Garrett grew up in Winona, a small town of about 30,000 people in southeastern Minnesota. His parents are both very active so he grew up taking family road trips to Colorado where they’d camp, hike, and bike in the mountains for a few weeks every summer. From those, he really started to love just being active in the outdoors and first started running competitively in 6th grade when he joined the cross country team in his hometown. Because the middle schooler's could train with the high school where he was from, he spent his first few years chasing the older high schooler's around before eventually having some success of his own and winning 6 state titles between cross country and track. Garrett also grew up cross country skiing, so he never ran for about 3 months in the winter and spent that time on skis traveling around Minnesota with his high school team for races. Garrett also won 5 state titles in skiing by the end and considered going to college to ski as well as run for a while during his junior and senior year.
Eventually he decided on running at Stanford University in California. There he mainly focused on the 1500 and mile with the highlight of his college career being a DMR national title that his team won during his junior season indoors. After college, he signed with Saucony and hung around there to do a masters degree in Strategy and Entrepreneurship while occasionally training with the Stanford team. After 4 years with Saucony, he moved to Seattle to run for the Brooks Beasts team for the last 6 years now. He's trained mainly alone during his last year or two in the Bay Area, so it was a huge rejuvenation for his motivation and career in moving to Seattle and having a great group to train with every day. As he's gotten older, he's slowly moved up in distance. So while he still loves the mile and 1500, he's spent most of his time focused on the 5K and 10K now the past few years. No marathon in the plans yet though.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I’m competitive and constantly motivated to test the limits of what my body is capable of. As long as I believe I haven’t reached my ceiling in running, this will continue to motivate me to push harder and keep chasing dreams. For now, I still particularly feel like there’s a lot of potential for growth in the 5K and 10K. My body feels better when I’m active and fit. Even once I’m done competing, this will continue to motivate me. Also, the Beasts Team. Being around the team makes everything more fun with training and keeps me motivated to keep getting faster. Big dreams are contagious and surrounding yourself with like minded people is important.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
Find people to run with! Everything is better with friends. Or explore a new route.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
Be healthy, PR in the 5K and 10K, and make the Olympic team.
Who is faster, you or your brother Elliott?
Older brothers are always faster, or at least willing to throw more elbows. But he has managed to nip me in a few races over the years.
What distance do you know you could beat him in?
I would’ve thought the mile since my personal best is much faster there and he’s been a bit more of a 5K guy over his career, but he won the battle the last time we squared off in that. So I guess maybe something shorter. Probably the 800?
What has been your most memorable race to date?
The Great Edinburgh cross country race in Scotland. I love this race for the course and the fans there! It’s hard to find true cross country anymore but this race has plenty of mud and a couple stream crossings. It’s also been the site of some of my better races as a pro and being able to beat Mo Farah there was an experience that I’ll never forget.
What was it like to beat Mo Farah in a race?
It was surreal. Obviously Mo has been the best, or one of the best, athletes in the world for the better part of a decade now, so even when I got a little lead on him in the last 800 meters, I still had a hard time believing I had any real shot of actually beating him. I’d seen that ferocious kick over the last 400 too many times to think that I wasn’t about to be another victim of his closing speed until afterwards when I was standing in the finish shoot and it was all over. Despite being on his home turf, the crowd there was also super supportive and he was was incredibly gracious despite likely being very surprised by the outcome himself.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
We lift weights twice a week throughout the year after workouts. I’m a bit more on the minimal side when it comes to weights compared to some of my other shorter, speed based teammates, but I still think having a routine in there really helps with power, posture, and injury prevention. Some of the running specific weight drills with dumbbells are probably my favorite, but I think some of the newer free weight lifts that I’ve tried to start incorporating more with our coach (Danny Mackey) could end up being the most useful long term for me. I also think general core and weekly drills are some of the more important things for staying consistent and improving form.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
One of my college coaches used to pull us around the track behind his Vespa for speed training. We had a guy split 9.1 in the 100 and we were around 45 for the 400. It was definitely the fastest my legs have turned over and one of the more wild experiences of my running career.
What's your favorite types of fuel before a race?
Pancakes and coffee. I’ve always been a huge fan of pancakes, but once our nutritionist told us that they were also great pre-race fuel, I’ve been all in. He recommends a gluten free mix for the limited fiber. I prefer chocolate chips, yogurt, and berries on mine.
What's your favorite cheat food & drink?
Burger and milkshake.
As a beard guy, and for my beard loving readers, will we ever see the longer beard you once sported years ago?
We’ll see, but I’d say there’s a good chance. Usually it’s a product of laziness and spending too much time holed up in the mountains. Sounds like we may be heading back to Albuquerque for some more altitude training in January so I’d keep an eye out for the generally disheveled look and scraggly beard to make an appearance again then. Even at its peak though, mine is nothing next to what it looks like you’re usually sporting!
Do you like ice baths?
Not at all, unless it’s a natural one in an ice cold mountain stream or lake after a long run or workout. I’ve done my fair share of them over the years but have heard enough mixed evidenced on whether they’re helpful or not that I tend to skip them in favor of other recovery options. I will ice locally on a particular muscle if I’m having issues though. I also do love a quick dip in the cold water out in nature!
In your free time when you’re not running, what other hobby’s do you enjoy?
I love the mountains so I tend to spend time camping or hiking in the off-season. If that doesn’t work out with the training, I try to get in as many BBQ's and beach fires as possible with the team throughout the year. Food is also such a large part of our lives as athletes that I’ve grown to enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Especially if that includes chocolate chip pancakes and some Sunday football on the couch post long run!
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Find some friends to run with! Running can be such a social sport and the biggest motivators for getting out the door can be knowing that someone else is counting on you to do it with them.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
At this point in my career, I think my biggest strength is my aerobic base. I’ve always had a fairly high VO2 max and enjoyed the longer tempos, but this is almost just a result of being one of the older guys on the circuit and having over 20 years of running under my belt at this point. Basically just old man strength. My biggest weakness is probably my weight lifting. Although I do some, it’s been hard for me to get to where I’d like to be with this due to never really doing any until the last 5 years or so. It’s always a trade-off between potential benefits and injury risk, and this is always an area where I’ve never been able to get to where I’d like without feeling like I’m risking too much on the injury side.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
My brother. Although he’s younger by 3 years, I’ve always admired his commitment and approach to the sport. I know it often gets said about people, but he’s the hardest working person I know and has put in an uncountable number of the the long solo hours outside just running in rehab, strength work, and drills that are always the hardest to do and easiest to let slide. We’re very close and have been lucky to be able to train together for a handful of years during our career both in Winona and at Stanford.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
This is a tough one. I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of great teammates over the years. Our crew here with the Beasts right now are all great but one of them that I’ve really enjoyed training with this year is Dillon Maggard. We spent a month together in the mountains in January with just the 2 of us in a house and really got to know one another. It was great though and we really bonded, grinding out some hard workouts together during that month. He brings a different perspective to running than I do (and is just slightly younger) but we balanced each other really well and he dragged me to the longest weekly mileage of my career while up there. Watch out for this guy to do some big things in the years to come!
What's next for Garrett Heath?
Good question. For now, I’m just trying to focus on this year and the Olympic Trials. I dealt with some plantar fasciitis stuff this last year for the first time ever and found out what a real beast that can be, so for now just trying to get back to consistent training and give myself the best opportunity I can to make that team. After this year, everything is kind of up in the air. The track has always been the focus but the roads, marathons, trail, or maybe even cross country skiing could be on the table. We’ll see!
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Published October 25, 2019