2016 Olympic Trials Buildup

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2016 Build Up Post Sacral Stress Reaction (5 weeks OFF)

5/30 – 10 x 100 @ 17 w/ 30 secs rest

6/1 – 6 x 300 @ 50 w/ 100 jog

6/3 – 4 x [400—200] @ 69-32 w/ 100/200 jog

6/6 – 3 x [4 x 300] @ 51-48-45 w/ 100 jog through out

6/8 – 2 x [5 x 400] @ 70 to 62 w/ 200 jog + 2 x 200 @ 28

6/10 – 800 + 600 + 3 x 400 @ 2:00-1:28-59-58-56 w/ 6/5/3/3 rest

6/13 – 3 x 600 @ 129-128-126 w/ 4’ rest + 3 x 300 @ 42-41-39 w/ 3’ rest

6/15 – 4 x 800 @ 216 w/ 400 jog + 6 x 200 @ 29 to 26 w/ 200 jog

6/18 – 3:41.2 @ Princeton + 2 x 200 @ 29-27 + 2 x 400 @ 56-55

6/21 – 5 x 800 @ 219 to 211 w/ 400 jog + 2 x 200 + 300 @ 27-25-39

6/24 – 1200 @ 250.6 + Full Rest + 400 in 56 (29-26) + 6’ rest + 600 @ 124 (45-39)

6/27 – AM-4 miles in 21:15 (5:19/mile) // PM–3 x 200 + 300 @ 25.9-25.6-24.1-37.0

6/29 – 8 x 400 @ 58 to 54 w/ 2’ rest

7/2 – 4 x 1k @ 255 w/ 400 jog + 2 x 300 @ 42 + 2 x 200 @ 26 w/ 3’ rest

7/5 – 5 x 400 @ 68 w/100 jog + 300+200+100 @ 41-27-12

7/7- Olympic Trials Round 1 – 3:50 Q

7/8-Olympic Trials Round 2 – 3:48 Q

7/10-Olympic Trials Finals – 3:40 9th

Summer Results:

7/17 – Padua, Italy – 3:37.3 – 2nd

7/22 – Morton Games – 3:55.7 – 2nd

7/29 – Track Town – 3:35.7 – 4th

8/5 – Sir Walter – 3:54.57 – 1st PR

8/11 – Westchester – 3:56.1 – 1st

8/20 – Falmouth – 3:58.1 – 1st

8/31- Long Island– 3:58.2 – 7th

9/3 – 5th Ave – 3:55.2 – 10th

Notes: I was in fantastic shape before getting injured so that helped my buildup a lot. Additionally, I was very lucky to be healthy through my comeback and despite some phantom pains in my sacrum, it held up, although it was terrifying in the beginning. While out for 5 weeks, I cross-trained for 2-hours most days. Was able to walk on the treadmill at a quick pace on a steep incline and would combine that with all-out reps in the pool. Would then double back on the Elliptigo. But the first couple weeks I could only do the arm bike. At the end of the summer I was running on fumes as I had exhausted my base. I did mini-workouts after a lot of races and between, but nothing too substantial. Not an ideal lead in to the trials, but proud of what I was able to put together.

BU Last Chance Race Report-3:52 Mile PR

Ran a personal best of 3:52.22 on February 26, 2017 behind Ed Cheserek as he set the collegiate record. Figured I’d give some insight into the race and some training leading in.

Race Splits: 30.3y–27.8 (58.1y)–28.7–29.5 (58.3/156.3y)–29.6–29.5 (58.9/255.2y)–29.4–26.9 (56.3)

(‘y’ indicating from the finish line)

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Photo: Chris Morfesi

Wasn’t originally going to even race this, but heard it was basically going to be a time trial and I have been itching the last few years because being outside the top 3 Americans makes it’s tough to get into the top meets. Plan was to get out and ride the train and did exactly that, but as you can see with the splits, the 2nd 200 was rolling. I was sitting on my teammate, Johnny Gregorek, and we both let Cheserek and our teammate, Ford Palmer, go a bit. Felt completely comfortable doing this because I knew we were on pace the first lap and this was a surge that couldn’t be sustained. As it slowed down going into 800 we reattached and things actually felt pretty pedestrian for the next quarter mile.

