Clif Bar Athlete of the Year Michael Cauley


Michael Cauley began distance running in eighth grade after discovering that four laps around a track seemed easy. After maintaining a three-sport schedule as a high school student, Cauley kept up with football and track for two years at Otterbein University in Ohio before trading in his football cleats for cross country spikes.


“At that point my running took a complete turn,” Cauley says. “Within about a year it was amazing the difference I had seen not only in my body and the way it changed but also in my running times.”


When he moved to Illinois a few years after college, Cauley joined the Dick Pond Fast Track team and became competitive on the CARA Runners Choice Circuit, finishing fourth overall and second in the 30-34 age group in 2011. In 2013, Cauley took third overall in the circuit and won the 30-34 age group, despite no longer living in the Chicago area.


“I moved to Ohio a year ago,” Cauley says. “During that time I was still racing on the circuit, still had all these races planned and goals to achieve. I commuted from Ohio to Illinois both for work purposes because I still work for the same company in Illinois but also to run 5Ks, 10Ks and just running in general.”


Cauley competed in a variety of Chicagoland races in 2013 and finished with victories in the Home Team Charity 10K in July and the Fort2Base nautical 10 miler in August. Though Cauley has run nearly every distance imaginable throughout his career, he says he is most passionate about the 5K and 10K.


“It’s easy to focus on the shorter events because I feel like in some regard you can almost fake fitness, meaning you don’t necessarily have to put in a ton in order to have decent results,” Cauley says. “I’ve done a couple marathons and when you look at my times there’s a disconnect between what I’ve run in shorter races versus what I’ve run in longer races. What I’ve found is to really prepare for the marathon and run the time I think I’m capable of I don’t have the right approach, the right mentality. I don’t put the time into the training. Because of that, I like to stay between 5K, 10K, 10 miles or a half marathon. Those are things I like to go towards.”


To improve his running, Cauley reconnected with his college coach last year in search of a training regimen. His coach put together a plan, and Cauley soon found himself performing on a higher level than ever before.


“After going back to my coach and working with him for about eight weeks I ran my first 5K of 2013 and had about a 30-second PR in that short period of time,” Cauley says. “I started the year on fire and was incredibly excited.”


Towards the end of the season Cauley began to develop injuries, which hampered his ability to race as hard as he had hoped. Though he didn’t achieve his goal of winning the CARA circuit, he says he is still pleased with the 2013 season as a whole and looks forward to tackling more races in 2014.


“I love competing,” Cauley says. “I love that feeling of going to a race and knowing there’s a field that’s going to push me. To get those butterflies in the stomach as everyone says: that’s a thrill for me.”