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Episode 1

Floyd Miller: From Amish Farms to Marathons

by | Apr 22, 2019 | podcast | 0 comments

Marathoner Floyd Miller has run a complete marathon on every continent, including Antarctica! Join us as he explains how he got started racing, life on an Amish farm with 11 siblings and his joy at being in Kona to watch his son race in the Ironman World Championships

Hosts & Guests

Suzanne Atkinson, MD

Floyd Miller


Episode 1: Transcript


Suzanne A: 00:02 Hi, this is Suzanne Atkinson with Tri 2 Listen, the podcast for curious triathletes. Each episode features an interview with an athlete, coach, or scientist whose passion lies in triathlon. It’s my job to uncover their story.

Suzanne A: 00:19 Thanks for joining me today. This is the first podcast that I’ve released in several years. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve been thinking about these interviews that I had done that were never released. I think you’re really going to enjoy them. These go back to 2016 during the Ironman World Championships. The interview that you’re going to hear today is with a gentleman named Floyd Miller, he’s originally from the state of Indiana. Floyd’s a marathoner and his son is a triathlete.

Suzanne A: 00:48 What made this particular interview really fun is that I had scheduled an interview with Joe Friel, and was sitting in an outdoor patio doing that interview with him, and you’ll be hearing that one one or two episodes from now. But after the interview with Joe was finished, this woman approached me and asked me who I was and who that man was that I was interviewing, and then she introduced me to her husband, Floyd, and she told me some interesting information about Floyd’s background as a marathoner, and she really was very proud of her husband. I thought that he had an interesting story to tell as well, and that’s why I’ve chosen to release Mr. Floyd Miller as episode number one in Try To Listen. I hope you enjoy it.

Suzanne A: 01:41 Hi, this is Suzanne Atkinson. One of the really exciting things about being in Kona for the Ironman World Championship is that you just run into interesting people everywhere you go. I’m sitting here with Floyd Miller. Floyd, you’re a marathoner from Indiana. Thanks for agreeing to chat with me for a few minutes.

Floyd M: 01:58 Okay, thank you for being here.

Suzanne A: 02:00 Floyd, tell us what makes your marathon experience somewhat unique compared to most other people who run marathons?

Floyd M: 02:10 Well, I guess I feel like the something that I have always enjoyed doing, and it’s something that I’m fairly good at and enjoy it. It’s a good way to relieve stress. It’s something that I do on a daily basis to run. But then picked up the marathoning when I was in my early thirties, and I’ve been doing it for quite a few years.

Suzanne A: 02:36 What made you decide to start running in your early thirties?

Floyd M: 02:40 Well, I don’t know. I think it was probably more to do with the fact that as a kid growing up, I was really never good at any sports except just running, and where I grew up at and how I grew up was probably a unique situation. We weren’t offered any kind of sports in the area that I did grow up at, but it is something that I just enjoyed as a kid, and I don’t know really why, because it wasn’t something that we did at home, but it … but I just enjoyed it.

Suzanne A: 03:15 Did you have a track team at your school?

Floyd M: 03:20 No. I guess I’m going to mention this now is the fact that I don’t know if you know anything about Amish people. Ever heard of the lot Amish people?

Suzanne A: 03:28 Well, I’m from Pennsylvania, and I did my ER residency in Danville, Pennsylvania, which is extremely raw. One of my favorite things about working there was that I could go for a bike ride for two or three hours and never be passed by a car and only pass Amish farms along the way.

Floyd M: 03:44 Well, I was raised Amish.

Suzanne A: 03:46 Oh, were you?

Floyd M: 03:46 Yeah.

Suzanne A: 03:47 Interesting.

Floyd M: 03:47 I was raised Amish and I think probably that’s maybe part of my somewhat unique or somewhat unusual situation because I was raised in a family of 15 children, and raised in a home where the schools, there were no sports activities offered. For me to even be involved in anything wouldn’t have been possible or allowed to participate in any kind of sports. Even if we would’ve went to a school that offered it, we wouldn’t have been allowed to do that.

Suzanne A: 04:23 When you were young, what was your exposure to running? I mean obviously I’m assuming that there was work to do, did you we grew up on a farm?

