Badass Runner Profile: David Wilson

2014-12-27 15.50.24 Name: David Wilson

Home State: Born in Illinois, live in North Carolina

BAR: When (and why) did you start running?

DNW: I would have to answer this, first, by asking: “Which time?”  When I was still in the US Navy I was stationed at the Fleet Deception Group (it’s called something different now).  We supported teams that deployed – I worked in the calibration lab.  There was a lot of down time, and we all turned to sports – running, the Captain’s Cup Tournament – whatever.  I had never run much more than the mile and a half I had to to pass the readiness test – but I went out one day with a woman who worked at our command, Chief Horak.  She regularly ran longer distances.  That first day, she took me out two miles and back two miles, and it was then I realized two things.  I could run – and most of the distance was in my head.

10393152_809998062419305_997126472320061640_nThis is on board the USS Gaudalcanal… we had runners active all the way through the Suez Canal.



I ran a lot of miles there, and it culminated in my winning (along with a buddy of mine who I sadly cannot remember a name for) second place in the Captain’s Cup Decathlon – over 30 team division.  We had do a lot of crazy things (not a standard decathlon, thankfully).  Bowl one game.  The most out of 25 free-throws.  Throw a football for distance and accuracy, but in the middle there was a 40 yard sprint and a 2 mile run.  We won because we were at least average at everything (including the final leg – a 200 meter swim) and VERY good at the two mile run.  We beat at least one Seal Team in that competition and I still have the trophy.

I ran off and on after that, usually in the 3-5 mile range, until two years ago August, when I realized I was nearly 240 pounds and headed into old age in less than stellar style.  I went out, and I ran a mile and a half.  It took me twenty minutes.  I kept doing it, lengthening the runs, and before I knew it, I was going out for four, five, seven… and I signed up for my first half marathon.  Once that step was taken, I kept going, adding mileage.  I ran a 17 mile training run (whole other story in that… I wrote about that on Facebook… involved rednecks, getting lost for an extra five or so miles, and barely making it home)  I ran that first ½ marathon, the Dismal Swamp Stomp (you can read about that here) and never looked back.  Since then I’ve amassed a wall full of race medals, mostly 5 and 10k distance, but some halves – and last fall – out on my own – I completed my first marathon.


So the quick easy answer I avoided is – seriously running, two years ago because I was in danger of becoming old and fat.  I’m still in danger of growing old, but maybe I’ll do it more slowly.

BAR: Why do you run / walk now? What motivates you?

DNW: My health, the road, my friends – all these things motivate me.  Nature – I just love to run.  I wrote this back in the sprint of 2014 to sort of answer this question:

I am a runner…

I am not an Olympian,
But if you put one foot
In front of the other,
You will meet me on the road.
I have not trained all my life
To slice seconds from time.
I have not suffered for speed,
Or left my heart on the track
Or the road.
I am a runner.
The wind is my friend,
The road calls to me.
The miles are a flickering slide-show
Of places, and tings, sweat and dreams
I trade sleep for miles.
I run between the cracks of life.
I am not an Olympian,
But I am a runner
And we all meet, eventually…
On the road.

David Niall Wilson


BAR: (Sherri Morgan):  How did you deal with your ankle injury physically, mentally & emotional (or all that apply). Also, how did you keep or get your motivation back to get back out there?

DNW: I would like to say that I was a trooper – that I gritted my teeth and pushed through, but the sad fact is, it was miserable.  Only my family got me through a time when even standing up from my chair was a chore, sleep was rare, and activity / exercise almost non-extant.

It didn’t help that the doctor I was working with was anti-running to start with.  He was not supportive in any way of what motivated ME to get better.  I ended up using the crutches as an exercise platform, and, of course, being very, very impatient.

The accident happened in January.  (Another side-note – the hard rails between trampolines at the Cloud Nine Trampoline Park are dangerous – no give whatsoever.  I can’t reccomend anyone visit that particular facility) When I got in to the doctor, a few days after the accident, he x-rayed it and said there was a tiny sliver of bone broken loose.  That sounded okay… but what I ended up with was major surgery, and I didn’t get that until February – which pushed my recovery out even farther.  With the snow and bad weather I ended up having my first post-operation evaluation with photos sent from my phone, and removing my own stitches when the time came as well.

