By Mike Giberti
The month of March typically comes in like a lion as they say. But in terms of running in New England, March kicked off with a new world record. Back on March 1st, 2014, Concord, MA native and former Tufts University athlete Tyler Andrews hammered down the world record for a half marathon on a treadmill in the Marathon Sports store on Boylston St. He needed to beat the time of 67 minutes, 29 seconds, which he had already done on the roads more than once. Marathon Sports was clearly attracting the attention of the city as many folks who walked in between 10AM and 11:07AM expecting to purchase gear wound up supporting Tyler as he attempted to break a world record. With all his hard work and the cheers and support of those who witnessed it, Tyler managed to cover the 13.1 miles in 67’18”, breaking the world record by 11 seconds.
How does it feel racing on a treadmill as opposed to the roads? Which do you find easier?
I think that (like all things) there are upsides and downsides to running very hard on a treadmill. When you run on a treadmill you don’t have wind or hills or bad weather to deal with, which is a huge help. You also have a lot more control; you can set the pace exactly as you want and it’s perfectly consistent. The biggest difference that I noticed in terms of pacing is that the machine is setting the pace, as opposed to your body setting the pace. When you go out and run a race, you’re generally running by feel. And then, when you get tired you naturally start to slow down.
What I found—and this actually helped me—is when you are running really hard on a treadmill you have to actively slow down. You have to press a button to make yourself slow down instead of your body naturally slowing as it would on the roads or track. For me, there was a long stretch in the middle of the record where I was feeling pretty bad, but I kept going mostly because I really didn’t want to have to push the button and make myself slow down. Instead of the effort staying the same and the pace getting slower, the pace is staying the same and it’s just getting harder and harder to maintain. This can be really beneficial because it can help you push through the hard spots.
Finally, it can be tough to run a race without any other competitors! Running against the clock is always hard - whether you’re running for a National Championship qualifier on the track or a fast time on the roads or a world record on a treadmill. Running solo is always tough. But for me, I had a huge group of supporters that were there cheering me on and that gave me a ton of strength, so I don’t think I ever really was alone!
If your record gets taken down at any point in the near future, would you do this again to try and recapture the crown?
It’s certainly a possibility. This run was first and foremost a fundraising event for STRIVE (www.strivetrips.org) – the organization for whom I work and who sponsors me as an athlete. We were raising money to support the development of a community center we’re building in rural Peru as well as student scholarships, so that was another great motivation for me to have!
So, to answer your question, I think I could take another shot at the record if I had another great cause to stand behind. Right now, I’m just focused on the Boston Marathon next month, though, so I haven’t thought too far past that!
How exactly do you manage to handle 150+ mile weeks (at altitude too)? Most of the highest volume runners out there will top out at just over 100. Did you run close to or at that kind of volume while at Tufts?
For me, volume has always been an extremely gradual but consistent buildup over the course of about six years. I didn’t start running until fairly late (senior year of high school), at which point I met my (still current) coach, Jon Waldron. I ran on my own under Jon’s tutelage until I transferred after freshman year of college to Tufts to run in the NCAA. At that point, I’d built up mileage consistently and injury-free from basically nothing to about 80 miles per week over the course of those three years.
At Tufts, I was fairly lucky in that I was given a good amount of freedom when it came to running a lot. My coach at Tufts was definitely more conservative when it came to running very high volume, which I think was reasonable given the extremely demanding life of a varsity student-athlete (I was a mechanical engineering and astrophysics major, so I had a fairly demanding course-load beyond athletics).
Still, I put a ton of time and effort into my training (which includes all the things NOT running as well – getting enough sleep, eating well, recovering well between hard runs, etc.), so I was able to continue pushing the envelope and seeing what my body could handle. I peaked in the 100 miles per week (MPW) range as a sophomore, 120 MPW as a junior, and 130 MPW as a senior. Most of these really big weeks would be during summer/winter base phases when I wouldn’t have as many obligations with regards to school, so that made it a bit easier to handle.
And each year, I continued improving and found myself both handling and even enjoying running these very high-mileage weeks (I remained injury-free through college with the exception of a sprained back sustained while moving a dresser). Since I both saw positive results and enjoyed the process, I knew that I wanted to keep pushing myself when I graduated. And it only seemed natural to try to raise the volume a bit more again as I started to look at half marathon and now marathon.
So now, I’m running 140-155 in my build-up to the Boston Marathon and feeling great. A lot of what I’m doing right now in my training is new as this is my first marathon and so far my body seems to be responding really well. I guess that’s the most important thing I can say about surviving or even thriving in a very high-mileage program: you need to listen to your body and understand your limits. I’ve had a lot of times over the last few years where I’ve felt I was right on the edge of doing too much and getting hurt, and so I backed off. If you know yourself well enough to do this and really enforce it and not be afraid to say “no, this is too much,” then you’re probably ready to tackle something new.
What are your goals for Boston? Will you be starting in the elite wave?
I was invited to debut in Boston, which is a huge honor for me (both as a runner and a Bostonian!). As this will be my first marathon and Boston is notoriously difficult – due to unpredictability in weather and the challenging course – my goals are a bit more conservative. Mostly, I just want to race well and learn from the experience. I’m sure this won’t be my last marathon, so any lessons I can take for next time are going to be valuable.
In terms of specific time goals – when my coach and I started planning a marathon for this spring, we’d originally talked about running a flatter course and going for a good debut time. Based on my 20km (1’02’13) time, we thought something in the 2’16-20 range would be a good goal. So, my marathon paced workouts are based around that goal pace (~3’16-18/km), but that’d be more applicable on a course like Chicago or London. In Boston, I’d expect it to be a bit slower (even in good weather) and I’ll mostly judge my success on how I feel I competed with the other runners.
If you go into Boston with a tip-top fitness level and the weather and road conditions are ideal, do you think a trials qualifier is possible?
I certainly think it’s possible, but I wouldn’t hold that as the only mark of success. I am in very good shape right now – what I consider “new ground” fitness. I recently did a workout which Canova often uses for his marathoners. He has his guys run 40km hard in the middle of a big week of training (so no taper), where the time for 40km tends to be a decent predictor for tapered marathon time (for example, Wilson Kipsang did this workout and ran 2’03’2x before running the marathon WR, also 2’03’2x). Anyways, I ran 40km in 2’15’49 in the middle of a 150 mile week last weekend. Since this is my first rodeo, I don’t know how exactly that’ll translate to race-day (for example, my run was at sea-level, compared to Canova’s guys who generally do this run at around 8000ft), but it’s definitely something I have not been able to do before, which is really exciting.
So, I wouldn’t count anything out. I probably won’t go out super-fast with eyes only on a USOT qualifier, but if everything comes together on race day, I wouldn’t count it out.
Tyler will be repping his blue and green Strive Racing uniform and sporting bib #115. The Level wishes Tyler the best of luck in his training for the Boston Marathon. Be sure to look out for him on race day and give him some support!
For more on Tyler’s record run, check out his blog entry Race Against Time.