Training as a Masters Runner: Inteview with Masters Running Record Holder Pete Magill

pete magill training masters runningPete Magill is one of the most accomplished Masters runners in the history of the United States. He’s the oldest runner to ever break 15 minutes in the 5k, running 14:45 at the age of 49 and he’s not slowing down. Recently, he became the fastest-ever American age over 50 on the roads at 5K (15:02) and 10K (31:11).

Pete has been gracious enough to join us on our show today to discuss his training, what has changed as he’s gotten older, and the principles that have enabled him to keep training hard and racing fast as a Masters runner.

Not only is Pete fast, but he’s a great runner to learn from because “he’s made every mistake in the book.” As he notes during the interview, it’s one thing to learn training principles from a book or research, but making those mistakes and trying the ideas on yourself takes your understanding and appreciation for these ideas to another level.

In the interview, Pete specifically discusses:

  • The biggest change he’s had to make in his training as he gets older
  • The importance of recovery and preventative exercises and the exact routine he uses to stay healthy
  • The approach and some of the specific workouts he’s used to maintain his speed throughout the years.
  • And most important, the lessons he’s learned and the mistakes he’s made along the way that you can learn from.

This is one of those interviews every runner should listen to. The nuggets of wisdom Pete shares is like listening to Yoda talk for 45 minutes – it’s simply awesome. I encourage you to take the time to listen on your run, in the car or find the time to read the transcript. I guarantee you’ll learn at least three awesome lessons.

Watch this week’s show now

Download the podcast version here

Links and resources mentioned in this interview:

Pete’s articles on RunningTimes

Read the Transcript


Hey! Everybody welcome back to the show. We’re really excited to have joining us today Pete Magill, who’s one of the fastest and best American Masters’ runner in the country. At age 50 he’s run 15:02 for 5K and he’s run the 10K in 31:11. That was a phenomenal times. He’s actually the oldest American to also break 15 minutes for 5K in which he ran 14:45 on the track at the age of 49.

On today’s show, Pete’s going to talk to us about the biggest differences and changes that he’s had to make in his training as he gets older. The importance of recovery and preventive routines in the exact training philosophy that he uses. And he’s also going to share some of his workouts that he uses to help maintain his speed as he gets older. And most important he’s going to share some of the lessons he’d learn along the way that way you can learn from them and prevent yourselves from making the same mistakes.

As always, if you want to access any of the resources mentioned in this podcast. Visit and if you haven’t yet, also head over to our site to grab out free marathon training e-book. Its 140 pages of specific marathon advice, train tips and lessons learned directly from the world’s top marathon runners. It also contains the detailed 16 week marathon training schedule that assembles all the training theory and specific workouts so you have a perfect plan.

Now, let’s get on to this week’s show. Hi! Pete thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to be on our podcast. We’re really excited to have you.

Pete:                Hey! It’s my pleasure to be here.

Jeff:                 Awesome! So I did a brief introduction before this interview about who you were and some of your accomplishments, but let’s tell the audience in your own words. How your story in terms of how you got started running. How you progressed and where you right now in terms of everything.

Pete:                Well, like a lot of my running peers, I got started running because I was too small going into high school to do anything else. I dreamed that a football player or a basketball player [inaudible 00:02:20] shot or catching the winning touchdown, but unfortunately I was about 5’1”, a 102 pounds when I went into high school. I went out for cross country and you know what? I loved it. I love the sport [inaudible 00:02:35] in high school—quick little break afterwards, long running on my 20’s. But like a lot of guys in my 20’s– as one of those things we trained hard, everyone had their Olympic dream. We all wanted to hear the crowd roar while we cross the finish line of big league over Europe, but didn’t quite get there, so kind of shifted into a lot of coaching. Didn’t run a while in my 30’s got back into heavily at age 39 and I’ve been coaching and competing as a master’s athlete ever since.

Jeff:                 Okay, let’s talk a little bit about your PR’s since you become a master. Because they’re quite impressive even for somebody in their 20’s, but let’s talk a little bit about somebody or recent accomplishments.

Pete:                Well, since turning 50 and trust me that was a big one. Everyone talked about 40, you turn 40 you’re still strong, but you know you’re still very– but let me tell you turn 50 and all the things they told you are going to happen, at 40 they happened. So I’m especially proud of the good marks I’ve been able to sneak in, in my 50s between bouts of injuries and [inaudible 00:03:51] which it gets all of us and 5K on the road I’ve ran 15:02, 10K 31:11. And a couple of months ago I ran half marathon at 1:10:19 down in Los Angeles. I think those are pretty good marks. [Crosstalk 00:04:10]

Jeff:                 Those are spectacular marks, I brag for you because that’s spectacular.

