UtahRunning.com: Hello everyone this is UtahRunning.com Richardson with utahrunning.com. And thanks for listening in. We think you’ll enjoy today’s interview and we’re looking forward to helping you get to know Paul Peterson a little bit better. Over the past few years, Paul has consistently been one of the most successful marathoners in Utah. He lives and trains near Logan but he recently traveled to Boston where he was the third fastest American and ran a great time of 2:17. Paul, thanks for joining us today.
Paul: My pleasure, thank you.
UtahRunning.com: We really appreciate you sharing with us some of your thoughts. I’d like to maybe just start with your background. Could you just tell me a bit about your background, and some of your experiences with running?
Paul: Yeah, I think I started competing in sixth grade. I took up track for something to go along with soccer, like many of us did. And I got into middle distance, then distance since I seemed a little bit better at that. And I did it all through junior high and on into high school. Then I started running cross country as well in junior and high school. This was back in Indiana where I grew up.
At the high school level I was a good runner, but not spectacular. I ran 2:06 for 800, about 4:40, 4:41 for the 1600, about 10:15 for the two mile and around 16:20 for the 5K, solid times, but my claim to fame is I’ve never qualified for a high school state meet.
I did go on to run in college at a Division III school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Calvin College. I walked onto that team and was able to keep developing there. I had really good coaching there, was coached by Ryan Beemer a three-time Olympian, and Olympic bronze medalist in the steeplechase in 1984. The coaches there were really quite excellent and I had really good teammates.
I ran the fourth or fifth guy there for most of my time. I developed into a sub-four minute 1500 meter runner, and went under 15 minutes and under 31 minutes for the 10K by a little bit. I had a decent college career, was All-American once in cross country. And probably my highlight in college was actually experiencing a national championship, team championship. My senior year in cross country our team took the national meet, so that was probably the favorite part of my college running.
UtahRunning.com: I’m sure that would be a highlight of the college career.
Paul: Yeah, that’s probably what I miss most about college is the whole team aspect. You get out of college and you compete running as an individual of course, with all these great races. There’s a wonderful variety of different types of races; adventure races, relays, marathons, 5Ks. If you can think of it, it’s probably a race. But that team aspect is so fun and brings out the best in people I think, which is probably why relay races are very popular.
UtahRunning.com: You mentioned your development through high school and college. I think for me, that team aspect is definitely part of the development. I’m sure it’s probably been a little harder since you’ve graduated. I’d like to hear more about your experience leading up to Boston and preparing for Boston, obviously doing a lot of training by yourself. Tell me about your training in preparation for Boston and some of the types of workouts you would do.
Paul: I think that will tie into this continuing the story of post-collegiately I got out and decided to take to marathoning because it seemed the thing to do. I did better in the longer distances. except I trained for the marathon, I trained mostly by myself. I trained mostly like a 10K runner would train except with a long run thrown in there. I think many of us have been in the same boat, where we get out of school and we’re kind of lost. There’s no coaching and there may not be a good runner group to run with. Even the motivation can wane without having those teammates there.
I spun my wheels for literally a few years, and ran good times in the marathon but I thought I was kind of underperforming for what my previous times were. So I started out running in the 2:40s. My first couple of marathons were in the 2:40 and a couple here and there in the 2:30s. It wasn’t until the ninth marathon where I finally nailed one down and got under 2:30.
The training I picked up around 2005 and then picked up some more techniques in ’07, leading up to the trials, and then I kept manipulating those training methods and evolving them for my own use as I learned what works and what doesn’t.
Boston, you talk about a training cycle; when we think of a training cycle we think of the six months leading up to a marathon, or four months leading up to a marathon. Really, this was eight or nine years leading up to Boston, learning how to run a marathon and learning how to train for a marathon.
What I did before Boston I’ve been doing quite a bit of for the last two and a half years or three years. A lot of it is simply getting the consistency, making sure I get in a solid six days a week. I usually do a six-day cycle, and multiple runs a day. I double pretty much all my easy days when I’m doing heavy training anyway. I’m hitting top mileage in upper 90s, low 100s. I peaked at 98 before Boston but before the Indianapolis race I did last year, I hit 107 for my high. I’ll get into upper 90s, low 100s for a lot of these races.
It’s consistency, volumes, getting those doubles in, and then it’s hitting the workouts. The key to marathon racing, and what I was doing before Boston was marathon-specific training. Again, I’m not training like a 10K runner, I’m not training like a cross country runner. I’m not even training like a half marathon runner. I’m doing things specific for the marathon.
Beyond just the mileage, the things basically entail doing big workouts and by big workouts I mean a session of speed work. The whole workout lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. Big workouts alternated with very easy days and then a weeUtahRunning.comd long run. For me I incorporated a workout within the long run as well.