Welcome to Run With Less, Marcus Brown.
Marcus Brown (@themarathonmarcus) is a hugely inspiring family guy with big goals, setting his sights on a sub 3 marathon.
He is incredibly humble & level-headed, despite his amazing success and being one of the few non-elite runners to achieve an Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal.
Marcus was recently nominated in the ‘Most Inspiring Man’ category of the Challenge Awards, a collaboration by Runner’s World & letsdothis.com.
He is also a Half Marathon Des Sables Peru finisher, speaker, writer and England Athletics LiRF Coach.
His blog, marathonmarcus.com and social media channels are used to share his running journey across the globe, as he works towards advocating the balance of both a sound body and mind.
Marcus is the real deal, a genuine guy with real ambitions, authentically living his truth and happy to share his wisdom & knowledge to help others.
Thanks for joining us for a chat Today Marcus.
Run With Less: How did you get into running?
Marcus Brown: I had a bet from a friend to run a 10k, I didn’t run prior to that, so I ducked and dived races until I could no longer run out of excuses! Training from nothing was tough, but crossing the finish line was an amazing feeling.
RWL: It’s funny, so many people start running through a bet!
Why do you run?
MB: It changes as dependent on the stage of my life. When I started running it was for external reasons, i.e. to prove something to myself. It took me some time to realise it’s not sustainable in the long term. I run now because I enjoy it, plus for long term health reasons, and to see what my best looks like.
RWL: That’s great. Agreed, longevity is the key.
You have finished each of the six world major marathons (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago & New York) to achieve that six star medal. Is that your proudest achievement?
MB: Boston 2018. Before the race I tweaked my knee doing too much hill work, so I scaled my training back. I got to the race line in ok shape but knowing my knee injury could flare up.
Then there was the weather, it was biblical. Minus zero temperatures, driving wind and rain for the whole day.
Pre race, I practiced different scenarios of the weather and my knee. From good to bad. So when the bad happened it wasn’t a shock. Although it was raining externally, it wasn’t raining internally. I just put one foot in front of the other and zoned into that until I crossed the finish line.
The race revealed a lot of internal strengths, that I didn’t realise were there, when I was chasing external goals.
RWL: Wow, that is so inspiring.
It reminds me of a favourite David Goggins quote too:
How do you keep your running simple?
MB: To know your why for doing it, and despite your goals, don’t forget your enjoyment of it.
RWL: Great advice. You work with running coach, John Starrett. What is the best advice he has given you that’s developed your running?
MB: He’s helped me learn to train properly.
For my goals, marathon training isn’t a 16 week block, it required a long term view and patience to go through the highs and lows.
But we break it down on a weekly basis, with regular reviews of the training, which keeps the focus.
RWL: Tell us about slow easy running and low heart rate training?
MB: Aerobic running is the base of running. You can’t add speed when you don’t have a solid foundation beneath.
I run easy on the easy days, and go fast on the hard days. In a typical 7 day training cycle I’ll do two workouts and the remaining are easy paced runs.
Heart rate monitoring can really help run at an easy pace. But it can be impacted by stress, weather, elevations and other internal/external factors. So I usually go by feel. If it feels slow then that’s a good sign.
RWL: Do you see a race as a celebration or a test?
MB: Both and much more.
It’s a celebration because you’ve put in months of work and this is what it’s all for, especially an A race.
But it’s not all plain sailing, if your going to your limit. The race will ask you the question of how much you want it, it will kick your behind and it will test you. Sometimes in that moment, you have the answers, sometimes you don’t.
It’s also a mirror, it reveals the strengths in us, that we don’t always pay attention to in everyday life.
RWL: Your current marathon PB is 3:05, which you achieved in Manchester earlier this year. There were factors outside of your control that meant you weren’t at your best that day but still achieved such a great time?
MB: I had a great training block, then days before the race, I tweaked my knee, then I had a medical issue that required antibiotics, which are known to decrease your performance output. Then I got food poisoning the night before the race.
I couldn’t believe it at first when I felt the effects of the food poisoning. But I then focused on what I could do next.
Stay hydrated, drink water and clear my system.
Then in the morning if I didn’t feel sick and could hold down my breakfast. I’d run it, if not, I wouldn’t have done so.
