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UjENA FIT Club Running Interviews and articles with 100 Interesting People

Best Road Races and the UjENA FIT Club is speaking with 100 people who we feel have a lot to say about running, racing and fitness  We will give you background information as will as their insights into the future.  Be sure to post your feedback and comments.

Read All UjENA FIT Club Running Interviews

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The sport of Double Racing is about ready to Take Off!
Posted Thursday, February 19th, 2015
by Bob Anderson, publisher of Double Runner magazine (Photo Bob Anderson with world record holder Julius Koskei wearing the yellow... Read Interview
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2013 Ujena Fit Club Male Runner of the Year
Posted Monday, March 17th, 2014
The Chris Jones story is a running saga of epic proportions.  Don't try this at home! (Photo - Leadville 100... Read Interview
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Sharon Vos: Three in a Row
Posted Sunday, March 23rd, 2014
Aging ever so gracefully at age 59 and forging a career record that becomes ever more impressive, Sharon Vos is... Read Interview
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Julius Koskei: All In the Family
Posted Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
 By David Prokop Editor Best Road RacesJulius Koskei (pronounced Kos-kay), who set the current world record in the Double Road... Read Interview

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Mike Fanelli - Interview No. 10
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
" I Thank my lucky stars for the day I got bit by the running bug"
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Mike Fanelli began running in his hometown of Philadelphia at the ripe young age of 12 and hasn't quit since. His running exploits include 98,245 lifetime miles and some 800+ races at distances ranging  from 800 meters to 100 miles. Collegiately Mike competed in cross country and track & field while studying business at San Francisco State University.

Post-collegiately he worked for 15 years in a variety of sports marketing capacities primarily with athletes in the athletic footwear industry. He has many years experience in broadcasting and spent nearly 25 years as "the voice of the Bay to Breakers."

From a coaching standpoint Mike was influenced by Arthur Lydiard, Dr. Joe Vigil and other noted exercise physiologists and had the privilege of coaching numerous Olympic Trials qualifiers.  He was a long time and very successful coach of the Impalas Racing Team.  

As a senior athlete today, Mike's affiliations include Tamalpa Runners, the Olympic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and the Haight Ashbury Ultra Society.

When not running, Mike has spent the past 15 years as a real estate broker representing buyers and sellers of fine residential properties in San Francisco and Marin County. With his wife Renay and dog Baci Mike splits his time between residences in San Anselmo and Sonoma County Wine Country where he is an avid collector of pinot noirs and nearly anything related to the sports of running and track & field. (Interview by Bob Anderson)

Personal Bests: Mile 4:16; 5k 14:37; 10k 30:53; Marathon 2:25; 50k 3:05; 50 miles 6:03; 100 miles 16:40

Photo Above: Running the trails with my dog Baci.

Photo: High School track team Philadelphia 1971

1. When and how did you get into racing?
Growing up as a bit of a hooligan in Philadelphia in the 60s, I realized that whenever it came time to run, I mean REALLY run from the cops or whatever, I'd be way faster than my juvenile delinquent pals...perhaps it was just that I had a clear understanding of the ramifications if I were to get caught and have to face the wrath of my Dad, Nicholas Pasquale Fanelli...then in 1968, my older brother Gary won the City Championships 880 and the Mexico City Olympic Games took place...I thought Tommie Smith was the coolest athlete that I'd ever seen (aside from Cassius Clay) and I decided right then and there that when I got to high school, I was going to be a 220 runner ...just like Tommie ;}

2. Would you ever thought when you started running that you would be approaching 100,000 miles in just a few months?
Nah, I don't think that you set out trying to run some big number...it just kind of evolved. All I cared about for decades and decades was trying to run absolutely as fast as possible for whatever distance I happened to be training for at that time. I really started as a half miler and kept moving up and moving up...eventually became a 10,000 meter guy and then desperately wanted to break 2:20 in the marathon...eventually moved all the way up to 100 miles...then started all over again back at my roots and re-invented myself as a miler at age 50. I managed a 4:56 that year. It's all good. In the end, if one trains nearly every single day of their life for 40 some years, the numbers just add up and voila, you're at some really big number...maybe not 100,000, but big. The hard part is staying healthy enough long enough and that is super tricky.

