Dennis Fricks is a talented local athlete who discovered his love of competitive running in high school and found his talent for running in college. The 2002 season saw him at or near the top of virtually every race he entered. This firmly established him as a member of the corps of elite local 5k and 10k runners. The 23-year old FleetFeet Runner’s youthful appearance and unassuming nature belie the ferocity he brings to the starting line. On a finger-numbing Thanksgiving morning, we found him preparing for yet another race and managed to get a few of his thoughts.
Me – Dennis, by my count this year you’ve won 10 local races to go with several 2nds. Do you consider this a break-through season for you?
DF – “This has definitely been a good year for me running-wise, however, I don’t really consider this a “break-through” season. Part of the reason I’ve done so well in the area is that I’ve had the opportunity to race more. In previous seasons, my main focus would be on collegiate races, and road races would be mostly used as training runs or just for fun. I still don’t take every race I do extremely seriously; however, I have focused a bit more on the road-racing scene. I view this season as another step in my progression to becoming the best runner I can be. I have definitely improved; however, the improvement is about at the same rate as my last several seasons. I think the only “break-through” aspect of this season has been in my increased level of confidence in my running.”
Me – Can you tell us a little about your running background?
DF – “I was always a soccer and baseball player up until my sophomore year of high school. Then, through a series of random occurrences, I ended up on the cross country team. My first practice was a hill workout, the next day was a distance run in the sleet. I instantly fell in love with the sport. I was not very good in high school, never advancing to sectionals except as the member of a 4×800 team my senior year, and we were not even close to making it to state. My high school 5K P.R. was 17:59 in my last cross country race. I then went to Knox College (a small school in Galesburg, Illinois—about an hour west of Peoria). I ran track and cross country all through college. I improved quite a bit in college, benefiting from higher mileage, better training partners, and a more focused attitude. Since college (I graduated in 2001) I’ve upped the mileage a bit more and tried to stay competitive. The toughest thing now is finding good training partners and good competitive races.”
Me– Your 5k mile-splits have been running consistently in the low 5’s. Proportionally, how much of that elusive sub-five pace do you feel is physical and/or mental?