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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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How to Tackle the Marathon

The marathon can be a fickle beast, but with some experience, wise training, and prudent in-race decision making, it can be tamed. I consider myself a seasoned runner but, when I stepped on the road for my first marathon I was in for a rude awakening. I had underestimated the toll 26.2 miles puts on your body, especially at race pace, and I had not respected the distance as I should have. I’ve since run a few more marathons, and although I’m still seeking faster times, I have improved my performance substantially. I’d like to share a few tips that I’ve found useful for improving my marathon performance.

There’s No Substitute for Mileage

Over the last few years I steadily increased my weekly mileage as I continued to be disappointed in my marathon performances. With each increase in mileage I, for the most part, saw an improvement in my marathon PR. There’s certainly a strong correlation between the number of miles we run in training and our marathon race performance. Increasing volume at first was a scary and tough decision for me. I endured three stress fractures in college, due to increasing volume and training load too quickly. I was under the impression my body couldn’t handle more miles. But I made the decision to increase mileage and I did so very slowly over time.

To increase your mileage I recommend an average of five miles per week for each training block. For example, if you are trained 12-16 weeks for a marathon and averaged 50 miles a week during that block, consider attempting 55 miles per week on your next 12-16 week block. This is a safe way to increase without jeopardizing an injury, but as always listen to your body and back off if you fear you’re overdoing it.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

Around the same time I decided to increase my mileage I also decreased the pace of my easy and recovery day runs. By slowing down on my easy days I was able to improve my half marathon PR by 2 minutes and my marathon PR by 8 minutes. Going slower allows me to run more miles and to be better recovered for my hard workout days. When we run a hard workout we cause micro-tears in our muscles and these, if given time, will adapt and heal stronger than before. This is how we get faster and stronger. But, if we push the pace the day after a hard workout, we may not be allowing the muscles to fully heal and adapt before we tear them down again in the next workout.

Another benefit of slower running on easy days is that your body becomes more accustomed to using fat as an energy source. At faster paces we mainly use glycogen as our energy source. But, in the marathon we often need fat in addition to glycogen as an energy source, especially late in the race when glycogen levels have been nearly depleted.

What’s a good easy day pace? That depends on how hard you ran the day before. But it’s not uncommon for my recovery pace to be 2:30 slower per mile than the pace I ran my hard workout at. Then if I have an additional easy day before my next workout I may go 1:45-2:00 slower per mile. But mostly I don’t even look at my watch during recovery runs, I just run whatever pace feels easy and at which I feel my body will recover.

Read More….

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Tips for Training for a Marathon

Expert Panel Question???

“I’m a 62 year old male runner, have run many half marathons but never a full marathon. I run 3 – 4 times a week averaging 25 to 35 miles. I play golf and weight train moderately. I’m training for a marathon and would like to feel more energized – suggestions?”

Answer!!!

Realize that training for a marathon at any age is an energy draining pursuit, but to help you feel as good as possible try the following:

1. Keep your run days to 3-4 times a week
2. Keep your weekday runs to no more than an hour.
3. Do long runs every other Saturday and start them about 16 weeks out(assuming you already can run 90 minutes for a long run)
4. Do your longest training run at 22 miles and do it 3 weeks out from your race.
5. Focus on eating really well after all your runs. Drink a recovery drink IMMEDIATELY upon finishing a run and then eat a whole food meal within 45-60 minutes following that has a lot of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat.
6. Drink lots of water each day.
7. Sleep really well.
8. Use a sports massage therapist twice a month
9. Take a solid vitamin/mineral/ antioxidant supplement day and night.
10. Take an ice bath after each long run.

by Debbie Perry

Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor

USA Triathlon Certified Coach

Colgan Power Program Strength Trainer

Local Elite Runner/Triathlete

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Utah Marathon Comparison Question

Question: “Do you do clinics for coaches?”

Answer: UtahRunning.com does not currently host any clinics for coaches, but it is definitely something we have planned for the near future. We will keep you posted.

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Question: “How does Utah Valley Marathon compare to St. George Marathon in terms of speed of finishers?”

Answer:

Rocky Mountain Running and Triathlon Magazine had a great article in their January 2010 issue that compared several marathons in our region, including the St. George and the Utah Valley Marathon. It was titled, “Regional Marathon Comparison Guide”. If you check around you may still be able to find a copy, but below are some of the highlights. This data is based off of 2009 race results. Keep in mind that the 2010 Utah Valley Marathon course has been altered and is claiming to be faster than in previous years.

By Janae Richardson – Runner | High School Cross Country & Track Coach

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Should I run a half marathon before a marathon?

Expert Panel Question???

Question:

“I’m planning on running the Ogden Marathon this May and am wondering about racing beforehand. Particularly, I’m wondering if I should do a 1/2 marathon race 6 weeks before the marathon or just use that half marathon as a training run?”

(ask your questions to the UtahRunning.com Experts here)

Answers!!!

The amount of time it takes to recover from racing is different for everyone. Some bounce back relatively quickly, while others recover more slowly. The general rule is that it takes about one day to recover for every mile that you race. So, it will take almost two weeks for you to be fully recovered from a half marathon.

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UtahRunning.com Press Release

Newly Launched UtahRunning.com Provides a Comprehensive Resource for Runners and Athletes

UtahRunning.com is a new website for running enthusiasts. This online resource features a community for runners as well as a comprehensive resource of races in Utah.

February 5, 2010 Salt Lake City, Utah – UtahRunning.com, officially launched on January 15th 2010, aims to become the premiere destination for Utah runners, athletes and race coordinators. As this new website seeks to encourage more people to run and lead a healthy lifestyle, UtahRunning.com provides useful tools dedicated to all things related to running. Resources include a list of upcoming races in Utah, and an expert panel of doctors, nutritionists, athletes, and coaches who answer questions about running.

UtahRunning.com’s expert panel includes twenty of the top running, fitness and health experts in all of Utah. Web visitors can ask their running related questions and get quality, informative answers. These experts include Olympic athlete Lindsay Anderson, who qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing and represented the US in two World Championship events in Osaka and Berlin. Other experts include Paul Pilkington who is the Weber State University Head Distance Coach and Steve Scharmann who is a Sports Medicine physician currently practicing in Ogden.

UtahRunning.com is a centralized destination seeking to provide essential information to tourists and locals alike. In general, Utah is considered to be one of the top states for running enthusiasts. For example, recently, Runner’s World named Utah’s St. George Marathon one of the top four choices for “Marathons to Build a Vacation Around.” Further, Runner’s World ranked this marathon as one of the “10 Most Scenic and Fastest Marathon” and “Top 20 Marathons in the USA.” Running competitions take place year-round throughout the state in areas including Moab, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, as well as the cities of Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden. UtahRunning.com welcomes race coordinators and directors to visit the website and submit information about upcoming races in Utah.

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