Meet Kevin Havel

CARA Member and Olympic Hopeful Kevin Havel Does a Q&A with '96 Olympic Trial Winner Jenny Spangler

Kevin Havel is originally from Arlington Heights, where he ran Cross Country for Hersey High School, and later ran at Stanford. After college he returned to Chicago where he has competed in the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and set a course record at the North Shore Classic!

On February 13, 2016, The 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials took place at the LA Marathon as the qualifying race for the Summer Olympics in Brazil. Chicago sent a strong group of runners to LA.

2016 is the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Olympics -- at that time Chicago sent one of the largest representatives of runners in the country. The trial team included Ann Schaefers-Coles, Jane Murphy, Jenny Spangler, Janeth Salazar-Ohst and Laurie Mizener. On race day, Jenny Spangler ran with bib #61, and shocked the running world by winning the trial! She led the U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon team to Atlanta that year.

Kevin Havel is one of many CARA members that competed in the Olympic Trials.

Kevin took the time to check in with CARA along with US Olympian and Boston Performance Coach Jenny Spangler to discuss what he was thinking and how he was preparing. Read below to find out more!

Below are questions from ’96 Olympic Trial Winner Jenny Spangler! From one elite athlete to another:

1)  During your marathon build-up, is there a workout that you have "nailed" that has given you confidence for Saturday? What is it?

We’ve been doing a lot of long tempo runs, and each one has helped build confidence. The one that really stands out is a two hour tempo right below marathon pace. It felt really relaxed and fast throughout and it was one of those workouts where afterwards I didn’t really believe I ran it.

2)  What have you done differently during your training to prepare yourself for the heat in L.A. and the late start?

I probably haven’t done as much as I should’ve to prepare for the differences, but I plan on flying out early to California to acclimate to the weather.

3)  Is there anything that you REALLY want to do or a place you REALLY want to go while in L.A. and why?

I actually lived in Orange County (near LA) for two years prior to moving back to Chicago, so I have seen a lot of the area. I’m looking forward to going back to Santa Monica Sunday after the race for brunch and a walk (or hobble) along the beach.

4)  What will you eat Friday night and why?

I’m not a superstitious person but I like to stick to my normal prerace spaghetti dinner. Not sure why to be fair other than I really like it.

5)  What is going through your mind right now?  Do you have a phrase that you repeat to yourself to keep calm?

I think more than anything I’m excited about this weekend. The race will give me a great opportunity to race against 200 other really fast and really good runners. I’ve never been in a race like this before and I’m excited more than anything to test myself.

6)  What is your goal for Saturday?

My main goal is to compete and see what happens. I’d love to move up throughout the race and if that happens, put myself in a position to PR and finish in front of some really good runners.

Questions from CARA

7) What made you decide to join CARA?

CARA is just a great organization and really embodies Chicago running.  I want to be plugged into the running community and meet and compete against Chicagoland runners.

8) During your journey to the Olympic Trials what has surprised you the most?

The range of emotions I’ve had during the trials I think has been surprising.  The training has been solid during the last year, but unfortunately that didn’t translate to solid races. Both my spring half and fall marathon I had targeted to hit the standard, and when I didn’t it was definitely hard to regain momentum. But I’m glad that I pushed through and kept the goal ahead of me. 

9) Who is the one person you are looking most forward to competing against?

I’m not sure if it is one person as much as the entire field.  There are two hundred really good runners who at any given day could finish at almost any spot.  I’m excited to test myself against them and see what happens.

10) Who makes up your running support system, and how have they helped you the most?

I’ve been running for over 15 years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to say that my support system is bigger and more important than I can describe here.  It starts with my parents, who were the crazy ones driving me to early practices and supporting me regardless of place. Now, they’re the calm that I rely on. My brother has been to almost every race, and at this point I look forward to seeing him on the course a crazy amount of times. My girlfriend has really helped me stay relaxed and confident, and with her continued support I’ve ran the best times of my life. My coach and teammates at New Balance have been instrumental, as they have supported me throughout the last year and I’m appreciative of how they have my back and the little things they do – from good luck texts to fun conversation to just being there really go a long way.

11) After the trials are over, what’s next?

Short term, I’m looking forward to a break and shutting down mentally for a little while.  I’ll aim to do a few spring races and really turn my attention to the summer and fall where I’d really like to get a fast marathon in.

After the Q&A:

Before the Q&A concluded, Jenny Spangler gave Kevin the advice, "As you know, anything can happen during a marathon but this is particularly true of an Olympic Trial race when so much is at stake. Be confident and stay "engaged" throughout the entire race...never give up! Don't think too much, just run!"

Kevin replied, "Thanks again to CARA for organizing this, and for reaching out to Jenny. It was an honor to interview with her and be included in process. Thank you Jenny for the advice! As you have raced and succeed at the Trials before, I appreciate the help, and any advice from you is great. Specifically, I really like the idea to treat this as a race to stay engaged and not overcomplicate it"

Thank you to Kevin and Jenny for taking the time to talk to CARA.

An Afterword with Kevin:

After the trials, we touched base with Kevin. Although he did not win, we take pride in his accomplishments and look forward to his 2016 running career.

"The race was one of the toughest in my life. I unfortunately went out too fast for the heat, and really suffered the last half of the race." Kevin said. "I’m proud of the way I competed and finished, however, and it was a great learning experience. I’m looking forward to resting and recovering for a bit, and then starting the training process for 2016 and beyond!"