The hardest thing for me was not to push too hard and too fast, and to keep a positive attitude.  Again, my family helped with that.  I threw myself into other work – my publishing company and writing – and did all that I could to stay in contact with the runners I interact with daily on Facebook…

The actual “getting back out there” has been a challenge as well, because at first the mobility was very limited in that ankle, and now that things are loosening up, I have found my stamina and discipline have slipped.  At least I’m moving forward again.  On a side note, the two races I missed – The Dismal Swamp Stomp ½ marathon and the Newport News Once City Marathon are comping me for the next race, so I’m back on track (if a year later) working toward the first official marathon and a PR at the Dismal Swamp.  Always be yourself… unless you can be #Badass. ALWAYS be #badass…

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BAR: (Joe Hempel) People usually listen to music when they run, it keeps them motivated. You listen to audiobooks, does it help more than music and if it does, why?

DNW: I don’t have a lot to compare it to, because I have never really listened to music while running.  I’m just too lazy to put together a playlist and make it happen, I guess.  I’ve listened to baseball, and audiobooks.

I started listening to audiobooks while running simply to expand my reading time.  I’m an author and publisher, and my reading time for pleasure is severely limited.  Mostly, I read audiobooks, and only in the car – or when running.  As the runs got longer, the amount of reading I could accomplish followed.

On a really long run, you can lose yourself in a good book.  I also find that books about running are helpful.  A few times I could almost picture myself running the trails the authors were telling me about in their books – and at least once I’ve run back through a darkening storm at a particularly eerie place in a novel by Neil Gaiman, or Clive Barker.

My thought is that music would be more useful to help with pacing, but that audiobooks are good for distracting yourself from longer runs – giving you something to think about instead of glancing incessantly at your Garmin.

Longest race : Official race – ½ marathon.  Personal race: 27.2 miles.


This is my daughter Katie finishing the “Cub Run” at the Dismal Swamp Stomp (you can see my hand chasing her … after the 1/2 I had nothing left in the tank.  Was proud of her.





Hardest course: The Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll ½ marathon…  not so much because of the course itself – it’s not horrible – but because the race is run in the heat of August, and the humidity was dropping people like flies.

Hardest race for you: Also the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half – and for that same reason.  I run in the heat a lot to acclimate, but I was nearly dead by the end of that one, and about to cramp in my right calf (no doubt from dehydration, despite all the water stops).

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Images from the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon (My favorite is the one showing me beating Batman)

Favorite race: In case others wouldlike to try it): For sentimental reasons, and because it’s a flat, easy, beautiful course – The Dismal Swamp Stop ½ Marathon.  I ran my first ½ there, and all along the trail I was accompanied by butterflies, big and small.  The Intercoastal waterway runs down one side of the trail – which is the setting of one of my novels (one of my favorites of my own books).  There are also bears, though you seldom see one on the trail…

Favorite course:  My favorite course is one that is used for a lot of local Elizabeth City, NC 5k races, though I’ve expanded it nearly to ½ marathon length by taking more roads.  It runs along the Pasquotank River – past some beautiful homes, around curves and turn-backs.  I discovered (by accident) that if you run past the normal limits of it you come to the back end of a DIFFERENT 5k course I ran last year called “The Battle of the Albemarle” and if you combine all of both roads you can make a passable ½ marathon.  Anyone who’d like to run it – just get hold of me and come on down!

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Images from the Pasquotank River Trail

BAR: What are your favorite and least favorite distances, and why?

DNW: There was a time when I had no answer for least favorite, but I do now.  As much as I like pushing my time on a 5K – it is just too short.  Even my daily run at lunch is more than 4 miles – running harder for 3.1 feels like a cheat, particularly after getting psyched up to run.  So far I’d say my perfect distance is around 10 miler.  I ran a 9.11 mile liberty race last fall and found it just about perfect.  I love the pressure, though, of hitting the ½ marathon and I am very much looking forward to my first official full.  If I don’t find one before it, I’m signed up again for the Newport News One City Marathon next March.