Floyd M: 04:31 Yes. We grew up on a farm, and the only thing that we knew was to work, and go to school, and Sundays go to church, I guess. There was no time for play I guess, except I mean as a little children. But we learned to work out on the farm from the time we were six, seven years old probably.

Suzanne A: 04:56 What was your first job on the farm? Do you remember?

Floyd M: 04:59 Well, we, I think we always went out to plow for corn, and husked corn, and things like that. But we also always had chores to do, like milk cows, and feed the calves, and feed the pigs, and things like that.

Suzanne A: 05:15 Was running something that you didn’t discover it till you’re in your 30s, or well, did you have there moments where you could?

Floyd M: 05:20 I think in school, we were at a just like a one roomed school house, but we knew, or I knew of a high school, or grade school where they did have track and cross country and things like that. But I obviously we would get and attend that. I think I just enjoyed it enough, and I don’t know really why, but I sometimes would run home from school just because I enjoyed running, and I don’t know for sure of why, but I honestly did not start running then until we got married, and I think I was … my son that’s actually doing the Ironman here today or this week, him, he was six years old, I think, when him and I both decided to do a 5K in a local parade day race. I was in my early 30s when I started running 5Ks and 10Ks, and soon I think pretty soon picked up on marathoning and stuff like that.

Floyd M: 06:23 Being away from anything further than 50 miles was kind of an unusual thing for me. Our first, or my first marathon was in Chicago, Illinois, which is not that far away. Maybe 150 miles from our house. But …

Suzanne A: 06:39 How many years between doing that first 5K with your son and doing your first marathon?

Floyd M: 06:44 I would guess it was probably a fou, five years, maybe something like that. Fairly early.

Suzanne A: 06:51 When did you decide that you wanted to do a marathon?

Floyd M: 06:55 I think probably already the second year after I started running, I seemed like I jumped into 5Ks and 10Ks, and almost within a year or two I probably went into some local half marathons, and then started hearing about marathons. I think I just learn about some of that stuff before … just by being in advance. Hadn’t really ever heard because we didn’t have a TV at home, and we had no contact of any sort to know about that kind of thing until I actually started running in these kinds of events, and then started hearing about marathons.

Suzanne A: 07:39 Do you still keep in contact with your brothers and sisters and your parents about your running and so forth?

Floyd M: 07:44 Yeah. We do. My parents are not alive anymore, but my family, all 15 of us are still living, and have a big … they’re all married and have … I have many nephews, and nieces. and my parents had, I think when my dad passed four years ago, there were 150 great grandchildren are ready, and 99 grandchildren. Huge, huge family. We have a reunion every other year to get together. That’s how we stay in contact as much as possible.

Suzanne A: 08:24 You’ve done a marathon on every continent?

Floyd M: 08:27 I have.

Suzanne A: 08:27 Which not a lot of people can say. There not a lot of people who’ve even done seven marathons, let alone traveling around the world to do it. When did you first hear about that as an opportunity?

Floyd M: 08:39 It was probably about 10 years ago through my son wanting to do a marathon in Boston because of knowing that I wanted to run a marathon in Boston. Through that, I was looking for another marathon to run, and I went on a site just, I think I just typed in marathons and marathon tours. Actually it’s out of Boston-

Suzanne A: 09:04 Interesting.

Floyd M: 09:04 … popped up, and it said something about Seven Continents Club, and I thought, man, if what a bucket list that would be. I just almost immediately decided to take that as a challenge and I tried to pick out very unique marathons that were different than just the common. That’s how I started, and I did two marathons. From that point on, I did two marathons a year until I completed it. Then after I was almost when I was done with that, then I found out about the five majors, and then I, after I had done the seven continents, I completed the five majors as well.

Suzanne A: 09:49 The five majors, is a specific just five specific races.

Floyd M: 09:50 Yes. It’s Chicago, New York, Boston, London, and Berlin, Germany.

Suzanne A: 09:57 Chicago, New York, Boston, London, and Berlin. Three in the US, and then two, one, in England and one other one … Wow.

Floyd M: 10:05 There’s now another one been added, and it’s to Tokyo, Japan, but I haven’t done that.

