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Race Day Preparation

Pre-Race Preparation

No matter how hard you train, the days leading up to a race can make or break your performance. There is no one proven way to prepare for a race or big workout, so keep in mind that some, all, or none of these strategies may be beneficial to you. The following are some of the most successful approaches to race day.

Tapering: In the days leading up to a race, cut back on the length and intensity of your run. For some, it is mentally difficult to ease up during runs leading up to a race for the fear of “losing fitness”, but keep in mind that a few days out from a race you are already as fit as you’re going be for that race. You don’t have anything to gain from running faster or farther, but you have a lot to lose. Enjoy some easy runs and focus on the race ahead.

Nutrition: This is probably the hardest aspect of race day preparation to master. It is very individualistic, so tweaking the following ideas to fit what you know your stomach can handle while running is encouraged. Your mindset towards food as a runner should be something resembling “calories equal energy”. This doesn’t mean you should go eat a dozen donuts, however, not all calories are created equal. As you become accustomed to racing you will start to learn how much food you need to be properly fueled for the upcoming race. When fueling for a race, the majority of your diet should be complex carbohydrates (roughly 55-65% of your caloric intake). Common meals for runners to eat the night before the race that aren’t too hard on the stomach that also includes high amounts of complex carbohydrates are baked potatoes, rice, and pasta (ideally with a red sauce). What you should eat on race day is very dependent on when your race time is. We advise that you shouldn’t try anything new on race day experiment with what works for you on days when you workout, not on race days when you have more at stake. Aside from what to eat, don’t eat any meals too close to your race. If you haven’t made this mistake yet you are either very lucky or know your stuff, but if you have made the mistake of eating too close to a race, you will never forget it. As a guideline, most runners need at least three hours between their last small meal and their race, and many need even longer. Last tip for nutrition: make sure you stay hydrated! No matter what the temperature is going to be on race day, being hydrated helps your body run more efficiently. It impacts a lot more than just temperature regulation, it also impacts your bodies ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles, among other things.

Read More….

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Tips for Stepping Up to a New Race Distance

by Lisa VanDyke

*Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Spring Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

I sat down with the Wasatch Running Center crew in Centerville, and got some expert opinions on how to prepare for a new, longer race distance:

When stepping up to a longer race distance, the basics of running stay the same. Following a plan and building up incrementally, recovering well between hard training efforts, and training your mind to see the finish line are all of utmost importance. The longer the distance, the more variables that come into play. Small issues that may cause minor annoyance on a 5k or 10k, can wreak havoc on a longer distance race.

“Become a student of your sport. Talk to other runners, attend educational events, and read books about running.” –Glen Gerner, owner of WRC Centerville

  1. Chafing – test out your race day clothing during a long run. Some fabrics are better than others, and the seams may appear non abrasive to the naked eye, but turn out causing a lot of chafing. There are products you can rub on your skin and clothing to minimize this issue.
  2. Blisters – good socks, and well fitted shoes make all the difference. Wool blend socks that are thin tend to reduce friction and wick moisture away from the skin. You may need to go up a size in your running shoes for a longer distance, as feet often swell when on your feet for many hours.
  1. Hydration/Nutrition – the longer the race, the more important pre-race nutrition and hydration become. You want your glycogen stores to be filled, and your muscles to be hydrated. As well, fine tuning your race day nutrition will keep you going strong for longer, and minimize fatigue. Tip, employee at Wasatch Running Center in Centerville and skilled triathlete, states, “In general, for longer endurance events an athlete should aim for about ⅓ their body weight in carb grams per hour (example: a 120 lb. runner would look to take in 40 grams of carbs, or 160 calories from carbohydrates per hour). Test out what your body needs during training runs, as this number varies based on the individual’s lean body mass, metabolic efficiency, intensity, race distance, and environmental conditions .
  1. Strength training – just as any gaps in your nutrition will be more obvious at a longer distance, so will the strength of your core and stabilizing muscles. Train them a couple days a week and your running form come race day will be stronger and more efficient.
  1. Proper pacing – many times individuals stepping up to a new distance will expect to hit the paces they do in shorter events. With practice, this might be the case, however a good training plan will have a runner performing a few miles faster than their desired race pace, some at race pace, and lots below race pace each week. Trying to race at a pace one has not practiced can set you up for disappointment. As well, attempting to run every training run at race pace can set you up for injury.

