Ian LaMere and The Art of Solo Running
Ian LaMere found himself in a familiar position last Friday.
There were 33 other athletes left in the second section of the 10,000-meter run at the Stanford Invitational after the rabbit stepped off the track, but none of them could keep up with LaMere. Of those 33 athletes, 31 were from NCAA Division I programs and four were All-Americans in the fall at that distance during cross country, yet LaMere — a lightly-recruited junior from DIII UW-Platteville — broke away.
As the circuits of the 25-lap race melted away, LaMere’s first-place advantage grew.
Two seconds. Five seconds. Seven seconds. Nine seconds.
With 800 meters to go, LaMere led by 17 seconds — the eventual margin he’d win by — and it was a race against the clock. Anything under 28:48.4 would set a DIII record in the event.
LaMere crossed the finish line in 28:38.63.
“We weren’t sure what to expect from him, so that was incredible,” said Tom Antczak, who coaches LaMere and the Pioneers. “He hadn’t really raced since the fall, so it was a bit of an unknown. I do know that he wanted to prove himself and that’s a huge motivator.”
Anybody who thought LaMere wouldn’t rise to the occasion or be able to keep up his blistering pace as he ran by his lonesome — he split 14:06 over the last 5,000 meters — is foolish.
LaMere thrives on setting his own pace. It’s all he’s known since his academic workload increased.
Class conflicts force LaMere, an engineering major, to primarily work out alone and push himself on the track, trails and everywhere in between upwards of 85 miles per week. As part of that major, LaMere is currently serving at a Madison-based engineering co-op full-time during the spring semester and because of that, he savors the time he gets to spend with his teammates at that weekend’s meet.
“You learn how to adapt,” LaMere said. “I’m in this position now, so I had to. At first it was kind of difficult, but after doing it for a while I convinced myself it wasn’t so bad.”
According to his coach, the only way LaMere could become the runner he envisions — read: multiple NCAA titles — was to adopt that lone-wolf mentality during races, too.
“He knows he has to get away from people: He’s not a kicker,” Antczak said. “If it comes down to a kick and he’s with four or five guys, three or four of those guys are going to beat him.”
It’s a lesson LaMere learned his freshman year during the 2012 Warhawk Invitational — LaMere redshirted outdoor and cross country in 2013 following a stress fracture — and was reiterated this past fall at the AAE Invitational, which serves as DIII Pre-Nationals.
When UW-Platteville got back from Winneconne in October, where LaMere finished second to rival Josh Thorson of UW-Eau Claire, he and Antczak sat down and hashed out a new strategy.
“I told him, ‘I want you to run with the lead pack for the first 1K and then just go — push from there on out,’” Antczak said. “I want him to settle in to get his aerobic system working and see who can hang with him after that.”
Just like those 33 runners this past weekend in Palo Alto, California, no one came close since that fateful discussion.
Over the final three races of the cross country season, LaMere won by an average of 36 seconds. That includes a 39-second win at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in November, the largest margin of victory in meet history.
“I didn’t really know I had broken as far away as I had,” LaMere said. “I assumed someone was close to me the whole time. With probably 500 meters to the finish I realized I was getting the opposite of a pity clap — the kind of clap where someone pulls off something miraculous.”
Fast forward four-and-a-half months and LaMere set his sights on a third all-time best: Dan Henderson’s 38-year-old record in the 5,000-meter run (13:50.0).
“I want to go after it and I’ll hopefully get that chance at our home meet (UW-Platteville Invitational from April 15-16),” LaMere said. “Another DIII record would be nice.”
Chances are if LaMere reduces Henderson’s mark to dust, just like he did Dan Mayer’s, the junior would have done it with nothing but 3.1 miles of synthesized rubber and history in the way.