out there. Then, this last Chicago I thought I was in pretty good shape to run fast, but the weather was not the best for that. Yeah. I think I can run faster than that."
Speed is something that Mickow admires. When asked what athletics event he would do if he weren't a distance runner, Mickow was quick to answer.