LISA VANDYKE, UtahRunning.com’s Executive Director, is a mother of three who spends any moment she can to sneak away indulging in her passion for running. She discovered running about 9 years ago, at first for stress relief, then to get fit, and much later on to push her own boundaries. Her first race was the Strider’s half marathon in 2013. She stuck with the half distance for some time, racing as well as pacing for a local pacing company, but by late 2014 she needed something different to challenge herself with, and she registered for the Ogden Marathon 2015. Training for this race was her first experience with a structured training plan including speed, tempo, and long runs. She loved marathon training as much as she loved running the race. Ogden got her a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon 2016, which became her second marathon. She has since added a couple more marathons to her journey, and will be Boston bound again in 2019. In addition to being the UTR Executive Director, Lisa also shares her passion for running as the Utah Running Club Layton Hub Captain and is amazing at leading and inspiring others. She loves how this great sport continues to feed her need for growth, camaraderie, and adventure.

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How to Lose Weight and Get Fast by Running Slow

After nearly 1200 metabolic tests, the evidence is clear; the most effective way to get faster and burn more fat…is to run slow!

At the outset, you may think I’m crazy. Getting faster and losing weight by running slow, what? Doesn’t even make sense. If you’ve studied running much, then you’ve probably heard rumors about this sort of thing. And you probably thought the people doing it were crazy. If you’ve actually ventured out and tried it, it may have driven you crazy.

Stay tuned and you will learn that running slow, the right way, actually is a very effective way to help you run faster and burn off the fat. What I’m talking about is 80/20 running.


With all things fitness and weight loss there are thousands of theories, protocols and programs. Running is no different. There are many people out there who claim they’ve found the “best” training program out there. I’m not going to make any claims that 80/20 is the absolute best way to train. But from a Doctor of Physical Therapy’s perspective, it is the best I’ve found.

What makes it the best?

Well, in my opinion, your health is more important than anything else. Even performance. I know that is sometimes tough for our inner competitor to accept in the moment. But I’m all about living to play another day. If my run today ruins my run tomorrow, well then I failed on my run today. So, I sought to find a training regimen which is above all safe. It then must also be scientifically proven to be effective and be something which can actually be incorporated into a real person’s life and lifestyle.

I believe that 80/20 running fits all of those parameters.

So what is 80/20 running? How was it developed? And maybe most importantly, how does someone do it?

Put as simply as I can muster, 80/20 running is a training style based on intensity zones. Usually, and most accurately, this is heart rate zones. The 80 refers to spending 80 percent of your time spent training in a lower intensity training zone. Essentially putting in the time building up your aerobic base. This means training your body to become metabolically efficient at training for longer periods of time and utilizing a higher ratio of fat.

The 20 part then obviously refers to a higher intensity zone. This is time spent improving heart and lung function and providing the necessary stimulus to the body to tell it to make improvements in speed and conditioning.

Why Run Slow?

Now with that basic explanation, the first question I always get is, “Why in the world would you want to spend that much time running slowly?”

Well, the answer is that there are advantages to working out in each zone. Low intensity training at a slow steady speed is going to make different physiological adaptations than fast running. Slow running helps build up your aerobic metabolism. It utilizes your ability to burn fat and improves your ability to run further with less fatigue and without creating as much need for recovery. Instead of depleting our body of carbs or protein as with high intensity exercise, we tap into our storable form of energy, fat.

Longer duration slow running has additional benefits. The increased time spent running slow actually has been shown to be more effective at creating the release of a metabolite called interleukin-6. This compound stimulates several other physiological changes in blood vessels and muscles which help us become more efficient and more fatigue-resistant over time. Faster running doesn’t produce the same results.

So what is fast running good for, especially if I wanna get faster?!?

Faster tempo running is great for improving heart and lung function, increasing cellular power production (increasing mitochondrial density), and for simply improving mechanical efficiency while running more quickly.

Both slow and fast running have critically important roles in helping runners improve. So the question should become less about fast vs. slow and more about ‘how much time should I spend in each training zone?’

Explaining how researchers finally got to the 80/20 number is essentially through reverse engineering. Instead of testing out each new fad rolling through the running world, several different researchers decided to simply find out what the winners were doing. They took an in depth look at the training regimen of those winning endurance competitions such as running, cycling, triathlons, rowing, and cross country skiing.

As they analyzed the training regimen of the best of the best they found some interesting things. Those who tended to win, and win year after year, all seemed to have something in common. They trained less intensively than their competitors for the majority of their training. Don’t get me wrong. They were putting in the time. And when it was time to work hard, they gave it their all. They just didn’t go all out all the time.

As researchers gathered data they realized that most successful endurance athletes tended to spend about 80% of their time just building up their base. The other 20% is where they practiced the high end, all-out effort for their sport.

