Thursday, July 31, 2008

Interview: Ira Zaroff

Name: Ira Zaroff
Age: 33
Residence: Melville, NY
Birthplace: Queens, NY
Occupation: Attorney
Years Running: 5 or 6 for marathons and ultras.
Running and Other Accomplishments/Hobbies: 9 marathons and 15 ultras.

SJ: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me about your latest adventure Ira. You recently ran 120 Miles through Long Island, NY. Tell us a little bit about your adventure. Where did you start and where did you finish?
IZ: The run started at the lighthouse at Montauk Point on the eastern end of Long Island and finished at the Nassau Queens border on the western end of the Island.

SJ: How did you first come up with the idea to run 120 miles?
IZ: I've been wanting to run the length of Long Island for a few years now. Alicja Barahona, an extremely accomplished ultra runner (and all-around great person), has run it before for a breast cancer charity. I met up with her at the Caumsett 50k this past March and discussed running it with her for her charity and a children's charity that I'm involved with called Friends of Karen, Inc. We were set to run it together but there were issues with the charities co-sponsoring the run so I decided to just run it on my own.

SJ: So you were running on behalf of a charitable cause?
IZ: Friends of Karen, Inc. is a children's charity that my wife and I are involved with. It provides emotional, financial and advocacy support to children with life threatening illnesses and their families. Information about the charity can be found at their website

SJ: Can we still donate and how?
IZ: Any donations are always greatly appreciated. Please visit their website for information,

SJ: Was it difficult to plan the logistics of your run?
IZ: The whole thing was actually put together relatively quickly. The course is basically one road the entire way until the last ten miles or so. It is mostly safe running on wide shoulders and sidewalks. Planning was as simple as making a list of the things I'd need along the way (fluids, food, etc.), buying them and sticking them in a cooler in the back of my dad's car. We did drive the route a few weeks before the run just to familiarize ourselves with it.

SJ: Did you use any pacers or crew?
IZ: My wife and dad crewed me the entire way and my brother and his wife, Jodi, came out for the last 70 miles. I had some good company along the way. Newsday, Long Island's newspaper, printed an article about me and the run the week before. As a result, a great guy from the Suffolk County Police Department came out to run with me for about 20 miles, more than he had ever run before. My friend Peter came out and ran 15 miles with me and my good friend Mark came out to meet me at around mile 65 and ran the remaining 55 miles with me. He'd never run more than a marathon before! I was really proud of him for that. On Sunday morning I had a whole bunch of people run anywhere from one mile to six with me up until the finish.

SJ: What was the hardest part of your journey?
IZ: Sunday was brutal for me. It was unseasonably warm and humid that day and I was not acclimated to the heat. I ran most of the morning on exposed road without any shade. I probably had a good case of heat exhaustion when I finished.

SJ: Do you plan to do it again?
IZ: I'm hoping to make this an annual event for the charity. We did very well raising money and awareness. I'd like to get all of the communities we run through involved to bring them together to support this great cause.

SJ: What would you do differently on your next attempt?
IZ: It's not a race, but getting it done faster would be nice. This year it took me 30:13 to finish. I would also like to try and stay more positively focused. Ups and downs in ultras are a part of it, but it's nice to look back and remember smiling even during the down parts.

SJ: How did you train for this? How many miles per week?
IZ: I didn't do any specific training for this other than to back off the trails a bit and run mostly on roads for the last two or so weeks leading into the run since the run was entirely on roads. I typically peak at about 65 to 70 miles per week. I went into this thinking that 120 miles on the relatively flat roads of Long Island at sea level probably equal about 60 or 65 miles of mountain running at altitude like at the GTR100 that we were both at last year.

SJ: Do you utilize the services of a coach?
IZ: For my birthday in April, my wife surprised me and signed me up with Karl Meltzer. I've been training with him since. I'm running more miles each week consistently than I was before and the longest run I've done while on his program is not much more than 20 miles. However, for those 20 or so mile runs, I seek out the most gnarly trails and hills I can find in my neck of the woods. I also do longer back-to-backs than I did before training with Karl.

SJ: How beneficial is your coaches services to you?
IZ: Extremely beneficial. Before using Karl, I pretty much just winged my training. I've lined up for quite a few races thinking that I had no business being there. With a coach, there is a schedule to follow and the schedule has a point and a purpose so it's nice to have focused training that actually makes sense.

SJ: Tell us your favorite memory from your run.
IZ: It made me really proud that at least four people that came out to run with me ran longer with me than they ever had before. Also, seeing my two girls at the finish.

SJ: What other races or events do you have planned for this year?
IZ: I'm running the Burning River 100 miler this coming weekend in Ohio. In October and November I'll run a couple of local ultras including a 6 hour run and a 60k. I'd like to sneak away for another 50 miler or 100 before the close of the year, but it'll be hard with work and the family. I've got your NE races on the top of the list though!

Ira, seriously, you took on an amazing task of running the length of Long Island and you delivered. Congratulations to you and your charity. We wish you the best of luck during the rest of your season, good luck at Burning River, and we look forward to hearing more about your upcoming adventures!