Marc Scott Leaving Bowerman Track Club, Plans To Train With Eliud Kipchoge & Patrick Sang In Kenya
Marc Scott on His Up & Down 2022, Leaving Bowerman TC, & Joining NN Running Team
By Jonathan Gault
January 17, 2023
In December, British Olympian Marc Scott announced he was leaving the Bowerman Track Club after five years with the team. It came at the end of a year that featured some incredible highs (a 12:57.08 European record in the indoor 5,000, a World Indoor bronze at 3,000 meters) and disappointing lows (a 12th-place finish in the 10,000 at the European Championships).
“I honestly thought I’d represent the Bowerman Track Club for the duration of my professional career,” Scott wrote in a farewell post on Instagram, “but after 5 years with this group I will be making a change for 2023 and beyond.”
Several significant changes are in store for the 29-year-old Scott, who had been based in the US since coming to the University of Tulsa in 2012. He has changed agencies, from Tom Ratcliffe‘s Kimbia Athletics to Global Sports Communication, where he will work with Dutch agent Daan van den Berg. He is changing events, shifting his focus from the track to the roads (a marathon debut is planned for this spring). And most significantly, he is switching teams: Scott will now represent the NN Running Team, the same squad repped by legends Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, and Joshua Cheptegei.
Scott plans to split his time between the UK and Kenya, where he is hoping to be able to join Kipchoge’s group under coach Patrick Sang in Kaptagat. I caught up with him two weeks ago for an interview, just before he left for a training camp in Kenya. Scott explained his reasons for leaving Bowerman TC, his relationship with former coach Jerry Schumacher, and why he wanted to join NN Running and work with Sang and (hopefully) Kipchoge.
This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
LRC: I want to start with your 2022 season. As a whole, how do you feel the year went for you?
MS: Started off with a flyer really, obviously with indoors. Coming out of Flagstaff running really well, did some great stuff with the Bowerman guys when we were in Flagstaff just dropping to Sedona and Phoenix and hitting some really good stuff. Obviously with that being said, 12:57 at BU and then highlighted by a World Indoor bronze medal. So that really set me up for some good things, I was in great shape.
I thought outdoors was going to be a huge success coming off of that and it was actually quite the opposite, really. Just wasn’t pleased at all with the outdoor season. Had a bacterial infection, had COVID, which all kind of put a spanner in the works so to say. I never really reached full potential in any of those major championships, which was a shame. Obviously pleased to qualify for all three, but I don’t really go to the big events just to qualify. Yeah, I made the world final but couldn’t do anything in the final. So that was a bit of a shame, really.
I think another thing, being up in Park City for a very long time, high altitude, kind of took its toll a little bit. So I think that combined with the illness just didn’t really pan out to good things for me…So 2022 on the whole, up and down. Started off really well and then things took a bit of a turn and hopefully now things are looking back up with a new team.
How long were you guys in Park City for?
I would say it would have been approaching 11 or 12 weeks at that point. So a long time. But that’s just what the system is, a couple of months in Flagstaff at the start of the year and pretty much all of the summer season in Utah. So I knew what to expect and had run well coming out of there in the past. Just unfortunate timing with those things. I did leave early [before Worlds] – I just wanted a bit of sea-level before I was heading to Eugene just to try to have a few extra days’ recovery. It maybe helped a little bit to make the final, but obviously the day of the final I wasn’t at my best.
So why are you leaving Bowerman?
A lot of people are asking. It’s kind of a host of reasons all coming together at once. One, I didn’t want to move to Eugene. It’s not a place where I wanted to live and call home, especially being from the UK and being so far away. I know it’s not a big difference from Portland but we were pretty settled in Portland and I was happy with the environment there.
Secondary, I didn’t think we’d really get as much time and effort from Jerry. I just thought he was going to be run off his feet with a lot of college athletes as well. So I wasn’t really in favor of the move to Eugene to start with.
[Also] my five-year visa, my P1 athlete visa, expired during the summer. So in order to come back to the US for a long period of time, I was going to have to renew that. I had spent 10 years in the US and I was ready for a change.
And then most of all, coming off the disappointing track season I wanted to focus on the roads a little more knowing that’s where my strength lies. I’m not saying it’s happening with the team at the minute, but [with] what I thought would be a lack of emphasis from Jerry in regards to the Bowerman Track Club, I was just thinking to myself, maybe once I do go onto the roads, I want to go into the marathon and do longer stuff, it maybe would have been hard for him to set aside two hours to come and ride with me on the bike, for example, if I was doing a marathon session.
After 10 years in the US, I was just ready to spend more time in the UK and in Europe. So all those things accumulated together, which kind of made my decision for me.
What was the consensus opinion [on Schumacher taking the Oregon job and moving BTC to Eugene]? Did the other guys seem on board with it or were there some other people who were hesitant like you? What was the mood like among your teammates?
