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J. Marshall Thomson – 2013 Leadville Trail Marathon Male Champion

Back for his second win, J. Marshall Thomson beat his own PR.

Why return to Leadville? What’s your favorite thing about racing up here?

I have a love/hate relationship with Leadville. The race hurts and the running is very difficult with all of the loose rock on the road. I guess that’s what I like and what keeps drawing me back. It’s not all about leg speed. It’s very technical any loss of concentration or mistake and game over. Love the elevation gain.

Take us through your race. Did you go into it with a strategy?

My strategy is always to have fun. I have been fighting and overcoming an injury and really just wanted to feel good from start to finish. In the beginning I felt good and was just running. I didn’t want to push it and risk disaster. My goal was basically to stay comfortable and just put one foot in front of the other. As always, I felt a little heavy on the climb to Mosquito Pass. I really slowed and wasn’t running as fast as I wanted, but I felt good with the slow pace. I just hoped it wasn’t too slow.

The descent from Mosquito was wild, as always. The terrain is very, very difficult for running. Every step could end your season. The traffic going both directions makes it even more difficult. My goal here was not to collide with another runner and end both our days. I still felt pretty good. About halfway up the next climb I really started to feel it and slowed. I wasn’t sure what kind of lead I had. Even though I must have passed the other runners at the turnaround I didn’t notice them due to the concentration required for the descent.

The rest of the race was hot and cold for me. I had trouble setting a consistent pace. I would feel good and push it and then it would effect me and I’d really slow. I got trapped in that cycle and couldn’t get out. It was like I was doing interval training. Luckily I had built a big enough lead in the first half of the race because I lost a lot of time over the last several miles.

What’s your best tip or trick for increasing mental toughness?

I really don’t know. I have recently added yoga to my routine. I have found that it helps me relax and just move without thinking. Distances tend to shrink.

Last year, we asked what lessons you learned for the next year. You said, “Go faster on the climbs. They don’t last forever.” Did you follow that advice?

I should have taken my own advice.  I don’t think I followed my advice as much as I would have liked. Due to my injury I didn’t want to push the climbs and just did what felt good without pain.

You also compete in ski mountaineering. Give us a short primer on that sport.

It’s like running Leadville but getting to ski the descents. Skimo races generally consist of three to five ascents and descents with a total elevation gain of 3,000 to 6,000 feet. We skin up mountains and ski down. It is really like winter trail running.

What other activities round out your extreme-sport repertoire?

Any form of skiing, resort, backcountry and racing. And riding dirt bikes. I have never experienced anything that can deliver a full-body workout like riding MOTO.

You discovered your affinity for athletic adventures a little later in life than some — late 20s? How has finding out that you had this hidden talent changed your life and your perspective?

I don’t know if I have a talent. I just love to run. I am fortunate enough to be able to do what I love every day. Being outside in the mountains just keeps me smiling.

Anything we’ve missed that you’d like to mention?

It’s all about just being out there. I have so much respect for everyone who gets out. It doesn’t mater what your time is, what you place, if its one mile or 100. It’s just being out there and doing it.

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