The 27-year-old is targeting several races leading up to the 2016 Olympic marathon.
Even though he’s got an Irish last name, Boulder, Colo. resident Tyler McCandless doesn’t think it will be luck that gets him across the finish line at the second edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon on Aug. 4.
The 27-year-old former Penn State University standout happens to be one of the fastest Americans currently running on the roads. McCandless said he has undergone a “major breakthrough” with his running after finishing eighth at the Peachtree Road Race (a 10K) on July 4. Before that, he had just started marathon training under former marathon world record holder Steve Jones and said he enjoys the simplicity of Jones’ routine, which entails the same training on the same days and logging up to 105 miles weekly.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life because of it,” McCandless said. “Running for ‘Jonesey’ is great. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s simple. McCandless credits this routine for staying injury-free, saying he has “not missed a day of training since last October.”
McCandless has a Ph.D. in meteorology, and said he’s used to being around numbers and focusing on analytical research. The simplicity of his training, however, allows him to focus on his workouts.
“I don’t have to worry about wearing a Garmin or running specific splits with it on my wrist; I just have to grind out miles and run hard, and I like it,” he said. “It just takes me back to pure running, which is what I’m doing each and every day.”
In a few weeks, McCandless will toe the line in the Irish capital and doesn’t mince words about his goals there.
“I want to win it,” he said of the race. Time-wise, McCandless would like to run faster than 65 minutes. “If I can run that fast while I’m doing marathon training then that’s great.”
McCandless thinks the half marathon is his best event and said he still has work to do at the 26.2-mile distance. But he also loves Competitor Group’s Half Marathon Grand Prix.
“I’m really happy that Tracy Sundlin and Matt Turnbull and others at Competitor brought back the prize money structure for Americans,” McCandless said. “I want to support that. I feel that they are doing a big thing for the sport and so we should get behind it. I’m honored to be one of the elites that’s vying for the championship.”
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin race is also a bonus for McCandless in that Jones will be there to cheer him on. Jones lives in Boulder but grew up in Wales and ran for the United Kingdom. He will be in Glasgow, Scotland for the Commonwealth Games a week before the Dublin race to supervise British distance runner Susan Partridge as she competes in the marathon. McCandless has never been to Ireland before and has only made it to Europe once, when he flew to Italy to compete, but ended up getting sick during that trip.
The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are just two years away and McCandless hopes that taking part in the half marathon in Dublin as well as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia in September will pave the way for him making the U.S. team. He said these races will help him prepare for the culminating event this fall, the Oct. 5 Twin Cities Marathon—a race that serves as the U.S. Championships for that distance.
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“I want to compete to try and win it,” he said. “That race is a stepping stone to the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. This year was about learning to race, and next year will be about honing things. I would be really honored to make the American team at the World Championships or the Pan American Games.”
Still, McCandless is realistic about things and said he’s found inspiration in Meb Keflezighi, who won the Boston Marathon this year at the age of 38.
“I know from Meb that I will still have another Olympic cycle if it doesn’t work out for me in 2016,” McCandless said. “When I talk about my goals, I usually focus on eight months, but my coach tells me to not think about eight months, but instead what I will be doing in eight years. That keeps me enjoying things. I enjoy racing and I enjoy training.”
McCandless said he hopes the Irish music and the large crowds will be loud on Aug. 4. “There are very few things that fire me up more than those things,” he said. “I don’t listen to much music when I’m running, but having music on the course itself is always an inspiration. It gets you fired up.”