Tim Young of Fredericksburg, Va., will fulfill a lifelong dream on Saturday morning when he dons the USA singlet for the first time at the Pan-Am Games marathon in Toronto, Canada. The 28-year-old Young, who is sponsored by Brooks Running as an elite member of their ID program, ran a personal best of 2:14:40 at last fall’s Chicago Marathon to earn his spot on the U.S. team for the Pan-Am Games.
A 2009 graduate of James Madison University, Young was a member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project from 2010 to 2012 before relocating to Fredericksburg, where he is now coached virtually by former Hansons-Brooks teammate Luke Humphrey, head coach of Hansons Coaching Services. Young, who ran 2:15:14 to finish as the second American at the 2014 Houston Marathon, works close to 50 hours a week as a full-time IT computer technician and trains mostly on his own. “It allows me to train at a high level while building a career outside of running,” he says.
We caught up with Young—who will be joined by Craig Leon of Eugene, Ore., on the starting line in Toronto—recently to talk about the Pan-Am Games, his training and the fast-approaching U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles next February.
This is your first U.S. team. Describe what it felt like when you found out you were going to have the opportunity to wear the USA singlet for the first time at the upcoming Pan-Am Games.
When I got word that I was being considered for Team USA, I was ecstatic! Just to be considered was an honor to me. When I received the email from Jim Estes of USATF confirming my selection, I felt honored that I would able to wear that USA singlet in the Pan-Am Games. Without sounding trite, for many years I’ve been dreaming of the moment I would represent the U.S. and to have it finally happen was just an amazing feeling.
Looking ahead to the Pan-Am Games marathon, what are your own expectations and goals heading into the race?
Heading into the games, I feel confident. My training segment went well despite having some pretty hot and humid days here in Fredericksburg but overall I was pleased with my build-up. I stayed healthy throughout the segment and felt like everything really came together over the last few weeks. My goals are to compete and go for a top-5 placing in Toronto. Finishing time is secondary to me.
It was announced last week that due to an oversight, Craig Leon will be replacing Tyler McCandless as your teammate on the U.S. squad for the Pan-Am Games. What are your thoughts on that situation and how, if at all, does it affect you heading into the race?
My agent, Chris Mengel of Elite Runner Management, told me about a week or so ago that there was an issue involving the selection process. Like everybody else, I learned [last week] that Craig Leon was now going to be my teammate in Toronto instead of Tyler. It was a tough decision to make and I understand it from both Craig and Tyler’s point of view. I felt that whether it was Craig or Tyler [joining me], we would be sending a good team that would represent the U.S. well in the marathon. I look forward to running alongside Craig in this race. For me, the ultimate choice as to who would be running with me has had no effect on my training since I wasn’t involved in that decision.
You ran a personal best of 2:14:40 last fall at Chicago. Aside from landing you on the U.S. team for the Pan-Am Games, what does that race mean for you at this stage of your professional career?
Chicago was a huge step forward for me in my career. Getting the “A” standard for the 2016 Trials was the goal and I was able to run a 34-second PR that day. I felt that my performance in Chicago, at least for me, showed that I could compete with some of the top guys in America. It gives me a huge confidence boost heading into L.A. [next February].
Building off that last question: It’s not easy being a 2:14 marathoner in the U.S. these days. What are some of the biggest challenges facing you as you try to make it to that next level?
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced in getting to the next level is staying healthy. At this level, you are training at such a high intensity and high volume that you run very close to that fine line of breakthrough performance and injury. I had trouble for the longest time listening to my body and staying on the right side of the line. Another obstacle I face is not having the time to always do the little things in training such as strength-training, massaging, rehab, etc., that sometimes makes the difference between success and failure.
You ran for the Hansons-Brooks program from 2010-2012 and you’re now coached by Luke Humphrey, who heads up the Hansons Coaching Services. What were the reasons behind leaving the group and how soon afterward did you and Luke start working together?
I left Hansons-Brooks in the summer of 2012 after two years in the program. I was having a lot of ups and downs with my training both physically and mentally and it was starting to take a toll on me in a negative way. I felt that I needed a change, and to be honest I was probably a bit homesick as well. I felt that a change would help get me back to a healthy state of mind. I took time off from running and was, at the time, content to just run for fun and enjoyment without all the pressure. I ran some local races here in Virginia and started to find that desire to compete once again. Luke Humphrey of Hansons Coaching Services is a very good friend and former teammate of mine at Hansons-Brooks. Luke got in touch with me late that fall and we worked on making some changes to my training and I have been working with Luke for almost three years now.
From a training perspective, what have been some of the biggest keys to your improvement as a marathoner in the last five years?
The biggest improvement I’ve made to my training and racing is staying healthy for an extended period of time. When you’re injured or hurt, you miss too much time from training and have to start the cycle all over again. Luke has been great with helping me be patient with a slower buildup. The 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials is our ultimate goal race. I do almost all my workouts solo these days, which has helped me. I don’t force the pace but can run on feel and not push my body past the limit. The two years being coached by Kevin and Keith Hanson helped me grow as a runner and taught me so much about the professional aspect of the sport. I was grateful to have had the chance to be coached by them. The base I developed in those two years is what helped build the foundation for my current training and success.
Lastly, the Olympic Trials are about seven months away. How does being named to the Pan-Am team affect those preparations, if at all, and what would a solid race in Toronto do for your confidence heading into the Trials next February?
I was planning on doing either a summer or fall marathon, but when the Pan-Am Games became a reality it was a no-brainer. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear that singlet. I’ll discuss it with Luke, but I believe Pan-Ams will be my last full marathon before February’s Trials in Los Angeles. Having a good race in Toronto will only help me in my preparation and build my confidence to compete for a spot on the Olympic team next February.