He died doing what he loved…

Austin lost a great man this week.  This is a re-publish of an interview a friend from ARC did (David Mitchell) with Scott Birk, who was killed while running on Monday morning.

(Author’s Note:   Scott died on June 13, 2011, doing one of the things he loved most, running.  He graciously provided the information for the interview below in March, but it wasn’t published until now.)

Scott, 48, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  He has been married to his wife and fellow runner Carla for 26 years, and they have 3 children, two daughters in Engineering school at the University of Texas, and a eighth grade son.  Scott graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1985 with a BA in Computer Science, and obtained a Masters in Finance from North Texas University in 1987. He works as a computer programmer.

We asked Scott why he moved to Austin: “Carla and I moved to Austin from Dallas in 1990 because she was offered a new job opportunity.  I love living in Austin. I have a hard time picturing myself living anywhere else.  About the only downside is that most of our family still lives in the Milwaukee/Chicago area so we really miss them a lot.”  Scott joined the Austin Runners Club in 1995 and has been a loyal and supportive member, volunteering at a couple of races a year.  Scott was usually among the first people to register for the Austin Runners Club Decker Challenge.  One year he was actually first, and we tried in vain to get him to wear a bib with #1.

Scott started running in 1992.  He wrote, “Prior to that time I participated in many different activities, but my main things were golfing and basketball.  I thought anyone who wanted to go for a run was bit crazy. My mom started running when I was in high school. She ran a few races a year, but I had a lot of family members who would run a 5-miler in Milwaukee called Al’s Run. They were always trying to convince me to come and run it with them, but there was no chance they were going to convince me to run for 5 miles! Unfortunately, I tore my ACL playing basketball and as part of rehab I started running. I told my family since I was running I would make it one of my goals to run Al’s Run with them. I met a couple of runners where I was working and they were really helpful about teaching me how to train. I trained for three months to get ready for the race. I was not sure how I could make it 5 miles, but I made it, I loved it and I have been running ever since.”

Scott loves completing runs.  “I try to run every day.  The only time I schedule a day off is the day before a race.  However, I usually end up taking off a couple more times each month. I am sure people think I run too much or that I am addicted to running, but the interesting thing is I am not a person who really enjoys the run itself. It is a chore to haul myself out there every day and while I am running I cannot wait for it to be over, but it always a great feeling when I have logged another run.”

Scott remembers “the first time I made it through a three mile run without walking.  At that point I thought running may be something I could actually do and enjoy.”

Scott helped his son Nicolas train to get ready for his last two cross country seasons. “I had a blast running with him and watching him as he improved almost every day. I guess my coaching must not be too great as he has not run a step since his last meet.”

His advice for new runners?  “I am a very goal-oriented person so I would tell somebody to think about what it is you want to get out of running. After you have defined your goal then set up a reasonable plan to achieve that goal. Whether your goal is losing weight, running a certain distance, or maybe running a certain time, make sure you have short term milestones to mark your progress. If you find you are not where you want to be then realize that your plan is flexible and can be changed. Make the necessary changes so that you continue on your journey.  I would also tell them that running is not easy, so do not get discouraged when you struggle because everyone struggles. I always try to remember it is the struggle that will make the goal even sweeter when it has been attained.”

And what does he have for experienced runners?  “I honestly do not feel I am accomplished enough or knowledgeable enough to be handing out advice to this group of folks.” (Author’s note:  this man was always modest about his considerable achievements).

Scott has been a fixture at local races, frequently the Master’s winner, despite his size (Scott is well over 6 feet, big for someone so fast).  He runs in up to 25 races a year.  “My favorite distance is the half and then 5K.  I like the tactical aspect of the half and the run as hard as you can aspect of the 5K.”

For his race philosophy, Scott says “I am not sure I have one. When I first started racing I always went WAY too fast at the start and crashed at the end. Every time. I finally figured out that it is smart to try and run even or negative splits in a race, but I still have a hard time listening to my own advice. I tend to start off too fast and have far too many races where I fade at the end. I just find it too much fun to try and run right at the edge and see if I can avoid falling off the proverbial cliff.”

Scott’s PRs (at time of interview) are: 1 mile-4:41, 5K-16:50, 10K-35:22, Half-1:16:13, Marathon-2:47:48.

We asked Scott about his “wish list”:  “Try and enjoy every day that I am able to run because it is such a gift to be able to have the health and time to commit to this incredible sport.”

We close with his last thoughts:  “I cannot thank my family, and most especially my wife Carla, enough for indulging me while I spend so much time on the roads participating in this crazy sport. I also have to say that Carla has been a true inspiration to me with her determination to become a runner. For years she truly believed it was impossible for her to run. However, she found a plan she liked and was able to begin running. I asked her to come to a race with me and helped her devise a plan. She followed the plan and it was awesome to watch her cross the finish line of her first 5K. It is a memory I will never forget. It has been wonderful to share the experience of running with her in the years since.”

More on Scott and the accident here: Statesman News Article

In lieu of flowers, please go to Wells Fargo and contribute to the Scott Birk fund set up to create a footbridge across 2222 in his honor.  Account # 3037907239.

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