Brian McGregor of Aberdeen describes himself as the “host” of the Grays Harbor Harriers running club. The 54-year-old McGregor, a chiropractor, artist and writer, has also served as the distance coach with the Miller Junior High track and cross country teams. While he ran cross country and track in high school, he didn’t seriously pursue running until he turned 40 and decided the sport was the best way to get in shape. After running 2 to 3 miles a couple times per week, he joined the Harbor Harriers, then led by Frank and Pat Gordon. He took over as host of the club a couple of years ago. Since then, he has run three full marathons, dozens of half marathons and 10-K races. He and his wife, Joy, have two children, Katie, 14, and Joshua, 11.
What are the Grays Harbor Harriers?
The Grays Harbor Harriers meet each and every Monday, rain or shine, warm or cold. We leave for our run at 6 p.m., so runners show up at the house (205 W. Third St., Aberdeen) between 5:30 and 6. Our runners range in age from 14 to the mid-60s. Our oldest runner places in the top five runners for his age group at the Bloomsday run in Spokane every year and our two 14-year-olds recently helped set a national record for the 800-meter medley for eighth graders.
The running club actually includes runners, walkers and joggers. Most of the women walk while the guys run, although there are many fine female runners who show up every now and then.
The running club is mainly about supporting each other, no matter how fast or slow. No one is ever left behind. Running for fun or fitness is hard work and tends to be solitary. But once you get on the road with someone else, you can feed on their energy. Most of our members show up for the races that the City of Hoquiam puts on once a month.
Every Monday starts the same way. There may as few as two or as many as 10-15 people who show up. We stand around and debate about where we want to run and how far we want to go. When the clock hits 6, we head out. After a few miles, the group naturally splits into faster and slower runners, depending on how each person is feeling on a given night.
By about 7 p.m., we get to the real reason we run, the weekly potluck. We eat and talk about running shoes, races, strains and sprains and occasionally politics. And, of course, we make loose plans to meet during the week for other runs.
What are your favorite runs on Grays Harbor?
Club runs on Monday are limited by my house being the starting point. We run the bridges, which means counter-clockwise down Cherry Street, into Hoquiam via the little bridge and then over the big bridge and back home.
The Port Dock run goes to the viewing tower at the 28th Street landing, to the bridges and back down Cherry. The Walmart run takes us past the Rotary Log Pavilion to the asphalt plant at the end of the walking path and back. Bear Gulch goes out past the cemetery along the river as far as we want to go and back. Stewart Park takes us down B Street to the park, around the trails and back up through Sam Benn Park and home.
Great runs during the week take us down Central Park Drive to the old highway and back. Friends Landing, anywhere in Hoquiam from the airport to the Port Dock, to Longren’s Pass or the hills behind Hoquiam High School are all great runs. Trail runs behind Bel Aire and Beacon Hill are popular in the summer months.
What types of exercises should be done before a lengthy run?
The best exercise before a long run is, of course, a lot of shorter runs. There are lots of runners who work out at the gym to get stronger so they can run faster. But most of the club members think that running is the best way to get stronger so they can run faster and farther.
As a group, we all have our favorite stretches but the most common are Achilles, hamstrings, thighs, quadriceps and gastrocs. These are all stretches for the front and back of the upper and lower legs. The Internet makes it very easy to figure these out, but there’s nothing better than coming to the club and talking to other runners who have hurt themselves in more ways than you can imagine.
Some people find distance running boring. How do you keep your mind occupied during long runs?
Runners find that the only people who think distance running is boring are people who don’t run.
Most of the time, on longer runs, you are with a running partner. So there’s always something to talk about, unless somebody picks up the pace and then nobody talks all that much. We’re too busy trying to breathe and keep our legs moving.
In marathons, half-marathons, 5-K, 10-K and mud runs, there are anywhere from a couple of dozen people to thousands of people running with you. There are no strangers among runners, even those you don’t know. Although some people don’t like to talk during races, I find it interesting to find out where people are from, how many races they’ve done and what times they are shooting for. This has a couple of benefits to me. It’s fun to find out about other runners and it gives them the false impression that I am not as tired as I really am at this point in the race.
What are the most common mistakes of new runners?
The most common mistakes of runners, especially those just starting to run, are trying to go too far or too fast, too soon. We all want to be better than we are. We want to run faster or farther, and we want to do it now.
Do it little by little with the right shoes and clothing and advice from people who have been running for years. Although you can just throw on a pair of shoes and some shorts and start running, I have to believe that your chances of success are much greater in the company that are already doing what you are trying to do.
Usually, when I invite people to come run with us, they say they are not fast enough or they will come when they are in better shape. The club is here to help people run better and faster. Just show up and see what can happen. And bring a friend. Besides, we have a great group of people in our club, we’re fun to run with and we have a potluck every Monday night. And it’s not always healthy food. There are a lot of desserts.
If running a marathon is on your bucket list, how would you prepare?
While running a marathon sounds like a good thing to have on a bucket list, I would suggest starting with a 5-K, then working up to a 10-K, a half-marathon and then a full marathon. Join a running club and listen to people who have done what you want to do. There are many training plans that you can download online to get you through a marathon. Most are about 16 weeks long. Some recommend running five-six days per week; others recommend four days per week. Different plans work for different people. I have tried more than one and my favorite has me running only three days per week, one day moderate distance at a faster pace, one day long and a little slower and one day at the track doing speed work.
A marathon is a huge investment in time and effort. I always have black thoughts going through my head at about mile 21 or 22. Just remember that if you are a relatively fast runner you will be out on the course for about three hours. That’s running for three hours, continuously. If you’re fast. A slow runner can be running for five or more hours. Half-marathons are way easier to train for and much more fun to run, at least for me.
If you have ever thought you would like to be a runner, now is the time to get off the couch. If you are currently running by yourself and need company or are hoping to run your first 5-K or simply don’t know how to get started, 205 W. Third St. (across from McDermoth Elementary School) is the place to be on Mondays. The first run is the hardest, so just show up and get it done. Bring your shoes and don’t forget the potluck.