Bernard Lagat has been running at the top level of the sport for 15 years. The five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist turned 38 in December, but he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. The native Kenyan (who became an American in citizen in 2004) has run 3:47.28 for the mile, 12:53.60 for the 5,000m and just over a week ago ran 7:34.71 for the indoor 3K to narrowly miss breaking his own American record (7:32.43, set in 2007). Next up is a competitive 2-mile race at the Millrose Games on Feb. 16 in New York City.
Competitor.com caught up with Lagat shortly after his indoor season opener in Glasgow.
Take us through your season-opener [7:34.71 for 3,000m in Glasgow].
I went in there thinking we could run 7:32; that’s what I had in my mind because last year these guys went 7:29. It was nice to run 7:34 and showed that my training is going well. I think with four laps to go I ran a 30, then another 30, then a 29 and another 29. I heard some people telling me I ran under 26 [for the final lap]. That was very good for me.
Are you doing anything differently in your base training as you move up from the 1,500?
The average I run per day is 11-12 miles for six days a week. It’s been a lot of miles, but it’s not easy miles. We do really fast ones. I’m training with Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu and Abdi [Abdirahman]. Those guys will lead me on our 14-mile long runs, which used to be a problem for me, but now it seems like it is so easy to do 14 miles. I still take Sundays off. When I’m pushing my body Monday through Saturday I need a day to recoup and come back on Monday feeling strong and fresh.
Besides taking a day off per week, how else have you stayed practically injury-free your entire career?
My wife is hard on me and is always saying I need to stretch. That has now become my routine. Every time I’m watching TV, I’m on my foam roller. I couldn’t be injury free without Coach Li, who knows that a lot of mileage doesn’t work for me, so we try to do something that isn’t too many miles and I break down. Also, my manager knows I’m not the kind of guy who races week after week. We select a few races and train for those.
You have one of the best physiques of any long-distance runner. Have you maintained the same weight from college to now?
Yes, I’ve always been 128-130 pounds. In fact, I have to eat a lot to maintain it otherwise my weight will drop. I eat like a linebacker.
Your next race is a hot 2-mile at the Millrose Games. What are your expectations for it?
I have a lot of confidence from running 7:34, and it’s with that confidence that I’m asking the organizers to put the pacing time so that I can run faster than last week.The more I run, the more confident I feel, like this is where I belong. I don’t want to just get into a race—I want to get into a fast race.