Pete:                Yeah, you could have taken me back to when I first entered the sport. At age 14 and my whole goal that first year was I’m going to break a 5 minute mile. Like a lot of runners that 5 minute barrier is a thing we should worry. Your guy coming into high school you want to beat a distance. Well, if you could’ve told me then that at age 50 I’ve run 6.223 miles at 5 minute pace I wouldn’t have believe you. Lot of that is luck and a lot of that is smart great.

Jeff:                 Great! Well, you know what? That’s great that actually probably is right into this whole podcast. I want to talk about that smart training and how you were able to train and compete so well at your age. And kind of continue to move forward, so let’s talk a little bit about kind of how you train in terms of– what are some of the unique challenges that as you feel that you face now as a master’s runner that you didn’t face when you were younger that you have to grapple with?

Pete:                (Laughs) the biggest change all of those things as masters’ runner is where you no longer allowed to make any mistakes. Anything you could get away with when you’re young, you try to get away with it now, it doesn’t happen. You go out and you run, you’re out a distance run, you got a schedule let’s say long run about 15 miles. You think, “God! I feel good today. I got to take it 20”. Ah-ah! You’ll feel it the next day. You’re running quarters. You think I’m going to get 70 second pace. “God! I think I feel good, I’m going to go 66 today”. Ah-ah! The next day you’re going to have a full pull hamstring or a strained hamstring or a sprained calf or some problem.

Everything you’ve thought you would get away when you’re young– not getting enough sleep, not eating, not getting a good a carbohydrate before or right after a workout. Not doing exercise and stretching after a workout. All of these things, it kind of knew in principle, but to get away with at this age you can’t. Everything has to be done [inaudible 00:06:25]. I think you probably will become a much better coach if you actually run in your 40’s. Because all the things that you always heard that you should be doing that you should be careful about, you find out the reality of those principles because they bite you instantly.

Jeff:                 Yeah, absolutely I can definitely see that. What is your routine look like in terms of your daily routine on a micro cycle of with your stretching, strength training routine looks like in your runs? And then as a whole what is your training typically look like for a normal training segment?

Pete:                Well, my training is a big niche. I discarded the idea of mileage and pace being the parameters for successful training a long time ago. I embraced the philosophy of—okay, what we’re trying to actually do is build a running body. We’re trying to build the muscle. We’re trying to build our cardio vascular system. We’re trying to wire our nervous system. What workouts will impact the by stimulus that would create the adaptations for all of those?

Now, of course even starting from that your workouts starts to look pretty much like a lot of other people workout schedules. Okay, now you’re actually applying workouts towards a purpose. So volume of course I think it’s a part of any distance runners training. My volume I think what do I need [inaudible 00:08:00] volume. Okay, we need to work those slow twitch muscle fibers. It’s a lot of volume to work those slow twitch fibers. I’ll throw in a long run during the week and I don’t actually do the mileage I’ve referenced a 15 mile run in this podcast.

I don’t go by miles I go [inaudible 00:08:19] by well I go 90 plus minutes, okay. It’s my long run, maybe I want to go 120 minutes, get out there for a couple of hours. I think a bit more long [inaudible 00:08:28]. I also try to get in volume throughout the course of the week, easy morning runs. Recovery days between hardest– in the long run I should say volume to me which is the backbone of any distance runners workout. Isn’t a week to week thing, it’s getting in the miles every day, getting in the long runs for a long period of time. It’s like the Colorado River carving out the Grand Canyon.

Jeff:                 That’s a great analogy.

Pete:                It’s an old process and too many people think, “Okay, this summer I’m going to do a 100 miles a week. I’m going to have the volume I need to be a great runner”. Wrong! You can’t get your volume in a summer of 100 miles a week. What you’ll get in a summer of a 100 miles a week especially if you have prepared for it is a fall of 20 miles one week. No miles next week. Its more miles while you’re recovering from all of the injuries you built up– shooting yourself up with heavy volume.

Jeff:                 You describe my college cross country career, so thank you (laughs).

Pete:                Oh! I had my college cross country career there. One of the benefits of being 51 is that I have the honor of making every single running mistake that can be made. Anything I give you yeah I’ve read about it. But, the only reason I feel like I can talk about it is because I made that mistake. I figured out what to do to rectify it and what to do so that I wouldn’t make it again. So that’s volume [cross talk 00:10:02]

Jeff:                 Do you mind if I interrupt you for a second? Go to volume I guess taking a little bit of volume. Do you find out since you’ve been running for such a long time and have such a lifetime base of miles that you have to spend less time on or put a less emphasis on the aerobic base because you have that years and years and years of aerobic building behind you?