Suzanne A: 10:10 Is this still called the five majors or is it the six majors?

Floyd M: 10:11 No, it’ll then be a six, I think they’ve upped it to six majors now.

Suzanne A: 10:16 Sort of like the big 10 now has.

Floyd M: 10:17 Yeah.

Suzanne A: 10:17 I don’t know 13 teams in it or, I haven’t kept up with that. Which has been your favorite race?

Floyd M: 10:25 I have so many, many good memories, and I guess I feel so honored to be able to have done what I’ve done. But I probably the most unique and unusual is the Antarctica, just simply because of where it’s at and it feels like stepping on another planet. It just, it seems like it’s … there’s nobody lives there, and you’re basically running with the penguins, and-

Suzanne A: 10:52 Yeah. You’re actually running 26.2 miles out on the ice and snow?

Floyd M: 10:57 Yeah, ice and snow. There is a research area, therefore I think five different countries are represented there for about three months out of the year, and so we ran within that area.

Suzanne A: 11:10 Okay. I’ve actually known people who’ve gone there for the winter to … or I guess it’s their summer to work. One was a cook. I think I’ve had two friends that have done that.

Floyd M: 11:20 That’s how we’ve done that. I think we ran to all the villages of the different countries, and they mapped out a course. It was like a half marathon course, and people could do a half marathon or a full marathon.

Suzanne A: 11:35 Okay, so you did the loop twice?

Floyd M: 11:37 Yeah.

Suzanne A: 11:39 What kind of training considerations are there when you’re preparing to run a marathon in Antarctica?

Floyd M: 11:43 Well, actually living in Indiana was great because the marathon was in February, and so I trained as soon as I could in the, well all year round, but as soon as I could outside, and I tried to run any kind of conditions that I possibly could, and I felt very well prepared because Indiana has some good cold, snowy weather, and I felt very, very prepared to be over there.

Suzanne A: 12:10 How many marathons had you done up to that point when you did the Antarctica Marathon?

Floyd M: 12:16 When I did earlier marathons, I really didn’t keep track back in those days. But I would say I’ve now done a total of about 30 marathons all together. I would imagine back then I probably would have done maybe 24, 22, something like that.

Suzanne A: 12:34 When you’re training for a marathon now, after having done that many, do you go through a standard training program, or do you feel like you could just pick up and say, “Oh, there’s a marathon in three weeks, I’m going to … I’ll be ready for that even though I haven’t done anything.”

Floyd M: 12:46 No. I always use a training program, and I always a train somewhere between 18 and 20 weeks, and work up to …

Suzanne A: 13:01 18 to 20 weeks, you try to leave that amount of time to prepare for a marathon?

Floyd M: 13:04 I do.

Suzanne A: 13:05 You’re only doing two a year?

Floyd M: 13:06 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Suzanne A: 13:08 Do you feel like you maintain a base level of fitness in between marathons?

Floyd M: 13:14 Yes, I do. I do. Like right now, I try to run six miles every day, and I run 10 or 12 miles on a weekend, and so it’s pretty easy to jump in, to get started because my program that I use, I start out as my long distance at 14 miles. I’m right there always.

Suzanne A: 13:36 You’re already close to that.

Floyd M: 13:37 Yeah.

Suzanne A: 13:39 Is this a plan that you’ve developed on your own after years of training, or are you following a specific program?

Floyd M: 13:44 Well, I used to follow the farming institute program. I always followed that up until the last, probably the last two years, four years, three, something like that. I actually learned through reading about pros that they put in a lot more miles, and so I actually just through the farming institute, but kind of from that also picked off some things that the pros use, and that is just to put in more miles.

Suzanne A: 14:15 You do a blend.

Floyd M: 14:17 Yeah.

Suzanne A: 14:18 You’ve learned from experience, works well for you.

