Hello. Join Utahrunning.com, it’s FREE | Sign in | Sign in

Your Run Starts Here!

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.


Google Buzz

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.

Google Buzz

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.


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

Karl Meltzer Interview

UtahRunning.com: Hey everybody out there in the utahrunning.com community. This is Ken Richardson and we’re excited today to be able to interview Karl Meltzer. He is an ultra marathon fiend. He’s done some of the most hundreds in the calendar year and he’s also the winningest 100-miler runner on the planet. He’s won 35 and it’s incredible how fast he is over those long distances. We’re excited to have him with us. Thanks Karl, for joining us.

Karl: It’s great to be here.

UtahRunning.com: Tell me about your running background. I know you moved to Utah to kind of become a ski bum, but then you caught the running bug. What happened and how did you get into the running scene?

Karl: Before I even moved to Utah, I did run in high school. I didn’t go to college. I went for one year and decided I wanted to be a ski bum. I did run a bit in high school and I was a state champion cross-country runner. I had some background there. When I did move to Utah it was all about skiing. My buddy and I moved to Snowbird, Utah or Sandy, Utah I guess you want to call it that, and skiing at Snowbird and Alta. We recently went to Jackson Hole, ended up at the time that it was maybe too expensive for us. It’s funny when I look back at it now, how much it was. But at the same time I came here as a ski bum and then we skied. I planned on going back east, back home after one ski season, but the mountains were pretty intriguing.

I started riding a mountain bike. Everyone was fired up about a mountain bike at the time, so I bought a mountain bike for I think 500 bucks. That tapped the bank account for me at that time, but my real love was running and being on foot. I rode some biking for maybe a month and a half or so, but then I started running. The love of running through the mountains came to me instantly. It was very gratifying, very enjoyable. You could hit a summit peak anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour and a half, whatever it took.

That really didn’t take any motivation to get me out the door to do that. I just started running and running, and ran the Snowbird Hill climb, which at one time was called the “Rowdy Run,” in 1990 or ’91. I won the race with about three weeks of training. So that was another thing that really intrigued me to keep running through the mountains.

It wasn’t really about marathoning at the time, it was really about getting out and running through the wildflowers and things like that. It evolved over time in terms of running races and challenging myself and racing other people. But really just a love for the mountains, as opposed to being back in New Hampshire where there are great mountains in Northern New Hampshire, but I love to live in Southern New Hampshire where you had to drive an hour and a half to go have some fun.

The proximity of the mountains here in Salt Lake are in my backyard. It was easy for me to start running and to see where it was going to go at that point. I don’t know, I never thought I’d be a pro runner, but time evolved I guess.

UtahRunning.com: Yeah, and it’s a great thing to be so close to the mountains, have them right at your back door.

Karl: It’s nice to be in the mountains. When I go run every day, I don’t run from my house. I usually drive up to Alta and go up to Cottonwood Canyon or something like that, and run up there. To me it’s automatic, even if that drive might take 20 minutes. It’s a no-brainer for me. I just love the accessibility of Salt Lake and the mountains here. I could live in another mountain town in Colorado or California, and I would have accessibility to mountains as well. But at the time when I started doing this, it was pretty inexpensive to live here. We were able to manage a bit of work at Snowbird being a bartender and working as little as possible during the summer and just giving myself more time to run. Again, like you said, living right here at the mountains is pretty cool. It’s a very unique place to be a mountain runner.

UtahRunning.com: And you’ve had the opportunity to travel and run all over the place. Definitely had a lot of career highlights. What are your top few running experiences throughout your career?

Karl: My top running experiences, you can look back at all my races and all these wins that I’ve had. Some bigger than others, but what I remember most, I’ve been doing this now for 22 years in Utah, so I’ve been running around these mountains and I know every nook and cranny. I know every trail, every place to go. But really one of the biggest highlights from my career was really 2008, not that long ago, was running the Appalachian Trail.

