MEMBER: Simon Voorhees
Name: Simon Voorhees
Hometown: Andover, MA
High School: Andover High School
College: Lehigh University
Occupation: Medical Student
Favorite Place to Run in Philly: The Wiss!
4th place Massachusetts Indoor State Championship mile (2011)
2nd place Massachusetts Outdoor 4x800m relay (2010, 2011)
2012 Patriot League Men's Cross Country Team Champions (the first in Lehigh school history)
A week ago I would've said current, but now we're the former Lehigh indoor 4x800m relay school record holders (congrats to the 2019 men's squad!)
By: Kevin Brandon (03/10/19)
Simon, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?
Thanks for the opportunity! I was born and raised in Massachusetts and I'm a New Englander at heart (yes that means I support the Pats, yes we all shower daily in champagne and piss excellence). I found my way down to the Mid-Atlantic for college at Lehigh University. In 2016 I moved to Philadelphia to start medical school at Temple University. I spent my first few years here racing on the Temple club cycling team before returning to running in the fall of 2018. While out on an away rotation in Lancaster I stopped by the F&M track and happened upon a club team doing their weekly workout. I hopped in and kept running with them while I was out there, when I came back to Philly I knew I had to be on a team. Fortunately one of my classmates (Greg Olenginski) was already on PRTC so I had an inside scoop. It seemed like a great fit and now a few months on here we are!
When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?
Probably like many others, my first real experience with running was doing the mile in gym class for the Presidential Fitness Test. While it took years for me to do a single pull-up, I was always one of the faster people in my class, which made me actually look forward to the running. In 8th grade I made it a goal to break 6 minutes. I came up short in my first try but then ran 5:59 a few weeks later, from then on I was hooked on the mile.
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.
I never really considered running for sport until high school. I was a soccer player growing up and played midfield my freshman year, which was probably foreshadowing because it entailed the most running. After a nasty injury during the soccer season I decided to go out for indoor track as a way to get in shape for baseball season in the spring. Since I couldn't sprint well after my injury, I ended up on the distance squad. I ran my first mile that season in 5:43 and by the end of winter was running 5:17. At that point my coach told me that if I ran outdoor I would break 5 minutes and apparently that was all it took to get me to quit baseball. When fall came around a similar approach was used to get me to try cross country and that really is what launched my running career. I had a very enjoyable high school career on an excellent team that won the indoor and outdoor state championship multiple times on both the men's and women's sides. The focus of our teams was strong relays, and the 4x8 soon became my favorite event. I loved the comradery and being able to share success with the teammates that had been with me for every step of training.
After high school I went on to run at Lehigh University. My collegiate career was a typical unexciting story of injuries and mediocre performances with the occasional decent race. Senior year of college I greatly upped my milage trying to fill a new void left by the graduating class and ended up injuring myself badly and taking over a month off. While I was able to get back to eke out a mile PR at the end of indoor, I had lingering issues that hampered both track seasons and finished the 5000m at our outdoor conference meet totally burnt out and unsure if I would ever set foot on a track again. I started grad school at Lehigh and it took all of a month to grow tired of the sedentary life, so I took up cycling and joined the Lehigh club team.
Once I moved to Philadelphia I continued racing for Temple. Finally this past August I took up running to prepare for the Paul Short Run, as several of our alumni were coming back to race and I wanted to have some self-respect and not finish in last place. After surprising myself with my performance I decided to keep running just for kicks. Fortunately with my cycling fitness it didn't take long to get back into shape and I cut 90 seconds off that 8k time when I ran Rothman. At this point I was finally enjoying running for the first time in many years and I wanted to keep the ball rolling. I knew that with more lofty goals finding a group to run with was really my best bet. Thanks to Greg, and meeting a few guys at PRTC during Rothman, I had a bit of familiarity with the group. In December I came out for my first long run with the club and that about brings us to now!
What is a favorite running accomplishment or moment?
As I alluded to before, anything done with the relays was a proud highlight. My junior year of high school we ended up taking 12 seconds off of the school 4x800 record and finishing runner-up at outdoor states. The next year with 3 entirely new members, nobody expected us to perform anywhere near where we had the year previously. Somehow we managed to break both the indoor and outdoor school records and finish runner-up once again at outdoor states. That was a really awesome experience to share in. In college being part of the first Lehigh men's team to win the Patriot League XC Championships was a moment that will stick with me forever, even though I didn't run at the meet. I had a few injuries in the weeks leading up to the meet that kept me sidelined, but it still felt the same celebrating with the team knowing I had been with them every step of the way through that season.
