Colorado Springs resident passes 62,000 "low mileage, high speed" miles

By R. Scott Rappold The Gazette - Updated: December 26, 2013 at 11:28 am • Published: December 26, 2013 | 9:50 am 0

If you live, work or drive in central Colorado Springs, odds are good you've seen John Wood.

You might recognize the cue-ball head and bushy moustache. You might recall seeing him running shirtless in even the coldest weather.

But it's the intensity, as he dashes at full throttle through the streets like a madman, that sets him apart from the herd in a city full of runners. He doesn't run marathons, or anything close. Wood believes in short-distance sprints, runs he has been documenting with pen and paper for 40 years.

In October, he surpassed 62,000 miles. That's more than twice the distance around the world, in 3-5 mile spurts.

"Low mileage and high speed is my philosophy," Wood said. "That goes against the grain of a lot of marathon runners in this town. They say, 'Let's do as many miles as we can. Let's do 15 miles today, 20 tomorrow.'

"Well, to me that's junk mileage. What I do keeps me sharp."

The son of well-known Colorado Springs photographer Myron Wood, he grew up in Oklahoma after his parents divorced. In 1971, he decided to join his high school track team. He was no athlete, but he had a slender build so figured it would be a good fit.

He was last on the team but kept at it. On a recent visit to his downtown house, he proudly displayed his first trophy - for fifth place.

In May 1973, as school was ending, the coach challenged him to write down all the miles he ran in the summer. So on May 28, he did a few laps around some duck ponds and wrote it down.

He went 800 miles that summer, dutifully logging each run. That fall, he started winning.

"There are no words to describe the feeling of being first on the team after working so hard for a couple years," he said. "I didn't have a lot of natural talent, but I worked hard at it."

He continued to run in college, where he hit his best time, a 4-minute, 30-second mile. In Oklahoma, it was too humid for long runs much of the year, so Wood continued his short-burst approach to running.

He also continued to log his runs, out of habit. As an accountant by trade, it also appealed to the numbers wonk in him.

Wood moved to Colorado Springs in 1985 but had no interest in running the famous Pikes Peak Ascent or Pikes Peak Marathon. Even the Garden of the Gods Ten-Mile Run seemed too long, leaving him with sore ankles.

Most of his runs are jaunts around downtown of 5 miles or less, mixing fast sprints with a slower pace. He runs the Section 16 trail for a challenge.

It's an unorthodox approach, and he said many long-distance runners scoff at it.

"Anything longer than an hour to me is just a wasted effort. You're landing on the back of your feet and you're running yourself down," Wood said.

He averages about 1,100 miles a year and rarely runs for more than 60 minutes. He has no long-term mileage goal.

That's because it's not simply about the miles. It's about the challenge and getting out there to recharge after a day of work.

"The goal in life is you want to challenge yourself. And the way you challenge yourself is by testing your performance," he said. "The way you test your performance is to work your body at a very high level.

"You need a challenge in life. Life without challenge is death."

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