We just wanted to share this very cool story from Jon Harper (former BYU runner, who now lives and trains in Ann Arbor, MI). He wrote about one of Jared Ward’s training partners that comes as a surprise to many but here’s why his story is unique.
Micah Adams first dreamed of the Olympics as a junior in college at BYU – Idaho. After training for and running a local half marathon with his roommate, he realized running was a sport he could be passionate about. Through continued training, he saw parallels between running and his father’s successful battle with cancer. Micah says that his dad was “determined to not let his circumstances limit the way he lived.” Because of this, Micah set ambitious goals despite a lack of experience. Now, after four years, Micah is at the cusp of reaching them.
As a late bloomer, Micah didn’t run on a university’s track and field team. Instead, he angled his efforts towards the marathon, thinking that the distance fit his slow-twitch muscle fibers. After winning his first marathon, a local race near his hometown, it looked like his dream had potential. However, he still had 20 minutes to cut if he wanted a shot at the Olympic Trials.
A year later, Micah heard of a semi-professional marathon group in Provo, UT. His upcoming graduation gave him the freedom to move, so he reached out to see if he could join. The group was quick to welcome him after hearing his story and goals. Micah was ecstatic, and, without a job or group of friends, he moved to Provo immediately after his graduation.
The day after he arrived, Micah met the group outside Brigham Young University’s athletic facilities for a run.
The de facto leader was Dr. Iain Hunter, BYU biomechanics professor and St. George Marathon masters record-holder. He remembers Micah’s first run as painful and slow. “We talked a little bit, but he was always a couple seconds behind the group, even though we weren’t running very fast,” says Iain. “I just kind of thought ‘This is probably going to be the end of him coming out with us.’”
But, over the next few months, Micah consistently showed up. He found a summer job as a pool boy in a rich neighborhood, and he spent the rest of his time running and sleeping. “It was exhausting,” he remembered, “but I was getting to run with these great runners. Iain asked me early on to run in the Wasatch Back [Ragnar relay], and I was excited to be in it enough where they were asking me to do stuff.”
Micah’s camaraderie within the group led to improvements. After a few months, Iain recalls a threshold workout where Micah finished right next to him. “We were getting towards the last mile. I started pushing a little bit, and he did too, and we finished pretty much together.” After that, Micah stuck to the group during workouts and became an additional person that could push everybody else towards faster times.
The group also learned that Micah is fiercely competitive, especially with people he is miles behind. Iain explains, “He’ll trash talk (2016 U.S. Olympian) Jared Ward when everybody knows the only way that Micah is going to win is if Jared is injured.”
At first, many were taken aback by the callousness, but Iain says the trash talk has turned into “one of Micah’s most fascinating quirks.”
When asked, Micah laughed. Partly, he thinks a competitive spirit is a great way to enjoy friendships. “It kind of removes entitlement within the group, since I’m at the back of the pack telling Jared that he better stick with me when I pass him on the next rep if he wants to make the next Olympics.”
Micah also considers it an intentional way to get better. “My dad was able to do a lot of things he wasn’t supposed to while battling cancer by being intentional.” Since Micah dreams of running in the Olympics, it’s clear to him that he should be competing against the Olympians.
This attitude has also helped him recognize the places he can improve. After one specifically bad race, Micah was left searching for the things that prevented him from being at the next level. He looked to the leaders within his group for guidance. Both Jared and Iain averaged above 90 miles per week during their preparatory training and consistently ran two-a-days for extra strength. In comparison, Micah was running 75 miles a week off one-a-day training.
This conservative approach was meant to keep him healthy, but Micah recognized that it didn’t matter that he was healthy if he wasn’t fast enough to qualify for the Trials.
So, he transitioned into running four to five double days per week. This increased his weekly mileage, which resulted in a lot of aches and pains. But, by optimizing his recovery and emulating his father’s can-do attitude, Micah has been able to stay healthy.
He also developed more confidence in his workouts. Higher confidence translated to faster performances, and the gap between Micah and the best runners within his group grew smaller.
After a few evolutionary months, he decided to test his fitness at the 2018 Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN. He was having great workouts, so he felt that, as long as nothing outside his control got in the way, he would be okay.
Okay is an understatement, though, as it ended up being a massive personal best. After a conservative start, Micah settled into a quick rhythm. Before he knew it, he was passing the competitors that would have left him in the dust a year earlier. He embraced the momentum and finished his last stretch within ten seconds of his 5k personal best.
Now, his eyes are set on the 2018 California International Marathon. For those who have trained with him, an Olympic Trials qualifying time wouldn’t be a surprise. For Micah, though, the time isn’t his main motivation. Instead, he’s looking forward to kicking down the homestretch alongside the runners that people thought it was crazy to think he could ever be finishing with.