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Runner Spotlight

By: Preston Johnson

Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Summer/Fall Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

Name: Michelle Simonaitis

Age: 52

Current Residence: Draper Utah

Occupation: JetBlue Reservations

Hobbies: Watching Jazz, Selling Online Clothing, I love Tennis and Golf ( but don’t get to play as much as I would like.

Running Background: Started Running at age 12 in Roanoke VA. I found the mile and cross-country came easy for me and started winning – so naturally gravitated toward long distance.

Took some time off during college and restarted running around 25 to keep in shape. Moved to Utah from VA and joined Runner’s Corner racing team in Provo. Won the St. George Marathon the first year of living in Utah in 1993. Then ran Twin Cities Marathon in 2:40:50 the next year achieving the ‘A’ standard for the Olympic Marathon Trials. Went on to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials 2 more times. So total of 3 times. Highest finish was 38th in 2000. DNF the 1996 ( IT band ) and DNS 2004. ( ran SLC marathon instead) . Represented USA at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Edmonton, CA in 2001 for the Marathon. Finish 2nd American and 41st OA. My husband is a very good runner having been inducted into the National USATF Hall of Fame for Masters runners. He is a great source of information and inspiration for me.

PRs: Open : 5k 16:09 10k 33:43 1⁄2 Marathon 1:14:02 ( Hobble Creek) 1:17:17 Carlsbad, CA Marathon : 2:40:50 Twin Cities Marathon 2:40:34 Motorola Texas Marathon. As a Master runner PRs: 5k 17:02 Carlasbad, CA 10k 34:54 Peachtree Road Race , Atlanta GA 15k 55:17 Jacksonville, FL Marathon 2:48:14 Twin Cities Marathon

Training regimen/schedule (weekly mileage, types of workouts, when you fit it in):

Typically right now at 52, I run around 55 miles a week . I run with the Utah Running Draper group. Last winter and spring I did a lot of my workouts and longs runs with Lloyd Hansen, a top National Class Master runner in the US. We were preparing for those races and would do 6 x 1 mile and 6 x 800’s. We also did some Long Progression runs picking it up to faster speeds at the end. I would also do some trail running with the group and friends from SLC.

Favorite place to run:

I have a couple places. I love Provo Canyon and Draper Porter Rockwell. As For trails I really like Millcreek Pipeline . I’m not the best trail runner and Pipeline is nice and flat.

Favorite race distance: 10k

Favorite running shoe: I like Hoka Clifton.

Why run (motivation,inspiration): Running just puts me in a great mood . I do get inspired by big races and trying to run as fast as I can.

Favorite quote or best advice you’ve been given as a runner: I like this quote by Joan Benoit Samuelson “ I’d rather be 90% fit than 100% injured.” I’m currently struggling with an injury and should have taken that advice early when it was bothering me. It’s on the mend now, though.

Advice you would give to other aspiring runners: I would say, run the races that bring you great joy. Skip the ones that you’re not that passionate about to avoid burnout/injury. You can only do so many, so pick the ones that are going to give you the most pleasure and pride when you finish.

Goals: I’m currently running the USATF Masters National Circuit and have completed 3 races. I would like to finish the year in the # 1 spot for the 50-54 Women.



Name:  Taylor Monson

Age:  32

Current Residence:  Ogden, UT

Occupation:  Engineer

Hobbies:  Running, Mountain Biking, Backpacking

Running Background:  I started running as a Junior in High School.  I’ve been running since doing my own thing. I’ve done multiple races in all the various distances.

PRs:  Mile 4:31, 5K 15:45, 10K 33:26, Half Marathon 1:12, Marathon 2:39

Training regimen/schedule (weekly mileage, types of workouts, when you fit it in):

I’m averaging 40 miles a week for the year.  I normally get out about 5 days a week. I try to make one of those days a longer run, 10+ miles.  Time of day is all over, but most frequently it’s in the evening.

