Q & A w / Former Whitman Hanson Star Eric Ashe



Eric Ashe is a 26-year-old distance runner and a native of Hanson, Massachusetts. Ashe attended Boston University, where he won multiple conference championships and graduated with PRs of: 4:03 Mile, 8:04 3k, 8:51 3k Steeple, and 14:33 5k. In 2011, Eric joined the BAA Team and began his journey to compete post-collegiately. This past Sunday, Eric competed at the US Marathon Championship and placed 10th with a time of 2:17:56.

Milesplit MassFirst off, a big congratulations on running 2:17:56 this past weekend at the US Marathon Championships in Minneapolis. Not only did you finish 10th overall, but you also ran under 2:18:00, which qualifies you for the 2016 Olympic Trials. As you were standing on the line that morning prior to the race going off, what were some of the thoughts going through your head?

Eric: Well as you know, before any race there are those typical bouts of nerves and anxiety. Though, one big thing for me was my coach (Terry Shea) had told my teammate Brian Harvey and me that we were more than capable of running sub-2:18. That really struck me, because my coach isn’t really the type of guy that says things that aren’t true just to build up his athletes. My coach also reminded us that even though we were ready for sub-2:18, we still needed to race smart and stick to the plan we had for that day.

Milesplit Mass: Last February at the Houston Half Marathon, you made your first attempt at trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon. Unfortunately, you missed the standard by just one second. In April, you made another attempt for the trials at the Boston Marathon and unfortunately came up short again. As runners, we all go through trials and tribulations. What are some big things you have taken away from these two disappointing performances?

Eric: I think the big thing for me, in regards to my recent marathon, is that I approached last Sunday very differently than my previous two goal races. In Houston, I was just focused on the sub-65minute time standard and then at Boston I was just focused on that sub-2:18. I think that intense focus on the time was a bit detrimental. So my approach to US Marathon Championship was just to race hard and not to give up, no matter how far off 2:18 pace I was running. For instance, at Mile 19 I got a really painful cramp that started to hinder my stride and also started getting light-headed so I started to freak out a little, but I wasn’t going to let that cause me to quit mentally. I decided to take a swig of my Gu, and maybe it was just that little bit of sugar, but it calmed me down and I was able to reengage in the race.

Milesplit Mass: Growing up in Hanson, Mass, you attended Whitman-Hanson High School. Could you provide a little background for our readers about your high school career? Were you someone who naturally fell into cross-country / track or was it more of “I might as well give it a try” sort of scenario

 Eric:  Since I was a little kid, I was always really into football and it was my dream to play at BC and go onto the NFL. So all throughout middle school and the first two years of high school, I played linebacker / cornerback on the football team at Whitman-Hanson. After JV football my sophomore year, I realized I was going to be on JV again as a junior and that just really didn’t excite me. But throughout those first two years of high school, I had also been running the 110H and 300H during indoor and outdoor. The hurdles were something I had picked up in middle school and it surprisingly came very naturally to me. So come junior fall, I decided to go out for the cross country team in hopes of building some strength for the hurdles. Though my coach had other plans, and he eventually convinced me to actually try to be a contributing member of the varsity xc team. Come the end of that fall season, I found myself as the #2 guy on the team. I think it was that season which really got me hooked and made me passionate about becoming a successful distance runner.

Milesplit Mass: I know it was a few years ago, but could you talk a little bit about your college search process and how running played a factor in that search? You’re also currently a coach at Simmons College, so feel free to provide some collegiate coaching wisdom for high school athletes looking to run in college.

Eric: The idea of running at a high level in college all started during early indoor senior year season after I ran an indoor school-record of 4:29 in the mile. I think it was then when it finally dawned on me that I could actually make the next step to run at college. I was slowly but surely talking to a few coaches in the area, but I never really explored BU as an option. Funny enough, my mom actually emailed the BU coach behind my back and said I was interested in running at BU. I eventually found out and got mad at her for doing that and embarrassing me. Though a few days later, [BU Coach] Bruce Lehane called me and told me I should really consider applying to BU. A few weeks after that phone call, I set a big personal best in the mile and brought my time down to 4:19. In the end, I think I got kind of lucky because a few recruits decided not to attend BU, and Bruce was then able to offer me a scholarship, which I decided to take right away. I guess the take-away for high-school athletes is to never doubt yourself and be willing to reach out to college coaches!

