Gary Roberson lives and trains in the Greenville, SC area. He runs for an organization called Stride for Stride; a non-profit running organization that buys race bibs for immigrant, BIPOC, and low-income runners with the goal of making races more accessible and more diverse. He chose the Doodle Trail 15K race for a end of summer event for multiple reasons but most importantly, as a good marker prior to focusing on fall marathon training (Chicago).

How was your training leading up to the race?

Training as an individual who has a family and a full time job and other commitments is always going to be tough. Add in that it was summer training in South Carolina with high humidity there were definitely days that I wondered if I would complete a workout or hit a given pace. First of all, I wouldn’t have been able to complete training without the support of my wife, Heather and our three boys. They were always super encouraging and loved to cheer me on, bike or run along side of me during workouts in our neighborhood. This always made even the toughest days more enjoyable.

The training schedule as a teacher and a coach is something I really want to highlight as well. Some with full time jobs that start around 9am may be able to get a run in at 7am and still have time to get to work or they may run after work at 5pm. As a football coach and a teacher there were days that I had to be up by 4:30am. I say all this to encourage those who don’t think it is possible. It is you just have to find a way, have a family that supports you, and have a coach that is understanding of everything that you have going on in your life.

My coach, Esther, was always upfront and honest about the results good or bad but was also encouraging through the easy days and the tough days. Of course there are days where you look at a workout or a run and think there is no way I will be able to accomplish my goal. Having worked with Esther for a few years now and being a football coach, I know that the mindset of trusting the training really does work.

Did the V.O2 app provide benefit to your training and racing? If so, how?

Most definitely!! The training paces and the race predictor was spot on. It also provided an easy way to leave notes about a workout that I may have finished at a time where I needed to make note of something but was not an ideal time to talk with my coach about immediately making sure that I didn’t forget about it.

Talk to us about a recent race or your progress in general! How did it go? What were your goals going into it and did you meet them?

My most recent race was the Doodle Trail 15k, a race I had run multiple times in the last four years and finished in the top 10 each time. My goal in this race was to finish top 3 overall and I really wanted to run sub-60 minutes as well. Leading up to the race two weeks out it looked like weather may be favorable but the cooler mornings rolled in about four days early and we ended up with pretty tough race conditions due to the 7:30am start time, which in hindsight is a little late on a hot July morning. Due to this I adjusted the pace I went out at and after the first mile I was shoulder to shoulder racing for first place. It was one of the most competitive races I have ever been in because the other runner and myself jockeyed for first the entire race.

Having trained on the course throughout the training block I knew the course and knew exactly when to push and when to relax and throughout the race I was able to control the pace giving me the edge over the competition. This allowed me to pull away from everyone else in the last half mile and while I didn’t run a sub-60, I ran the most successful race of my career finishing first overall and still PRing the course.

Is there anything you learned from your recent training or race that can help you improve in the future?

I learned that controlling the effort and adjusting as needed can make you more competitive in the late stages of the race.

Who is your coach and what have you learned working with them?

Esther Atkins. Through training with her over the last few years, I have really learned better control of pacing, running easy on easy days and hard on hard days, and that effort is a better measure than pace alone.

What is your handle on Instagram?