Lying under Steve Parker’s calm and collected nature is a relentless competitive spirit. No matter the playing field – race, training run or golf game – Parker’s drive to hunt down his competitors is what has made him a top runner and athlete.
Steve’s love affair with running began over thirty years ago when he traded in his tennis shoes for Nike Waffle Trainers. Ever since, he’s been making his way up the leaderboards to become one of the top runners in his age group.
As a 60-year old speedster ruling the roads and the trails, Steve has made quite an impression this year, starting off by setting the Colorado state marathon record in the 60-64 year age group, breaking the previous record by eleven minutes. His record time of 3:10:47 was set at the Colorado Marathon in May.
From races to lifetime experiences, Steve’s accomplishments go beyond Colorado’s borders. After qualifying for the XTERRA Nationals in 2011, Steve proceeded to compete with athletes from around the country and place second in his age group.
Apart from racing, Steve uses his strong legs and running shoes as a way to see the world. He’s run in such places as the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, rim to rim at the Grand Canyon, and the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu.
Maybe it’s Steve’s competitive spirit, or his ability to find balance, that makes him such an incredible athlete. I personally think it may be his 10-year old Casio stop watch and post-run beer that give him his edge, but you be the judge. Read on to find out how this top runner has continued to excel throughout the years while still keeping his love for the sport.
Name: Steve Parker
Hometown & Current: Rochester, N.Y., now Denver
Professional & Educational background: B.Sc. Psychology St. Lawrence University, been in advertising and marketing for 35+ years
Sports participated in: Skiing, golf, lacrosse, flag football
Years in current sport: 33
Additional personal information you’d like to share: I am really old school, even for my age. My watch is a 10-year old Casio with a stop watch, period. I went from years of roads-only to years of trails-only and now do about 50/50.
The Long Run
What are some of the biggest highlights in your racing career?
Setting the Colorado state marathon record for my age group, breaking the previous record by 11 minutes. (It’s nice to hold the standard, for a while at least) 2nd place in age group in XTERRA Nationals in 2011. (Glad to see I could compete with runners from all over the country.) Qualifying for Boston with a 2:43 (years ago). Masters win in first trail 50K (4:59) AG wins in trail marathons in Oregon, California and Utah
What are your long-term goals? What do you want to achieve as an athlete?
Keep running. Stay age-group competitive. Maybe go for the state record when I’m 65. Try an ultra. More important than what I achieve is to REMAIN an athlete. I’m pleased that in several recent races my times were faster than last year.
Why Colorado? What makes Colorado so special for endurance athletes? What makes Colorado special to YOU?
In just minutes from Denver you can be on an amazing trail with no one else around. The running community is big, active and enthusiastic – every possible type of running group and support is here. The depth of quality runners at every age is impressive.
Take us through a “day in the life,” what type of training regimen do you follow?
No hard and fast regimen. Usually 30-40 miles a week. Usually in the evening as a “reward” for the day. Intervals on Tuesday nights, longish (10+) trail run somewhere in the mountains on Saturdays. Try to take at least one and usually two non-running days a week, but will be skiing, playing golf or football.
What are one or two things you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?
Clearly my “success” is more a function of hanging around at my age, not any particular talent. That said – I try to train race specific – do parts of the actual course if possible, whether road or trail. Mental games of “handicapping” my runs with something; water bottles, heavier shoes, extra clothes, extra hills, extra hot; so that race day feels as light and fast as possible.
Do you follow any specific nutrition plans? What are you favorite recovery meals, drinks, etc.?
Not really. Old school carbo-load the night before a marathon. Instant oatmeal, banana and coffee before a race.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
Injury, by far. I whine, moan, stretch, ice, ibuprofen, occasional massage, but I really need to take time off which is the one thing I’m worst at doing.
What are your favorite races in Colorado?
So many. I have to feel good about the Colorado Marathon where I set the record. Scenic and fast course. Hated to see the fires up there. I like the “classics” like Cherry Creek Sneak and Georgetown to Idaho Spgs., as a benchmark from time to time and seeing lot of people. Love the XTERRA trail half at Beaver Creek. Enjoyed the recent Epic Relay from Canon City to Crested Butte. The team aspect was fun and the scenery was fantastic.
Where do you like to train in Colorado?
Cherry Creek Reservoir and Highline Canal have nice dirt surfaces nearby. Trails up and down the Front Range from White Ranch to Deer Creek Canyon, Lair of the Bear, Elk Meadow, 3 Sisters etc.
Favorite running shoe: Currently have shoes from 5 different manufacturers. Generally like Asics but if I’m given a shoe and it fits, I’ll put it in the rotation.
Favorite post-run/race beverage: Beer
Role models: Bernard Legat, No one could be further from the way I run but I love the way he looks when he runs and his smile at the finish. Max King, great mountain runner with a very compact style.
Day job: Freelance copywriter (marketing communications)
Solo runner, running partner or team/group? Vast majority of miles are solo. Do intervals with Phidippides Track Club and try to run with Runners Roost Run Club when possible.
Favorite Restaurant: Need a Mexican fix every two weeks or so.
Favorite Coffee Shop: Rooster & Moon
Favorite Bar: Campus Lounge, Cherry Cricket
Favorite Running Store: Runners Roost, Denver
Favorite non-running activity: Golf
Favorite TV Show: Big Bang, 30 Rock, sports, PBS
Favorite book: Too many, always reading several at a time.
Favorite movie: Gallipoli, many others
Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?
33 years ago I went from tennis shoes to Nike Waffle Trainers; running suddenly became an interesting sport not a drudgery. My times went down dramatically when I started doing interval training. When I turned 50 I was suddenly on podiums I never saw in my 40s, and again when I turned 60.
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Surround yourself with positive people.
Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by? That you train by?
Life is short, running makes it feel longer.
You can’t get fast by running slow.
There is always someone faster; you just never know who is going to show up.
Release your inner Kenyan.
It’s all good. (Is that too many mottos?)
What keeps you motivated? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I have a competitive nature. I like a challenge. I see a Senior time and think – “I can beat that” (except for Doug Bell). I enjoy the camaraderie of my running friends, all the chatter that non-runners don’t get and the way I feel when I finish a run. Getting into a new age group is always energizing, too.
Running works for me in many different ways, not just racing. It is a release from stress, an expression of exuberance, a practical form of transportation, a way to see the world on ground level. I’ve met a lot of great people through running. Whenever I visit a new place I run to get oriented, I’ve run on top of Kilimanjaro (60 yards) the Grand Canyon RTR and the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu – incredible life experiences. Running lets me eat and drink a lot. It never lets me down.