Coach Brad Hudson Hoping To Help Elevate American Marathoning

Brad Hudson leads a workout in Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Brian Metzler

Brad Hudson of Boulder, Colo., isn’t shy about sharing training information, and heading into the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, he’s hoping that his open-book policy can help elevate the status of marathoning in the United States—even if it takes a few more years.

“I think that Americans are training very hard and smart,” contends the 49-year-old Hudson. “I just wish there were a little more dialogue. The information is there—that’s why I put the Little Black Book out—but I’ve always felt that if coaches would be willing to share a little more, we’d all be better because of it. Some of the athletes are pretty open with what they’re doing and I like seeing that stuff. I think we’re on the right track, but I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

Hudson, ever the stickler for details when it comes to marathon training, is wrapping up a six-week pre-Trials training camp in Henderson, Nev., with some of the members of his Hudson Elite squad. He’s focused on putting his athletes on track for a solid showing in L.A., but in order to do so, he felt it was important to get away from their high altitude base for a bit so they could better dial in the specific demands of the event. Boulder is situated at 5,400 feet above sea level, whereas Henderson sits at 1,330 feet.

“Altitude is great and Boulder is one of the best places in the country to train,” explains Hudson, who will have eight athletes competing in Los Angeles. “And for a marathon buildup, it really works for the first half or three quarters of the training, but in order to take the mystery out the specific endurance workouts, I felt it was important to go down [to lower elevation] for a few weeks beforehand.”

RELATED: An Excerpt from Coach Brad Hudson’s Little Black Book 

Hudson and his crew rented a house in Henderson, and they have been training in the area since early January. They’ll drive from the desert to L.A. for the Trials before heading back to Boulder, where Hudson has been working to fulfill his vision of a training center that can support elite athletes—who in turn can support the local community. In fact, it was the support of the local running community—many of whom are coached by Hudson’s athletes—that helped make his squad’s pre-Trials training camp possible.

“We mostly raised the money through community coaching,” explains Hudson. “All of those funds come back to the team. We also had some donations and raised $10,000 at our gala a couple months ago. We’re probably about two years away from being a really good club that can cover more things for the athletes, but we’re starting to cover more things, like medical expenses, blood work, massage and whatnot. Are we there yet? No, but we’re a lot closer.”

Of Hudson’s eight qualifiers for this year’s marathon trials, four of them are based in Boulder as part of his Hudson Elite training group and meet with him on a regular basis for workouts. Those athletes include Adams State alum Matt Daniels, who will be making his marathon debut in L.A., and qualified with a 63:43 clocking at the Rock ’n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon last fall; Kara Lubieniecki and Addie Bracy, who ran “A” qualifiers of 2:35:25 and 2:35:55, respectively, at the Cal International Marathon in 2014; and Claudia Becque, a three-time Trials qualifier with a 2:39:12 personal best. Fernando Cabada, who was seventh at the 2012 Trials in a then personal best of 2:11:53, is Hudson’s fastest charge, followed by Carlos Trujillo, who owns a 2:14 personal best. Tera Moody, who was fifth at the 2008 Trials, and two-time Trials qualifier Rachel Jaten of Spokane, are the other two non-Boulder-based exceptions to Hudson’s crew.

“Brad is literally a genius when it comes to marathon training,” says Cabada, who has been bouncing between altitude training in Mexico and sea-level work in his hometown of Fresno, Calif., in preparation for this year’s Trials. “Not only has he had experience on an elite level, he has also done the research. I trust him just off that information alone, but also because he has one of the biggest hearts in the world. He loves to help athletes and has never been in it for the money.”

RELATED: More U.S. Olympic Trials Coverage From Competitor.com

Coaching for the love of the sport and sustaining an elite racing team fulfills a vision Hudson has had since his early days as a coach. “I knew I wanted to coach from day one,” says Hudson, who in the past has coached U.S. Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Jorge Torres, along with Australian Olympian Benita Willis and American marathoner Jason Hartmann, among others. “And once I started coaching, I knew that I wanted an elite training group someday. I wanted it to be on the lines of a professional cycling team without the bad stuff [doping]. It takes time to get the right people. I have some great people around me who all share the same vision and they’re putting stuff together for members to utilize five or six years down the road. I’m thankful that I have people who are on the same page with this vision.”

As an athlete, the hard-working Hudson—who was coached by current University of Colorado headman Mark Wetmore as a grade-schooler—would go on to set a national high school record in the indoor 5,000m as a junior, and later garnered multiple All-American honors at the University of Oregon. He set his marathon personal best of 2:13:24 at Cal International in 1990, the high point of a professional career that was cut short by injury and burnout.

A lifelong student of the sport, Hudson knew he would always make his mark in coaching. In addition to Wetmore, he’s had other top-level mentors along the way, including Pat Clohessey, Arturo Barrios, Mike Manley and Bill Dellinger, among others.

“I was always asking people about training and studying training, and even in high school I was kind of coaching myself a lot, getting workouts from different people,” recalls Hudson, who counts Italian coach Renato Canova, who has led many of Kenya’s top marathoners to world-leading times and high-podium finishes with his specific approach to marathon training, as his biggest influence. “My favorite thing when I was a kid was to read from the training logs of Runner’s World. You never know if you’ll be a decent coach until you actually coach, but I never gave it a second thought that I wouldn’t be coaching.”

RELATED: Coach Brad Hudson’s 1-2-3-2-1 Fartlek Workout

Hudson has had athletes compete in the last three Olympic Games. In 2012, 11 of his athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, with three of those runners—Cabada (7th), James Carney (9th) and Patrick Rizzo (13th)—finishing in the top-15. Despite his own athletes’ successes and improvements, however, Hudson’s ultimate goal is to help elevate the status of American marathoning on the global level. Never one to be shy about sharing training information, Hudson, who still tries to spend an hour a day studying training, believes more runners need to specialize in the marathon from earlier on in their careers to be successful at it. Mastery takes time he says, and so does adapting to the specific demands of marathon training. He also believes that coaches and athletes need to continue emphasizing consistently high training volume, demanding race-specific workouts and an intimate understanding of the role that fueling plays on race day.

“I think it’s a very, very hard event because the training matters,” Hudson told me last summer. “It matters a lot, more so than probably most other events. You can’t get by just on talent because you’ll run out of fuel. The training very much matters.”

“The biggest lesson I have learned working with Brad is that marathon training is hard,” admits Cabada. “I mean, really hard.”

American marathoners are heading in the right direction, Hudson says, and more and more coaches and athletes are realizing what it takes to be world-class in the event. He believes it’s only a matter of time before there are more sub-2:10 and mid-to-low 2:20-type women competing at an international level.

“The only thing we really haven’t been great at is the marathon,” contends Hudson. “And I’m really hoping I can make a difference in that in the next 10 years.”

RELATED: Last Lap with Brad Hudson

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