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Still Fast: 5 Questions With Bernard Lagat

We caught up with the 38-year-old shortly after his indoor season opener.

Bernard Lagat has been running at the top level of the sport for 15 years. The five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist turned 38 in December, but he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. The native Kenyan (who became an American in citizen in 2004)  has run 3:47.28 for the mile, 12:53.60 for the 5,000m and just over a week ago ran 7:34.71 for the indoor 3K to narrowly miss breaking his own American record (7:32.43, set in 2007). Next up is a competitive 2-mile race at the Millrose Games on Feb. 16 in New York City. caught up with Lagat shortly after his indoor season opener in Glasgow.

Take us through your season-opener [7:34.71 for 3,000m in Glasgow]. 

I went in there thinking we could run 7:32; that’s what I had in my mind because last year these guys went 7:29. It was nice to run 7:34 and showed that my training is going well. I think with four laps to go I ran a 30, then another 30, then a 29 and another 29. I heard some people telling me I ran under 26 [for the final lap]. That was very good for me.

Are you doing anything differently in your base training as you move up from the 1,500?

The average I run per day is 11-12 miles for six days a week. It’s been a lot of miles, but it’s not easy miles. We do really fast ones. I’m training with Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu and Abdi [Abdirahman]. Those guys will lead me on our 14-mile long runs, which used to be a problem for me, but now it seems like it is so easy to do 14 miles. I still take Sundays off. When I’m pushing my body Monday through Saturday I need a day to recoup and come back on Monday feeling strong and fresh.

Besides taking a day off per week, how else have you stayed practically injury-free your entire career? 

My wife is hard on me and is always saying I need to stretch. That has now become my routine. Every time I’m watching TV, I’m on my foam roller. I couldn’t be injury free without Coach Li, who knows that a lot of mileage doesn’t work for me, so we try to do something that isn’t too many miles and I break down. Also, my manager knows I’m not the kind of guy who races week after week. We select a few races and train for those.

You have one of the best physiques of any long-distance runner. Have you maintained the same weight from college to now?

Yes, I’ve always been 128-130 pounds. In fact, I have to eat a lot to maintain it otherwise my weight will drop. I eat like a linebacker.

Your next race is a hot 2-mile at the Millrose Games. What are your expectations for it?

I have a lot of confidence from running 7:34, and it’s with that confidence that I’m asking the organizers to put the pacing time so that I can run faster than last week.The more I run, the more confident I feel, like this is where I belong. I don’t want to just get into a race—I want to get into a fast race.