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Yeah, marathoner Jeff Young cross-trains: It's called work

  • Author: Doyle Woody
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published April 16, 2016

Jeff Young is an elite age-group marathoner who does not spin wince-worthy tales about twice-daily training runs or triple-digit mileage weeks.

He spends his work days as an Anchorage construction worker hauling lumber and Sheetrock, climbing stairs and ladders, wearing a tool belt and wielding a nail gun — old-school cross-training.

The demands of Young's job prompt him to limit his marathon-preparation mileage to an average of 40-50 miles per week. Those other cats can bang out weeks of 80, 90, 100 or more miles — bless them. Young's training favors quality — and listening to his body and adjusting to what it tells him — over quantity.

"I just can't do those miles because I work hard during the week,'' Young said.

Work — and talent and tenacity — is working well for him.

Young, 57, enters Monday's 120th Boston Marathon as the defending champion in the men's 55-59 age group and one of more than 60 Alaskans, including veteran Iditarod musher DeeDee Jonrowe, who are entered in the country's most storied 26.2-miler.

Young said his high-mileage week in preparing for Boston was 52 miles. That's plenty, according to his coach, Jerry Ross, who along with Todd List, operates the Alaska Endurance Project.

"He's offsetting that with the physicality of his job,'' Ross said. "Even if he only runs 50 miles per week, he's burning the same amount of calories as a guy running 150 miles a week.''

Plus, Ross said, Young is particularly attuned to his body. Ross said Young doesn't "chase'' miles, which has helped keep him relatively injury-free.

"Everything he does, he does it for a reason,'' Ross said.

Young said he usually trains "by feel.'' Say a certain workout on a certain day calls for seven repetitions of a certain distance at a certain speed. Young will occasionally call it quits early because his body tells him he's done enough and more isn't better.

"My body is like, 'That's it,' '' Young said. "I'm doing five sets of something and everybody else is doing seven, and I'm like, 'I'm fine with five.' ''

One workout Young didn't trim was a critical 20-miler five weeks before Boston. The rundown: Two miles easy, one mile of striding, four miles at tempo pace faster than marathon pace, nine miles at pace about 30 seconds slower than marathon pace, three miles of additional tempo and one mile of easy pace.

And exhale — and collapse.

Well, not quite.

"You look at it on paper and think, 'How am I going to do this?' '' Young said. "You get into it and you're like, 'It wasn't that bad.' My body just absorbed it, and it was on to the next workout.''

That 20-mile workout told Young he is capable of running a personal record (PR) Monday in his fourth career marathon.

At Boston last year, Young clocked 2 hours, 46 minutes, 23 seconds, an average of 6:21 per mile. That was an improvement of 1:44 over his marathon debut (2:48:07) at Anchorage's Mayor's Marathon in June 2014. And Young's 2:44:42 in the New York Marathon on Nov. 1 improved his PR by another 1:44.

Young said that, according to an email he received from Boston race officials, he enters Monday with the third-best qualifying time in his age division. He believes he is capable of bagging another PR and he hopes to repeat as an age-group champ. He said he is confident he can race well Monday because he's fit and he knows the course after racing it last year.

"I'm not really stressing about it at all,'' Young said. "I've got a total plan to run Boston faster than last year, just knowing the course and knowing after the Newton Hills, the last five miles (mostly downhill), I can just let it go.

"If I die, I die. If I don't, I don't.''

Reach Doyle Woody at dwoody@alaskadispatch.com and follow him on Twitter at @JaromirBlagr

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