Favorite place to run:

Trails on Snow Basin

Favorite race distance:

Half Marathon

Favorite running shoe:

I’m running in the Brooks Revel and Saucony Freedom right now. I’m still trying to find that perfect shoe, but I’ve found that I can never go wrong with a Brooks.  This is my first crack at Saucony and I have been impressed.

Why run (motivation,inspiration):

It’s fun discovering your limits and trying to redefine them – I’ve always said it’s a deranged addiction.  You can’t skimp or cheat yourself, and the body keeps you honest. I like the way I feel after a solid run and I like the physical freedoms it provides for day-to-day living.

Favorite quote or best advice you’ve been given as a runner:

“Why do I run?  To stay in shape, to keep my health, to feel better – all partial reasons, I suppose.  The reason is confirmation – confirmation that I am in control. Every day I must make a choice – a choice to experience pain and discomfort in order to achieve a higher goal…”

-Source Unknown

Advice you would give to other aspiring runners:

I’m discovering as I get older I can’t get away with habits I used to have such as not stretching, poor sleep, or eating poorly.  If you’re fighting through lingering pains or can’t seem to reach that next PR, take a close look at your diet habits and cross training exercises.  I’ve seen people make huge turn arounds in 6 months by doing just that. Age is not necessarily a physical restrictor, but more of a mental restrictor.  You’ve got more ability than you know.


The past couple years I haven’t been involved in the racing atmosphere as much as I once was.  I’ve been working through some minor, but lingering, injuries and the goal is to get back into some races in the Fall.  I’ve got my eyes on TOU half marathon, Scottsbluff, Nebraska half marathon, and Ogden Halloween half marathon.


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Eliud Kipchoge: The Worlds Greatest Marathoner Interview

By: Preston Johnson

Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Summer/Fall Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

Utah Running: First off, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. We are beyond excited to hear from you. This interview is going to be a part of UtahRunning.com’s Summer Edition Run Utah Magazine. The theme of this magazine is “The Complete Runner: Training Your Body and Mind for Total Running Fitness”. After writing the outline for the magazine and deciding I wanted to write a mind over body article you were the first runner that came to mind. I believe lots of people have this perspective of you being the epitome of being mentally strong in competition and training.

The first instance that comes to mind of your mental strength is the Nike Sub 2-hour attempt. Attempting something that for years had been this elusive goal for the entire marathoning community yet had been seen as an almost impossible task. You went in with so much confidence and really changed the worlds perspective on if a sub-2 hour marathon was even possible. Can you talk to us a little bit about your approach to this event? Did you approach this event any different than you do a typical world marathon major? If so can you elaborate on some of those differences?


Eliud Kipchoge: Thank you once again, remember to every human being it was impossible, I approached differently in that, it took all my time for seven good months, I changed my thoughts and tell my conscience that, I am going through, be it in any circumstance.

For a normal marathon, it’s just running to win, but for breaking 2, it was about running against the unthinkable, that’s a big difference.

Utah Running: During the Nike Sub 2-hour attempt, we all watched in amazement as you came within seconds of making a sub 2 hour marathon a reality.  Could you describe the experience from your perspective? What were some of your thoughts throughout the experience and after you finished and the results had settled in?

Read More….

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Interview with Aaron Fletcher: STG Marathon Record Breaker

RUN UTAH: Tell us a little bit about your running background.  How did you get started into the sport of running?

AARON: I ran my first race as a seventh grader when my middle school track team needed someone to run the mile. I had previously played all kinds of sports and knew I was pretty fast and had some decent endurance, so I volunteered. At the time my family was living in Washington State, but we moved to Anchorage, Alaska before I entered High School. I ran cross country and track and Nordic skied on my high school’s teams and loved it, especially the cross country skiing! I really grew up on the mountains and trails of Anchorage.

RUN UTAH: What are some of your high school highlights/accomplishments?  How did you make the decision to run for BYU?