Pete:                I’m glad you asked that. No, not in the list I do know some of the runners were like that. One of my very good friends a masters’ runner few years younger than me name Shaun Wade who was a New Zealand Olympic Marathon [inaudible 00:10:41] back in the day. He found that as he got closer to 40 after doing a couple of decades of applied volume. He was able to dial it back to 50, 60 miles a week with more quality orientation and he didn’t lose that aerobic base. Although, I think he’s actually starting to do a little bit more miles like, hope he gets away with that for a few years. With me a lot of the benefits go away, went away one of the things that it provides goes away.

Volume is capitalization. It’s a nervous system rewiring of how our slow twitch fibers function. It’s mitochondrial density. It creates a lot of things that we need. When I try to get by with 60 with 50 to 60 miles a week, I’ve always feel like I’m working distance or working running. When I’m running say an amusing mileage totals. I don’t actually count miles, but I got a pretty good idea of what I’ve run.

When I’m running 90 to a 100 it just feels like everything’s puffy, like my legs are turning independent of any upper of my own. I think most people who do a higher volume feel that way. The difference would be at this age you have to be very careful not to run that volume. By volume I mean the distance, you have to run the– you can’t run your distance workout as hard as when you were younger. I still remember one of those great summers of a 100 miles when my buddy Andy Decotti and I. We never ran a mile slower than six minutes. Our distance runs [inaudible 00:12:31] six minutes and finish that about 5:10. We were distance demons out there. Of course that summer ended up with me going out and decided it is time to put some speed and doing core by mile like we’re always be do core by mile and or 50 pace or something.

I found that my very first [inaudible 00:12:51] I could run like hell for 45 minutes. And I call for workout– learned a lesson about just doing volume and ignoring the other parts of training at that point. But anyway so right where were we again?

Jeff:                 That’s okay, we just finished on the aerobic stuff and we’re going to move into kind of the other part of your training program.

Pete:                Oh! No, well the one thing that let me finish it up. I go off on tens [inaudible 00:13:17]

Jeff:                 That’s good.

Pete:                So when I run at that pace when I was younger– it was really stupid. I was training like an idiot. Both Andy and I where we both admit it, we laugh at ourselves in that part, but that all good which is the excuse for doing the workout there is. Everybody who does who makes a mistake is like, “It felt good! It felt good!” It felt good when you get older you can’t do that, you have to say, “What do I have to run in order to get a 100% benefit in this workout?”

Well, the truth is I can go out there and do mileage at about 6:10 at 6:20 pace by one. Which is exactly what I do we did about 7:28 minute pace because it doesn’t matter that I can do that. I get 100% benefit from what I’m looking at about 7:20 to eight minute at this stage in my life. So I do that and I’m able to maintain volume without getting injury. A lot of my peers who can’t maintain volume anymore are still trying to run six minute pace. It doesn’t work at this age. It didn’t work at that age, but now you can’t get away with it.

Jeff:                 Right! Now, that’s a great lesson I think, because I deal as a coach I deal with that all the time. With people wanting to run faster and you’re right it’s it didn’t click until you said it, but they always say, but it feels so good to run this faster or I can and well just because you can its does not mean it’s optimal. I’m glad that somebody who has run so fast and has so much experience also has that same– can relate to that, but it is also making sure that they’re doing it right.

Pete:                Oh! Yeah, simple analogies that I use to all the aspects of training, if you’re baking a cake. There were certain ingredients you put in. There are ingredients that make that cake taste really good. A dash of vanilla might be nice. You don’t empty the whole bottle in because a dash tastes good. There are certain specific ingredients that go in to building us as runners.

Volume builds very specific aspects of what we’re trying to do as runner. To get the next benefit, we’re looking for– core training slow twitch muscles. I can train them a 100% running around seven minute pace. In order to get down to where I’m adequately training my intermediate fast twitch muscles if I’m talking about training muscle. I got to go a lot faster. I got to be probably running down around—well, I probably try to get at least to a temple pace. To be adequately giving them the stimulus they need so we’re talking about hitting down to around 5:20 pace. So between seven minute pace and 5:20 pace there’s a whole lot of opportunity to fatigue myself to use up my [inaudible 00:16:11], to incur the risk of injury.

Jeff:                 Absolutely!

Pete:                A whole lot opportunity for that without any real benefit that I’m going to get back from it.

Jeff:                 That’s awesome! I’m so glad that you said that and I try to preach that all the time. I’m so glad that you agree and that you feel that way because you’re very experienced and I think that’s great.

Pete:                Yeah! Well, it’s experienced that allows me to actually do it now. Instead of just saying, “Yeah that’s a nice idea, but man! I love finishing my runs in 5:10 pace”.

Jeff:                 Exactly, exactly.

