The Life and (Finishing) Times of Tyler Underwood

For me, it all started long ago in a far off land called Tennessee.  My dad was a very gifted and hard working runner and all-around athlete in his day.  He would say that he was more “gifted” than I am, but I am a lot “smarter.” (Thanks Dad!)  I’m not sure who said it first, but I’ve heard the quote many times: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  I’m not saying my dad didn’t work hard, but I’d rather be a “smarter” runner than a “gifted” runner any day.

As a kid, I began to follow in my dad’s footsteps running XC and track, but took off my running shoes to pick up a tennis racket every day for four years of high school.  In college, with competitive tennis at an end for me, I began running again just for fun and fitness.  This long, untimely break in competitive running has made my approach to running very unique.  I didn’t have the years of coaching in high school and college to develop my fitness level, running economy, or knowledge of the sport.  I didn’t start running competitive road races as a recent college graduate as most runners at my current level.  I started like everyone else, from the middle of the pack.  Slow.  Worried about completing, not competing.  I was an average runner, with average goals, but they were my goals and that made them important.  Those goals, the goals after that, and the goals after that, eventually led me to where I am now- looking to chase down a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials Marathon.

I ran my first half-marathon my sophomore year of college, in the spring of 2007.  That day I decided I wanted to be a marathoner as soon as possible, so I signed up for a marathon and ran it a month later. It took me 4 hours 12 minutes… I’m almost ashamed to say it out loud (or in print).  Fast forward a year later, same marathon, 3:25.  And less than a year later, 3:07.  Fifteen months after that in 2010, a 2:55.  After a move across the country and no marathon in 2011, I ran 2:53 in 2012.  The slowing progress was a reflection of my lack of dedication.

Shaking out the legs in London during race week.

I was in the best shape of my life in the fall of 2012 and set to run the New York Marathon before it was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.  I was so upset to not get the chance to race, but it left me motivated and hungry for a PR.  I went back to NYC the next fall and ran a PR of 2:36.  So much for slowing progress!  In Boston the following spring, after hitting pace for a 2:30 finish for 21 miles, I hit something else… THE WALL.  One long year later with a few ups and a handful of downs I made the trip across the Atlantic for the London Marathon.  Once again in the best shape of my life, I was looking to redeem myself, surpass my dad’s marathon PR (I was less than a minute off at NYC), and come away with a huge PR.  And that I did.  I fell just short of a lofty goal of sub-2:25, but still PR’d by almost 10 minutes.  2:26:23.  I’m more motivated than ever to see how much I can improve and how far I can push my limits.

My running history is unique.  Few people have had personal experience pushing themselves to reach such a variety of running goals.  I’ve never had a coach.  I’ve never followed someone else’s plan.  As I’ve progressed, I’ve gained more and more knowledge of how to run faster, be more efficient, and train harder- all while avoiding injury and maintaining a love for the sport.  My degree in Exercise Science has given me valuable knowledge about the body and how it functions.  While 5 years in running specialty retail has taught me about the running community and what it lacks: knowledge.  The biggest thing stopping us from being fit (or fitter) is a lack of knowledge.  Knowledge is power.  With the right knowledge, you can train to reach goals you haven’t even made yet...