AARON: In High School I was an eight time Alaska state runner up in events ranging from the 4×800 relay to cross country. I happened to be in the same grade as Trevor Dunbar, who now runs professionally for Nike and he was always able to beat me when it mattered. Because he was so good, I really focused on Nordic skiing my senior year and ended up finishing in the top 20 in two distances at the US Junior XC Skiing Nationals. I was a member of four state championship ski teams and one state championship cross country running team.

I was not recruited to run at any colleges, and decided to come down to BYU for school because of religious, academic, and family reasons. I started running about 70 miles a week the summer after my senior year after never previously breaking 30 in a week and tried out for the BYU cross country team when I arrived in Provo that fall.

RUN UTAH: Tell us about your experience running for BYU and being coached by Olympian Ed Eyestone?  What years did you compete and could you share some of your college highlights?

AARON: I loved running for BYU. It was a big transition for me as it is for most guys as they come from being the big dog on their high school teams to barely surviving workouts in college. Coach Eyestone was great- he gave me a chance to develop and grow and I learned  so much from his training philosphies and ideas. I came into BYU knowing next to nothing about serious running training, and now I can write my own workouts and training plans. I really iwe that knowledge to Ed and his experience at all levels of running.

I ran for BYU from August 2009 to December 2010, and then from December 2012 to June 2016. In that time I was a member of three conference championship teams, earned first team all conference and all Mountain Region honors twice, was an NCAA Finalist and 2nd Team All-American in the steeplechase in 2016, won the Weather Coast Conference cross country championship as an individual in 2015, and was a member of the 2013 BYU Cross Country team that finished on the podium at NCAAs. I also finished as the 6th fastest steeplechase runner in BYU history, an event that BYU had a long history of excellence in.

RUN UTAH: You were primarily a steeplechaser in college, but you have jumped into some longer road races.  Tell us about that transition.  How did you know what direction you wanted to pursue with running after college?

AARON: I missed the 2016 Olympic Trials in the steeplechase by less than half a second, which was a major disappointment for me after putting in a lot of work towards that goal. I wanted to do something different for a while, so in 2016 I ran three Spartan Obstacle Course races, finishing 17th at their world championships and winning their team championships. After doing that for a year, I felt ready to get back into just running again.

I have always known that I would transition to longer races after college. I ran the steeplechase because I loved the event, but my favorite workouts were always tempo-style long runs (15-18 miles starting at 6:00 pace and finishing around 5:20 pace per mile). I was also used to running 100 miles a week already, so it was really an easy transition to make.

RUN UTAH: You have had a phenomenal 2017 racing season.  Winning and setting the course record in four Utah races (Timp Trail Marathon, Elephant Rock Trail Run, Top of Utah Half Marathon, and St George Marathon).  Setting the course record at the Top of Utah Half in August with a time of 1:04:46, 24 seconds faster than the previous course record, was huge.  Can you speak to your training leading up to this half marathon, your expectations heading into the race, and your thoughts and feelings after your performance?      

AARON: The half marathon was a big surprise to me, as I didn’t feel I was in that great of shape leading up to it. I was hoping to run in the 1:06 range which would indicate I was on track to be in contention at St. George, my primary race for the year. Because it wasn’t my main focus for the fall, I trained through TOU half. The Tuesday before TOU I did a ten mile tempo run at about 5:05 per mile average, so I was feeling pretty fit but I was certainly surprised by how easy it felt the first few miles of the race. Finishing under 1:05 was a very encouraging result!

RUN UTAH: We are all so impressed by your recent performance at the St George Marathon –2:14:44, beating the rest of the field by almost 3 minutes and shattering the previous record by over a minute (previously held by Bryant Jensen with a 2:15:56 in 2013).  What led you to your decision to compete in the St. George Marathon? What were your thoughts going into this race?  Tell us how the race played out and how it feels to have the fastest marathon time on that course.

AARON: The St. George Marathon is a great event. I chose it as my debut road marathon because it is the most  competitive marathon in Utah most years and it is close to home so I didn’t have to take much time off work (I live in Salt Lake Right now). The beautiful course, prizes and great organization didn’t hurt either!

