I wasn’t expecting to have the opportunity to talk with Ron Warhurst and Maverick Darling on my trip to Ann Arbor, but these two allowed me to listen in on their conversation and ask questions. Beijing Olympics 1,500-meter silver medalist Nick Willis also popped in briefly to do strides on the indoor track.
Warhurst became the Michigan cross-country coach in 1974 and ended up guiding more than 40 All-Americans and 12 Olympians during his time as XC and track and field coach. He retired in 2010 but continues to coach post-collegiate runners in the Ann Arbor area, including Willis and 3:51 miler Will Leer.
Darling won three straight MHSAA D3 cross-country state titles at Ovid-Elsie and went on to be a multiple-time All-American and Big Ten champion at Wisconsin. He has a 5K PR of 13:27, and I’m looking forward to his progression at the professional level.
After running 8:01 at the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile in 2013, Warhurst talked about his adventure at the same race in 2014:
“I said, ‘I’m coming back, and I’m gonna run seven minutes next year [in 2014].’ … So then, I started training for it. I had two stints put in my heart eight years ago, so in the last week of July, I started getting a pain in my neck again, and I’m going, ‘Dammit, I know what that feeling is.’ And my doctor said, ‘You don’t need a stress test—you’ll know the feeling when you get it.’ … So I’m starting to train pretty good, and I’m getting a pain in my neck, and I’m feeling shitty and thinking, ‘Dammit, I know I can get through September.’ So, it’s getting worse, so I’m training shittier. So I get there and I do it anyway. And I already had an appointment set up with my heart specialist four of five days after the race, so I get there, I’m doing it, I’m warming up. The day before [the race], I’m going, ‘Dammit, I can feel it…’ So I’m running my ass off, and I didn’t feel it, probably because I was thinking too much. About 100 yards out from the finish, here’s [Will] Leer and the Minnesota guys and all the girls, all the pro guys and pro girls, and they’re yelling, ‘Come on, coach!’ So I’m running, and I’m kicking my ass off at seven-minute pace, ya know? I’m in an all-out sprint.
“So I see them hanging around the finish line, and I started to smile and went to flip ‘em off, and the next step—right in front of them—I hit the ground, bang! I’m laying on the ground going, ‘Did I have a heart attack?’ I don’t feel any pain, but my knee is killing me, my elbow is killing me. And all I can hear is, ‘Get up! You gotta finish! Get up!’ Leer’s screaming, they’re all yelling at me. So I get up and I’m going like this, ‘OK, it can’t be a heart attack. I don’t hurt, I’m still going.’ And it’s like slow motion to get to the finish. So I ran 7:42, and I was a mess. I still got a lump on my elbow—it’s all skinned up and shit. … I got back on Sunday, and my appointment was Thursday with the doctor. I didn’t do anything all week; I was too sore and stiff. So I get in there, and they took my blood pressure. I was waiting for them to start telling [I raced]. I walk into his office, and he goes, ‘I understand that you and John U. Bacon are running Boston.’ I go, ‘Well yeah.’ He says, ‘Well I want in.’ I go, ‘OK.’ Then he looks and he goes, ‘What’s this 140 blood pressure? How ya feeling?’ I said, ‘Well pretty good. I got this pain.’ He says, ‘You asshole!’ Because he knew I was gonna tell him. He goes, ‘How long have you had it?’ I go, ‘Two, three, four, five, six weeks…’ He says, ‘Get your ass, we’re gonna go get a stress test.’ So I get a stress test, and then he says it’s blocked and don’t do anything till Monday. So I put another stint in, and I ran with that thing. And now a week later, I’m feeling like a bitch, man, I’m running hard. So I was a half-ass to run that race, and I had half a heart. Now I have a big ass on me, and my heart’s full.”