Floyd M: 14:19 Usually, I get up early in the morning, and will run, or work my way up to 10 miles a day in the morning. I don’t start there, but I work up to that. Then at every noon, I’ll run six miles. I’ve usually had been running somewhere between 90 and 100 miles a week as my peak when I get to that point. And running twice a day, and then a long distance on a weekend. But before, I was always putting in 50 miles a week, and it just seemed like I had struggled a lot of times with that farming institute program that you come to 18 miles or 20 miles. I just always seemed fatigued, and not prepared like I do now with the program that I … which is kind of my own little-

Suzanne A: 15:11 Your own, yeah, your own blend. The farming institute, they do a lot of cross-training-

Floyd M: 15:17 They do, a lot of cross-training.

Suzanne A: 15:17 … and varying intensities.

Floyd M: 15:19 Yeah, yeah.

Suzanne A: 15:20 Do you still do those things?

Floyd M: 15:21 I do some of that, but I actually don’t … I don’t do as much of it. Since I do more running, I don’t do as much cross-training as I … that I used to.

Suzanne A: 15:32 Is that because you don’t have the time or just not interested?

Floyd M: 15:34 I think I probably would have time, but I think I’ve just found for me that I’ve actually had my better times. For me, I’ve had my better times running the distance rather than the cross-training for me.

Suzanne A: 15:48 Okay. Interesting

Floyd M: 15:48 In fac, my last race, last two races that I did for the five majors, I ran in Berlin, Germany on a Sunday, I flew home and ran Chicago the next Sunday, and then that Thursday I flew out here to Hawaii to watch my son do an Ironman two years ago, and the Chicago Marathon was actually my best time that I had had since I had been running more recent marathons.

Suzanne A: 16:20 Would you care to share that time with us?

Floyd M: 16:21 Yeah, it was a 3:42, not that good.

Suzanne A: 16:26 Yeah, congratulations. That’s fantastic.

Floyd M: 16:26 It was better than I had been doing. It seemed like I was doing somewhere around a three … always 3:50, 3:55, something like that, so I had actually knocked it down to 3:42, which I was very happy with that. I always think if it qualifies me for either Chicago, or I mean, New York, or Boston I feel content, I guess with that time. Yeah.

Suzanne A: 16:51 Yeah. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?

Floyd M: 16:52 I’m 66.

Suzanne A: 16:54 Okay. What’s the Boston qualifying time for a 66 year old?

Floyd M: 16:57 I believe now it is 3:55, maybe something like that.

Suzanne A: 17:02 You’re comfortably within that still. What are your goals coming up? What’s next after the five majors?

Floyd M: 17:08 Well, I, since this sixth major’s come along, Tokyo, Japan, we kind of wanted to, one, wait until our son is doing this Ironman to not do anything until this is over, but my hopes are is to be able to do Tokyo, Japan maybe next year, and the Marine Corps Marathon next year.

Suzanne A: 17:31 Yeah.

Floyd M: 17:33 They all also refer to sometimes, and maybe this is just in the marathon people minds, but they sometimes refer to Madagascar as the eighth continent, but it’s really not. I guess they just refer to it some time, and I’ve always thought I’d like to do that.

Suzanne A: 17:53 Is there a marathon there?

Floyd M: 17:55 Yeah. It’s very small. Little like I did at Africa, marathon in Africa in … out in a game preserve, and there’s maybe 250 people or something like that, and I think that’s probably what this would be, very small.

Suzanne A: 18:11 Yeah. You’re in Kona to watch your son do the Ironman coming up this weekend, how many times does your son done this race?

Floyd M: 18:19 This will be his second time that he’s qualified. Yeah.

Suzanne A: 18:22 Great. He took after you when he started getting into sports, he started running.

Floyd M: 18:26 Yeah. Yes, he did. Him and I did our first 5K race together for our first times, it’s both of us when I started running, and he did too. He was six years old at the time. He ran cross country and track, and then I went to college, and got married, and for a while he had given all of that up. But then yeah, I think through his work club, running club and triathlons, that type of things, he got involved with that. I would say he’s been doing all of this now for the last at least 10 years, maybe.

Suzanne A: 19:06 Yeah. All of this meeting triathlons or Ironman distance?

Floyd M: 19:10 Yeah, all of it. Yeah. Just a combination of whatever’s available [inaudible 00:19:14].