Pete:                I used to think everybody look at us. Andy and I, we were cruising down that street, two young guys [inaudible 00:16:49] along at 5:10 pace. We were thinking yeah everybody’s look at and go, “Man, look at those guys”, they are not looking at us at all [inaudible 00:16:58] Hey! There are a couple of joggers.

Jeff:                 Like it! Like it.

Pete:                What benefits you not pretty image of what you’re doing or whatever.

Jeff:                 Absolutely, that’s great.

Pete:                So anyway–

Jeff:                 One thing that I preach a lot with all the athletes, but masters’ athletes I worked with in general more is really working on strength work in terms of the core, the hips, the glutes, the posterior chain. Do you do a lot of work with the strengthening stuff? And have you found that you need to do more now that you’ve gotten older?

Pete:                I do very little core. In fact, the only thing I throw in [inaudible 00:17:36]. I have yet to be convinced that it’s a great benefit. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of things that are beneficial that I don’t necessary include, but because we have limited adaptive ability as runners. So what are the things I am going to prioritize in my training? And core work isn’t one of them. Strength work, interestingly, I recently get a column or my column for Running Times which on cross training. One of the things I found and looking out at cross training was not oddly enough. Resistance training is one of the few types of cross training that actually meets this specificity of training requirement and it shouldn’t

Jeff:                 Interesting.

Pete:                Specificity of training meaning that you can only get benefit for the muscles you train so if you swim it’s not going to make you a better runner. But weight training actually did this and I’m talking about lower body training whether it was squats or lunges or whatever.

It not only gave us better short term endurance, but it also work for long term endurance. When you think about it that’s not as odd a concept as it seems. I mean obviously it’s not like applied squats. Now, you’re powerful and somehow that match becomes endurance, but it gives you more strength or every time you tow off the ground. Every time you’re going up a hill just for your stride in general. You’ve got more power. You deliver more power in your stride. It becomes easier to maintain that stride.

There’s no limited amount for training. I actually taught would be offer a study on this. Well, I said, okay but it would really be tough for me to work sessions in resistance training. I mean I work two jobs. I’m a consultant for a legal firm. I’m a Senior Writer [inaudible 00:19:49] for Running Times. I’ve now got a contract for a running book that’s going to publisher next August. I’m a busy guy. My son graduated high school last year, but before that I had a quarrel with him every day. Whether it was his week training [inaudible 00:20:07] football or whether whatever it was we were doing.

I said, “What about doing like short hills sports. What about doing downhill sports. What about [inaudible 00:20:23] that are [inaudible 00:20:24] nature”. Would these things create the same end result, the same adaptation? And he said, “Absolutely”. And since those things also work more than one aspect, they aren’t just hill sprints up and down don’t just work the power, they also help integrate. They also help wire your nervous system for better utilization of the muscles. They help you teach your hamstrings to relax when your quads are flexing and all those things that make our stride more efficient. So rather than just going to a weight room I can weight resistance workouts out of [inaudible 00:21:08].

Jeff:                 Now, that makes a lot of sense, and I think it’s a great adapt approach in terms of finding what works for you, fitting within your time schedule. It goes back to what both you and I know lot is there’s more than one way to skin a chicken. In terms of getting that type of work and I think it’s great that you found what works for you in giving everything that you have going on. I think that’s awesome. I’m glad that you shared it.

Pete:                Right and I also add though that the most important part of my workout and I’ve said this and people always go, “Oh! He doesn’t really mean that, Oh! That’s just something to think”. The most important part of my workout is when I finished the workout, the 15 to 20 minutes after that workout. When I am doing certain types of stretching whether it be slow or whether it be dynamic. Whether when I do little exercises, I do little things like how to [inaudible 00:22:03] to [inaudible 00:22:04] that prevent a [inaudible 00:22:08].

Various things along those lines, plus I make sure to get in 500-600 grams of carbohydrate right off of that. Because you replace muscles like it should 200 to 300% rate in the couple of hours after a workout. The [inaudible 00:22:27] muscle like that you got a lot to do with how we bounce back from day to day for our training. There is more than just the running. I didn’t want to leave that impression. I don’t do anything. I actually do an exercise between everyday afterwards. It’s just mostly focus on injury prevention, on loosening up the muscles after a hard run. Hitting like the gin back in and of course good old H20– water that I’ll be ready to run the next day.

Jeff:                 Yeah, so it sounds like the routine that you do after is more this injury prevention, but it sounds like you’re– and I actually have this philosophy too is that you’re just focusing on the trouble stops, that seem that over your career have been an issues which and I’m the same way. For me my plantar fascia, my killies and my calves are really the only three things that I’ve ever been hurt for long term. I don’t focus a lot on [inaudible 00:23:21] stuff because I’ve never had it in all the miles that I’ve ran.

