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Malcolm Richards on the Road to His 2nd Olympic Marathon Trials

Malcom Richards has qualified for his 2nd consecutive Olympic Marathon Trials held in Los Angeles on February 13, 2016. I caught up with him to recap life after his first Olympic Trials and preparations for the upcoming Trials.

The first time you qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials was in 2012; you ran a last chance qualifier at the California International Marathon in an impressive 2:17:29. Then a month later you ran the Olympic Trials in Houston. How was the buildup and can you take us through the race?

Going into CIM the goal was really just to run sub 2:19 and qualify, so there wasn’t much of a post-CIM plan. As CIM was only my 2nd marathon my body at that time took more of a beating from the marathon, so the time between CIM and the Trials was definitely a struggle. Initially I hoped to take one down week, and then get back to some hard training for a couple weeks before dialing it back down. It ended up being more of a situation where I just tried to get out and run easy most days, as the few workouts I attempted didn’t turn out very well. That being said, I still wanted to get out there at the Trials and compete to the best of my ability. I got out pretty aggressively (think somewhere around 67:30 at the half), but the combination of factors caught up to me. Around mile 19 or 20 I had to make a porta-stop, and from there it was just “get to the finish, get to the finish” the rest of the way.

Looking back at Houston, what have you learned from this experience to help you prepare for your second Olympic Trials in Los Angeles?

The biggest difference this time around probably has more to do with having a lot more time to prepare, as I ran a qualifying time back in fall 2013. So, there’s more confidence about my training and preparations going in this time.

Then in 2013 you ran the USA Marathon Championships in St. Paul, absolutely crushed your PR with a 2:15:49. Looked like perfect conditions with a talented field packed together. What did you do differently to lower your time?

It was mostly just amping the training up gradually, increasing the length and intensity of my tempo runs and upping the overall mileage somewhat. That was a particularly exciting race for me, as I was right in the lead pack for the first 12 miles (unexpectedly), and I was running on familiar terrain, as I grew up in the Twin Cities. I was having fun out there, and able to turn the mind off and just run for a while, which I think always helps.

Boston Marathon

Malcolm Richards at 2015 Boston Marathon

Ok, we are all trying to figure out how you did this, in January you went back to Houston in 2015 and ran the USA Half Marathon Championships in a blistering 1:03:26! That is back to back 30 minute 10Ks and your PR is 29:55 on the track! Can you talk about the race and explain to us mortals how you felt mentally and physically?

Again, when I reflect back on some of my best races there is an aspect of “underthinking” to it. Everything lined up so perfectly that day, and I attached myself to a pack of guys, and just let the miles stream on by. I gave myself signposts throughout the race: 5k, 10k, 10 miles, and just kept telling myself to get to that next spot. It’s amazing how on those special days everything can feel so good, when oftentimes running slower than that can feel so hard!

Coming off the 2015 Chicago Marathon, running 2:16:41 and 4th American, your confidence to run fast in a championship race must be extremely high; would you say this race was a confidence booster leading up to the Olympic Trials?

It was, and yet I was also hungering for more. In my mind it was kind of sub 2:15 or bust, so it was a bit disappointing to not hit my time goal. That being said, overall the times were a bit slow, and I unfortunately didn't have many guys around to run with in the early miles, which seems to be a pretty large factor for me in how I perform. I know that at the Trials there will be people around at all times.

The Olympic Trials is less than two months away, how is your training going and what is your go-to work out?

Training is going really well. I’m happy to have recovered nicely from Chicago, and to have turned in some good performances at recent races.

My go-to workout in the last couple marathon training cycles has been a longer tempo run where I incorporate some faster “rest miles.” This is often something like 3 x 4 miles, with a 1 mile in between each 4 mile segment. The 4 mile segments I run at slightly faster than marathon pace (5:00-5:05 average) and then the 1 mile rest is around 5:20-5:40 pace. It’s a really good confidence booster when it goes well.

Over the past four years, you have been putting in the hard work and stellar performances, people around the US are now recognizing you as one of the great American Marathoners; what do you say to them and what can we expect from you on race day? Maybe crowned as an Olympian?

Well, I would say I still need to prove myself a bit more in the larger races to get up to that echelon. I am very proud of my continued progress as a now olderish runner, which I mainly attribute to consistency and dedication. Right now I am saying my goal on race day is top-20, and a significant pr. I’m going to leave it at that for now.

Lastly, is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you reach the Olympic Trials?

I mean there are many people that have contributed in one way or another, from high school and college coaches on up to my family and the members of the group I train with, West Valley Track Club. All of the supportive words, whether in person or via social media, are helpful and motivating to me. Also, it’s not a person, but I have to thank California as well. Living in the Bay Area makes training much easier than if I was living somewhere with more significant weather impediments. I feel lucky to get to train in such a temperate environment.

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