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#TGW: Mile Marker

June 7, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Jeremy Greenwald has been running with something stuck in his craw. It might as well be a rock in each shoe.

A mistake made last month in the ACC meet helped push Georgia Tech’s rising senior metric miler to the NCAA meet Wednesday through Saturday in Eugene, Ore. That’s quite an accomplishment — the good news.

Still, the bad news bugs Greenwald.

He out-smarted himself at the ACCs, where a tactical error led to a preliminary finish that wasn’t good enough to qualify for the finals.

He went too fast too soon, and didn’t have enough gas left as a slow-then-suddenly frantic race transitioned to money time.

Competitors streamed past him down the stretch, and for a young man who said he has for a few years taken an, “eat, sleep and breathe running,” approach to his craft, an aftertaste of bile lingers.

Good thing he grew from his mistake and better paced himself at the NCAA East Regionals to finish fifth in his heat with a time of 3:45.79 to move onto a big meet.

“I would have called this season a disappointment until regionals,” he said. “I didn’t make ACC finals because I wasn’t disciplined enough. I learned from that mistke. I went from 600 meters, and I gave too much on the back of the last lap. “It was a slow, tactical race and I used my last gear too soon. It’s easier to chase than be chased. I took the lead at about 900 meters and led a good portion of the race.”

And then, Greenwald ran out of juice.

He didn’t need to see tape of the race to know that.

Running to race is a combination of keeping in mind what competitors are doing, and indexing that against what you are capable of doing. Timing is critical. Hitting the gas hard too early, or too late, can be a big problem.

Greenwald put the pedal to the metal too soon, essentially because the ACC prelim was so boring through the first two-thirds of the race. He became antsy.

“It’s all about keeping discipline and poise during a race,” he said. “The level of competition is so much greater. I think the most important thing is staying composed and keeping your final gear as long as you can, not using it early. I would say it’s mostly in my head. I know how I felt, and I can read my body.”

The business of learning to run with his brain and his legs/lungs/heart has been a process for Greenwald, who now – generally — applies some of the same gray matter to the sport that he uses to major in civil engineering.

When he first began running, shortly after being cut from a select soccer team when he was about 10, he just . . . ran. There was quite a bit of that in soccer anyway, and the transition was smooth.

As he grew older, competition increased, and it became apparent that his brain would be as important as his legs, lungs and fancy things like maximal oxygen uptake rate, diet and hydration – not only in racing, but training.

Shortly before he became a junior at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va., Greenwald was introduced to a former professional soccer player who had become quite a competitive runner himself.

Greenwald is hesitant to mention the man’s name because he is now serving in special forces in Afghanistan and Greenwald is unable to make sure that revealing his identity is OK.

He is not shy in talking about what he gained from his new friend, whom Greenwald said, “changed my life running wise. He has shown me how much more I can get out of myself, and how much more dedicated I can be to the sport.

“He taught me how to push myself to the limit. I always had heart, but he showed me how to get the most out of myself. Once I figured that out, I would eat, sleep and breathe running. I began to get enough sleep, know what I was going to eat and when with regard to when I could run . . . everything.”

Three times in high school, Greenwald finished runner-up in a state meet, and he set 10 Grassfield records in a variety of events.

He finished first among Yellow Jackets at two cross country events in 2012 and again in ’13, when he took NCAA East Region honors in cross country.

Racing track events ranging from the 800 meters to a 10K, Greenwald still prefers the mile, or metric mile, over all others.

He’ll leave today for Oregon, and he’s looking forward to increased competition. There has been plenty of that at Tech, in fact, and working with – in relays and training – Brandon Lasater, Shawn Roberts, Zach Fanelty and others has also helped propel him to the NCAAs. Roberts qualified for the national meet in 2012, and Lasater made it last spring.

Neither made it this year. Greenwald is making his first trip, riding the nuances of his sport.

“This is very exciting,” he said. “I came into college wanting to be a miler, and I’ve kind of been focusing on that. We’ve been experimenting with 800 and 5K, but the mile is where I feel that I am best. It has been great to work with everybody, we really push each other.”

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