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UtahRunning.com: Well, hello, everyone. We’re excited to have a great interview today with Ed Eyestone. Ed is an incredible runner and coach with strong ties to the Utah Running community. Ed’s a coach at BYU and an all-around running expert. We’re excited to have him tell you a little bit about himself, share some of his experiences, and maybe give us some tips on how you can improve your own time. Thanks for joining us, Ed.
Ed Eyestone: Thanks. Good to be here.
UtahRunning.com: Well, maybe if we could just start out with having you tell us a little about your running background. How you got started and some highlights of your career.
Ed: Well, I got started way back in junior high school. I actually played little league baseball. I played a lot of baseball and was hoping to play on the junior high and high school baseball teams. Like happens to a lot of people who end up being good runners, I ended up getting cut from the junior high baseball team. So, as a result of not being able to continue playing the sport that I loved, in the spring of the year, I realized for the first time that there was actually another sport going on, and that was track and field. So, I went and spoke with the junior high track coach the next day, Noel Zabriski , my Spanish teacher. I asked him about tryouts for the track team. He said, you know what, if I came out every day and I did the things that he told me to do, and just tried my hardest, then I could be on the track team and there would be no cuts on the track team. I liked that and knew I wasn’t going to necessarily be the fastest guy in the world, but I knew I could try as hard as anybody.
So, that was my initiation, back as a 7th‑grader at T.H. Bell Junior High. From then, I just continued with the sport. The great thing about running is that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. I found that over the course of my 7th, 8th, and 9th‑grade years, that as I dedicated myself and tried to do the workouts, the harder I worked, the better I became and the more improvement that I saw. I really liked that about the sport. That’s just how I got started and progressed from there to junior high school and on.
UtahRunning.com: So, you competed there at BYU and after your college career, you became a professional runner. How was that transition from those college events to some of the highlights during your post‑collegiate career?
Ed: Well, it seemed like I progressed from junior high to high school, to high school to college, and from college to post‑collegiate. It was all the same and it was all a matter of just having the right mentality for it. As I went from junior high to high school there obviously is a big jump. I think I was fortunate in a number of my circumstances in that I had good coaches along the way. My high school coach as I went from T.H. Bell Junior High to Bonneville High School was very influential and just got us in a good rhythm and in a good system, running consistently and increasing mileage and increasing the intensity of the workouts. As a result of that, then I seemed to get improved results in my races.
In high school, I think it was a matter of finally just maturing, because I ran decent as a sophomore but not amazing. I was, maybe, in 40th place in state cross‑country my sophomore year. But as a junior, it was a combination of just the consistency in the workouts and finally having some physical maturity that went along with that. That finally I went from being 40th in the state to being the guy that was upfront in most of the races, and probably the same thing occurred.
But all along, I think one thing that was crucial and critical is the belief that ultimately good things were going to happen. In high school, as I began, I believed I could make the varsity team. I believed that I was going to win state, ultimately.
And kind of, even as I transitioned into college, then there was the natural belief that, “OK, you’re going to run in college. You’re going to be an All‑American, and you’re going to try be an NCAA champion.” Even from there, once I was involved in running at a high level in college, then the next step was you’re going to run professionally or you’re going to make the Olympic team.
All along, even as a junior high runner who was a five, 10 miler, I believed that ultimately, this all would lead to the natural progression of things, that if you work hard then the ultimate goal was to make the Olympic team. It feels that for a junior high kid, but the highest level of running would be to compete in the Olympic Games.
So, I think, a big part of that was just having been fortunate enough to have good coaches that made me good workouts and also fostered the positive belief system, setting goals, and believing all along. It was pretty naive of me as a junior high five and 10 miler to think that I was going to run on the Olympic team, yet that is what I believed would happen was going to be a natural progression of things.
I believe in some way that was instrumental in helping me make an Olympic team, that I was naive enough to believe that, that good things would happen, that ultimately would be the outcome of continuing to work hard. I would probably also have to thank my parents and my family for that because that was the way we were brought up. That you make a goal and you work hard towards that goal, you continue progressing towards that goal, and ultimately you can achieve that goal.
I’ve learned since then that that doesn’t always happen. It doesn’t always work out according to plan, because I would have goals that didn’t come through, in terms of coming home with an Olympic medal. But the bottom line is as long as you believe, work hard, and do everything in your power to accomplish those goals, then whether or not you ultimately attain them doesn’t really matter. It’s all in the process.
But as I transitioned from college to professional, there is a substantial transition, because you go from having a great support network. When I ran at BYU, I had trainers, I had coaches, and I had people taking care of travel. Now suddenly you are on your own, you are trying to handle all those things on your own.
