Interview With 2.39 Marathoner, Jason Fitzgerald

This is a guest interview with 2.39 marathoner, Jason Fitzgerald, founder of strengthrunning.com. Thanks Jason for sharing your experience and advice to the viewers of rundreamachieve.com.

How did you get involved with the sport of running?

I started running as a freshman in high school almost 14 years ago. The reason is a little embarrassing, but I enjoyed doing the high jump in middle school and my mom told me that cross country was “like track.” Needless to say, I was a little surprised when I showed up to practice on that first day and there were no field events. But I liked the guys on my team and the coach so I stuck with it and fell in love with the sport.

What are your best times?

Many of these events I haven’t run in years, but here goes:

Mile: 4:33
3k: 9:04
5k: 16:02
8k (xc): 26:19
10k (xc): 33:41
10m: 54:50
Half: 73:38
Marathon: 2:39:32

What advice can you give to young athletes who are aspiring to run longer distances like the marathon?

The marathon is a great event, but it will humble you if you’re not ready for it. If you’re young – like in high school or college – my advice is to stick with your cross country and track schedules and focus on improving on those events first. Once you’re out of college getting on the track is a little harder so it makes more sense to transition to road races. After all those years of running you can start training for a marathon – you’ll be much better prepared.

You are the creator of strengthrunning.com. How did you get involved in blogging and who inspires you most?

I started the website on a whim two years ago to share what I’d learned about running. I was just coming off a bad case of ITBS and in the process, had learned a lot about training and how prevent injuries. Since then the site has really taken off and I have about 2,500 passionate subscribers who I love to help run faster, prevent injuries, and get more out of their running. That’s what I love the most – getting an email from someone who got one of my custom race plans that says, “I did it!” It’s very satisfying. Coaches like Brad Hudson and Jay Johnson are inspiring to me and I love their work. I also devour any book by Matt Fitzgerald – he knows his stuff when it comes to running.

You have run 2.39 for the marathon. A very respectable effort. Where did you run that time and what were some of the positive and negative aspects of that race?

I ran 2:39 at the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. It was a great race for me having run over five minutes faster than my previous marathon and feeling great almost the entire way. The weather was perfect, my training was solid, and I fueled right. I couldn’t have asked for a better race. I did experience some slight quad cramps in the final miles, but I think that’s somewhat normal. In hindsight, I could have been a little more aggressive with my pace during the second half of the race. But I’ll take the 5+ minute PR!

I’ve had a lot of coaches in cross country and track during high school and college. Any time you have a coach, you’ll learn a lot from them and take certain pieces of wisdom with you forever. Since I no longer have a coach (though I do keep in touch with some of them and occasionally ask for advice), now I’m always learning new things from the runners that I coach and write training plans for. It’s definitely true that some of the best learning often comes from teaching.

What are your short and long term goals for your running?

Short term I want to get back into great shape. It took awhile for me to recover mentally and physically from the Philly Marathon and I’m just now getting back into the groove of higher mileage and tougher workouts. I’m planning some fun races soon like my first ever duathlon and Warrior Dash (adventure 5k). Long-term, I’d love to get my marathon time down to the 2:32 – 2:35 range. Stay tuned!

Did you run in high school? If so, what events did you specialize in? Tell the rundreamachieve.com community about your best high school races.

Yes I started running in the fall of my freshman year with cross country – although I almost went out for the golf team. My first love was always cross country and I think I was the best at it, but in track I mostly ran the mile (4:47) and two-mile (10:27). I don’t think I ever put together a great track race in high school, but I always enjoyed the process and had fun with running. I think that’s really important for younger runners – to enjoy the process of training.

What has been the biggest hindrance to your racing over the years?

Awhile back it was injuries; I used to get injured all the time in college and miss training because I couldn’t run. I’ve since learned a lot more “little things” that help prevent injuries. So far I’ve been injury-free for three years! And for most runners, this is a big problem with their training and one of the reasons they’re not accomplishing their goals. It’s one of the first things I look at when I’m coaching someone.

What has been your biggest strength as a runner?

That’s a tough question – I’m not sure I have a real strength. It might be my body type, I’m just about the same height and weight as Dathan Ritzenhein (just nowhere near as talented). Lately though, I think it’s been my avoidance of any major injuries which has allowed me to get in a lot of consistent training.

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