In last Monday’s Boston Marathon, Scott Fauble finished first among Americans and seventh overall in 2:09:09. That improved his PR by more than three minutes and moved him into seventh, ahead of Bill Rodgers, on the list of all-time best American times on the Boston course. Fauble trails only Ryan Hall (2:04:58), Meb Keflezighi (2:08:37), Bob Kempainen (2:08:47), Alberto Salazar (2:08:52), Dick Beardsley (2:08:54), and Greg Meyer (2:09:00).

It was the third marathon for Fauble, 27, of Flagstaff, Arizona, where he runs for the HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite team coached by Ben Rosario. Fauble previously ran 2:12:35 at Frankfurt in 2017 and 2:12:18 in New York City last November.

Rosario notes that Fauble has finished strong in all three of his marathons, calling that his “greatest asset as a marathon runner.” He adds, “It’s partly a testament to how we train, but also has a lot to do with his mental and physical makeup. When a marathon gets super-tough, he answers ‘yes’ to all the difficult questions that come up.”

Fauble’s fast time in Boston guarantees will have an Olympic qualifying standard for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Marathon. The marathon time standard for Tokyo was recently lowered to 2:11:30, much faster than for previous Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials for Tokyo will be held next February in Atlanta.

Scott Fauble Boston
photo: Courtesy HOKA ONE ONE

A week after Boston, Fauble talked to us about himself, the race, and his future plans.

At the press conference, you spoke about a midrace moment when you told yourself, ‘I can’t bleeping believe I’m leading the bleeping Boston Marathon.’ Is that that strongest word in your vocabulary?

During the race I was thinking something more like “I can’t believe I’m leading the f___ing Boston Marathon.” But the post-race Boston press room has a dignified atmosphere, and I didn’t want to say anything inappropriate there. Or anything that would embarrass me personally.

Did you realize how fast you were running?

I knew I was having a really good day, but I stopped checking my splits after the half marathon. I didn’t look again until we hit Cleveland Circle at 22 miles. I calculated that if I just ran 5:00s the rest of the way that I’d break 2:10. At that point, I was still in the race, so I just tried to stay with the guys as long as I could. When I finally saw the finish line clock on Boylston, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Man, you almost broke 2:09.”

No one was around me then, so I just tried to soak up the moment. The fans were so fantastic. It was the most amazing stretch of road I’ve ever run. I just wanted to appreciate that last 100 meters.

Was it intimidating to find yourself racing in a pack with a bunch of 2:04 guys at Boston?

It was incredible to be up near the front and to be competitive, but I wasn’t think about the other runners, whether they were 2:04 guys or 2:09 or 2:14. That didn’t change my approach. I just really enjoy racing. I didn’t feel that I was in over my head. I wanted to run as hard as I could and to beat as many guys as I could, no matter who they were.

Somewhere between 13 and 15 the leaders gapped you a bit. They got about 10 seconds on you. Did you worry then that your race might blow up?

No. I was doing what I do. I was running my pace while they were surging and slowing, surging and slowing. When we got to the big downhill [into Lower Newton Falls], they didn’t take advantage of it at all. They ran maybe a 4:55 mile. I let it out a little, and maybe ran a low 4:40s or even a high 4:30s. All of a sudden, I was back with the leaders and even let my momentum take me to the front for a bit.

You and Jared Ward ran with the lead group, and even sometimes ahead, for a lot of miles. You were pretty close at New York City last fall too. Did you guys have a strategy or do any talking out there?

Jared and I go way back. We did a lot of running against each other in college, and have even done a little training together more recently. Before New York last year, we talked about working together if the leaders went out too fast. Before Boston, we didn’t do any talking. I obviously knew he was going to run a super-solid race. On a personal level, it definitely helps to have another American out there with you. It just makes things feel more comfortable. It was fun to be near him.

You talk a lot about racing. What does that mean to you?

I like competing. It’s the fun part of the sport. I mean, I like training too, but the whole point of training is to get ready to compete. It’s what we look forward to. I like to run as hard as I can on the biggest stage I can get to.

