Jeffrey Eggleston has had an incredible 2011 thus far and is looking to close out the year with several big races including the World Championships in South Korea, Pan American Games in Mexico, then the 2012 Olympic Trials this coming January in Houston. In 2007 he graduated from University of Virginia where he ran Cross Country. He has since made his marathon debut of 2:14:32 in 2010 at the P.F. Chang’s Rock’n’Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix. We got a chance to ask him a few questions about his Marathon Moments as well as training as a pro athlete in Flagstaff, Arizona under the renowned distance coach Jack Daniels.
WM: Tell us about your expectations going into the World Championships in South Korea?
JE: I’m ready to represent the USA. I will be traveling to Daegu in my best form and I am expecting big things for myself and for the team. Given the personnel in the field, I expect it to be a very deep and highly contested race, but I have trained extremely well this summer and I am ready—I believe I can be competitive with the world’s best and run my best marathon to date. I am also anticipating the race day conditions to present an additional challenge. For this time of year, the average daily high in Daegu is 86 degrees and 79% humidity. I have prepared by training several times a week in extra layers and will also give myself 10 days to fully adjust to the South Korean climate before lining up for the start.
WM: Then a fairly quick turnaround to the Pan American games in October in Guadalajara, Mexico. How is your training conducive to racing multiple times with little downtime or recovery?
JE: I’m excited for this second opportunity to run for the U.S. in Guadalajara; I love racing and want to be an ambassador for my country whenever I compete. As for the timing, there are 49 days between the World Championships Marathon and the Pan Am Games Marathon. In my experience, that’s more than enough time for me to recover and get ample training in. In the past year, I have integrated marathon specific training more regularly, which gives me a great base to draw from when I have marathons closer together—like the month I had between Pittsburgh and Grandma’s. Having run 4 marathons now, I’ve discovered my body recovers relatively quickly. I’ve also found staying active after racing combined with other aspects of my lifestyle—including my vegan diet—has helped speed up the recovery process. Of course, with my experience I am getting much better at recognizing when to take care of myself and when to push my body.
WM: In Pittsburgh you were the rabbit (pacer) yet managed to win the race. This must be every rabbits dream. At what point did you consider this a possibility? The night before?
JE: In my agreement with the Pittsburgh race organizers, I was given the option to continue racing after my 18 mile pacing assignment was complete. A few nights before the marathon, I had mentioned to (Race Director) Patrice Matamoros after a glass of wine that maybe I would try to win her race after pacing, but I didn’t think too much about it seriously beforehand. There were some legitimate competitors entered in Benson Cheriyot (2:11:33 PB), David Rutoh (Baltimore Marathon Champion, 2:10:31 PB), Teklu Tefera (2:12:05 PB) and Tariku Bokan (2:12:23 PB), so I didn’t think anyone running 2:19 pace for two-thirds of the race would have a realistic shot at being near the front. Even one of the athletes I was working for, Boaz Chebiywo (27:46 10K, 1:01:45 half-marathon), seemed to be a viable enough contender. My first real glimpse of winning came 18 miles in, and the leaders were well within striking distance. Up to that point, the pace had felt so easy for me, so I decided I was fresh enough to run hard to the finish and go for the win. I was able to capitalize on the opportunity, surprising the leaders and using surges to break them. The last 8 miles resembled a fartlek I typically perform in my long runs: I pushed hard, recovered then pushed hard again… over and over until no one was left. In the end it worked out. I won with a comfortable margin.
WM: Do you still work as a pacer? If so, is there now a target on your back?
JE: Pittsburgh was my first pacing job, and I followed that up two weeks later pacing 30K of the Ottawa Marathon (I was given a very flexible assignment so it wasn’t too laborious). I hope I can continue to work with races and assist more athletes down the line, as “rabbiting” marathons gives me a great opportunity to work out in a race environment—while also helping me earn a living. I don’t think other athletes should necessarily have me on their radar when I’m given pacing responsibilities though. As a rabbit, I will always play fair and keep my assignment top priority.
WM: What bit of advice has been most significant while working with Jack Daniels? What characteristic do you hope to pass along to your athletes as a coach someday?
