Justin Mock, 28, of Arvada was the first American finisher in April’s London Marathon, running a huge 14 minute PR to break the elusive 2:30 mark with a 2:29:29 finish. He placed 52nd overall in the deep international field at one of the world’s most well-known marathons. Justin is a member of the Fleet Feet Boulder racing team and also contributes twice-weekly commentary, surely the best coverage in the state, on the Colorado race scene to RunColo.com.
Justin, Congratulations on breaking 2:30 in London and finishing as the first American. Does that title come with any perks besides the obvious bragging rights?
Immediately after the race, I had the US flag tatted on my right shoulder and then when I went to Paris post-race, I heard nothing but “monsieur Top American, monsieur Top American…” while being chased by my fans.
No, other than getting ripped on LetsRun.com, it’s really just a fun novelty title. I’ll joke about wanting to be referred to as Top American, but that’s about it.
Just 2 years ago you first broke through the 17min mark for the 5k with a 16:40 and won the Colfax marathon in 2:43. What do you see as the biggest contributor to your recent gains?
It seems backwards, but I ran 2:43 at Colfax a few months before I broke 17 in the 5K. Similarly, I ran sub 2:30 for the marathon before I’ve broken 16 in the 5K. I don’t think it’s that I’m not capable of faster 5K times, I just haven’t worked much on that kind of speed. The marathon distance is my bread and butter.
I’ve been putting in big miles for a few years in a row, only the occasional 100+ mile week, but generally 80+ every week. Obviously the cumulative effect of that consistency is continuing to pay dividends. Really though, in the past two years, I’ve gotten way more dedicated to going to the track. This is an area of training that I’ve long neglected and only recently really started to embrace. That’s what will drive any future PRs for me too.
What were the key workouts and or races that built your confidence in going under 2:30?
I hadn’t run a road marathon since Colfax in 2008 and hadn’t run a marathon at sea level since I blew up at Columbus in 2007, so I expected a big PR at London. It was just a matter of how close to 2:30 I could get. Last year I ran 1:13:37 at the Platte River Half in Denver for a big PR and also ran a solo 1:57 for 20 miles, also in Denver. Those were good indicators of my progress, but I didn’t make it to the starting line at the Fort Collins Marathon to put it all together last spring.
This year the only real indicator was a 1:12:10 half at Virginia Beach in March. While that too was a PR, I was pretty disappointed with it. I knew that the 1:12 half time put me in range of 2:30 for the marathon, but more confidence came from all of the track workouts I put in. I’d done a lot of work at 5:30 pace, kept the mileage in the 90-100 range, and had some really solid long runs with marathon pace built in. I was as fit as I’d ever been and going in, just felt like I just needed to have a good race to make it happen.
You have had some setbacks during that time as well, what were those and what did you learn from them?
I always have some little injury, usually because I do something dumb like run a treadmill marathon. I’m really proactive with any injuries though and foam roll, get massages, pound the Motrin, Icy Hot, Arnica gel, ice, heating pad…you name it, I’m doing it if something hurts. I’m pretty obsessive about my training and taking care of myself. For more serious aches, Heather North at In Motion Rehab in Boulder usually fixes me up quickly.
With all that confidence going into the race, at what point did you know you really had it nailed?
Mile 14 was the big turning point. I got out a little quick for the first 5K, but was probably only 500th at this point. I kept it steady, consistently hitting my splits, and already starting to roll a lot of people up through the first half. I hit the half split in 1:14:14, and while this was right where I wanted to be, I felt far better than I expected to and dropped a 5:28 14th mile. When I was able to increase the pace at 14 without much additional effort, I grew really confident that I could get under 2:30. Mile 20 was the fastest of the race (5:24) and while my pace slowed the final 10K (5:50s), I was rolling people up the entire way and never had any significant issues. I don’t think I was passed by a single person after mile 4 and it was a pretty powerful feeling to be blowing by so many people the entire race. The race went as close to perfect as I could have expected. Sure some luck is needed in the marathon, but it’s also of course indicative of just how solid my training was.
I remember seeing you training in Vibrams. Whats your take on the minimalist movement? Are you still using them in training?
I was an early adopter of the Five Fingers and got a pair before the “Born to Run” craze hit. I only ran in them maybe 5 times and then sold my pair on eBay. They just didn’t work for me. My little toes turn a little weird and those toenails were turning black after just a few miles in the FFs. That said, I run in lightweight trainers as much as possible, but also have a pair of orthotics that I wear for a good bit of my miles.
Whats next for you? Do you have a new goal?
I really felt like sub 2:30 was my Olympic gold medal. That said, I hope that I don’t get content and keep up the chase for faster times. A few people have asked if I’ll try to make up that last 10 minutes to get into the trials, but unless someone wants to pay my mortgage, there isn’t a ton more that I can do on the training front.
Immediately ahead, I’m pacing Nick Clark from Fort Collins in the Western States 100 in late June. It’s through the Sierras and Nick will be fit and looking for a great race, so I want to do a good job to help him as much as possible and ensure that he races well. That means a big shift to my training over the next several weeks. Going to the track won’t benefit me much for running 50 miles through the mountains, so I’ll be looking for some really long stuff at altitude in the next few weeks.
After that, I’ll run the Pikes Peak Marathon for the third year in a row in August and then take the rest of the year easy, running of course, but without as much intensity or focus – my down season if you will.
I’ve got a road marathon in mind for next spring, but it’s too far out to commit or divulge.
You might hold the fastest known time for a participant in a gorilla suit at the Bolder Boulder 10k which you decided to do after your Colfax Marathon win in 2008. Will you be running it again?
I think I ran 39:56 in the gorilla suit at the 2008 BolderBoulder 10K. Trying to stay on TV, I went through mile 1 in 5:43ish and my heart rate was probably as high as it’s ever been. I missed BB10K last year and likely will miss it again this year. It’s the most competitive race in the state, but I’ve got some really long stuff planned for that holiday weekend to prep for the summer.
Thanks for the interview Justin and we look forward to seeing your marked progress continue!
Photos provided by MarthonFoto and Justin Mock