3. What were the results of working with Mile To Marathon?
4. If a potential client was on the fence about whether to work with Mile To Marathon or not, what would you say to them?
I really started my distance running in late 2013. I had always been competitive and played team sports, even as an adult, and could run and move pretty well for a big guy. To that point, I had run one 5K race in my life, but always kind of had the idea of a marathon floating around on a bucket list in the back of my head somewhere. I went to the finish line of the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon to watch my wife complete her first marathon, and it was that hour or two that put the hooks in me. Seeing the heart and determination of total strangers putting in the final strides of such a great accomplishment, truly changed my life. It was right there I decided that I would run TCM the next year. About a month later I ran my first ever 10K, and I was off and running. I signed up for the 2014 TCM on the very first day that registration opened in February.
In the spring of 2014, after talking with some friends who had run marathons, I realized I needed a plan. I did a little research and bought a book and a plan. I followed the 18 week plan exactly, running 4 days a week, ran my first couple half marathons (which made me really question running twice that distance), and toed the line at TCM in October. I was able to run the entire course, finished in 3:37, and had no plans to ever do it again. Why would anyone do that more than once?
Within a week of my finish, a friend of mine said that my finish had inspired him to want to run a marathon and asked if I would do another. After taking some time to think about it, and allowing the leftover pain to subside, I gave in to peer pressure. I didn’t really start training until the following spring, when I would start the 18 week plan. I had decided that I would do the next most difficult plan in the book, adding a 5th day of running each week, hoping to maybe get down to 3:30. My plan started out fine, but it didn’t go so well for my friend. He started having ankle issues and eventually learned he had some microfractures from a previous injury and was advised against running. At about that time, as the heat of summer arrived, I found that 5 days a week was just too much, and had to cut back to 4. I still trained hard on those 4 days, lost weight, and felt good going in to TCM ’15. I once again was blessed with great race conditions, and went out and ran 3:27, though swore I could never run a second faster.
Shortly after that race, I’m not sure what it was, but I started looking at qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. Being 41 years old, and seeing I need to run 3:15, it was going to leave my mind as quickly as it had entered. Then I noticed that at the age of 45, my qualification time would increase to 3:25. I figured I just need to age well for 4 years and cut 3 minutes...maybe. As I dug deeper, I learned that I would be eligible for the 3:25 BQ time at TCM ’17 at the age of 43, because it would be trying for Boston ’19, when I would be 45. So two years and cut three minutes…I was all in (I didn’t know about needing a BQ buffer at the time).
For the first time, I ran that entire winter, a lot of it outside. I had a two-year plan and I was going to run year-round. I also decided that as part of that plan, I was going to run two marathons in 2016…Grandma’s and Twin Cities. I used my same 4 day a week plan for Grandma’s, just running faster, and I was feeling great heading into the race, thinking I could challenge 3:20. The night before the race, I got really sick. I have celiac disease and somehow became ill after eating supposedly gluten-free pasta. The smart thing to do would have been to not race the next morning, but when you’ve trained for this one day, that is easier said than done. I got up, felt ok, rode the bus to Two Harbors, and took off at the start. It was probably about 8 miles in that I started to realize things weren’t going well. The temperature was rising quickly, there was no breeze off the lake, and I was slowing. By the halfway point, I was hoping to finish around 3:30, and not long after, the race went to “black flag” due to the heat. By miles 16-17, I was hoping to finish under 3:45, and by mile 19, I was walking but figured I would at least stay under 4:00. I could tell an entire story about the conversations in my head over those last 10 miles, but I didn’t quit, finished in 4:22, and spent the better part of the next two hours in the medical tent.
I went home and tried to chalk up the poor result to the heat and my sickness. I soon resumed training for Twin Cities, but looking back, probably too soon. Routine training runs had quickly become a struggle and I was losing my motivation and mental drive. In about mid-July, I set out on a Sunday morning for a 14 mile long run. After 5 miles, I was done. I walked home several miles was 100% certain that I was never going to run distances again.
Shortly after that run, I had a conversation with my half-brother. Growing up in different families and in different states, we never really knew each other well, but he was an accomplished runner. He’d run cross country in high school and college, ran several marathons, including Boston. I told him that I was defeated. He kind of laughed when he remembered all the times that he had been defeated and was completely done with running. He suggested that I take a few weeks off and then try going back slow. I didn’t plan to listen to his advice, but after a few weeks, I went back out, primarily because I had already paid for a half marathon a couple weeks later. I probably ran 3-4 times over two weeks leading into the half. My plan was go slow, keep moving, and just finish. I did just that and felt like I could take a similar approach at Twin Cities two months later. I went into the race with only one goal…to finish. I felt undertrained and had to walk some in last few miles due to hamstring issues, but I finished in 3:40.
About a week after TCM ’16, I did some soul searching in regards to my running future. I was one year into my two-year plan, and it had been a brutal year. I was at a crossroads and needed to decide which way to go. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to continue running and maybe take a serious run at qualifying for Boston, I needed to change something. I started online searches for Twin Cities running coaches. I checked out some websites, read a few bios, and questioned the idea of spending money on running coach while in my 40s. One of the websites stuck out to me…Mile to Marathon. I had remembered being at the Bear Water Run in ’14 or ’15, and seeing the Mile to Marathon banner hanging on a car in the parking lot and a large group of runners warming up together nearby. I reached out to Coach Ron via email and set up a meeting.
