Up until last last fall, Neal Darmody was a mystery runner who ran fast times in local road races but did not compete for any area high schools. He exploded onto the high school running scene as a junior last fall when he joined Quince Orchard's cross country team. He immediately became one of the top runners for QO, helping them become a regional ranked Nike Team Nationals (NTN) team and later win the cross country state title. This spring, Darmody rose to a new level by winning the 3200m state title in 9:25. Now with a year of high school running experience, Neal prepares for his senior cross country season. Learn about where he comes from and all that he learned in this past year.
MoCoRunning: How long have you been running for? Where does the passion come from?
Darmody: I have been running for about 6 years now. My passion for running started when I was a little kid and saw my dad run his first marathon. The first time I ever ran was when I was 6 years old with my dad in the race for the cure 5k, but didn't actually start training until 7th grade after we did the mile in gym class.
MoCoRunning: When you first decided to train, how did you go about it? Did you consult in your dad or just start running through your neighborhood?
Darmody: I asked my dad sometimes, but I mostly just ran around the neighborhood.
MoCoRunning: Do you remember what that first mile was run in? Do you remember what you got your mile time down to by the end of 7th or 8th grade?
Darmody: I dont remember my mile time when I was 6 years old but my overall 5k time was 46 minutes. My mile at the end of 7th grade was 7:08.
MoCoRunning: You never seem to miss a race. How does racing fit into your training regime both in season and out of season?
Darmody: The best part of running is the racing! I think racing helps me understand if my training has been good or bad.
MoCoRunning: Why is it that you did not begin competing for Quince Orchard High School until your junior year?
Darmody: I did not start to compete because of the time involved in being on a team. I used to work after school and had no time to run for QO.
MoCoRunning: What happened that opened up the time to be on the team last fall?
Darmody: I finally got a job at Fleet Feet which let me work around my running.
MoCoRunning: You were running some very fast races before you got to QO including some 5k's under 17 minutes. What kind of training were you doing to run those times? How did the training change when you joined the high school team?
Darmody: When I trained on my own before the team I basically did around 30-40 minute runs every day. I didn't do any workouts, but I guess racing was where I did my faster runs. When I joined the team, training was very different. Stretching, core, drills, striders, workouts, warm ups, and cool downs were all new to me.
MoCoRunning: Did you find anything different about competing in high school compared to a local community race?
Darmody: Yes, competing in high school was very different than the local races. In my first race I was shocked to see how fast everyone started the race and how there was such a thing as a finishing kick. I was used to running the same pace throughout the entire race. It took me a while before I finally adjusted.
MoCoRunning: Describe some of the adjustments that you made during that first cross country season. What about when you had to face especially adverse conditions such as the muddy Octoberfest race? Can you point to a specific race where you think you made all the right adjustments?
Darmody: The biggest adjustment for me was learning how to get a good start in the race. It seemed like my earlier xc races I always got pushed into the back and would get slower times than I would like because I had to work so much harder to get back to the front. Octoberfest was a good example when I was stuck in the back. The race started and before I knew it I was one of the last people. So wherever I could find space I surged ahead, which cost me alot of time. I think Glory Days invite was a good race for me because I got out front from the start and held a good pace.
MoCoRunning: It seems like no distance is too long for you. Do you have a favorite distance out of all the different races you have run?
Darmody: My favorite distance by far would have to be the 10k. I really like it because it tests endurance and speed.
MoCoRunning: Then it seems like you will be well-suited to run distance in college. Have you given any thought as to whether you would like to run for a college team and where that might be?
Darmody: I've been thinking about college a little bit. My top choice as of right now would have to be LaSalle. I am also considering Maryland.
MoCoRunning: When you aren't racing, what else are you doing with your free time?
Darmody: In my free time I like to play guitar alot. I also like to surf when I'm at the beach and snowboard in the winter.