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The Real Illinois – Entry 7

Welcome back to The Real Illinois. This is the 7th entry in the series. A lot has been happening in the world. If you do not remember from the last post, the Olympics is currently taking place. Actually, they are almost halfway over. There have been some epic performances and the resurgence in distance running has certainly shown, at least for one Galen Rupp. Anyways, this is not so much about that as to update you on what is going on in the lives of Henry Wolf and Jackie Newell. We also have another commentator today: a man with a 2:26 marathon under his belt.


Henry Wolf

Hello. I can’t believe how fast this summer has gone by, I only have two more weeks of work left. The past two weeks have been the best for running the entire summer for me. As Zach mentioned last week, I ran the Big10k with him and our friend Alex. We sort of ran it like a workout, with Zach doing most of the work. Looking back, this “race” was the thing that seemed to get me out of my summertime blues/ running doldrums. I’m finally starting to feel good and can settle into runs and relax on them. Every once and a while my legs feel tender or tight or my plantars fasciitis gets pulled too far, but for the most part I feel healthy. I’m way ahead of where I was last year and I’m beginning to look forward to running a pretty good time trial in a month at the Illini Challenge. I’ve added an extra 5 minutes onto all of my runs this week and so far I feel good. I think I’m getting into shape at just the right time.

One new thing that I’ve done at work these weeks has been going out into the field. I was in the field 3 of the last 10 days of work, which was something I was not expecting when I first received my assignment with the design team. The option to spend a little time out on the jobsite is just the cherry on top of what has already been a great work experience. The first thing I did in the field was work with Ben to verify the survey for our removal plans on our Jane Addams project. To do this we drove our entire project corridor and compared what was shown in our survey with what was actually out in the field. It was really interesting and very valuable for me to do this because it helped solidify a connection between the icon in Microstation and the thing that is represents. This really drove home the reality that what I design in the computer will be actually built. Furthermore, it is expected that it will remain safe and functional for a long lifetime. Lastly, I learned more about roadway drainage than ever expected to learn in my entire career.

 The other bit of field work I did was wetland delineation. This task involves going through designated wetland areas on the jobsite, confirming that they are wetlands, and marking them with flags for our surveyors. Determining whether an area is a wetland or not is a process that is well beyond my knowledge and interests, but from what I gathered, if an area has wetland plants (such as Common Reed/Phragmites, shown below) and a certain soil moisture level, then it can be called a wetland.

Lastly, I figured I’d make a shameless plug for Henry Wolf Meet of Champions. It’s a race I organized for fun last summer. This year, my younger brother William (pictured below) has taken the reigns and will try to carry on the tradition. So, if you’re reading this you should come to Lake of the Woods, Mahomet, IL on Saturday, August 11th at 11 am to compete in the most prestigious race in the Milky Way.


Jackie Newell – Ready to Run

I am writing this entry on the Monday morning after the craziest weekend of my life. I didn’t think that Lollapalooza 2012 could top last year, but it certainly did. The events of Saturday made it impossible for me to run on Sunday. I tried, I got dressed and woke up to go, but then I felt like I was going to puke. I figured one weekend wasn’t going to kill my running career and I really just wanted to have one last hurrah with my buddies before school started. For once running was not my main concern. Unfortunately I was very destructive this weekend and I am sorry to say that I was “the drunk bitch that has to be carried– that sober girl that was perfectly fine” on Saturday. Very embarassing. Overall though there are so many hilarious memories from Lolla and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share the experience with.

Anyways, on to the updates. My internship is over! I’m so happy to be done and just relax for the last couple days of summer. It was an awesome experience and I learned so much about Chemistry and Food Science. I found that I want a career in applied science, but that working solely in a lab is not my calling. I hope I can find a job that allows me to have more contact with other people and less running around trying to get samples in the HPLC.

Also my family is going to Florida today. I have been looking forward to this for weeks because I just want to lay out and read. Naturally, I will also get back to the grind of running. It has been going a lot better lately. I’ve been getting through the workouts with only a couple bumps here and there. My coach has me doing one track workout and one tempo type workout a week and I have to say tempos are my favorite. I can’t wait to run them with my teammates in the fall because solo workouts are rather tedious.

Well, I gotta catch a flight! Have a good week everybody!

Current location of Jackie Newell


On to our newest contributor. I met Robert Wiley close to the start of my current internship at Takeda. I did not know too much about him except that “he was a runner” (a good conversation starter). I have gotten to know him a little better over the last 10 weeks through various intern functions. I will let him tell his story, but I would just like to say that it has been great getting to know him. He inspires me by showing that you can work hard at your job every day and still be a very successful runner. Not only that, you can do all that while also being there for your family. One day I hope to fill that same role in my life.

