Ben True on How He’s Preparing and Fueling for His Marathon Debut
The Big Apple has always been good to Ben True. One of the most decorated middle-distance runners of his generation, he won both the 5,000 meters and half marathon there as a pro and, before that, as a college All-American. So it was no surprise when Ben decided to his marathon debut in the New York City Marathon. We recently sat down with him to talk higher volume training, fatherhood (he and his wife/fellow Momentous ambassador/champion triathlete Sarah welcomed Haakon Barrett True to their family this past summer), and how he’s using new Momentous Fuel to power up his first crack at 26.2 miles.
Why did you pick New York for your first full marathon?
New York road runners have been very supportive of me, and of running in general. I've competed in so many races there and seem to have great success. When I was in high school, the biggest event on my cross-country calendar was the Foot Locker Regionals at Cortlandt Park, so the city and state always had this aura about it in my career.
Then in college, it was where our Ivy League Championships were held, and as a pro, some of my best races have happened in New York. Since then, I’ve enjoyed riding along in the lead car for the New York City Marathon to watch the race and have always thought that the course itself is one that would benefit me. It demands more strength than pure speed and you’re competing against the person next to you instead of racing the clock with pacemakers to get a super fast time like in Berlin or London. So for years I’ve been thinking that if I ever stepped up and challenged myself at the full marathon distance, that New York would be the best place for me to make my debut. And now it’s almost here, I’m very excited.
How has being a father for the first time impacted your recovery and sleep?
Sarah has been amazing as a wife and mother. She has temporarily moved into our guest room with Haakon until after the race is over, which has enabled me to sleep through the night uninterrupted most of the time. My nap schedule has been affected a little bit, but usually if they’re downstairs I don’t hear them because I can nap through just about anything. So I’ve been able to get adequate rest and recovery as I’ve increased my mileage.
Are you a big napper, and if so, how does that jive with your well-known love of coffee?
[Laughing] Oh yeah, I love to nap! I’m at my most useful for an hour after my morning coffee, and then I go for my morning run. Between one and three o’clock I usually shut down, so that’s prime time for napping to recharge. I typically try to shut the caffeine down by 3 PM most days so it doesn’t interfere with my naps or nighttime sleep. Sometimes if I'm really struggling and haven’t been able to take a longer nap earlier in the afternoon, I'll still close my eyes for like a half hour at five o'clock before getting out the door for my run.
Speaking of which, how has your training changed as you’ve built up to New York?
I’ve dropped my overall intensity and am not running one-mile repeats anymore like before the Olympic Trials. My coach has steadily increased my volume. We use a 10- or 14-day plan typically, so it’s hard for me to say exactly what my weekly mileage is, but I’ve gone up to or maybe over 130 and am feeling great.
Why did you decide to use Momentous Fuel in your training and for the upcoming New York Marathon?
In all my years in running, I’ve never had to think about fueling during workouts because my races over shorter distances – which included track, cross country, and road events – never allowed me to refuel mid-race. But when I decided to prepare for my debut marathon in New York, my coach told me that had to change because I’d need more carbs and electrolytes to make it to the finish line. For the former, I’ve found a gel that gives me 30 to 40 calories and eight grams of carbs per serving. But finding the right electrolyte solution has been a struggle.
I'm larger than most runners of my caliber, so I have to make sure that I can absorb as many carbs as quickly as possible because that's always going to be my shortcoming in the marathon. I previously tried many goos, gels, and tabs, and they all gave me gut rot. Sipping a little Momentous Fuel in water every 5K replenishes the electrolytes I need to keep going strong and gives me no stomach issues. I’ll use Fuel at the New York Marathon because I trust it to work well during my debut at this distance.
What are your goals for later this year and into 2022? With the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon next summer, do they include a return to the track?
The track work really beat me up these past few years, so I don’t feel a pressing need to return to that or to make it to Eugene for the World Championships next year. I’m not saying that won’t change or that I won’t ever compete in a track meet again, but what comes next will largely be guided by how things go in New York and what that might mean for me at marathon distance going forward. I’m enjoying being a father and the challenge of shifting up to 26 miles, so I just want to savor these moments and not look too far ahead into the future.