3. Sounds like you keep track of everything? 
I'm kind of a geek and have always kept detailed training logs...mostly because I've always been intrigued by human performance and my log was a way to create some benchmarking ...looking back wards in order to go forward. I know that if I was able to run 20 x 400 in X and got Y race result ,that it lent some perspective on what I needed to be able to do in order to accomplish that next objective...the only other thing that I actually record other than running is wildlife sightings and the like. I've become sort of a naturalist...a regular running John James Audubon. (PS, counted 14 bald eagle sightings in 2011)

4. How about college?
I was only a decent college runner, not great...I ran fairly well at the NCAA Div ll level  (but would have gotten spanked at the D l level) and set the still standing school record for 10,000 meters at San Francisco State University...where Johnny Mathis held the school high jump record...seriously.

5. Tell us about Hoy's Sports?
I spent something like 17 years in a variety of capacities in the realm of sports marketing...most notably at Reebok where I worked in the running footwear division and got to work with all of our sponsored athletes like Steve Jones, Arturo Barrios, Ed Eyestone and on and on...upon leaving the corporate running world behind, I helped transform Hoy's Sports (a general sporting goods store located in the unlikely Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco) into a real powerhouse independent running specialty shop...we concentrated on racing shoes and track and field competition shoes...it was the one place in the US where you could walk in and select from 7 different javelin boots, 3 steeplechase shoes, 8 types of triple jump shoes...it was crazy and super fun. I started their mail order track and field specialty shoe busines...before the interenet.

Photo: Mike running the 5th Ave Mile in New York City 2006 at age 50

6. You were the king of the San Francisco Marathon for many years.  How did this develop? 
I wouldn't go so far as to say king of anything...heck, I am only the number two marathoner in my own dang family (Gary ran 2:14 in Montreal the day before I ran 2:25 in Eugene)...I did run both 2:26 and 2:27 on that original tough old course in the '70s and frankly, that 2:26 while not my PR, was probably my best race. then, in 1983 or so SF Marathon got some big corporate sponsorship money and I was asked to recruit and assemble our elite field...I did this for many years of which the highlight was having Simeon Kigen run 2:10:17 to win in 1984...just one week after the Olympic Marathon in L.A. and after he had been left off the Kenyan team. Once the event lost the big sponsor dollars and the course was re-worked for the umpteenth time, I actually won the race two years in a row...my first ever marathon victory and it came 16 years after running my first marathon...kinda crazy, huh?

7. What range of distances (track and road) were you racing in the 70's and 80's?
Heck, I raced everything from the one mile to 50 miles in those two decades but really concentrated on the track the first half and long stuff the second half...that being said, I can remember in 1979 running a one mile PR one weekend and then winning the 50K championships the next...says something about the aerobic capacity one develops by running countless 100 mileish weeks I guess.

8. When and why did you get into Ultras?
That first one was a boo boo...I was going to do a 15 mile long run and just cover part of this 50k because my friends were running it...I got to about 10 miles and felt super fresh and had moved up all the way to about 5th place so, game time decision, decided to keep on truckin'...hit the marathon in 2:37 and then picked it up...caught the leader with a mile to go and then my track wheels kicked in and I won it in 3:05...kind of just a wacky "mistake"

9. How important do you think body weight is to perform at your best? and has this changed over the years?
I was super duper lean as a collegiate runner..like 128-132...age and gravity caught up when my mileage descended...ran most of the past 20 years around 145 but physically stronger...getting ready for the world masters track and field championships last year I got all the way down to 138 but that was just too light...now my fighting weight is 142 (I used to be 5' 91/2"')...I do the Herschel Walker approach of using your own body weight for resistance exercise...mostly push ups, crunches and the like.

10. Do you do anything special with your diet?
I didn't eat meat or even fish for about 12 years...ovo lacto vegetarian they called it back in the day...ate a lot of soy protein, eggs, legumes and drank a lot of beer...hey, I was in my 20s. Today I just eat mostly very healthy lean during the week and then on weekends spice things up...we really like to dine out and in fact even write a food and wine blog...but again, on 'school nights' am a really good boy. I do however (and always have) take a LOT of supplements. Surely I have some of the most expensive urine in all of Northern California.

Photo: Mike likes it all - track, road and trials.  

11. Do you think some red wine has a place in a runner's diet?
Ahhh, we live in the land of fine red wine...California's second greatest assist after sunshine. There is so much really good wine to experience here it is kind of crazy. For me it's a function of sharing.  I collect great wine to share with friends and pair with special meals. I'd like to say that the "resveratrol" factor is what motivates me but it'd be a major fib. Everything in moderation.

