On the Edge: Jarrett LeBlanc Shoots for Sub Four
A few weeks ago at Rice University’s Fred Duckett Twilight Meet, Jarrett finished third in the 1500 running 3:43.77. The former Cowboy has flirted with the 1500 and mile, running them a handful of times in college but is now poised to achieve a rare and special feat May 18th at the Meet under the Lights at St. Martin’s track in Metairie. Louisiana Running was able to interview Jarrett LeBlanc, a McNeese State Alum who now runs for Team Green Running-Adidas of The Woodlands, TX on May 6, 2014, the 60th anniversary of Sir Roger Bannister’s historic sub four minute mile. In the lead up to our interview with Jarrett, we spoke with three other Louisiana standouts who eventually wound up running under four minutes: Jeremy Huffman, Shannon Lemora, and Ryan Travis. Their profiles are listed below the interview and we hope that reading through their history and accomplishments, some high school runners will become motivated to run fast and carry on this legacy.
LR: Thanks for taking time to talk to us. I guess the first question is- did you get your run in today?
JL: I did. I ran this morning and a did a little shakeout and I have a track session tonight. It’s 5x400 in 54-55 seconds with a 4 minute of interval in between of walking and jogging so I can stay alive. (laughs) I have another session Thursday which is four mile threshold run in twenty minutes and Saturday’s my last session of the week. We’ll do three this week and bring it down for next (Meet Under the Lights).
Ever since I have started with Team Green Running, the sessions have been high quality low quantity. Quick 400’s and 200’s, longer recovery between reps. Since I am focusing on the middle distances, it makes a world of difference since now I’m not focused on running the 10k or on the roads. My body has responded really well.
LR: What was your high school mileage and PR’s?
JL: Hathaway is a really small class B school near between Lafayette and Lake Charles and it’s just north- about 8 to 10 of a town called Jennings. We have a caution light, a gas station, a church, and a fire department- that’s all we’ve got. I always ran once a day, I was never a big doubles guy. By my senior, maybe I doubled once every three weeks if I was training hard. I didn’t have a coach in high school so I was basing most of my training on what I had found on the internet and what had worked for other runners. Back then I even watched old film of Roger Bannister running the mile and I learned he did a workout of 10 400’s with a 2 minute rest so that was always my go-to work out on Tuesdays my whole year. I really thrived off doing these ten mile long runs every Sunday from 58 to 61 minutes. Rest of the week was either 5 or 7 mile runs. The highest mileage I ever got to was 55. I always maintained 45-50.
LR: So you were self-coached?
JL: Our principal my freshman year was the moderator of the team so we got to travel. Everyone kind of knows the basic principles of running like if you want to get better at running, you have to run more. It’s just like basketball and free throws- if you want to get better at free throws, you’ve got to practice free throws. My principal was my main guidance. We had a track coach but he was mainly the basketball coach. More than half the people on the track team were basketball players so I mainly did my own thing.
LR: What motivated you to try running/ join the track team?
JL: You know, I feed off the negative energy, even now 11 years later. When people tell you there’s no point in running, it’s good for nothing, that’s not your sport you should play basketball. Going to these small track meets my freshman year, I ran 11:58 for two miles and won. The feeling I got from winning such a small, low-key meet—I think it was Johnson-Bayou way off down by the gulf— was what did it for me. I remember buying some $40 Nike spikes and I knew nothing about spikes. I ran through all my freshman year in some Nike Air Max spikes and I lined up my freshman year at the state meet 2 mile and some guy tells me on the line “Man, those are sprint spikes.” You don’t know better as a freshman. Over the Summer I ran more and saw what running could do. When I made it to state as a freshman, I was probably 11:20 (for two miles) and I think I beat one person at state my freshman year. After that, I decided I was going to stick with this. After that, I kind of blew up. Next cross country season, I went from running a 24 min 3mile to 18 mins, 17 something 3 mile. It started working there and I kept building on what I was picking up from other people and from the internet.
LR: How was your progression through high school?
