Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Interview Tuesday: Kentucky Runner Mason Blevins

Horse Capital Marathon - May 2018
In this week's Interview Tuesday I talk to local, well to me local, runner Mason Blevins who just finished at Morehead State University in Morehead Kentucky and is now going into ministry with Athletes in Action.

Tell us a little about yourself not necessarily related to running: age, where born, education, area you live in, etc…..
I am 22 years old and have lived my entire life in Somerset, KY. I went to Pulaski County High School and just graduated from Morehead State University this past May. I received my degree in Strategic Communication and minored in health. 

What is your profession?
I have joined staff in full time Christian ministry with Athletes in Action. I will specifically be working with track and field athletes. 

How did you start running and what prompted you to do so? 
I started running after I had quit football the year before. Both of my younger sisters ran at the time and I was always around for practice and meets so I decided to join too. Early on I continued running to stay in shape for basketball but soon focused on just running. 

How long have you been running?
I have been running for 12 years. I started running during my 5th grade cross-country season in 2006. 

Did you participate in any other sports over the years?
NCAA Southeast XC (10k)  Regional 2014

I played football, soccer, basketball, and baseball before running. After beginning running I played basketball through the 8th grade.

Did you run in grade school, High School or College? 
I ran in high school for Pulaski County High School. Prior to that I ran for the middle school and elementary school feeder programs before joining the high school team. I ran four years in college at Morehead State University. 

So we get an idea of where you have been with running can you share your PR’s for: 5K, 10K marathon and any other distance you may have run in the past. 
  • Mile: 4:28
  • 3200m: 9:33
  • 5k: 15:19
  • 8k: 26:10
  • 10k: 33:25
  • Marathon: 2:57:32

What is your most memorable race or races and share a little about at least one of them?
12 years of running has produced numerous memorable races so picking one is tough! The first one, maybe because it is the most fresh in my mind, was the Horse Capital Marathon I ran a few months ago. It was my first marathon. What made it so memorable was getting to share it with my dad. He was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer almost four years ago and has been through a lot. Having him greet me at the finish was a very special moment for me. Similarly, the Ohio Valley Conference Championships my freshman year of college was a special moment with dad. He had just been diagnosed and was scheduled for surgery a few days later but still made the trip down to Alabama. At the time I didn’t know if he’d make it to see me race again. (But we have been very blessed and dad is approaching his fourth year as a survivor!) Another one of my favorite races was the 2009 KY Middle School State Cross Country Championships. I placed 14th and we won the team title. It was an awesome moment that I will always cherish as I got to share it with some of my best friends. 

Finish of the Horse Capital Marathon W/Dab
Do you have a favorite workout you do?
I have always been a big fan of mile repeats. In high school we would do 3-4, and in college we would often do 6-7. I feel like it is a good mix of strength and speed that is a good prep for a variety of race distances. Some of the toughest workouts I’ve ever had have been in the form of mile repeats.  

How about a favorite route you like to run?
My favorite route is one we ran often in college. Morehead is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest so we had access to good trails and several gravel access roads. There is a forestry service road we called Lockegee (It leads to a rock that you can climb, leading to a beautiful overlook of the area. Also has a great view of the stars at night!). It was a five-mile gravel road with some challenging hills and awesome views. 

What is your favorite distance to run and race?
Although I have only run one, I think I’d have to say the marathon. I have never had a ton of natural speed and seem to have had more success as the distance goes up. I was underprepared for my first one as I had been training for the 5k/10k this past track season, but had a lot of fun. Since high school the idea of the marathon has appealed to me and I was glad to finally be able to complete one. I would like to do a lot more in the future. 

