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Carl Cook: Blowing us all away

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GREENSBORO – The second wind in Carl Cook's running career is hurricane-force compared to the first wind for the rest of us.

At age 66, Cook cranks out miles faster than most of the men several years his younger. And he's getting faster.

"At my age, you expect times to be going up," Cook says. "But they're not. They're dropping."

Two weekends ago, Cook won his age group, 65-69, at the Magnificent Mile state championship in Raleigh, finishing in five minutes and 43 seconds and wiping out by 25 seconds the USA Track & Field North Carolina record. His time would've placed him fourth in the next two youngest age groups and sixth among two groups of males who haven't even turned 40 yet.

"Now that I've run it," Cook says, "I can even do better."

Not bad for a runner who once gave up the sport, then rediscovered it four years ago when his daughter, Amelia, wanted to run a 5K.

"I got a little trophy for my age group," he says.

The 6-1 1/2, 175-pound man with the size 34 waist won't stop collecting those trophies anytime soon.

He employs a coach, Andrew Allden, but Cook still has to put in the work. Allden has reduced Cook's weekend long-run distances but has added miles weekly with an increased focused on speed workouts.

"What he's having me do a couple of days a week is lactate threshold," Cook says. "That's where you get the biggest bang for your buck as far as improvement goes. I do basically seven-minute miles, enough so I can't really talk comfortably. One 3-mile workout at lactate-threshold pace or a 3 x 1 at about seven minutes a mile – three miles at seven minutes per mile with a minute and a half rest between them. Then I walk or jog then do some 200-meter stuff fast. That's what I really like the best, the sprinting stuff."

Cook is a fan of the track, and he's a fan of his running group, the Piedmont Pacers Track Club.

"It opened my eyes to a lot of different stuff," Cook says of the club. "I'd run trails and roads; that's all I knew. They do USATF stuff, and they do track."

But Cook has his own fan club, too. Starting at home with his wife, Caroline, and Amelia, but extending to the club, to runners at area road races and, really, to nearly anyone who has met the man.

"He is very motivated and driven," says his Pacers teammate and friend Lori Stresemann of Belews Creek. "He recently retired and got his first Garmin. He took to monitoring his performance and really took off. He was great before, but now is really enjoying the sport."

Another friend and former coach, Winston-Salem's Marisa Carter, sees more than the miles and the speedwork accelerating Cook's performances.

"Above all of the things that he's doing to the textbook is that his attitude is phenomenal," Carter says. "He's just so positive and he's such a balanced human being.

"He doesn't worry about things. He does work hard, but he does not let himself get bogged down by internalizing things. He just does things because he loves them. By far that's what makes him the athlete that he is. He does his best, he does what he can, and leaves whatever behind.

"It's just his whole attitude about life that makes him the runner that he is."

Or, the runner the rest of us want to be.

Contact Eddie Wooten at 373-7093, and follow @EddieWooten on Twitter.

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