I was very blessed, very fortunate, I was running well enough as a senior in college that I was able to get a good running agent and end up with a few contracts. Which took out some of the financial hardships a lot of people transitioning from college to professional have to go through. That gave me some financial ability to get trained full‑time as an endurance athlete.
Fortunately, it was a multiyear contract and I was able to run, dedicate myself to running. Along with coaches and family, able to choose goals that I wanted to go for. Whether it was the Olympics, the world championships, or just whatever major marathon I wanted to focus on.
UtahRunning.com: To do the training that you needed to, to focus on what you believe you could do and make the Olympics. You went to the Olympics in 1988 and 1992. Maybe you can share with us the training that you did leading up to those; highlights, mileage and type of workouts.
Ed: Definitely. ’88 and ’92 were a little different in that ’88, I was pretty much a 10K runner and a cross country runner who had had some good success on the road. I was a relative novice to the marathon, so I approached the marathon from a cross country, track, and road racing background, and not as a pure marathoner. So my mileage wasn’t super high relative to all the marathoners of the day. I was probably in the 90 to 100 mile range. Maybe had a few weeks over 100 miles. But a lot my running was at pretty fast paces, faster than six minute pace. Going into the Olympic trials I don’t think that I had many runs over 15 miles, but I would head out on a lot of 15 milers at close to marathon race pace. If I went back and looked, I don’t think I’d had more than maybe a couple runs even approaching 20 miles.
But with my strength from running cross country and running quality specific pace long runs, I was able to go into those Olympic trials. When I went into those Olympic trials, I only had one marathon under my belt, a blowup race in Boston. But actually in my junior year in college, I ran a marathon.
Ed: Yeah, I ran a 2:16 marathon, right between cross country and indoor season, in the Houston Tenneco Marathon. I just jumped into it. That was 1984. I ran 2:16 and qualified for the Olympic trials later that same year, probably due to the fact that I had done some longer runs and some strength work. Later that year, I broke 28 minutes for the first time in 10K, so I ended up going to the trials in the 10,000 and the Boston marathon. But then I put the marathon on the back burner for about three years. Then in 1987, I ran the Boston Marathon.
This time I thought I’d train specifically for but I still didn’t do very many runs over 15 miles but I beefed my mileage up a little bit. It was different from just being a college runner. Jumping in on the weekends and running a marathon. I was taking longer runs and whatnot.
I chose a little low‑key marathon called the Boston Marathon to make my pro debut in and I thought I was going to light the world on fire. I was running next to Pete Johns, who I think was the world record holder at the time, through about 12 miles. He and I were friends because he was a Reebok athlete and I was a Reebok athlete. At about 12 miles I turned to him and said, “I’m telling you this feels easy. Does it always feel this easy?” We were there in the lead pack.
He said, “It gets a little harder around 20 miles.” He was right. It got a lot harder at 20 miles. I struggled in and finished in 2:19. But it was still fast enough that I qualified for the Olympic trials that would be coming up that next year.
Initially I went, “Wow, that hurt too much.” The last few miles I was struggling and my legs felt like they were cut out from under me. I really wondered if I was going to do this marathon again. But after about a week of convalescing, I realized it was still going to be a good event for me. So I came back and ran the Olympic trials in 1988. In that race I was still a novice, but I’d had my one experience in college which was probably better than it should have been.
Then I had my second experience which was where I trained a little more specific to it, but kind of blew up. But I went into this run and I had mentally prepared myself a little better. The way I mentally prepared myself was that I knew it was going to get difficult and I tried not to be so impetuous, and let someone else do the early work.
I felt that the longer I could stay in that lead pack the less it was going to be a marathon and the more I was going to be a 10K. If it turned into a 10K at the end I felt good about my chances because I was one of the faster guys in the field for 10K.
That’s the way it panned out. The race was a big pack of guys early on. I waited and I made a move about 16 miles, with 10 miles to go. Again, I was a rookie at the marathon. I didn’t realize it was still early to be making a big move. But I made a break at that point.
Mark Conover followed me on the break and the two of us worked together, kind of formed an alliance to get away from the rest of the field. Towards the end I ended getting a hamstring cramp. But it was close enough to the finish that I was able to get through and ended up second. That was a big break for me, obviously.
Then in ’92, I felt like I had my best training, or at least a lot better training. A lot of that would be that I was up by then living in Layton and I had Paul Pilkington and I trained with on a regular basis. We racked out 20 miles and 25 miles regularly, like every weekend.
So in ’92 I felt like I truly I was a marathoner. In ’92, I went in the trials like one of the favorites and was able to come through make the team. That was rewarding. I had an experience at one where I was a rookie and came through. I experienced the other way as one of the favorites and there’s a different pressure with that. Fortunately, I was able to come through in those trials as well.
