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UtahRunning.com: Well hello everyone. We’re excited today in the utahrunning.com community to have Bryant Jensen joining us. He’s the recent winner of the St. George Marathon, with a blazing fast time of 2:15. He ran here in Utah at Weber State University. And we’re excited to hear about his background and maybe some tips for you out in the UtahRunning.com community. Bryant, thanks for joining us.
Bryant: Thank you Ken. I appreciate being with you.
UtahRunning.com: Why don’t we start by telling us some of your running background and some of your experiences with running.
Bryant: I began running about fifteen years ago, kind of the tail end of junior high and into high school. At first it wasn’t a real love. It took a bit of prodding from fellow runners and my teammates. Over time, especially once I joined cross-country, I started to have a real love for running. I didn’t start cross-country until my junior year at Fremont High School.
My first year doing cross, I took third at state behind Seth Pilkington and Romney Stevens. I think running that well my first year in cross-country kind of sparked a flame in me or something, because since then I’ve really enjoyed it. After that I ran at Weber State University, where my college career wasn’t phenomical but wasn’t that bad either. I enjoyed it. I finished in the top-10 at Conference three or four times, mostly in cross country and I believe one time in the 10K.
UtahRunning.com: You’ve been running quite a bit since college as well. I’m excited to hear about St. George. How did the race play out and how did you feel about the experience?
Bryant: It’s kind of interesting. Going into the race I was a little — my confidence wasn’t as high as it had been, partly because the St. George Marathon is very competitive, the most competitive marathon in the state. I knew there would be plenty of guys that would be there to run their hearts out, and I imagined there would be a lot of PRs coming from this race.
I had that in mind, but my training kind of dipped a bit. I recently got married. I wasn’t sure where I was going to be but my plan was kind of to hang with the leaders and not go out too hard. But the first mile went and I felt pretty good. I was with the main group of guys in the front, and by mile three I took over the lead, and from there to the end of the race there wasn’t — I could hear footsteps through about mile seven, the start of Veyo. I imagine that was Fritz, maybe Riley, right behind me. But after Veyo, I felt I was pretty much all alone the rest of the race. I maintained a pretty quick clip and really had no mishaps the entire race.
UtahRunning.com: That’s great. Tell me about your experience before the race. What aspects of your training over the past year do you feel contributed most to your performance at St. George?
Bryant: I trained in Ogden, Utah with a group of guys, Ken, you’re one of them that I trained with. I think that’s probably where it started. It was about November of last year, Riley Cook was starting to ramp up his training and we began getting a group of guys to come out in late November. We maintained a tempo run about once a week.
I think I started out at a six-minute pace. For me that was a bit slower than I’d done in the past but I was just coming off a break from running. I had finished grad school, and I hadn’t been training too thoroughly through summer and early fall. But in 2012, I decided I wanted to get back into it.
Riley Cook got a group together and we hit these tempo runs weekly. I went from that six-minute pace to where I’ve been able to maintain a 5:15/5:10 for eight miles on a regular basis.
UtahRunning.com: I do know those tempo runs have definitely made a big difference.
Bryant: We’ve seen it in Riley Cook as well. He’s excelled off of the tempo; his performance improving as well.
UtahRunning.com: How about for you individually? Why the marathon? The marathon is something that takes so much training, so much dedication. What inspired you to pursue the marathon races?
Bryant: I began running the marathon in 2009 after I graduated from Weber State. My first thought was, “Well, I’m in the best shape of my life, I’ve got to get a marathon under my belt.” So I signed up for the Top of Utah in fall of ’09. I ran it and probably for the next four marathons, I struggled to handle the distance and the pain or mishaps that we face in the marathon. But after about five of them, I kind of learned. I think I just got mentally and physically used to the distance, and learned what was necessary to run well in the marathon.
I liked the challenge. I’ve always been one to enjoy the difficult challenge. With the marathon, we got quite a bit of prestige in the running world. I thought about the history of the marathon in Utah. I don’t know if we’ve had a guy run around the time that I did, 2:15, since the Paul Pilkington, Paul Cummings, and Ed Eyestone era, which must have been 20-30 years ago. That’s been on my mind as well. I was thinking, “Somebody has to step up and do well in the marathon again.”
UtahRunning.com: I think it’s fun to see someone from Utah step up to that level and show that somebody here in Utah can do that. We talked about those tempo runs. Maybe you can give me a few examples of workouts you feel best prepare someone to run a PR in a marathon, and what your favorite pre-marathon workout is.