Thankfully I felt ok and my food stayed down, and I ran the race I was on sub 3 pace up to mile 20, then the residual effects of the food poisoning caught up with me. One moment I felt good, the next I felt I was going to be sick.
I saw the sub 3 pacer pull off into the distance. But I refused to stop and feel sorry for myself. I put so much into it my training, that I couldn’t quit. I slowed my pace down until I felt half normal but was managing it (trying not to push the pace and be sick), until the last 200 metres, where I pushed and I crossed the line throwing up repeatedly as shown in the video below.
But ultimately whilst I didn’t hit my sub 3 target, I PB’d on a day (3:05) where I wasn’t in my best condition.
RWL: Imagine what your best looks like when you’re at 100 percent!
The goal is to achieve a sub 3 marathon in Berlin?
MB: For sub 3 I’m not entitled to the result, but with the work I put in, I know that I am deserving of the result.
I try not to focus solely on what my best looks like. All my PB’s have had ugly moments to get through. I don’t wish for perfect conditions, I just aim to have the strength to overcome challenging moments.
RWL: That is really profound, thank you.
I greatly respect your dedication to training, whilst working full time and family life with a wife & young daughter.
You have previously mentioned that ‘balance’ is an illusion. Could you share more of your thoughts on this and any tips for fitting training in when you have a lot of other life commitments?
MB: Balance is an illusion, but that’s not an excuse.
To counter this I find being organised is essential. Planning my day and prepping activities helps save time.
For example when I get home, I lay out my running kit, work clothes, lunch etc. Because any phaffing about on the day, just adds delay to an already busy day.
RWL: Do you have any other recommendations or advice for other runners with family commitments?
MB: Communication is probably the most important aspect. You need to communicate with your partner and be organised in how you manage your family and training commitments.
Family are more important than race results and it’s important to always keep them first. So make sure you plan events with them, so they feel valued. Actions not words matter in the end.
RWL: A big part of your running journey has been taking control of your mental health and discovering an inner resilience to gain strength from, rather than externally. Could you share more on this inward journey of self reflection?
MB: I would clarify that I believe that my focus is being an advocate for a sound mind and body. As all parts need to be counted for.
For the mind essentially how we talk to ourselves is so important. If we feel weak or powerless then we look for evidence to back it up.
Often when I train, I may feel tired and not up for it.
But I’m conscious never to verbally state it, when training as a tired mind and body will lead to a bad workout.
I take a phrase out of my daily intention list and repeat it over and over until I start to believe it.
We have a lot of strength internally but often it’s easy to overlook this.
We can’t control external situations, but how you respond, either being a victim or a victor is key.
RWL: It’s clear that you prioritise living with intention and being present for your daughter & family. How do you refine your intentions & be mindful of them?
MB: Each day, it’s important to set time for what’s important.
So for family time, just being present, i.e. having dinner and talking together, or putting your kids to bed and reading a story each day.
For myself, I set daily alarms to take time out, and be conscious of my thoughts, but also to remind myself of my intentions, I write my intentions down, as I find structure helps bed it into my subconscious.
RWL: Are you familiar with minimalism and how simplifying can help remove the everyday stresses, distractions & anxieties from our lives?
MB: I’m always learning so yes, partly in theory, and partly in practice as it’s something I’m always refining.
RWL: Could you share how you plan & prepare for a race?
MB: Race prep is part of each day, from training, food choices, sleep, strengthening, stretching, practicing your race day routine/kit/nutrition over and over.
It’s difficult to sum this answer up neatly, but it’s just daily conscious action built day in, day out.
Have a look at my website, I have a series of articles on my sub 3 journey describing how I trained and prepare for the Manchester and Berlin Marathons.
RWL: What one book has had the most influence or impact on your life?
MB: I couldn’t name a definitive book as I’ve found that different books and audiobooks have influenced my life at particular points.
But one of the many choices if, pushed would be The Traveler’s Gift.
RWL: You can add one word onto the end of the phrase ‘Run With Less’. What would you choose?
RWL: Where can people find you online?
RWL: Thank you Marcus, a great interview and good luck for the sub 3 attempt at Berlin Marathon on Sunday 28 September 2019.
If you would like to find out more about Marcus and his story, I would thoroughly recommend you give his appearance on the Easy Thrills podcast a listen (audio episode embed below). Hugely Inspiring!