Nick Kosmenko makes running look simple
Nick Kosmenko placed third in this year’s Intrepid Dezine Half Marathon. He is an avid runner and student pursuing a Ph.D. with a project that seeks to understand the factors influencing university-level sports participation among rural and remote Indigenous athletes in Manitoba. His topic was inspired both by his experiences dealing with the cultural exclusion that is all too common in university settings, as well as the potential sport has to help athletes feel a sense of community and belonging.
When he isn’t running and going to school, he likes to fish, hunt, or just be out on the water or wandering through the forest. He also took time to answer some of our questions and tell us about his training, race day habits and what gets him pumped up for the big day. His no-nonsense attitude towards becoming both physically and mentally ready to run will provide you with a lot of food for thought for your own training.
Why do you run?
There are quite a few reasons. When I’m running, I’m in one of the very few places I feel “at home” or comfortable (although not always physically comfortable!). Another reason is that I seem to need physical challenges in my life; I need to get my butt kicked from time to time and rebound from that, stronger and smarter than before.
What was the most personally challenging race you have ever run and why?
The last Manitoba Half Marathon was challenging because I uncharacteristically blew up around mile 10 and had a painful last few miles. I found out later my hemoglobin was below normal, so I’m working on getting that back up. As well, the Roy Griak Invitational cross country meet in Minneapolis is always tough, as the race goes out hard and there are a lot of hills. It’s usually hot out on race day too. Being a northern boy, I don’t do too well in the heat.
What is your favorite post-workout snack?
Chocolate milk. Oh yeah.
What is your number one method for injury prevention?
Avoiding prolonged sitting, which is a challenge for a graduate student, especially in our sedentary society. I find that light activity during the day helps keep me loose.
If you could travel back in time, what would you tell yourself when you first started running?
Nothing. The younger version of myself needed to learn through experience. That’s the way he was… he needed to do things the wrong way and end up paying for it. I would be running faster times today if back then I had the knowledge I have now, or even a coach to guide me along, but that’s not really what matters. What matters is passing on the wisdom to others, and preaching theory is one thing, but having the experience to back it up is another. It’s more powerful to say to someone, “Look, I did it that way, got injured, and ended up missing a month of running because of it” than it is to say, “Don’t ignore your body because you might get injured”.
To other young athletes, though, I would probably say that in addition to the physical side of training, make sure you focus on the mental side (e.g., staying calm, not being too obsessive, being flexible, being resourceful), as that has often held me back. Also, make sure to develop speed while you’re still young! Mileage can come later.
What goals have you set for yourself in the past year? How have you worked to achieve them?
There are always time goals I want to hit, and currently, I’m training at altitude in Flagstaff, AZ in pursuit of goals like that. But at the end of the day, no one cares what times I run or what teams I make. What I believe is important is helping other athletes in their journeys. This year I’m hoping to be more encouraging of my teammates and more positive. I know that my attitude affects them, and I care a lot about their wellbeing, so I have to really show up in that area. I think the environment can play a huge role in how you feel and behave, so I’m working on putting myself in positive environments, and hopefully, that will show through when I’m around my teammates.
What does race morning look like to you? Any rituals, habits or mantras that you go through to get ready to run?
It looks like a lot of other mornings: similar to the day but usually darker, unless I sleep in. I usually wake up pretty excited. Sometimes I’ll shower, and I’ll usually eat two and a half hours before gun time. I’ll also do some light dynamic stretches to loosen the material. Sometimes I’ll go for a 20 minute shake-out run if the race isn’t until later on in the day. I don’t really have any rituals, other than doing the warm-up routine I’m familiar with.
What is your number one “get pumped up for a great run” song?
I try to avoid getting too pumped up before a run. It’s more important that I get the adrenaline flowing toward the end of a race or training run as opposed to the beginning. I have a playlist for tempo runs I do on the treadmill that gets more intense as the run progresses. One of my favourite songs is Metallica’s “Now That We’re Dead”. It’s not fast-paced, but it has a strong, purposeful sound, which is a lot like how I run. I also like a few of Eminem’s songs, and a lot of the stuff from the Rocky soundtrack gets me fired up. I actually avoid listening to “Eye of the Tiger” when I’m not running because I’ll get too hyped, then I’ll have to go for a run.
Do you have a running role model or a training buddy that you want to give a shout out to? Anyone who keeps you going or contributes to your training?
There are a lot of people who have helped me over the years, either through inspiring me or giving me advice, or even both. They’ve shown me that that’s what you do in this sport: you pass the wisdom along and you encourage others. There are too many people to list, and it wouldn’t sit well with me to list only a few and not others.