Burning Runner: First Steps

“It will be a painful process. It won’t happen overnight.”

Brian MacKenzie in his Costa Mesa home gym.
Brian MacKenzie in his Costa Mesa home gym.

“It will be a painful process. It won’t happen overnight.”

Written by: T.J. Murphy

When I first spoke with Brian MacKenzie about making the jump to Crossfit he was careful to explain to me it wouldn’t be easy. “It will be a painful process. It won’t happen overnight.” And he also encouraged me to bring a sense of humility to it. But first and foremost was to open my mind to what a radically different approach might offer me in terms of injury prevention and ultimately improved performance. It would require me to shelve my skepticism.

A year ago if someone had tried to get me to embrace something as different as Crossfit Endurance I don’t think I would have given it a single thought. All of my success as a runner has come from basic, medium-to-high-mileage training, most of it aerobic in nature and spiked with weekly tempo and interval workouts. But when my knee shut down in early November, I was ready to listen.

So what’s the process like? After working with Kelly Starrett and ironing out my immediate knee problems and getting to a pain-free state, Brian has been lightly drawing me toward Crossfit-style conditioning training. I’ve worked out under his supervision three times and he has recorded it for his blog on video. Here’s the second workout:

The Burning Runner Overhaul Synopsis

Goal Number 1: Unbroken Runner. In November/December my right knee shut down due to 25 years of poor running technique, biomechanics and muscular imbalances. The team of coaches and physical therapists I’m working with has this as a goal: Overhaul my weaknesses, replace them with strengths, and prepare my body for an April 50k trail race.

The Working Toolbox:

Crossfit Endurance Training

Paleo Diet

Mobility Training



T.J. Murphy is the Editorial Director of Competitor Magazine. A 2:38 marathoner and five-time Ironman finisher, he is the former editorial director of Triathlete Magazine and Inside Triathlon. His writing has also appeared in Outside Magazine and Runner’s World.