Jason Hartmann was our guest on Episode 14.
C259: Jason Hartmann, welcome to the cloud.
Jason: Thanks for having me. I appreciate you guys taking the time and having me on.
C259: Our pleasure. Let’s get right to New York because that’s eight weeks away and you are running it for the first time, although you were set to run last year and you probably were in New York before it was cancelled for Hurricane Sandy. Have you previewed the course or do you plan to?
Jason: No, I won’t preview the course. I’ll look at a course map or whatever, but I know enough people that have run it that I’ll gain information from them and try to formulate a good strategy for the day. I think what everybody says about the course is that it’s tough, and that’s something that I’ll take into account as I prepare myself for the race.
C259: Do you have specific goals for the race, either time or place?
Jason: Any race I go into, ultimately as a competitive person you like to finish as high as you can. I’m not going to try to determine what place or time that will be. My goal always is to try to be competitive but also maximize my performance as high as I can. That’s what I take into it. I have high expectations for myself, but if I run exceptionally well and that gives me a sixth place or eighth place finish, am I going to be disappointed? Probably not. If I get beat by guys that have run 2:04 or 2:05, but I am competitive against them, I can take positives from that.
C259: Have you trained with any of the other top Americans who are slated to run it?
Jason: I have not. I think I’ve done a couple of runs with Ryan throughout my years of running. The same as Abdi, I’ve run with Abdi a few times. I can’t think offhand if I’ve run with Meb, but the sport of running is a pretty close-knit group, so you tend to know everybody.
C259: You just finished the USA 20K Championships with a 1:01 sixth place finish in extremely humid conditions. Do you take that as a good sign for New York?
Jason: Yeah. I think ultimately your goal like I said before is maximizing your performance. I’m in heavy base training and I didn’t back off maybe as much as I probably should. Under the circumstances I was pretty happy with it. I would have liked to have finished higher or whatever, but I received a lot of data and I can go forward and make some adjustments in my training that hopefully will pay dividends down the line.
C259: What kind of data? Splits?
Jason: For me I need to do a little more intensity, sharpening, a little quicker stuff. But for where I’m at – I’m in a good place I feel. I just need to make some adjustments like running a little quicker in some intervals. Stuff like that.
C259: So you did really well in the humidity in New Haven, and Boston two years ago was so hot that Brenn and I couldn’t finish, 85 degrees or 87 degrees. This year’s Boston wasn’t the greatest weather. You are developing a reputation as a great bad weather runner. Are you hoping for great weather or terrible weather in New York?
Jason: Under any circumstances I like to think that I can run well. Those two races I felt like I trained really hard for them, and whatever it was going to be I wasn’t going to let it affect my race. The first Boston where I was fourth I was contemplating retiring from the sport because the trials and stuff. It’s a very difficult sport, especially for a guy in my position, to continue on. I didn’t care if it was 110 degrees I was going there to finish and to compete the best I could. The following year I was really motivated to try to duplicate the same thing. It doesn’t always work out that you have the same exact performance, the same exact place. I got pretty lucky, but that was my goal in the situation. If this was going to be my last hurrah, I wanted to try to make this the best and have no regrets in the whole situation. Overall, my thought process has changed a bit. When I step up to the line, I have nothing to lose. I’ve lost so many times in the sport that what am I going to lose again? I’ve lost a lot.
C259: You’re up against not just one competitor, you’re up against thousands, right?
Jason: Yeah. All I can rely on is the training and having faith in the things that I’m doing. If I run crappy or whatever it’s not going to be from a lack of trying, it’s going to be from not having a good day on that day. All I can really focus on is the simple things in my preparation and then take comfort and confidence from the things I’m doing and try to carry it throughout the race.
C259: I was struck that watching Boston, you came in 4th both times [in 2012 and 2013] but they were such different races. In the hot race, you worked your way effectively through the pack. At Boston this year I was surprised to see you at the front, but you were running a very controlled race from the front. Were you surprised as well to be out front early on in Boston?