There was a lot of hesitancy about moving to Eugene. Just with it being so close to Portland, we thought maybe we could commute to Eugene for workouts, essentially, and live in our houses which we had all established in Portland. So people were definitely were upset. Probably more upset than happy, on the whole for the team. If it was a big out-of-state move, I think people would have been more on board, but a little change in scenery to Eugene wasn’t really what we would have been expecting.
There were definitely question marks amongst a lot of people, but Jerry assured everyone that things wouldn’t be changing for anyone, really, on the team. It would just be an enhancement of facilities and things like that. He said nothing would change with regards to the Bowerman Track Club.
Are you still going to be with Nike moving forward?
Yeah, I just signed a new contract at the start of the year with Nike so I’m good for another couple of years. I’m staying with Nike. That was one thing I wanted to ensure, I wanted to stay with them and they wanted me to keep representing them as well.
Where are you going to be based and who will be coaching you?
At the minute I don’t have a coach, I’m pretty much self-coaching. In a couple days, I’m going to Kenya for a training camp. I’ll be in Iten with a bunch of British guys to start with and then I’m going to move over to Kaptagat and train with Eliud Kipchoge’s group. And then from then onwards, it’s not official as of yet, but I’m hoping to work with Patrick Sang moving forward as I go to the marathon. But obviously, we need to establish our relationship when I’m there, see if I like the setup and his coaching philosophy, things like that. We communicated a little but wanted to meet in person first and start things up and running that way.
Have you ever been to Kenya before?
No, it’s going to be my first time, actually.
If you end up working with Patrick, do you imagine you’ll be based in Kenya for months at a time?
In an ideal world, I’d [alternate] between the UK and obviously go to Kenya for training camps and be based in Kaptagat. That’s the scenario right now. With NN Running, I’m not tied down to a certain coach or a certain location. So that is nice. With that freedom, I can explore what works the best for me and they’re pretty on board with that too. I’m hoping things go well and take off with the group there and Patrick and we can work together when I’m there in Kaptagat and whilst I’m in the UK as well.
The training camp in Kaptagat, obviously the dorms there are going to be a little bit different to where you were staying in Park City or Flagstaff. Are you mentally prepared for that sort of downgrade in accommodations?
That stuff doesn’t really bother me, honestly. Although it’s nice to have your own room and bathroom and things like that, I understand that’s not the way it’s going to work over in Kaptagat. It will just more be a privilege to be in that environment, training with the greatest of all time and in a way getting his approval to be amongst the team and his camp. All those things won’t really affect me at all. A good night of sleep and the training will take care of itself. It’s definitely going to be a shock, don’t get me wrong, but I’m excited for the challenge.
Have you met Eliud before?
I haven’t. It will be my first time.
I wanted to talk a little more about your time with Bowerman. A number of athletes have said how tough their first year under Jerry was as they adapt to the intensity of the training and workouts. Did you experience that as well?
Yeah, I experienced that for a couple years. I joined in 2017. 2018 wasn’t great and nor was 2019. I had a stress fracture in both of those years. Made the World Championships coming out of college in London for 2017 and then also made the Doha World Championships in 2019 and sandwiched in the middle, 5th at the Europeans [in the 5,000] in the middle in Berlin.
But I never really got into my running. There was always interruptions throughout those couple of years, just with injury and adapting to that really high training load. A lot of quick running in spikes, which I didn’t do in college. So it was a big adjustment but I think to persevere and come out the other side really helps a lot. To get those years of Jerry training under you has really done big things for me and enabled me to run 12:57 and 27:10.
It’s very difficult and there’s not many people who can jump straight in and not get hurt. Obviously Grant [Fisher]’s done a great job, just a few minor hiccups along the way, which is pretty incredible and his results are showing today why it works the way it does.
Can you remember the toughest workout you ran under Jerry?
Oh, they’re all pretty hard, if I’m honest. It just depends on what you’re good at. I came from a background at Tulsa where track work and speed was not really a thing. Yeah, we’d go on the track and we’d do 1k’s and 800’s, but nothing of any pace. So at first for me the hardest things were altitude and doing all-out speed sessions in spikes.
As an example, we’d do pretty much an all-out 300. Some people would do 39-40 seconds, something like that. Then we’d get full rest, six or seven minutes. And then you’d do a 200, all-out pretty much, running 24 or 25. Full rest again, then you’d have six 150’s, progressing every 50 meters, just to get some running in. And then on the back end, you’d have a 200 and a 300 again, all-out, trying to match what you ran in the first set.
For me, that stuff was really hard, just because I’d never really do a lot of it. I would do 10-mile tempos in college and the mile repeats, the tempos under his system, the long runs were really good for me, came naturally.
It seems like through that, you were able to develop a bit more of a kick – you got the medal at World Indoors. Do you think that stuff ended up paying off for you?
