Will Geoghegan Q & A: The Secrets Of Going From 4:05 To 3:58 In The Mile Are Revealed

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Geoghegan, arguably the hottest runner in the NCAA, is enjoying big breakthrough after big breakthrough during his senior year at Dartmouth.

by Robert Johnson
January 29, 2014

Every runner dreams of the big breakthrough. How many guys and gals actually achieve it their senior year? Very, very few.

Dartmouth senior Will Geoghegan is enjoying big breakthrough after big breakthrough in 2013-2014.

Heading into the fall, Geoghegan never made NCAAs before in cross-country or track (he did have a 13:55 PR). When the season was over, he was leaving Terre Haute with All-American honors after a 14th-place showing (8th American) after finishing only 13th at his conference meet.

Would he build on that in track?

Yes. Last week, he went into the mile at BU’s Terrier Classic with a 4:05.71 PR. He left with the first collegiate sub-four of the year and a 3:58.04. Yes, he whacked 7.67 seconds off his PR at BU in a meet where his two teammates Steve Mangan and John Bleday had big PRs as well by running 4:01.31 and 4:01.44 respectively (more on that here).

As a result, LetsRun.com reached out to Geoghegan via email earlier this week to learn the back story on Geoghegan and to try to find what’s in the water in tiny Hanover, NH (population 10,850) where Geoghegan and the Big Green of Dartmouth, including Abbey D’Agostino, train (as well as 13:04 5,000 man Sam Chelanga and 13:11 man Ben True).

There was a lot to learn about the Brunswick, Maine native who ran a grand total of a week and a half in the summer his first three years in high school and quit the Dartmouth team three years ago after a disappointing first cross-country season.

Below you see our full Q & A with Geoghegan.

LetsRun: Will, congrats on the Ivy League record in the indoor mile. 3:58 in January is very fast, particularly for someone who seemingly is a 5,000 guy and only had a 4:05 personal best coming in. What was your goal coming into the race? Did you know you were fit because after you beat Sam Chelanga in 4:05 (on Dartmouth’s flat track), he went on to run 13:04 or are you pretty surprised by the result? How exciting was it to see 3:58 on the board when your previous PR was 4:05?

Will Geoghegan of Dartmouth at the 2013 NCAA XC. *More 2013 NCAA XC Photos

Will Geoghegan of Dartmouth at the 2013 NCAA XC. *More 2013 NCAA XC Photos

Will Geoghegan: Thanks! The goal was to go sub-4 and I got a little lucky getting into the heat with the perfect rabbiting job (Editor’s note. There were two evenly-seeded heats at BU and Geoghegan was in heat two, which the rabbit took out in 1:59, whereas heat 1 went out in 2:03). The atmosphere at BU is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The crowd is absolutely electric, and I was just feeding off that energy during the last 400.

Leading up to Terrier, I was pretty pumped when I beat Sam at the Dartmouth Relays since he’s such a phenomenal runner, but he’s not a miler and I just slipped by him on the last straightaway so I tried not to read too much into it. John (Bleday), Steve (Mangan) and I have been working out together all month and Barry (Dartmouth coach Barry Harwick) was confident we could all get under 4 – I’m sure both those guys would have been right there with me if they had been in my heat.

As for being a 5K guy, that’s actually the subject of some debate on our team. In high school I considered myself a miler and I still think of myself that way. My first successful season in college, however, was junior year XC (Mangan was 5th at Paul Short and the Ivy League championships). After that I promptly got injured and had a sub-par indoor season (Mangan ran only 8:31.31/4:05.71 but did win the IC4A mile after placing third at conference in the mile), so that’s when I think a lot of people decided I’m a 5K/10K guy (after I ran 13:55.92 at Mt. SAC). I would compromise and call myself a 3K guy but my 3K PR is 8:31.

What is the focus for you the rest of indoors individually? I just talked to your coach – Barry Harwick – and he said you guys are going for a DMR qualifier this weekend at Penn State. Will you have time to try to get an NCAA qualifier in the 3,000 or 5,000 or will you take your chances in the mile?