The researchers then put this to the test. They tried putting every other ratio to the test and 80/20 seemed to always come out on top. What they found was that how you did 80/20 also mattered. For the 80%, you really had to stay slow. At levels where you don’t get depleted or fatigued. Where you feel you can go forever. For the 20% you have to go full effort. The polarization of the training was key in success.

Another positive aspect of the 80/20 training was fewer episodes of sidelining injuries. Because athletes were allowing their bodies to adapt to their training and fully recover, 80/20 athletes tended to have fewer problems. As a physical therapist, this is critical to me. I find that many runners are always nursing along some injury. By running slower they have a lower risk of developing these overuse injuries caused by too frequent high intensity work without sufficient recovery.

Okay, well, if 80/20 is supposed to be the way the winners train, how do we do it?

The answer to improving is to find out where your zones are. There are several different ways of determining this. The most accurate, and my personal favorite (mostly because that is what I do all day), is to have your zones tested. Having your heart rate zones tested is accomplished with a metabolic VO2 test.

Many have heard of a VO2Max test and it is essentially the same type of testing. There is one major difference between a Max test and a Zone test though. In a VO2Max test, the goal is to find out your all-out maximal capacity to use oxygen in burning calories to establish your level of fitness. This is mainly done just for the raw number at the end of the test.

A metabolic VO2 Zone test is much less concerned with your overall fitness level and much more concerned about HOW you utilize oxygen AND carbon dioxide during exercise. By looking at the ratio of how we use oxygen and produce carbon dioxide we can tell exactly how many calories you are burning, and what type of calories you are burning. We can see precisely at what heart rate ranges you are most effective at burning fats and carbohydrates.

Knowing this information gives us the most accurate way of knowing exactly where your zones should be for your body. We can simply look at your results and establish your custom zones. It takes a lot of the guess work and fine tuning out of the process. It is a simple procedure and takes about 15-20 minutes of actual testing to complete depending on your level of fitness.

So what are my zones?

Establishing accurate zones ensures that every workout you do will be targeted for your body and your metabolism. This type of targeting will allow you to burn exactly what you intend to burn during each precious workout. No one wants to put in time that isn’t effective. Knowing how you can best utilize your metabolism is the key to avoiding fatigue, losing weight and improving your race times.

There are a few other ways of determining your zones as well. Many simply use the calculation:

220-age= predicted Max Heart Rate

Using this calculation you can then multiply this by a percentage to get your intensity zones. This chart below is how Polar, the heart rate monitor manufacturer, breaks down their zones based on averages and rounded even numbers. It’s a good ball park measure and is similar to what many other programs use. The 80/20 protocol would have you spend the majority of your time in the light 60-70% category.

Calculating your heart rate zones isn’t very accurate for the individual though. Because of this, there are several different running protocols which help you to determine your max heart rate, resting heart rate and then calculate out more accurate zones. Although this is a better way, the American College of Sports Medicine reports that they are, on average, 7% to as much as 33% off. This can mean between 10 and 30 beats per minute. That is a huge variation.

Another way of determining the cutoffs for zones is by using perceived exertion. Essentially, you are self-rating how hard you feel you are working. There are many perceived exertion scales, the most simple is this one: Imagine a scale where 1-2 is minimal effort, barely moving. 3-4 on this scale would be a pace where you are running slowly but feel you could literally run forever. 5-6 is an easy pace where you’re pushing a bit but you could maintain for up to an hour. 7-8 you could maintain for a few minutes but would be exhausting. 9-10 would then be all out maximal effort like a sprint.

With perceived exertion, 80/20 training would imply that you are spending 80% of your time in the 3-4 range. Running along without really pushing yourself. This is where you are burning fat at your most effective rate, usually 50-60%.

Zones 5-6 are considered moderate and also the “junk miles.” They help heart and lungs a little, but not much. They do nothing to really build the aerobic base and help you become more efficient long term. They do however deplete you of carbohydrate stores, breakdown muscle tissue, and require significant recovery afterward. You also only burn 5-30% fat.

Unfortunately, zones 5, 6 and 7 are the zones where most runners do the majority of their training. Many see initial improvements as they start out and things seem great. They are encouraged and increase their training. The increased training also provides some positive benefits and they again improve. This is usually the time in which injuries begin to set in. People have nagging problems which linger for the whole season. They also begin to notice that their pace begins to plateau or even decline.

Most runners attribute declining pace or plateaus to aging and just wishing there were more time to train. The truth of the matter is that, for most runners, they just need to slow down for a greater portion of their training. Slowing down would allow for greater physiological adaptation toward burning fat and improved endurance. It allows you to tap into your fat stores and utilize a limitless supply of energy. This helps you lose weight and slim down as well.