I came in to the race pretty confident that I could win and challenge the course record based off of the Top of Utah Half and my training. I tend to get very analytical with race planning, and my Excel spreadsheets told me to expect a time in the 2:15 range.

Being new to marathoning I wanted to get out and run in a field I would be close to the front in, but still have some competition to push me. I ended up leading from mile 5 to the finish, so that didn’t work out exactly how I wanted but I’m obviously thrilled with how the race played out. I went out conservatively in about 1:08:40 at the half, and then really pushed the next ten miles really hard as I had planned before the race. On the steep downhill section right after halfway I was splitting close to 4:40 per mile. I really started hurting at mile 23, and had to really hang on mentally to get to the finish. I was so glad to be done! It felt very validating to get that record after so much hard work in training.

As a side note, I’m pretty sure that was also the fastest marathon time ever run in Utah on any course.

RUN UTAH: What do you feel like have been some key components in your running success?  What workouts or aspects of your training do you feel best prepared you for the marathon distance?  

AARON: Long tempo runs like the one I mentioned above and using staple Eyestone workouts like fatigued mile repeats and marathon pace runs. I’ve been able to make some more personal adjustments to my training since I left BYU, and those have helped a lot as well. For example, I now really only do one speed workout a week oustside of my long run instead of the typical two. I feel like it helps me get the maximum benefit out of those workouts. I also do as much mileage as I can in six runs a week and do as few doubles as I can. That means lots of 12-18 mile runs in the middle of the week.

RUN UTAH: What now?  What goals and aspirations do you have from here?  Are you looking to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon?

AARON: I will be shooting for the Olympic Trials marathon in 2018, probably at the Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota in June. I am also planning on running more trail races and possibly building up to the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler next November. My next race is the Red Hot 55k in Moab in February. I am really motivated by high competition levels and setting records, so I’m going to seek out some more national level competition this year.

RUN UTAH: Is there any additional advice you would give to other aspiring runners?

AARON: The number one thing I tell people who want to improve their running is to run more! Intervals, weight training, tempo runs, etc are all good but can only do so much if you haven’t put in the mileage. It is also crucial to be consistent. Doing one really big week of running and then not running much over the next two weeks really doesn’t do you much good. High mileage is the secret to running improvement.


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Merilee Rowley Interview



Merilee Rowley recently completed her 40th event this year to chase down her goal of completing 40 events in the year she turned 40 years old. In this interview she shares all the insights and wisdom she learned along the way to accomplishing this goal.

 merilee pic 440 for 40 event totals


UtahRunning.com:      Let’s start out with some of the basics. Could you talk about your running background?

Merilee:           I’ve never really been super athletic. I didn’t do any sports in high school or anything. When I was 24, I had my first baby, and I was in terrible shape after the pregnancy. I wanted to start doing something that would be fun and not really super intimidating. I started walking and then I just started running.

I would run about three miles a day and I did that for a couple of years before I stopped again. That’s how I started. I’ve just run on and off since then.

UtahRunning.com:      That’s great. Tell us about your decision to participate in 40 events the year you turned 40. How did this goal come about and what inspired you to set out on this lofty adventure?

Merilee:           I actually had starting getting back into fitness again, probably three or four years ago. I started working with a trainer and doing some more long-distance running, making my way through that. Figuring out, “Oh, I do probably need to have some kind of Gatorade if I’m going to run for ten miles,” and things like that.

My friend and I decided to do a half marathon, the Salt Lake Half the year I was 38. We were so excited. As you know, runners are amazing people. And when we were on Trax going to the start line of the Salt Lake Half at 5 o’clock in the morning, we’d never done anything even remotely like that before. It just hit me that when I turned 40 I wanted to do 40 events. I had still never done one!

