Anatomy Of A Breakthrough

Brett Gotcher at last year's Houston Half Marathon. Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

Brett Gotcher at last year's Houston Half Marathon. Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

Our exclusive interview with new 2:10 marathoner Brett Gotcher.

Interview by: Duncan Larkin

Twenty-six-year-old Brett Gotcher knows what it means to run a breakthrough race. Last year, he upset a stacked field to win the U.S. 20K Championships. After a disappointing world half marathon showing in Birmingham, England last November, where he placed 64th, Gotcher resumed his streak of breakthrough races. Last weekend in Houston, Gotcher ran the fourth-fastest American debut marathon (2:10:35). Gotcher is coached by Greg McMillan. He lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Competitor.com: You just made another huge breakthrough in your racing career. What was different in your training from your half marathon in Birmingham to your marathon in Houston?

Brett Gotcher: A lot of it was the same, but one thing that really stuck out was the marathon-specific tempos that we were doing. We ran anywhere from 15- to 18-milers out on a road just going one way. That I think helps simulate what you can expect from a marathon, both in the terrain and how you feel.

The mileage wasn’t too different. It wasn’t too drastic. I did bump it up a little bit. I think I got to 140 [miles per week]. Yeah, it was those tempos. You have to endure the pain and see how you can run those last five miles. It was a whole new feeling I hadn’t felt before. It got me ready for what the marathon offered up.

How often were you doing those tempo workouts that you indicated were so important for your marathon? And when relative to your taper?

I was doing them about every other week. I would do a long tempo one week and then a long run the next week. The last tempo workout I did was about two weeks before the race and that was a 15-mile workout. I got some really nice tempos and some really solid long runs too.

For your long runs, were you just running at a relaxed pace?

Yep. The long runs were all about getting time on your legs. If you can be out there for two and a half to three hours, that is going to build that strength. It will hopefully callous your legs to all that pounding.

Did you ever get up on the track or was all your work out on the roads?

Most of it was on the roads, but we did get down to the track a couple times. Greg [McMillan] is a big fan of trying to cover all the bases. We wanted to make sure I had some leg strength so that 4:55 per mile didn’t feel crazy fast. So we got up on the track and did a bunch of 200s, 400s, miles—that kind of stuff.

Did you just say you did 200s for your marathon prep?

Yeah. We did a lot of them. I think I did 24 of them. It was all pretty relaxed. It wasn’t like trying to run 28 [seconds] for all of them. We did them to change up the pace and give your legs a break from that monotonous pace we were doing for marathon training.

Two hundred repeats is pretty fast for a marathoner. Did you ever feel you’d injure yourself when you were doing these?

I wasn’t concerned that I was going to injure myself. It felt different than doing 200s normally. I didn’t have the pop that I normally have, which meant that I needed to do them. I think they really helped out in the end.

Your 140-mile weeks: How did you break those up?

I was doing two runs a day. Even after the tempo workouts, I’d go run 20-30 minutes easy in the afternoon. There were a couple weeks where I was running seven days a week. I’d usually do a longer run in the morning for like 90 minutes and then 50 minutes to an hour in the afternoon. I was doing it all at 10,000 feet too. I run so much slower up here, so if I had run at sea level, I would have run 150 [miles a week].

Did training at altitude help your mental outlook going into the race?

Yeah. It was huge, I think. I don’t know if it’s for everybody, but for me, I had to be up here [at Flagstaff]. It just works; it’s kind of another level of suffering that you can go through, which I think can help you in any kind of racing—especially for the marathon. I felt like I was suffering a whole lot more daily, which is probably good.

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