Robert Wiley

I am 37 years old and have been running for 14 years now. It all started back in 1998 when I was a year out of college and in the working world. After 13 years as a competitive swimmer and thousands of hours in the pool chasing the dream to be an Olympian, I found myself up 20lbs and feeling miserable. It is a tough adjustment going from finely tuned athlete to desk job and lost fitness. I was disgusted with how tired and lethargic I felt and finally laced up shoes and started running a few times a week. Gradually I got back into shape and by January 2000 I ran my first marathon in Death Valley. In hindsight it was not the best choice in races for novice runner with a couple of 5k’s under my belt but it was the catalyst to get me going. Over the next 7 years I found myself slowly getting fitter and faster. By 2006 I dropped to a 2:40 marathon and found myself at a cross roads. I was friends with Jenny Spangler (1996 Olympic marathoner) and she told me if I was willing to put in a few years of very hard work I could be good, possibly even qualify for the Olympic Trials.  I wasn’t sure how that was possible given the demands of working full time, raising a family and carving out time for my wife and friends. I tried not to think too much about it and gradually over the next year began ramping up my mileage from a peak of 70mpw to 100mpw. Within a year I had brought my marathon time down to 2:30 and my shorter races were improving significantly. A defining moment for me was attending the 2008 Olympic marathon trials in Central park. I was inspired by the athletes and saw that not all of them were young with great pedigrees and beautiful strides. The one thing they did all have in common though was a tremendous work ethic.  The next few years were a roller coaster of highs and lows. I sustained a sacral stress fracture in 2009 and a double hip stress fracture in 2011. After a comeback from the first stress fracture in 2010 I ran the U.S. Marathon Championships in the Twin Cities and lowered my marathon time to a 2:25 with a pretty hard bonk over the last few miles. I was on 2:20 pace through 16 miles. After that race I ramped the mileage up even higher to 140mpw for almost a month in preparation for the Boston marathon. I was hitting workouts that I had never been able to hit and was prepared to run 2:20 – 2:22. Unfortunately my body did not hold up and a broken hip slowed me to 2:26. The injury put an end to my Olympic Trials quest.

Many people think I am crazy and wonder how I am able to get in the mileage while working full time and raising three children. There is not an easy answer. I have an incredible support network around me with my wife, my running friends and my company  (Takeda). Also, from a very early age I was exposed to a rigorous training schedule and was forced to balance my life.  It made me develop very good time management skills. I do the same thing today. I lay out my days and weeks and figure out how to get in the mileage. During marathon training it can be brutal. I run between 10-14 miles in the morning before work and many days will sneak in another 4-6 when time allows. Takeda has a fitness center free to employees on site that I can access whenever time allows.

I feel blessed to work at Takeda. I have been with the company for over 7 years and have had different levels of responsibility.  As a project manager in the operations group I have travelled all over the world and helped shape the global supply chain. Travel can be tough because it throws you off your normal routine but running in new cities is a great way to explore an unfamiliar place. I ran on three continents last year. Takeda also allows some flexibility in my schedule. I have the option of coming in early or working later or working a compressed week and taking a half day Friday.  As a health care company they also value physical fitness which is important to me as an athlete.

So what does a typical training week look like for me? I do a quality run 2 to 3 times a week. I define quality as a specific workout such as a long run of 18+ miles, tempo run or speed work. The days in between are run at an easy to moderate pace. The goal is to recover before the next quality effort. For the quality runs I try very hard to run these with friends. I have a great group of runners that I train with on a weekly basis that are in exactly the same situation as me. We all have jobs, families and life demands yet share the same passion for running and competing. There is just something great about nailing a race or completing a great workout. You feel so alive!

There have been times were things get out of balance. I have gotten better about catching myself over the past couple of years before my wife throws in a reminder but it happens. Running is important but family, work kids activities etc. will take priority. I try to adjust my schedule and be flexible so that I cater to those needs. Having a stacked schedule keeps you on your toes and forces you to be efficient. As I have gotten older it has gotten harder to balance running with other demands but when contemplating walking away from competitive running I always find myself carving out the time for just one more race or one more shot at accomplishing something huge. I have never wanted to live my life with regrets or be one of those people that say they could have been great if they put in the work. As long as I am having fun and still passionate about chasing dreams I will continue to compete.

–        Rob Wiley


Well, that is another week in the books. I hope everybody enjoyed that. I just want to thank my contributors Jackie and Henry, and especially Rob. Stay tuned for next week’s post where Andrew will wrap up his thoughts on his internship in San Diego.

Until then…

“Ability is what you are capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.”
–Lou Holtz