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I'm a Runner: Scott Bakula
The Golden Globe-winning actor hopes to run the Boston Marathon in April.
By Sarah Lorge Butler;
Image byAmanda Friedman Published
October 31, 2010
Media: I'm a Runner: Scott Bakula
Residence: Los Angeles
Have you run today?
No, I was trying to get to a run today. Doesn't look like I'm going to make it. I was trying to get over to Griffith Park and run, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen.
What's your typical week like?
My favorite thing about running is running when it's as hot as it can be, which is a little odd. But I grew up in St. Louis, where there's heat and humidity. In California, it's hot a lot; I'm running in the afternoons a lot. It's certainly not advisable, unless it's something you're used to doing. I'm not recommending it. But it's something I likeâ€”to sweat, (to) feel like I'm getting a lot of impurities out, even as I'm running. But obviously, if I'm training for a marathon or something, I wouldn't start my long runs in the afternoon. I start those in the morning.
Now that I'm healthy I try to run three or four times a week, a minimum of 45 minutes each time. And then depending on if I'm training for something, I'm upping that for long runs on the weekend. Even if I'm not, when I have time, I do six to 10 miles on Sundays.
So how far does 45 minutes get you?
It's usually about five miles. Usually it's fiveâ€”I do the Jeff Galloway thing. I do the run-walk thing. I'll put a couple of minutes of walking in there.
When do you walk?
I mix it up. Sometimes I'll go 30 minutes and walk for one, and then go 10 and walk for one. Sometimes I'll run 15 minutes, then walk for one; 14 minutes, then walk for one, and go down from there.
How did you get into running?
I'm a runner from sports. I've been a runner, but I wasn't a cross-country runner or anything like that. I played a lot of soccer growing up.
I think soccer players often make the best runners; they have so much speed and can accelerate so quickly.
These kids who play today are unbelievable. They have this great endurance, but they have this quick, quick action and quick muscleâ€”they can sprint, that great burst of speed, then they can pull up and run the length of the field if they have to. It's all over the place.
So what's the injury you've been dealing with?
I got injured last year. I was working, and I had to do this scene over and over again where I was chasing a car. And I'm kind of past the sprinting age, if you will. This character I was playing got angry with the driver of a car. My character was in a pedestrian crosswalk and this guy blows around the corner, through the crosswalk, almost hits us, and he's on the cell phone. He gets about 60 yards down the street and he hits a stoplight, so I take off after him. I had to do this sprinting over and over and over again for about two or three hours.
I had that scene, and the situation repeats itself later in the episode a day later, only it's a different driver. I'm in the crosswalk; he comes through and almost hits this woman. I have a cup of coffee in my hand, and I throw it and hit his car window. And I'm starting to approach his car and he gets out, and he's this huge bodybuilder guy. It becomes this whole thing where he's chasing me around his car, I jump in his car, which he left still running and take it down the street. It's crazy; it's a comedy. So that was also on the same day. I had to do all this running. I thought I did okay. I was trying to stretch. But if you're not in sprinting shape...I paid for it.
Are you just generally sore?
No, at the time my knee swelled up and my calf and my quad; I had this large area of swelling. Turns out I had this thing called traumatic arthritis and a Baker's cyst behind my knee. I had an MRI; I have a moderate tear in my meniscus. I could have had it for years.
I got the swelling out of there, and I've been running on it. I don't need surgery now. But I had to shut everything down for about three weeks.
So this was for the Ray Romano series (Men of a Certain Age)?
Are any of those guys runners?
Ray can't because of his knees, and Andre [Braugher] is a bikerâ€”like a big, 100-mile event kind of guy. He's a real nut when it comes to that. I'm the runner.
How many marathons have you done?
I've done two. I ran the L.A. Marathon in 2005 (in 4:10) and San Diego the year before (in 4:08).
Did you like that experience? Do you want to do it again?
Yeah, I'm going to do it again. I was actually thinking of doing it this year, and now I'm going to see what happens. That's the interesting thing about marathons that people don't understandâ€”you're not automatically lined up to do one after another, depending on your body and what happens during life. But I want to do another one soon, and I want to get to New York and I want to do Boston. Those are two on my list.
You must have enjoyed it to want to do it again. Did you hit the wall?
I loved it. My running buddy in the L.A. Marathon ended up having a problem. We were having a great day, but he took a chance coming in because he wasn't well. He'd had some bronchitis. He was hurting. He hit it about mile 17. We walked a lot, and still ended up in 4:10.
So you stuck with himâ€”that's a good friend.
Yep. Well, he had kids waiting at the finish line. I just didn't see how I could come through the finish line without him. "Yeah, I left your dad; he's back there somewhere. He's in a lot of trouble." How do you say that to a kid? And he had been my running buddy in the San Diego Marathon, too.
