Athlete Spotlight – Elite Team: Aaron Dinzeo
Name: Aaron Dinzeo
Hometown: Monroeville, Pennsylvania / Sidney, Ohio
College: California University of Pennsylvania
Specialties: Cross Country, 5,000m, 10,000m, road
Favorite place to run: Greene River Trail in Greene County, Pennsylvania along the banks of the Monongahela River.
Race rituals/superstitions: I used to have a lot. I’d wear this oversized Forum Snowboards sweatshirt over my uniform for every race from 7th to 9th grade. I used to wear my uniform to school under my clothes the day of a race in high school. In college, I wore the same socks for every race. Now I usually just talk to myself on the line; whether it’s a prayer to whatever God is listening or a pep talk or rapping Dr. Dre or reciting some monologue stuck in my head, just something to my nerves down until the gun goes off.
Go-to pre-race meal: Spaghetti Bolognese (WITHOUT FAIL… unless someone else is buying)
Go-to post-race meal: An entire pepperoni pizza to myself! And Ice cream. And candy. And some Mountain Dews, baby.
Favorite running quote: Too many to choose! Here are a few in no particular order.
“The most powerful weapon on Earth is the human soul on fire.” – Ferdinand Foch
“Running is a lot like life. Only 10 percent of it is exciting. 90 percent of it is slog and drudge.” – David Bedford
“Mind is everything. Muscles – pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.” – Paavo Nurmi
“Operate like you can’t fail!” – Christopher Clark
“Embrace the suck.” – A close friend
“!!!” – Daniel Caulfield
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” – The Greatest
Q & A
How and when did you start running?
I didn’t make the basketball team in 7th grade and was pretty devastated about it. I had worked really hard and felt snubbed. My best friend at the time told me to go out for track with him in the spring. So first week of practice we did a mile time trial. I ran 9:36 in basketball shoes and nearly quit. Our first meet was 3 weeks later so I just started running as hard as I could at practice and actually did a little bit at home. The first meet we had, I ran 6:34 in the mile and was shocked (I’m not shocked now … all I had to do was run a little), but the times kept coming down through that first year, and I was hooked. That was the first time I was getting something I wanted athletically for the effort I put into it. I became excited and fascinated by the fundamental concept that the harder you worked, the better you could get.
When did you first join NE Distance? What was it that drew you to the organization?
I joined in December of 2016. I was initially attracted to the idea of a team and the idea of giving back. I think our sport is such that success comes from a series of positive interactions with a lot of people. Not only does NE Distance offer the opportunity to be on a team with motivated individuals, but it gives us all a chance to work back at a level where many of us initially fell in love with running in middle school. I think we’re in a unique environment that allows for a lot of positive growth that one might not find as easily in the post-collegiate world.
How do you like living and training in Rhode Island? What is it like to be a part of its ever-growing running community?
I’m still finding my niche training here. I’ve lived and trained in some cool places with a lot of history, and Rhode Island is no exception. I still get excited bumping into some of the legends around here knowing my best days are still ahead of me.
What is your favorite part about coaching the Community Running Club or assisting with the middle school coaching? How has coaching changed your perception of the sport of running and the impact it can have on a person’s life?
I’ve been blessed to have had some great coaches. If I can be like 1 percent of what those people were to me to a middle schooler or a member of the Community Running Club, I think I’ll feel good about it. I just want to be someone that makes the people around me better. Coaching the running club has been fulfilling in that sense. If I could quote one of my college coaches: “My job is to find diamonds to shine my light through, so that that light can reach others.” I want to help people create their own success.
What has been your greatest athletic achievement as a member of NE Distance?
Rebounding from injury. The support that NE Distance is giving me is finally helping put to rest an injury that has been plaguing me for a few years and cutting my seasons short. Thankfully, this team is, literally, getting me back on my feet pain free for the first time in a long time.
What is the most valuable lesson that running has taught you thus far in your career?
Hard work and optimism. It’s more simple than we realize. My potential is what it is, so I need to control what I can, and that is the type of effort I put forward and the attitude associated with it. I’m not a fixed entity. I create myself through choice and action, and will adapt to whatever situation I feel I need to adapt to. A strong sense of realism and a basic understanding of consequence keeps me grounded from anything I would consider delusional, but besides that, as far as I can surmise, working hard and being optimistic yields some good results. Even more basically: “I think I can.”
What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to young or beginner runners?
Hard work and optimism. That’s how you get from A to B the way you want to do it.
What is your favorite workout?
My favorite workout is something of a team building exercise we would do in college. The workout was called the “FAB 5” because we would ideally have 5 people who could get to the end of it (i.e. our 5 scorers for the cross country team). We would run on an 800 meter grass loop, and the goal was to get at least 5 people through a goal lap together while negative splitting every 800 by 5 seconds. So we’d start slow, maybe 7:30 pace some days and just progressively get faster until it would really test your control and composure. So, if anyone fell off the back by more than a second, they had one loop to make up the difference or they would be pulled from the work out. We’d start with 10-12 guys and try to get as many to the goal lap (we’ll say 2:25 for 800 for example) as possible taking turns leading, sharing the burden of the workout. When guys dropped, they’d cheer the others on. Past the goal, it was every man for himself; run until you couldn’t negative split the workout by 5 seconds anymore. Furthest I ever went was failing to run 2:10 at the end of an 8 mile progression. Everyone would be humbled by it at some point. It’s a run until failure type of workout with more of a mental payoff, but it built us up as a team.
What is your most memorable race?
The 5000 meters at Raleigh Relays in 2013, I had a break out race. I had no business running that fast that night. I shocked myself that night. Just utter disbelief. It’s not necessarily my happiest running memory (definitely a happy one though), but the most electric for sure and a moment I’ll remember for a long time. (Editor’s note: Aaron was too humble to mention just how fast he ran that night – 13:58.37!)
What are you most looking forward to this upcoming season?
Running really far, really fast.