If you follow American Track and Field, you’re probably familiar with Kyle Merber. However, unless you’ve been closely following his career, you may not be aware of just how much this middle distance phenom has achieved in the past five years. In 2012 Kyle—then a senior at Columbia University—stunned the nation by setting the American Collegiate Record in the 1500m at 3:35.49. Since then he has continued to drop his PRs, raced in multiple US Championships and Olympic Trials, helped the US set the World Record in the DMR, and (spoiler alert) gotten engaged! With such an impressive pedigree, we wanted to catch up with Kyle (not an easy feat) and get his personal take on the 2017 season as well as what’s coming up next.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
I made a smoothie with banana, lots of berries, spinach, oats, and almond milk. Washed it down with an espresso.
How do you handle being meet director at the HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile while managing your own training and racing?
I’d be lying if I said it’s not difficult, but it gets easier each year. I know now that it’s going to wear on me a bit, both mentally and physically, so I make adjustments with training. I don’t sleep great the week-of because I am thinking of everything we still have to do, so I make sure I sleep a ton the week before.
What was that experience like for you this year with the added emotional strain of David Torrence’s passing?
This year’s race was especially tough due to David’s passing. Not only was he going to come back to race and defend his title, but he was a good friend to myself and many of the athletes there. The moment before the gun went off he was introduced as bib number one, and I had tears in my eyes as we toed the start line.
You had some excellent races this summer. How do you feel about the 2017 season as a whole?
It had some ups and downs. I think the highlight for me was running 3:52 indoors, and I definitely made some incredible fitness gains throughout the year. Unfortunately though, I fell short of my biggest goals. It leaves me hungry for next year, with the knowledge that I am capable of achieving bigger things.
Do you have any big plans for the offseason?
I am getting married the first week of October in Ireland to my fiancée, Patricia. She grew up in Tipperary but came to New York to run for college. We’ll be bringing lots of Americans over to celebrate with her family.
What is your favorite shoe for racing?
I love the HOKA ONE ONE Speed Evo R. It’s a super versatile shoe, and I have worn it in everything from the 800 to 5k.
What was the strangest experience that you’ve ever had during a race?
During college I fell during the start of a cross-country race in Wisconsin and was near the front when it happened. When a couple hundred people finished stomping on me, I remember looking up while a bit disoriented and realizing I’d have a lot of catching up to do.
When you’re training at home, what is your favorite spot to run?
Rockefeller State Park. It’s endless miles of crushed gravel horse trails winding through farmlands along the Hudson River. It can get quite hilly, but it’s gorgeous.
What is your go-to shoe for daily training?
I had a few pairs of Clifton 3s left in my closet when the 4s came out, and I thought I’d work through them first before wearing the newest version. They had kept me healthy all year, and we had a great relationship—but then I tried on the 4s! Oh man, did I fall in love with them. Especially in the silver/grey color.
Who is your favorite person to run with?
I don’t want to give any of my teammates too big of a head by naming them, but my one-on-one runs with Donn Cabral are always super therapeutic. We have a great dynamic in terms of bouncing training ideas off each other, and I always come away excited about racing.
Do you have a favorite workout? Are there specific shoes that you wear for workouts?
Generally our workouts aren’t too impressive since we go every other day. It’s way more about the cumulative effects, but we do some really specific stuff that is long reps at race pace with lots of rest, and I’d spike up for that. For longer workouts, the Tracers get the job done.
What is your favorite post-workout snack?
Sausage, egg, and cheese on an egg bagel with salt, pepper, and ketchup.
What do you do when you aren’t training?
I am a big reader and an amateur photographer. I really like history, especially New York’s, so I visit a lot of museums and sites. And I just recently started selling insurance [the Merber family business] so if you know anyone…
Are there any shoes or products that you helped design? What was that process like?
I got the chance to meet with some of the designers and give some feedback on some of the early spike prototypes. I’d like to think I said something that helped make the EVOs such a great spike.
Is there any advice you can share with someone who is just getting started as a middle distance runner?
Focus on yourself and your own improvement. The field will narrow as you get faster. Be smart, and listen to your body. Being healthy is the number one priority. It’s easy to always go hard, but sometimes it’s hard to go easy.
Interview edited for clarity.
Thank you, Kyle, for taking the time to let us catch up. Congratulations to you and Patricia! We wish you the absolute best!
Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.