Introducing Ken Rideout – SAYSKY athlete, father, husband, Boston native, podcast co-host and one heck of a runner. For Ken, 2021 proved to be one of his best years in running, showing that age is nothing but a number.
At the age of 50, he managed to take home some impressive achievements such as winning the Masters Division at the 2021 NYC Marathon in 2:33, while also setting a new 1:10 Half Marathon PB in Nashville – just two weeks after!
Ken is now all about positive self-narratives, not wasting any more time and working hard to get where you want to be – in sports and in life. He’s the true embodiment of the SAYSKY “Run or Die” mentality.
Read the full interview with Ken to learn more about his running history, training philosophy, and goals for the future, but also how running helped him escape opioid addiction.
How did you get into running? And what is up with you being a nerd?
I started my endurance journey in ~2008 as a triathlete. I qualified and competed in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships 3 x’s. In ~2016 as my 4 children started to get older and I didn’t have the kind of time required to be a competitive Ironman, so the transition to running was a matter of practicality. I always joke with my running friends that the nice thing about running is that nobody is going to punch your face, or try to choke you when you get tired in a race, so there’s nothing to be afraid of, unlike a boxing or MMA fight, two sports I know very well. I jokingly call myself a running nerd when talking to fighters on my podcast, The Fight with Teddy Atlas. Most runners think this reference is funny, and it’s definitely not meant to be offensive. However, running can be a bit of a nerd magnet.
How did running play a part in your recovery from opioid addiction?
Running was my salvation as I tried to kick an opioid habit that tortured me for several years. When I found triathlon and running it gave me something to focus my energy on as I suffered through physical and mental withdrawals. Being high isn’t compatible with being a competitive endurance athlete.
What’s your training philosophy? Your Strava still shows 10 miles a day - but didn’t this change when you started with your coach, and you really started seeing improvements?
I run 10 miles every day, as a starting point. From 2015 until 2019 I basically just ran a lot of miles with no formal coaching, or guidance. I was able to improve my marathon PR from 2:45 to 2:33 by just running a lot of miles with no real track / speed work. For ~2 years I couldn’t seem to get faster, I was stuck in the low 2:30’s, but I was eager to break 2:30. In summer of 2019 I hired Mario Fraioli, host of The Morning Shakeout podcast, and fellow Bostonian, to coach me. After 12 weeks of training together I improved my PR by 5 minutes and ran 2:28 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA. Mario provided structure and customized workouts which obviously helped a great deal.
Alpha vs. beta mentality – what’s that all about?
We all suffer at times from fraud complex / imposter syndrome. We have doubts and fears, which is completely normal, but a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about these feelings. I call those fears & doubts my inner beta. That beta is off-set by my inner Alpha voice, or personality. The Alpha is what gets you to do things regardless of your concerns, or fears. The Alpha is what gets you to go out and run in the rain, or snow, or bitter cold, etc., etc. Once you recognize and acknowledge this inner struggle you can start to consciously insist that the Alpha always gets to make the critical decisions in your life!
We put “Run or Die” on a collection last year – are we totally off, if we say that this is also one of your most defining traits as an athlete?
I always approach races from a position of expecting to suffer. Using mountain climbing as an example, I would argue that everybody who has summited Mt. Everest understands that there is a real risk of death that comes with attempting to do something epic. Similarly, when I am getting mentally prepared to race, I know there is going to be suffering and to that end, I suppose you could get hurt. This danger of the unknown is what motivates me to go deep into the hurt locker to see just how much my body and mind can suffer. Therefore, in many ways, I’m ready to win, or die trying on race days! I understand that this may sound crazy to some people, but this is what works for me.
“Tell yourself good stories” – is this your best piece of advice for runners out there - rookies and vets alike?
Your inner dialog is incredibly important and powerful. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind. Just like a negative inner narrative can bring you down and cause you to be nervous, or even scared, a positive inner-voice can convince you that you can’t be beat and that your much stronger and better than your wild expectations. You control this narrative, so tell yourself good stories!
You’ve been known to talk a lot during races, sometimes even to throw off your competitors. All in good sport of course. We love the attitude. Should there be more friendly trash talking in running?
Definitely! However, there is a fine line between talking shit and being a dick. I don’t think I’ve ever been a dick to any competitors, but if somebody ever wants to get overly aggressive w/ me I’m happy to accommodate them. One of the things I really like about running is that the participants tend to be very kind, friendly people, in general.
Can you tell us about your proudest achievement in running?
By far, my proudest achievement in running is winning the Masters Division at the 2021 NYC Marathon. While my time, 2:33, wasn’t my best, it was fast enough to beat everyone over 40 years old. A close second would be winning the 2021 Myrtle Beach Marathon. I won the overall title in Myrtle Beach (2:30) the day before I turned 50!
What’s your drive now - in sports and in life?
My drive now is to be a role model to my kids and to get the most out of myself. I feel like I still have a lot left to give and I see no reason why I can’t continue to improve. I’ve run a faster marathon, or half marathon every year since I started running. I ran a 90 second PR in the half marathon in Dec ’21. I ran 1:10 at the Nashville Half Marathon 2 weeks after the NYC Marathon, and that was a 90 second PR in the half.
Next up for Ken Rideout?
Next up is Boston Marathon. I’d eventually like to win my age group at all the marathon majors over the next few years. I’d also like to compete in some ultra-marathons. Perhaps a 50K to start and eventually attempting a 100 miler.
- Half Marathon: 1:10 at the ’21 Nashville Half Marathon (2nd place, overall)
- Marathon: 2:28 at the ’19 California Intl Marathon
- Ironman PR: 9:36
- Half Ironman PR: 4:24
2022 targeted PR’s:
My goals for ’22 include trying to win races. I’m focused less on time and more on winning!