JL: My freshman year, I ran 11:20 2 mile and went through the mile in 5:18. So those were my pr’s. Sophomore year I went 4:59 for the mile, 10:53 for two miles, and a 2:24 half mile. My training was pretty much the same but I was winning races with those kinds of times. Winning all these local races was great but the level of competition as those who competed around the state. From my sophomore to my junior year was when I noticed a big difference because I was doing around 40 miles a week versus 20. As a Junior I ended up running 10 04, 4:39 and 2 04. That was a huge jump and I knew I was on a different level. There wasn’t much of a change my senior level because I got kind of lax with it. 2nd and 3rd my soph and junior year at state so senior year there was really no one in class B and there was no hopes in going to these big track meets because I only ran 9:55 and 4:32 and 202 as a senior. In XC my senior year, my coach took me to the Catholic High Invite in Baton Rouge. When I got there, I was stunned by the number of people. I had never seen so many people ready to run a race. There are matching jerseys, tents, people everywhere. I felt good and had been doing some good mile repeats that year so I was going for the win, at least be in the top three. I went up to this lady and I asked her for a copy of the course map. She just kind of smiled and said “Don’t worry about it. If you follow the boys from Catholic, you’ll be fine. “I told her that I meant on being in front of them by two miles and she was baffled by it. She thought I was lying. When the race started, I went to the front and sure enough I was in front a mile in. With a mile to go, I stayed in front and won the whole thing. At the awards ceremony, they called out my name “Winner Jarrett LeBlanc from Hathaway, a class 1-A school”. I got on the mic and corrected him “No, it’s Class B.”
LR: When you were graduating, had you been recruited heavily?
JL: I learned a lot about running and racing my senior year in track and cross country. I lost two races my senior year, one was state in cross country where I got second and the parish meet in track I was second in the half mile race. I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could chase people. I didn’t want to go to some place and be number one—I wanted to go somewhere and be the last person on the team and get so much faster. A lot of these colleges, their problem was that they were selling me as their number two and four guy so I didn’t want to go somewhere where I’d be number one already because I would not get any faster. I looked at a few schools out of state but I’m the oldest of six and I didn’t want to be greedy and take all the college funds so I did the smart thing and took the partial scholarship at McNeese State. Brendan sold me on the fact that I would be the 8th or 9th guy coming in on the team and that did it for me right there. I got there and I got my butt kicked but it was the right choice and I don’t regret it one bit.
LR: What was it like running at McNeese state with David Rooney and all those guys?
JL: I’ll never forget all those five years. David’s one of a kind and I’ll never meet anyone like him. Even as a freshman and of course most of these foreigners they are at least a year or two older but I remember they never used it as a handicap against you. When I ran my first two college meets, I was 17 years old. I was pretty young but even though they could get into bars when they were freshmen and sophomores, they never acted like they were better than you. There was a lot of camaraderie there. David’s a big time pro runner but every run we learned a lot about each other. We studied a lot together, hung out a lot, had a few beers and there was never any barrier.
LR: So, tell us how you got involved with Team Green Running and life after college.
JL: When I graduated, it was December 2012. I had exhausted my college eligibility. I had gotten accepted into a cardio vascular ultra sound school in Baton Rouge. It’s a yearlong program and i started in January. My plan was do that for the year; I took a big break from NCAA regionals in Carolina and started doing a lot of miles on my own and winning some cash from road races which was cool. My senior year at McNeese State, we had an assistant coach named Eric Henry (who ran for Arkansas) and he knew a lot. My senior year, the 3:46 was my fourth or fifth 1500 ever so that time came out of nowhere. I want ed to pursue that and I wanted to see if I could break four. I have never focused on it and would like to knock it off the bucket list. Eric helped me out and got me set up with Team green out of the Woodlands in March.
I’m still new to the team but there is a another Louisiana runner, Adam Saloom. Coach Green works with you on your schedule. I focused on the 800 and 15 but they have some guys who are a really good at it. I don’t really know how long I’ll keep running the 8/15, I thought it was just going to be until I break four. I am looking forward to next year where I can do all the small things. Being in school right now and not having a job is really stressful. There is so much more I can do in regards to weights, core, the pool, training with a group is the number one thing. I wouldn’t even mind focusing on them for a few years to see where I wind up.
LR: What do you think your ideal distance is?
JL: You know I’m kind of on the fence now after seeing what I can do in the half and full mile and the last 4 months of training. A lot of my success has been coming from my strength work since college, I have aa lot more room for improvement on both ends of the spectrum. I see myself as sub 28 40 but I want to run real fast before I pump up the volume. The distance stuff really appeals to me. I want to have the ability to say I am a 3 39 guy when I line up for a 5 or 10k.
LR: So what are you feeling as you lie on the cusp of breaking four minutes?
