A World Record On The Brink Of Collapse

Josh Cox will make a run at Thompson Mugwana's 50K world record this Sunday at the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Josh Cox aiming for 50K mark this Sunday in Arizona.

Written by: Duncan Larkin

Three years ago, the Josh Cox naysayers were out in full force. After his DNF at 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, Cox looked like a runner whose best days were behind him.

In 2000, a few years before guys like Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Dathan Ritzenhein began taking their shows to the roads, Cox was one of America’s up-and-coming marathon stars. He set a personal best of 2:13:55 for the 26.2-mile distance at Chicago that year, but then, almost as quickly as he made his way up the U.S. list, his marathon times slowed down. Significantly. Anonymous bulletin board posters called for his retirement, and despite Cox’s own claims that he was ready to make a comeback, the skeptics turned their backs on him.

All that changed on January 18, 2009.

On that day, Josh Cox smashed Alex Tilson’s American record of 2:51:48 for the 50K (31.05 miles), turning in an impressive 2:47:17 clocking—an average pace of 5:23 per mile. Despite lowering the record by over four minutes, however, the experience was hardly ideal for Cox. He threw up six times and had stop to use the bathroom twice during the race. “Today, wasn’t my day,” he said afterwards.

Cox wasn’t satisfied with taking down Tilson’s record–it was South African Thompson Muguwana’ world record of 2:43:30 he was going after.

At 22 years, Thompson’s record is one of the oldest distance marks around, and one Cox has had his sights on for the past two years. He will take another shot at it this weekend at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix.

“Things have really come together the last six weeks,” Cox said of his training. “I’m in PR marathon shape, which bodes well for the 50K record attempt.”

Cox has been logging impressive mileage to prepare for the race, averaging 130 miles per week during the fall and winter. He says he’s even reached a few weeks in the 150s. During the week, Cox focuses on three main workouts: 5-10 miles worth of intervals, 6 to 18 mile tempo runs, and long runs in the range of 16-30 miles. Between workouts, he runs–easy.

“Workouts are the stone,” he says. “Mileage is the mortar.”

Ultra running can be mostly an individual sport, but Cox takes pleasure in training with others. As a member of the Mammoth Track Club since the summer of 2009, Cox is coached by Terrence Mahon. According to Cox, Mahon has “full control” of his training program.

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