I told my friend while we were on the team and other runners were there listening, the feedback I got was really mostly a lot of, “You’re crazy,” “That is crazy,” “Why would you do that,” and “That’s nuts!” This was from runners, but I thought, “No, this is going to be good; I’m going to do it.”

What that did was give me a year and a half to mentally convince myself I was going to do it. That’s how it all started. I just thought of it right before my first event ever.

UtahRunning.com:      That first event got you hooked. That’s great.

Merilee:           It did. It was very exciting, and that was a fun run.

UtahRunning.com:      I do like the Salt Lake Half. It is a fun one. Let’s talk about the road that led you to accomplishing your goal. It was a lot of time you had to put into it, not just in training, but in the events that you participated in, in and of themselves. Maybe describe that road that got you there.

Merilee:           It took a lot of organizing at first. I sat down for probably 20-30 hours just trying to plan out my calendar for the year because I would have no choice but to do a wide variety of events. I wasn’t going to do 40 marathons. I tried to think of the big ones I wanted to do, then fill in with some smaller ones that I thought would be fun, so I could stretch my training out.

I also had to set some rules for myself. It’s very expensive to do 40 events in one year. I had to say, “I can’t do any events where I have to go someplace and stay overnight. They all have to be within driving distance that day.” That’s why I only did local events.

That was hard. It was hard to kind of sit down and just have the discipline to search through websites and leaf through magazines and try to find the events that would work the best for me. But after that planning part was done, then things kind of took on a life of their own.

The other hard thing was I was doing events that had been done in the past, but a lot of them hadn’t announced their 2013 dates yet. I had to do quite a bit of shuffling when their actual event dates were announced. Some were totally different, and some didn’t even do it in 2013. There was a bit of shuffling but for the most part I stuck with my schedule.

UtahRunning.com:      You didn’t just do running. If I remember right, you did some triathlons and things like that. Or, was it mostly running events?

Merilee:           It was mostly running. There was only one event that I didn’t do any running and that was the Goldilocks Bike Ride, where I did a 40-mile bike. But I did five triathlons, so while I was trying to plan out my schedule and training for the spring and summer, I had to add swimming and biking in addition to just running and weight training.

One of my events was the Spartan Beast and so I did a lot of specialized training. I don’t know if you’d call it specialized training but workouts that the Spartan Beast organizes, so I had to work that into my schedule too.

UtahRunning.com:      So a variety of things, but it probably kept it fresh and fun.

Merilee:           It did. It was very fun. For a while, in the spring and summer, what it mostly felt like was totally relentless because every weekend there was something else that was really hard.

UtahRunning.com:      What would you say contributed the most to your success in setting this goal, in being self-disciplined throughout and crossing that finish line of accomplishing that huge goal?

UtahRunning.com:      I think the factor that was the biggest was making this goal as big and splashy as I could. I told everyone that I was doing it, and I put it on Facebook, and I created a website that I didn’t end up keeping up because it was too complicated. It was much easier to post on Facebook.

After a while, I would run into someone I knew at the grocery store or the library and people would say, “What number are you on?” “How’s it going?” “What are you doing?” “What’s your training like?” It kept me very accountable but I made it as big as I could, and told as many people about it as I could.

And then I had a couple of people that joined with me who heard I was doing it and wanted to do it also, or some version of it, like 30 for 30 as someone was turning 30. Or someone that turned 20 and wanted to do 20 events. Those people really inspired me and kept me accountable because it wasn’t just if I fail I’m going to fail by myself. It was if I fail I’m going to fail all these people.

UtahRunning.com:      That’s good pressure on your shoulders, right?

Merilee:           Yeah.

UtahRunning.com:      That’s neat. Were there times when you thought it was going to be impossible to accomplish your goal? If so, how did you keep your head up during those times where you felt like giving up?

Merilee:           I never felt like the entire goal would be impossible. The only thing I worried about was an injury that I couldn’t overcome. But luckily I did not suffer from any terrible injuries. I had a couple of things I had to work through but that was the only thing I was worried about for the whole goal not being able to be accomplished.

