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Marathon Project Champion Marty Hehir on Running 2:08:59 Balancing Medical School and Fatherhood

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David Melly and I reunite for another crossover episode of The CITIUS MAG Podcast and the Run Your Mouth Podcast. In this episode, we welcome Marty Hehir after his 2:08:59 win at The Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona. The race was spectacularly fast with seven Americans breaking 2:10. One of the major stories after Sunday was that Marty finally got his big win. It’s been a long time coming. I first crossed paths with him in 2012 when similarly took many by surprise to win the Big East Cross Country championship. After the race, I asked him “Who are you?” and he later shared an Instagram post in Jan. 2019 where he wrote: “I’ve been running as hard as I can ever since to make sure no one has to ask me that question again.”

Marty is a medical student in anesthesiology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. We touch on what that consists of before he graduates in May 2021. He also is a professional runner with the Reebok Boston Track Club and coach Chris Fox, who was also his coach at Syracuse. Marty was a member of the 2015 NCAA Cross Country championship-winning team. He took to the roads shortly after graduation and has found lots of success. When we dive into his relationship with coach Fox, he shares how since 2017 he has targetted the marathon as his event. It paid off when he took 6th at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:11:29 but had also stopped to use the bathroom at Mile 18. He’ll share that story on the podcast as well.

On top of all that…he’s a father to two girls. Time management is his specialty and he’ll share his schedule and routine with us.

This is the behind the scenes of how he became the seventh-fastest American marathoner of all-time. Enjoy.

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Photos by Kevin Morris.

marty hehir wins the 2020 marathon project in chandler arizona

SHOW NOTES

Was he disappointed or thrilled by his sixth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials?

“I always come off as happy. I’m a very appreciative person to have had all the opportunities that I’ve had but I always fall a little short – just short enough where i should still be happy with my performance…Almost made the team but no one wants to be sixth or seventh place. That’s kind of been where I’ve been stuck for many, many years, which is is why coming off the Trials I had wanted to make the team and yes, the silver lining I ran a big PR, ran the Olympic standard (not that it meant anything since the team just got picked) but it definitely left more to be desired and knowing that there was more in the tank to see what we could do at the Marathon Project.”

The statement victory

“I feel like I’ve been trying to prove I’m one of the best runners in the country for a very long time yet I’m consistently one of the best. It’s just I haven’t had that breakout performance or won that championship that really mattered. That’s why I feel like this race was finally a validation of my whole running career. I’m finally among in a place where I feel like I belong.”

Balancing fatherhood, medical school and running

“The hardest month was maybe the first month. Let’s say I started training three months out so that first month I was actually working at clinic from 8 am. I was seeing my first patient at 8 am until 4 pm or 5 pm every day. That was the true 8 or 9 hours a day, five days a week. That was tough. Getting up every morning at 5 a.m. For the workouts, the quality definitely decreases a touch when you’re trying to run five minute pace or faster and starting the workout at like 5:45 or 6 a.m. That month was a bit of a grind. Doing that every day definitely wears down on you. There’s nights in there where the baby slept terribly and then I didn’t sleep well. We have a row home and our neighbors are prone to playing really loud music with a bumping bass. They have a really nice bass. The ol’ city life…There’s definitely nights where things don’t go as smoothly. For the most part, we get by pretty fine so there hasn’t been any catastrophic weeks.”

Training under coach Chris Fox

“The coach Fox way of life is so great. It’s something that if you went to Syracuse you understand it and almost everyone loves and appreciated how he goes about training his athletes. He’s just so low stress and so chill. There are a few pillars in his underlying beliefs. A few of them, just to give you a quick rundown: He really believes in strategically under-training you. He would much rather have you 95% fit than 101% and kind of cooked on race day. That’s why you see with our training and what we do – you can see it on Strava – There are no secrets. There are no magic workouts. We don’t do anything outrageous. If anything, it’s underwhelming. Our longest hard effort is 10 miles. A hard 10 miler is what we did before this race. That’s it. We show up to the line. We feel good. We feel refreshed and we’re just excited. That’s a big part of it. That really is what I feel is different from a lot of other programs where you see people putting in these outrageous workouts, which is awesome and everyone has their own road to Rome but I think that’s the biggest difference. The fact that he trusts everyone so much. I live in Philadelphia. The Reebok Boston Track Club is down in Charlottesville. I talk to him the night before a workout and the day’s I know I’m supposed to be working out because our schedule has been the same since forever. I’ll text him. He’ll shoot me a message on what we’re doing. I’ll say OK. I’ll text him in the morning and tell him how things went. He’ll say great and I’ll fill in everything else. He knows I know when to double. He knows on my easy days that I’ll do what I need to do. It’s a very laissez-faire, hands-off type of system.”

No flashy workouts ahead of The Marathon Project

“Our training for this race was fairly similar to what we did before the trials. I think we did mostly the same workouts. We just ended up doing them a little bit better because we just had just trained for a marathon earlier so we had that extra base and foundation. The flashiest thing we did for both our past marathons is just a 10-mile pickup at just a little faster than marathon pace right around 4:50 pace is where we were. That’s a big confidence booster. This course is pancake flat. We never really did anything on a pancake flat course because we still believe that running hills is how you’re going to get better. We definitely flattened things out and we didn’t go out of our way to make workouts super slow because of the hills. We believe we gained a lot from that. We showed up on race day and it was amazing how we kept going. We did these loops and there wasn’t anything to like impede out pace. It was just so smooth. Which we didn’t get in practice and that’s why it felt so much better on race day.”


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