Pete:                Oh! I’ve had that.

Jeff:                 I’ve been lucky, but it sounds like what you’re doing is taking that focus on the specific injuries and issues that you have and making sure you’re doing those preventive exercises.

Pete:                Yeah, absolutely! The only problem with that sort of an approach is usually when I develop a new injury. My latest [inaudible 00:23:45] but I had [inaudible 00:23:47] syndrome at the hip. I’ve had [00:23:50.06] syndrome at the knee. I’ve had patellofemoral pain syndrome. I’ve had hamstring pulls cap sprained and killies, pendinitus, stress fractures. I’ve had stress fractures of the metatarsal, stress fracture of the tibia, stress fracture of the fibula.

It’s very little that can go wrong with your legs that it does not go wrong with me. Whenever something happens I create a routine to try to get over it, but it usually involves multiply period approach. Once I’ve actually found something that fixes the problem, I’m never quite sure what it was. So I have to add all the new exercises to my routine. Now, I have to split up my post run routine and do like an alternating day where half of them one day and half of them the next day.

Jeff:                 Okay, actually that’s great– those questions are going to ask you, does the routine stay the same everyday and obviously it changes based on getting in what you can.

Pete:                Here’s the reason I now– it’s the reason I recommend this sort of an approach if we don’t have all of these injuries yet. Because runners always have these injuries, there’s a reason [inaudible 00:25:05] runner and say [inaudible 00:25:07] and half the hands go up.  [Inaudible 00:25:10] and third of the hands grow up and these things.

A lot of problems that runners have with injuries, a lot of the injuries I had it took me a couple of years to figure out exactly what was wrong. I literally mean a couple of years [inaudible 00:25:26] to figure out what was wrong. I try to figure it out and I try to do stuff to target exactly what was wrong. And then I finally thought, what’s wrong with this approach is that I’m trying to figure out exactly what’s wrong. And anyone knows that injury involve four doctors and have got four different diagnoses.

What I should be doing is trying to strengthen my entire leg. I should be trying to strengthen my hips. I should be trying to strengthen my quads. My hamstrings get the balance there. I should be trying to work my knees. I should be trying to [inaudible 00:26:01] hip flexibility and my ankles do exercises to keep all that nervous system wearing.

If I can make sure everything’s is in balance and everything’s working right. Then I don’t have to figure out what’s wrong, because it will figure out itself. That’s what my approach and I’ve run or more injury free the last five years. Then I get the five years before and significantly more so then when I was young. Injuries wipe me up when I was young. Now, it’s one of those guys who had a lot of potential and did everything I could besides literally running in corporate wall to make sure this realized.

Jeff:                 We would have been bad training partners together. We would have (laughing)…

Pete:                Yeah, Andy and I were the bad training partner. I still can’t get him to change the way he trains [inaudible 00:26:54].

Jeff:                 Yeah, that’s funny. One of the things that I’ve heard about as runners transitions as they get older– one of the things that I’ve heard that goes first is speed in terms of that absolute speed in that power. Have you found that to be the case and if so how do you cope with that challenge?

Pete:                Well, it’s interesting you bring this up. I did another column on this very this topic. One of those things I pointed out is that if you do a comparison of records of like young American sprinters and young American distance runners and then what really ages, as they get older, older all the way up like the age of 75 or 80. You’ll find that sprinters that masters sprinter maintain a higher percentage of what they could run when they were young, than masters distance runners. Distance runners actually lose their ability more than sprinters. Okay, well now this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because really when we start the atrophy with our muscle fiber it’s our fast twitch fiber that atrophies. It’s not our slow twitch fiber. We can lose 1% of our fast twitch fiber for a year. Why sprinters who were suppose to be atrophied maintaining what they not knowing better than us?

Jeff:                 Right

Pete:                And here’s the reason why is because distance runners don’t like to do work our fast twitch fiber in an intermediate twitch fiber and most of them given up. Most of them start thinking, “Hey! I run 80 to a 100 miles a week when I was young”, Okay very competitive one, if you work so competitive I ran 30 to 50 miles a week, but the point is I go, “And I did just fine”. That’s what I like to [inaudible 00:28:41]. I like people out of my Sunday runs in the hills. I like to go up with my distance run with the gang every day. I like to go out and commune with nature and have my mystic falls experience, but the problem is when you’re doing that you’re working slow twitch fiber. And even the longer runs that eventually recruit their way to intermediate fiber after you completed a slow twitch fiber. It’s still aren’t working that much of your inner tibia.