Milesplit Mass: So you eventually decided to stay close to home and attend Boston University. At BU, you would go on to become team captain and a multiple-time conference champion. Do you think could talk about a few high and possibly a few low moments of your collegiate career?

EricOne the best moments of my career at BU had to be sophomore year, when I won the America East steeplechase title in 8:51. Not only was that a big win for me, but it also resulted in my scholarship being adjusted so I could compete for a fifth year. As junior year started, I decided to redshirt both the indoor & outdoor seasons. Surprisingly, I ended up having my best season ever running 4:03 in the mile and 8:04 in the 3k [competing unattached]. It was then, after running those times, that I knew I could reach the next level and be one of the best runners in the country. I really committed myself to my training after that and I really tried to go after obtaining that top level. Unfortunately, I think I might have gotten a little too excited and in the end I eventually just drove myself into the ground. I look back now and realize that instead of trying to make incremental steps, I just really forced it all at once and wanted that immediate improvement. I think I ran so well that unattached season because I didn’t force it. My final two years at BU were pretty disappointing on the track due to the fact that I never improved on my previous times and never reached the level I wanted to reach.

Milesplit Mass: As your time at BU drew near to an end, you obviously faced the decision of what do next with your running career and life in general. Did you have a firm idea for life after college or were you just going to wing it?

Eric: Once my time at BU came to a close, I actually quit running completely.. I think it was in large part due to the frustration from the final two years of my collegiate career. After the summer off,, I was eventually convinced by BC Coach Matt Kerr to start training and running with local elite Tim Ritchie. I resumed serious training and decided to go after qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the steeplechase. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and I missed the qualifying time by four seconds. Falling just short was pretty demoralizing. And after the Boston Marathon bombings, I got really motivated to run Boston the following year.

Milesplit Mass: Obviously, the pursuit of a professional running career is not very glamorous and a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Could you maybe give us a look at your typical day?

Eric: As you said, there definitely is not a lot of glamour in the pursuit of a professional running career. After Sunday, I would definitely consider myself one of the top 50 US marathoners. But it kindof stinks being the 50th best dude in the marathon in the US, when you can compare that to the 50th best baseball player in the country. Though, I know if I’m consistent and put in the hard work, a few years down the road I think I can be one of the top ten marathoners in the country. Day to day, I try to make running a top priority. Fortunately, I have jobs that allow me to dedicate the necessary two to three hours per day I need for my running and training. Currently, I’m the head coach at Simmons College and we have practice at6:15am during the week. Then from 10-5 I work at Tracksmith, which is a relatively new running apparel company located in Wellesley. I get my first run of the day in between those two jobs and then another one at 5pm. Thankfully, both jobs are running oriented and are a little flexible with my training and racing.

Milesplit Mass: I imagine once the disappointment of your Boston result faded, you were extremely motivated to tackle the marathon once again and get your Olympic Trials time. What was your training like this summer? Could you maybe talk about one big workout that might have made you realize you were ready for sub-2:18?

Eric: To be honest, I knew leading up to Boston that I was capable of a sub-2:18 performance. BAA teammate Brian Harvey and I had being putting in the mileage and cranking out the workouts. I think the reason I faltered at Boston was just due to the nature of the course. It is a relatively tough course and I believe that it is a course that requires a few go-rounds to get right. In regards to my training leading up to the US Marathon Champs, it wasn’t very different from my build-up to Boston. The only difference was that I felt a bit more comfortable with the workload and overall training. One big workout that convinced me of a sub-2:18 performance was a 15-mile tempo run at 5:15 pace with my teammate, Brian Harvey. We had done this workout once leading up to Boston and it went smoothly. This build-up, Brian and I completed this workout out twice over the course of our marathon training and both times it went really well.

Milesplit MassNow that you have your Olympic Trials qualifier and we’re two years out from the trials, what is next on the horizon for Eric Ashe?

Eric:  Though I just ran my marathon a few days ago, I have already calculated that I have 16 months until the trials in February of 2016. It’s kind of a funny number, as I have to decide what to do from now and then to be in the best shape of my life on race day. I have figure out if I want to run one marathon, two marathons, maybe try and chase after a fast half marathon time, or maybe even head back to the track for a little speed. I think it’s safe to say I will train for at least one marathon, but I’m just not sure on the exact race. My main goal for these next sixteen months is to get myself in shape to be a competitor and also to be a factor come race day in 2016. But for right now, I’m just going to enjoy a complete week off and follow that up with a week of cross training. After that, it’s back to work!