UtahRunning.com: Those experiences at the Olympic trials, obviously, the training that you’ve done, and the things that you mentioned earlier so far as you believe what you can do. Then moving from the trials to the Olympics, share with us just a little bit about those Olympic experiences and what you felt like you’re able to take away from those experiences.
Ed: They were both different. I went into the 1988 Olympic Games thinking, “No guts, no glory.” They give three medals, run with their leaders until you either have one of those medals or you fall off the pace. For all I knew it was going to be my one shot so I was going to take it. As a result I put myself with the lead pack, I ran with the lead pack until about 14 miles then the heat of Seoul, Korea took its toll and I fell off and slogged my way in. I don’t necessarily regret that. But I don’t think that was my best overall plan, for my best overall placing.
I came back four years later in ’92 and I was a much more experience marathoner. I also knew and respected the quality of the field. I also gained some more insight into how to run in the heat and humidity. Barcelona was probably more hot and more humid than Seoul, Korea was.
For the’92 games, I felt I was a better trained runner too. I had averaged 120 miles a week for months leading up to the Olympic Games. Long intervals, tempo runs. 25 mile runs every other week. 20 mile runs on the other.
When I went into the Olympics in Barcelona I went with a, “OK, don’t go out with the leaders because they’re going to suffer with the heat and humidity. Run from a pace that you think will ultimately get you a medal,” which I thought was probably going to be somewhere in the 2:13 range.
It was a smarter pace for me because as the race unfolded, I was feeling strong the entire way, passing people the entire way. In fact, even over the last 10 miles I was passing people that were the favorites. Steve Moneghetti from Australia, Ibrahim Hussein from Kenya. They were the guys who were on paper supposed to be in a top five.
By about 22 or 23, I thought I had worked my way into the top 10, and then someone shouted out, you are doing great, you are in 17th place. That was with three miles to go. I thought, “Oh, crap.” I was running with the other two Americans, more or less at that time. I think we all thought we were up a little higher than we actually were.
There are plenty of people. There were people in front but it wasn’t the lead. We all charged up that last hill, up to the Olympic stadium, passing people the entire way and making up some ground. But we ran out of real estate at the end.
All three of the Americans came to the stadium within 20 yards of each other. We ended up finishing 12th, 13th, 15th or 17th, something like that. I’d have to look at the time to be sure but I think I was only a minute or less than two minutes out of a medal. Maybe it was 90 seconds out of a medal. So there was a lot of people in a little bit of time on that day. I think as I entered the stadium, third place was finishing.
There had been a rainstorm that had moved in early that morning that had cut out some of the humidity and some of the heat. But I felt fine. Generally, as a runner you can tell as you cool down you have a chance to think about the race. You generally get a feel for how well you did relative to where you are at. I had a pretty good feeling that that was a solid effort. You had nothing to be feeling bad about, at 13th.
Ed: I would have to say that I was feeling pleased about my performance. More so after the ’92 than the ’88.
UtahRunning.com: Now obviously, that is a great experience for you. Through all your running experience and now your experiences as coach, what do you think are some of the best workouts for someone who is preparing for marathon?
Ed: I am a big believer in all those workouts that Paul and I did on a regular basis. Nothing earth shattering, nothing super secret. Once a week we would do long intervals, once a week we would do hard tempo run, once a week we would do a long run. Those are the three cornerstones of our particular buildup. Mile repeats would be one of those long interval workouts we would do. We would usually run those at about 10K pace, but faster than the race pace, considerably, and would take as a result of running that 10K pace and sometimes go faster between 5k and 10k pace, and then we’d usually do about a one to one recovery. For our example, we would do four times a mile at 4:30, 4:28, with about four minutes recovery. That would be a good example of the mile repeat workout.
Sometimes we would do a variation of that I called a fatigue interval workout where we would run about eight miles run at about six minutes pace and then would finish it at the track or Beus pond where we had a mile circuit and transitioned immediately from that eight mile run to mile repeats. I liked that because that was a fatigue interval were we were forced to up the pace to 10k pace, do these longer intervals on tired legs. That would wrap up a nice work out.
So we would do a long interval workout once a week, and then a couple days later, usually on the Thursday, we would do our tempo run. Our tempo run was usually just a standard five mile tempo run. I would like to do that at a little faster than marathon race pace. It was usually about 4:50 to 4:55 pace per mile, which would be a good rate for about five miles. That was a really nice solid consistent workout we would do.
Then on the weekend, we would vary between 20 and 25 miles, usually every other weekend. One weekend at 20, one week a 25 miler. We would tend to do that all within a minute of race pace. Then late in the workout at some point we would usually drop it down. If we were running sub-sixes for the 25 miler then usually for three or four miles of that we would be on a roll at some point and run closer to 5:40 or something like that.
