Where Your Dreams Become Reality: Tyler Andrews From 18 Minutes for 5k in High School to 50k World Record?

by LetsRun.com
April 11, 2018

On Friday morning at the Santa Barbara Easter Relays sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE, Tyler Andrews, who was an 18-minute 5k runner in high school, will attempt to break the world record for 50k (31.1 miles) of 2:43:48 set by Thompson Magawana en route to winning the Two Oceans Marathon in 1988. That record turns 30 years old on Thursday.

Tyler’s record attempt will be run on the track. They’ll start off going counter-clockwise and then switch directions mid-run. In order to break the record, Tyler will need to run 5:16 per mile or 2:18:05 through the marathon and keep going for a little less than 5 more miles. The plan is to have 3 pacers for the first 20 miles and then Tyler will be on his own the final 11 miles. Tyler intends to start off slightly slower than pace and then pick it up to 3:15 per kilometer (3:16.2 per kilometer is the record pace).

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Tyler’s story is a cool one and we liked it so much we did our first “Where Your Dreams Become Reality” podcast (68 minutes) with him, which we encourage you to listen to below (Full podcast here or in player), but we’ve got highlights of his career and of the podcast in textual form below.

Tyler training in Quiot (via his instagram)

Tyler training in Quito (photo by Melanie Ng)

Highlights of His Career
In high school, Tyler was a “music nerd” and only went out for cross country to get the athletic credit which was required at his school. The first three years he ran, he thought there were two types of runners: “fast runners” and “slow runners.” He was one of the slow runners. It wasn’t until his senior year at Concord (MA) Academy when new coach Jon Waldron instilled in him the idea that with training, he could get better. Tyler said that was a very “powerful idea” and soon he had the running bug.

Tyler didn’t break 18 minutes for 5k in high school, but he became a runner. He took a gap year before going to college and traveled to Quito, Ecuador, where he discovered high altitude training. Then he attended Skidmore College, which didn’t have a cross country team, but where he continued to train, dropping his 5k PR to 15:37.

He then transferred to Tufts University for its engineering program and Tufts did have a cross country and track team. While Tyler did make DIII nationals once in cross country and once in track (with a 10k PR of 30:22), he wasn’t the best guy on his team and was never a DIII All-American.

But he loved running and knew he was made for the longer distances. After college, he put in another altitude stint in Quito, where he lived in the basement of a hostel. He did grunt work, even cleaning the toilets in return for room and board, but he was living his dream as it gave him time to race on the weekends.

Tyler also was now working with STRIVE, a group that puts on educational running trips for high schoolers and adults to Peru and Kenya (STRIVE is a LetsRun.com advertiser), and eventually would become a STRIVE director and co-owner. STRIVE gave Tyler something to do between runs and his running kept gradually improving. There were no magical jumps, but his marathon debut was a 2:21 in Boston and then after he ran a 2:16:59 at CIM he decided to give the 50k a shot. He made the US team for the World 50k Champs and in his second chance at the 50k Worlds got the silver medal for the US.

Tyler thought he might be done with the 50k distance, but Coach Waldron told him the world record might be a possibility. Hoka One One got behind the idea and they are supporting the record attempt and an invitational mile at the meet (their headquarters are in Santa Barbara).

Highlights from the Podcast

Tyler training in Quito (photo from STRIVE website)

Tyler training in Quito (photo from STRIVE website)

On High School:  “I really started out as a 21 minute runner (for 5k). Freshman and sophomore year of high school I was really a music nerd. I was in all the bands. We just had to get a sports credit at school, so cross-country was the thing that I did because I didn’t think of myself as athletic and I didn’t think of myself as coordinated…. That’s how I ended up on the cross country team. It wasn’t until my senior year where we got a new coach who really connected with me, John Waldron, who really instilled with me this idea that running is something you can better at (with hard work and training). This is how naive I was about the sport. I essentially thought fast runners were fast and slow runners were slow and that was it and I was a slow runner and there was nothing I could do about that. It was this very basic idea he instilled in me that, ‘Hey if you train you can get better at this’. To me that was a really powerful idea.

So I started to train and I started to get better…and it was so rewarding… at that point I caught the bug of running that so many people do.”

More HS Thoughts: “I think I was really lucky that I was at small school and in a small league (as it let me just focus on my own improvement and I thought I was better than I was)…. I didn’t know people counted mileage.

Once I realized I could get better (by training) I actually didn’t think there was some limit. Most people who know more about the sport, there is this paradigm that …to be really good in college you have to be really good in high school and I just had no sense of that. My understanding was so basic that if I train I’ll get better. I distinctly remember watching the 2007 Marathon Trails where Ryan Hall won in New York City and watching that race and being like ‘I want to do that.’ For an 18:30 17-year-old guy to want to do that [is crazy] … If I had known that at the time it would have been very disheartening and I don’t know if I would have stuck with the sport. One of the things I try to stress with kids is don’t worry about being super fast in high school. There are a lot of paths to success.”

On improving: “I never made like one huge jump… Every year… I just kept getting a little better every season. I made DIII cross and track nationals once.

I knew I could get better…  And I knew the marathon was going to be my best event (he ran up to 120 miles a week in college with even an odd week as high as maybe 140).”

On going back to Quito to train in 2013:  “I was living in the windowless basement of this hostel with three other guys in this tiny space. I was working 25 hours a week for essentially room and board and I thought ‘This is great.’ I work 5 hours a day and this gives me time to train and my weekends to race and I get food and I get a place so sleep. What more do I need than that?” (He raced every weekend for 3 months.)

On training in Quito (9,000 feet): He said he’s done some runs as high as 11,400 feet but in 15 minutes can be at 7000 feet and in 2 hours at sea level. He’s been training with essentially an Olympic Development Group in Ecuador coached by Franklin Tenorio (2:10 marathoner) that has Olympians including Miguel Ángel Almachi.

Listen below (or here):

More: Tyler’s instagram (He’ll hopefully have a livestream of the race there. It starts at 7:30am  pacific on Friday.)
50k World Record Homepage and Tylers Training logs on Strive site
*Dyestat Profile On Tyler
The American record by Josh Cox is only 7 seconds slower than the World Record. The track 50k record (2:48:06) is a backup possibility if Tyler can not break the 2:43:48 any surface mark.

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