I wondered what a professional coach was going to think when this 6’2”, 240 pound guy told him he wanted to qualify next year to run the Boston Marathon. The meeting with Ron went great. We discussed my running history, what my goals were, and how his program worked. My goal was to run 3:22 at Twin Cities in 2017, giving me a 3 minute buffer to qualify. I left our meeting feeling re-energized and motivated. Unfortunately, a week later I took a tumble while elk hunting in mountains of Colorado and injured my left hip. I spent the better part of the winter trying to get recovered and having several procedures and exams before getting medical clearance in March. When I finally got clearance, I reached back out to Ron and he invited out to a team run. That’s when it felt intimidating.
I showed up that first time at Lake Calhoun and had no idea what to expect. Would I be able to run with anyone? These are all trained runners who know each other and not only haven’t I run in a few months, but I don’t look like a runner, and every single mile I’d run over the past 3 years was by myself. (Why on earth would people run together?) Anyway, Ron introduced me and everyone was very welcoming. I had no idea what kind of shape I was in or how far I could go, but I am not one to show any weakness, so off we went. I had no plans of running 10 miles that day, but I surprised myself. We got into conversation and just cruised along and before I knew it, we were done. I showed up for the next few Sunday runs and definitely noticed that running with others was a lot more enjoyable than running solo. The miles just sailed by. It seemed each week that I was running with someone new, but that meant we had a lot of new conversations to have. Soon after, I officially signed on with Ron and started getting my plan. Six days a week? Is he crazy? I’d done well running 4 days a week and there was no way my body was going to handle 6. He also wanted to set the goal of running 3:20. A 5 minute PR was going to be hard enough, but 7 minutes? But I had promised Ron that I would give him everything I had to try and reach my goal, so I would follow the plan until my body gave out. After a few weeks on Ron’s plan, I noticed something very quickly. Despite running more days and more miles than I ever had in the past, I was not nearly as sore as I was previously. When I trained on my own, I had goal race pace and long run pace, and I spent a lot of time running hard. With Ron, I ran at many different paces, but I think the most significant is how much time is spent running easy. At first, it was very difficult for me to understand the benefit of running slow…those miles felt like useless, throw away miles. But as my mileage increased and I wasn’t as sore and tired, I started to understand their importance. Trust the plan!
Over the summer, my mileage continued to increase to levels that I never could have imagined that I would be running…175 miles in May, 195 in June, 225 in July. In addition to just adding miles, Ron’s plan had two key components that I hadn’t previously used at all….speedwork and hills. I hadn’t been on a track since high school, and hills were for sledding. More than any other part of the plan, I point as these two factors as my most significant reasons for improvement. I still had my physical and mental ups and downs, but being part of a team now, I better understood that everyone had them, something I hadn’t grasped in the past.
As my marathon approached, the nerves began to set in. Had I trained enough? Had I trained too much? Was it going to be too hot? That is when the value of teammates really came through. We all were having those concerns about our fall races, but we were all there for each other. It’s a lot easier calming someone else’s nerves that you know is ready to run a great race than trying to calm your own.
The countdown to marathon day was nerve-wracking, especially when it came time to taper. Running less those last couple weeks feels counter-productive at the time, but really makes sense. I was jealous of everyone running early fall marathons in Marquette and Erie because they didn’t have to wait any longer. But finally, race day arrived. It was warmer than I had hoped, but I still felt confident. I also felt like I had this wave of strength from my teammates behind me. I knew where they would be on the course and looked forward to getting to each point and getting the energy from them. Despite the mental struggle with the idea, I had wrapped my head around Ron’s plan of running a negative split on a course that was tougher on the second half. I had trusted in his guidance to this point, why would I change on race day? It was finally time to go and execute my plan. It was really hard to go out extra slow in the first few miles and get passed by hundreds of people (246 in the first 5K), but it certainly paid off later. Beginning at the 10K mark of the race, I passed 416 people and was passed by 18 the rest of the way. In about Mile 17, I was met by Ron. He asked how things were going and I said, “It’s going to happen today.” At that point, there was no backing off. I continued to gradually increase my speed even as the course got tougher when it entered St. Paul. The hardest part of the whole race was on Summit Avenue, but I was prepared and was ready to embrace it. It was also another point of great teammate support…they were always there when I needed it. My left hamstring started to go in about Mile 22-23, but I didn’t dare stop or slow down. I pushed the pace even more, but it wasn’t until Mile 25 when I thought I might actually run 3:20. I then ran my fastest mile of the day in Mile 26. I achieved a 2 minute negative split, and more importantly, qualified for the 2019 Boston Marthon by almost 7 minutes at 3:18:21. My two-year plan didn’t go exactly as planned, but I still finished it where I had hoped I would. I certainly had some valleys to climb out of, but I found the right help at the right time. Finding and joining MTM changed a course in my life and I look forward to where it goes in the future.
Lifelong runner. Professional and passionate coach helping to make running goals a reality for 30+ years. Let's get started making your running dreams come true!