Granted, that’s more of a hike than a run. You kind of jog and you hike a lot of it but it’s an experience where we were out there for 54 days with the crew that kind of takes care of you to a point. Those kinds of experiences for me are what really are the coolest. The races are quick. They seem like they take forever when you’re out there, but at the same time it’s like bing bang, it’s over. All the Hardrock races I’ve run in Silverton, Colorado, the Hardrock100, the Wasatch 100, I’ve won that six times.
I’ve won Hardrock five times. All those races were incredible experiences, but the real experiences are when you go day in and day out of just being in the mountains and doing what you love to do. The Appalachian Trail was the ultimate trail in the U.S., as opposed to other races out there. Those are cool times.

I ran the Pony Express Trail too, which is the same experience with Red Bull when we had this project and ran 2,000 miles across Sacramento to St. Joe Missouri. That was again the same kind of thing as the AT, out there multi-day. That’s what I really like to do.

Right now in my career, I’m 45-years old and I hope to have another experience like that, where I go to the Appalachian Trail again and try to break that record. Again the races are great and I’ve had some great races when I won Hardrock in 2001. My first Wasatch 100 win in 1998 was my first ultra win and that was a huge experience for me too because I never thought I’d be winning the race. I kind of entered the race from a friend who mentioned it up at Snowbird, “You should run Wasatch 100.” I was like “Why would I want to run 100 miles? That’s stupid.”

I thought he was crazy to think that but once you do something once and your experience is positive, you kind of want to go back and do better. The first time I ran it I was 28th, second time I was 7th, and when I won in ’98 it was like wow; I can’t believe I’m still running in mile 90. That was certainly a huge career highlight and it gave me the fire and desire to continue just being a runner or trying to be a runner.
Read More….

Google Buzz
by on Jul.10, 2013, under Interviews

Paul Pilkington Interview

Utahrunning.com: Maybe to get us started, could you tell us about your running background and how you got started into running?

Paul: I didn’t run until my senior year in high school. I grew up in Blackfoot, Idaho. In the summertime we all had jobs moving irrigation pipe in the potato fields, so we’d go out at 4 o’clock in the morning and move the lines again at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. When we got big and strong enough that we could pick up the pipe and run with it, we’d run our lines both ways because we got paid based on how many of those quarter-mile sections of irrigation pipe we moved. If you ran then you could make more money because we only had an hour and a half window before they turned the pumps on again. I was running from the time I was about 13 or 14 years old, every summer, but it was moving irrigation pipes. I didn’t run competitively until my senior year in high school.

Utahrunning.com: You ran here at Weber State. Tell us about some of your college highlights there.

Paul: I ran first at College of Southern Idaho, which is a junior college. I only ran one year. I wasn’t recruited by an NCAA Division I program, or wasn’t fast enough. Then I took fourth in the Junior College Nationals in the steeple and got the attention of the Division I schools. I ended up at Weber because of their distance tradition and Chic Hislop was coaching here. I was his second qualifier that he had to qualify for the NCAA Championships, and he was really just learning the steeple at that time. I was one of his guinea pigs.

Highlight wise, I made it to the NCAA Championships, was the USA Track and Field All American. I didn’t make the finals at the NCAAs in the steeple though but my senior year I got pneumonia and it wiped my season out, so I really felt unfulfilled as a runner. I wanted to keep doing it when I finished college.

Utahrunning.com: You definitely did some great things after college. You became a competitive marathoner and running on the road. Tell us about that transition and what events you competed in post-collegiately, maybe some of the highlights.

Paul: It was just right after I came out of college in 1981; they made it legal to earn prize money and still run in the Olympics. So the road racing boom was kind of taking off with money. It took me a long time to develop because I was working fulltime, teaching school, so I was getting up and doing my morning run at 5-5:30 in the morning, and again in the afternoon, and on my feet all day. I had a family, so my progression was a long time. I really didn’t get real good until eight or nine years after college. But I started running marathons because that’s where the money was. Eventually figured that event out. It took a while.
I won the Houston marathon in 1990. Made more money in one race than I was teaching school all year. So that afforded me the chance to go back to graduate school and I ran fulltime for several years. I got a master’s degree and was then a competitive road racer. I really got to race all over the world. I’ve been all over Europe and Asia. I was in Russia when it was still communist, and ran the first prize money sporting event they ever had. I’ve been just about everywhere. I made the World Championships for the US and raced in Katzenberg, Sweden in the World Championships. It was a good career. I got to see the world and places that I never would have gotten to otherwise.

