Name: Michael Aish
Location: Arvada, Colorado
Q. What was it like growing up in New Zealand and how did you get into running?
A. I grew up on the beach, under a mountain. There is not much better than that. We didn’t have much so we made do with what we could to have fun. We spent a lot of time swimming at the beach and in rivers, lots of time exploring the native forests and running over farmland. Back then kids were real active, we would all get kicked out of the house in the morning and be back for dinner. We would ride our bikes all over the place, go fishing, skateboarding, and climb trees. I loved everything about how I grew up. We were barefoot and brave.
I started running at around age 15. At my high school if you ran the school cross-country you got the day out of class (and I was all for that). I wasn’t great but I got better.
Q. How was running at the high school level in New Zealand? Were you racing near or at the top level of other high school runners?
A. Running in NZ is done at a Club level. High schools have a “Athletics” Day (Track and Field) and a school cross-country but that was about it at the school level. If you want to grow in the sport you join a club. I was okay. A guy at school took me along to a local running club one day and I loved it. I really enjoyed the long runs in the hills with all the marathon runners, they would tell me these long stories of how hard the marathon was and the funny things that would happen along the way. By the time I was 16 years old I was already running over 2hr long runs up in the hills. I wasn’t fast but I was getting stronger.
Q. What kind of impact did the great NZ running coach Arthur Lydiard have on your early and subsequent later running development?
A. Arthur was an amazing guy (I’ve only ever met one other person like him in my life). He had a simple way about him, but that’s what made you believe in what you were doing. He would say that you need to look at the best in the world, and then do the work to get there. I really had no idea who he was besides this old running coach. He would send me these schedules, that looking back was probably a little much, but I kept improving so I didn’t complain.
Q. How was your time running at Western State in Gunnison, Colorado? Was there anything about running in the US that was pretty different than New Zealand?
A. I was lucky. I really didn’t have much going for me in NZ at the time and being able to come over to the US for school kind of saved me. First thing I noticed was how cool it was to be part of a team, and how we all trained hard together and pushed each other. The main difference between the US and NZ was how fast everyone was running. I remember looking at the 5k times and thinking to myself “If they can run these times, why can’t I?” My time at western was very special. It was a special group of guys at a special time. We were fearless and every team in the country knew it. I was able to win 16 national titles over track and cross-country, but I know it would never have happened without the guys that were there with me. We were like a biker gang.
Q. You studied art at Western States. What artist or type of art do you connect with?
A. I like painting, but I think I just like being creative. At the moment I’m getting in to a little graffiti stencils and stuff. Guys like Banksy. If we ever can buy a house, I want a art studio in it.
Q. Your hard work earned you the right to run in the Athens and Sydney Olympics for New Zealand. What was that experience like and how did you perform at each?
A. I ran poorly. The thing with the Olympics is that only a few people go home happy. I was a kid in Sydney and pushed my body too far in training to be at my best. I basically did the same thing in Athens to try and make up for running so bad in Sydney. Looking back if I’d held back a little I could have run a lot better. Whatever happened, the Olympics are amazing, you see things and meet people that change you. I can tell you stories…
Q. You are a runner that is not afraid to work hard and have run upwards of 200 miles per week while working a job. I think many runners feel being a professional runner is glamorous and they get these nice contracts. What was your experience as a professional?
A. When I ran for Nike I was making less than if I would have worked in a fast food joint, but you do it because you love it. The last thing that you think about when you hear the bell for the last lap of a race is money. My wife and I always got by, I’d work odd jobs, race crazy races for a few dollars but when it all comes down to it, your not going to be able to push yourself to that different level if your only doing it for the money-those people don’t last.
I was blessed with a strong body, and I hate to lose. I believe that talent will only get you so far, 90% of everything is hard work and you do it or you don’t?
Q. What are your personal bests (PBs) at various distances?
- 3,000m: 7:50
- 5,000m: 13:22
- 10,000m: 27:46
Q. You just recently quite your job to pursue ultra running full time. What prompted the change?
A. I just wasn’t happy.
Q. One company that has stepped up to support your ultra running is Mizuno. What have you been up to with Mizuno over the last year?
A. Mizuno has been great. We first started talking when they wanted a little input in to their new trail line. Things grew from there and I ran the Leadville 100 in a pair of prototypes and loved them. It was only these past few weeks that we put together a real contract but I’ll be honest with you. If I were buying trail shoes, I’d buy these, sponsorship or not, I really love how they feel.
Note: Here’s a short video Mizuno put together about working with Mike to develop their new trail line of shoes.
Q. You tackled the Leadville 100 back in 2012 and dropped out. You then came back and placed 3rd last year without training full time. Is that race your main focus for this year or did it just become the Western States 100 when you recently qualified at the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile?
A. If I’m on the start line, I’m there to race. I want to win races, but first or last I love to compete.
Q. What person(s) in running inspire(s) you?
A. Lots of people inspire me, for lots of reasons. Most of the time it’s my wife.
Q. What race or adventure would you like to do one day?
A. The Baja 1000. It’s a car race in Mexico. Class 11, is original VW bug and it’s the only class that the locals respect.
Q. What is a typical week of training in your life right now?
A. Things tend to change a little but as a guideline this is the plan I try and follow:
Tue: Two easy runs. Total time between 2-3hrs
Wed: Some kind of workout. I will focus on hills or maybe pick up the pace a little for speed but nothing crazy. Total time between 2-3hrs
Thurs: Two easy runs. Total time between 2-3hrs
Sat: Longer. 3hrs+
Sun: Longer. 3hrs+
Q. At what distance do you take water/hydration with you on a run?
A. I’ve never been that good about keeping hydrated. I think that it’s just a bad habit form running on the track. Because you never out there very long you can just drink after. The more running I’ve started to do I’m finding that if I keep a bottle on me and keep myself topped up, I tend to feel better not only in training but also after as well. If I’m running over 1hr now I have a bottle on me.
Q. What was your reaction to the Simple Hydration Bottle after using it?
I really like them. I kind of hate running with anything in my hands. I feel it messes with my form and just makes it harder to run fast. I love the fact that with the Simple Hydration Bottles, I can tuck it away for when I need it, I can still run fast or race without it getting in the way and the it’s real easy to refill fast at aid stations.
Q. What races do you have planned for 2014 and do you have a focus race?
- Feb 1 – Sean O’Brain 50m, California (Placed 2nd)
- March 15 – Tarawera 100km, Aotearoa – New Zealand
- April 12 – Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, California
- June 27- Western States 100, California
- August 16 – Leadville 100 Run, Colorado
- September 27 – UROC, Colorado (* Pending Race Entry)
Q. Who are your sponsors for 2014?
You can follow Mike’s running on his blog Mountain Mischief.