William “Woody” Kincaid is one of the more eccentric runners we, fans of athletics, have the pleasure to call our own. Full disclosure, I was teammates and friends with Woody for three years at the University of Portland and I just had the distinct pleasure of hearing him argue with Chris Derrick about Settlers of Catan and observe him roll a 219 at Starelite Lanes while he was in Flagstaff taking part in his first altitude-training camp as part of Bowerman Track Club. I called Woody on Friday because he was bored in his Seattle hotel room as he prepares to race the Husky Classic 3,000-meter on Saturday.
Stephen Kersh: Alright Woody, how’s it going? Have you been following the website at all?
Woody Kincaid: Just taking care of myself, you know? But yeah, I saw some headlines. It looks like you guys are just starting things up. You have a podcast, right? How can I get on that?
SK: Maybe. Alright, first thing’s first, how do you pronounce the website’s name?
WK: Hold on – need to look at what it’s called again
Oh, it would be: City-us.
SK: Ok. Gotcha.
WK: What? How did you want me to say it?
SK: Kitty-us. It’s Latin.
WK: You would really have to be a well-informed individual to know that sort of thing.
SK: Or have a girlfriend who knows first-grade level Latin. Anyways, let’s get this get this thing going. When we were teammates, I never would have thought you wanted to be a professional runner. You were always more interested in things outside of sport. You told RC (Rob Conner, Portland Head Track and Cross Country Coach) you were going to miss an entire track season to go study in China. So, I guess I’m curious when you had a mental shift to realizing you wanted to pursue a professional running career.
WK: It honestly stated when my girlfriend was in… Well actually it started during an injury. I realized I was not doing the thing I was best at when I was injured. So when I really could not run, it forced me to take a step back and realize I could be really good at this. I guess I kind of felt I was wasting my talent.
And when Abbey [Woody’s girlfriend] went to England, I started living with Faubs [Scott Fauble, current star of Northern Arizona Elite], David Perry and Ryan Poland. When I was in that house, and I saw how those guys lived – with a structured schedule, focus, and goals – it changed how I approached running.
SK: That group of guys really catalyzed your career?
WK: Even though it was a hard, competitive and stressful house, it made me realize if I wanted to be a professional, I would have to be an All-American at least three times.
SK: How many times were you All-American?
WK: (laughs) Once! But whatever.
SK: Switching to that house must have been hard for you. When we were teammates, you were never terribly serious. You always appreciated your autonomy and your life outside of running.
WK: It wasn’t easy, for sure. But it helped me get focused on what was important. At Portland, we had two groups of guys. The Run Hard group and the Run Hard, Play Hard group. It was nice to finally be on the inside of the more serious group.
SK: Did you face some repercussions from distancing yourself from the other lifestyle?
WK: It wasn’t easy. I felt outside of my comfort zone. People called me out and said stuff like, “You’re not the same dude anymore.” People definitely notice when someone transitions from casual college runner to a more career-oriented runner.
SK: Woody. You just referenced yourself as a casual college runner. I have never seen a more talented runner than you and pairing that with your competitiveness, I don’t think you can say you were a casual college runner.
WK: Oh, I’m super competitive, and I always thought I was being serious in college – but I really wasn’t. We always worked hard, everyone does, but sometimes you lose yourself. It just took me a little bit to realize that.
*Noises coming from Woody’s side of the phone call*
WK: Yeah Lopez, I’m in here! I’m doing an interview. Hold on.
*Note to the copy editors: I didn’t ask but I think Woody was in the bathroom and Lopez Lomong was trying to get in.*
SK: You good? Okay, so when was change between wanting to be a professional runner and knowing you could be a professional runner?
WK: I honestly thought I could do it before I was ever an All-American. People didn’t like that, though. I was too vocal, I hadn’t done much, but I knew I wanted to be a pro. I think the moment I decided was on a run. Pretty spontaneous. It was just like “Okay, I want to do this.” It made sense to me, but people questioned it.
SK: You clearly had a huge coming out party last spring. You made your mark by running the Olympic 5,000m standard in Portland and later outkicking Galen (Rupp). Was that eye-opening for you? Knowing you had those wheels?
WK: I definitely had a mental shift last spring. I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve always said I can kick with anyone. I don’t really think anyone believed me because I’m a heel striker. I wasn’t trained to close in college, but that’s the way I am. It also got easier for me to believe in myself after the class above me graduated. I realized I had to be our number one guy, and it was suddenly easier for me to believe.
SK: After the trials, what was the courting process like?
WK: WeIl, I knew wanted to go pro during my final year. So, after I ran 13:32 (placing 9th) at NCAAs, I emailed some coaches. I got a lot of emails back with declines. I bounced some ideas off of other professionals I knew on some teams, but I really had nothing lined up. Then, at that Portland meet, RC wanted me to run the 3K. I told him I wanted to hit the Olympic Trials Standard in the 5,000m. Thankfully, the stars aligned that night (Woody ran 13:27.32 at the Stumptown Twilight). Had it not been for the race, I wouldn’t have a pro contract. Once I hit the standard a couple people emailed me back essentially saying “Sorry.”
SK: LOSERS! Kidding. So how long until you signed with BTC?
WK: It took a while after the Trials until I signed with Bowerman. Ultimately though, BTC won out. Which was strange because my visits to different spots were both long, but my visit with Jerry [Schumacher, Head Coach of BTC] was 30-minute conversation walking around NIKE campus. I kind of liked that better. He is a super nice guy who stays out of the public eye. It reminded me of RC.
SK: Seeing you rock the swoosh is weird to me.
WK: Through the entire process, I never cared about brands. I just wanted to go where I would be the fastest. I went with BTC because at the end of the day, Jerry is the best coach. Before I made my decision, RC and I sat down, reconciled and he basically told me I would be naive not to sign with them.
SK: How’s the transition been? Especially going from a blue-collar program like Portland, to one of the premier running groups in the world?
WK: Obviously, a lot has changed. It’s more blue collar than you may think. One thing that has made this a smooth transition is our team feels like a team. Some of the smaller groups I visited didn’t give out the same team feeling. I like being in the big group. It’s more important than anything to me. Our sport needs to be more team oriented.
SK: Why do you say that?
WK: Accountability. It gives something for athletes and people to associate with. It’s hard to be a fan of, say, Ryan Vail because he’s on his own. When you see a group, you cheer. It’s easier to identify with a specific runner, as well as their teammates.
SK: What’s it like being back on the bottom? Basically a freshman all over again.
WK: We were listening to a podcast the other day after a workout and it was about how baboons fling poop at the newest person at the herd until a female has groomed them, and essentially no female has groomed me yet.
SK: (laughs, a lot)
WK: I feel like a freshman again.
SK: So this isn’t your first race in the BTC kit (raced the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot) but you told me this is your first real race. What are you expecting tomorrow?
WK: I’m going for the win, and I also think I can run a big PR.. Maybe around 7:40 (current PR is 7:48). I’m in good shape. We do serious speed here.
SK: Any workout you can give me to back up that claim?
WK: I won’t give you times, but we did a mile cutdown the other day. I had been dry-heaving during and after every workout, but this time I felt comfortable. It gave me the confidence I need to run a fast first mile and hang on.
SK: Well, I can’t wait to watch you this season, Woody. You’re weird and a personal favorite. Make sure to check out the piece on our site tomorrow.
WK: Ok. What’s it called again?
SK: Citius Mag.