With 400 to go I saw the clock and knew I was going to PR (previous best was 3:54.5), but now it was a question as to how much. I considered going around Johnny and Ford to get on Ed’s shoulder, but for whatever reason hesitated and didn’t. This would be my biggest regret of the race because with 200 to go Ed took off and I didn’t see the move and had a delayed response. With just over 100m to go I swung wide and was in full chase. After moving too early at Wanamaker I was nervous to go early and die, but instead I made the opposite mistake and left too much in the tank. I ran the final turn in lane two but was eating up ground and thought it would be enough. I saw the clock and couldn’t believe what I saw. I came on Ed, but when he felt me, he had one more gear. There’s a reason he’s the king (fun fact learned on our run together the following day: King is actually his middle name). Upon finishing, it took me a while to digest what happened. With my teammates going 3:53 and 3:54 behind me, our coach was yipping, crying and cursing. Was an awesome day, and really validates what I thought all winter long–I am in the best shape of my life.

Next week is nationals. The altitude should make things interesting, but hoping my fitness will triumph for a solid race and give me a chance with 100 to go.

Last spring I suffered a sacral stress reaction, but since have been very healthy and I’d attribute the good indoor season to exactly that. Below is a peek into training.

17 Week Mileage Average: 80.5 (High – 93.5 / Low – 70.0)

I am a big advocate for singles. This year I am way more open to taking down weeks, which has been working miracles in terms of keeping the legs fresh. I know everyone always says that they’re not doing speed work indoors like that’s some sort of badge of honor. My log has my fastest 400 at 53.0 in this buildup, and a 200 in 24.3.

I don’t think this makes the race more impressive or anything, but goes to show just how valuable strength training is. The pace on my average tempo run this year has dropped 8+ seconds and we have upped the distance too. Our strength intervals are all averaging a couple seconds faster/lap and we again, have upped the distance. We don’t go crazy pace wise on long runs because we generally workout 3x a week, but as in past years, 2 hours has become a pretty standard length.

Here are some key workouts that got me excited, not just because of the pace, but the way that they felt:

12/6: 10 miles @ 5:06

1/11: 6 miles @ 446

1/13: 4 x 600 @ 127 + 800 @ 155 + 2 x 400 @ 56

1/15: 20 miles in 2:08

1/17: 12 x 1k @ 248

1/20: 3 x 1200 @ 311,308,305 + 600 @ 132 + 2 x 400 @ 55

2/1: AM- 3 miles @ 452 + 2 miles @ 446 – PM: 6 x 200 @ 26 (closed in 24.3)

2/14: 5 x 1k @ 245 + 2 x 200 @ 27 + 400 @ 54

Race Video

Post-Race Interview

The Detroit Marathon: A Tale of Two Brothers


Introduction by Paul Snyder

As a country, notions of “otherness” and competition define our political and economic systems. So it’s really no surprise that as a culture, we love rivalries. We quiver with delight at the thought of two high-profile titans duking it out, challenging one another to be better, with the outcome a performance that is greater than the sum of its already great parts.

Frazier-Ali. Hamilton-Burr. Harding-Kerrigan. David-Goliath. Aguilera-Spears. Magic-Bird.

Stories of these deeply personal, yet publicly-contested battles captivate our imaginations more than almost any other trope out there. But to suggest that the only rivalries worth their salt are the ones we see on television or read about in magazines is irresponsible.

(Consider this. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird squared off dozens of times during their illustrious NBA careers, each matchup a must-watch event. But at the end of the day, win or lose, both Bird and Johnson would walk out of the locker room, dejected, but still millionaires with legions of adoring fans. Celebrity rivalries enthrall us, but we forget that they rarely result in one party “losing it all.”)

The same doesn’t hold true for the thousands of just-as-hotly-contested rivalries that smolder in obscurity, lacking in infamy but certainly not in passion. In these rivalries, there is no glory, no fortune to fall back on. Simply victory or defeat, and an abundance of tears either way.

I invite you take a hard stand in a generally under-acknowledged sibling rivalry that is coming to a head at the 2016 Detroit Free Press Marathon, on Sunday, October 16. The combatants? Brothers Will and Liam Boylan-Pett, natives of nearby Bath, Michigan, who both went on to compete for Columbia University’s track and cross country teams. (They’re also raising money for a neat cause, so donate if you’d like!)

On paper, this shouldn’t be close. Liam is a sub-4 miler many times over and enjoyed a professional running career that saw him compete at the 2012 Olympic Trials. He only recently retired, and ought to retain much of the residual fitness from his competitive days. If the ability to run fast was how we predicted race winners, Liam would be a lock.

