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Hi, I'm Sam Robinson.  Here you can find a portfolio of my writing and publications.

This San Francisco Schoolteacher Set a World Record For the Indoor Marathon

This San Francisco Schoolteacher Set a World Record For the Indoor Marathon

On March 17, 2018, both the men's and women's indoor marathon world records were broken at the 3rd Annual Armory NYC Indoor Marathon World Record Challenge.  Lindsey Scherf of Scarsdale, NY finished with a world-record time of 2:40:55, breaking the previous women's record by over a minute.

The men's record was shattered by Malcolm Richards, an elementary-school teacher from San Francisco who runs for the West Valley Track Club.  This was not Malcolm's first rodeo in the indoor marathon: he set the indoor record in 2016, before it was broken the following year's champion, Chris Zablocki.  But Richard's effort this year of 2:19:01 surpassed the previous mark by over two-and-a-half minutes.  I caught up with Malcolm, who has run 2:13:28 for the road marathon, via email after his race.  In the full interview below, we chat about the experience of running an indoor marathon and how Malcolm handles semi-professional running with a full-time teaching job.

 Richards and Scherf during their world-record efforts. Photo: Armory Track

Richards and Scherf during their world-record efforts. Photo: Armory Track

Sam Robinson:  First off, congratulations on reclaiming the indoor world record!  I imagine the idea of running a marathon on an indoor track is pretty crazy to most folks.  So, what in the world is it like to run 211 laps around a banked, indoor track in upper Manhattan?  Were you able to zone out in a good headspace?  Or did you have to stay pretty focused on your surroundings? 

Malcolm Richards:  It is definitely a different approach than running a standard road marathon.  I do try to zone out more than I usually would, while of course paying some attention to my lap splits, making sure I’m where I want to be pace-wise, etc.  I didn’t really feel like I was in the 2nd lane that much [passing people], but I wasn’t worried about it either way.  I also gave myself some different goalposts along the way: at one hour, the half-marathon point, getting to 50 laps left (which is essentially 10k left).

SR:  What were your motivations for running the indoor marathon?  Obviously, reclaiming the world record was a big priority, but I can see some allure to the peculiar challenge of an indoor track marathon.  Was there any appeal beyond breaking a record? 

MR:  Mmm, no.  I guess the main motivation was getting the record again.  I’d like to make some grand pronouncements about some deeper meaning to it, but the allure of a pretty good payday and a world record are/were the main enticements.

SR:  Fair enough.  But given the general weirdness of the event, how did you mentally approach the race?  Did you break up the distance by laps?  By miles?  By time?  

MR:  I alluded to this earlier, but it was a bit of a mix.  For me, an indoor marathon is kind of about just making it to the first 5 or so miles, then I kind of look ahead to 10 miles.  At 1 hour, the organizers have everyone turn around and run in the opposite direction, and this year that was where I made a fairly significant move and amped up the pace.  I don’t really pay much attention to how many laps are left until I get to under 50.

 Richards, turning 180 degrees, at the hour mark.  Photo: Armory Track

Richards, turning 180 degrees, at the hour mark.  Photo: Armory Track

SR:  I read online that racers were able to make requests for the music playing over the PA system… did you make any specific song requests?

MR:  I did take advantage of that and sent over a list of songs the night before the race. And yeah, it actually gave me a good boost when I started hearing some of them.  I can’t remember all the requests I made, but I know they included MIA’s “Paper Planes,” LCD Soundsystem's “Tonite,” Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll,” plus some Beastie Boys and Kendrick Lamar. 

SR:  Running a race on an indoor track seems easy enough, but does an indoor event like this present challenges that people might not expect? 

MR:  I’m not sure if there are “unexpected” challenges, but more so what one might expect: the difficulty of staying focused with all those laps, the air in an indoor facility, the tight turns.  The smallness of the field, I would say is a challenge, actually.  This time, I was running a whole heck of a lot of the race solo, and so that always makes it a bit more difficult.

SR:  You are an accomplished runner with a lot of strong finishes in a number of disciplines (Malcolm has run 1:03:26 for the half marathon and is an accomplished cross country runner).  But how does the Armory Indoor Challenge compare to road marathons in terms of difficulty? 

MR:  I would say it is both more and less difficult.  More in that I’m not going into it with quite the same approach or training that I would probably put in for the road marathons I run, and therefore I don’t have quite the same mental preparation.  It is less difficult in that I’m usually looking at it as I want to/need to start at a more relaxed pace, and I’m not running as fast as I would for a road marathon, so the race feels less hard. 

 Photo: Armory Track

Photo: Armory Track

SR:  Finally, how do you fit in a heavy training load with a full-time job?  How do you schedule in the miles around your teaching schedule?  Any advice for more recreational athletes about how to fit in higher volume with a busy schedule? 

MR:  Well, I feel the need to first offer up the caveat that I’m not married and don’t have kids.  I can only imagine how much more challenging that can make it to fit in a high training load.  But, yeah, even without those things it’s not always easy.  When I’m in full-on marathon-training mode, it is two-a-days most days M-F: waking up at about 5:30, getting in my “short” run for the day, working from about 7:30-4:00, and then getting in another evening run when I get home.  Other times, I might just be doing anywhere from 0-3 of those double days, but still running pretty much every day after work.

I don’t know if that is really anything special in terms of advice, but for me I just try to take the approach of getting out the door as quickly as possible, not giving myself the time to sit down and feel tired when I get home. I usually find getting out for a run actually re-energizes me, and when I get in the habit the morning runs kind of wake me up and I feel more ready for the day.

 

You can read more about this year's Armory Indoor Marathon Challenge at Outside and Runnersworld.  Photos and video from The Armory event are available at Runnerspace. You can follow Malcolm's training on Strava...he is one of the fastest runners on the site. 

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