12. You have done a lot of coaching.
I had the privilege of coaching the nation's largest all women's running team, Impala Racing Team for about 10 years...was able to help more than a dozen athletes qualify for the Olympic Trials...quite possibly the most fulfilling thing that I've ever done in the sport. To this day I count many of those women as my dearest friends of all time...that success along with my involvement in other facets of USATF led to three US national team coaching appointments (1992, 1996, and 2000). I had the honor of escorting teams to compete in Yokohama, Japan  and Seoul, Korea...had the great fun of having Joan Benoit Samuelson on one of those teams and the very first time I ever went to Disneyland was in Tokyo with t Joanie and her family... Pirates of the Caribbean will never seem quite the same.

Comments and Feedback
run I am really enjoying doing these interviews. I have known Mike for many years and I just did not realize how much I didn't know. He has done so much. Great interview!
Bob Anderson 1/24/12 12:41 pm

13. Are you still coaching?
Not so much...I write the marathon training program for the guys at the Olympic Club and will work with a select few athletes here and there...just helped a group with specific work aimed at winning USA Cross Country National Championships (they succeeded) and another athlete with whom I had  coached  for many many years had me advise them going into the Olympic Marathon Trials a couple of weeks ago. By and large, coaching is on the back burner for now...and while I loved the excitement of prepping athletes for the post collegiate national stage, likely my next coaching gig will either be with kids or at the high school level...a level where you can make a difference in young lives going forward by teaching lessons learned through sport.

14. Are you still involved with Rolfing? We don't hear too much about this recently.  Is deep tissue sport massage basically the same thing?
I have had just over 300 sessions of rolfing in the past 12 years...the specialist I see does all that really deep tissue stuff and more importantly a lot of nerve work. If it wasn't for him (James Schwartz) there is no way I'd still be able to run...he has taken 10 years or 20,000 miles off my legs...seriously. I also do ART (active release therapy) with Doug Kyle whenever there is something acute...and knock on wood, I haven't seen  him in six months...

Photo: Racing 5000m at the PA USATF Masters Track and Field Championships 2011

15. How are you adapting to aging?
Well, once you get over the fact that you're never ever going to run as fast as you once did, then you're  "on the road to recovery"...seriously, I am so so thankful that I trained and raced and sacrificed as hard as I did as a younger man as those experiences are absolutely priceless. Funny thing is that I so appreciate being ABLE to run today, albeit much slower. I have frankly never enjoyed running as much as I do right here right now.

16. Your 2:25 marathon when you were younger would be equal to about a 2:51 marathon at age 55.  Does it seem like the two should be equal based on age-graded?
You know, I just don't pay a lot of attention to quantifying performances by age grading...what I ran in the past is what I ran in the past...what I run today is the present...am a "be here now" sorta guy. The beauty of our sport is that it is so quantifiable in distance and in time...black and white and beautiful baby!

17. How important is your race time to you these days?
How important? Absolutely critical! I am very realistic about what my body will enable me to do training-wise without breaking but I train really hard to race as fast as I possibly can. I try to set "modern day PRs" without beating myself up with that "used to be" self talk.

18. How involved are you in the current running scene? Do you follow the sport as much as you have in the past?
I am a humongous fan of the sport through and through. Love the sport's history, trivia, characters etc. Aside from middle and long distance races, I totally dig following the decathlon. I actually have a remarkable memorabilia collection...like 90% of the past 100 years of Penn Relays meet programs and esoteric stuff like that. I NEVER miss the Olympic Track and Field Trials (my very favorite meet in the world bar none) and will of course spend 10 days in Eugene this June. I love traveling to World Championships etc.  and in fact, although we had a London Olympic  ticket debacle, along with two other couples we are renting a house in France for the entire week of track and field at the Games this August...the biggest criteria on which property to rent was that it HAD to have an English language BBC feed so that we can see everything single event live while it's happening...next best thing to being there.

19. What running goals have you set for yourself in the coming year?
Aside from running my 100,00th mile? Is that not enough?? Seriously though, assuming my wrecked feet will hold up, I'd like to try to make the masters national track and field rankings at 800, 1500, mile, 5000 and 10,000...I just love the purity of racing and training on the track.

20. Are you going to do anything special when you run your 100,000th mile?
Am trying to dovetail the 100,000th mile with the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th...my very first marathon was Philly Marathon 1972 so combining 40 year  marathon homecoming with the magical 100K mile seems like a perfectly geeky thing to try to do...afterwards, we'll be the guys drinking way too much champagne and hanging out at the Rocky Balboa statue on the top of the Art Museum stairs that he made so famous

21. How many miles a week are you currently running? Have injuries slowed you down in reaching your 100,000 mile goal?
Most of my body parts are still in really good working order except for my feet which have been really bad for probably 20 years...am in constant management mode and been able to avert the prescribed surgery...just have to deal with a lot of very sharp pain pretty regularly. I can not even wear real dress shoes anymore uggghhh. I managed 2209 miles in 2011 which averages just over 42 miles a week...just 1700 miles to go!