Suzanne A: 19:15 In your perception as a family member, one of the things that is a common fee for Ironman distance triathletes, especially the ones that are trying to qualify for Kona is that you have a support team behind that. You got very understanding friends, family members, spouses. What’s been your experience as the family member of someone training for Kona?

Floyd M: 19:35 Well, I think that is exactly right. I think everybody that does extensive time away from family, and home, and all the training that it takes, it does really take a lot away from your family and a lot of understanding. I know my wife is a very, very understanding person, knowing that I am that involved, and I know his wife is the same way, and they have a little child that’s five years old. I think it does take a lot of probably biting your tongue sometimes when you ought to be home taking care of a child, and you’re out running, or swimming, or whatever. But it is.

Floyd M: 20:18 But on the other side of that, if you are supported, it’s a great … I think it’s a good feeling to have family members around to watch, and support you, and be there for you when things are down and not going good always, because we all know that not every race is the same. We have bad days and we have good days.

Suzanne A: 20:42 What does it mean to you as his father to be here?

Floyd M: 20:45 Proud as can be. What a privilege it is to be … to watch your son do and accomplish something like this. This event, this type of an event is probably the most grueling thing that I can imagine any human being putting themselves through. I used to think that I’d like to do that, but I’m not a swimmer, so I would have to totally learn that part of it to even put myself through it. But every time I come to an event like this, I think maybe I should try it, but I don’t know that it’ll ever happened.

Suzanne A: 21:25 Well, you’re in luck because I happened to be a swim coach.

Floyd M: 21:27 Oh, okay.

Suzanne A: 21:28 That’s of my areas of specialty, is helping people, helping triathletes who are learning to swim at, not when they’re a child, [inaudible 00:21:36] adult onset swimmer. It’s very common. It’s something that holds a lot of people back from trying a triathlon.

Floyd M: 21:43 I know that at one time before I got real involved in the seven continents, and early on in his Ironman and triathlons, I actually took some swimming lessons for a little short time, and because I really … it’s something that would really intrigue me to do sometime. But then I got so involved with the seven continents and all this, that I just put that on the back burner. Since this is now somewhat done, I’m probably not get satisfied not doing something.

Suzanne A: 22:18 When you’re ready to make that transition after you get home from Kona, investigate Total Immersion Swimming.

Floyd M: 22:25 Okay.

Suzanne A: 22:25 It’s a fantastic way for adult onset swimmer to learn, and we really focus on relaxation of water, working with the water, cooperating with it, swimming from your core, and not just with your arms and legs. It’s a great way to get introduced to. There’s hope for everybody.

Floyd M: 22:43 Yeah.

Suzanne A: 22:44 Well, Floyd, thank you very much for sitting down and doing this impromptu interview. It’s been great getting to know you.

Floyd M: 22:49 Well, thank you. Thank you very much.

Suzanne A: 22:50 Do you have any advice for someone who’s looking to run their first marathon?

Floyd M: 22:56 I would say in weather like this, you better take it … stay hydrated and take it easy. Don’t go out thinking that you’re going to do your best, not here in Hawaii because it’s hot and humid.

Suzanne A: 23:11 Stay hydrated and take it easy.

Floyd M: 23:13 Yeah, that’s right. Just enjoy being here. I think that’s the biggest thing. Yeah.

Suzanne A: 23:18 Thank you very much.

Floyd M: 23:19 Thank you.

Suzanne A: 23:19 It’s been a pleasure.

Floyd M: 23:20 Alright. I have your business card [inaudible 00:23:22].

Suzanne A: 23:30 Thanks for taking time out of your day to listen to our first podcast with Floyd Miller. The next episode will be a brief interview with his son, Mark Miller, who I interviewed right after Floyd, and you’ll hear about some of his inspirations and what it meant to him to get back to Kona for a second time.

Suzanne A: 23:49 The interview after that will be with Joe Friel. I think you’ll really enjoy that interview, and I get a chance to pick Joe’s brain about the research for his most recent book.

Suzanne A: 23:59 Finally, if you’ve enjoyed this, please give us a great rating on iTunes and leave a comment. That really helps the podcast get noticed, and helps more people discover it. Thanks a lot. We’ll see you next time.

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