Do you have local races you do every year?
The only one I've been doingâ€”there's a cancer run we do every year as a family in Calabasas. That's a 5-K. I take my little kids with me on that. One year we ran with one of our friends in a wheelchair.
So when you're filming, are you on set for 12 hours a day? Do you get breaks?
Every day is different. This week, we didn't work at all. I'm going to work 12, 14 hours today or tomorrow.
Why is that?
Every once in awhile, you've got a scene where the requirements are stunts, 200 extrasâ€”those things slow you down. But this shoot has been going unbelievably great. It's just the three of us, and we just whip through stuff.
So can you run in the afternoon?
No, when you're shooting, you just grab stuff when you can. You hit Saturday and Sunday, and look at the week. Like this morning, I thought I would get a run in, but I got one in yesterday. I'm also doing weights, and I'm doing other stuff, too.
I do a stepper. It's kind of my new favorite thing to do. It's a machine where you're climbing stairs. The technique of climbing the stairs is where it's really at. I'm in this whole new way of working out, which is all about your posterior stuff, because we all let the posterior go as we get older. In the world we're living in, we're all front-loaded, especially L.A. We're driving, we're at the desk, we're on the computer, we're on the phoneâ€”almost exclusively everything we do is front-loaded. When you get older and your posture starts to go, you're not working out your back muscles and the backs of your legs. And the typical thing at the gym, everyone works out the muscles they can see. You've got to work harder to work the back out. The stepper, when you do it correctly, if you're standing up straight and not hanging on the handles, and you're pushing through your heels and not your toes, you're going to start working out a different way. So that happens on the off days.
Do you have a trainer?
I do. I have a great guy I've been training with for years. He designs high-end gyms for a living; his name is Mark Harigian. He got out of the training business years ago, although he works with a lot of Olympic athletes in San Diego.
Do you follow track and field?
I do to a certain extent, not religiously. During the Olympics, I try to watch the running. My kids are good athletes and runners. They run in a bunch of sports.
So do you have any favorite professional athletes?
It's hard not to like this (Usain) Bolt. I'm just kind of in shock about him, as I think the whole world is. Because he's also a new physique for these guys. Our guys are wonderful. This guy is like so out of the norm; it's kind of bizarre. It seems like he's having so much fun; it seems genuine.
Do you still watch soccer?
Oh, yeah. We're crazy about it in this house. I coached for a bunch of years, then about two years ago, my son said, "Dad, time for someone else to coach now." I got over it.
Do you think about your roles while you're running?
Running for me has always been a great place to get away. It's a great stress reliever for me. It's great if I need to be working on something in my mind, whether it's things I need to be memorizing or thinking about or I have some presentation coming up. Anything like that, it's a great place to go. There's no cell phone, there's no way for anyone to get in contact with me, and I really, really like that. We don't have enough of that in our world anymore. Whether I'm out doing the mountains and I've got the dogs with me, or if I'm by myself, it's a great way to shut out our crazy world and business for an hour or whatever. That's probably my favorite thing about it.
So you've been doing this since college?
I started running again when I moved to New York City. I used to run the reservoirâ€”I loved that. I kept it up off and on. I've been running pretty much my whole life. But there's also something great about being on location; you just go and run, and all of a sudden you know the town better, whether you're in Canada or the middle of Illinois. If you're out running, you know where you are better.
In the middle of Canada or Illinois, do people recognize you?
Oh, yeah. Most of the time, people are just waving, or just "Hey," and they'll yell out some show that I've done. You just wave and keep going on. That's always fun. They know you're running for a reason. They're not like, "Hey can you stop and take a picture?" People don't ask you to do that. There's that camaraderie that people who are exercising together get. If I'm out running and they're out running, it's like we're buddies, you know?
So are Star Trek fans the most passionate?
They are, but the Quantum Leap fans have been around for 20 years with me. They've followed and stuck with me and go to things I do and support charities I support. They're really terrific.
So you don't run with music?
Nope. I'm tempted to do that, but I kind of like the clarity of shutting stuff off. And I don't think you're aware as much of what's going on around you and you're not taking in much if you've got music going on. I've got my good little watch I use that tells me all the information you need to know. It's a Garmin; my daughter got it for me for my 50th. If I'm running with someone, like my running partner, we're talking a mile a minute.
Do you track your yearly mileage and things like that?
I don't. If I'm training for a marathon, then I'm pretty consistent and pretty on top of what I'm dong and where we're at. That's one of the things that lets you run a long timeâ€”the more you're thinking of what you did, the faster the miles go by. All those little mind games make the time go faster.
So you'll actually think about scenes or lines while you're out running?