Okay, so what happens when you don’t use it? You lose it. If you actually go out and work that intermediate and fast twitch fiber, you’re going to find you don’t lose as much speed as you thought you’re going to lose. If you look at some of the masters’ runners who were coming out guy like Nolan Shaheed .Now, okay we get older, we get slower okay, but Nolan Shaheed ran up 4:25 mile at the age 51. He just ran 4:50 mile at the age 61. He’s a guy whose works speed the whole time. I make speed the big part of what I do and I was running– when I was 46  I ran a 14:34 5K, that’s off of– you can’t run those times [inaudible 00:29:58]slow twitch. You have to have speed and if you keep working out on speed doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and run some fast miles on weekends. It means I’m going to go out and run some hill strings. It means I’m going to go out and I’m going to run some hard 200s or 300s.

It’s more about engaging the muscle fiber than it is about taking about pace or whatever, but you have to go out and engage that muscle fiber. This afternoon I did a nice easy ran this morning. This afternoon I’m going out with my son who’s now an outside line back for College of the Canyons. We’re going to go run about 70 meter hills sprints up a steep hill of the mountain. And then we’re going to turn around and we’re going to run a 100 meter part of hills sprint down. I’m going to finish about 40 yards behind him.   I’m going to be working my ass out of my fast twitch and my intermediate twitch. And because I do that it’s not [inaudible 00:31:00].

Study after study shows that even– I mean they did study that showed even 80 year old would took up a resistance training program could rebuild some fast twitch, could build up fast twitch. Once the fibers are gone, it’s pretty much gone, but we can build up mile filaments within the fibers. So if 80 year olds could do it, we can do it. For a lot of a lost speed, really must to do in how we train and not to do with the physiological process of shedding the fast twitch fiber.

Jeff:                 Right, right, I’m so glad to hear you say that, because like I said I work with a lot of masters’ athlete. That’s exactly how we approach things especially once in terms of me working with them. I’ve realized they have a sufficient base is we actually start to do a lot of speed development work and one of the things that I find is that they’re often very nervous at first. They have to be because they haven’t done it for so long. I say, “Oh! We’re going to do some 200s and you’re going to run the last 100 absolutely as fast as you can” and they kind of look at me like I’m crazy. But that’s how you slowly start building that process back and it’s great for me to hear from a masters’ runner such an experienced runner that you did the same thing. And that it works really well for you because obviously the results are speaking for itself so–

Pete:                Yeah, and it’s not just me. One of the things– when I first start keeping up log a couple of years ago then when I started writing for Running Times I was always writing my secrets, my training secrets. My competitors would go, “It’s really nice that you’re running fast, but we’re not quite sure why you’re telling us all how to do it too”. My running, well I want to run is not in any way disrupted or challenged by helping you to run fast. In fact, keeping people running well, keeping people fast gives me a peer group to train. What’s racing if you don’t have your peer group to be out there training with? The fact is as soon as a couple of us [inaudible 00:33:14] let’s say, okay I know a lot of guys turn 40 that run harder, but then we all fall off with around 43 or 44 we can’t run anymore. Well, a few of us decided that wasn’t not going to happen. To be perfectly honest, [inaudible 00:33:27] 10 years older than me lay down [inaudible 00:33:29] like a long time ago. We all said, “No one can do it”. When I first turned 45, the American record for the 5K [inaudible 00:33:39] track. The American record 5K on the roads 15:07 and that was for the age 45-49 age group.

Within the colleague years [inaudible 00:33:56] 14:45 I’ve ran 14:49, another guy just ran 14:49, too. If you sat there and you say, “No, it doesn’t have to happen”. It happens when you give up because you think it’s inevitable. When you go, “Well, now it’s fine, now I’m going to fall off the cliff”. We’re proving that we don’t fall off the cliff, like I said I appreciate you talk to me and commended me on what I’ve done, but if I do it right and if I can get the message out. The times I’m running now people laughed at and go, “What! That was considered good?” The next generation, they kick ass at the times. I think they can, because a lot of what we’re doing is trail blazing. It’s funny how trail blazing has led us right back to the theories of training, when we should have been paying attention when were younger.

Jeff:                 Yeah, I actually read an article about that for competitors. Same idea, but using high school athletes in a two mileage as a comparison. The same idea in the sense that now that kids are– I mean now look at the college times these days. It’s just crazy and I think about when I was school what was fast and what would qualify for NCAAs. I look at it now and I’m like that’s just silly, but it’s all about what’s around you and the people that you’re competing against. When somebody else goes and a run, in your case goes and runs 14:50 and I like, “I can run 14:50” and then you run 14:45 and that’s awesome! That’s how you continue to get better even as you get older.

Pete:                Oh yeah! Now, I think that’s how you get better when you’re younger like you said I think that’s how you get better when you’re older. I go to the Arcadia track lead every year and every year they see how many high school guys taking it under nine minutes. And it’s dozens.

