Interview with Colleen De Reuck
By Chris Saunders

Colleen De Reuck competes at the 2003 Freihofer's Run for Women.
(Both photos: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
De Reuck runs at the 2003 USA Cross Country Championships.

Colleen De Reuck has had several encouraging performances over the past month in preparation for U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Women's Marathon on April 3. The 39-year-old recently won the USA 15K Championships at the Gate River Run (49:02) in Jacksonville, Florida, on March 13, a little over a month after capturing the USA 8K Cross Country Championship on February 7 in Indianapolis.

The runner-up at the 2003 USA Women's Marathon Championships, De Reuck is a favorite to qualify for her first U.S. Olympic Team on April 3. The South Africa native has represented that country at three Olympic Games. De Reuck holds personal bests of 31:16 for 10,000m and 2:26:35 for the marathon, both achieved in 1996.

Since becoming a U.S. citizen in December 2000, De Reuck, a longtime fixture on the U.S. road racing scene, has represented the U.S. in international competition several times. De Reuck made her first Team USA appearance at the 2002 World Cross Country Championships in Dublin, Ireland, where she finished third overall in the 8K, helping the U.S. team to a silver medal. De Reuck lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband/coach Darren, and their 9-year-old daughter, Tasmin. Congratulations on your recent win at the Gate River Run. Looks like a very strong effort just a few weeks out from the Trials. Tell us how you felt about your race?
Colleen De Reuck:
Thank you. I only committed to running the Wednesday before leaving for Jacksonville. I left Thursday afternoon. I came down with a cold and was not able to train for a week. Darren and I decided if I was feeling better Wednesday morning we'd do a fartlek workout and if things were okay, I'd run.

Well, the workout went good and so we decided the race would be a good fit for the marathon. Our plan was to run more conservatively and see how I felt. I felt strong and didn't cough too much during the race. After the run I felt good about my effort, but 15K is not even close to the marathon.

FW: What do you plan on doing during these last few weeks to prepare for the April 3 race?
We start our taper three weeks out, where we reduce the volume, but keep the intensity up. In the past, training for a marathon, I've somehow always gotten a cold the week before the marathon. Since we've changed my taper, I've been okay. We'll still do two harder workouts in the week, but the final week, we'll do something on Tuesday and then race Saturday.

FW: You also ran well at the USA Cross Country Championships in February. Some women who are competing in the marathon Trials opted out of the event, but it obviously worked well for you. Is it something that you planned on running all along?
First off, thank you. It was great to win a USA cross title and I'd planned on running in Indy all along. Although, I knew I would not be going to Worlds because the Olympic marathon Trials were only two weeks later. Any other year and I'd be on that plane.

FW: Even though you're not going to be competing at the World Cross Country meet this year, will cross country be something that you continue to compete in in the future?
Yes, definitely. Cross country is still my first passion of the three running disciplines. Normally, I travel to Europe in January and run two or three cross events there. Each country is so different from the other; it makes for some real interesting running.

FW: What is it about cross country that seems to be such a good fit?
Cross country running is my passion and I love running it. Give me a tough cross country course over any track. It's definitely a strength issue and also switching pace continuously, two things which I'm very confident in. I guess that's why it's a good fit for me.

FW: The Olympic marathon Trials are now just a couple of weeks away. How is your preparation going?
My preparation has gone and is going very well. My coach keeps telling me I'm in the best shape he's seen me in training for a marathon. We changed quite a few things for Chicago last year and they worked very well for us, so we following something similar as then.

FW: What changes in your training have you made since Chicago?
I have not changed too much, but I've been able to rest a little more during the day and recover from workouts. I also walk our puppy every day for about an hour, which is good time spent on my legs. I've gotten in solid mid-week long runs the day after a hard workout on Wednesdays. Other than those three things, we've pretty much stuck with our marathon training.

FW: You finished second in the 2003 USA Marathon Championships (2:37:41), which was run on the same course that the Trials will be contested on. What did you learn from that race?
I learned a lot from last year's race. It was very cold on race day and I was totally underdressed for the conditions. We definitely will not make that mistake again. Running the course last year has helped us prepare for this year's race.