Slowing down also helps avoid fatigue and injury. By spending less time in higher intensity zones, recovery is able to take place before the next run. Overuse injuries, as well as metabolic fatigue are less likely to set in. Metabolic fatigue is often the factor which causes us to feel tired, run down and less motivated to get out and run. It is a common plague which affects runners in those critical weeks leading up to an event.

The Value of Your PR

I know you are probably still skeptical about the concept of 80/20 running. It seems too good to be true that slowing down can help me have less fatigue, lose weight, avoid injury, and get faster! The good news is, that it works. The bad news is, you still have to do the training and put in the time. There is no magic cure for that. It still takes your investment in you!

The big key to making 80/20 running truly help you improve your race times while slimming down and staying healthy is to make sure your zones are spot on. There are several ways to determine ball park numbers. The important part is that you find a system which will give you the best chance to hit your PR.

I’m obviously biased towards directly measuring your zones with metabolic VO2 testing to ensure accuracy. The information you learn from knowing your precise numbers is simply invaluable. It’s a quick and effective way to make sure all of the time, money, effort, and hours you spend training aren’t wasted by injury or poor race day performance.

Get started!

Right now is the perfect time to get started trying out 80/20 running. The off season gives you a perfect window to build your base through running slow. Take the next 6 weeks. Give it a try. Find out your zones by whatever method works best for you. See how you feel and how you perform after putting in the time and effort running slow on your slow days and fast during your interval work.

You will likely have questions as you get started. I’m happy to answer them. Feel free to reach out to me at BodySmartUtah@gmail.com or call/text me at 801-479-4471. If you need 80/20 training protocols to follow, I have some for every distance. I’m happy to share!

Now, get out there and start running…just a tad slower;)

Dr. Cameron Garber, DPT

  • Owner, Body Smart P.C.
  • PT, a passion that began with a ski accident
  • Doctorate of Physical Therapy, University of Utah
  • Team lead of the outpatient stroke team at the University of Utah for 4 years
  • Opened a clinic at The GYMand founded his own metabolic testing company, Metabolic Curve in 2013, focused on prevention therapy and sports performance
  • In June of 2016, took over as owner of Body Smart, formerly Julie Knighton, PT
  • Armed with knowledge on metabolic training, gait mechanics, running recovery, IASTM scar tissue treatment, sports performance, spine care, and neurology

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by on Dec.07, 2017, under Fall/Winter 2017, Training

5 Common Mistakes with Strength Training

To maximize the results of your running, no matter what your objective for running is (lose weight, improved health, competitive runner, etc.), it is absolutely crucial to incorporate some distance running specific strength training.  If done the right way, strength training has many benefits for runners, including increasing running speed, improving running economy, improved body composition, and lowering the likelihood of injury.  However, oftentimes runners incorporate strength training incorrectly, making it so they are not able to experience the benefits that they potentially could through strength training.  The following are 5 common mistakes that runners make with their strength training.

#1 – Doing the exact same workout time after time after time, without progressively overloading the body by increasing reps and/or weight with the exercises you perform, and without any variation in the actual exercises you perform is a big mistake.  Without progressive overload, and without some variation in your workouts, your body will quickly plateau, and you will see minimal results.  You should always be looking to challenge yourself from one workout to the next by either doing more reps or more weight than you did the previous workout.

#2 – Taking variation too far.  Although there does need to be some variation in your workouts as far as which exercises you are doing, you should not take variation to an extreme.  A lot of people who know that they shouldn’t do the exact same workout all the time take the concept of variation to the other extreme end of the spectrum and are totally random in what they do.  You do need to systematically cycle through the same exercises so that your body has a chance to adapt to specific movements.  It’s good to keep your body “guessing” to a certain extent, but not to the extreme where nothing ever becomes familiar.  Too much variation and no clear direction with your training will make it so you will see minimal results.

#3 – Doing legs only.  Most people primarily think of strengthening their lower body and core for running, but regardless of your purpose for distance running (race prep, losing weight, overall health, etc.), upper body strengthening absolutely should not be overlooked.  However, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration when it comes to training your upper body.  First, make sure you train in a balanced manner.  An example of that is if you are going to do some pushing movements (Bench press, Pushups, etc.), make sure you do at least as many pulling type movements as well to balance things out.  Another thing to consider is that for most people, when they are running, their arms are in a neutral position.  Simply put, this means that the palms are facing each other as they run.  Try tweaking your upper body exercises (bench press, rows, etc.) to be in this same neutral position that will translate directly to moving efficiently when running.