But we don’t run the marathon on paper, folks, and that’s why this promises to be something special, brutal, and permanently damaging to the brothers’ relationship.

Will is several years Liam’s senior, and used his advanced age to wallop Liam in high school track races. (Liam has only beaten Will a handful of times, an important but very misleading statistic worth considering.) Where Liam floats over the ground with an effortless loping stride, Will does not. He huffs, puffs, and generally seems to be near vomitus, regardless of pace or distance. But the guy is well-versed in dealing with the discomfort that comes with racing the marathon distance.

Familial pride is on the line. But the real motivation stems from the side bet. The loser must: put a “26.2” bumper sticker on their car; listen to the worst band imaginable exclusively (the Eagles?), for one month; carry a yoga mat with them everywhere they go for one month; and eat the fat leftover from the winner’s steak, at a dinner hosted in the loser’s apartment.

These two men are ready to bleed on race day. It’s Boylan-Pett-Boylan-Pett. We checked in with prominent representatives from each camp, both uniquely qualified to offer their highly subjective opinions on the Duel for Detroit.

Why I am team #TeamLiam

by Johnny Gregorek

Over the past few months I have made it perfectly clear that I’ll be supporting Liam Boylan-Pett, more iconically known as LBP, in the upcoming brotherly battle of the Detroit “Free the People” Marathon. For those of you who don’t know, Will BP is a former coach of mine, a dear friend, and a mentor. However, it is laughable to think he has any shot at beating Liam. Believe me. I know from experience.

In 2013(?) I watched a similar battle take place at Columbia university. The match-up was Elliot Blount (1:46 800m guy) vs Will BP (multiple hot dog a week guy) over 600 meters. Will had been running a lot of speed work with the team and many thought he could take down Blount, who does occasional push-ups and is talented. Long story short, the gun goes off and Blount puts about 50 meters on Will over the course of the first 75 meters. Will was completely all out, and the more talented guy just laughed and made him look like an idiot. I made a promise to myself that day. For the rest of my life, I would never support Will in anything ever again.

So, here we are on the verge of yet another battle between Will and a guy who is 110% better at running. His own brother. This time the stakes are higher, but it’s going to be the same old story. I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life. Let’s talk stats here, shall we?

This is Liam’s debut marathon. Everyone knows that ignorance is bliss. Will, on the other hand, has dropped out of multiple marathons. Fact.

Liam has kept his cool under tremendous pressure on multiple occasions. He led the charge in building a national caliber distance program at Columbia, which lasts to this day. He has broken four for the mile, run in the Olympic Trials, anchored a Penn Relay 4×800 victory, the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, Will has no such resume. He went to “law school” and pushes papers at some glue factory in Northern Connecticut. How can this race even be up for debate?

I know what EVERYONES rationale for a Will victory is. He is tough. He is relentless. When his body screams for mercy on his daily 20 min jog/elliptigo ride, he answers with a violent head swivel, grunts “this is a disaster” and surges onward. Do I respect that? You bet. Will it help him at all against a specimen like Liam? No chance.

Liam is Alec Baldwin and Will is one of the other Baldwins.

Liam is Michael Jordan. Will is Larry Jordan (just found out he existed on Wikipedia).

Liam is Polar Grapefruit Seltzer. Will is terrible.

I interviewed Will’s entire family on this matter and they all broke down laughing when I asked if they believe in him. They know better. They support their hero child. Liam “The Jet” Boylan-Pett. The colossus of clout. The sultan of stride. Father of dunks. First of his name.

The guy has been destroying his training and is ready for a monster performance. Ask yourself, am I going to stand on the wrong side of history?

Will is a Trump Supporter

Why I am the self-proclaimed ‘Captain’ of #TeamWill

by Kyle Merber

I first got to know Will during the middle of my sophomore year when he suddenly became our assistant coach at Columbia. Despite having a newly minted law degree, he couldn’t get a job. And unlike most people who were now greatly in debt and dependent on a gambling habit, Will refused to keep applying to jobs. Instead he accepted an offer [probably at a bar, thrown out as a joke] by his former coach despite having no prior experience aside from middle school cross-country and being a former mediocre runner himself. He didn’t contribute a whole lot at first aside from being the guy who laid the cones down, but the team took a liking to him.