Jeff:                 Yes and in the 1990s there were like I think 22 total in the whole decade that went under 9 minutes. Now, the Arcadia needs I think there’s 22 in one race, pretty close to that.

Pete:                I coach a high school kid and I love this guy and God bless him I’m not trying to say anything negative, but he took sixth in the Southern California Masters’ League which is a Championship Meet-ups Southern California High School Runners. Running 9:24 I think it was, 9:24 has to get you out of league, you know?

Jeff:                 Yes I know what you mean.

Pete:                So things have changed dramatically since the 90s. The 90s were down period, things were pretty good in 70s and lot of the 80s and I’m not sure what happened. I think we got away from some basic principles and trying to get a little too fancy. The truth is since that, running it isn’t all about doing lots of distance. It isn’t all about doing speed, might be boring, but it’s about doing all of it. It’s about doing volume. It’s about doing strength. It’s about doing the longer intervals, the shorter intervals, recovery [inaudible 00:37:04] it’s about doing all of it. And doing all of it enough to address all the aspects [inaudible 00:37:10] runner. I think we’re back on that track.

Jeff:                 To put in your words to actually make a good cake, a good tasting cake that isn’t full of just vanilla or just chocolate.

Pete:                Oh, yeah! Exactly, put in a lot of salts.

Jeff:                 Yeah, so now that we’re looking at history, I’ll ask you the final question. If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing and I kind of have a feeling what this will be, but what would you try to impart on your younger self that you wish that you would have paid attention too when you were younger?

Pete:                As far as running goes?

Jeff:                 Yes

Pete:                Oh! Boy what I have to ever talk to it myself? You got to set aside a weekend to rent a hotel and I wouldn’t let him out that door until I talk to him about 48 hours straight. Well, obviously and I’m going to use a different word here that we haven’t use before. Although it [inaudible 00:38:01] up away through. I would finally use two maybe will be up to three going places you go. Patience and confidence– have patience, let things happen, don’t think that training– when people–one of the things when people come to me as a coach and they want me to help them train. They invariably say, “Yeah, I got a race like in three weeks and I really want to do well in it”. What I always tell them this, well, now it takes me about three months before I’m even ready to start training for something. It takes me about three months of preparation. I said unless you’re a whole lot better than I am, I just can’t get you there any slower or any faster.

Running isn’t about this week. It’s not about this month. It’s not about this year. Good training is it’s a life style. It’s something when you look out it in a foreseeable future you have to say, that’s going to be my lifestyle. It’s going to be my lifestyle this year. It’s going to be my lifestyle next year. It could be a year after that. It could be a year after that. There’s going to be up, there’s going to be downs, but I can see way over there. I can see the mountain top. I know that between here and that mountain top, I’m going to have run some rivers and cross a way and I’m going to have to climb a tree to gain my bearings. I’m going to trip at some point and twist my ankle. I’m going to have to run from some wolves. Whatever I have to do, those things are going to come off, but I can see the mountain top. As long as I can see the mountain top, I can get there, so patience. The mountain top is there, happiness will get there. If I run into that stream, I’ll find a way to get across it. If I see that lake, I’ll cross it. If I run into wolves, I’ll get away from them. If I sprain my ankle, I’ll recover.

When you see it in those terms, as something out there waiting to be grasped–something you could see in a distance and you understand it’s a long way from here to there. There is no shortcut from here to the top of that mountain. Then you go, okay now I’m patient, now I can get– that’s what I would tell my younger self. My younger self thought if it wasn’t were needed to be in six months then it could never happen.

God knows in high school guys train in six months. Jeff Nelson, who I ran against in high school [inaudible 00:40:46] this day. Jeff Nelson started training in the second half of his sophomore year by the time he was a junior with the state champion. Two and a half years after starting running, he ran 8:30 what was it?

Jeff:                 8:36, yeah.

Pete:                8:36 a mile. He held the record for 29 years. Okay, Jeff got there in two and a half years and I haven’t then all is lost, [inaudible 00:41:10]. That’s not the truth, people get river going at different paces. Lot of the runners will eventually become our next Bill Rodgers from back in my day for whatever. It didn’t get there for two and a half years. They didn’t get there for four and a half years. It took a decade for them to get the same year, but they incrementally build and they got better, the next year they were a little better. And eventually– looks like I got a pop-up here.

Jeff:                 No problem

Pete:                Eventually, you stick with it and you have the confidence that you will get there. If you enjoy it as part, you can’t get too caught up in every little battle, then it’s amazing where you going to end up. I’ve never seen a runner train for two to three years without a break. The only way you can do that is not by doing stupid things [inaudible 00:42:09] suddenly have a physiological revelation with your body change. The body change is underneath us. Where suddenly like things just got easier, what happened? The fact is [inaudible 00:42:26]. You got to believe it’s going to happen, it’s amazing. It’s hard to say, it’s hard to believe when you’re there.

