Van Orden and Spratford Race to May Athletes of the Month


USATF New England

Brighton, MA

Van Orden and Spratford Race to May Athletes of the Month


The USATF New England Board of Directors proudly announces Tim Van Orden of the Central Massachusetts Striders and Katrina Spratford of New England Distance as our May 2019 Athletes of the Month. Both Tim and Katrina earn this award after a long history of stellar performances, with the focus being on the most recent RunWestfield Fast 5K, which served as the New England Road 5 km Championship.


Tim, a stalwart athlete in the men’s masters 50+ division, had a very impressive May. Tim was the outright winner at the Ralph Waldo Emerson Trail Race (part of the USATFNE All Terrain Runner Series) and Binnington 3.8M Road Race, and had the highest men's age graded score at the RunWestfield 5K.


Van Orden tells that his performance at the RunWestfield 5K occurred somewhat by chance. After a fall in the Ralph Waldo Emerson Trail race the week before, Tim mentioned that he struggled to walk the week leading into the Road 5k Championships. He initially decided to skip it, but after feeling remorse and the ever pursuasive running bug, he chose to test his ability with a little jog. After two miles of relatively-little pain, he chose to drive to Westfield and race to help the CMS masters team score. Exactly 16 minutes later, Tim crossed the finish line with the highest men's age graded score of the day.   


Outside the running world (but only somewhat), Tim is a writer and a full-time running coach at Runnningraw. Tim enjoys audiobooks, and as a 21 year vegan veteran, swears by vanilla coconut milk ice cream.


Katrina Spratford, a professional runner for New England Distance, is a friendly and common face at local elite and USATF events. Spratford can be seen at the front of any local or national race. In recent memory, Katrina’s resume includes a second place finish at the USATF New England XC Championships in Franklin Park, first place in the 5000m at the prestigious Penn Relays, and is now the reigning RunWestfield 5k road champion.


The NE Distance ace showed up to the line at Westfield with the dual intention of breaking the 16 minute barrier, and getting one last hard tune-up for the upcoming Portland Track Festival 10k. Coming off her 5000m win at the Penn Relays, Spratford was determined to break through that 16 minute barrier as she toed the line in Westfield. 15 minutes and 51 seconds later, Spratford broke the tape to win the women’s race and achieve her personal goal of racing sub-16.

In addition to racing for NE Distance’s professional team, Katrina serves as the Managing Director of NE Distance. NE Distance is a community based non-profit tasked with spreading the sport of running to impoverished and less fortunate communities in Rhode Island. An absolute benefit to the local community, the club has successfully restarted running programs in Woonsocket and Providence. You can find more about their project here.


Additionally, Katrina works at the Rhode Runner store, and enjoys a cup of the often overlooked ice cream flavor, mint chocolate chip.


Full Interviews:


1) Could you tell me a bit about your races at the Westfield road, Bennington, and Emerson trail race? Could you tell me a bit about your mindset heading into the races i.e what you were hoping to accomplish, any goals you had set for yourself?


Tim: My big goal race this Spring is the USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships, on June 9th in Scranton, Pennsylvania. So I’ve been gradually building up my easy trail mileage. I don’t do solo hard workouts anymore, so I wanted to test my speed in a few key races, such as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Trail Race. I was excited to see my CMS teammates Scott Mindel and Adam Malek signed up, as I was curious to see how I would stack up against two guys that are a minute faster than me in a road 5k. The goal was to hang with them as long as I could. To my surprise, I passed both of them half way into the race. At two miles, I took a really bad fall, ripping my arm open and spraining my ankle (thankfully, adrenaline masked the pain, and I kept running). Adam took over for a while, but I passed him back with half a mile to go, and held the lead to the finish. I wasn’t expecting to win, and it makes me want to experiment even more with my slow training (boot slogging) methods.