Jason: Early on definitely yes. I thought it would be a slightly more aggressive race up front. I think before the start of the race there were 11 or 12 guys who had run 2:07 or faster. Taking that knowledge into the race, you do think that it’s going to be aggressive. But there’s also an element that there’s not a rabbit. People are trying to be competitive for 26 miles instead of letting a perfect race where you do have rabbits dictate performance. You are competitive against everybody and you are relying on your own to run well. That benefits me I feel because trying to run within myself is one of the things that I always try to do. It’s a tough course and you have to be smart. I just try to race my plan, and if I got stuck with the lead not to be intimidated and just run within myself and not make erratic and stupid moves that will ultimately lead to a bad performance. I know my limitations now that I can’t make erratic moves because it costs me a lot of energy in the end and I’m not maximizing performances. I have to race a little bit different from a Mutai or a Gebremarian. Those guys can do that, I can’t.
C259: Right. Interestingly, your approach at Boston wouldn’t be too different from what Ryan Hall would do. He takes it out. but he’s also run quite evenly at times when others throw in surges. Towards the end of the race it seems to work out for you where you are making up a lot of ground late.
Jason: Yeah, totally. I can just remember coming off the Newton Hills and just seeing Merga kind of slam off the road going straight into the crowd not knowing where he was and catching him. And Geneti, who has run 2:05 flat – catching him and being competitive against him. It’s like, this is pretty cool, trying to beat him and throwing in moves and stuff. That’s exciting to me, How can a guy that’s run 2:11 as a PR compete against a guy that has run a 2:05 or whatever? It’s kind of cool in that regard.
C259: Do you think that you have a similar style to Ryan Hall in that you both seem comfortable running your own race no matter what the front pack is doing?
Jason: I don’t know if you could compare him and I, I mean he’s run substantially faster. He’s running upfront, running at a higher level in some races, at least early on in his career, so it’s very difficult to compare us two. He’s running upfront, and yes I was running upfront in the previous Bostons and stuff, but he’s also running upfront in Chicago, and I definitely, if I was racing Chicago, probably wouldn’t be. My circumstances are more determined by how the races are run, rather than Ryan being aggressively out front regardless.
C259: Are you still in “This may be my last race” mode, or are you looking a little further?
Jason: It’s probably kind of annoying. People are like, “Oh, is this guy going to retire” or whatever.
C259: Keep running man! I’m not putting you out to pasture.
Jason: Like I said before, in my first Boston, it was potentially my last hurrah. I trained with a little more hunger than I used to, because I don’t know how many more races I do have left. Even if it goes beyond New York, I like to carry that into training, and how I pursue my running now is a lot different than how I pursued my running even before the Olympic Trials. I see my running very differently, I know it’s coming to an end, I don’t know what day that will be, but up to that point I want to give everything I have to the sport, treat it with the utmost respect and try to keep some integrity as I do it.
C259: That’s great, you know we talked with Dot McMahan a bit more than a month ago, and she actually has a similar approach. When she started thinking well this might be my last race, this might be my last season, she really started improving a lot. Since you’ve been hinting that you may not be doing this forever, it seems that you’ve had the best races of your career. Consecutive fourths at Boston is no joke. Gregg, I think we gotta think about how we are retiring, it will help us.
Jason: If you think about it, when people get cancer and they are given a sentence, they have a year left of life, they live that year the best that they can. Not to compare the two, but it’s just a frame of reference.
C259: Which race are you most proud of? There are a number of candidates. You’ve got your PR at Chicago, the win at Twin Cities, and the two Bostons. Which one are you most proud of? Or if there’s another one not on that list, bring it up, maybe from high school.
Jason: I take some satisfaction in not – I might be regretting saying this – but in not dropping out. I’ve only dropped out of one race and it’s my biggest regret ever. One thing in the marathon is being able to fight through when times are rough. You’ve got to fight through it. I’ve only dropped out of one marathon and that was London. I knew that I was done after a mile. One mile in, I was like, this is not good.