I understand you are going to be working with Athletes in Action in the area of Track and Field – can you share more about this?
Absolutely! As we know, we live in a sports saturated culture, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Whether as a player, coach, parent, official, or fan, almost everyone has a connection to sport in some way. Sports are a universal language that often transcends many cultural differences and opens doors to relationships and community that might not have developed otherwise. Athletes in Action (AIA) is a Christian ministry that seeks to have an impact on people by using sports as a platform to help people answer questions of faith and to point them to Jesus. Ultimately, our goal is to see peoples’ lives changed as they discover God’s purpose for their life. I have a cool opportunity to join AIA’s ministry, specifically working in the track and field department. We want to have a presence in the track and field community and point people to Jesus. Our ministry leads international trips, high school camps, provides resources to coaches, athletes, and officials all around the world, among many other efforts. AIA’s ministry had an enormous impact on my own life and pointing me closer to Jesus. I hope to do the same for other track and field athletes.  To be able to combine running and ministry is such an exciting opportunity to utilize the passions and talents I feel God has given me. AIA is a branch of Cru ministries (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ). Our work is only made possible through the support of churches and individuals who are encouraged and invested in what we are doing.  
Winthrop Adidas Invitational 5k - 2018

If someone wanted to help support you in this ministry how would they go about doing so?
The best way would probably be to get in touch with me so I could share some more specific details about the ministry and what I will be doing. I can be easily reached at mason.blevins@athletesinaction.org. If someone wanted to support my ministry directly they could do so at https://give.cru.org/1008683

Do you have any long-range plans?
Once I am fully supported I will be moving to Xenia, OH (Location of AIA Headquarters) to begin my work with the ministry. As far as running goes, there are some things I would like to pursue going forward. I ran a BQ in May and am planning on running Boston in April of 2019. I am really excited about that opportunity. I plan on training for marathons for a while with my sights set on eventually starting to get into ultras. My body may say otherwise but I have been drawn to the idea of competition in ultra’s for a while now. Mixing it up on the bike and water with triathlons is also something I plan on working towards in the future. 

What do you like best about living and running in KY?
I feel fortunate to have lived, grown up, and run in Kentucky. Kentucky is a naturally beautiful state full of a lot of great people. I feel that is reflected in the running community in the state. We have some great trails in some pretty cool locations (was lucky to train in Morehead for four years), and the small town feel of many Kentucky communities’ spill over into the running community. It has provided some great friendships and connections across the state for me. 

What do you struggle with most with regards to running?
I often struggle with placing my identity in the sport and my performance. I would see myself as a runner named Mason and not Mason who just happens to run. My contentment and joy would come from the sport and how well I did. I began to see how unstable that was. When injuries hit and I couldn’t consistently run or perform well I felt almost worthless. That is not a healthy way to view the sport or life. It is something we do, not who we are. Our value as a person who runs is not correlated to our performance or ability to stay healthy. Understanding that my identity is not wrapped up in the sport has been a healthy change that has allowed me to enjoy it more. 
Mount Teide in the Canary Islands - 2017

What do you see as a trend in running?
One trend I have seen is the “Strava culture”. Having a social media site for athletes to share runs and rides has been a really cool way to connect people from across the globe. It seems like more and more athletes are using Strava, including the pros. I love being able to see guys like Jim Walmsley and the incredible runs he does pop up on my feed. With that, I also see the trend of the ultra and trail running scene. Seems like a lot of people are heading in that direction, which seems to be good for the sport. 

If you had one, well maybe two or three, things to say those that are running to encourage them what would it be?

  1. Run your race. I know it sounds cliché but comparing your running journey against someone else’s success can often lead to disappointment. Avoid the comparison trap. Focus on working hard, being the best you can be, enjoying the process, and leave the results were they fall. I have found the sport to be more enjoyable that way. 
  2. I touched on it in a prior question but avoid placing your identity in running. Don’t get me wrong, running is awesome, but you are more than a runner and life is more than running. I would challenge you to find your identity in something other than running. For me, as a Christian, the only place that I have found stable and lasting identity is in Jesus. 
  3. Have fun and dream big. Set big goals, test the limits of what you think is possible, and have some fun along the way! 

Do you have a website or other social media site you would like to share?

Any closing comments?
I would just like to say thanks to everyone who has been a part of my running journey to this point. My family, especially my parents and grandparents, my coaches at every level (Coach Childers, Coach Evans, Coach Picucci, and others) teammates/friends (too many to mention) and everyone else I have met along the way. I am thankful for the last 12 years of running and hope to have many more years and miles ahead. 

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