Photo: Mike with wife Renay at "Top Producers" Real Estate awards dinner in 2011.

22. What is your "normal" day like these days?
Up by 5:45, coffee, read two or three newspapers, track the opening of the stock market, respond to client e-mails and out the door running by 7:30...a round of push ups and sut ups and then work mode till about 7 PM...catch Jeopardy over dinner, a little more work and lights out usually by 9:45 then repeat. The famed Villanova coach Jumbo Elliott taught his athletes to "live like a clock"...I do.

23. You play a lot of golf. Does golf give you the same feelings as does running?
Golf feels different than running...except for when I miss a two foot putt...then it hurts even more than running. Golf is amazingly zen for me...lots of self talk , strategy, figuring out the risk reward ratio of the different options, analyzing biomechanics...I really enjoy it and unlike some folks that stress out over the game, it takes the edge off for me. Come on, how bad can a five mile walk on a grass carpet be after all.

24. Have you been able to mix running and golf? Does one help the other?
I find that the long walk is a good activity on one of those "active recovery" days ...I still get in a run but an easy one. In fact if I try to play the same days as a hard workout, I am usually to tight in hamstrings, gluts,  and back to swing fluidly. The one way that I find that running helps golf is between the ears. It's a really mental game loaded with self talk and visualization. Basically everything that I know about those topics I have learned from running.

25. How would your life be different if you had not found running?
I shudder to even think about what path I may have gone down. I look at some of the guys that I grew up with (those that are still alive) and thank my lucky stars for the day I got bit by the running bug.

26. What do you think of the present running scene?
I am really pleased and impressed with the resurgence of American track and field and distance running as a whole. The running scene is so strong and healthy at the grass roots high school level all the way up to our Olympic ranks. I mean 2:09 did not make the team at the Olympic Marathon trials earlier this month...exciting times!

27. Do you think the big prize money at the major races is helping improve performances?
The only thing I see big prize money doing is to help fund the retirement coffers of foreign athletes that come to America to earn a living as road warriors. As far as US running development is concerned, chasing races for a pay day is a sure way to reduce the likelihood of reaching one's maximal potential...a distraction at best.

Photo: Mike's day job...representing buyers and sellers of fine residental properties in San Francisco and Marin County

28. As a successful professional in the high end Real Estate business, has it been hard at times to find time to run?
I make running a daily priority...my current "streak" is a week away from 400 consecutive days. I find that the best way to assure that it gets done is to do it early in the morning before life has a chance to get in the way. Rather than miss a day, I'll get out and pound the pavement at 4:30 a.m. if that's what it takes for a particular given day.

29. Has running helped you in your business? The time spent running is a great way for me to strategies and problem solve the complicated issues that come up regularly in an exhaustively detailed real estate transaction.

30. Is it pretty cool to be a member of the SF Olympic Club?
What most people don' know about the Olympic Club is that it is the nation's oldest athletic club and was established in 1860. Yes, older than the New York AC. I am honored to be a member in good standing in this historic and storied club...beyond cool!

Photo: SF Olympic Club

31. How often do you play this course?
I like to play around...golf I mean. So while I play OC maybe 10 times a year, I play at a lot of other really neat and interesting course. I've played Bandon Dunes, Pebble Beach and even Cape Kidnappers on the North island of New Zealand. I collect Alistair Mackenzie designed courses and have yet to play his Cypress Point or Augusta but hope to at some future date...just awaiting an invite ;}

32. Does your wife run? or play golf?
Golf? never. Run? Oh yes...we actually met at the 100th Boston Marathon and are about to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. You could say running has brought some very nice gifts to my life and this one is the very best gift of all!

33. Do you ever go running with your dog when hanging out at your wine country vacation home?
Baci, a visual,  is over 13 years old now and so his running days are mostly behind him the past year or so although he did a two mile hill with me just last week. We did many many miles on the trails of Mt Tamalpais and up at Lake Sonoma in wine country. Man that dude could run!

34. Is there anything you have not done but want too?
When I turn 60, the World Masters Track & Field  Championships are being held in Perth, Australia so I've got that on the agenda...probably some weirdo double like 800 and 10,000 meters. I've also got a hankering to do the Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa and a speed trek to the top of Kilimanjaro. Surely those three pursuits will keep me busy for a little while longer.

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