Interview with Justin Gillette

Justin Gillette is a busy man. When he isn’t taking care of his four children and spending quality time with his wife he is winning marathons, coaching runners and being featured in Runners’ World. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

I often get asked what is my favourite running accomplishment. I have won 100 marathons so I could easily point to any of those. Perhaps winning the Kona Marathon in Hawaii five times, or the Bahamas Marathon twice would impress people. The reality is I am most proud of using running as a means to beat generational poverty. I used running to get myself a college degree, then continued running to make an income to put my wife through her Masters and PhD programs.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running taught me that you cannot set limits on what goal setting and hard work can do. My biggest year I ran 25 marathons and won 19 of them. I never would have guessed my body could handle that volume, but by focusing forward on the next goals it went well.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered? 

In 2011 I wanted to try to win a marathon on back to back days. I ran a 2:35 marathon on the first day and a 2:40 on the second day to accomplish this. It was a mental and physical battle.

How far in advance do you plan your running races? 

My wife works full time and we have four children so sometimes I have to cancel races I want to run and sometimes I get to jump into a race at the last minute. I always try to maintain race-ready fitness so I can jump into a marathon anytime there is an opening in our family schedule.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week? 

In college I averaged 15.5 miles per day. Post-college I thought it would be neat to hit a 140-mile week, but I only managed 137. I still have a bucket list goal of getting in a 168-mile week – one mile for every hour there is in a week.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race? 

In college I would do the traditional 12-16-week buildup for races. Once I got into frequent marathon racing I now train in mini-cycles so that I am never too drained from training and can run any marathon with just a week or less adjustment to my training.

What has been your most serious running injury? 

In 2013 I got plantar fasciitis. This was due to over-training. I would suggest that people be more eager to take a day off when needed instead of being addicted to making the training log look impressive. Once I became more liberal with days off I have been better able to prevent injuries.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to? 

My main core workouts are planks and lunges. I try to plank 5 minutes a day. I do lunges back and forth in my house while the children are taking naps. Post runs I like the Roll Recovery tool to massage my legs. Like most runners I have a love/hate relationship with the foam roller.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach? 

I’m an online coaching too. I would suggest an online coach to anyone who has goals they are trying to achieve. It really helps to have someone keeping you accountable to do the work when it’s hard to be motivated. Anyone can run on the perfect days with good weather. A good online coach can get you excited to run in any weather regardless of the workout.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you? 

Running to me is the difference between being in poverty and enjoying a good life.

Interview with Laura Cope

Laura Cope is 44 years old and started running around 12 years ago. After a few false starts and injuries she joined a running club 9 years ago and has been running consistently ever since. A physio once advised her not to run more than 10k. She has now completed nine marathons (including a multi-day ultra). She also writes a blog while training for longer races to reflect on lessons learnt.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

My proudest running achievement has to be completing the Pilgrim Challenge In February 2019. 66 miles in the snow is way beyond what I had ever thought I could achieve. Even now I can’t quite comprehend it. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that I’m tougher than I think and that you can achieve anything with the right training. It’s also taught me that I do have a little competitive streak which is usually hidden. 

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

The most ambitious goal I have considered so far is the Pilgrim Challenge. Since completing it I’ve been looking at more ultras for the future. At the moment I don’t know what the next one will be but there will be one!

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I’m having to plan my races months in advance, mostly due to events selling out so early. I’ve got races booked up to four months in advance at the moment. Some events have become a tradition for me now, so I’ll do them every year. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

The most miles in a week was the week of the Pilgrim Challenge. The event was 66 miles and with a couple of runs the week before I think I managed about 75 miles in a week. That’s the exception rather than the rule. 

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

The longest period I’ve trained for a race was five months. I had to get from comfortable half marathon (my default state) to ultra in that time. I would probably have trained a bit longer had I known I was doing the event a bit sooner. 

What has been your most serious running injury and why did it happen?

