2013 - Patrick Stroupe Moving Forward Interview
I think it is safe to say you are America’s favorite milkman?
And you are probably one of the race walkers I know the least about, because you are pretty much training on your own.
I kinda live out in the middle of nowhere for many reasons.
And you are living where?
My address is Armstrong Missouri, but I live about 3 miles from there on my father’s farm where my wife and I built a little shack where we are squatting on his land.
This is a dairy farm?
Yeah, well it’s not any more. He was a dairy farmer for 30 years, but he’s transitioning it to a beef herd.
So the obvious question is how did you get started in race walking?
I had never heard of it. I got scholarship to run cross country and track at an NAIA college in Fayette Missouri where I did all my schooling from Elementary through high school at Central Methodist University. At the university a girl, Beth Lewis, was race walking and was and All American. We all made fun of her and I was good at making fun of her and I wasn’t quite good enough at running to score points at Conferences so she taught me how what she knew, which was quite a bit. She had very good form and went from there. She’s now a high school coach down in south central Missouri right now.
So did you start your freshman year or later into it?
I started actually practicing race walking December of my freshman year which would have been 2003 and kinda jut messed around with it throughout college. Nothing too serious.
When you say you weren’t a very good runner, what did you run?
In high school I thought I was a 400M runner and in college I thought that was what I was going to do. However, I had a cross country scholarship, so the coach obviously didn’t have that in mind. I ran a 52 high in high school and a 2:08 half mile and nothing spectacular in a mile. Probably a 5:20 something.
And what was your 5K time?
Oh back then, about 17 minutes or so. I didn’t race 5Ks. I did 8Ks when I was a freshman and go down in the 28s.
So the coach came to you and said “you are going to eat your words and race walk?”
Right yeah. He said when we were making fun of her you were looking good and you are not going to score any points at the conference meet running, so you better figure race walking out. The first race I did she lapped me and the second race I did I qualified for NAIA nationals.
So was the second race a 3K or 5K?
And what time did you walk?
Probably around 15 minutes. I don’t remember what qualifying was back then.
Was this just a way to get through college at that point?
Yeah. Coming out of high school I didn’t have any plans. I could live at home and go to school. I knew I could go to college without it costing too much. I had decent academics so they had to beat the academic scholarship I got offered. So it was a cheap was to get college out of the way and have a degree. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time, so it was an option at the time.
What were you studying?
I studied communications and then I got a minor in ecology at the time. So I just took football player classes, got good grades, but they were easy.
What was the turning point from this is something to do in college to I can be a potential Olympian?
I never really took it all the serious in college. Every year at nationals, Vince Peters would talk to me and say that 5K and 3Ks are good, but it means nothing ya know it’s just for fun because the real distances are 20K and 50K. I would always laugh at him and tell him I was a 400M runner. Which wasn’t the case anymore.
What was your 5K best in college?
I think I might have gotten down to 22 something by my senior year. At the time the NAIA wasn’t that strong so I didn’t have to do that much to win. After I graduated it got better and one year I got beat by Matt Boyles who is very solid. Then at the end of my senior year one of the ladies (Evelynia Slatinski) I competed with said I’ve seen what you’ve done and with the form that you have you should keep going and take it more seriously and from there I decided to give it a try.
So what year did you graduate college?
So that’s when you kinda stepped up from a 5K to longer distances and became more serious?
I did a 10K and 20K before I graduated college, but again I wasn’t training very serious for them. That summer of 07 was the first time I did the US champions at 20K.
And how did you do there?
6th or 7th something like that. I walked 1:30 something.
So you moved up quite a bit. A 22:00 5K is nowhere as good as a 1:30 20K?
Right. Well in college I just raced to win. I didn’t care what my time was.
So did a light bulb go off when you average 22:30’s for a 20K instead of 22:00 for a 5K? That’s a pretty dramatic step up.
I did the qualifier race in Ohio and Matt Boyles paced me through in 1:32 and then I did a couple longer distance specific workouts in between there and nationals. I went on two trips in college. One to the US/Canada duel in NY and the other to the Dominican Republic on the U23 team and I kinda started to see that I could see places in the world and get something out of this so I might as well. I didn’t see myself finding a career out of college and I figured I would give it a shot and started training a little more seriously.
So you graduate college and training full time when you graduated?
