ttroadrunners : news : runners
A first in a new series by Debra Agong
At 49 years old and with many years of racing experience under his belt, Learie Lezama is one of the senior active members of TTRRC, having joined the club after encouragement from Wayne Ottley. To strangers, his stoney facial expression could be intimidating but surprisingly the newer club members often prefer to approach him for running advice which he gladly provides and sometimes even volunteers.
Learie’s love of running began 18 years ago after two attempts to complete long runs. One Sunday morning, with his friend and fellow TTRRC member Abdul-Kariym Muhammad, Learie, clad in his long woolly track pants, cotton T-shirt and old sneakers (that were not designed for running) set off on his first run as part of his new fitness regime.
As a first time runner, most of us would have decided to run one mile, maybe two away from home and head back, but this is Learie after all and that just would not suffice, he had to do just a little extra. Learie’s planned run that day would take him and his partner from Maraval, over Morne Coco Road, into Petit Valley, through Cocorite, St. James, to the Savannah and back into Maraval for a whopping 11 miles. What possessed them to attempt such a feat? “Playing fit nah” is how he puts it. “Like most young men, we felt running was easy and that we were fit and could make it for sure. We didn’t know it was that long either”. I’m sure you could imagine how it ended, with a long painful walk from QRC back to Maraval.
As if that was not enough suffering, a few weeks later, they added 7 miles to the first distance and attempted the Santa Cruz Loop from Maraval, through Santa Cruz, and back to Maraval via Eastern Main Road, Wrightson Road and the Savannah. The result was the same as the first attempt weeks before. Those two failures, as Learie views them, ignited his love for the sport and his drive to improve.
Since that faithful day, Learie has experienced a complete transformation, from inconsistent and inadequate training to a rigid schedule that often makes others accuse him of overtraining. His running wardrobe also has seen a much needed improvement. With those changes, in addition to giving up years of heavy smoking, he has gone on to complete 19 marathons with his first being completed in a time of 3 hours, 59 minutes in 1993 to his personal best 10 years later in 2 hours, 57 minutes.
Here are some more facts about Learie’s running career:
Q: What is your favourite race distance?
A: Half marathon although I feel that my best distance is 15K (9 miles)
Q: What is your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
A: My favourite is a tempo run of about 6 or 7 miles. It is one of the best types of workouts to build speed and endurance for longer races. The worst is running hills (Chancellor hill in particular) I’m not so good on hills and its two continuous miles of pain to the top.
Q: Which local race do you enjoy the most?
A: UWI half-marathon because there usually is a large turnout with a mix of experienced competitive runners and casual runners. It’s the same day every year so planning the training schedule is easy and the organisation of the race is good as well. I like that it’s a flat course too.
Q: What is your most memorable race?
A: Flour Mills race series in 1995. The 10K leg in Tobago was a PB of 36:12 and it still is my best. I had a running partner, Whitnol Phillip, from start to finish too.
Q: What is the key to your improvement?
A: Consistency and variety (doing hills, flat, speed, slow, long, short runs)
Q: How do you feel about group running? Do you prefer that to running solo?
A: Sometimes I like to go alone but if you take training seriously, sometimes you have no choice but to go alone if others can’t make it. Running with people who are slightly faster could help me improve my speed and running with slower people helps on days when I need to run slower and also helps the slower runner to gain some speed as well.
Q: What have you gained from becoming a member of TTRRC?
A: I was able to run with top local runners like Dave Ramsammy who gave advice and helped me to get faster from trying to keep pace with him. It helped me to be more competitive. The group atmosphere is fun sometimes and I met my current closest friends in the club.
Q: What in your opinion is the most common mistake made by new runners?
A: Running out of their zone, usually too fast (TTRRC has a few like that). However, some people never learn and they continue that throughout their careers. I put that down to indiscipline. Also, running without a plan. By that I mean coming everyday and doing whatever someone else does or anything you feel to do. Training for success requires proper planning. If you’re not sure what to do, ask somebody.
Q: What advice would you like to share with new runners?
A: Be patient because it takes time to see improvement, as long as you do the right things and be prepared to make sacrifices. The sacrifices could include sometimes giving up partying and liming on Friday or Saturday nights so that you could run early the next morning, or cutting down consumption of alcohol and other favourite foods.
Q: What are your goals?
A: At this age and this stage, there is not much more I can to do in terms of improving times but I would like to do the big five marathons. I have already done New York and plan to do Chicago later this year. That leaves Berlin, Boston and London.
Clico Marathon 2008
Sun Shine Marathon 1994
Copyright © Trinidad and Tobago Road Runners Club