Puskedra Ready to Tackle Marathon / by Scott Bush

With fall marathon season in full swing, especially after last weekend's inspired performance by Portland's Shalane Flanagan (second fastest American ever with her third-place finish in Berlin), it's time to turn our collective attention from the oval to the roads. 

As the TCS New York City Marathon announced their professional fields a few weeks ago, one name in particular caught our attention. Luke Puskedra. Puskedra, the multi-time All-American at the University of Oregon and current Nike Oregon Project runner, has long been labeled a future marathon standout, but had yet to make the leap. That all changes this November!

We caught up with Puskedra as he ramps up his marathon specific training and starts to prepare his mind and body for the 26.2 mile distance.

Portland Track (PT): Your running the TCS New York City Marathon this fall. You're debut marathon. Why did you decide to debut this fall and why NYC?

Luke Puskedra (LP): Yes, I’m very excited. I decided to debut this fall so that I could get some good marathon racing experience going into the Olympic Trials. I chose the New York Marathon for three reasons: 

  1. The rich history of the event. I’ve watched the best in the world compete year in and year out at this event and was very excited to be involved in this history.
  2. The course suits my running strengths. I have had success in cross country and running on hilly courses. I believe this will translate to my debut.
  3. I have been very impressed with how the New York Road Runners use their events to make a positive impact on the community.

PT: After your 61:36 half marathon in 2012, many thought you should jump in a marathon almost immediately. Why did you wait two more years?

LP: At first I thought the same. I have been excited about running the marathon since my sophomore year in college. I have always excelled on more mileage coupled with longer training sessions. But after taking a step back and looking at my running career, I wasn’t ready. I have used these two years to get stronger not only as a runner but an overall athlete so that my move to the marathon wouldn’t be short lived.

PT: You recently raced the USA 20 km Championships, finishing third. How did the race go for you and what did you take away from it?

LP: The race was a great experience and step in the right direction. The race wasn’t as fast as when I ran it two years ago because of muggy weather but it was a great opportunity to get into a race and compete.

PT: Obviously you want to see how it goes, but do you see the marathon as your full-time event leading up to 2016 or will you still play around with shorter distances on the track?

LP: Yes, I see the marathon as my full-time event. I really enjoy the process of preparing for the event and have been getting good feedback from the training. I will still jump in shorter distance races so that I don’t get away from the speed and form aspect of training.

PT: How is your training going to differ from what you've done the past year or two? Any major changes?

LP: The past two years we have really focused on my form and working on my track speed to get me stronger as a runner. For this marathon build-up we are still having emphasis on the form and speed but getting in the longer tempos and higher mileage.

PT: You have some pretty good teammates here in Portland. Will you train with them much during your marathon build-up or will it be mostly solo training?

LP: I have been very fortunate to have such a great training and support group with the Oregon Project here in Portland. I take every opportunity I can to learn from them on and off the track. Unfortunately, the rest of the group is coming off of a long summer of racing so they are winding down a bit in training while my training is just starting to ramp up. Of course, I will get to meet up with the group for training runs but the workout schedules are different right now.

PT: We'll close with arguably the best question of the interview...what went through your mind when you saw that lady running next to the lead pack at the USA 20 km Champs? Crazy!

LP: I saw the lady crossing the street. She had two full bags in her hands, at first I thought that she wasn’t paying attention and that she was going to walk in front of us. She then looked both ways and starting booking it. I couldn’t help but laugh. I was pretty impressed, she kept up with us for a good ten feet or so before a police officer said “alright lady.” After the race I saw photos and couldn’t stop laughing. There is one photo of her in full flight, her knee drive and arm swing is actually surprisingly good!