Some events are more like time trials with rabbits and everything. Those aren’t as interesting to me. It’s more like you’re racing the clock than racing your competitors. I like to run against other people. I find that those kinds of races are the ones that help me dig deeper and go harder.

What comes after Boston, later this spring and summer?

I think we’re going to do a lot of fun races. I don’t know which ones yet, but I’m looking forward to a training segment that gets me back in touch with faster running. My philosophy is that I want to do the best I can with every training segment, because that’s how I’ll get the greatest long-term benefit.

I’m looking forward to some training where I touch a little really fast stuff and think about getting in better 10K shape. Then in the fall, in October and November, we’ll get back to a marathon segment before the Olympic Trials on February 29.

What does a marathon training segment mean to you?

Marathon training is very specific. It’s unique. It’s not a time when you work on having a lot of different gears. You’re not working on shorter tempos or fast 400s or anything like that. It’s a time when you’re covering a lot of miles, and doing the type of long, hard runs that take you several days to recover from.

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Getting from 2:12 to 2:09 is no easy deal. It’s way harder in practice than it looks on paper. A lot of guys can’t make the jump. You did. How did you do it?

It came from three-plus years of consistently hard, long training. I give a lot of credit to my coach Ben Rosario and my teammates. They established a level of excellence—a very high bar—and pushed me every day. We’re out there trying to hit home runs, especially in the marathon. Without them, I couldn’t have made the big jump that I did.

Before Boston, I knew I had reached a new level. I knew I could run 4:55s for a long time on a good day with good weather, which you don’t always get at Boston but we did this year. I didn’t know I’d run 2:09 but I knew I was strong.

You’ve run three marathons now, all of them good. Does that give you confidence or make you worry that an inevitable bad day is lurking?

It makes me more confident. I’m a mostly optimistic and confident person, and all the data so far suggests that I’m pretty good in the marathon. I believe in my talent, and I believe that Ben knows how to get us ready. That’s enough for me.

What are the pros and cons of a fall marathon?

On the pro side, it would give me another opportunity to go through a specific marathon training period and to run another fast time. On the con side, it would mean I’d have less flexibility in my training and fewer race opportunities. Also, it might go poorly or I might get injured.

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Does money figure in?

No, because you can make money in shorter races too. But this is where I feel particularly lucky to have the HOKA NAZ Elite support. I’m doing well enough that I don’t have to let race money be a deciding factor. I’m making more money now than I ever realized was possible before I turned pro. I trust my agent and my coach. We’re going to make the decisions that are best for my career.

You must be feeling good about the Atlanta Olympic Marathon Trials now that you have met the Olympic qualifying standards at Boston.

Yes, I do, but I think there are other runners who feel good about themselves and the Trials too. I think the U.S. is going to send three top runners to Tokyo no matter what happens. It’s all a question of who’s fittest on the day of the Trials race. It doesn’t really matter where the Trials are held or what the course is like. We’re going to have a strong threesome in Tokyo in any event.

Name three runners who don’t run for HOKA NAZ Elite who will be strong Trials contenders.

You can never count Galen Rupp out. He’s been the best marathoner in the country for a number of years now. Jared Ward is a world-class marathoner; he was sixth in the last Olympics. Shadrack Biwott was third at Boston last year and fourth the year before. And if Dathan Ritzenhein has a healthy next nine months, there’s no reason why he couldn’t make the team. He has amazing talent and always runs tough in his races. I guess that’s four. And there are more.

Do you remember when you first became aware of the Olympics?

I think the first time I watched the Olympics on TV and realized it was a really big deal was in 2000 [when he was 8 years old]. By four years later, I had started running. So 2004 was the first time I thought about running in the Olympics, and what an amazing thing that would be.

What do you think about it now?

It would be incredible. It’s the pinnacle of our sport. I would love the chance to earn a spot on the Olympic team and to represent my country and my sponsors in Tokyo. It would be an opportunity to do what I do on the biggest stage in the world. It would be a massive honor.