How about a not-so-great moment?
Dropping out of the outdoor state championship 2-mile my senior year with 400 to go is something my high school coach will never let me live down (and apparently is a story that she loves to tell to her younger generations of athletes). It was the first race and only race I ever dropped out of. I like to think I semi-redeemed myself after by PRing in my 800 leg of the aforementioned 4x8 relay on our way to being runner-up. Also, injuring myself during a long run where I got a little carried away during my collegiate senior XC season comes to mind. Even though my body was trying to tell me that I was seriously hurting I ignored those signs and kept on pushing through for several more miles and ended up having to limp home. I subsequently tried to come back too soon before I was physically ready and ended up having to take over a month completely off. I still suffer consequences from those two hours of stubbornness four years down the road.
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
Right now my primary goal is focusing on my half marathon debut at the end of March. I'll be racing the Love Run, and I'm excited to be mixing it up in the longer distances. This being my first race longer than 10k I'm going to be a little lenient with my goals, but ideally I'd like to run around 70 minutes and be in the mix for the win or a podium finish. If I come anywhere close to that I'll probably still be pretty happy. After that I'll probably turn my head towards Broad St, hopefully maintaining some of that fitness. Right now I'm really just enjoying running healthy and competing again, so as long as I can continue to do that, finish races and give honest efforts I'll be happy!
Do you have a preferred pre and/or post-race meal?
Back in college I was a big bagel person. If I had several hours before a race it might be a bacon, egg, and cheese, just a couple hours would just be with cream cheese. Now, I don't really seem to hold any rituals, but maybe it's time to bring it back. Post-race meal I'm all about chocolate milk or coke right as I finish. At the end of a race I'm always craving sugar and I don't feel guilty about throwing one, two, or three glasses back. In terms of eating after a race, really whatever I'm feeling, which is usually something highly caloric like a cheeseburger.
Any insight into the world of cycling? How has this helped you as a runner/athlete?
Cycling and running as endurance sports have many things in common, but they also have several key differences. Bike racing is highly situational. You always have to have the presence of mind because one minute you can be idling along and the next you're going anaerobic and this can repeat several times during the course of a race. Drafting confers a huge advantage in cycling, so if even a little gap opens up you really need to fight tooth and nail to grab that wheel ahead of you or else you'll be sucking wind off the back of the pack for the rest of the race. Also as I alluded to, it's much harder to get into a rhythm during a race because of the constant acceleration/decelerations that occur. The races tend to be much longer too (3+ hours) so nutrition becomes an important factor as well.
In terms of training, the major difference between cycling and running is the lack of physical impact. This allows your body to recover much quicker and it's pretty common for people to string together two or three consecutive hard training days during the week. Long rides also get much longer, think 4, even 5+ hours on Sundays! I hope to take some of the situational awareness from cycling and be able to apply it more to my running as well. Other than that I think it's a great tool for cross training to reduce impact, giving your body time to heal, while still keeping the door open for good long aerobic efforts. Hopefully all those long training rides and races will help prepare me for the longer road races like the half.
Can you share with us what you're currently up to professionally? What inspired you to pursue this field?
As I've been told, I'm completely un-unique in that I'm another medical student joining the club...boring! In all seriousness though, I'm currently finishing up my third year as a medical student at Temple University. This means that theoretically I should be figuring out what field I want to go into, although I'm not currently decided. I've always had a passion for primary care and right now I'm debating between internal medicine and family medicine, so we'll see what happens in the next half year or so. I first seriously thought about medicine as a career my senior year of high school after volunteering in the emergency room and the ICU at a local hospital near my hometown. One fascinating thing that I learned after I started at Temple was that while none of my immediate family is in the medical field, before my grandfather there were at least three consecutive generations of male doctors in my family who trained in medicine in Philadelphia! I guess that means that I've come full circle.
Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?
There's not a whole lot that I have time for now sadly with school, but in my childhood I was trained as a classical singer. I toured with a well-known regional choir and even got to sing the solo in the debut of a piece by a famous contemporary choral composer at Coventry Cathedral while we were touring in England. As part of the group I also participated in several opera productions, and got lead roles in a few shows as I got older. Unfortunately I haven't had much time for singing what with school, but last year I did get to sing the national anthem with our school acapella group at a Phillies game!