JE: I think the best advice Coach Jack has given me is to recognize that the journey is far more significant than the destination. Whether it is preparing to run the World Championship Marathon or pursuing any other ambition in life, the actual process of getting there—the people, places and experiences we have along the way—outweighs whatever the final outcome might be. This advice resonates most clearly to me, above all the scientific and physiological knowledge about running that he has generously shared with me. I also think this is what puts Jack atop so many lists as one of the best coaches in distance running; he has an unparalleled scientific understanding of our sport and still has the ability to recognize what’s important in life. At this point I’m reluctant to consider coaching a future profession, but if so I would hope to pass along all that I have learned from Jack and emulate his holistic coaching style.
WM: How has the long distance communication between you and Jack changed the dynamics of your relationship?
JE: We’ve had a great athlete-coach relationship for over two years and it has always worked out. At 26 years old, I’m a self-reliant athlete, capable of working on my own and staying motivated. I’ve always liked having this autonomy, but it has been nice to work with someone as knowledgeable and inspiring as Jack. He’s a great coach to learn from, with so many stories and experiences working with athletes. His coaching style has advanced my education in the sport while complimenting my individualistic approach. I feel like he is teaching me to think for myself in training, encouraging me to be an adult and use what I have learned from him. When he is in town I’ve enjoyed his company on the bike for workouts, but most of the time we communicate through phone or e-mail. He’s always been generous and accessible whenever I have had questions about training or even personal concerns. I trust him and have found no difficulties with him being away. I know he’s at work inspiring more young men and women at Brevard!
WM: Top American finisher at Grandma’s Marathon with a 2:13:12. You obviously felt good late in the race closing with a 32:09 Final 10K and a negative split thru the more difficult course section. 1:06:46/1:06:26. How did the race unfold? How conservative did you go out?
JE: I pride myself in having good marathon racing instincts, having run a negative split in every marathon I’ve run. Grandma’s was no exception in this regard, and I was pleased to run a personal best in Duluth. But I lined up in Two Harbors wanting more than a PB or top Yank honors; I wanted to win! In typical fashion I was out conservative through 10 miles, but I knew where the leaders were at all times and felt confident I could catch them. I finally did around 18 miles (after injecting a few 4:50 miles), and immediately went to the front to push. Thinking back to Pittsburgh, I thought I could employ a similar tactic. I led and one-stepped the others until somewhere between 21 and 22, and then found myself slipping back. Once the front of the race got away from me, I fell complacent. The final 10K was definitely a struggle, even though I did claw my way by another casualty. Finishing 5th and a minute off the winner was disappointing, and I wish I could have played my cards differently when I caught up to the leaders. But I think I learned more running this way. A few days later I was over it, when I started my training for Daegu.
WM: You work part time at the Public Library in Flagstaff, what is your favorite book? Which book has most influenced your running/life?
JE: Working at the Library has been great for me. When it comes to books, I have a very eclectic taste; it’s hard to name one favorite. My short list would include: John Kennedy Tool’s A Confederacy of Dunces, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Hemingway would probably be my favorite writer though. I would also list Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness as important works that have helped shape my personal worldview. As for running-related reads, my favorites are Dick Beardsley’s poignant autobiography Staying the Course and Daniel’s Running Formula, which I always refer back to in training. I’ve gained some additional valuable training insight from Tim Noakes’ comprehensive Lore of Running, Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning and Bill Squire’s Speed With Endurance.
WM: What do you consider the “breakthrough” performance of your career? Pre or post college.
JE: I don’t think I’ve had a “breakthrough” performance yet. My races after college have more demonstrated my ability to improve with consistent and smart training. I’ve had some important performances that have encouraged me along the way: finishing 10th in my first U.S. Championship (20K) just after college, 1:03:58 the next year for half-marathon, my debut marathon in 2010 and then qualifying for this year’s World Championships. I was pleased in each of these instances with how I ran, but I’ve always walked away hungry. I’m still waiting to have that “wow” moment in racing where I do break through. I’m due very soon.
WM: You have truly blossomed in your post-collegiate career since UVA. What do you attribute your success in the marathon distance? Why is it your favorite?