But that’s good essentially, because it forces you to be on your legs for a period of time, the amount of time you would be spending in a marathon. We weren’t quite covering 26 miles but we were covering 25 and 20 on a regular basis. That taught us how to feel good and work that endurance, and be on our legs for a period of time at a pretty solid pace.
One thing that I’ve added for some of the people I’ve coached since then, I’ve had some people have ended up winning Saint George. I think it’s also helpful to have some runs that are more at race pace, because a lot of time long runs are at 45, 40 to 50 seconds slower than race pace. You are doing long intervals which are generally 15, 20, up to 30 seconds longer than race pace. Then you have tempo runs which are sometimes a little bit faster than marathon race pace.
One thing that I’ve had some of my people to is do what I call predictive marathon pace, PMP, where they will run starting at about six miles and then gradually build up to 12, 13 miles of running at specific marathon pace. I think that’s important, not necessarily every week, but every couple weeks to do one of those runs because that gets you really fluent with the specific pace that is going to be required of you in the race.
That’s one thing I didn’t do a whole lot of and that would be the one thing I would probably change. If I had a time machine to go back, I would probably do some more runs like that.
UtahRunning.com: Those runs are definitely something that can help prepare someone physically for that point in the marathon when they hit the wall. Many people are familiar with that term, but what are some of the things you think they can do mentally, to help them prepare for the last 10K of a marathon.
Ed: Hold on just a second. [pause]
Ed: I’m getting ready to head up to the Olympic trials tomorrow morning. Drive up with my family. So your question was on the mental preparation for the last 10K?
UtahRunning.com: Yeah. When marathoners hit the wall what are some things they can do? In those workouts you mentioned that can help them prepare physically for that point in the race, but mentally what do you think can help people get ready for that point in a marathon?
Ed: Well hopefully, through proper training and pacing yourself early on, you can push that wall back and you don’t really feel it. You don’t see a lot of elite guys hitting the wall. It gets tough for everybody but it doesn’t get insurmountable for everybody and I don’t think it has to be insurmountable for everybody if you take precautions in the race itself. One way to do that is make sure you don’t start out too fast in the race, because if you start out too fast then you’re burning a higher percentage of glycogen relative to fat, and you run out of glycogen and there’s an actual physiological wall that happens when you’re done with that glycogen as a fuel source, and you have to rely more on mobilizing free fatty acids, mobilizing fat in the form of free fatty acids.
It’s not as explosive of a fuel source and that’s why you find yourself running a minute, or so, per mile slower than you have been before that. So the first important step is don’t start out too fast and you will hit the wall later or won’t hit the wall at all, because you’ll be burning higher percentages of fat relative to glycogen to begin with and you’ll spare your explosive fuel to get you all the way through.
So that’s the number one thing is pace yourself properly. Second thing is just proper training, because through proper training, through doing the long runs, what not, you’re training yourself to use fat as a fuel source as opposed to only glycogen.
You also can increase your glycogen storage tanks, so to speak. Your muscles will learn to adapt and actually hold more glycogen than would be possible if you were untrained. Let me take this for a second, this is my wife is just calling in and we’ll continue. Hold on a second, sorry.
Ed: Sorry Ken.
UtahRunning.com: That’s all right.
Ed: We’ve got to coordinate this thing. So anyway, those would be two important steps is training properly and pacing yourself properly then you won’t be hitting that wall. Then I think, mentally to get through it, the fact that you’ve had some consistent good training just gives you a level of confidence that, it all begins with consistency in your training leading into an event. The more consistent that I’ve been then the more I can really feel like I am worthy of making that demand on my body when I’m in a race. The more mentally I feel like I can, “OK, I can get through this,” as things begin to get a little more difficult.
Ed: What’s that?
UtahRunning.com: You got cut out on me there at the end there.
UtahRunning.com: Last minute tips for other aspiring, maybe one bit of wisdom that you can share with all those aspiring runners out there.
Ed: Well, the old adage “Patience is a virtue,” applies to running as much it applies to life in general. In that we need to be patient with the gains that we expect out of ourselves. We need to be patient in our training and realize that with consistent work, we can make great improvement but it does not come overnight. So as long as you are patient in your training and then patient in your races, then I think you can achieve your very best. Obviously, when I began my coaching career, it was right there at Weber State. You were one of the athletes there and had chance to work with the great Chick Hislop for a number of years and you remember his old adage, “You plan your race and then you race you plan.”
So I think patience is part of that. You look at the training you’ve gone through and look what your work‑out would indicate that you’re ready to run and then you formulate a race plan, taking that into account the people you’re going to be racing against.
Then you try to run to as close to that plan as possible. If you do that you’ll maximize your potential, most of the time and you increase your chance of success.
UtahRunning.com: Well, thanks!
Ed: Hey, you’re welcome!