“Sometimes The Breakthroughs Choose You”
December 12, 2014
We caught up with 30-year-old American marathoner Jeffrey Eggleston via email this week after he ended his 2014 campaign with a DNF at the Fukuoka Marathon.
Eggleston had a strong 2014 overal, as he set two marathon pbs (2:11:57 to finish eighth in Boston, then a 2:10:52 to finish second in Brisbane in July, previous pb of 2:12:03) and a half-marathon pb (63:00, previous pb 63:41). Not content to rest on his laurels, Eggleston really went for it in Japan as he went out with the leaders in 63:38 before dropping out after 35k. That bold running caught our attention and thus we tracked him down.
Our Q&A with Eggleston, who ends the year as America’s second-fastest marathoner (only Meb Keflezighi ran faster in winning Boston), appears below.
LRC: After two straight marathon pbs this year (2:11:57 in Boston and 2:10:52 in Brisbane in July), it looks like you went for a big one in Fukuoka last weekend as you went out in 63:38 but ended up a DNF. Can you talk to us a little bit about that race? Were you planning to “Go big or go home” all along or is that just the way things unfolded? What your race plan was heading into the race? What were you hoping to run?
JE: I felt more confident in my fitness going into Fukuoka than my previous 2 marathons this year. My training had been at a higher quality than it had for Boston and more race-specific than it had been for Gold Coast. I believed a significant PB was possible so decided that I would run more aggressively. The leaders in Fukuoka were designated to run at 3:01/km, and I felt it would make the most sense to run with the group.
As a 2:10 foreigner in Japan, I was not a race favorite so there wasn’t any pressure or expectations for me.
When did the wheels start to come off? I see that you made it to 35k on 2:12:42 pace so you got very close to finish. When did you actually drop out?
We had pacemakers until half-marathon (1:03:38), and everything felt fine; I stayed tucked in the center of the group. I began to slip off just before 30km (1:31:17 to the group’s 1:31:11). It was 3 seconds ahead of my 30km split from July (1:31:20), but I was working much harder already. While it was a gradual onset, the rough patch became much worse between 32km (it was still ok for me at 1:37 high) and 33km. I was staggering in the final kilometers leading to 35km and forced to retire.
A few days removed, I e-mailed Jack Daniels— who has mentored me since I began running the marathon– to get an objective opinion on what went wrong. He looked at my splits and noted it was likely the second 10km in 29:57 that was too stressful a pace to make this marathon sustainable. At the time I was racing, I wasn’t recording every kilometer. To change from 3:04/km in the beginning to 2:59/km for a stretch of 10km greatly impacts fuel consumption. So he conjectures that I had burned through the matchbook by 32km, which makes sense.
The DNF leads us to a question about finances. Running is a professional business. Do you still get paid by Fukuoka if you are a DNF? How much of a runner’s money is appearance fee and how much of it is based on finishing time/place?
Indeed the marathon is absolutely a professional business. I can say, however, it would have been more financially rewarding for me to finish. It’s also a blow to my credibility (and future earnings) to not perform well or DNF.
Heading into the race, how had your training been going? You’d run 4 of Competitor group’s half-marathons leading into Fukuoka, all in similar times 63:13 – 64:13 (63:13 in Philly on 9/21, 63:30 in San Jose on 10/5, 64:13 in LA on 10/26 and 63:24 in Vegas on 11/16). Were those all-out races or were those pace runs trying to get you ready for what you went out in in Fukuoka?
Training had gone quite well this fall. I confirmed for Fukuoka at the end of August, so had integrated the above races into my plans with the idea of being marathon-ready in December. Philadelphia and San Jose were competitive efforts (neither went perfectly, but good for the training load I was balancing), while I ran Los Angeles controlled by myself (targeting 1:04:00) and Las Vegas with my training mate Andy Wacker (we alternated leads at 3:00/km pace). The latter 2 runs were more of tune-ups for the marathon and I was preparing myself for a pace I might run in Fukuoka.
This year I ran 10 half-marathons and I believe 6 were in in the 63 minute range (and additionally a 63:15 pacemaking in Houston Marathon). So I have had ample practice at the pace I was running in Fukuoka. Compared to my marathon, I don’t have a very polished half-marathon PB (63:00). But I’ve seen that’s common among specialists; a faster half can be an opportunity cost when you are training to run your best in the marathon. Better marathoners can even establish a new half PB en route.
A common criticism of non-African runners is “Oh they aren’t world-class because they just try to be the best **insert name of country here American, Japanese, etc***”. Do you feel that’s a fair criticism?
It could very well be, but I don’t think the top American (or Japanese) athletes truly have a complacent mentality. We all want to get better, and there’s someone always better than you. At a certain point, you can only run to the best of your ability. That’s what I am trying to do. It’s very hard to be considered world-class on a time basis. 2:06 might not guarantee you top 30 in world.
What do you think of your 2014 year overall? The DNF must be a little disappointing but you have to be happy with the year overall as you dropped your pb from 2:12:03 to 2:10:52, right?
2014 has been a better year for me as I’ve run multiple PB’s (half-marathon and marathon) and been more competitive at some higher profile races. These improvements were also necessary for me to continue on in the sport. While I’m not enthused with how my year ended, I don’t have any regrets about going out with a big risk for a breakthrough. It’s a disappointment but I’m glad I tried. A race recruiter I really trust told me recently “sometimes the breakthroughs choose you.”
What do you think led to those PBs? It’s not like you are novice marathoner. (I see at least 16 marathons on your resume). Did you do anything different in your training this year?
Staying healthy has been the biggest reason for my improvements. Aside from that, I’m continuing to make adaptations to my training. If I want a better result, the training needs to evolve. I’m largely autonomous, basing my training off of my marathon experiences, but also conversations with other coaches and athletes have been highly influential. In the past year, I decided to reduce my weekly volume in favor of higher quality workouts. Certainly there hasn’t been one secret workout, but just doing more running at a higher specificity (to marathon pace). There may be other minor factors. Since last year, I’ve been training in Boulder and I think this environment had impacted me positively. Support system/sponsor changes have definitely helped, and more recently I’ve had a regular training partner or two, which has been great.
What’s next? Have you planned out what marathons you’ll race in 2015 heading into the 2016 Trials? What do you want to work on in 2015 to give yourself the best shot at the 2016 Olympics?
Fukuoka has shown me that I need to be stronger (by about 10km more) to be competitive. I will run up to 2 marathons in 2015 and pick up where I left off this fall. I think I need more practice racing in a championship-style atmosphere, given our Trials format. One possibility could be running in the WC in August, if I am able to qualify.
Editor’s Note: We then wrote Eggleston a follow up question as we were a little confused about his mileage goals for 2015.
One follow up, it looks as if you ran less this year but want to run 10km more next year? Is that right? How much were you running last year, this year and what do you hope to do next year?
Yes, a goal is to be strong enough to hang in the final 10km of a marathon (with a pace similar to Fukuoka). I think I can accomplish this with more training at the specific marathon pace (not necessarily more total volume).
Regarding volume, a typical training week in 2012 (leading up to my 2:12:03 in Chicago) was somewhere in the 220-230km/week (I use km, but that’s 140mi/wk range). I actually topped out just over at 270km for one week. Leading up to Boston this year, I may had only 3-4 weeks over 200km, which I found gave me the best quality per volume. For Gold Coast Marathon in July, highest week 160km.
Discuss Eggleston’s year on our messageboard: *MB: Who says Americans don’t go for it? Jeffrey Eggleston sure did. 2:10 marathoner went out in 63 at Fukuoka last weekend!!