During the three years we overlapped at Columbia, I would say he could best be described as the ‘workout bitch.’ If someone had to run alone, he’d hop in and help out. This precedent was first set by his “way too good for him and much more famous” professional runner girlfriend, Delilah, who would regularly employ him to block the wind for her. He rarely ever complained, except the one time that he did and it ended with a temporary break up during a hill-repeat session on the north side of the park. And many say that was the last time Will has ever complained about anything.

To a lot of people, they are seeing the Detroit Marathon as a 26.2-mile war. But Will has been battling his whole life. Blessed with absolutely no genetic gifts whatsoever, he has had to fight tooth and nail for everything. Unlike Liam who simply had to follow in the footsteps of his role model that lived down the hall, Will forged his own trail.

Look, I know what people are saying about Will’s “drinking problem” and “the extra 15 lbs. he could definitely afford to lose,” but they’re looking at this thing the wrong way. Will has 7 different 20+ mile long runs and I can guarantee you that he did not get more than 5 hours of sleep before any one of those, and the only water he consumed in the hours leading in could best be described as chewing on ”the rocks.” But if we can somehow manage to put Will to bed at a reasonable hour the night prior and hide all the Detroit City Distillery liquors (he is part owner), it will be like taking off the donut before a ballplayer gets up to bat.

I once did a tempo run on a cold day in Central Park and I guilt-tripped Will into joining me. I dropped him HARD 1.5 miles in, but he kept trying to catch up for another half mile before quitting. Except he didn’t…3 miles later and out pops Will from the bushes to help for another 2-minutes before once again fading. I tried going through my running log to find a single tempo I have ever done with Liam to use as an example of his lack of spirit, but I couldn’t. Because he never stepped up to the plate to try and tempo with the big boys. Instead he would run with his girlfriend “Ashley” who has been Yoko Ono’ing him this whole buildup and has somehow convinced him that this race will be won in 2:40 (probably because she thinks she could beat them both).

Will is going to PR and I dare Liam to try and go with him. Because if there is one thing I know, it’s that Will knows what it’s like to feel and look like complete shit.

This is a man who has nothing going for him (unlike Liam, who is faster, smarter and better looking). Will’s whole life has been filled with loss after loss. He’s a loser. This race is all Will has. And that’s why I think he may finally win.

P.S.-Liam is writing in Ted Cruz

via /r/advancedrunning

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Photo: Jim Crossin

Q: So, what exactly is Merber’s priority in a race like that mile?

Pre-race, his instructions were to go 3.50 pace. He takes it out right there, and no one goes with him. So he looks over his shoulder and then slows down in laps 2/3 until they regain contact. And then when he speeds up again in lap 4 … same story: no one goes with him. What’s a rabbit supposed to do with that kind of field?

I guess it looks like his #1 job is to pull whoever is running 2nd, and then his 2nd priority is to hit 3.50 pace through 1200. Or did he improvise? Genuinely curious here.

Note that I’m in no way criticizing the guy, because he sure seemed to have the legs to go ~2.53 through 1209.

A: Honestly, it is an extremely difficult position for a rabbit to be in, but I think I handled it as best as I possibly could. I spoke to Centrowitz earlier in the week and he told me to get out and run 56.0 but he’d rather me be faster than slower. So I went out with that intention, and assumed he’d be on me. For everyone else in the race, they make that same assumption. They’ve heard he requested 2:52 and so they expect him to take second duty and for it to be strung out and rolling. Centro was apparently feeling a bit sick and so when I realized he didn’t get out as hard as he planned and Garrett finds himself in the lead I have to slow down. But if I put the breaks on too hard that’ll be a disaster so I just immediately fall into 29.x and wait for them to attach. I tried on a couple occasions to press a bit, but a gap would open so I just kept that pace rolling until it was time to step off. I squeezed it down a bit the last 100 in hopes of winding them up (a move Willis preaches and taught me at Swarthmore). I felt great, and believe I did the right thing. The mistake a lot of people would probably make is to just run 2:52 like they were told, never look back and the field would jog a 3:00 and kick. After the race, the meet director and a lot of people whose opinion I really respect knew it was a tough situation to be put in, but that I did everything right and were happy with the job.

My plan to rabbit this race came a couple months ago as I was hurt in the beginning of the fall, but have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my fitness has come along and was a bit disappointed I didn’t get in a fast race like at the other top US guys. But I wanted a low key indoor season without much excitement and that’s what I am getting. The perks of rabbiting is that afterwards everyone is really appreciative and it’s good karma. Obviously at this point, I am really good friends with the majority of the field despite being in constant competition with them. One day they’ll probably get me back, ideally by coming to the Long Island Mile.