Unfortunately, I couldn’t walk after the Emerson race, and took the next week off from all activity. I had big plans for the Westfield 5k (the following weekend), being that it was the USATF New England Championships, but after not running all week, I decided to skip it. The morning of the race I was feeling pangs of remorse, so I got up early and tested my ankle with a 2 mile jog. It seemed ok, so I thought I’d make the drive to Westfield and see how it felt in the warmup. My legs felt like stiff lead weights, but the ankle was fine. I toed the line, with the intent of just scoring for the CMS masters team. If I felt ok after an easy first mile, I’d pick it up and see what I had left. As I’m sure most racers have experienced, when the gun goes off, all plans are tossed aside and something else takes over. After an easy first hundred meters, I found myself accelerating, and four hundred meters in, I caught up to Dan Smith. At that point, my goal became to stay with him as long as possible, and then see what I had left for the downhill in the last mile. We hit the mile in 5:00, and it felt ok. At two miles the clock read 10:08, and Dan was pulling away. Even though mile three was supposed to be the easiest in the race, I was done. Quite a few people passed me, and it was all I could do to maintain my drive. As I approached the clock, I could see that I might break 16:00 if I really pushed hard. But try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. Considering that I decided to do the race at the last minute, I’m very happy with the result. It’s a great testament to my new style of training.


Katrina: My coach and I decided to enter the Westfield 5k as a tune up race for Portland Track Festival 10k (this weekend!). The goal heading into the race was pretty simple: just run really hard and compete. We wanted to get another fast paced shock to the system before getting after the goal 10k on the track. After the 5k at Penn Relays I knew that I had more in the tank and was ready to break that 16:00 barrier. Westfield was a ton of fun-a really great environment, fun course, and beautiful town!


1b) Three serious races in one month is very impressive. What is your philosophy behind picking your races?


Tim: When I’m not injured, I race every weekend. The races serve as my hard workout for the week, and help me to get used to racing while not feeling rested. It’s a great mental training tool, as it teaches me to run hard, even when I have a million excuses in my head. What I’ve discovered, is that showing up ‘tired’ or tapered really doesn’t have much effect on physical performance. It’s mostly a mental game. There are only a few races a year that I ‘protect’, and actually taper for. It’s much easier to succumb to nerves in a race that you’re protecting, which will likely decrease your performance.


2) What is your favorite event to compete in?


Tim: Trail racing is my version of heaven. There is nothing like dancing over rocks and roots on technical single track. A race I look forward to every year is the Merrimack River Trail Race. Stephen Peterson and Dave Dunham put on a great event, that attracts top talent, and ushers in the trail racing season. It’s a fast, but challenging course, and I love running along the river’s edge.


Katrina: I love all cross country races! I always look forward to competing in Mayor's Cup, Club XC, and USA XC. I'd say my favorite is US Cross Country Nationals.


3) What are some of your favorite things to do outside of running? Occupation, hobby, favorite ice cream flavor?



Occupation - At present, I’m a full time coach and writer, with most of my time focused on research.


Hobbies - I’m not sure if this qualifies as ‘outside of running’, but, my favorite thing is to listen to audiobooks while trail running, and take photos of the beautiful things I see. I’m putting the finishing touches on my latest book, and I find that I think most clearly while slowly exploring a trail.


Favorite Ice Cream - I’ve been vegan for 21 years, so I haven’t tasted ‘real’ ice cream in long time, but, there are some amazing coconut milk alternatives out there. Vanilla is my favorite.


Katrina: I'm pretty busy outside of my training regimen! Being a member of New England Distance requires working in the community so I have coached cross country and track and field at Woonsocket Middle School over the past 5 years which is a lot of fun! I also work at our local running store, Rhode Runner, 30 hours a week so I am there quite a bit. When I'm not working or coaching I like to get to Narragansett and spend some time at the beach, I enjoy cooking and being with my teammates, or doing some sort of crafty project! As far as ice cream flavor-mint chocolate chip all the way!


4) What’s up next for you? Any races on the horizon that you will be running in?


Tim: There are three races that I’m gunning for this year: The USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships on June 9th, the Escarpment Trail Run in the Catskills at the end of July, and the USATF Mountain Running Championships at the end of September in NH.


Katrina: I am currently getting ready to head to Portland, OR for the Portland Track Festival 10k on Saturday, June 8!