Name: Greg Sisengrath
Hometown: Prairie Grove, AR
Current Residence: Allen, TX
Occupation: Business Analyst
Greg, a husband and father to three, describes himself as a business analyst by day and running coaching by night. Although he didn’t start running until his mid-30s, Greg admits to a “very fast escalation of distances.” Now seven 100 milers and one 250 miler later, Sisengrath coaches over 55 athletes through the self-created, Team Ninja Coaching.
1. What’s your running background? How did you go from recording 5k PR’s in 2010 to completing multi-day ultras like the Cocodona 250 in 2021?
I grew up playing team sports, so I naturally hated running because it was always used as a punishment. I only started running in my mid-30s as a way to get back into shape. I ran my first road half marathon in December 2009 and I was absolutely hooked.
I completed my first marathon in January 2011. I ran my first real trail race a month later and made the transition from road to trails for good. My first 50K was April 2011, first 50M in August 2011 and first 100M in February of 2012. It was, admittedly, a very fast escalation of distances.
2. In addition to a 200+ miler, you’ve run iconic races including Leadville, Run Rabbit Run, and the Cruel Jewel. Which of these 100 milers provided the hardest lessons or perhaps highest highs?
Leadville, due to the altitude, literally provided the highest of highs and lowest of lows. It was one of the first races where I actually feared missing cut-offs. But that just made the last stretch more fulfilling. The long road climb up 6th Street with spectators lined up along both sides of the street was such an unforgettable experience.
3. Can you briefly describe the origin story and mission of Team Ninja Coaching?
I actually never planned on being a running coach. In 2015, a friend of a friend wanted to train for her first ultra and she knew that I had finished the same race. So I agreed to coach her for free since I had no credentials or experience. She ended up not only completing the 54K, but also finishing a 50 mile later that year. She surprised me with a nice “Christmas bonus.” So we decided on a monthly fee going into the new year.
Once word got out, my coaching “business” grew organically from there to where we are now. The majority of my roster is Masters athletes, so training can’t always be the priority. My mission is to help my athletes challenge themselves to achieve amazing accomplishments without having to sacrifice family, health or work.
4. How many athletes do you coach? Can you shout out one or two athletes who you’ve seen make the most progress since you started coaching them?
I currently coach about 55+ athletes, so it’s going to be difficult to narrow it down to just two athletes. I could start with one of my OG athletes, Jill Allison. I started working with Jill in 2016 shortly after she qualified for Boston, but had already started to feel burnt out from the road. Since then she’s collected eight buckles (distances 100K+) and finished her first 200+ mile race at Moab 240. Next for Jill is Cocodona 250 in May.
Another athlete is Nicole Alwert. We began working together in 2021 and she just wanted to PR her Half Marathon. We accomplished that in December of 2021. She went on to move up in distances and completed her first Marathon in December of 2022. I’ve also managed to pull her to the dark side of trail running and we are now eyeing her 50K trail debut in the fall of 2023.
5. From pacing your athletes in races to putting on community events, you’re a very involved coach. What advice would you give to new running coaches who want to give the best possible experience to their athletes, especially when coaching is only their part time gig?
This admission is probably not good business, but there is nothing special about the run programming that I provide. For me, it’s more important to have steady communication so the training plan is both challenging, but sustainable. Be responsive. Be genuine. And be supportive.
6. What are some common misconceptions or myths regarding running that you have to bust with new athletes?
The most common misconception is that every run needs to be hard to be beneficial. I routinely have to remind athletes that the majority of their running should be easy and it’s more than ok to SLOW DOWN.
Another misconception is that you have to run a ton of mileage to train for trail ultras. In my opinion, a more balanced approach with supplemental biking, strength and mobility can be just as successful. More importantly, it lessens the risk of burnout or injury.
7. Are you family and kids involved in your running endeavors? What races or adventures are coming up next?
My wife, Fiona, is also an ultra runner with 3 x 100M buckles. We have 3 daughters that all have run some shorter trail distances. While they haven’t quite caught the running bug like their parents, they are very used to spending long weekends crewing for the both of us. My next big race is the High Lonesome 100 in July. It’s a race that I’ve been trying to get into for 3 years. We’ll be making it a family trip and spending the week after the race relaxing in CO.