C259: What was wrong? What happened there?
Jason: I don’t know. I knew that I probably wasn’t going to have a good day. It is what it is. I’ve run 31 minutes for 10k, or 30:30 at a Stanford 10k, and it was the worst day of my life but I didn’t drop out. As embarrassing as some of my performances have been, I’ve still stayed in it. That has been beneficial to my career. The way I race, I try not to create a way out for myself. There were countless times for the Olympic Trials where I wanted to drop out. I was completely embarrassed. I was just sickened by having this happen here, and not having a great day, but I finished and I don’t regret the performance, I regret the day that I had. It is what it is at the end of the day. I could highlight Boston, I could highlight Chicago, but it’s the times where you kind of had to dig deep when everything wasn’t going right, where you have to be like, you know what, I need to suck it up and get through it.
C259: During that hot race in Boston, when you came in 4th, was that painful at all or did you just have an amazing day? At what point in that race did you feel that you really had to dig deep?
Jason: Probably at 17 miles I was thinking, this is not going well. Then you get some momentum when you start passing people. There were countless times when I thought I’d drop out at that Boston.
Jason: I think every runner, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t. I wasn’t going to drop out, but you have those thoughts, that this feels really bad.
C259: So what got you back into it is that other people where struggling worse in front of you?
Jason: Yeah, yeah. And that’s what has paid dividends for me in the past. Yes, I was hurting really bad, but I was gaining momentum a little bit, I was trying to be positive. Every person I passed, I was like alright I can get this next guy, or I was like, I’m okay, I’m hurting really bad but I can do it. Trying to transfer those negative thoughts into positive ones, as simple minded as that is, it has been really beneficial for me.
C259: That toughness is something that we can learn from and a lot of our listeners can learn from as well. Jason, you’ve had an amazing career and I don’t want to jinx it, but I think perhaps you are underestimating yourself, your ability to run with and around Ryan Hall, let’s leave it at that. It should be a great lineup for Americans at New York. Let’s turn the business side, certainly you are aware of the news from Competitor Group. What are your thoughts on the decision by Competitor Group to eliminate the elite athlete support?
Jason: I’m not 100% in tune with everything, but those races are huge races. A lot of those races get 25-30 thousand people. There is a lot of money going into those races. I think people that run the races see it more as a business than trying to build distance running. They see it probably as dollars and cents, rather than hey, we are going to do the right thing and try to pay all these athletes and stuff. So I think the real problem is that you have people in positions who don’t really know the sport, that just see it in terms of dollars and cents. That’s not just Competitor, that’s other organizations in other areas of the sport where they see it as dollars and cents, rather than, “You know what? I feel like I have an obligation to promote distance running and to build distance running through my race.” That’s the area where it’s most disappointing, and obviously the financial area is a big hit to not only me but a lot of people. I’ve done a couple of Rock ‘n Rolls, and sometimes you run in the opposite direction so you are crossing paths with a lot of the masses. Some of these people know who you are, so I think it does have value in having elite distance runners. I’m sure people want to see what Ryan Hall ran at their race. Name a sport where you can truly line up next to the professional athletes in the sport. There’s not much else, maybe triathlon or whatever. You can line up next to a pro runner in a professional race like a Rock ‘n Roll or New York City or Chicago. The sport is growing so much. I imagine it’s a write-off for a lot of these people that do these events. I think they could restructure it to make it better, but they don’t see it as valuable, or having value to them, which is disappointing. It’s not like they are offering a great deal of money to a lot of people. It’s not like a big city marathon. I doubt that they are giving big city marathon appearance fees, but I do think that they are missing on a great opportunity.
C259: It comes at a time when it appears shoe sponsorships are getting even harder to come by, not that they were ever easy to come by. You don’t have a shoe sponsor, which has been well publicized. It’s amazing considering you have to be among the top 5 if not the top 3 marathoners in the country. Is there a chance that could finally change for you with a strong showing in New York?