Bryant: I consulted with Paul Pilkington early on in my marathon training. I remember one thing he mentioned and I felt it strongly. I’m like, “I’m going to be running this marathon; how am I going to prepare for it?” In my mind, after I ran a few marathons, I thought, “Really the only way to prepare for a marathon is to run a marathon.” That’s probably the best way. But then if you look at the tempo run, where you try to maintain a set goal pace, your race pace, or close to your race pace when you’re training for it, a set number of miles, whether eight miles or four miles or sometimes I’ll get up to about eighteen miles.
I think that’s the best simulation you can have of a marathon, is to do a tempo run. Go out and run your goal pace for that set number of miles. If you do that, it definitely helps out and pays off dividends.
I think another thing we’ve done is St. George is a downhill marathon. A lot of marathons in Utah have quite a bit of downhill marathons. We’ve done some downhill training with tempo runs, kind of got the pounding — we pound our bodies beforehand and recover before the marathon so it’s not so hard on our bodies when we actually run the marathon.
UtahRunning.com: I think it definitely makes a big difference to get the downhill training in. I know there’s a lot of people out there who will find an area that kind of mimics that downhill training for St. George. It’s definitely something that helps.
UtahRunning.com: I heard also that you recently got married. How did you maintain a balance and focus on your training through this life-changing event?
Bryant: That’s the question. I wonder if getting married helped — it obviously helped in some ways. I was very happy to marry Lisa Frischknecht, who’s actually been in the running community in Utah for most of her life. She ran at BYU and has done some half marathons since then. We recently got married on September 20th, which was two weeks before St. George.
My training starting in August, the beginning of August and tail end of July, I was running more miles than I ever have in my life. I finally crested over 100 miles in a week and maintained that. I only maintained that for three weeks, with a couple of weeks right around 90, but as I got close to the wedding my training kind of tapered off a bit.
That’s what kind of caused me a bit of hesitancy, whether or not I’d run as well in St. George as I had in the past. My training dipped quite a bit with the wedding. But I think that taper actually played well in my favor. Two weeks before St. George I only had about 40 miles, and then the weekly mileage coming up to the marathon before St. George was just over 20 miles, when I had been doing 100 miles a week for a month prior.
I don’t know where I really had the balance, but I just fit running in when I could. I focused on having a great wedding and everything around the wedding. Just enjoyed life, and I was happy with what was going on. I think all of that played in my favor, just being happy with what was going on, to feel confident in my ability when it came to the race.
UtahRunning.com: I think something definitely worked out in your favor. I think it’s going to be great for you too, to be married to somebody that knows running and understands running. We’re excited for you and Lisa.
Bryant: Thank you.
UtahRunning.com: What do you see on the horizon for you? What are some of the things you’d like to accomplish in the future with running?
Bryant: First off, I’m pretty thrilled with the St. George time. I went into that race with the goal of going under 2:18 which would’ve been about a 2.5 minute PR. I had high expectations. I was thrilled to have run a 2:15. I exceeded my goal by a couple of minutes. And bested my previous best marathon which was actually Utah Valley Marathon in 2013 in June. I ran a 2:20. I improved that time and I’m pretty thrilled about that. With the 2:15, I’m actually underneath the B-Standard for the Olympic trials which is 2:18.
Unfortunately St. George is not a qualifying trial course, so I definitely have to go out and run 2:15 again or better at a qualifying race, in maybe Boston, which I’ll be running this coming April.
UtahRunning.com: Maybe based upon your years of experience, and the things you’ve done, what would be some advice you’d give to aspiring marathoners out there in the UtahRunning.com community?
Bryant: Good question. I think some advice that I would give, well there are a lot of things that have played into where I am, but I think what I’ve really enjoyed lately post-collegiate running, is that I’ve been training for myself. I don’t have a coach. I run with a group of friends and I really enjoy the running community, getting to associate with so many great runners. I think the advice I’d probably give is enjoy it. Keep pounding the pavement. I don’t think anything — I’ve been running for 15 years and I think the last 9 years I’ve maintained an average of about 70 miles per week. That hard work and that consistency pays off. I think that’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve aged as a runner, that the years I put in long ago have played huge benefits on where I am today.
UtahRunning.com: That’s great advice. We appreciate you sharing it with us. We hope that everybody out there enjoys the time we’ve had with Bryant and the things that he’s shared with us. Again, congratulations, Bryant, on your win and your course record, and also congratulations to you and Lisa.
Bryant: Thank you, Ken. I appreciate it. Have a good one.
UtahRunning.com: Thank you.