Bobby Mack is going to take a few days off from his job at a Raleigh running store to chase an Olympic dream.
Mack, 27, along with his parents, brother, fiancée and future in-laws, is headed to Eugene, Ore., for the Olympic trials this week.
He hopes to make the team and run the 10,000 meters at the summer games in London.
“He is probably the best runner in North Carolina right now,” said Mike Zimmerman, owner of Capital Run Walk in Cameron Village, where Mack works.
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Mack is at the top of his game. He ran his best ever 10K at a meet in April, finishing the 6.2 mile distance in 27:53.
In addition to breaking the 28-minute mark in the 10K this year, Mack also broke through one of running’s most famous barriers; the sub-four minute mile.
“That was neat because that is a barrier everyone knows of. I only get to run the mile once or twice a track season,” Mack said. “To be a top runner in the 10k you should probably have the speed to go under 4 in the mile, so that is a good barrier to break.”
Mack is this year’s national champion in the cross-country 12K, and in 2011 was the national champ in the 8K.
Mack is a Winston-Salem native who played soccer up until the seventh grade. “I tried out and just didn’t make the middle school soccer team,” he said. “Then I joined the track team in the eighth.”
Coming out of high school, Mack was recruited by colleges in and out of North Carolina.
“But I knew deep down inside I wanted to go to N.C. State,” he said.
Mack began running on State’s track team in 2003 and was an All-American as a sophomore. A series of stress fractures sidelined him for two years, and he used the time to work on running form and technique.
“Running isn’t always a pure progression. There are ups and downs, and it’s important as a runner to learn patience,” Mack said. “Patience is what I had to learn during the injuries.”
Mack now has his graduate and undergraduate degrees in education from N.C. State and hopes to become a teacher and coach. He credits his high school track coach with inspiring him to follow that path.
For now, he enjoys being a track team volunteer assistant at N.C. State.
“I get to interact with the younger runners that are still on the team and hopefully influence them and help the program out,” Mack said.
He also enjoys being part of Raleigh’s running community.
“I like being accessible,” Mack said. “I take pride in doing the local races. Running has a camaraderie that a lot of other sports don’t have.”
To get ready for the Olympic trials, Mack has been training seven days a week and logging roughly 80 miles each week. Two of his local training partners are fellow Wolfpackers Stephen Furst and Ryan Hill, who are going to the trials to compete in the 5K.
Mack says he is not as nervous about competing these days as he was when he was younger.
“You want to be excited to be there and I think that’s the feeling I have,” he said. “I’m more excited than nervous.”
“We’re proud of Bobby and want to see him do well,” Zimmerman said. “Not just because he’s a good runner but because he’s a good person. You just want to see him succeed.”