Racing the World: An Interview with Bart Yasso - Part II
Updated: Dec 3, 2021
Photo credit: Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
Bart Yasso ran his first 10K in1980. His new book, Race Everything (with Erin Strout), is chock-full of sensible tips and advice for training and racing 5Ks,10Ks, half-marathons, marathons, ultramarathons, the Ironman triathlon, and relay races. Whether you are a newbie and anxious about running your first 5K, or whether you have a few 5K finisher medals and have your sights on your first half-marathon, Race Everything will get you to the finish. Already have a few marathons under your belt? Why not make your first 50K or 50 mile ultramarathon a goal in 2018? Bart's tips and runner friendly training schedules will guide and inspire you to put one foot in front of the other.
Bart has run in all seven continents and approximately 1,200 races through out the US and around the globe. He's run in Antarctica, Africa, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, and many more lands. Thinking about running the Antarctica Marathon? Have your sights on the Comrades Marathon (56 miles) in South Africa? Marathons in Rome? Chicago? Boston? Then Race Everything is for you and the runner in your life.
Bart has been running over 37 years, and with Lyme disease most of those years. At the end of 2017 he will retire as Chief Running Officer (CRO) at Runners World.
Photo courtesy: Bart Yasso
After sharing how he's run with Lyme disease in part one of this interview, he shared his travel tips and the cultural insights he's gained from running all over the world. He reflected on his career at Runner's World, and the next chapter in his life after an impressive running career.
YOU'VE TRAVELED LONG AND FAR. WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE TRAVELING FAR NOT SO OVERWHELMING?
Traveling internationally and going on long trips like to South Africa and Antarctica, you have to adjust to the time zone right away. The best thing to do is to jump into the time zone. If I get there, morning or afternoon or evening, no matter what my body feels like, I just adjust right away. Sometimes you get there and it’s evening, and your body is feeling like it’s morning. What ever time it is, I just immediately adjust to that time zone. Ok, it’s lunchtime here, let’s have lunch and then I do what I normally do in the afternoon and the evening, and try to get to sleep at the normal time. It makes a big difference.
The other thing is to stay hydrated. I think people get dehydrated on these long trips and it’s hard to rebound in a day or two if you’re going to be doing a marathon or what ever you’re going to do. Hydration is key. And the other thing is sleep. If you can sleep on a plane, do it. I wish I could. I’m jealous. Some people are asleep before the plane leaves the runway. I wish I could do that. I take a lot of stuff to read and keep myself busy. I do a lot of work on my computer until it runs out of juice.
WHAT KINDS OF FOOD DO YOU PACK, FOR EXAMPLE, FOODS THAT YOU MIGHT NOT FIND IN THE HOST COUNTRY?
I’m a vegetarian and have been for 30 years. It’s helpful to take snacks along if you’re stuck in between meals and you can't really get the type of food you normally eat. I always take fruit, nuts, trail mix, and some energy bars to hold me over till I get to my destination. That seems to really work. Being a vegetarian does limit what I can eat, especially on planes.
WHAT SHOULD YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT WHEN TRAVELING ABROAD FOR RACES?
Of course, your running shoes. And I never go anywhere without my phone. I always run with my phone even if it’s a mile. It’s such a safe tool to have if something goes wrong. I don’t track all my runs. I don’t use the technology that a lot of people use today. It’s not an advantage for me. But I would say my running shoes, my phone, and a belt to carry my phone. That is the key. Some runners think it’s crazy to carry a phone when they run. They tell me "I ran 30 years before the cell phone." Yeah, me too but I don’t stop that from carrying my phone. Something may happen to me or someone else and I can use my phone to help and save someone’s life.
WHAT CULTURAL INSIGHTS HAVE YOU GAINED FROM RUNNING ALL OVER THE WORLD?
I literally have run all over the world. It’s been a joy. The first thing I do is immerse myself in the local culture whether I’m in India, or Nepal, or the Antarctica. You learn so much from people. There are so many people in the US who don’t travel outside the US and they’re really missing what it’s all about because you learn so much from other cultures.
The thing I’ve learned the most is to keep things in perspective. How good we have it. I’m not saying that we have it perfect here in the US but we have it better than most places I’ve been to. Our health care isn’t perfect but it’s pretty darn good. Stuff is available for us and not a lot of people have those resources. Perfect example. In Africa, so many people die of malaria and all they need is antibiotics and they wouldn’t die. But they live in these remote villages where they can’t get antibiotics. It’s really sad. And that doesn’t go on in our country. You get malaria, they’re going to put you on antibiotics and you’re going to be all right.
When you see poverty at a high level like in India and places like that, you really learn how much of the world is in an impoverished state. You won't know that until you visit places like that. We certainly have poverty problems in the US but not in the scale of the places I’ve been to.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED CULTURE SHOCK?
Yeah. You really see families that don’t have access to health care or to clean water. It is really hard to experience that. I’ve seen that in India and in Africa. You go to a village that doesn’t have clean water. Everybody is sick. It’s really hard to see that but they live the life they know, and they get by. They live a really hard life. When you personally see it, when it’s so visual, it’s really hard to walk away from something like that. You really realize how good you have it.
HOW DOES THE REST OF THE WORLD VIEW RUNNING?
I would say a lot of the trends that happen in the US eventually get into Europe and Asia. It seems they're just a little bit behind us. Their races are now catching up to what our races are. It is different wherever you go. Some places everyone is real serious. The only people that do races are people that really run fast. They come from club systems where everyone is a good runner. Races in the US really embrace diversity and that doesn’t happen everywhere.
YOU'VE HAD AN AMAZING CAREER AT RUNNER'S WORLD...
That was always a dream of mine. It came true. I did it 30 years. Some days it doesn’t seem possible that it happened to me. But the thing I tell runners, if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone. I started out like everyone else. I started out running one mile forty years plus years ago and it changed my life forever. It’s lead me down this path to a great profession and a great career.
I got 30 plus years at Runner's World. I’m at the age where I can retire. When I announced my retirement about a year ago, it was driven by my health. I think if I stop traveling and spend more time with my doctor and get different treatments, I can get healthier. That is the goal..to try to get healthier, use my free time to get healthier. I plan to stay connected to the running community but on a much smaller scale. It will give me some free time.
ANY RUN THAT YOU NEVER RACED BUT WISHED YOU HAD?
I love that question. No, I’m at peace with my running. Once I did Comrades in South Africa, that was my race. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner. I wish I did it faster but it didn’t happen. But I was able to finish it. If I never pin another bib number, that’s just the way it will be. But I hope I can do some races once in a while but it’s not really my focus. I’d rather help a lot people who pick up the sport or who don’t think the sport is meant for them, and try to help them pick up running, to be a runner, and to use running for their benefit health wise.
Although Bart is retiring at the end of 2017 to focus on his health, he's not hanging up his running shoes yet. If you're looking for Bart, you'll find him at the Bermuda Marathon in January.
Photo courtesy: Bart Yasso
On a ship heading to the Arctic Circle Marathon
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