Jon Olsen Successfully Defends His 2010 SAMM Title


Were you confident you’d repeat as winner this year?

Absolutely not! I knew of three competitors that had faster PR’s than me. My training was ahead of last year but I thought at best I would run 2:40. I thought the winning time would be a few minutes faster, 2:37 or so. I am glad I had reserved myself to running my race and placing as high as I could because that strategy paid off in the end. If I had tried to run with the leaders, I don’t think I would have won. I would like to add one other thing. There was a part of me that was very nervous about being the defending champion. I wanted to prove to everyone that last year wasn’t a fluke. I wanted to prove that I belonged at the top of the podium. I think this nervousness helped me train harder and in turn focus on speed. Knowing there was a handful of fast runners in the race, helped me relax and run my race. As they say, “It’s easy getting to the top, the hard part is staying there.”

Did the weather help or hinder your race strategy?

I really felt the difficult conditions would help me because over my ultra running career I had seen it all. Hot, cold, rainy, windy, you name it. I have seen it. It didn’t make me nervous. It gave me confidence that I might get lucky and the front runners would wear each other out. I don’t know if that is what happened but I was able to pick up the pieces.

What is your marathon PR? How long have you been running?

This race was my marathon PR.(2:39:42). I know it wasn’t ideal marathon conditions, but I benefited from a well thought out race strategy, solid training, and a little (a lot) bit of luck sprinkled in.

How many marathons have you run? Ultras?

Nine marathons and 32 ultras.

Are you training for any race in particular?

I am currently training for the Ruth Anderson 100k April 23rd, which is also on roads. My training leading up to the Modesto marathon was to prepare myself for the 100k but with an emphasis on speed tempo runs. I have no plans after this. I am considering training for another marathon in late August or run 100 mile road race in late August or middle of September.

What are your future running goals?

I want to dedicate the next four years to see how fast I can run the marathon. I have plenty of ultra years after that (age 41 by then) but I have only so many “speed” years left. Breaking 2:30 in the marathon would be nice, but I don’t know if it is realistic. I’m going to give it a shot though. My short term goal … is to run sub 7:20 for 100k on road. I ran 7:32 last year, but I went into that race a little banged up and tired. This year my body feels good and I think if things go my way, it is a possible to break 7:20.

What did you think of the Modesto Marathon? The course?

There are a couple of things I like about this course. The first thing is the “flatness.” You can really get into a rhythm out there and living here, my training is primarily on flat surfaces like the Modesto Marathon. I also like the out and back format as a front runner. You can see your competition and all the other competitors on the course that you generally might not see. The marathon is well run. The volunteers are friendly and ready to help and that helps for a smooth race for everyone in the race.

You are a TRM coach. What do you have to say about that program and your students this year?

It is a major success! Our group size increased from 14 in 2010 to 40 in 2011. When you can get 12 to 14 year old kids to train for six months, four days a week, to do anything not only a half/full marathon, that is amazing! We are reaching at-risk kids along with academically socially economically gifted kids. One of the joys of this program is to see these students, that would normally not hang out together, overcome those obstacles to become friends.

Where is your favorite training route?

A boring 16 to 17 mile recovery run on the canal near my house out to Waterford. I typically will do this run on Sunday afternoons while my kids are taking a nap. I love looking out into fields and see the changes as the seasons change. I can just get in a rhythm and just enjoy the day. The run seems to always feel effortless.

Do you train with someone or mostly solo?

I train with John Souza a couple days a week when both of us are healthy. That is a rarity these days however. So, I mainly train by myself. I don’t mind it but after a while it can become wearing.

Advice for new runners and future TRM runners?

Don’t run too much too early when you are just getting started. You will open yourself up to injury and a lot of soreness. Incorporate some walking into each workout. This will give your body the needed time to adapt to your new activity. Those running muscles need time to grow and heal. But overall, just have fun! Don’t get caught up in the competitiveness of running that sometimes can monopolize the sport. Enjoy the thrill of completing the distance and the time spent with friends. Life is too short.

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