Jason: Maybe. I’ve gotten to the point where it is what it is, I don’t lose sleep over it. The people in those positions make those decisions. I’ve come to the decision in my life that if I have to do it on my own, I’ll do it on my own and I’ll represent myself and my friends and family and the people that support me. So it is what it is at the end of the day. If it works out, it works out, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Like I said, it’s a very difficult sport to continue on. I’d be shocked if someone had lasted as long as I have in the sport without the support. I made Foot Locker my senior year. None of my class I think, I don’t know if any of them are still running. I’m being put on the spot, so, I don’t know if any of the males are still running to this day. As you can tell it’s a very difficult and top-heavy sport. You do have groups out there, but are these groups being properly funded? Are they accomplishing what both sides want? Those are questions that are difficult to answer.
C259: Given that you don’t have to wear any brand of shoe, what shoe do you choose to wear? What do you train in? What do you race in?
Jason: I train in actually a bunch of different shoes. I wear the Asics Hyperspeed 4 for the marathon.
C259: Ryan Hall has done that as well.
Jason: Yeah. I train in the Pegasus Nike’s. I like to switch shoes. I’ve run in some Asics, I can’t think of the names offhand. Nike and Asics are the shoes that I have trained in mostly.
C259: Alright Asics and Nike, here’s a man who believes in your product, truly. Go get him. Jason, we wanted to touch on another aspect of your career, your coaching with a high school there in Boulder, Colorado. There’s a phenom, Elise Cranny, kind of a Mary Cain of Colorado. Can you tell us about your work with her and how she’s doing?
Jason: I’ve worked with her since she was an incoming freshman on the cross country team. The first two years I was a coach there. I’m no longer a coach there, so I just coach her one on one. The thing about Elise is, she’s like a lot of high school kids her age, she doesn’t know a lot about running, she’s very new to running. She didn’t have a great deal of background in running, nor did her parents. The first time I saw her work out, I knew there was something special about her. Anything that I’ve suggested she do, she has done. She’s a great athlete, one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen at her age in distance running. It’s been nice to be a part of the progression, getting a young athlete excited about running and making running a long-term investment. Starting there and trying to get her a scholarship. If she can get a scholarship, building off of each success is pretty awesome, it’s awesome to be a part of that. She’s a very special talent. It kind of goes unnoticed, but she’s okay with it, I think.
C259: She’s going into what year of high school now?
Jason: She’s going to be a senior.
C259: So pretty soon a decision on which college, right?
Jason: Yeah, she’s like a high school girl, all confused, and she’s just going through the process.
C259: Is she considering your alma mater, it must be among the group, Oregon?
Jason: I’ll let her decide that.
C259: One of our early guests on the cloud here, Amy Begley, just got a coaching job at UCONN. We’re wondering when your career winds down whether a college coaching career is something you’d like to pursue.
Jason: Yeah definitely, I’d like to be part of the coaching circle. I’ve had some great coaches. My coach at Oregon was Martin Smith. He’s someone who I really truly respect in the sport. I carry a lot of his philosophies in the things I do when I coach now. I desire to make a difference in kids’ lives that are that age, or high school or whatever. Running has done a lot for me, it’s taken me to a lot of different places across the world. I like to do those things for kids that have that opportunity, or build a team that is winning national titles. That’s kind of what I’d like to do.
C259: As far as your approach, anything distinctive about your training philosophy that you bring to your coaching?
Jason: Working with a high school girl as good as Elise is, for example, we’re constantly trying to build year to year. I want her, whatever decision she makes for college, to take another step. I think you have a lot of young kids, especially in Colorado, who are misguided. You have a lot of high school coaches, they get a good athlete and it switches to being more about the coach and how successful they are than building this athlete than being about the kid.
C259: Does that mean too many miles too early?