FW: What are your goals for the Olympic Trials race?
My main goal is to run as well as I can on the day and by doing so, make the team to Athens.

FW: You have competed in three Olympic Games for South Africa and several international competitions for the U.S. now that you have become a citizen. How would it feel to add U.S. Olympian to your resume?
Representing South Africa in '92 in Barcelona was absolutely awesome, but I'd say making the Olympic team for the U.S. in Athens would be the pinnacle of my career as an athlete.

FW: When you were a South African citizen, was there a trials system?
Well, this could take all day explaining, but I'll give you the short version. Because I was living in the U.S. for '96 and '00 Games, I had to really fight for my spot on the team. The federation did not like an athlete living abroad, as they had no control over them.

In '96 I won the 10,000m track Trials and beat the golden girl, Elana Meyer, so leaving me off the team would have been a media heaven. Also, I'd just run the World Cross Champs in Stellenbosch and placed fifth, so leaving me off the team would have been very difficult.

I really wanted to run the marathon in Atlanta, but they wouldn't choose me. In '00 it was way more difficult and Darren and I actually flew back to South Africa to meet with the Federation. My time going into the Olympics was 2:27:04, but that was not good enough for them. The week we went back, I ran a 10K race in my old hometown, Durban, and ran 31:38, so I proved my fitness.

FW: Which method of qualifying do you prefer?
Needless to say, the way the U.S. system is, at least you know, if you make top three, you're going.

FW: You have had some solid Olympic finishes (ninth in the 1992 marathon, 13th in the 10,000m in 1996) in the past, how do you explain your success and longevity?
I'd say it's a combination of everything. However, the three Olympics I've competed in, I can't say I was totally ecstatic about my performances. In Barcelona in '92, I had runner's knee and was not totally prepared. In Atlanta, the only track I raced that year was the 10,000 heat and final. Then in Sydney, my training was going absolutely fantastic and I was confident of a top five finish at worst, but got plantars two weeks before. I actually ran the marathon with a local anesthetic in my foot, which didn't help at all. [Note: She finished 30th in the Sydney Olympic marathon.]

FW: You will be turning 40 shortly after the Olympic marathon Trials. How have you managed to stay so competitive for so long?
Yes, I turn 40 on April 13. I've been asked this question so often, and I'd say the easiest way to explain my long career is as follows: rest/recovery and more importantly, my family is my life and running is only something which I enjoy thoroughly, but not my life.

FW: Many athletes change their racing and training strategy when they turn 40 and start chasing the top masters runners. You are still able to compete with the best U.S. women right now. Do you see your training or racing strategy changing over the next few years?
Over the past few years I've definitely slowed somewhat, but as long as I can compete and be competitive, I won't change anything.

FW: Any chance we will see you competing in the 10,000m at the U.S. Olympic track Trials in July?
I've never been to a U.S. track championships, so there's a strong possibility you may see me there in July.

FW: What will be the main determining factor of whether or not you compete in the track Trials?
I'd like to run the track Trials, but I still need to run a 10k on the track to qualify for the Trials. If, and only if, I make the marathon team, I probably will not run on the track. On the other hand, if I miss out on the marathon, I'll run a 10k to qualify for the track. In a perfect world, I'd definitely choose the marathon. I feel that's where I would have my best shot of a good finish.

FW: Tell us a little about your relationship with husband/coach/agent Darren.
Darren and I met back in '83 in college. We got married in December '88 and moved out to the U.S. in '93. We have a wonderful daughter, Tasmin, who is 9 and in the third grade.

Right now, when I'm not running there's enough activities with Tasmin that there's very little time for myself. I actually took the personal trainer course at the end of last year, so now I'm qualified. When I'm done with running, there's nothing better than to help others who'd like to get into shape. Darren has his own business coaching the average runner and is also head coach for a local club. The satisfaction of seeing achievement from someone else is awesome.

FW: How long has Darren been coaching you?
Darren has been working with me since '88. We have a wonderful love/hate relationship, just kidding. It's been working for this long, so he must be doing something right.

(Interview conducted March 18, 2004, and posted March 31, 2004.)

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