Oh yeah. When I was doing Enterprise, I had a lot of dialogue to memorize. A lot of times I would sit in the car for 10 minutes before I'd go on a run, look at the work and say, "Okay, that's a big thing; I don't know that yet." I'd kind of get it in my head, and then off I'd go, and I'd work itâ€”another thing that makes the run go faster.
I wonder if there's something about being physical while you're trying to learn.
Yeah, and there's a cadence, too, with your feet.
Was there a treadmill on Enterprise?
Yeah, we had a great gym. My trainer put a lot of it together. We had a bunch of cool stuff.
When you're doing the stepper, do you watch TV?
I have the TV on; I'm watching soccer. I don't enjoy it as much. I wear a weight vest, tooâ€” it's about 25 pounds. It's about achieving a certain heart rate and working the backs of your legs. I usually go 20 minutes. You've got to build up to it.
Would people recognize you during the marathons?
Yeah, during the L.A. Marathon, we were doing interviews as we went along. A lot of people would run up and chat for a minute or two.
I've heard Matt Damon is a runner, but he had to get fat for his role in The Informant?
Yes, he did. So he didn't do any cardio for months, and he was thrilled. He's spent his life the last few years being in tip-top shape. He's in good shape anyway, but he had fun eating pizza and knocking around and not worrying about what his body looked like for a few months.
So he wasn't jealous of you that you could go out for a run and he couldn't?
Oh no, we were all jealous of him, sitting there pounding it. It was crazy. He's a great guy; everyone on the movie was great. The movie is full of comedians. We laughed a lot.
Do you have any rivalries with other actors?
No, but lots and lots of people run. In our business, you have to stay in shape. We're lucky in California; we can be outside almost year-round.
Do you ever run on the beach?
Oh, yeahâ€”love the beach, prefer the sand. You have to run where it's deeper. It's hard, it's painful. I prefer it because it's great to be at the beach. But it's really challenging in terms of your endurance. It hits your body in a whole new way, your calves, because of the sand.
You mentioned Griffith Parkâ€”any other favorite spots?
Runyon Canyon I love, and the beachâ€”those are my three places. Sometimes when I have to be somewhere but I've got an hour to kill, I'll think, Can I work in a run? I'll just find a park and grab my stuff from the car. It doesn't matter where, reallyâ€”just get it in.
Do you stretch?
I always stretch. But it is something I could do much more of. I stretch before usually, probably about five to 10 minutes. The after is where I get into trouble. When you're cramming it in, you'd rather run longer and stretch less. That's the wrong approach. My wife, who is a dancer, is always after me to stretch.
What's the one smell you associate with running.
Rotting clothes. Not a good smell.
Do you have a favorite brand of shoes?
Most of the time I run in Asics. I've run in Sauconys also.
Do you have one T-shirt that if your wife threw it out, you'd be upset?
No. I'm not attached to anything. Once the smell level is maxed out, they're gone.
Strangest thing you've ever seen on a run, or strangest thing that's ever happened to you?
When you run across snakes, it always gets your heart going. I was running one time up at the reservoir here. And the people running in the opposite direction said, "There's a big rattlesnake up ahead on the road." They're running away from it; I'm running toward it. I don't know where it is or when it's going to come or what's going to happen. My pace, all of a sudden, I was running so fast and my heart was up so fast. Look at me, this is amazing, and all they did was suggest a rattlesnake. Finally I came around the bend to find an eight-foot-long kingsnake. I jumped past it and realized I was running really fast. I thought. "Okay, let's settle down now."
I celebrate a hard run with a delicious...
I always come back and do like a big fruit shake. At the end of the day, a margarita works really well, too.
So you don't run to eat?
No, I used to run to drink. When I was a kid, living in New Yorkâ€”have a couple beers and play some backgammon for a couple hours.
What's your running ambition?
The next time I run a marathon, I want to be under four. And I do want to hit New York and Boston.
If you don't get out to run, do you get grouchy?
I definitely get grouchy. If I miss a workout, not usually one, but if I miss a couple in a row, I say, "I gotta go workout." And everyone says, "Yeah, please go. Go. Get it out of your system, and please come back."
Is there any single piece of advice that's been the most helpful to you?
I have to go back to Galloway and say the run-walk thing has really been a way for me to get to a place where I can run a marathon comfortably. And that's the hardest piece of advice, especially for guys, because ego-wise, it's hard to stop. It's hard to be walkingâ€”in that first 10 minutes of a marathon to stop and walk and for a minute.
To beat a dead horse here, is there one episode of Star Trek where you thought about how to play a scene on a run?
I used to figure out long Enterprise speeches on the run when we were shooting that. You're working the whole thing out. It happens in different ways. If you've got a long monologue you've got to deliver, you have to have it memorized; for me, then you figure out how it's going to goâ€”I know how I want to hit it.