A coach’s curious advice to a runner: “Don’t be in a hurry.”
“He convinced me I had to do shorter distances and work up to marathons,” said Tucsonan James Miles of his mentor, Randy Accetta. “I was hurting myself: tendinitis, ankle, knee trouble . . .”
With just a few years of competitive running experience, Miles, 23, had finished third in the 2007 Tucson Marathon before dealing with Accetta.
He had promise as a runner, although he had serious doubts about his basic survival in the painful days that followed.
“I couldn’t walk for five days (after the marathon),” he said. “Honest. Then I started running again, too fast, and hurt myself again.”
Accetta, a former Olympic Trials marathoner and perhaps Tucson’s No. 1 running advocate, came to the rescue.
“James and Catlow Shipek are two young guys with great potential,” Accetta said. “They’re naturals, but it has to be a long-term process. They have the mental process and they have heart.”
Miles has changed his philosophy and workout schedule.
“It’s just a matter of following it, shorter races,” Miles said. “I had been doing 100 miles a week by myself, nobody to pat you on the back or criticize you.”
Miles graduated from the University of Arizona as a musician and songwriter, but burned out on music.
Athletically inclined, he had tried running in high school but balked at the idea of running the 800 meters.
“Too much work,” he said.
So he looked at another sport.
“I started out (after college) wanting to be a cyclist,” he said. “I tried racing but it was just me falling back of the pack and trying desperately to catch up. There were other issues: bike handling skills and I don’t like riding close to others.”
Miles started his run program and a year later found himself at the rear of a group of Tucson’s elite male runners, finishing 12th in the 2007 Sun Run 10K.
“After I started, it was six, seven weeks before I could keep a pace . . . not superfast but I was able to do it,” he said.
In the meantime, music – guitar, piano, experimental jazz, composition – had taken a long break.
“All I’d do is strum guitar and play Bob Dylan songs,” Miles said.
Running has a way of clearing his mind.
“It just kind of came to me one night,” he said. “I wanted to do it (music) again, so that was good.”
As a frequent runner in Accetta’s workout group, Miles trains with a comfortable troop, competing well with Ian Johnson, Robert Seaman, Shipek, Shane Carr, Jason Colavito and Shaun Haley.
“We train and compete as friends,” Miles said. “It’s fun to compete. We talk about the times, who’s hurt, who’s not.
Except . . .
“I’m always second behind Shaun Haley,” he said, laughing. “He beats me every workout. I’m sick of looking at his back.”