Yeah, it did, definitely. I think I always had a bit of speed, I just didn’t touch on it too often in college. 2017, when I won NCAAs [in the 10,000], I used a kick there (Scott closed in 55.44 for his last lap). [Though it was] nothing [compared] to what I can do now, I feel like. I think the strength accumulated with all that work really did pay off in the long run. And still I can touch on it today, which is nice. And hopefully it will come to use on the roads as well.
How did you get along with Jerry as a coach?
Really well. We had a good time, a lot of laughs. He’s a great storyteller and can make a lot of people laugh. For the most part, we had a great relationship. Things don’t always go smoothly, people butt heads, but never any instances when we had any negative energy between us. It’s been a really good five years working with Jerry and that’s what we said when we called and chatted about me leaving the group. And we’ve had some great highlights along the way.
What did you like about him?
I liked his stubbornness and knowing that the decision he made was for the benefit of the given athlete he was working with. He would send people to different meets when he could maybe send everyone to the same meet, as an example. Everything was really set in stone for the given outcome. In the buildup to World Champs for example, based on whatever day you were competing, counting back the days, you’d have your last big, hard workout 10 days beforehand. That meant people were driving to the track [on different days] – it was an hour drive from where we were in Park City down to Orem where we’d use the track at Utah Valley University. It was just things like that. Everything was about the athlete in that sense. You knew everything was lined up for you really well. That’s what I liked about him. He was very thorough. We knew if everything personally had gone well going into the race, you’d be ready to go on the start line.
Jerry has a reputation for being fairly controlling about his athletes’ race schedules. Did you ever experience that? Was there ever a race you wanted to do but couldn’t?
Yeah, there was. He is controlling and I think that’s because he looks at the bigger picture. For me, it was more I’d want to come home and do European Cross Country, for example, and he just pretty much straight up said no. And once he’s made up his mind, then like I said, he’s stubborn, he’s pretty set on that. But it’s because he has the big picture in mind and doesn’t think a European championship in cross country is necessary. He’d rather me train with a group and get more benefit that way than traveling overseas, getting away from the training environment and missing training, essentially.
A few of the women who have left the team in recent years said Jerry wasn’t all that flexible with adapting his training if an athlete felt there was a need to do so. Do you think that’s a fair criticism? Did you ever experience that?
I think that’s fair because, yeah, because he’s set in his ways. He’s done it for many years and knows what works. But for me, I thought I was a great fit for the Bowerman Track Club from day 1. And I didn’t feel a need for anything to change, knowing that they do hit speedwork quite often and that was a thing I needed to work on anyway, compiled with the strength I’d already done and what he would continue to do. Fair criticism but didn’t impact me in any way at all.
Did the Houlihan case and Jerry continuing to coach her last year have anything to do with your decision to leave?
Not at all. We knew what was going on with the rules, with the lawyer and things like that. That didn’t change anything for me. If it was going to, I probably would have left the group straight away.
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, when she left the group, she said she felt there was uncertainty about whether Jerry’s arrangement with Shelby was going to endanger her. But you felt it was pretty clear to you?
Yeah, a few people had chats with Jerry and if there was any uncertainty, then the way to go forward was to chat to him about it and get his take on the rules. Maybe there was uncertainty at the time for some people. But if we didn’t want to train with the group, then we didn’t have to. That was our choice. I never felt in danger of anything at the time.
Looking at 2023, will you try to run some track races? Will you try to run Worlds? Or is it completely focused on the roads now?
I wouldn’t rule the track out of question by any means. Obviously, it depends on how the road season goes. I am planning at the minute a spring marathon. But it depends how the buildup goes. If I’m ready to do a marathon in the spring, I’ll take a shot at one, with the outlook being the Olympic standard and Paris 2024. But if that doesn’t go well, I’ll have a lot of running under me hopefully and I’ll be fit enough where I can hopefully put some track stuff on top of that. I could look to maybe do the 10k, I could even do the 5k still. I wouldn’t rule out the track 100% but the main emphasis is going to be on the roads.
Did you ever think about running World XC? Did that appeal to you?
It never did, honestly. It’s just a lot of travel. That was the main reason that put me off. And with my focus being on the roads, it interferes with the buildup to my spring marathon. You have to fly to Sydney and there’s a long trip after that, three hours to the venue. It seems like a lot of travel and just something I didn’t want to get involved with.
Why move to the roads at this point in your career?
I’ve seen a trend with a lot more younger athletes going onto the roads. I just turned 29. Not saying that’s old, but I feel like I’ve accomplished things on the track which I maybe didn’t think I’d be able to. Sub-13 being one and even and a World medal. I feel like I’ve always been good on the roads from a junior. That’s where my career started off and my first coach always said he thought my potential does one day lie on the roads. I’ve always kept that in the back of my mind.
I’ve run a couple of good half marathons, 10K’s on the roads. I just really enjoy the road running scene. It’s not as intense, it’s very enjoyable. You get some hills, there’s different conditions, different scenery. It’s not just round and round. The training is a lot different and I was excited and motivated for a change, really.