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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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Jordan Ridge Elementary 2nd grader completes 2012 St. George Half

Ellie Kate Simmons, a 7 year-old second grader from Jordan Ridge Elementary School in South Jordan, Utah finished her first ever running race, the 30th annual 13.1 mile St. George Half Marathon, this past weekend. Ellie finished in a time of 2:37 and was the youngest runner on the course.

Ellie was inspired to start running after finding out that her mom, Anne Johnson Simmons ran the 26.2-mile St. George Marathon 30 years ago when she was just 8 years old. Ellie and her mom began training soon after her baby brother was born last July. They started out just walking to school each day which eventually turned to running to school and then each week they would add 1 more mile to their training program until they could run 13- miles. Ellie said the best part about the race was the Gatorade at the aid stations and meeting a new friend, 38 year-old Debbie Labaron from Clearfield, UT who caught up to Ellie to find out how old she was and ended up running and visiting with her and her mom for many miles. Ellie was also running for a special cause and wore her pink running outfit to honor her 71 year-old grandmother, Linda Simmons, who was supposed to be running with her but underwent colon cancer surgery a few weeks ago and was not able to participate this year.
What’s next for Ellie? Her mom, aunt and uncle are race directors for southern Utah’s new Top of Zion Relay in June and northern Nevada’s Ruby Mountain Relay in August, both part of the Run Back Country running series, so she will keep up her training so she can run those relays with her cousins and maybe even join her parents and grandmother on the St. George Marathon course in October. Running is part of Ellie’s family tradition and she wants other kids to know that you are never too young to start living a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Beginning Runner Training

Expert Panel Questions???

“I have never been a runner I am out of shape and attempting to train for a half marathon I am just now starting should I focus on keeping up a faster pace for shorter time or go for distance with a slower pace?”

(ask your questions to the UtahRunning.com Experts)

Answer!!!

If you’re just starting out as a first-time runner, you should make the establishment of a consistent training program your first priority. Find thirty minutes each day (six days each week, if possible) to set aside for your training. Don’t worry about pace or distance at first. In fact, you may need to do a combination of walking and running in order to get through thirty minutes. Before long, if you are consistent, you’ll be able to run comfortably for thirty minutes each day. As that begins to feel easy, add time to some (not all) of your weekly runs and see how your body responds to the increased workload.

Try not to skip days unless you need to recover from an injury. Instead, learn to listen to your body, running faster on days that you feel good and easy on days that you need to recover. Not every day should be a hard day. Besides keeping you healthy, this is important for your enjoyment of the sport. If you begin to dread the difficulty of a normal run, you’re working too hard.

If you’re a beginning runner training for a half marathon, you’ll eventually want to work a long run into your schedule once each week. This long run should be about 10-12 miles and should constitute about 20-25% of your weekly mileage. For example, if you run 10 miles on Saturday morning, you should average at least six miles each of the other five days for a total weekly mileage of 40.

Read More….

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Utah Running Races

Running is of the most focused physical activities that you could ever take on. It not only challenges your body but also your mind and your will. The ability to concentrate and find a rhythm in putting one step in front of the other is what running is all about. While to some runners Utah running races are about winning, to others they are about the accomplishment of finishing the race. If you are a runner, then Utah is the place you should be headed for the Utah running races.

The state attracts all kinds of runners, from professionals to people who are running a Utah 5K or a Utah marathon for the first time. With its diverse land forms the Utah land is a great challenge to run on. Also the fact that many of the cities in the state offer running routes help professionals and amateurs train for the many Utah running races held here. Utah running includes marathons, half marathons and family races. This makes it possible for virtually anyone who is interested in running to train and participate in Utah running races. Whether you live in Utah or are visiting you are sure to find a Utah marathon or Utah half marathons on at some part of the state, all through the year.

Some of these marathons require you to register much in advance. So do check for the details in order to avoid any disappointment. Utah running races offer a diverse terrain and it is best to train accordingly. Running is a sport that helps build confidence in one self and adds to the self concept one develops. It is a great way to bring discipline and order into one’s life and is recommended for all age groups. And the best place to go running is Utah, the state that goes all out to support runners.

Typically Utah running races will have the competitors broken up into divisions which will be male and female, and then also various age groups. Utah running races tend to be a wide variety of different lengths; therefore, they require a different array of athleticism. The good news is that you can get out and participate in Utah running races even if you are a beginner.

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Utah Half Marathons

Utah marathons and Utah half marathons are organized all across the state and you are sure to find one close to your home town. You may also relish the pleasure of running in a land quite different from what you are used to. Utah running is quite popular and it is not surprising to see a full running calendar for the state. From a Utah 5K to Utah half marathons and family races, you will find them all virtually every month of the year.

Some of the popular Utah half marathons include the Park City Marathon, Canyon to Canyon Half Marathon, Top of Utah Half Marathon, Salt Lake Half Marathon and Suncrest Mountain Race. Do begin training and preparation much in advance. This is especially true if you are going to run in a terrain and climate you are not accustomed to.

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by on Jan.08, 2010, under Utah Half Marathons


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