Utahrunning.com: As you trained for competition post-collegiately, you mentioned getting up early and getting your run in. How did you find time to fit that training in? What drove you to do that?

Read More….

Google Buzz
by on Apr.12, 2013, under Interviews

Dr. Richard Gordin interview

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

UtahRunning: We’d like to start out with you telling us a bit about yourself and your professional background.

Dr. Gordin: I’ve been a professor here at Utah State for 32 years. I teach classes in sports psychology and other things. I’ve been in the field of applied sports psychology for about 35 years. I’ve consulted with professional athletes, Olympic teams, amateur athletes, and university athletes. That’s kind of what I do.

UtahRunning.com: What got you interested in sports psychology?

Dr. Gordin: I was an athlete myself. My sport was football. I played college football back in the dark ages, ‘60s and ‘70s. I thought there was a mental component that was more developed than just pep talks and those kinds of things. Luckily I hit the career at a time when we were sort of adding on to the research that was being done by sports scientists in this area, and started to get into more of the applied area, as well. I kind of hit the crest of the wave and I’ve been riding it ever since.

UtahRunning.com: Have you had any experiences that are highlights for you, as you look back on your career?

Dr. Gordin: I’ve had a lot of highlights. I’ve been officially at three Olympic Games with different NGBs [national governing bodies]. I went in ‘88 to Seoul with women’s gymnastics, 2004 in Athens with our U.S.A. track and field team, and then most recently 2010 in Vancouver with our Nordic combined ski team. I’m scheduled to be back to another Olympic games in 2014 in Russia, Sochi in Russia with the Nordic combined team.

UtahRunning.com: Tell me more about your experience with the track and field team and maybe share some of those experiences with the Utah Running crowd.

Dr. Gordin: I got into the group of U.S.A. track and field back in the early to mid ‘80s. At the time, Dr. Harmon Brown was in charge of Sports Medicine Services with U.S.A. track and field and we got a group of us involved with track and field at various levels, not just going to Olympic Games, but in coaching education, youth development, and junior elite camps in Chula Vista.
And also writing for all the publications in track and field, coaching clinics; we went to the national convention each yearand made presentations. Of course, the culmination of that is service delivery to our athletes, with Junior World Championships and then the World Championships, and finally the Olympic games. We were totally immersed in the organization. We weren’t just showing up at the eleventh hour to provide service to our teams at the Olympic Games.

UtahRunning.com: That immersion obviously gave you the opportunity to interact with some interesting people, some very talented people I’m sure. Who are some of the top athletes that you’ve had the experience of working with?

Dr. Gordin: If you’re familiar, as your audience is with the elite runners in the U.S. history, all of those. I’ll name a couple. Obviously your group is interested in people like Meb [Keflezighi] and Deena [Kastor] and people like that. I was actually there in Athens in 2004 when Deena became the second woman in the history of the U.S.A. track and field to medal in the women’s marathon, and also Meb a silver medalist. Deena was bronze and Meb was silver. I was there. That’s pretty interesting stuff.

UtahRunning.com: Maybe along with seeing those medaling experiences, what were some other favorite experiences that you’ve had and why?

Dr. Gordin: It’s meeting an athlete early on in their career, because that was our model of service delivery. We would start with juniors and it was about development, not just elite. So we got in with the development area. We got in with the coaches, and we would literally follow the athletes along in their career, until we finally accompanied them to Olympic Games.
For instance, like when I went to the Olympic Games officially in 2004, in Athens, I knew almost all team members since they were in their teens. I wasn’t like somebody just added on to come along for problems. I was part of the staff, so there was a lot of trust developed. I was a normal part of the team. You don’t want to be a distraction. You want to be part of the group that’s there to help everybody to perform at their maximum capacity, at probably the most important competition of their life.

UtahRunning.com: Being part of that team, helping those athletes perform at a high level, tell me when you consult with these athletes, what’s the process you take them through?

Dr. Gordin: The first thing I need to do is get to know them as people and as athletes, and find out what their psychological strengths and weaknesses are. Obviously, they’re bringing a lot to the table, even as a junior athlete coming in. You don’t get invited to junior elite camps unless you’re physically gifted. But they also bring some psychological strengths with them. We do some assessment to pin that down, and then also identify some of the areas that they need to work on.

