Catching Up With: Donnie Cowart '08

Recently, long-time VMI track SID Brad Salois caught up with alumnus Donnie Cowart '08, who continues to train in the hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games. Salois' Q&A with Cowart is below.

Q: Let me first ask you about your sub-four minute mile this summer. What was the reaction to that among people who follow your exploits?

A: I received a huge influx of congratulations and attention from friends, family and fans. It was a very surreal experience and I am very humbled by just how many people keep up with my journey. After 15 years of competitive racing and training, breaking the historic four-minute barrier was definitely a dream come true. Every runner has the bench marks they definitely want to reach before they are done in the sport, and for me, that was definitely one of those goals. My next goals will be focused more on the 5K and the 3K steeplechase.

Q: More recently, you were 16th in the USATF National 12K in November up in Alexandria. It's far from your first road race - Talk about not only the 12K, but getting more into road racing as a whole. Is that something you enjoy, and how do you feel it converts to on-track?

A: Road races have great atmosphere and competition. It is almost like going back to collegiate cross country because it is just about competing for place, and time doesn’t mean much. I have always felt that I do my best when I get caught up in the race and being a competitor, so I believe the roads treat me well. I can’t wait to compete in more road races later in my career. I have dreams of stepping up to the marathon eventually, and turning my focus solely on the roads at a certain point in my career, because it's just fun.

Q: How is your training going currently? What races and events are you looking forward to right now?

A: In my current training, I am in a high volume cycle running at least 98 miles each week. On top of that volume, I am also lifting weights, running strides a few times each week and doing yoga and pilates once each week. Of course, an important part of training this time of year is my sleep and nutrition habits. I cook all my meals, only allowing myself to eat out on rare occasions, and I do my best to be in bed before 10:30 p.m., to make sure I get 9 hours of sleep each night.

On the race calendar this indoor season, I plan to rabbit the Camel City Mile here in Winston Salem at the JDL Fast Track, and it would be great to get a mile qualifier to race indoor nationals. Outdoors, the focus will turn to the 5k and Steeple with USA’s being the big race this year. A top-three finish would give me the opportunity to compete on the US World team and that is a big career goal I would like to achieve.

Q: What are you currently doing away from the track?

A: Currently, I am staying very busy with a part-time job at Fleet Feet Sports here in Winston-Salem, educating runners about their shoe needs. I'm also a part owner in a group called Crazy Running. We help kids become better coordinated athletes, improve their running efficiency and learn about track & field. Our goal with the company is to get more kids active with healthy outlooks on exercise and nutrition.

I am also a volunteer assistant coach for the Wake Forest track team, where I try to help the athletes learn what it takes to be better at our sport. Keeping up with all these things off the track has helped me lead a balanced and fulfilled life. My running is a very self-focused goal, and it brings me lots of joy and happiness to help others in the sport I am so passionate about.

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