JL: Man, it’s funny you say that because I kind of got goosebumps when you said that. Its crazy. I ran 3 43 about ten days ago and we went through 800 in 202 and we kicked like all get out to get 343. To know I ran 1 50 and 343 since march, there are times where I act the race out and see the clock showing 3 59 and just to be under that barrier…I just can’t wait for it and it keeps adding fuel to the fire. I set a goal and it will happen; I am nervous and stressed out but I am also happy. I know I am there and I know the potential is there to do it.
LR: What is your race plan?
JL: I wouldn’t mind kicking the last lap but I don’t want to come through 809 in 202, more 1 58 159 to be on the safe side. With the intervals I’ve been doing, I know I can hang on in the end. My last lap a few days ago was 57 58 so I know I can hold on with my strength. I am pretty confident about it and I hope I can have company for 1000 to 1200 meters of the race. We have to wait and see.
LR: Final questions for you—what is one piece of advice you would give to high schoolers?
JL: Oh man, I could fill in so much stuff it’s unbelievable. The most important thing about being in high school is enjoying your time when you are training. Consistency pays off so much; I have seen so many people doing 90, 100 or even 110 and mixing it up with lower mileage. I would stay at 70 and blow them out of the water. Trust in whatever you think works . I believe running is way more mental than physical and I have lived that every training and race day. Bottom line, there is so much mental strength that goes into training and racing and that is the key factor.
Also, don’t listen to the nay-sayers. I used what they says as fuel for every training run and session. Based on the fact that they are haters. They are some people who don’t want to see you succeed and seeing them proven wrong is so fulfilling. I thank my family and friends for their support.
In college, I got fueled by the fact that many people called McNeese a foreign powerhouse. We have a tradition of bringing in Irish and English runners and people were complaining that these foreigners were taking Louisianan’s spots. It was my goal to beat everybody and I wanted to show that were people from la doing great things. I had one conferences at 5 and 10k one year and second a few other years. A lot of people think my success was because I was a foreigner but I just wanted to show that if you work hard, you can get results.
Sub 4 Profiles:
Sumner High School - Class of ’96. 1 of 2 Footlocker Finalists for XC to ever come from Louisiana.
Weekly high school mileage? 45-55 miles
What was your initial motivation to get into running?
I tried baseball/football/ etc. and wasn’t content being mediocre. I had a bunch of cousins that were good at ball but I could beat them all at running. When it came down to it, I wanted to be good at something so I started investing his time in running because I thought I could be good. Ran for University of Arkansas under Coach McDonnell.
Mileage in College 65-80 miles
Favorite Workout: 1 mile - 1200 - 800 - 600 - 400 - 200 (4:08,3:02,157, etc)
Another good one: 16x400 @60-62 w/ 50 sec recoveries.
We usually did this workout 2 weeks or so before a big meet like nationals as a way to build confidence. John Mcdonell only had about 2-3 workouts for Cross, and 2-3 for track. Kept it simple but it worked.
When was the first time you broke 4?
As a freshman at the University of Arkansas. Coach McDonell always redshirted freshman no matter how good they were because they were so deep at the U of A. In one of the home meets for indoor I ran 4:04 and Coach McDonell told me I should come to Iowa At Iowa, I was “like a deer in headlights” in the race as I toed the line with guys I had been reading about. There were a NCAA champion in the mile and Jason Bunson who was running pro at the time. With 250 meters to go I was with the leaders and decided to push for home. No one went with me and went on to run 3:59. Of note: Before running his first sub 4 he was only running for about 6 weeks - just back from a stress fracture from cross. Ryan would go on to run several sub 4’s but they were all in the 3:59’s.
What are you up to these days Ryan?
I am the Senior Director of Innovations at Walmart home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. I am in charge of a team of engineers that come up with new processes to get freight onto the shelves for our people at Walmart. I still run but now a days I like to swim one day, bike the next, and run the following to break the monotony of just doing one thing. I like to stay fit as it is engrained in me from my days of competitive running.
Recently, 15 years after his sub 4 he stepped on the track and ran 4:59 (no speed work), just guided by muscle memory. He also ran a 2 flat after a $50 bet with some old alumni that said he couldn’t go under. He lost the bet but still ran pretty fast considering. He is married to Beth Woodworth, a former Mandeville High / LSU track standout.
