Tom McGrath on goals, training, and winning your hometown race.

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Edmonton’s 2015 Marathon winner Tom McGrath is gearing up for the London Marathon this Sunday, and looking to set yet another personal best. We asked him to tell us more about how his running career began, and what he does to keep pushing forward.

Can you tell us a bit about your history as a runner? How did you get started?

My best friend through high school was one of those kids who excelled at the longer distances from a young age, his Dad had been a runner and so he took it up early on. After years of being one of only a few runners on the track and cross country teams, he convinced me to join the team in grade 11 because he wanted someone to talk to while running. I begrudgingly agreed to join.

Fast forward a few years, and my college roommate got me to agree to run a marathon with him one day. Little did I know he actually meant in only a few weeks! I ran my first marathon in Edmonton in 2006, and finished only 5mins off of a Boston Qualifying time so I thought the next summer I should try again. I figured that with an actual training program I could qualify for Boston. Ten years later I am about to run my 20th full Marathon and my Personal Best is almost an hour faster than my debut marathon in 2006.

Tell us about how it felt to win the Edmonton marathon last year.

I had actually won my hometown marathon in 2009 at the Fallen 4 Marathon which finishes in Whitecourt, AB, where I grew up. That was an amazing experience and I often wondered if anything would ever top that. But now I’ve called Edmonton home for 10 years and I once again got to experience winning my hometown marathon. But this time it wasn’t just in front of my parents. My support network has grown significantly since 2009, and getting to share my win in Edmonton with not just my family, but my Fiancé who ran her first marathon that day, my training partner who I’ve spent endless hours working towards goal after goal, to all of my running friends, non-running friends, and the entire community of Edmonton who has been incredibly supportive of me over the years. Getting to experience crossing the finish line in the Edmonton Marathon in first place with all of those people there to share with me is a feeling I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What are your race goals for 2016?

My #1 goal this season, as is with all seasons, is to run a Personal Best in the marathon. My current best, which I ran in Edmonton last summer is 2:28:48. In 2015 I finally broke the 2:30 barrier at the Edmonton Marathon after a few years of hovering just above it. By the end of this season I’d like to get my time under the 2:25 mark. That’s a goal that I set for myself last year, which seemed too far fetched even 6 months ago. However I’ve seen significant gains over the past 4 months which I attribute greatly to the 4322 program at the Base, which would indicate that that goal might not be too far off.

I’d also like to break 70 minutes for the half marathon, although I won’t specifically train for a half marathon, it should come along the way while training for a fall marathon if all goes well. A long term goal I have is to complete all 6 of the marathon majors (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, NYC) in under 2:30, I’m currently 1/6. I’m running the London marathon this upcoming weekend, and plan to race the Chicago marathon this fall. So hopefully by the end of 2016 I’ll be halfway there!

Walk us through your training regime.

I spend about 15 hours per week dedicated to training. This particular marathon cycle that included about 135km/week. The biggest volume week I had this cycle was 145km. I’ve typically averaged between 145-160km per week, however this cycle I’ve dropped the total mileage a bit to focus on the quality workouts. I run 6 days per week (always one complete day of rest as week), which usually consist of 3 easy effort runs (~16km) one long run (32km), and two workouts. The workouts are a variation of tempos, hill repeats, intervals and marathon specific pace runs.

On top of the running I spend 2 hours per week at The Base incorporating their 43°22 program into my training. I started this marathon build by attending their Endurance level 1 program and have since “graduated” and am now working 1 on 1 with a trainer there twice per week. I focus one more session per week on the things I’ve learned at the Base that week. And I also add in 2-3 core focused sessions each week at the end of my run.

I also focus on recovery to ensure my body is prepared for the next hard workout. I do my best to ensure that I always get enough sleep and am eating properly throughout each week.

You changed up your training in 2016 and have been doing 43°22 Endurance training at The Base. What’s been different?

It has improved my body awareness, not just while working with the trainers but through my runs and my entire day. I’ve had to really focus on things that I’ve never thought about before. Training at the Base has really sharpened my focus on the little things to maximize what you get out of each workout and exercise that you do. It has also really helped me understand how focusing on the little things can make such a dramatic impression on the big picture. You need to master each step before progressing to get the maximum benefit.

My training has been pretty consistent for the past few years and the biggest change I made for this marathon cycle is adding in the 43°22 program at The Base. When I started at The Base it was difficult to understand how what they are doing there will make me a better runner. I’m not an exercise physiologist so I still don’t fully understand how the training helps me as a runner. With that said, since starting the program I’m running better than ever and I contribute that greatly to my trainers at the Base. Workouts are feeling easier, and I’m running faster than I thought I could even a few months ago. Hopefully that continues to hold true this Sunday!

Best of luck to Tom as he aims for another PB this Sunday in London!

The 43°22 Endurance Program is an 8 week registered class that will dramatically improve your fitness, efficiency and core strength. Like Tom, the results you’ll see include faster race times, better overall fitness, and reduced injuries. The next class cycle starts May 9th and finishes just in time for summer race season. Register on line at rivervalleyhealth.com

If you’d like more information, message us on Facebook or call The Base at 780-430-9224.