I did worry about not being able to do individual events, just because of the weather. There was sometimes when I woke up and it was snowing and super cold outside and I just thought, “I don’t want to go and do this today. I really don’t want to go and do this.” But I’d have people that would call me and be like “Okay, I’ll meet you there.” And so I’d say, “Okay, I guess I’m going to go.”

I ended up not missing any of my events, but I don’t take the credit for that. That definitely belongs to the other people that were inspiring me to get out in the snow.

UtahRunning.com:      It does take a good support group, it sounds like.

Merilee:           Yes, absolutely.

UtahRunning.com:      What would you say were maybe your top two or three experiences along the way? You have all these events behind you now, where you’ve gotten to experience a bunch of different events. What would you say were your top two or three experiences and why?

Merilee:           In addition to the friendships that I made with people that I might not have ever gotten to know, that’s definitely the biggest thing I will come away with this year. One moment that was really a high point for me was in the middle of the year I was doing a 5K by myself. It was at the end of July. It was like a Pioneer 5K, and I tried to do as many events with other people as I could, but I did several of them by myself.

It’s always kind of boring. It’s fun but not as fun as if there was somebody else. I was just trudging along and trying to get through it and get it done so I could go on with my day. I happened to look down at my Garmin that was tracking my mileage and time, and I saw I’d run a mile and a half faster than I’d ever run before in my life. In fact, it was two minutes faster than the mile and a half I clocked during my Fit for Life class when I was in college, and young and fit.

I just thought, “Wow! I just ran faster than I’ve ever run, and I wasn’t even thinking about it or trying to do it.” It just made me really grateful to be healthy and to have a goal that pushed me that far.

The other really high point I would say is right after I did my first triathlon, which I was terrified to do. I had no context for that. I didn’t have any idea where my bike would go or how I would find it or how I would manage in the swim. I just was doing it all by myself, with no friends, and no support. I didn’t have anybody even as an onlooker there that day.

I was really scared. When I finally crossed that finish line, after the run, I wanted to cry that I had stretched so far to be able to do something so far out of my comfort zone. I read something about setting a goal and doing it, no matter how scared you are that day. And that has been really meaningful to me since that happened.

UtahRunning.com:      That’s cool. I know that from my experiences with participating in events, there’s something I learn from every single one, so you’ve got probably a big ball of knowledge now with all these events under your belt in such a short amount of time. It’s a great thing.

Is there any additional advice maybe you’d offer to other aspiring runners as they look towards 2014 and setting goals for the New Year, and maybe some final words of wisdom after you’ve accomplished this big goal in your own life?

Merilee:           I guess I would say that I’m not an athlete. You wouldn’t look at me and think, “Oh, she’s a runner. Look at her long and thin legs.” That’s not what you would think. You would think, “Wow! That woman looks well fed.” I don’t look like a runner. I’m not coordinated. I’m kind of a big goof ball, and this was something that was not even on my radar when I was growing up. It was something that I stumbled onto later in life. I guess you can make it your own, even if you’re not what people would traditionally think of as an athlete. You can still be that, even if people don’t think that that’s who you are, even if that’s not what you look like. You can do and be whatever you want, and there’s no reason to be held back.

UtahRunning.com:      That’s great. I totally agree with you on that. That’s some really great advice. Merilee. We really appreciate your time and the thoughts you’ve had and experiences you’ve shared with us. I know that it makes me want to sit down and lock down a goal that would be just as amazing and inspiring. Thanks for not just doing it for yourself but for those around you, to be motivated and to be more and do more. We appreciate you being here with us.

Merilee:           You’re so welcome. It’s been a pleasure.

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Bryant Jensen Interview

Click the play button below to listen to the full interview or you can download the MP3 file by clicking the “Download” button.BryantJenson-20131010

Bryant pic


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.

Bryant: Exactly.

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.


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by on Oct.29, 2013, under Interviews, Utah Running

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