Still had a full week of mileage and right after the race (about 7-8 minutes later) I did a quick workout of 2x1k (2:51-2:52) and then 400/300/200 (58-42-26) and got in a long cool down. Next weekend I am going to do a low key 3k in Staten Island and call it a season. Glad to have gone through the race-day routine today and walk away with confidence.

Here’s Some Terrible Advice

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Hoka One One Long Island Mile 2015 (Photo by Foon Fu)

Your coach will hate me for this debatably terrible advice I am about to give, but if he heard me out fully, then maybe he’d only respectfully disagree: I think you should get hurt.


Now don’t go do it on purpose right now [or ever], though eventually at some point in your running career I’d really suggest you try it. It’s not something to be sought out, and in the midst of it you’ll see no value whatsoever to the experience. However, somewhere down the line, probably long after you’re fully healed and the fitness has been regained and then surpassed, you will look back and realize that it wasn’t the worst thing to ever happen to you. And after the fact, it may actually make you a better runner for it.


I am currently on the backside of an injury that took me out for a few weeks. After a 3-week long off-season my body felt like an Oldsmobile in desperate need of some oil. Less than 40 miles later my achilles flared up on me, and I was sidelined for a few weeks. I am happy to report that today I am now running pain free and back into my buildup, [hence why I can write this blog in good conscience]. During my time spent in the pool, swimming countless laps and contemplating the purchase of underwater headphones, there were hours of reflection upon my career.

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Hoka One One Photo Shoot 2014 in Boulder, CO (Photo by Matt Trappe)

As I thought back to some of my other extended interruptions from action, I realized a trend that has developed. It would seem that my biggest breakouts in racing occurred shortly thereafter the longest periods away. How could this be? But Kyle, you always talk about consistency! Well this is what I came up with…


Training is very simple. We sometimes make it complicated, and coaches will talk in percentages, numbers and target zones. All well and good, but the aim in the multitude of approaches is always the same: Stress the body, and then recover. We do this every week in micro-cycles of hard-easy days. And then we do it again from a slightly more macro-approach, taking down weeks each month, and an off week between seasons. You have to let the body recover so the muscles you broke down, and the systems you exhausted can then rebuild to come back stronger.


Now let’s take one step further back and think about all the years of training and miles that have been compiled. Is one week off, combined with a week of easy running necessarily enough to allow the body to fully heal? That’s where an unfortunate, and timely injury can become a blessing in disguise. It is a way of forcing your body to recover and absorb those huge blocks of training. Instead of lightly tapping it, you are fully pressing the restart button and holding it down, and when you return your body is fresh—and so is your mind!


My motivation goes through ebbs and flows while stuck cross training. In the beginning it’s easy, because you convince yourself that it’ll only be a couple days and so the fitness needs to be kept. Then, you get pissed off because this thing is lingering too long. That’s when you sit in the park and watch an elderly lady with a metal hip trot by and think, ‘How can she possibly be running right now, and I can’t?’ And finally, you see the light at the end of the tunnel and you’re starving for miles. That energy goes towards doing more core, heavier weights, and deeper stretching. When you can eventually make it back to the trail, you’re well behind where you thought you’d be and so there is no room for error now—you have to do everything perfect.

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5 Star XC Camp 2015 Photo by Justin Britton of @ARunnersEye

Perhaps the greatest assist an injury can make to your career is the simple reminder of how great it is to be running. The pursuit can be tiresome, the pressure can be daunting and the losses can be deflating. Yet not having the opportunity to crunch leaves beneath your feet on a crisp fall morning is enough to recirculate that pure love for the sport you haven’t felt for a while. And that yearning sticks with you beyond a few weeks of pain.


Again, I don’t suggest going doing anything stupid and trying to get hurt. I am sure it will ultimately happen to you anyways. But when it does come, realize that there may be some positives that come out of the terrible and unlucky moments. And maybe the physiological benefits that I made up without doing any real research are nothing more than pseudo-science and a rationalization I created to make myself feel better. The important thing is that it hopefully makes you optimistic about your situation, and when you can finally run again you’ll be confident and excited to be back! Or maybe you can never run again—either way, we are all going to die soon anyways.