Barry and I still aren’t 100% sure what I’ll be doing between Penn State and Heps. It’s either a 3K or another mile at either the Valentine or Scarlet & White BU meets. No 5K this winter – the idea of a 25 lap race absolutely terrifies me.

So you hate 25 laps. Guess that means Tom McArdle’s Ivy League record of 28:18.21 is safe? Does the legend that is/was Tom McArdle live on in Hanover or is it totally like, “Who?”

Oh man, we found that post a couple years ago and John Bleday studies it like it’s the Rosetta Stone. He’s rediscovered a couple of cool runs in Hanover that our team had collectively forgotten about by reading it. Tom’s legend absolutely lives on; the guy was an animal! He’s been known to make appearances at some of our Boston meets in indoor.

As for the record, I wouldn’t put money (NCAA violations aside) on an attempt at it on my part. I hear Harvard has a pretty good 5K/10K guy though.

And outdoors, will the 5,000 be the focus?

I’ll probably try to hit Regionals times in both the 1,500 and 5K and run whichever Barry and I think I have a better shot in at Regionals. One thing I won’t be doing is trying another steeplechase. There’s a video somewhere of me making a fool of myself at a High Point meet during spring break last year (Editor’s note: Geoghegan ran 9:24.83).

Will Geoghegan (r) at 5k of 2013 NCAAs with Villanova's Patrick Tiernan. *More 2013 NCAA Cross Country Photos

Will Geoghegan (r) at 5k of 2013 NCAAs with Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan. *More 2013 NCAA Cross Country Photos

You ran 3:58 in heat two (evenly split from what I understand) and just before that you had two teammates also get under Sam Wilbur’s old school record of 4:02.26 as Steve Mangan and John Bleday ran 4:01.31 and 4:01.44 after going out in 2:03. So adding that up, Dartmouth has 3 guys at 12:00.79 (4:00.26 average). Looks like you are 3/4ths of the way home to a very good 4 x mile and you’ve got Tim Gorman at 8:11 in the 3k so he’s got to be able to go sub-4:05. Will that be a focus at Penn Relays?

The Penn 4 x mile is definitely on our radar. We ran it last year and had a rough day (16:40ish), but I think we’ll be ready to compete this year. Sundance (or Tim, as you called him) is ready to do some big things in the mile, and aside from the guys you mentioned, Henry Sterling ran 4:07 last winter and Silas Talbot ran 3:47 in the spring. Between those six guys we should have four legs ready to go.

Looking at the early indoor results, it looks like the Dartmouth distance squad is on fire up there. There are 7 guys under 8:20 in the 3,000 already, 5 under 4:09 in the mile. Throw in Ben True and Sam Chelanga and Hanover, NH has to be the fastest place in the country per capita. What’s in the water up there? It seems like you guys are really moving forward and building on your 24th-place team showing at NCAAs. Can you talk a little about how well the team is doing right now?

We’re pretty much firing on all cylinders right now. A few of our younger guys are having breakout seasons, so I’m confident they’ll keep the train rolling after the ’14s graduate.

We’re in a good place in that we’re managing to keep it fun while working our butts off. I think it’s easy for a college runner who follows all the pros to start thinking he has to live and train like they do to succeed. We had great role models in the classes ahead of us, and hopefully we’re not doing too much to corrupt the youth right now.

It’s also nice being able to watch Ben and Sam running completely ridiculous workouts in Leverone to remind us that we have a long way to go.

You came into indoors after a surprising 14th place at NCAAs (after finishing just 13th at Heps). Did that give you a ton of confidence? Can you tell us a little bit about your training in general and more specifically about your training since XC – what did you do to be able to run 3:58?

If you had asked me in August where I wanted to be at NCAAs, 14th would have been about right. But I got sick the week of Wisconsin and dropped a HUGE bomb there (Geoghegan was 148th), then had a rough race at Heps after that. Given that, I was thrilled with my finish at NCAAs – it was a great way to end XC and transition into the track season.

I’ve averaged somewhere about 70 miles per week since early/mid December. We did some fartleks and tempos in December and have transitioned to more race pace stuff since then – our last big workout before Terrier was 4x2x600. There’s a nice dynamic in my current workout group with John and Steve. John likes to hammer the long runs, I like to hammer the workouts, and Steve is the smart one who keeps us from killing ourselves.