PRs: 5k: 24:20 / 10k: 53:26 / half-marathon: 2:19:38 / marathon: 5:31:14

BAR: What are your bucket-list goals as a runner / walker, this year and beyond?

DNW: In January of this year, I broke my left ankle pretty badly.  It’s been a long recovery, but it’s coming together finally.  My bucket list last year was simply to finish my first official marathon.  That is also my goal now.  I can also see myself running a 50K at some point, but that’s down the road.  The other goals are to get my 5k and 10k back down to where they were last fall so that I can be competitive at my age – 55.  I’m an older guy, but I figure I have ten or fifteen reasonable years of running at one level or another ahead of me, and that’s thousands of miles.  It’s one of the things that makes me smile.

My other bucket list item is to run with people who have inspired me.  Lisa Davis, Jamila Williams, again with Joseph Leon Guerrera (and hopefully Yeti) – Katrina Gay, Joe Hempel, my old Navy buddy Roland Curit – CM XMan, Mari Merchant and Sherri Morgan, Thomas Gouard – and my dream runs with Dean Karnazes, Adharanand Finn, and a few others who have written books that inspired me.  I would also love (at some point) to run in the Copper Canyon in Mexico, but trail running is not a good idea with my ankle, so maybe not.

BAR: Do you have a favorite pair of shoes, or brand of shoes?  Why?

DNW: I have to answer this at length.  When I started running again, I had just read Born to Run, and I bought some shoes from Vivobarefoot – I became a bit of a fanatic for the barefoot running thing, and I learned a lot.  For one thing, there is a lot of good and bad information.

The barefoot shoes helped me fix my running style, no longer cracking my heels.  It removed back pain and built up my calves, and increased my distance.  The lack of padding probably damaged my feet.  Next, I moved on to Altra shoes…they offered more protection, but still had the zero drop at the heel…allowing my feet to spread out in their wide toe-box and to run naturally.  I still run in a pair of Altra Torin 1.5 shoes, but have added two pairs of HOKA shoes, the Hauka and Clifton models.  I feel like with the damage to my ankle, and the distances I want to run, the extra cushion is vital.  Shoes are an ever-changing thing for me…

On a side note, during the work day, I wear either Vivobarefoot Gobi half-boots (barefoot WALKING I still support) or Altra casual shoes – a little more cushion, but still flat and natural.

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BAR: Is there any other gear you consider essential?  Do you recommend one over another?  Are there brands / items you’d like to try?

DNW: I have tried several types of hydration belts.  I have a camelback that I used on my one marathon foray, and will use on anything fifteen or more miles that I run on my own, because where I run is in the country and solitary… I wear a NATHAN hydration belt for shorter runs with 1-4 bottle capability, and my ROAD ID in the front pocket.  I also have a GU Pack in case I end up feeling weak on a run.  I am bald on top, so I wear a hat…and I like compression style socks when it’s cool enough.

What apps / GPS equipment do you use.  Are there others you’d like to try?

I have a Garmin 310X which is wonderful, but a little big – and a Forerunner 210.  Currently, though, I have moved over to a Fitbit Surge, and for the worn-on-the-body equipment, it suits me best.  It keeps the heartrate without a chest strap, and feeds all sorts of helpful info to the app, including your sleep, calories for the day, steps, etc…

For tracking my runs, I use Mapmyrun – I find that though there are comparable sites at Garmin and Runkeeper and other places, this one accepts the widest variety of devices, and I have a network of friends there.  Not to mention 1500 miles worth of runs that have been recorded.

BAR: Any advice for runners trying to catch up and keep up?

DNW: One foot in front of the other.  Don’t believe you can’t do it, because you can.  Distance is mostly in your head, and don’t run to please anyone but yourself.  For me, the actual running is best when I’m alone, except for races, but if you need the motivation, there are TONS of groups out there.  Everything from virtual races where you can get the same medals and bibs, etc. as for an official race, to groups who run together occasionally, and bigger groups who run all the time.  Running is a personal sport – and it can be wonderful.  Enjoy it.

I find a lot of support in online groups, and have also been motivated by fun challenges, like being part of “Moonjoggers” where the accumulated miles of a LOT of runners are currently adding up to the distance from here to Mars…

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