#4 – Doing only bilateral movements.  Some of the most popular and common lower body strength exercises are squats, deadlifts, leg press, etc.  These exercises are considered bilateral movements – movements where both right and left sides of the body do the same thing simultaneously and work in unison to move a load.  Running on the other hand is a unilateral movement – when the two limbs do two different/independent movements at the same time to move a load.  With this being considered, although there isn’t anything wrong with including bilateral movements in your strength training program, if you are a runner, it is crucial that you also include unilateral movements such as lunges and step ups that are more specific to the movement of running.  If you are going to do one or the other, as a runner, go with unilateral movements.  Not only will they improve your strength, but they will improve the efficiency in which you move while running.  You need to keep this in mind when strength training your upper body as well.  An example of this would be if you are doing a dumbbell bench press, you could alternate arms within a set, instead of just having both dumbbells moving together.


#5 – Not paying enough attention to correct technique.  Distance running injuries are frequently caused by muscle imbalances and asymmetries, that if not dealt with, become deeply ingrained by the repetitive movement of running, and the body breaking down as a result of dealing with continuous inefficient movement.  With that being considered, when incorporating a running specific strength training program, it is extremely important to perform each exercise with perfect technique.  With perfect technique, the exercises can serve as both strength AND corrective exercises, slowly correcting the muscle imbalances that have become so ingrained from your running.  On the other hand, if your exercises are done with incorrect technique, your body will just continue to ingrain the same muscle imbalances that have developed over time with your running.  So, not only is it important that you incorporate strength training in connection with your running, but it is equally as important that you perform your strength training exercises with perfect technique.  This will help you move more efficiently as you run, and will significantly lower the likelihood of injury.


Coach Eldon Brough, who currently holds the position of Head Strength Coach at Utah Valley University, has a decade of experience working with high level collegiate and professional athletes (Utah, UC Davis, Detroit, Dixie State, Westminster, Real Salt Lake, Utah Jazz).  Brough, a graduate of the University of Utah, is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association with distinction as a Registered Strength & Conditioning Coach, and is Certified in Applied Functional Science and 3D Movement Analysis & Performance Systems through the Gray Institute.  Check out his website, www.strength4running.com, follow him on twitter – @ebrough25, and reach him by email at eldonbrough@yahoo.com.  

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Runner Spotlight – Katie Carver

Age:  38

Current residence:  Davis County

Occupation:  Law Enforcement

Running background:  Sprints/hurdles, Juab High School, Weber State University

PRs:  1 hr 53 m half marathon-4 hr 26 m-full marathon

You’ve gone from a talented collegiate sprinter to a long distance road racer.  Tell us how you made that transition and what motivated you to do so?

One mile at a time, literally. My husband ran the Ogden half one year and the next year I thought, “I can do it too.”  I had just had a baby and wanted a way to lose the baby weight, so it was literally one mile at a time.  That race was so difficult for me, but I did it.

You’ve now run several half marathons and recently finished your first marathon.  What were some of the highlights of your journey?

I think the highlight is figuring out that I am a lot stronger than I ever gave myself credit. I’m not the fastest runner and never will be, but I know I am strong enough to do hard things that I never believed I could do.

Training regimen/schedule leading up to your race (weekly mileage, types of workouts, when you fit it in):

Working full, my husband works full time and is going to school and I have four kids, so training time was sporadic at best, whenever I could find a spare minute. This usually meant I was up at 6 am running.  Honestly I didn’t really have a set training regimen, mostly I made sure I had: one speed workout, one really long run and two moderate runs.

Favorite place to run:

I always start the first leg of Ragnar, in Logan and I love that leg.

Favorite pre-race meal and postrace drink:

I don’t really love anything before a race, it all kind of makes me sick, but I usually stick to some kind of protein shake.  I love chocolate milk after a race, but my very favorite is an ice cold Pepsi.

Favorite race distance:

Because I ran a lot slower, I will say the marathon over the half marathon. If I’m not racing and just running 6 miles is a perfect amount.

Why run (motivation,inspiration):

The Medals!!!  This is partially true, the other part is proving to myself that I can do hard things.

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

The best advice comes from my husband, “Just slow down.” When I first started running long distance I had a hard time not trying to always beat my times. When I would run with my husband he would tell me to just slow down and keep going.  His advice helped me realize that not every training had to be fast, sometimes it’s ok to “Just slow down” and enjoy the run.

Advice you would give to other aspiring runners:

If I can do it, a sprinter that barely ran  400 meters, anyone can do it. Take training one day at a time and have fun. Find what motivates you and go for it


This year my goal is to beat my half and marathon times….I haven’t set a time goal, but I will. I also have a goal to run races out of this state.

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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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