darvis patton

What Does Endurance Mean? Ask Sprinter "Doc" Patton About How an Athlete Lasts

Elite athletes are known for enduring grueling training sessions. It’s what they do: trudge out in the heat, the rain – in whatever conditions – again and again. They cope with constant pain and fatigue. But Darvis “Doc” Patton – a two-time Olympian, a two-time world Champion, and a two-time U.S Champion – has a confession: “Earlier in my career I got by mostly on natural talent. I didn’t train as hard as I could have and should have,“ says Patton.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at his résumé: In 2004, Patton captured a silver medal in the 4 x 100 relay at the Summer Olympics in Athens. He’s a two-time world outdoor gold medalist in the 4 x 100 relay and the 2002 USA outdoor 200 meter champion. He was also a finalist in the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

But Patton realized a few years ago that he needed to take training and overall health more seriously and do a better job of staying fit. “When I was in my early 20s it was more about looking good in a body suit and having ‘guns’ than lifting weights for strength,” recalls Patton. He also didn’t pay much attention to eating the right foods and getting adequate rest, he says.

That changed in 2006, when Patton suffered an injury that sidelined him. “I realized that I had to change my lifestyle.” Working with strength coach and nutritionist Eric Minor, Patton immediately knocked out junk food, including burgers, fried foods and what he calls “lots of sweets.” He began working harder in the weight room and getting serious about stretching and massages. The new regimen paid immediate dividends: It helped him climb from number 17 in the world to number 2 in 2007.

Today, Patton focuses on a diet filled with eggs, sandwiches, and lean meats, with fruits and vegetables at every meal. “I stay away from anything fried,” he says. What’s more, he’s in the weight room a couple of hours a day rather than, he says, “making an appearance.” Minor also taught him to lift weights properly: “He corrected my form and helped me achieve better balance. The time I spend in the weight room is a lot more meaningful.”

Patton still devotes about four hours a day to track work, typically starting his training at 9 a.m. Working with trainer Monte Stratton, he spends about two hours on the track and then heads to the weight room. The first eight weeks leading up to track season he does stadium workouts, including single-leg hops, double-leg hops, lunges, running bleachers, hill workouts, plyometrics, hurdle drills, and various sprint drills. The next eight weeks focuses on endurance and speed track workouts. Once the season starts Patton transitions into more focused speed work. Wednesdays and weekends serve as recovery days (Patton gets one a massage once a week).

The result? Patton is still going strong at age 34 — a remarkable achievement for a sprinter. This year, he ran his fastest 200-meter time, 19.98, and finished second at the 2011 USA Outdoor Championships. “I am simply trying to put my God-given talent to maximum use,” says Patton.

Training Advice: “You have to know when to give your body a rest so you can do it all over again. It’s also important to know when to shut it down so you don’t over-exert yourself and wind up with an injury or burned-out.”

Do you have a favorite training regimen or technique that keeps you going strong? What does endurance mean to you?

 –Sam Greengard, Runner’s World Reporter

Photo Courtesy of Darvis Patton

How Kara Goucher & "Doc" Patton Balance Elite Running & Parenting

It’s hardly shocking that elite runners place career ambitions above all else. The dedication and hard work required to capture an Olympic gold medal or win the Boston Marathon is enormous and any interruption can threaten the dream.

Even so, a growing number of elite runners — including Kara Goucher, Doc Patton, and Paula Radcliffe — are proving that it’s possible to balance a tough training schedule with a family. In fact, some say that having a baby has actually helped them achieve better balance.

A MOM’S STORY: KARA GOUCHER

“After running in the World Championships in 2009 I knew that I was ready to start a family,” says Goucher, 33, a former NCAA outdoor champion in the 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters; a bronze-medal winner for the 10,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships; and one of America’s top female marathoners (she finished fifth at the 2011 Boston Marathon).

Goucher, who reduced her mileage and gained weight in order to get pregnant, admits that it was a strange time. “I couldn’t fully train but I also wasn’t pregnant and I didn’t know if and when that would happen,” she says. Yet she vowed to keep things in perspective while essentially writing off the 2010 season. “There was a lot I still wanted to accomplish but I also understood that a family would provide a richer and more satisfying life overall.” In January 2010, Koucher received news that she was expecting and in September gave birth to Colton Mirko Goucher.

The experience has altered her outlook — and created new priorities. “I have the same running goals — I haven’t lost my competitive drive — but I don’t live or die on how my last workout went or how I performed in a race,” she explains. Goucher’s husband, Adam, also an elite runner, shares with childcare responsibilities. Nevertheless, “I don’t have the luxury of putting my feet up and resting the way I used to,” adds Kara. Meshing her running and family life is now a priority. “Some of the proudest and most exciting moments in my life have been doing victory laps and talking to fans. I want Colt to be there with me for the journey. I want to share the thrill with him.”

Kara’s Advice for Fellow Parents Who Are Runners: “Be 100 percent focused on what you are doing. When I’m out training I’m completely focused on that. And when I’m with Colt, I’m 100 percent focused on him. That way I’m being the best I can be at both mothering and running. One isn’t taking away from the other.”

A DAD’S STORY: DARVIS “DOC” PATTON

The tale is much the same for “Doc” Patton, 34, U.S. Champion and World silver medalist over 200 meters in 2003, and a member of the U.S. 4x100-meter relay team, which captured a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. In 2009, his daughter’s due date coincided with the USA Track and Field Championships. He decided to attend the birth, if it came down to a choice.

As it turned out, Dakota was born a couple of weeks early. But Patton continues to take parenting seriously. “I didn’t have a father around when I was growing up and I am dedicated to being there for her.” In fact, he drives Dakota to and from daycare and shares in childcare duties. When he’s away he talks to her over Skype and makes it a point to blow kisses to her when the TV cameras are focused on him. Patton also wore her birth bracelet the entire season after her birth.

Parenthood has changed his perspective too. “I’m not as consumed by running. I don’t obsess over training, results and competitors the way I used to. At a certain point, you realize that there are a lot more important things than winning or losing,” he says. “When I hear her scream, ‘Daddy, daddy, daddy,’ it puts my entire life into perspective.”

Doc’s Advice for Fellow Parents Who Are Runners:: “The best way to balance running and family life is to give it your all and then let it go. Running is part of life. It isn’t life. In other words, leave your disappointments and frustrations on the track when you take off your spikes.”

How do you fit in training and racing as a mom or dad? Any tips or advice to share with the Innovation for Endurance community about how you strike a balance so neither your family life nor your running suffer?

 —Sam Greengard, Runner’s World Reporter

Photos courtesy of Kara Goucher (top); and Doc Patton (bottom)