“After having coached middle school cross country for two seasons, I am now the new middle school track coach. I can’t say enough about how rewarding it is to inspire and motivate young people to run and get in shape and see them improve and achieve things they never thought possible. And if they happen to win in the process, that’s even better.” – Jeff McCloud

Hi Team,

Today, I am excited to introduce you to  runner, father, husband and coach Jeff McCloud!

Jeff has been a long-standing member of The Conscious Runner Academy. Recently taken on the role of The Conscious Runner Academy Community Manager. Jeff will work alongside Patricia Tuttle Russell, to ensure our community remains dedicated to the vision of The Conscious Runner (see the core values on the Home Page). As a coach, Jeff has a wealth of knowledge and will also be answering questions and providing feedback and support where needed. Jeff has raced a variety of distances. On March 20th, 2016, he ran a 5K in 20:34, 28 seconds faster than a month ago and he was second in the 45-49 age group!

Like many of us, Jeff became a runner in the most unusual way. But, I’ll let him tell you about it.

TCR: What inspired you to start running?

In junior high, I played basketball, and I hated it. I wasn’t the best player on the team, and it was just a frustrating experience – except for the 1-mile run our coach had us do for conditioning. There was something about running, and only running, that I really enjoyed. When I got to high school, I joined the cross country team and loved every minute of it.

TCR: What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome when you just started running?

Motivation. I ran in high school because I had to be at practice and had a coach who was telling us what to do. Even though I loved to run, after I graduated from school and didn’t HAVE to run, I lost the motivation. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I started working out on an elliptical and lost 35 pounds that I started thinking about running again.

I literally worked out on that machine every day for 30 minutes for about 6 months. At some point, I decided to start running just to add some variety to my exercise routine. I thought I’d run a little and still work out on the elliptical, but running took over. Now I run 25 miles to 35 miles a week (or more if I’m training for something). My motivation now is to keep off the weight that I lost.

TCR: What is one of your most memorable races and why?

This is a hard question because every race is memorable in its own right. If I have to pick, it’s the 2012 Hershey Half Marathon because that was my first race after I started running again. I trained myself using a canned training plan, and I had an idea of what I was capable of based my runs. I set my goal to finish in under 2:00, with the hope that it would 1:50. When I looked at chip time, I had finished in 1:45. Needless to say, I was elated. It was the first time I had run that far, and to beat my goal time was an amazing feeling.

TCR: What is your favorite distance to race? Why?

I haven’t run longer than a half marathon (yet!), so of all the distances I have run I’d have to say the half is my favorite. It’s a challenging distance that requires serious preparation, and I feel a sense of accomplishment after finishing it. I’ve done other distances – 5Ks, 10Ks, 5-milers, 10-milers – but the half tests my running mettle in ways none of those do.

TCR: Do you have a mantra you use in your training or during races? What is it?

I have two, but they’re nothing fancy: You can do it! Or, you got this!

TCR: What does it mean to you to be in the “zone”?

That’s a good question. I never really thought about it with running, but I suppose it’s how I’ve felt recently on two of my runs. I’ve gone out with the intent of doing some easy miles, and I’ve felt good from the start. I do an easy first mile and unintentionally pick up the pace in the second mile.

The other week, the second mile was 50 seconds faster than my first warm-up mile, so I decided to increase my pace every mile for the next two. I felt like I was flying, and my pace was much faster than I typically run. This happened twice in about a week or 10 days. I think being in the zone is when everything is going right, and you’re firing on all cylinders. That’s not to say it’s easy – it’s definitely not – but rather your body is responding the way it should to all of the training that you’ve done.

CR: What are your favorite things to eat & drink either before, or after a run?
Before a run, I make sure I’m as hydrated as possible. After, I love chocolate milk, and I will make my own with skim milk and Hershey’s syrup when I get home (usually after 6 miles or longer). I’ll also eat a banana or slice up an apple and eat it with peanut butter.

TCR: What inspired you to become a coach?

Two years ago, the position of the middle school cross country coach opened up in my community. Having completed three half marathons at that point, and with my son in 8th grade, I thought I’d give it a shot. I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to coaching that age, but they were an outstanding group of kids. And the experience of training and motivating them was far more rewarding than I ever expected it to be.

TCR: What is the best thing about coaching?

Several things: In my first season, the boys were on target to have a stellar winning season when the No. 3 boy broke his toe in gym class the day of our next-to-last meet in the season. From a competitive standpoint, that was a huge bummer because it meant we’d finish 11-10 instead of 10-4.

But I told all of them that this was their time to step up. Every guy ran his best time that day. I couldn’t ask for any more than that. This past fall, I also saw kids who you wouldn’t label runners drop their times by 2, 3 and 4 minutes from the start of the season to the end of the season. As awesome as it is to have won an invitational in my first season and coaching girls and boys who have incredible talent and potential, it’s seeing every single kid, regardless of talent, improve.

TCR: What advice do you have any advice for new runners?

You are a runner, regardless of how fast you run. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not. If you want to get better, you have to be consistent.

TCR: What does running mean to you?

Running is family. I started running after 25 years, and then my son picked it up and joined the cross country and track teams. He’s now faster than I am and takes the sport seriously. My wife started running so she wouldn’t feel left out of the conversations around the dinner table and so she could spend some time with me and our son running.

Our younger son will join the middle school cross country team in the fall. The screensaver on our Apple TV is all running photos from cross country, track, some of my races and some of us as a family running together. In just a matter of a few years, we have become a running family and a family of runners, and that means more to me than anything.

A Few Fun Questions…

TCR: Favorite 80’s Movie

Stand by Me

TCR: Favorite Running Movie?

Chariots of Fire

TCR: Favorite Super Hero?

Honestly? I don’t have a favorite. I’d just be saying Superman to say a Super Hero’s name.

TCR: Favorite Dessert?

Anything whose calories can be burned off later with a 6-mile run. But, really, absolute favorite is crème brulee.

Hope you all enjoyed getting to know Jeff. You can catch him in The Conscious Runner Academy!