Jason: It’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to be too successful and really pushing the envelope and not seeing the big picture. Elise has been systematically built every year, so that when she steps into college, hopefully, depending on the decision she makes for school, she’ll be able to make the jump and it’s like clockwork, she’s not being exposed to anything that she’s unprepared for. I think a lot of high school coaches make a commitment to training hard, but they see it as a year to year thing, instead of a year on top of year on top of year, and then getting them to college. A lot of high school aged kids don’t see running as an opportunity beyond high school. There are a lot of scholarships out there for distance runners, especially young girls. Division I, the major BCS conferences are giving nineteen scholarships. There’s a lot of opportunities for women, especially women. So that is what I feel is important in the long term.
C259: Back to your training, what have you done to stay healthy after an injury plagued period in 2008 when you had a bunch of stress fractures. You’ve been very consistent lately.
Jason: I had a plantar problem that kind of developed into a stress fracture. I wouldn’t say I’ve done anything remotely different. I guess I train a lot smarter now than I used to, in the sense that I don’t do things that don’t have value or that I don’t feel have value. I used to do 40 minutes of abs 5 out of the 7 days of week in college, but I don’t do that much because I didn’t realize at the time that I was insane. I’m not trying to hit a home run, I’m just trying to hit singles. I see it a lot differently than I used to. It’s not about training hard for a brief period of time, it’s about building every time out. I rest a lot better than I used to, in that I take two weeks off after a marathon and then I slowly build back up. I’ve just become a little more wise with the things I do.
C259: I couldn’t wait to ask you this question. Any advice for tall runners? You are 6’3”, I believe, which is my height. You have to be a foot and a half taller than Tsegaye Kebede, who I think you ran against in Chicago 2010. It’s amazing how there are entirely different body types in the marathon. Anything about being a bigger runner or taller runner that effects how you approach your training? Or your form?
Jason: Form is a natural thing. I haven’t done a lot of drills in my career. I do them now but in middle school I was the fastest kid, so it was a natural thing for me. I tend to be a little lighter than most people my height. I’d say my rhythm is pretty good, so that probably helps. A lot of it is just natural. I think some advice that helps is always switching shoes. You carry more weight on you, so your shoes break down a little more. Softer surfaces, strength training really helps. If you have somebody who can teach you proper drills, those things will help. Running is running though, so if you can handle more, it’s probably going to help you. It’s a fine balance of I’m really going for it, but I can stay healthy and be fresh at the line too. It’s a difficult question because we are all so different. Even though I’m 6’3” and you’re 6’3”, it’s a difficult question to answer.
C259: Of course, you are very different from me. You are much faster.
C259: Which leads to our last question. Jason, we’ve been so lucky to get advise from professionals like yourself. The name of our website cloud259 is a reference to our goal of breaking three hours for the marathon. The closest we’ve come is 3:08. If you could give us just one training tip, Gregg will be running the Hartford Marathon in October. I’ll be lining up not next to you but somewhere behind you at the NYC Marathon in November. Give us one tip to get us under three hours for the marathon.
Jason: The one tip I’ll give you is running a fast course.
C259: Ha. Give us two tips. Hartford is fast, NYC isn’t.
Jason: I’d say a lot of hills.
C259: A lot of hills in training, huh? Do you do long hills or short hill intervals?
Jason: I do both. Sometimes I do a five-mile hill climb and sometimes I’ll go six. Up here, our altitude is 5,400 feet and it goes up to over 6,000. A lot of the cyclists use the hills that we use. If you can take anything from a cyclist, they know how to climb.
C259: There are plenty of hills on the NYC Marathon course as well, mostly in the form of bridges. There’s one sneaky hill on mile 22 or 23 as well, and a few in the park, which we’ll be seeing in about eight weeks or so. Jason, thank you again for joining us so much on the cloud. We’ll be in touch, and best of luck to you.
Jason: Thanks so much guys, and good luck in October and in New York City.