I still remember 25 years ago my first head coaching job in high school and getting my athletes together on the first day and I said, “This is the most important thing I can tell you and I tell it to you right now, you have to believe you can win. Is everyone here think they can win?” And none of them thought they could win. Well, here is something I said, “Once you know, not believing, once you know you can win” whatever that is, winning [inaudible 00:43:11] for different people. Once you know you can do that, and then you’ll do what was best it takes to get there. Once you have the belief that that’s there, you will do the distance. You will do your recovery. You’ll do your stretching. You’ll eat right. You’ll sleep right because you’ll believe it’s really up to something [inaudible 00:43:33]. That’s my message, it can happen if you do it right.

Jeff:                 That’s phenomenal. That’s the best answer. I asked that question to everybody that I’ve interviewed and that’s one of the best answers I’ve had. That’s phenomenal.

Pete:                That I can provide, but lot of the answers it’s the honest to God truth.

Jeff:                 I appreciate it, yes. Now, that we’re going to wrap up here. How can people– actually can we talk about your book coming up in August or is that too far away as to publish now you don’t want to talk about it yet?

Pete:                No, it’s all fine.

Jeff:                 Okay

Pete:                You’ll be shocked at the title because I haven’t [inaudible 00:44:10] well throughout. It’s called Build Your Running Body.

Jeff:                 Okay

Pete:                I actually brought in two co-authors [inaudible 00:44:17] one is Tom Stewart who is an exercise physiologist goes by the handle on the Internet of Tin Man. The other is Melissa Breyer who has a book out with National Geographic on food and it’s a green living advocate. She’s going to handle all the nutrition and the food parts in the book. Melissa and I go back to high school– we worked very athletic urban [inaudible 00:44:47] post high school right after high school. We worked very athletic [inaudible 00:44:50.18] in our goal back then. It must be about red wine and jack-in-the-box. We find it very fun that we have of all into saner, healthier, better human beings. At this stage she’s running marathons, writing about nutrition. Obviously, I’m staying fit and if not quite keeping up the first standard of nutrition I’m doing the best I can, but the book will do a lot of what I talk about here.

Instead of looking at training in traditional sense of mileage or a workout just saying, “Oh! Let’s do [inaudible 00:45:29] does all of these things”. It’s going to look at all the different parts of our running bodies that muscle, connective tissue, mitochondria, nervous system. It’s going to say, here’s this part of your running body. Here’s what it does. Now, here are the workouts to train that part.

Jeff:                 That’s awesome! That’s sound fantastic! And you said it’s– Oops! Am I?

Pete:                Okay, we got it.

Jeff:                 Got it, cool! And you said it’s due out in August?

Pete:                No, it’s due to the publisher.

Jeff:                 Oh, due to the publisher, okay.

Pete:                Perhaps a few weeks back the final book due to the publisher in August. It will be out in spring of 2014. So you can [inaudible 00:46:14] the waiting here.

Jeff:                 Oh, I’m totally teasing the podcast audience in here, but great! But how else can people find you? I know you said you have an article on Running Times or a column in Running Times?

Pete:                Running Times, I’ve got a column in every month. I believe it’s still a January-February issue out in the news stand. I have a feature article in “Dirty Dozen Twelve Mistakes Experienced Runners Make” and that’s how right now. Like I said, I got a column out, my column just turned in the column yesterday along with everything else [inaudible 00:46:49] which is “Ten Things I Hate about Running”.

Jeff:                 Nice! Alright, I look forward to reading that one.

Pete:                Well, come on certain things about running.

Jeff:                 That’s true, that’s true. So we’ll throw out some of that links to your Running Times column so people can check it out– that are watching the podcast. Pete, I want to say thank you again so much for taking the time to chat with us. I thought it was phenomenal. I hope everybody gets a chance to listen to this because there’s so much to learn and I really appreciate you sharing it with them.

Pete:                Oh! It was a blast I always like talking about my running peers. Hey! Without them I got no scores. Come on guys! Get good, keep running!

Jeff:                 So true. Well, thank you Pete and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.

Pete:                Okay, you too now.

Jeff:                 Thanks!

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5 Responses on “Training as a Masters Runner: Inteview with Masters Running Record Holder Pete Magill

  1. I finished the new book “Build Your Running Body” and it is great inspiration and reference book on what to do! It is making sense of the bits and pieces of information I’ve picked up along the way from magazines and other books. Thank goodness I can get so much info and pow wow out of one book.

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