My most serious injury was a tib post tendon injury on both legs. It took me a year to fully get over it. It happened because I had the wrong footwear and tried to do too much too soon. I also tried to jump back in where I’d left off. It was eventually fixed by going right back to the beginning. 

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I cross train twice a week. I go to bootcamp once a week, a mix of strength, cardio and HIIT. I also go to a small group PT session once a week. It’s pure strength training with big weights. The strength training is crucial to keep injuries at bay when you’re doing long distances.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

I’d consider an online coach if I wasn’t able to access the knowledge and support I require elsewhere. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is an adventure and it’s taken me further than I ever imagined. 

Interview with Dominic Toms

Dominic Toms has been running since the 2015 London Marathon. He has now completed 16 marathons and is also a director of golf academy. More information about Dom can be found on his Twitter account and website.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My first London Marathon in 2015 is my proudest achievement because I ran the whole way refusing to walk a single step despite being absolutely worn out from the 23-mile mark.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me self discipline in terms of dedication to follow strict training plans.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

My most ambitious goal to date was the six marathons I completed in 2016 for my local charity and raising £10,000 in the process.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I plan my races (future marathons) normally a year in advance where possible.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

The most miles I’ve run in a week is 60, which was during my marathon training.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

My longest cycle of training is 20 weeks for a marathon consisting of running, Pilates, and core strengthening.

What has been your most serious running injury?

My worst injury was plantar fasciitis due to tight calves and tight Achilles. It didn’t stop me running as I just worked with the physio to control it before getting rid of it.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

On occasion I cycle in the gym.

Why do you  work with a running coach?

The reason I chose a running coach was the disappointment of seeing no progress or improvement in recent marathons. Despite training hard in my opinion it turned out I was just training my body the same and never coming out of my comfort zone. Having a weekly training programme that I have to follow and reporting back to my coach on a weekly basis gives me the motivation I needed as I don’t want to let him down as well as myself.

What does running mean to you?

Running for me is freedom, time to myself to cleanse my mind throughout a marathon training cycle. The race against myself to achieve more in terms of performance and results is also important to me.

Interview with Kay Drew

Kay Drew has been running since the late 1980s, and ran her first marathon in 1994. She has completed a marathon in every US state, and qualified for the Boston Marathon more than once. To encourage new runners, she started a running group. It still meets weekly 19 years later, although they run less than they used to. She documents her journey through her Twitter account.

What is your proudest running achievement?

I’ve got two achievements that I am truly proud of: setting an even speed as a pacer to help runners overcome their mental blocks, and bringing new runners into the sport. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that following a plan, step after step, will get you to where you want to be. It may not lead to consistent, steady progress, but the overall trajectory will be improvement in either speed or endurance, or both. For example, you have to knock off today’s three-miler in order to cross the marathon finish line four months from now.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

There was a time I considered building up to a 100-miler, but I no longer think that’s for me.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

When I was running all the states in the USA, I sometimes had to plan up to a year or more in advance. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

I came close to 70 miles one week, but only because my schedule caused me to run two long runs in a shorter time. Training for a 100km race would make me complete a long run followed the next day by a medium-distance run.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I talked five runners into running their first marathon with me at my last US state marathon. We trained for a full 20 weeks with a slow build-up. I did that for my first marathon, and probably for the Pikes Peak Marathon. Otherwise, I run marathons often enough that I don’t change much other than building up my long-run distance.

What has been your most serious running injury?

I have been incredibly lucky. I’ve only had a couple of falling injuries. I was out for four weeks with a broken wrist in 2018 when I slipped on ice on a trail run. I also tripped on an uneven sidewalk in January 2019 and required some stitches and new teeth. But it was a terrible Wisconsin cold snap that kept me from running rather than my broken face.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I commit to swimming, yoga and cycling – one of those activities once each week.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’m still happily running at 56 years old, but after 25 years of marathons I think most of my “things to train for” are behind me. Maybe I would look to a coach if I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon in my next age group, or take on a Half-Ironman.

What does running mean to you?

Running has become so much a part of my identity that I don’t know what it will be like when I have to start saying “I used to”.