Jeremy Huffman 2012 - pictured on outside
High School: Pineville High in Alexandria, LA
High School Mileage: 20-30 MPW
High School PR’s: 800- 1:55, 1600- 4:26
LR: What was your initial motivation for running?
JH: I’m not sure if you would call it a freak incident or miraculous. I wa born with a birth defect which caused difficulty breathing and initially Idid not think I would ever run. I played summer baseball and football. I went out to watch a fun run my family was participating in that involved a run and bike. After a runner dropped out on one of the teams I filled his pot and wound up running 12:13 for two miles. My buddy who XC and track ran 11:43. I decided to try this running thing out and went out for track my sophomore year. If it hadn’t been for that fun run, I probably never would have taken up running.
College: I initially attended Northwestern in Nachitchoes but later walked on to the track team at Arkansas under coach John McDonnell
College Mileage: 60-90
Favorite College Workout: 16x400 w/50-60 seconds rest or 8x300 in 38-39 w/ 2-3 minutes rest
When did you first break 4?
I ran the equivalent of it in the 1500 (3:42.22) however I wouldn’t officially break it until I competed at USA Indoor Nationals in 2002, four years after graduating from Arkansas.
What were your thoughts going into Indoor US Nationals?
At the time I was training with a Nike group out in Californaia for the 2004 Olympic Trials. I was having trouble breathing and was actually on medication for sinus troubles which caused trouble for me 2-3 weeks leading up to the meet. I was not confident going into nationals and wasn’t even sure if I would make it in. I just wanted to be competitive and I ended finishing fifth in 3:59. My best mile wound up being 3:59.8 as I mostly raced 1500s.
Jeremy currently resides in Alexandria, LA with his two kids. He teaches PE and coaches XC at Grace Christian School. He still runs 2-3 times per week for fitness but would like to be more competitive as his children get older. He also coaches privately when time allows.
Shannon Lemora at the 1995 Prefontaine Classic, Pictured far outside.
High School: Brusly High School
High School Mileage: 35 MPW
High School Pr’s: 800- 1:54, 1600- 4:22, 3200- 9:27
What was your initial motivation to run?
SL: I was cut from the basketball team and I didn’t know what I could do athletically so I decided to go out for the track team my freshman year to join one of my friends. During my first practice, my coach told us to run 3 miles. I was the first one to come back and ever since I have been a distance runner.
Where’d you go to College?
SL: I initially attended Junior College in Central Arizona where I was coached by Olympic Bronze medalist George Young(1972 Olympic Steeplechase). George and Oregon coach Bill Dellinger were friends and George told him about me. I visited Oregon and immediately knew I needed to be there after I attended a “low-key” last chance meet where thousands of runners were there. I wound receiving a scholarship there.
College Mileage: 75 MPW; Later worked up to 120 MPW while training under Alberto Salazar
Favorite College Workout: 10x400 w/ 60 second rest @ 56-59
When did you first break 4?
SL: At the Prefontaine Classic, either ’92 or ’93. I lead up until 50 meters to go but got passed by three runners in the last few meters.
What were your thoughts going into Pre and breaking 4?
SL: I knew I was going to run fast. I usually did speed sessions on Thursdays and leading up to the race I typically did6-8x200. That particular Thursday I did 10 of ‘em at 24-25 and they felt effortless.
What were your PR’s after college?
SL: Mile- 3:57, 3:41 for 1500 and 1:47 for 800.
Shannon Lemora currently resides in Surprise, Arizon. He moved away from Eugene in 2007 because his wife hated the weather. He feels happy to be around more of his teammates and friends from college. Shannon hopes to return to running soon but was misdiagnosed for a knee injury he suffered while playing basketball in 2007. He is scheduled to have surgery soon on his ACL. He currently enjoys boxing, saying it is one of the most intense full body workouts he has done since his days of competitive running.
The 2014 Meet Under the Lights will take place on Sunday May 18th at St. Martin Episcopal Track in Metairie, Louisiana.
Races will begin at 6:30 PM. Open events: 3K, Mile, 4x400 (costume encouraged), 3-legged 400, and a men's and women's invitational miles which will house some of the better high school, college, and post collegiates in Louisiana. Come out and run ($15 including T-Shirt and entry to unlimited events) or watch a piece of history as Jarrett tries to become the 4th runner in Louisiana to crack the 4 minute barrier.
Hope to see some of y'all on the 18th!