I was working after college. I got married in the summer of 2007 and was working for my dad that summer. Then I moved to Florida with my wife where she was going to undergraduate school and worked full time in a running shoe store while she finished out her undergraduate career. Then she got into vet school back in Missouri and I started to work for my dad full time.
That’s got to be quite a double day between working on a farm and having to race walk.
Well I didn’t have to race walk. I took it on myself so I can’t complain. I am not saying it as a complaint. I also felt it was easier to be a race walker when I was in school then when I was race walking. I would agree with that. I wish I would have taken it more seriously in college, because looking back that was quite a bit of base years I missed just messing around. Live and learn.
It is what it is. OK, so we are looking at that you graduated in 2007, moved to Florida in 2008 and in 2009 to 2012 as you are working on your father’s farm and training thinking about the 2012 Olympic Trials for both the 20K and 50K.
I focused more on the 20K than the 50K, but I did do the 50K as well.
I saw you at the 50K, you looked pretty smooth, you walked with the lead pack.
Well we like to paint people in the best possible light. We do have some great footage of you walking with the lead pack on our new dvd. So what was your goal going into the 50K since you weren’t a 50K specialist and you had two Olympians in the pack with you. What were you trying to accomplish?
I was trying to walk B standard pace (4:05) for as long as possible and if that meant all the way to the finish we’d so how everyone else did. I think I made it to 30K on pace and that was all she wrote for me and then I was watching the race.
After 30K you couldn’t keep the pace, but when you say when you watched the race you mean while still racing.
Could you tell at all that you were participating in one of the two greatest races on American soil in decades? The other race was of course the battle between Maria Michta, Miranda Melville, and Erin Gray.
Yeah they were gutting it out big time. It was a good back and forth battle with John and Tim. It was exciting I wish I was part of it. They both did well.
So you came home and the plan was to prepare for the 20K and before we mention what happened, what was your hope for the 20K given that Trevor had an A standard, Tim didn’t have one and was probably unlikely to get one. If you got one in the race you and Trevor would be going to the Olympics. So what was your race strategy and goal going in?
My race strategy was to walk under B standard pace and have that be a big PR for me and whatever else happened in the race happened and if that meant I beat Trevor that would be great. My strategy was not to walk an A standard. To go out and have a good race with a B standard (1:24:30) and see what happened. With the judges weird things can happen, they usually don’t, but they could. So I just had to put myself in position to have a chance.
What was your PR going in?
1:26:20 or something like that.
So that would be a sizeable PR in a very big race. So obviously things did not happen as planned. Do you want to describe what happened to prevent you from reaching your goals?
I think the Sunday before I was heading out to Eugene I went down to get some milk and I broke a jar pulling my dog out of the truck and cut my shin open just above my ankle and had to get 12 stitches and was fairly sore and when I travelled it swelled up pretty big and I didn’t feel I could race without doing farther damage and a lot of pain. So I didn’t race.
So I have to tell you as a promoter and a former athlete seeing you on the sidelines, injured, watching the race my heart went out to you. I know you want to support your friends, but it had to be difficult. The worst thing could have been if everyone had a bad race and you are like if this didn’t happen I would be an Olympian. Trevor actually walked a great race. What were your thoughts during the race?
It was nice to actually watch a race, except for a 50K somewhere I have never watched a 20K race at a good level. So it was nice to watch. I was happy everyone did as well as they did. A little sad I couldn’t be in it, but there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to roll with it.
So let’s look to the future. No one knows what Trevor is doing, well except maybe him. Tim is getting older. You are clearly
I am getting older.
How old are you now?
I am 28.
You are young enough that you call me sir, so…. That puts you pretty young in my book. You are clearly going into 2016 as one of the premier favorites for making the team assuming you make it a priority?
My wife would say yes. She is behind me 100% and thinks I would be stupid to not train, well I don’t know about stupid, but she really wants me to train for four more years. Since my dad isn’t milking cows anymore I don’t have to feel guilty about not working so I am training full time, for at least a year, and will see how it goes and then I will see how my improvement has gone or if it is time to grow up.
Grow up is certainly a term that you can use but anyone that knows what you have to do knows it takes a grown up to dedicate to walk an A standard.
It does take a different mentality.
I think the field is open enough that if you see that you can walk an A standard that it is pretty much a guarantee a ticket to Rio. So that’s what you are looking for a confidence builder that if you train full time you can achieve the A standard?
An A Standard without drugs.
True, in the American race walking culture drugs are not prevalent.