The Creeping Demons of Ambition

The following is an article I recently contributed to Zocalo Public Square, which is a fantastic medium filled with incredible writing. Check it out! Zocalo Public Square Article

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Three years ago, on a rain-soaked track in rural Pennsylvania, I ran the fastest 1,500-meter race by an American college student in history. My time was 3:35.59. Add an extra 109 meters to that pace, and it’s a 3:52 mile. I didn’t realize just how quick it was until someone put it in that perspective for me.

I hadn’t expected to run anywhere near that. My best 1,500 time going into the race was 3:42—still a very respectable time by collegiate standards, but far from record- breaking. As one of the athletes who had to beg his way for a spot on the starting line—it was a late-season race, held specifically for some of the country’s top runners to lock down good times—I was just there to play follow the leader, and hopefully get carried along to a personal best, maybe even a qualifying time for that year’s Olympic trials. Instead, I won.

I can recall key parts of the race, but much of it is a blur. The last of the evening’s raindrops splashed against the track as the athletes peeled off their warm-ups. A surprising number of fans lined the track’s perimeter. After the starter fired his pistol, I fell into position toward the back of the 15-person field and focused only on the damp jerseys in front of me. I knew fatigue was due to set in soon, but once we passed the halfway point, instead of losing ground, I began to move through the field. Soon the leaders were in sight. There was life still in my legs around the final turn (how did we get here so soon)? With my eyes forward and my head up, I made my bid for the front.

Engulfed by the moment, I crossed the finish line oblivious to what I had just achieved. My legs were numb. I turned around to see who came in behind me. Then one runner a few strides back yelled to me in disbelief. He must’ve seen the clock. My coaches sprinted toward me with their hands in the air shouting just how fast I had gone.

Euphoria always follows a great race—a validation of all the work and sacrifices leading up to that moment. But this performance was different. It was difficult to understand what had happened. On paper, I was seven seconds faster than I had been when I woke up that morning, a difference that takes most competitive runners years of chipping away to achieve. Suddenly, I was part of an entirely different tier of athlete. Now I had to convince myself I belonged.

Three weeks after setting the record, I had the most devastating race of my career. At the NCAA National Championships, I bombed out of the preliminary rounds of the 1,500 meters, not even making the final. With the echo of the stadium’s crowd still audible through a tunnel and my breath still heavy, I had to compose myself before facing the media. What had happened? I was supposed to be among the best now—people wanted great things. How does the American collegiate record holder run so slow?

I’d had one goal going into those championships: to win. But entering a race with a win-or-lose attitude is a dangerous approach. With new personal records come new expectations, and after I failed to live up to mine, I quickly became haunted by doubts and disillusionment. Would that lightning ever strike twice?

The ecstasy of just a few weeks earlier began to feel like a dream.

It took me three years to run as fast as 3:35 again. After graduating from college, injuries, missed chances, and bad luck plagued each season. Eventually, I had to go back to the basics. Keep it simple. Stop the overthinking. Staying healthy became my first priority; putting one foot in front of the other the second. There was no curse to be lifted, I told myself. That quiet track in the backwoods of Pennsylvania was the same distance around as every other. I just needed the right opportunity.

It finally came last May, when I found myself just off the leader’s shoulder in the final stretch of a 1,500 in South Carolina. The race’s pacers had been hasty, and the field was competitive. Now was my time. The impulse to win overrode the pain of each step, and once again, I felt those chills shooting through my spine, masking the temptation to let up. The numbers on the big clock by the finish were lower than I had ever seen. I leaned my head forward to cut a few hundredths of a second as I crossed the line. Occasions like this are rare, and I wanted it all.

In track, as in all other sports, failure is determined by the level of success you achieve—where you set the bar for yourself, based on past accomplishments. If I hadn’t run that one extraordinary time in college, I’d have been thrilled just to be at nationals that year. But once I proved what I was capable of, I had to try to live up to it.

In this way, paradoxically, a runner’s victories are forbidding as well as euphoric. Success means new goals to obsess over and fall short of.

Last May, with the ghost of my college-self behind me, it didn’t take me long to forget my recent years of frustration. Finally, I’m able to look ahead—specifically, to next year’s Olympics. But I’m already starting to sense once again the creeping demons of my own ambitions. How do I suppress them? So far, the only trick I’ve found is to embrace the disappointment—to recall the crushing moments, and to use them as fuel to never feel that way again.

Then: keep it simple. Take the next step.