Scott Downard, overall winner of the 2015 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, takes a moment to himself after his 2:31.30 finish. Scott has come close to winning several times and was finally able to break through, even after fighting asthma through a large segment of the race. (photo by KT King, The Oklahoman)
I had the pleasure of chatting with Scott Downard about a typical day in the life of a recent Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon champion. What is perhaps lesser known about Scott’s Oklahoma running resume’ is that he is also a former winner of the Williams Route 66 Marathon, back in 2007. At that time, he was attempting the distance for the very first time. And while Scott is known for his laid back nature, he is very intentional and deliberate about the choices he makes on a daily basis in attempt to live a happy, healthy lifestyle and to achieve various life goals.
Catching up with Scott for a chat can be quite the feat, and not just because he’s really fast. Scott currently shares his knowledge and passion for all things running and active lifestyle as an employee of the local running store in Norman — OK Runner. He leaves the shop each afternoon to race across town to the Norman High cross country practice, where he serves as an assistant coach. Up until a week or so ago, following high school practice, he traveled over to the beautiful duck pond on the OU campus to assist with junior high cross country practice. When the last junior high team member was picked up by their parents, Scott then could proceed with what is usually his more intense workout of the day, often not beginning until nearly 8 p.m. Thankfully, I was able to catch up with Scott one fine Friday evening just as he finished participating in a cheese, wine and charcuterie pairing class at the local Forward Foods.
Forever a Wisconsinite, I like to believe the secret to his speediness is in the cheese…
JG: Let’s just start by talking about how a typical day begins for you.
SD: Typically, I prefer to wake up on my own volition, although the pets usually do not let that happen. In the first 30 minutes or so of my day, I get all of the pets (1 lab retriever, 1 hound mix, and 1 cat) outside, make coffee, and catch up on the news by listening to KOSU or KGOU and browsing the Internet. It takes that 30 minute window for my body to kind of wake up and then I hobble out the door with the dogs for a jog/run. Due to my schedule, I usually put the higher quality efforts off to the later parts of the day. After my morning run, it’s a race to the shower and then to OK Runner for work my shift. I leave OK Runner in the afternoon to drive across town to the high school cross country practice and then over to junior high cross country practice after that. I try to get a second run in, sometimes with the high school team, but often after the junior high practice wraps up in the evening between 7 or 7:30.
JG: That sounds like a lot of running around town, and like some things could get hectic on any given day! What are your eating habits like throughout the day?
SD: I usually don’t eat a lot for breakfast. I always have coffee before the run. If there are baked goods around (he says this with a inflection in his voice indicating that perhaps it would be nice if baked goods appeared more often), then I’ll have a bite of baked good prior to the morning run. I mostly just snack throughout the day, but if we have anything prepared in the fridge I try to pack something to take along. Otherwise, I’m a big fan of Clif products and really like their organic bars and their date bars. When I finally do make it home for the day, I almost always eat something that I’ve cooked myself—I don’t eat out very often. I’m a big fan of rice, and I take a lot of flak for that. (NOTE: He eats so much rice. He’s also really talented in the kitchen, and can make plain rice turn into something quite magical.) In addition to that, I try to incorporate a lot of quality nutrition. I incorporate some fats with things like olives or olive oil and avocados. I really like vegetables and try to incorporate a wide variety. I’m fortunate to have friends and family who have gardens and am able to eat locally grown produce a lot. My dad grows a lot things, and he introduced me at a young age to a lot of unique fruits and vegetables that really piqued my interest in terms of being adventurous with trying different things.
JG: So after a long day, you cook your own dinner. What time would you say you’re usually eating dinner then?
SD: I would say rarely before 9 p.m.
JG: Let’s talk about your training a little bit. It seems like you’ve finally figured out works for you after struggling with injury for a bit a few years back.
SD: I’m a big believer in putting emphasis on overall weekly volume. Although if you do that consistently, I do think you need to offset it at times with a little lower volume and a little more focus on intensity. I found out early on that I just don’t respond well to a lot of high intensity efforts.
JG: How about some of the little things? You do a lot of supplementary things to try to stay injury free.
SD: Yeah, I’m not particularly flexible, so I think that does require some supplementary activities. The pre-run and post-run windows have become somewhat critical. Over time I’ve picked up some tricks. I am a student of the sport and really try to understand what’s going on in my body with the different stimuli. I am typically tighter at the beginning of the run, so pre-run I try to do some eccentric movements in attempt to loosen up. I always do a lunge matrix before heading out for a run, even if it’s just an easy run. The higher my mileage, the more time I need to spend on pre-run exercises. During my run, to loosen up, I try to run progressively. Even in my regular runs, I try to finish a bit faster to try to keep loose. Post-run, I am a believer in some dynamic stretches. With my high school kids, I try to switch up the post-run dynamic exercises daily so that if we did calf stretches one way one day, we’re doing them different the next day to change up the stimulus.
JG: Talk about running in Oklahoma a little bit.
SD: I think it’s a pretty close knit running culture here in Oklahoma. Most of us all know each other on some sort of personal level. In terms of running routes, I really prefer the rural scene. I really like dirt roads and trails. I enjoy exploring with my dogs.
JG: Outside of running, what else do you enjoy?
SD: I really enjoy fishing. I haven’t been able to get out as much lately, but that’s something I really enjoy doing. I just love to be outside. I love camping and hiking and just enjoying the great outdoors.
JG: Thank you Scott for taking some time to discuss some of your secrets to your speediness, all while managing a hectic daily schedule. I’ll let you get back to your beer. What are you drinking these days anyway?
SD: Well, you can’t go wrong with a COOP F5, but I’m also really enjoying the IPAs from Anthem and Roughtail right now, too.
Scott had a big weekend, with both the Norman High boys and girls teams racing at the state championship cross country meet at Edmond Santa Fe on Saturday morning. As the season wraps up, he will turn the focus back to his own training for a bit, which will make his dogs very, very happy.
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