For the last three years, former Oregon Duck and now-Saucony-sponsored distance runner Parker Stinson has trained under the guidance of Dathan Ritzenhein. During their partnership, Stinson ran a marathon personal best of 2:10:53 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon and set the 25k American Record. The always transparent Stinson has admittedly struggled over the past year and recently announced his decision to amicably part ways with Coach Ritz. In this short interview, he shares that he’ll be joining the Roots Running Project to train alongside the likes of Noah Droddy, Frank Lara, and Sydney Gidabuday. Enjoy this short Q&A:
I know this was a big decision. Can you walk me through your thought process? How did this all play out?
I know you’d assume it was after Boston, but it wasn’t like that at all. I was actually quite fit during that build-up. But I was depressed and unhappy, which doesn’t normally happen for me when fit.
So I started to ask myself critical questions about why I was feeling that way. I’ve been running since I was 10-years-old and these were new feelings. I saw some red flags around my relationship with running and a critical question I considered was if I was still in a situation that made me happy. I love Dathan, but it simply wasn’t making me happy.
I was doing a lot of running alone and pushing harder than ever before. Before Chicago, Dathan would fly out from Michigan to watch my workouts. It was a different relationship, but his job is to coach the On Athletics Club now and I completely understand that. It’s a full-time job. Like any relationship, I know what it used to be like, and it wasn’t the same anymore — that’s hard.
How did you first broach the subject with him? Knowing Dathan, I would imagine he was really understanding about the whole thing.
Well, after Boston went the way it did, we had a great talk about changing my situation. But three months after, I still felt that same unhappiness with my relationship with running. It was hard knowing that I’d have to branch off and do marathon training on my own — I didn’t want to do that again.
What I eventually asked Dathan that opened our eyes was, “what kind of things were you thinking about when you decided to retire?” That was the signal for both of us. He acknowledged it was okay to have those thoughts, but he believed there is much more for me to do in the sport, especially with three years remaining on my Saucony contract. We dissected why I felt that way and worked together on my next move.
When did you first consider the Roots Running Project as your next logical step?
I actually spoke with Richey [Hansen] a few years ago about joining when I left Brad Hudson, so there was already previous interest there.
I was honest with him and let him know I need a lot of help right now. I am decently fit and I’m not trying to be a diva, but I need support and energy right now — and for him to be excited about coaching me. I gave him the out and said, “if you can’t do that, I totally get it, but that’s the most important thing to me.”
I asked almost nothing about his training. I trust him and have seen the success he’s had. But I needed to know if he wanted to add me to the roster for my stats and PBs or if he was looking to invest in me as an individual, which would come with the issues I was having. With Dathan’s blessing after their conversations, I felt great about the decision.
Do you feel fortunate to run for a brand like Saucony that gives you the flexibility to change groups as opposed to being locked in?
I really like it. There are problems with being locked into a group contract. What if you love the group but don’t love the coach? There’s nothing you could do. The reason I signed with them was because I loved what Molly [Huddle] and Ben [True] were doing. They’d crush on the track and roads or wherever they could make money. I wanted that same agency over my career.
It’s early, but what are your initial impressions of Roots? If I had to buy stock somewhere right now, I think it’d be there.
With Sid [Vaughn] and I joining it’s like, we are just two people, but it changes the dynamic. Let’s just say Frank [Lara] and Luke [Caldwell] run solid marathons. If you average out we can have 5 guys averaging out at 2:12 and then you have other non-marathoners like Sydney. There’s momentum. I’ve only gone to a couple of practices, but I am already feeling happier. I already had a great tempo that was 10 seconds per mile faster than I would have thought I was capable of.
Photo by Justin Britton/@justinbritton