JE: I think I can attribute my post-collegiate success largely to the fact that I can handle a higher volume in training without compromising the quality of my sessions. I’ve had consistent training since graduating from UVA in 2007, and I was patient in making the transition to the marathon. I think this event suits my individual personality and the way I train. I’m made for the marathon.
JE: I’m fortunate to have developed such a great support network, with sponsors who believe in me and provide me with the resources to pursue my dream in this sport. MarathonGuide.com has been particularly generous in this respect. In my first 2 years after college, I was barely earning enough working part-time and racing frequently on the roads for prize money. During this time, though, I discovered that I loved running too much to stop and get a full-time job simply to “make a living.” I kept improving and never felt that I was making a sacrifice to pursue my passion. There were times when I stressed about my financial situation, so it was definitely a relief when my performances starting earning me more money and drawing sponsors’ interest. Last year was a huge step forward because I also received the RRCA Roads Scholar Grant. It was great because suddenly I had the resources to focus on training and not have to race for prize money every weekend. That support helped me earn my spot on this World Championship Team! Even now, I still work part-time at the Flagstaff Public Library. I like doing something else productive with my day, and it hasn’t hindered my recovery. I like the routine and it keeps me managing my time. I guess I’m still a “blue collar” guy.
WM: What is your favorite workout(s)?
JE: I like doing long runs that integrate “Threshold” and “Marathon Pace” intensities—these are very specific training intensities Coach Jack designates in marathon training. For a workout, I’ll do anywhere from 20 to 26 miles switching between moderate and comfortably hard efforts. I think I’ve always preferred doing longer workouts that have continuity (no rest intervals). Sometimes I just go out for a long run and hammer out the second half for a big negative split.
WM: Obviously you are looking continue to improve your times. Where do you see room for improvement within your workouts and overall training volume?
JE: Without a doubt, my speed could use some improvement. Even in the context of marathoning, I’m realizing I need to be a more efficient runner to be competitive at major marathons. I’ve gotten better in shorter distance races (running 14:11 for 5K and 28:33 for 10K on the roads), but there still is room for improvement. I think my training volume has been adequate to this point, and maybe the next step will be improving the quality of my runs—even if it means slightly lessening the quantity.
WM: Approx 150 miles per week. How do you find a proper recovery from your runs?
JE: I’m not afraid to log the miles in during training, particularly when getting ready for a marathon, but nor am I imposing a set mileage on myself for the sake of running a certain amount. I’m very tuned in to how my body feels. Because I train alone most of the time, it’s easy for me to be honest with myself and gauge how I am feeling. Usually, my highest mileage weeks come at a time when I am in shape, feeling great and I nail my workouts. This happens because I make sure to really use recovery days for their purpose.
WM: What are the specific advantages you find to living and training in Flagstaff, AZ?
JE: I find the biggest advantage to living and training in Flagstaff to be having so many great places to train in close proximity. We have a great network of trails and forest service roads that are accessible from virtually anywhere in town. There are also several tracks and measured paved routes for workouts, and there’s even a close option for getting to a lower elevation for speedwork (Sedona). For me, Flagstaff has been a very positive environment to train in, with a strong running community. Of course being at altitude may have its advantages, but I think the true advantage lies in how living there has directed my positive attitude and focus in training.
WM: Still no major marathons run to-date. Which is most appealing to you and why?
JE: All of my marathons to date have been domestic, and I have wanted to work my way up in the ranks with some strong performances at larger national marathons before opting to run a major. Of the majors, New York is high on my list for appeal because it is in my home state and I think the tough course would suit me well. I also would love to race Berlin or London and run a big personal best. Hopefully, my improvement and consistency can earn me an invitation to one of these in the future.
WM: Back home in NY, where do you like to run?
JE: In the Rochester area, there are some great places to train, my favorite spot being the Genesee Valley Greenway. It’s a well-maintained dirt trail system that follows the Genesee River and connects with the restored Leigh Valley Rail Trail. I love running there during the Fall while the leaves are changing. For convenience when I’m home (Greece, NY), I also like to run on the Erie Canal Path. I’ve had some memorable workouts and epic long runs out there!