There’s critical mental skills, like the ability to be poised under pressure, to have the proper focus, to be able to have good self-talk and confidence in these big events, to be able to have a good pre-performance routine to not try to do something different, to control your environment rather than let your environment control you. All of these types of things are skills that need to be learned. You have to learn them before you show up to big competitions because you’re not going to develop them if you haven’t been training on them and working on them prior to getting there.

UtahRunning.com: It sounds like in those areas there are definitely some things that an athlete can do to prepare themselves and ensure performance at a higher level. What would you say are maybe the top-three areas with regards to sports psychology that athletes seem to struggle with the most in training and competition?

Dr. Gordin: It’s making that transition from practice to competition, that’s a big one. For distance runners, for instance, there’s a big difference between a training run and a competitive run. I like to say you need to make your training as much like competition so that your competition becomes like training; so there’s not a big leap between training and competition. You do that through proper training regimes with your coach, staying on track with where you need to be physically, so that you can spend some of your energy during a competitive run, in how to compete against the other runners in the field.

For instance, in distance running, one of the things that a lot of the distance runners always wanted to talk to me about was race planning, how to plan your race, and then stick to it, and still have a little flexibility there, but not let the conditions or the other runners dictate to you; you dictate your race to them and then let them react to you.

Another area would be pain. How do you handle pain? Pain is part of distance running. There’s that whole area of focus. How do you focus in a marathon, for instance, for two hours and thirty minutes, or two hours and ten minutes, depending on what gender you are? World-class runners, how do you keep your focus, and what do you focus on for that amount of time?

Part of that focus has to be on your body and how it feels, but the rest of it has to be being able to leave your body and not focus on the pain for a while. You have to have both skills: to be able to associate to your body and how it feels, but also disassociate. You know all the strategies that people use. People count the number of rooms in their house, go through all kinds of things. At the same time, you have to be able to focus on if you’re starting to cramp up in your right calf; you have to know how to make an adjustment and when to make your move and all those kinds of things.

UtahRunning.com: Those are definitely areas people could focus on and learn as they face those struggles. What mental strategies would you suggest for runners to take in their training, to take their training in racing to the next level? What tips would you provide in mental strategies?

Dr. Gordin: Again it’s making sure that you’ve trained correctly, number one. Sport is physical. But if you want to go to the next level, sport becomes a lot more mental. It’s showing up to a competition knowing that you’re ready to go.

If I can use swimming as an example, I’ll go across another sport. Michael Phelps for instance, in his book No Limits, talks about he and his coach would do the workouts that nobody else in the world was willing to do. Or they either couldn’t do it or they weren’t willing to do. People say why would you do that. So he goes, “That way when you show up at a big competition, you already know that there’s nobody there that’s in better physical condition than you are. You’ve prepared yourself physically for what’s being asked of you.”

I think a lot of mistakes that distance runners make is that they try to fool themselves with their training programs, and say I can only train at this level, so I’ll do that. Then when I get in a competition my adrenaline will take me to the next level.

I don’t think that’s true. I think your adrenaline is only going to take you to running a foolish race. You’re going to try and do something that you’re not ready to do. It’s preparation, confidence, shooting for – rather than competing against other people and maybe shooting for a personal best, and knowing exactly what that takes, and then seeing where that lands you in the final, as you cross the finish line, those types of things. Goal setting, all these things, I think people intuitively think they know how to do it but I’m not sure that’s right. I think sometimes they need to really study how to do it in the most effective way. That’s what I help them do.

UtahRunning.com: That’s great. We really appreciate you taking time to talk with us and sharing your experience.

Dr. Gordin: My pleasure.

Google Buzz
by on Jan.25, 2013, under Interviews

Get Instant Online Access to the Latest Issue of Run Utah Magazine!!!
Plus Receive Weekly
Email Updates
of all
the Upcoming Running
Races in Utah.
Enter your Name and Email
below to receive your
FREE subscription:

We respect your privacy.
We will never share, sell or rent your details.

Privacy Verified