Every dedicated runner is familiar with Greg McMillan – his website McMillan Running is one of the most popular on the web.   But did you know he also coaches elite runners?  Among them is Brett Gotcher and James Sullivan has been picking his brains on training and targets…

Brett Gotcher is an elite distance runner from California, USA who specialises in the marathon. At the 2010 Houston Marathon he covered the distance in 2:10:36, the fourth fastest debut ever by an American. Gotcher is based in Flagstaff, Arizona where he is a member of the McMillan Elite and is trained by Greg McMillan.

Brett Gotcher

James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. Easy question first, how did you first get involved in athletics?

Brett: I first started running in the 8th grade.  I went to a very small school and they started a cross country team my last year there.  I decided I’d give it a try to get in shape for basketball, but ended up falling in love with the sport.

James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?

Brett: I didn’t follow the sport too much until I got a little older.  Once I started to know who people were and what they could do, I really got into it.  I looked up to guys like Meb Keflezighi and Adam Goucher because of books I’d read and what I’d seen them do.

James: Since joining up with Coach Greg McMillan you have developed hugely as an athlete. What has Greg done specifically to improve you as a runner?

Brett: I don’t think there’s one specific thing that has led to such great improvement.  We really just focused on being consistent in training and having patience.  We realised that being great doesn’t just happen overnight.  We dedicated ourselves to the process and now, 2 or 3 years later, we’re really starting to see those results.

James: What were your reasons for moving up in distance to the marathon?

Brett: I’d always felt that the longer the distance, the better off I was.  Once I got into that half marathon range and was able to run a good one, the next logical step was the marathon.

James: At the 2010 Houston Marathon you ran a time of 2:10:36, the fourth fastest debut ever by an American over the iconic distance. Can you describe that experience?

Brett: It was a pretty special experience.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a race with such focus and such determination.  I couldn’t tell if I was having a good day early on because I’d never run one before.  I just kept telling myself to stick to the plan, and before I knew it, there were only a few miles left and I was on pace to run a fast one.  It was a great feeling to put in all that work beforehand, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and then have it all work out.

James: What are your goals for 2011?

Brett: My goals for 2011 are fairly simple.  I just want to continue to improve and set myself up well for the Olympic Trials in 2012.  This year’s Houston Marathon didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, so I want to make sure that I really take advantage of all the great racing opportunities for the rest of 2011.

James: What do you feel is your potential over the marathon? By how much can you improve your current personal best over the coming years? Have you a specific target?

Brett: It’s hard to say at this point.  I’ve only run two so far, one good one and one bad one.  I’m hoping that continuing to put in consistent training and remaining patient will help me make the jump to the next level, whenever that may be.

James: What would an average week of training be like, specifically in terms of key sessions and total mileage?

Brett: An average week of marathon training would usually consist of some kind of workout earlier in the week that is faster than race pace (kilometres, miles, 2 miles) to get the legs moving so you don’t feel stuck at race pace.  Later in the week would be our long tempo run which is usually between 15-18 miles at “marathon effort”.  We have to go by effort because we are at 7,000 ft.  The total weekly mileage during this training usually ends up being between 120-140 miles.

James: Nutrition plays a major part for a top runner but do you think it makes a difference to a standard or club runner (somebody in the 2:45 to 3:15 bracket)? If so what nutrition tips do you have?

Brett: I think nutrition is important no matter how fast you run.  The better you eat, the better you’re going to feel.  One tip that I’ve learned over the years is to make sure you are fuelled up before you run.  It can be hard sometimes if you have to run early in the morning, but it’s amazing how much better you feel if you eat a little something before you head out.

James: Staying with nutrition how do you fuel during a race? How does this compare with your fuelling during Long Slow Runs (LSRs) in training?

Brett: We try to keep our fuelling consistent between races and our long runs or long tempos.  We want to make sure that our stomach is comfortable with what we’re taking in during these runs.  So far, I’ve been using Gatorade and Powerbar Gels.  They seem to do the trick, but I’m still new to the marathon so it’s something that I’m still figuring out.

James: What pace do you feel long runs should be run at? What pace is yours? Do you include faster bursts on long runs?

Brett: I like to run my long runs on feel.  Our main goal is to simply get time on your feet.  Of course sometimes we’ll have our long tempos that replace the long run for the week, but for the most part, we’re not out there to crush it.  Some days I’ll feel better and so I’ll run a little quicker, maybe in the 6:00 to 6:30 per mile range.  Other days, I’ll have to take it easy and will run more in the 7:00 to 7:15 range.  It all comes down to listening to your body.

James: Away from running what are your greatest interests?

Brett: When I’m on a break from running, I like to get in the ocean and go for a surf.  I also have a great dog that always keeps me entertained with her crazy antics.

James: Thank you Brett for your time and the best of luck over the coming season.

Brett: Thank you very much, it’s always good to talk!.

Brett is represented by Peter Stubbs Management and is trained by Greg at McMillan Elite.  You can keep up to date with all of his training by reading his blog

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