I know you’ve got indoor and outdoor left for next year. What schools are you looking at?

The Ivy League doesn’t allow graduate students to compete, so I’ve applied to Master’s programs in other conferences where I can use my 5th year of eligibility. I’m looking at schools that have both strong distance programs and strong Master’s programs in Computer Science.

Computer science – interesting. What are you doing this summer? We could use an intern – we’d even pay you and let you train in Flagstaff like Employee 1.1. Any interest? What as a computer expert would you do to LetsRun if we gave you free rein?

What would I do for letsrun … maybe write a program that can guess a MB poster’s PRs based on how much they hate on Rupp?

Can you tell us a little bit about your high school career in Maine. It sounds like you won everything in sight (Geohegan was named the Gatorade Maine Runner of the Year both his junior and senior years and his senior year he won the Maine state 800, mile, and two-mile championships). I’ve got your senior year PRs but can you tell me how you ran and what you ran the other years?

9th grade:
PRs: 17:34 XC 5K, 10:22 2 mile, 4:55 mile
Mileage: 20ish
Weeks/seasons per year: Only ran XC and indoor. Baseball in the spring, varsity video gaming in the summer.

10th grade:
PRs:
16:30 XC 5K, 9:38 3200, 4:25 1600
Mileage: 20ish
Weeks/seasons per year: XC, indoor, and outdoor. Ran, like, 3 times over the summer.

11th grade:
PRs:
16:13 XC 5K, 9:23 3200, 4:22 1600
Mileage: 20-25
Weeks/seasons per year: XC, indoor, and outdoor. Did a 1 week XC camp over the summer to take care of the base phase.

12th grade:
PRs: 15:33 XC 5K, 9:18 2 mile, 4:12 mile, 1:56 800
Mileage: 25-35
Weeks/seasons per year: XC, indoor, and outdoor. I actually ran a couple times a week over the summer.

Anything else? Fire away. Coach Harwick told me about your rough freshman year, if you want to talk about that to try to inspire others who struggle now is your chance (I feel like tons of kids hate college freshman year and don’t realize that’s not unusual).

As I’m sure you could guess from my high school mileage, I wasn’t prepared for college training. I blew off Barry’s mileage goals over the summer before my freshman year, and despite it being my own fault, was frustrated with how my XC season went. I quit the team in January, then had a really tough time that winter. I stopped going to classes, failed all of them, and took some time off from Dartmouth in the spring. I realized I wanted to run again while I was on a month-long trip to Alaska with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) over the summer. Barry gave me another chance, as did all my teammates (whom I had really pissed off with my immaturity). I’m proud of what I’ve done since then, but it’s only been with incredible support from my family and team.

Wow, that’s a cool story. Can you provide us with the mileage and progression for college?

13th grade (frosh):
PRs: 25:34 XC 8K
Mileage: Maybe 40 in August, 50 throughout XC
Weeks/seasons per year: XC only

14th grade (so):
PRs: 25:35 XC 8K, 4:11 mile, 2:30 1000, 3:51 1500, 14:57 5K
Mileage: 40-50 over the summer, 50-60 in XC, averaged 50 in indoor and 35 in outdoor (injuries)

15th grade (jr):
PRs: 23:54 XC 8K, 30:37 XC 10K, 13:55 5K, 4:05 mile, 3:44 1500, 8:31 3K, 9:26 3K steeple
Mileage: Peaked at 85 the summer before, maintained about 70 in XC, averaged 55 in indoor and 65 in outdoor

16th grade (sr):
PRs: 23:46 XC 8K, 30:22 XC 10K, 3:58 mile
Mileage: Peaked at 90 over the summer, maintained 80 in XC, averaging about 70 so far in indoor
Weeks/seasons per year: XC and some of indoor so far

More: Message Board Talk: Will Geoghegan to NOP?
Related:
2013 NCAA XC Photos
Related: 2013 Ivy League/Heps Cross-Country Women’s Photos